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The Privatization of Government September 23, 2007

Posted by truthspew in corporations, corruption.
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I was just trolling around YouTube and found a Democracy Now video of Jeremy Scahill author of “Blackwater”.

Mr. Scahill understands the danger of privatizing government. I’ve posted before about Grover Norquist and his wanting to destroy the federal government. The current occupants of the White House want not only to do that, but to replace it with total corporate control.

Think for a moment what that would mean. Every day we see increasing reaches by corporations. Read your cell phone agreement for instance, I guarantee that part of what you agreed to was a thing called arbitration. Arbitration uses private parties that are favorable towards the corporations to resolve disputes. You are contractually denied usage of the court system in the U.S. when settling disputes with telecom carriers and even credit card issuers.

Then of course there is the document that George W. Bush calls “A god damned piece of paper…”, the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. With no federal government that evaporates. No free speech, no freedom from unwarranted searches and seizures, no more right to plead nolo contendre, etc. Think about it.

And regarding Blackwater, they’re owned by the Prince family. These are people who are being given billions to spread their neo-Christian views.

So if you wonder why I’m so vociferous about the dangers of the Christian-military-industrial complex, you know. Just read the PNAC documents and you’ll see exactly what they’re trying to do. I for one do not want to live under the thumb of corporation, nor do I want to live under a theocracy.

These quotes in particular demonstrate the point:

Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.
~ John Maynard Keynes

Keynes for those who haven’t had any economics courses, was part of FDR’s circle of advisors. His policies helped lift us out of the depression, and he gave FDR a healthy dose of cynicism regarding big business. Of course big business fought back and most of the reforms that FDR put into place were rescinded. But look around some day and see the good that the Works Progress Administration did.

And

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Yes, Ike warned us what was going to happen but he did so on his way out of office. I give him credit though, at least he said something. Today we have people like Colin Powell, who completely disgraced himself in front of the United Nations to push a false pretext for war. I remember watching the speeches that Powell gave and it was clear he was uncomfortable. Yet he could have been a true American hero instead of a relatively obscure player ground up into little bits by the Bush administration.

Part 1, ignore the blogspam at the end if you wish.

Part 2

The Owners of the Country September 4, 2007

Posted by truthspew in censorship, corporations, corruption, Error 10048, George Carlin, government, politics.
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I note that as George Carlin gets older he gets more and more angry. He’s not so much about comedy anymore but about educating his audience.

This video is prime evidence of that. If you hadn’t put two and two together yet, government in the U.S. is no longer beholden to the people, it is beholden to large corporations. What other purpose did you think Political Action Committees (PAC) served? It was a back door for business to buy off our elected representatives.

Right now I’m reading the book titled Internal Combustion by Edwin Black. Most interesting about the games played and I can now see that the corporate takeover of government got its start in the early part of the 19th century, and was cemented in place by the time of the U.S. Civil War.

This is why I’d love to amend the 14th amendment to the Constitution. Just twelve words, “None of the rights granted by this amendment shall apply to corporations.”

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Now playing: J. Boogie – La Playa
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Corporate Fraud and Greed – End it Now! August 26, 2007

Posted by truthspew in atheism, broadband penetration, corporations, corruption, Error 10048, Grover Norquist, liberalism, neocons, people, politics, Progressive Politics, RIAA, Verizon.
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Rolling Stone has a very interesting article on the excesses of fraud and waste in the Iraq war.

What is happening to the United States is that corporations are looting the federal government. Grover Norquist eat your heart out, your fondest desire might actually be coming true but the consequences will be very bad for everyone. For corporations should never be in the business of providing government services. We’re seeing that push here in Rhode Island, our Republican governor who is also a Bush supporter wants to privatize just 1,000 state jobs. That’s the camel poking its nose into the tent.

How did corporations get so bold? It’s simple, under a fictional legal theory, little more than a comment inserted by a clerk who was paid by the Southern Pacific Railroad, corporations are under the mistaken notion that they have the same rights and privileges as a real person. They should have no such thing, for if they did not they wouldn’t be able to throw money to congress via PAC’s and other vehicles for corporate malfeasance like no bid contracts.

I interviewed with one firm mentioned in the article, Custer-Battles. First, I knew about the shell companies and had alarm bells ringing like crazy in my head. They had advertised the job as full time but when I had gotten to the car after the interview Battles calls and asks if I’d do contracting. I told him to kiss my ass. Turns out my alarm bells over Custer-Battles were correct but get this, even though they had a judgment against them, it was overturned by a Bush friendly jurist at the appellate level. How’s that for disgusting, I know they’re dirty, everyone knows but the courts that are supposed to protect us instead protect corporations that are defrauding the government and therefore the taxpayer for billions.

Consider the $544 Billion dollars spent in Iraq so far. Had we not gone there that $544 Billion might have helped victims of Katrina and maybe, just maybe, we could have a single payer health system in the United States.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it until it happens. We MUST change the 14th Amendment of the Constitution to specifically EXCLUDE corporations from the rights derived by that amendment.

How to do that is the conundrum. We cannot depend on our representatives since every single one of them has been bought and paid for many times over.

We’ve all seen how that works. We now have bankruptcy law that benefits the creditors rather than the debtors. We also have corporations like Verizon et al trying their damnedest to kill net neutrality, or the RIAA who won’t adapt to the times, instead they prefer to litigate their way through. Those are just three examples but I’m sure you can think of more, like maybe the oil and gas companies who reap obscene profits while we pay dearly at the pump. Just keep thinking about all the little ways corporations try to screw you and you should be getting very upset. Good, that’s precisely the kind of thing that moves our society forward.

We must lift ourselves into the fray and create a true opposition party that is funded by the people, and not by corporate interests. We have to start locally because constitutional amendments require ratification by the states, so start there and move onward. Howard Dean hit on this briefly when he had several million people chipping in $25 here and there to elect him as the Democratic President. It has to be grassroots and it will take time, I can only hope that it takes as short a time as possible to stop this craziness once and for all.

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Now playing: Earth Wind & Fire – Sun Goddess (Live)
via FoxyTunes

Politicians Running for Cover in Rhode Island February 4, 2007

Posted by truthspew in corporations, corruption, Error 10048, politics, Rhode Island.
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In my last post about the federal judiciary going after corrupt politicians in Rhode Island I mentioned the 7/7 combo of politicians and corporations.

In it I predicted that leadership in one or both houses of the legislature would be ensnared in what is now called operation Dollar Bill. Sure enough, Joseph Montalbano the president of the Senate is a target. And CVS seems to be playing heavily into the investigations.

This is going to be explosive. Because now the dotted lines between the political and the corporations are going to be filled in to become solid connectors.

My next prediction is that to save his own ass Montalbano will give up lower ranking members of the Senate. Time will tell – but it is about time that the Providence Journal had something to report on.

Operation Dollar Bill
01:00 AM EST on Sunday, February 4, 2007
By Mike StantonJournal Staff Writer

When he was sworn in as U.S. Attorney, Robert Corrente identified combating public corruption as a top priority.
The Providence Journal / Bob Thayer

Politicians are looking over their shoulder, witnesses are lawyering up and the FBI and state police have spent many hours at the State House library, poring over the arcane details of committee votes and the travel of legislation.

Welcome to Operation Dollar Bill, the newly minted federal corruption probe that seeks to connect the dots between dollars, as in payoffs, and bills, as in legislation.

In the U.S. Attorney’s office in downtown Providence, overlooking the imposing white marble dome of the state capitol, the case is referred to simply as “the State House investigation,” says U.S. Attorney Robert Clark Corrente.

Like a hurricane gathering force, a case that began three years ago with one state senator, John A. Celona, has gained sufficient strength to recently earn its own name in the FBI register. Not since Operation Plunder Dome, the corruption probe of Providence City Hall that brought down Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr., has Rhode Island seen such a high-profile public corruption case.

And this case is bigger. While Plunder Dome focused on one mayor and one city, Operation Dollar Bill encompasses “multiple entities and a lot of players,” Corrente says.

Last week, when Celona was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for using his public office for private gain, a federal prosecutor stunned Rhode Islanders by telling the judge that Celona’s cooperation has spawned 14 “active investigations” of 7 politicians and 7 corporations for possible influence peddling.

The investigation reaches into the office of the Senate president, Joseph A. Montalbano, and the powerful Senate Finance chairman, Stephen D. Alves. Investigators are looking at Montalbano’s title work as a lawyer and Alves’ dealings as an investment adviser, searching for a possible nexus between their jobs and their political positions.

The trail has led to town halls in West Warwick, where Alves is a longtime political power and Montalbano received town title work, and Lincoln, where the FBI has also been asking questions. According to people familiar with the case, the probe has also looked at a powerful ex-legislator with financial ties to the CVS drugstore chain — former Senate President William V. Irons.

Irons, who earned insurance commissions related to CVS employees, has denied any impropriety. His lawyer declined comment Friday. CVS declined Friday to comment on whether it has provided documents to investigators regarding Irons. A corporate spokeswoman said that the company stands by its previous comments that it has cooperated and will continue to do so.

Where any of this will lead remains to be seen. Corrente noted last week that an investigation does not necessarily lead to criminal charges, and he declined to identify specific targets.

“Fourteen investigations today could be 11 tomorrow and 16 to 20 the day after,” said Corrente, in an interview. “It’s fluid. Some may close out [with no charges], while others may lead to new territory. It’s unclear how many prosecutable cases will emerge.”

The U.S. Attorney, who has been mentioned as a candidate to succeed U.S. District Judge Ernest C. Torres — who presided over corruption cases against Celona and Roger Williams Medical Center — has dedicated one-fifth of his staff resources to Operation Dollar Bill. Gerard B. Sullivan has relinquished his position as chief of the office’s criminal division to supervise a task force that includes the FBI, Rhode Island State Police, Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Department of Labor.

With Celona having pleaded guilty and former Roger Williams executives Robert A. Urciuoli and Frances P. Driscoll convicted at trial last fall, the State House probe two weeks ago shifted its focus to CVS, the nation’s largest drugstore chain. Executives John R. Kramer and Carlos Ortiz were indicted on corruption charges for allegedly putting Celona on the payroll as a $1,000-a-month consultant to influence pharmacy-choice and other legislation worth millions of dollars in sales.

Authorities have also investigated another company with whom Celona had financial dealings — Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island. A former state senator and Blue Cross vice president, Thomas Lynch, resigned after disclosures regarding the insurer’s financing of Celona’s cable television show on health care. To date, there have been no charges.

Corrente understands the coziness of Rhode Island. He was born in North Providence, the home base of Celona and Montalbano, and lives in East Greenwich, down the street from Jack Kramer, the CVS executive. When he was sworn in as U.S. Attorney 2 1/2 years ago, Corrente identified combating public corruption as a top priority.

“Whatever the end result, in terms of number of prosecutions or individuals targeted, I hope people involved in political life will get the message,” Corrente said. “They have to conduct themselves honestly, ethically and fairly.”

Sullivan, a veteran prosecutor who has handled violent crimes and drug cases, including prosecutions of the Latin Kings, says that those sorts of crimes are the most horrific imaginable –but they are generally confined to surviving family and friends. Public corruption, he noted, “affects everyone in the state.”

“It’s so widespread that everyone loses faith in government.”

MONTALBANO CONFIRMED to The Journal last fall that he had been questioned by the FBI, but declined to elaborate.

At the same time, officials in West Warwick told the newspaper that they had talked to the FBI and produced records regarding Montalbano’s hiring to perform title work in the town — work that Montalbano says he inadvertently failed to disclose, and which is now the subject of a complaint before the Rhode Island Ethics Commission.

Jeanne-Marie DiMasi, a former West Warwick councilwoman, said that she told the FBI that Alves had recommended Montalbano for the title work. The matter was controversial because two of the parcels abutted the proposed site of the Narragansett Indian-Harrah’s casino. Montalbano had supported legislation putting the casino question on the November ballot, where it failed. But he said there was no conflict.

“I’ve been an attorney since 1979 and a senator for 18 years, and I stand by my reputation for honesty and integrity and the good, honest work I’ve done for my constituents,” Montalbano said at the time. “I’m not a target of an FBI investigation that I’m aware of.”

Montalbano did not return calls Friday regarding recent developments.

A State
House banking lobbyist, William Farrell, was recently approached by the FBI regarding allegations that he, Celona and Montalbano had met with an executive of a bank that had gotten legislation passed in 2001.

Farrell confirmed Friday that there was legislation, and that he golfed at Newport Country Club that fall with Celona and Montalbano. But he said there was no meeting with anyone from the bank, which he declined to identify.

“I have never met with Joe Montalbano and any bank executive about title work,” said Farrell, a lobbyist for 25 years. He declined to elaborate on the FBI’s recent inquiry. “I don’t want to get into the substance of any ongoing investigation.”

The FBI also has approached officials in Lincoln regarding Montalbano and Alves.

Former Finance Director Stephen Woerner and ex-Councilman Dean L. Lees Jr. said Friday that an FBI agent asked them last year about the town’s hiring of a company where Alves is a vice president of investments.

Woerner, now finance director in Johnston, said that the town pension fund lacked a proper asset-allocation plan and that the company was hired after a competitive bidding process. He said that he didn’t deal with Alves.

“[The FBI] was looking into Alves’ connection” to the company, Woerner said. “Unbeknownst to me, Alves worked there. But everything was handled aboveboard.”

Woerner said that the FBI agent also asked him whether Montalbano did tax-sale work in Lincoln. Woerner replied that Montalbano did, but that he had been doing so since prior to Woerner’s tenure as finance director began in 2003.

Lees said that the FBI was “very attentive to the pension system.”

Reached yesterday by phone for comment on the investigation, Alves said “I don’t know anything about that.” The FBI also has taken an interest in legislation creating a municipal court in Lincoln. According to Lees, he was questioned about his efforts to promote a bill at the General Assembly to create a municipal court — an issue that met with opposition from the Senate leadership and died in 2003 in Celona’s Corporations Committee.

“There was concern about who would have more clout in selecting who the judge would be,” Lees said.

Montalbano, who has been a municipal court judge in North Providence, voiced concerns that “a good, competent judge” be chosen, recalled Lees. “He wanted a good, competent person, but he never said who specifically he had in mind.”

The bill eventually passed. In November 2005, Frederic A. Marzilli, a lawyer who has done work for the General Assembly, was appointed municipal court judge in Lincoln.

Lees said that local council members have also been approached by the FBI.

THE COMMON THREAD in the various investigations under way, says U.S. Attorney Corrente, is information provided by John Celona — and the fact that “all, in one fashion or another, involve public corruption.”

With 14 investigations involving seven politicians, one would assume that at least some of the targeted politicians figure into multiple investigations. But Corrente declined to offer any breakdowns, or say whether the list includes former officeholders or politicians outside the General Assembly.

He said that an investigation of the Laborers’ union and related training funds, which became public two years ago when FBI agents searched union offices, is not dead. Among those whose offices were searched was Sen. Dominick J. Ruggerio, administrator of the New England Laborers’ training fund. Corrente would not say whether that investigation has been folded into Operation Dollar Bill, or whether that is why the Department of Labor is involved in the task force.

Asked why cases can take so long to develop, Corrente said: “These investigations involve a lot of people and entities and a staggering number of documents that require analysis. Then there’s additional legal work to determine who should get indicted.”

Just because prosecutors are focused on one case that has become public with an indictment doesn’t mean that they aren’t also working on others, he said.

“This investigation obviously has proceeded in steps,” Corrente said. “As it grew and encompassed more individuals and entities, we needed more people to keep up.”

With cases potentially stacking up like jets waiting to take off at a busy airport, how do prosecutors prioritize?

“That’s what we deal with all day,” Corrente said. “There are an unbelievable number of factors that go into that calculus. That’s our job. That’s what we do. Juggle.”

The Judicial Backlash against Pols starts Locally January 31, 2007

Posted by truthspew in corporations, corruption, Error 10048, politics, Rhode Island.
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This is such happy news to hear. Seems John Celona, former state Senator in RI is now staring at 30 months in the hoosegow for selling his senate office for cash to CVS and Roger Williams Hospital. What’s more interesting is that we’re getting a 7/7 combo from Celona – seven legislators and seven corporations are under investigation. By the way, this is NOT a state case, this is a federal case which means now there’ll be that much more case law to go after corporate influence over legislators everywhere. And RI could be the very first state in which that happens.

Now – follow me here. Let’s say approximately half of those 7 of each roll on other companies and legislators. In the first round we’ll get conservatively get 3.5 more legislators and 3.5 more corporations. Again, I’m being conservative in my estimate. Considering that the entire legislature is comprised of only 113 people, you can see how this going to spread like wildfire. This is because you pretty much know that all your elected officials have their hand in one cookie jar or another.

Now, of those seven legislators I guarantee that most all are in top leadership positions in the house and senate. You know they’ll roll on the rank and file to save their own skins.

And I love how Celona is all of a sudden remorseful. Yeah, right. How can you tell if a politician is telling a lie? His/her mouth is moving. Judge Torres can’t see through the act which surprises me as Torres is known as a tough judge. But then I’ve heard that Torres has some political aspirations of his own which might explain everything.

I see this as encouraging that people are finally waking to the danger of allowing corporations any influence on the legislative process.

Here’s the ProJo article in its entirety:

Celona, Urciuoli sentenced in corruption case
A prosecutor says an ongoing investigation could lead to 14 more criminal cases, involving seven politicians and seven corporations.
01:57 PM EST on Wednesday, January 31, 2007
By STEVE PEOPLES, KATE BRAMSON and JACK PERRYprojo.com staff writers

PROVIDENCE — Former state Sen. John A. Celona, once one of the most powerful lawmakers at the Rhode Island State House, was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for selling his office for personal gain.

Shortly after, U.S. District Judge Ernest C. Torres also penalized form er Roger Williams Medical Center president Robert A. Urciuoli for stealing Celona’s honest services, with a sentence of three years in prison.

Urciuoli took responsibility for Celona’s hiring and requested leniency for co-defendant Frances Driscoll, a former vice president at Roger Williams. “It was my decision and my decision alone to hire John Celona,” Urciuoli said.

Driscoll was convicted in October with Urciuoli. She was found guilty of one count of mail fraud, but acquitted of conspiracy in Celona’s hiring. Her sentencing, originally set for 11:30 a.m. today, is now due to start at 2 p.m.

Celona, a North Providence Democrat who had served as chairman of the powerful Senate Corporations Committee, two years ago admitted selling his office to Roger Williams Medical Center, the drugstore chain CVS and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island. He gained $319,000

He pleaded guilty to three counts of mail fraud in August 2005. Celona was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison this morning for each of the three counts, but they are to be served concurrently. Celona faced 1 1/2 to 3 years.

He was ordered into federal custody March 2.

During this morning’s proceedings, a prosecutor said that Celona’s cooperation in an ongoing investigation could lead to 14 more criminal cases, involving seven politicians and seven corporations.

Celona’s cooperation with investigators has already led to the convictions of Urciuoli and Driscoll and the indictments this month of two former CVS executives.

The federal government’s lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gerard B. Sullivan, characterized the information Celona has provided to federal prosecutors as unparalleled.

Sullivan didn’t go into any details about the seven additional politicians and corporation under investigation. Sullivan said it’s not clear how many prosecutions will come from those 14 separate investigations.

An emotional Celona spoke for six minutes, telling Senior U.S. District Judge Ernest C. Torres, that he will continue cooperating.

“I would like to express my remorse, apologize and take full responsibility for my past actions. I am truly sorry,” Celona said. “I am in some ways glad all of this has happened.”

That’s because, Celona said, in the past three years he has become “a better husband, better father and in some respects just a regular person living in the real world.”

“I was living in a superficial world in the State House,” he said.

At that moment, through tears and with his voice cracking, Celona professed his faith in Jesus Christ.

The last three years have affirmed that “family and honor are the most important aspects of life, not power, not politics, not glory,” he said.

Judge Torres told Celona, “I have a feeling that you are genuinely remorseful for what you’ve done.”

Referring to future prosecutions, he said, “You’ve testified and apparently will be testifying in future cases.”

Torres spoke of the culture of corruption and said he hopes this sentence will send a message to other office-holders.

“The message doesn’t seem to have sunk in,” he said, referring to other cases in Rhode Island.

“I hope, but I’m not sure I can say I’m optimistic, that what’s happened in this case” will deter further corruption, Torres said.

Celona must also serve two years of supervised release. As conditions of that supervised release, he must commit to eight hours of community service each week for two years.

He also must pay the cost of the supervised release, the cost of which is $3,450.

Urciuoli was convicted after the same trial of one count of conspiracy and 35 counts of mail fraud. He was sentenced today to 3 years on each of the counts and all are to be served concurrently.

Urciuoli has until noon April 2 to turn himself in to prison officials. Torres denied a request to stay Urciuoli’s sentence until his appeal can be heard.

The juro
rs acquitted a third defendant, Peter J. Sangermano Jr., who owned the Village at Elmhurst, where Celona was paid $257,000 as a consultant from 1998 to 2004.