Study: Palestinian Arab institutions hugely corrupt

December 9, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comments Off 

From Ma’an:

One person in four worldwide paid a bribe during the past year, according to a study released Thursday to mark International Anti-Corruption Day.

The study, by the Berlin-based non-governmental agency Transparency International, focuses on small-scale bribery and was put together from polls conducted among more than 91,000 people in 86 countries and territories.

In the past 12 months, one in four paid a bribe to one of nine institutions, such as health, education or tax authorities, according to the 2010 Global Corruption Barometer.

Countries topping the list for reported bribe payments over the year were Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cameroon, India, Iraq, Liberia, Nigeria, the Palestinian territories, Senegal, Sierre Leone and Uganda, where more than one person out of two said they had handed out financial sweeteners to officials.

The study itself says that 51% of Palestinian Arabs paid a bribe to get services in the past year. They didn’t list every Middle Eastern country, so it is unclear how the PA and Hamas compare with Jordan or Egypt, but Lebanon’s score was 34%.

Israel’s score was 4%, slightly lower than the US score of 5% and tied with Canada.

Denmark’s score was zero, the only country to hit that level (the UK and Norway were next at 1%.)



Elder of Ziyon

Study: Palestinian Arab institutions hugely corrupt

December 9, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comments Off 

From Ma’an:

One person in four worldwide paid a bribe during the past year, according to a study released Thursday to mark International Anti-Corruption Day.

The study, by the Berlin-based non-governmental agency Transparency International, focuses on small-scale bribery and was put together from polls conducted among more than 91,000 people in 86 countries and territories.

In the past 12 months, one in four paid a bribe to one of nine institutions, such as health, education or tax authorities, according to the 2010 Global Corruption Barometer.

Countries topping the list for reported bribe payments over the year were Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cameroon, India, Iraq, Liberia, Nigeria, the Palestinian territories, Senegal, Sierre Leone and Uganda, where more than one person out of two said they had handed out financial sweeteners to officials.

The study itself says that 51% of Palestinian Arabs paid a bribe to get services in the past year. They didn’t list every Middle Eastern country, so it is unclear how the PA and Hamas compare with Jordan or Egypt, but Lebanon’s score was 34%.

Israel’s score was 4%, slightly lower than the US score of 5% and tied with Canada.

Denmark’s score was zero, the only country to hit that level (the UK and Norway were next at 1%.)



Elder of Ziyon

Transparency International Poll: The World Is Getting More Corrupt

December 9, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

As if it wasn’t bad enough that a souring world economy has people all over the world already abuzz, a new poll finds that most people believe the world is more corrupt than it was three years ago:

Some 56% of people interviewed by Transparency International said their country had become more corrupt.

And there’s finally a bit of good news for the United States: it is not ranked in the very top category:

The organisation put Afghanistan, Nigeria, Iraq and India in the most corrupt category, followed by China, Russia and much of the Middle East.

Meanwhile, a BBC poll suggests that corruption is the world’s most talked about problem.

About one in five of those polled by the BBC said they had discussed issues relating to corruption with others in the last month, making it the most talked about concern ahead of climate change, poverty, unemployment and rising food and energy costs.

And what do people consider the most corrupt institution? American independent voters will appreciate this finding (although the modus operendi may be a bit different depending on the country):

In the Transparency International survey, political parties were regarded as the most corrupt institutions, and 50% of people believed their government was ineffective at tackling the problem.

One in four of those polled said they had paid a bribe in the past year – the police being the most common recipient.

Some 29% of bribes went to the police, 20% to registry and permit officials, and 14% to members of the judiciary.

Political parties have long been regarded as the most corrupt institutions – they topped the list in Transparency’s 2004 barometer with 71%. In this year’s report, 80% regarded them as corrupt.

And religious institutions? They may wish to do some prayers about their images, too:

Religious bodies experienced a sharp rise in people regarding them as corrupt – 28% in 2004 increased to 53% by 2010.

According to the BBC, the people who reported the most corruption in their daily lives are from Afghanistan, Nigeria, Iraq and India. Roughly half of those reported having to pay a bribe the past year.

While people from Cambodia (84%) and Liberia (89%) were the most likely to have to pay a bribe, the Danish reported 0% bribery.

Robin Hodess, Transparency’s policy and research director, expressed particular concern at the figures on bribery.

“Unfortunately people’s experience with bribery most often involves the police, and this is really worrying,” he said.

Reuters frames the poll this way:

The public’s faith in political parties has been sharply eroded during the financial crisis, with four out of five people saying they are corrupt or very corrupt, a survey showed Thursday.

The 2010 Global Corruption Barometer by Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International (TI) showed that 79 percent of respondents in a global study believed parties were “corrupt or extremely corrupt,” up from 69 percent in 2009.

TI said the sample of countries used was slightly larger in 2010, and that if a comparison was made between 65 nations polled in both years, the increase was more pronounced — 82 percent saw parties as corrupt in 2010, up from 68 percent last year.

“The fall-out of the financial crises continues to affect people’s opinions of corruption, particularly in Europe and North America,” TI chairwoman Huguette Labelle said.

“Institutions everywhere must be resolute in their efforts to restore good governance and trust,” she added.

Israel’s Jerusalem Post says this:

Transparency International – Israel released a poll on Thursday, which showed that Israelis think that political parties are the most corrupt institution in the country.

Nearly 90 percent of Israelis said that parties were corrupt, giving them a score of 4.5 out of five possible corruption points. The Knesset was ranked as the second-most corrupt institution, with a score of four. The IDF was in last place, with 2.6 out of five points.

The Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation offers this:

At least 92% of Kenyans perceive the police force as the most corrupt institution.

This is according to the 2010 Global Corruption Barometer Report, a worldwide public opinion survey on corruption, released Thursday by Transparency International on the International Anti Corruption Day.

In 2010 the Global Corruption Barometer covered 86 countries and territories polling 91,781 individuals between 1st June and 30th September 2010 with a margin of error of between 2.18% and 4.40% per country.

The survey had a nationwide sample of 1,000 people in Kenya and was conducted between 1st and 10th July 2010.

The Barometer explores the general public’s views about corruption levels in their country and their government efforts to fight corruption.

The 2010 Barometer also probes the frequency of bribery, reasons for paying a bribe in the past year, and attitudes towards reporting incidents of corruption.

The Irish Times:

IRISH PEOPLE’S trust in politicians is among the lowest of any country worldwide, according to a survey.

Transparency International’s Irish branch surveyed 1,000 Irish residents between June and September this year. The survey, released today to coincide with International Anti-Corruption Day, found people felt corruption to be on the rise in most public institutions. The perception of corruption in politics and the church was among the highest of the 86 countries surveyed.

In a barometer measuring between 1 and 5, at which 5 is the most corrupt, participants scored Irish political parties at 4.4. Only Greece, Israel, Nigeria and Romania rated their political parties as being more corrupt.

Six out of 10 Irish people felt levels of corruption had risen in the past three years. The public’s trust in the church and the Oireachtas deteriorated most dramatically since the last study was carried out in 2007. However, the perception of corruption in business, the media, NGOs, the education system, the Garda and the military also deteriorated. The only improvement was in relation to the legal system.

More than eight out of 10 people believed the Government was ineffective in tackling the abuse of power while 4 per cent claimed they had paid a bribe in the last year.

Chief executive of Transparency Ireland John Devitt said the findings were not surprising. “If anything, it’s surprising the Irish figures are not worse,” he said.

Radio Free Europe:

The report also found that corruption takes a huge toll on poor people. TI chairwoman Huguette Labelle called it “a regressive tax” and an “injustice [that] must be addressed.”

When it comes to their own government’s efforts against corruption, most citizens reported not being impressed.

The exceptions were in the United States and most NIS countries, where citizens said they believed the government was having an effect against corruption.

Marschall said the group was surprised to learn that political parties are the least-trusted groups in many countries. Some 80 percent of respondents said they believed such organizations are “deeply corrupt.”

Amidst the report’s bad news there is some good news. The survey found a healthy level of outrage over corruption and more people than ever said they would be willing to stand up and report incidents of corruption to authorities.

“More people are now ready to fight against corruption. More people believe that, actually, he or she can make a difference,” Marschall said. “Seventy percent of all our respondents told us that they are ready now to report on corruption if they come across such a case, so that is definitely good news.”

However, that number drops in half if the person is a victim of corruption.

The copyrighted cartoon by Angel Boligan, Cagle Cartoons, El Universal, Mexico City, is licensed to run on TMV. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. All rights reserved.


The Moderate Voice

Tax Loopholes Are Corrupt and Inefficient, but They Should only Be Eliminated if Every Penny of New Revenue Is Used to Lower Tax Rates

November 23, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

By Daniel J. Mitchell

There’s been a lot of heated discussion about various preferences, deductions, credits, shelters, and other loopholes in the tax code. Some of this debate has revolved around whether it is legitimate to refer to these provisions as “tax expenditures” or “subsidies.”

Michael Cannon vociferously argues that subsidies and expenditures only occur when the government takes money from person A and gives it to person B. On the other side of the debate are people like Josh Barro of the Manhattan Institute, who argues that tax preferences are akin to subsidies or expenditures since they can be just as damaging as government spending programs when looking at whether resources are efficiently allocated.

Since I’m a can’t-we-all-get-along, uniter-not-divider kind of person [Editor’s note: ???], allow me to suggest that this debate should be set aside. After all, we all agree that tax preferences can lead to inefficient outcomes. So let’s call them “tax distortions” and focus on the real issue, which is how best to eliminate them.

This is an important issue because both the Domenici-Rivlin Task Force and the Chairmen of the Simpson-Bowles Commission have unveiled plans that would reduce or eliminate many of these tax distortions and also lower marginal tax rates. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that their plans result in more revenue going to Washington. In other words, the tax increase resulting from fewer tax distortions is larger than the tax decrease resulting from lower tax rates. To put it bluntly, the plans would increase the overall tax burden.

Some argue that this is an acceptable price to pay. They point out, quite correctly, that lower tax rates will help the economy by improving incentives for productive behavior. And they also are right in arguing that fewer tax distortions will help the economy by improving efficiency. Seems like a win-win situation. What’s not to like?

The problem is on the spending side of the fiscal ledger. The Simpson-Bowles Commission and the Domenici-Rivlin Task Force were charged with figuring out how to reduce red ink. We already know from Congressional Budget Office data, however, that we can balance the budget fairly quickly by limiting the growth of government spending. As the chart illustrates, the deficit disappears by 2016-2017 with a hard freeze and goes away by 2019-2020 if spending increases by two percent each year (and this assumes all the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are made permanent).

If tax revenue is increased, that simply means that the budget gets balanced at a higher level of spending. And since government spending, at current levels and composition, hinders economic growth by diverting labor and capital to less productive (or unproductive) uses, any proposal that enables higher levels of government spending will further undermine economic performance.

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyhow) that this analysis is overly optimistic since it assumes that politicians actually will balance the budget. In all likelihood, as explained in today’s Wall Street Journal, any tax increase would probably be followed by even more spending. So if politicians raise the tax burden, we might still have a deficit of $ 685 billion in 2020 (CBO’s most-recent estimate assuming  all programs are left on auto-pilot), but the overall levels of both spending and taxes would be higher. This modified cartoon captures this real-world effect.

This is why revenue-neutral tax reform, like the flat tax, is the only pro-growth way of eliminating tax distortions.

Tax Loopholes Are Corrupt and Inefficient, but They Should only Be Eliminated if Every Penny of New Revenue Is Used to Lower Tax Rates is a post from Cato @ Liberty – Cato Institute Blog


Cato @ Liberty

Default? More Like Corrupt Officials

November 19, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 
style=”float: right; margin-bottom: 1px; margin-left: 1px;”> href=”http://blog.heritage.org/wp-content/uploads/microcredit.jpg”> class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-46997″ title=”microcredit” src=”http://blog.heritage.org/wp-content/uploads/microcredit.jpg” alt=”” width=”356″ height=”239″ />

A recent href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/18/world/asia/18micro.html”>New York Times article on microcredit in India may have missed the whole point. Their headline implies massive defaults in the microcredit industry, yet in the first paragraph they state, “borrowers in one of India’s largest states have stopped repaying their loans, egged on by politicians.”

If borrowers are defaulting because their businesses are failing, or because the microcredit institute shouldn’t have given them a loan, then ok, perhaps there is a place to examine industry practices. In this case however, it sounds more like the politicians aren’t getting the bribes they asked for, and are trying to destroy the industry as a result. id=”more-46995″>

India is known for its href=”http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2009/05/US-India-Relations-Ensuring-Indian-Prosperity-in-the-Coming-Demographic-Boom”>massive levels of corruption and for its debilitating regulations when trying to start and run a business. Microcredit offers a way around many of the business regulations, as it enables individual entrepreneurs the ability to start businesses small enough that they don’t get as caught up in red tape.

The New York Times itself ran two articles earlier this week on the benefits of microfinance. One was a href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/14/opinion/14kristof.html”>success story in Pakistan in which a very astute Pakistani woman states, “Charity is limited, but capitalism isn’t…If you want to change the world, you need market-based solutions.” And one discussing href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/14/business/global/14haiti.html”>possibilities in Haiti for microfinance to help its continuing earthquake recovery and overall development.

Yes, there are bound to be problems when an industry is new. But any examination of the problems needs to look below the surface level. In India, it may be upset politicians hampering an industry that has the potential to change lives. In most cases, microcredit is doing what the politicians should be doing- helping the country develop.

Michelle Kaffenberger is a former research assistant at The Heritage Foundation and is currently a graduate student in Economic Development at Vanderbilt University.

The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

Abramoff Ally Kevin Ring Found Guilty In Scheme To Corrupt Officials

November 15, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

An associate of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff was found guilty in federal court on five counts related to a scheme to corrupt public officials.

Kevin Ring was found guilty on one count of conspiring to corrupt congressional and executive branch officials by providing things of value; one count of paying a gratuity to a public official and three counts of honest services wire fraud for engaging in a scheme to deprive U.S. citizens of their right to the honest services of certain public officials, the Justice Department said in a statement. Ring was acquitted on three counts of honest services fraud, said DOJ.

The former lobbyist faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for conspiracy, two years in prison for payment of a gratuity and 20 years in prison for each of the three counts of honest services wire fraud, said the Justice Department. He could also be ordered to pay up to $ 250,000 on each count of conviction. His sentencing hearing has been scheduled for March 1.

This was the second time Ring had gone through a trial. A judge declared a mistrial last year when the jury was unable to reach a consensus on some of the charges in the case.

The outcome of this trial had been in doubt because the man who had been described as the strongest witness against Ring recanted his testimony.

Ring, a former aide to Rep. John Doolittle, served as the middleman for Abramoff in the hiring of Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions, a political fundraising company headed by Doolittle’s wife. More on Ring’s background here.

Others pled guilty for their roles in the conspiracy uncovered by the wide ranging investigation, but Ring was the only lobbyist who took his case to court.

While they were convinced by the arguments of the prosecutors, some jurors wondered whether the case was a proper use of government resources, the Associated Press reported:

Several jurors said in interviews after leaving the courtroom that they didn’t know much about how lobbying worked before the case, but prosecutors convinced them he crossed the line.

“There’s a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things,” said retired postal worker Tom Bandy.

Bandy and other jurors said there was not a lot of disagreement, but they wanted to take their time to go over all the elements of the complicated case based largely on Ring’s own e-mails to the officials and his lobbying colleagues.

Even though they convicted him on most counts, several jurors questioned whether the case was a proper use of government resources.

“I saw it as a waste of time and money, but the law is what it is,” said Andre Ruffin outside the courtroom as several of his fellow jurors nodded in agreement.

Another member of “Team Abramoff” was held accountable “through the talent and hard work of prosecutors from the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity and Fraud Sections,” said Mythili Raman, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division.

“For years, this team of lobbyists schemed to corrupt public officials, and, because of their actions, Americans were denied the honest services of public servants,” Raman said. “Through the continued vigilance of our prosecutors and our law enforcement partners, we are committed to bringing to justice those who seek to corrupt our democratic process.”









TPMMuckraker

Issa walks back comment calling Obama ‘corrupt’

November 8, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Washington (CNN) – Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California), the next chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is walking back remarks he made on conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh’s show last month in which he called President Obama “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.”

In an interview with CNN lead political anchor Wolf Blitzer on the Situation Room, Issa initially said, ‘It was a campaign and I make no bones about it – if I had to do it over again I’d have parsed my words a little more carefully.”

But he defended his use of the word corrupt, saying, “When you hand a president nearly a trillion dollars in walking around money, he uses it for political paybacks, that’s corrupt.”

Pressed on the point, Issa said, “Do I think the president is personally corrupt, no, I should never have implied that or created that in a quick statement on a radio call-in.”

During the interview, Issa also called for bipartisan cooperation and insisted that his leadership of the Government Reform committee would not be a witch-hunt for members of previous administrations, but rather a way to improve the function of government.

“Our committee is supposed to be about finding ways to – creating reform, making government do its job, and do it within a smaller budget, not a larger budget,” Issa said, adding that he plans to continue bipartisan initiatives that were part of the committee’s agenda while Democrats were in power.

On how Republicans would govern, Issa said the GOP’s past mistakes would play a role, and urged caution for the future.

“We’ve learned lessons by being voted out,” Issa said of Republicans. “If we don’t make a change in these two years we don’t deserve to continue to have an opportunity to lead.”


CNN Political Ticker

An Annoyed George Stephanopoulos Harangues GOP Rep to Recant Criticism of ‘Corrupt’ Obama

November 8, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Monday devoted almost an entire interview with Republican Darrell Issa to attacking a criticism the Congressman made of Barack Obama as "corrupt." Stephanopoulos attempted four times to get Issa to recant his accusation.

The GMA host demanded of Issa, who next  year will chair the powerful House Oversight committee, "And just before the election, you made a pretty serious charge on Rush Limbaugh's radio show saying that President Obama has been, quote, 'one of the most corrupt presidents of modern times.' What did you base that on? And how will you follow up on that now that you have the power to investigate?"

Stephanopoulos returned to the question over and over, excluding other topics: "So, let me just press that. You no longer stand by the statement that the President is one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times?" After Issa brought up misuse of stimulus money and other issues, the annoyed host demanded, "Do you stand by the statement or not?"

read more

NewsBusters.org – Exposing Liberal Media Bias

President Obama Tries to Get Out the Vote; Sarah Palin Attacks ‘Corrupt Bastards’ in Media

November 1, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Our Good Morning America report, 24 hours before election day: -Jake Tapper



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Political Punch

“Those Corrupt Bastards”

October 31, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Not exactly presidential language there from former half-first-term governor Palin, about a local CBS afffiliate's view of her preferred Senate candidate in Alaska. And reading the transcript and listening to the tape (see below) and reading the TV station's rather opaque defense/explanation, I'm not entirely sure what went on. Here's the tape of the end of a voicemail message for a Joe Miller campaign worker – left accidentally by not hanging up after the end of a real message:

But what it appears to me to be is a bunch of reporters, er, joking about various gambits to make a Joe Miller rally more page-view worthy. I don't think honestly that a local journalist is seriously going to go through a Miller rally looking for the lone "child-molester" on his staff or fabricating some violent shenanigans and then issuing a fake Twitter news alert "Joe Miller punched in face," when he obviously wasn't. Aren't they goofing around – hence all the laughter?

Maybe I'm wrong. But maybe it was too much for the affiliate to admit that their journalists take their jobs even more cynically than the rest of us watching them. Of course they're biased. But also getting loopy.





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The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Iranian cleric explains how Jews corrupt America’s human rights

October 21, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

Syria’s SANA news agency informs us that the vice president of the Iranian Shura Council, Muhammad Hassan Abu Turabi, says that human rights in America today have become a victim of the “illegitimate interests of a few international Zionists.”

He was speaking at a conference in Iran called “Human Rights and the United States.” He said that democracy is now an instrument for violating human rights, and that Iran has detected the Zionist influence in this scheme.

That term “International Zionists” reminds me of something….

Elder of Ziyon

NPR Host Coos Over ‘So Funny’ Jon Stewart, As He Says ‘Tough [Bleep]‘ to Liberals And Denounces Media as Timid, Corrupt

October 8, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Nationally distributed NPR talk show host Terry Gross was putting her feelings on her sleeve and on the air Monday in an interview with liberal comedian Jon Stewart. The episode was taped at an event at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan with a live audience. Gross began by proclaiming "I just want to say thank you before I ask you the first question…..Thank you for the last thing I see every night, in addition to my husband and my cat, is your show. And I’m able to go to bed with a sense that there is sanity someplace in the world."

Stewart joked constantly through the hour, but it was also clear he had serious anger with how the Democrats haven’t been leftist enough, and about a media that hasn’t been biased enough. He expressed frustration near the show’s end when he asserted that the media’s too timid because of the talk of a "liberal media conspiracy." When asked about liberals being concerned that his October 30 "million moderates" march will hurt Democrats, he actually said "Tough [expletive]."

GROSS: Now, some people are worried. There’s a big AFL-CIO liberal march, there’s the FFL, the NAACP, a whole bunch of groups. Some people worry that your march is going to take away from their, like, serious political march.

STEWART: Right, yeah, tough (bleep). (Laughter, applause.)

GROSS: Why do you say that?

STEWART: I have a job. I don’t have to do yours. I don’t have to do their job. Let them do their job. If their job is to motivate the voters and to rally people to their cause, God bless. Do whatever you’ve got to do. But that’s not my job. My job is to, again, express our point of view comedically about what we view as the political process.

You know, I don’t I have no obligation to the Democrats or progressives or liberals or unions. Our feeling is, corruption is corruption. If a union is corrupt, you can’t leave it alone because it’s a union, and they help so that 8-year-olds don’t work in factories anymore. You know, you have to go where you feel like the absurdity is. So we’re not anybody’s we’re not warriors in their cause. And if they’re upset, they should have thought of that, you know, the past couple of years, before they lost, you know, the momentum that they had gained in 2008.

Stewart would tell his fans that he’s all about taking down the pomposity of politicians, but there is a great deal of pomposity about how it’s somehow his sacred duty to "express his point of view comedically." When asked if he’s become more political since his start at The Daily Show (replacing Craig Kilborn as host in year), he said he’s more concerned about corruption — not from the politicians, but from the media, who aren’t aggressive (leftist) enough for him:

GROSS: So he [Stephen Colbert] feels that he became more political because you pushed him to make passionate political choices in humor. Did doing the show make you more political than you ever expected to be – more politically aware, more politically engaged?

STEWART: I think it made me less political and more emotional. The closer you spend time with the political and the media process, the less political you become, and the more viscerally upset you become at corruption. So its – I dont consider it political because political – I always sort of denote as a partisan endeavor.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. STEWART: But we have – I have become increasingly unnerved by just the depth of corruption that exists at many different levels. I’m less upset about politicians than the media. I feel like politicians, there is a certain, inherent – you know, the way I always explain it is, when you go to the zoo and a monkey throws its feces, its a monkey. (Laughter)  But, when the zookeeper is standing right there, and he doesnt say bad monkey… (Laughter)

Somebody’s got to be the zookeeper. And that’s – so I tend to feel much more strongly about the abdication of responsibility by the media than by political advocates. (Applause) They’re representing a constituency. And the media, you know, our culture is just a series of checks and balances. That’s why I’m never – you know, the whole idea that we’re in a – suddenly a battle for, between tyranny and freedom; its a series of pendulum swings. And the swings have become less drastic over time.

That’s why I feel sort of – not sanguine, but at least a little bit less frightful in that our pendulum swings have become less and less. But what has changed is, I think, the media’s sense of their ability to be responsible arbiters or – I think they feel fearful. I think there is this whole idea now that there’s a liberal media conspiracy. And so if they feel like they express any moral authority or judgment, which is what you would imagine is editorial control, that they will be vilified. Or there’s, you know, I honestly don’t know what it is.

Gross also loved Stewart’s Beck-bashing:

GROSS: So although the rally isn’t directly inspired by Glenn Beck, I think there is a bit of an echo there. So I thought we’d play the Glenn Beck clip first because you are so funny. You recently devoted a show, the better part of a show, to your impression of Glenn Beck.

STEWART: Yes.

GROSS: And it was so funny and so good, and so right on the money.

STEWART: Thank you.

GROSS: So I want to play a clip. I don’t know if you saw it. I don’t know if you saw it or not when it was on, but you’ll get to see it now, and this clip actually starts with Glenn Beck himself, with a clip from his show that you will then comment on. Here we go. [Clip from Daily Show begins] 

STEWART: You just blew my mind.

GLENN BECK ("The Glenn Beck Show"): Progressives think they know better than you do. They want to control every aspect of your life.

STEWART: I didn’t know that that’s what I wanted, but I guess I want to control every aspect of your life. As a progressive, I might say: I think it’s a good idea for an agency to monitor pollution. (Laughter)

But I guess what I really mean is, it’s in the state’s interest that we be allowed to put a chip in your head that tells you when you can masturbate. (Laughter) Total control. And in my America, nobody tells people when they can masturbate. (Applause) That is a decision that should only be made between myself, my doctor, and that new Calvin Klein billboard outside my window’s that’s lit 24 hours a day – no not that one, the new one. The new one. Ew, no, the new one that’s got the yeah. (Laughter, applause, end of clip).

GROSS: So I’d love it if you could kind of take us behind the scenes a little bit and tell us, like, what goes on – like, how did you try to deconstruct Glenn Beck and figure out what is his logic that you’re going to apply in your version?

Mr. STEWART: The beautiful thing about what he does is, it’s very difficult to argue with his facts. It’s the conclusions. You know, you can string together all type of fact. It’s sort of like, you know, the old thing where, like, he’s got a thing about progressives. If you somehow believe that the country should have some type of social safety net for, you know, our least-fortunate people, then you believe that the government should control the banks and also, all of our institutions. And you know, it’s that slippery slope. And he’ll come up with, you know, these little arguments that go along and – but the conclusions he draws. So what you do is, you just grab together facts, and then you take them and you put them together and do a grab bag of conclusions.

You know, it’s – everything is discovered as evidence of secret plots, you know, secret things that could be occurring. You know, you take the word conservative or libertarian, you know, and you break it apart. You know, libertarian – L-I, lie, lie. Why would the word lie be in there? And then bert. Bert was the gay communist half of Ernie and Bert. Why would that be in there? (Laughter) And if you arian, Aryan. Do you see? Aryan is the last they are Nazis. You know, and you blow it all out as though it’s a conspiracy, and it’s easy to perform because it’s comedy.

When the time was up, Gross proclaimed, "I would love to talk to you for hours, and I have a feeling our audience would love to listen to you for hours, but I am (applause) I am, sadly, required to end it about now."

NewsBusters.org – Exposing Liberal Media Bias

HUD Report Slams Corrupt ACORN As Funding Ban Set To Expire For Undead Group

September 24, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Citing massive irregularities and gross taxpayer funding abuses, federal investigators are recommending that government funding for ACORN’s still operating housing affiliate be cut off immediately.

Investigators must have felt it was necessary to urge the funding cutoff because the federal government’s prohibition on funding ACORN isn’t a permanent ban. It exists at the whim of lawmakers and runs out at the end of this month. This is the finding of an analysis by Capital Research Center (which has been tracking ACORN since 1998).

ACORN_Honesty_Obama_WH

Investigators may also have wanted to remind the public that ACORN is still alive. Reports of ACORN’s demise continue to be churned out by misinformed journalists who  amplify the zombie group’s lies. In recent days the Washington Post incorrectly described ACORN as “a dead NGO,” and Slate said ACORN has “stopped existing.” More on this in a moment.

The Sept. 21 report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Inspector General found that ACORN Housing, which changed its name earlier this year to Affordable Housing Centers of America (AHC), may have concealed fraud by destroying or failing to produce records.

ACORN violated federal rules on how grants are to be used. The group charged the government salary costs for employees after they were terminated, the report said, and violated federal procurement standards.

The report suggested ACORN corruptly funneled taxpayer dollars to its affiliates and engaged in money laundering. ACORN has taken in more than $ 19 million in housing counseling grants since 1995 from HUD. NeighborWorks, a congressionally chartered nonprofit, gave ACORN $ 25.9 million. ACORN Housing has received more than $ 27.3 million from other federal and non-federal sources, the report said.

The report urged HUD to force ACORN Housing to improve its record-keeping and recommended the ACORN affiliate be placed on “inactive” status while it “initiates corrective actions to address the exceptions and recommendations in this report.”

“Any organization that applies for and accepts taxpayer dollars has a responsibility to act consistently with federal law,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). “It doesn’t matter if it’s ten dollars or ten thousand dollars, there is no acceptable amount of abuse or mismanagement that the federal government should tolerate when it comes to the taxpayer’s dollars.”

Issa is ranking minority member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He is expected to become chairman if Republicans win control of the House in November.

Many Americans –and some lawmakers— seem to believe Congress cut off ACORN permanently, but this belief appears to be unfounded.

This confusion about ACORN can probably be blamed in part on the quirks of parliamentary procedure and the complexity of the appropriations process. The legal language prohibiting the funding is contained in spending legislation that covers only the federal government’s current fiscal year which ends this Sept. 30. The House and the Senate first passed legislation banning funding for ACORN in fall 2009 after undercover videos showed ACORN Housing employees offering activists James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles “how to” advice on establishing a brothel, defrauding the government and banks, and evading other laws.

Mass media news reports rarely explain details of spending bills, such as when the fiscal year they cover comes to an end. But the fact that the funding ban is not permanent was noticed by ACORN lawyers and Judge Roger J. Miner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Miner wrote the court’s opinion in August that overturned Judge Nina Gershon’s perverse ruling that the funding ban was an unconstitutional “bill of attainder” that punished ACORN without a trial.

Public Law 111-68, signed by President Obama on Oct. 1, 2009, is formally known as “An Act making appropriations for the Legislative Branch for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010, and for other purposes.” [emphasis added] Section 163 of the Act reads: “None of the funds made available by this joint resolution or any prior Act may be provided to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, or allied organizations.”

Similar de-funding language was included in other spending bills signed into law by President Obama that followed in the weeks after. All those bills covered federal spending only for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010. (See Section 427 of Public Law 111-88; Division A – Section 418, Division B – Section 534, and Division E – Section 511 of Public Law 111-117; Section 8124 of Public Law 111-118.)

Plans to extend the funding ban are in the works in Congress. Section 417 of the Transportation-HUD appropriations bill for fiscal 2011 (S.3644) would prohibit funding of ACORN in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, 2010. It’s very unlikely that the bill will become law by Oct. 1 but Congress may also extend the funding ban in new stopgap spending legislation – though there’s no guarantee that will happen.

Then there’s lazy reporting that may have also added to public confusion.

Most reporters uncritically accepted ACORN’s false claim to have shut down earlier this year despite abundant evidence to the contrary. ACORN said it dissolved its national structure on April Fool’s Day, yet the group continues to operate out of its headquarters in Brooklyn. Two weeks after the alleged shutdown Chief Organizer Bertha Lewis sent out a fundraising letter boasting that “ACORN is alive because you are alive and still fighting for justice.” Lawyer Arthur Z. Schwartz is still representing ACORN. He sent a letter June 9 to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) demanding changes to a report on his client.

Both ACORN operative Nathan Henderson-James and ACORN hagiographer John Atlas have admitted the shuttering of the ACORN network is a sham. Issa’s investigators also reported that Lewis has been busy consolidating and hoarding ACORN’s assets. ACORN reportedly has $ 10 million in property and $ 20 million in cash in 800 bank accounts. Like grifters who adopt new aliases in order to keep duping victims, ACORN chapters in 13 states and the District of Columbia have incorporated themselves under new names. Many of the “new” re-branded groups have the same employees and board members and addresses as the old ACORN chapters.

That’s a lot of activity for a group that’s dead.


Big Government

Tea Party Leader Dick Armey: Social Security Is A Corrupt ‘Ponzi Scheme’

September 20, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

This past weekend, conservative activists and Tea Party groups gathered in Chicago for the Right Nation 2010 convention. Among those who attended was former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, the chairman of one of the original Tea Party groups, FreedomWorks.

During the event, ThinkProgress sat down with Armey at a blogger’s roundtable. No sooner than we took our seats did Armey come out guns-blazing against Social Security. He called it a “corrupt government practice” that steals people’s money “under false pretenses.” He went on to call Social Security a “Ponzi scheme”:

ARMEY: The government uses the concept of a trust fund to take your money under false pretenses. For years, I wrote about and talked about and taught about what I call ‘corrupt government practices,’ because they’re always so quick to talk about corruption. One of the corrupt government practices is stealing your money under false pretenses. I’ll give you a to wit: social security. When they had the Alan Greenspan commission, they knowingly raised payroll taxes more than what was necessary to meet the flow of output. Social Security is a pay-as-you-go Ponzi scheme. They knew very well that the extra $ 250 billion would be spent on their social schemes.

Watch here:

Though Tea Party candidates continue to flail on whether or not they would like to privatize Social Security, Tea Party groups like FreedomWorks mince no words about what their plan is for the hugely-successful social safety net. In a Politico interview, Armey said that if he could do one thing as president of the United States, he would make “all government programs…voluntary.” However, the American public remains adamantly opposed to this plan, with two of every three Americans uncomfortable with the idea of privatizing Social Security.

Think Progress

Six Years Later, US Still Trying to Find a Way to Keep Corrupt Contractor in Afghanistan

September 20, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

The most depressing part of this McClatchy article on the corrupt USAID contracting in Afghanistan by the construction company, Louis Berger, are six-year old quotes calling for an alternative to Berger.

Behind the scenes, U.S. officials repeatedly have voiced frustration about the company’s work.

In May 2004 — three months after then-President George W. Bush publicly praised the company for its quick construction of a section of the Kabul-to-Kandahar Highway — then-U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad raised concerns about Louis Berger.

“These problems are now beginning to interfere with the credibility of the U.S. Mission in Afghanistan, and require immediate corrective action,” he wrote.

Later that year, Patrick Fine, USAID’s top official in Afghanistan, questioned the quality of schools and clinics whose construction was overseen by Louis Berger. “It is time to cut our losses and put in place an alternative strategy,” he wrote.

Yet six years later, DOJ is preparing to sign either a non-prosecution or a deferred prosecution agreement with the company so that Louis Berger can continue to work in Afghanistan.

The decision to brush aside the allegations and the evidence and keep doing business with Louis Berger, underscores a persistent dilemma for the Obama administration in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Cutting ties with suspect war-zone contractors in Afghanistan would threaten the administration’s effort to rebuild the country and begin withdrawing some of the nearly 100,000 U.S. troops there next July.

You know all those articles about the corruption of Karzai’s government? The claims that Afghans are just more tolerant of corruption than Americans? The suggestions that, because it’s a developing country, Afghans have to and do learn to tolerate corruption?

Either we’ve become a banana republic sooner than most people realized (perhaps with the FL county in 2000? Or before that?). Or all those attempts to blame Afghan culture for the corruption there are just lame excuses invented to help us overlook our own apparently intractable tolerance for corruption.

But one way or another, it helps to make Afghanistan far too expensive to achieve whatever “victory” our government pretends to be pursuing.

Related posts:

  1. “The law enforcement approach … mucks up our strategic interests.”
  2. We Spend $ 1 Billion/Year Fighting Each al Qaeda Member in Afghanistan
  3. How Is McChrystal Doing at Fulfilling His Plan?

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