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TRUTHOUT!: ‘Deforming the Reform: A Case Study in Oversight Perseverance’

Deforming the Reform: A Case Study in Oversight Perseverance

Wednesday 20 April 2011
by: Dina Rasor, Truthout

I am continuing our series of solutions for the Department of Defense (DoD) with a look at how the government keeps track of companies that have engaged in misconduct when awarded lucrative government contracts. This is specifically a problem for the DoD, because when you look at the top 100 contractors, the majority with high numbers of misconduct are companies that work with the DoD. This is not surprising because procurement oversight in the DoD is weak, and many of the companies know that if they get caught doing something wrong, they can declare a national security need and will probably get a follow-on contract or other contracts in the future.

This Solutions column will look at how attempts to reform and add more transparency to government contracting by open government groups and the Congress resulted in weak, but promising, legislation. But then, the government, under pressure from the government contractors, has been further deforming and degrading this attempt at open government records. This is a common problem when reforms are introduced, get passed in a weakened form due to corporate lobbying and are further degraded as the reforms are implemented into the government bureaucracy because the government acquiesces to the pressure by government contractor lobbyists. The politicians can brag that they passed more government oversight for more open government to their constituents and the media, but after that parade moves on the good government groups have to fight to keep the reform alive from the long knives of industry.

A new federal contractor misconduct database, Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System or FAPIIS, was long in the making, but debuted on April 15. It is supposed to be a solution to require, by law, that government contracting personnel use this database to check for misconduct while they are making contract award decision and give the public a glimpse of past misconduct of companies that work with the government. (See this Solutions column for more information on debarring government contractors.) However, this solution is already greatly in need of its own reform, even on its public debut, in order to really help identify contractors that perpetually attempt to swindle the government.

Here is the history of this deformed reform:

A good government group, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), realized in the early 2000s that the government didn’t have a good data base that listed government contractors’ misconduct. (For full disclosure, I founded POGO and still serve on their board of directors.) After issuing a report on the subject in 2002, POGO designed their own Federal Contractor Misconduct Database that listed the incidences of misconduct for the top 100 government contractors. The database was updated and revamped in 2007.

When you look at the POGO database, it becomes apparent that the top contractors involved in misconduct are many of the main DoD contractors. Lockheed Martin, a major defense contractor and my nemesis for many years in my DoD investigations, is the largest government contractor with $38 billion of government contracts in fiscal year 2009 and has the largest amount of incidents of misconduct – 57 since 1995.

However, POGO realized that their database was limited and not official, so, they, with the help of some other good government groups and sympathetic members of Congress, pushed for the government to create a comprehensive database of thousands of government contractors so government contracting personnel and the public could consult with the list to see which has been responsible or irresponsible with their government contracts. In October of 2008, President George W. Bush signed a bill that had a provision to start a federal database that was to use POGO’s database as an example. This legislation was shepherded by a diverse and bipartisan group of legislators: Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York), Henry Waxman (D-California), Tom Davis (R-Virginia), Edolphus Towns (D-New York); Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), Barack Obama (D-Illinois), Carl Levin (D-Michigan), John McCain (R-Arizona) and Hillary Clinton (D-New York). It is interesting to note that the three major contenders for the 2008 presidential election, all signed on to help pass this bill.

Unfortunately, the deforming of the reform started when the bill was being debated. The government contractors, especially the DoD contractors, (see these two Solutions columns for more information on the power of DoD lobbies here and here) have powerful lobbies which, when they could not kill this new important database, managed to shoehorn in a provision that the database could not be made public. If only government personnel could see the database, there would be less public scrutiny to its faults and omissions … besides, if you take out any sensitive internal company data, why shouldn’t the public be able to see which contractors are messing with their tax dollars?

In a stealthy and surprise move, in July 2010, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) slipped in a provision in a supplemental appropriations act that required the new database be made public. The act passed before the corporate lobbyists could pull out the long knives, and President Obama signed the bill.

The oversight of the implementation of this database was not finished because of various pressures during the public comment stage and POGO had to watch the progress with great scrutiny.

So, last Friday, April 15, the FAPIIS database finally went public, nine years after POGO had created their site. Two provisions have made it less than it should be. One is that it will not have any misconduct incidents that happened before April 15 – yes, this April 15 – so the contractors start with a clean slate on the site. The POGO site goes back to 1995. It will take a while for the new misconduct data to appear, but I am pretty sure that Lockheed and other DoD contractors will, once again, make their way to the top. The other problem is that past performance reviews of contractors by the government won’t make it onto the web site. These two provisions were hat tips to the contractor lobby while the bill was winding through the Congress and into implementation stage by the government bureaucracy.

POGO has found factual flaws in the site and the software is very clunky.

However, the government may not be able to have the funding to fix it up because there is a budget push to cut federal money for government web sites. Rep. Daryl Issa (R-California) had pledged that these cuts would not shut down government accountability web sites. He may be successful, but this gives the industry another shot at trying to kill the site that shows their dirty laundry.

So, this is supposed to be a Solutions column, so where is the solution in this column?

This story is a cautionary tale to anyone who is trying to put in reform legislation. If you mean to have the reform be effective and consequential, you have to watch it diligently all the way through the legislative process but, much more importantly, you cannot declare a victory until it gets through the executive branch implementation without being deformed by lobbyists who didn’t get their way during the legislative process.

Getting this type of reform legislation through is a bit like guerilla warfare if the legislation is attacked and stripped of vital components. If Senator Sanders had not slipped in the provision to make the database public, it may have been many years before anyone could be convinced to take a stand and undo the law after it passed. The large imperial army of corporate lobbyists greatly outnumber the reformers, so the reformers need to be very relentless and resourceful.

The solution on how to successfully get effective reform is to not let your guard down through the whole process. I have seen members of Congress and even nonprofit groups accept greatly flawed reform legislation without persistently keeping it effective. Then, the deformed reform is even more deformed by the unwilling bureaucracy, and it is either not effective, or even worse, prettied up to look like reform, but actually helpful to the corporations. Then, the members of Congress and the reform groups declare a great victory. It becomes very hard to bring up the problem the reform was supposed to avoid because the sponsors of the bill will tell you that they “fixed” the problem.

The fight for the FAPIIS database is not over until it achieves its purpose of being a true and thorough tool to track contractor misconduct that the government and the public use to keep the same corporations from ripping us off over and over again.

So, POGO and the sympathetic members of Congress still have work to make the reform work while fighting off the people who are determined to deform it. It makes reformers sometimes feel like Sisyphus with the rock, but that is the burden in trying to fight and change the status quo. Fortitude.

I am interested in reading and perhaps publishing other stories about reforms that have been beaten up on their way to becoming effective law and methods that other reformers have used to get good reforms through the system. I believe that this area of solutions is perhaps even more important than coming up with the original legislation. If you have a story you would like to tell, send me an email at

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Dina Rasor
Dina Rasor is an investigator, journalist and author. Rasor has been fighting waste while working for transparency and accountability in government for three decades. In 1981 Rasor founded the Project on Military Procurement (now called the Project on Government Oversight, or POGO) to serve as a non-profit, non-partisan watchdog over military and related government spending. Rasor’s most recent book, “Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War,” chronicles first-hand accounts of the devastating consequences of privatized war support for troops and the overall war effort in Iraq. Click here to view a 2008 Truthout interview with Rasor. She also founded the Bauman & Rasor Group that helps whistleblowers file lawsuits under the Federal qui tam False Claims act and has been involved in cases which have returned over $100 million back to the U.S. Treasury.

April 21, 2011 Posted by | Fighting corruption internationally, Internationally significant information, Transparency in Govt spending, TRUTHOUT | Leave a comment

TRUTHOUT! : ‘A Morally Untenable Corporate System’

21 April 2011

A Morally Untenable Corporate System

Wednesday 20 April 2011
by: Jim Hightower, Truthout

It’s good to know that some corporate chieftains do feel the pain of their underlings — those hard-hit workers who keep being forced to do more for less reward. Take the example of Gannett, the media giant that owns 23 television stations and 82 newspapers, including USA Today.

Early this year, Gannett employees were notified that, for the third year in a row, they would get no raises and would have to take a week off without pay. Harsh financial realities necessitate these sacrifices, they were informed.

The bad news was delivered as gently as possible, including a thank you for their “continued commitment and great work.” To soothe the pain a bit, the note added that Gannett’s two top executives would take a commensurate cut in their salaries.

OK, team spirit!

But don’t grab the pom-poms and break out in cheers. Only two months later, bonuses totaling $3 million were very quietly bestowed on the top two. And to add a bright cherry to this sweet delight, the duo of honchos also were awarded stock options and deferred compensation totaling as much as $17 million.

So, some 32,000 workers were forced into furloughs to save about $17 million for Gannett, but the corporation’s No. 1 and No. 2 were then allowed to slurp up all of that savings and then some. Who says there’s no “I” in team?

It’s not like the executives are doing a terrific job. With them at the helm, Gannett’s newspaper readership, revenues and stock price have fallen substantially, and the corporate chieftains are widely viewed as lacking imagination. But they are credited with “aggressive cost management” — a cynical euphemism for throwing employees in the ditch.

Once again, working people are sacrificed because of management’s failure, middle-class opportunities are shrunk, and top executives collect multimillion-dollar bonuses. Where’s the morality in that?Morality? This will seem like a fairy tale now, but not so long ago, it was actually possible for a CEO pay to constitute “an embarrassment of riches.”

How quaint. Today, the riches are unimaginably massive, but the embarrassment gene seems to have been completely bred out of corporate chieftains. They have no qualms, much less shame, at producing negative results for the company, offing thousands of underlings, then wheeling in a front-end loader to haul their own pay to the bank.

Yet another ugly example of this piggish executive ethic recently popped into the news. Having cut 2,000 employees, the head man at Estee Lauder reaped a $250,000 increase in his salary, plus new stock payments worth more than $24 million (up from the $14 million he got the previous year).

Are there no adults to supervise the corporate playgrounds and teach such concepts as humility, sharing and common decency? In a word, no.

Technically, the board of directors is supposed to provide corporate governance, including the setting of CEO pay. But look at who’s on these boards — they’re mostly other members of the corporate brotherhood who have obvious self-interest in keeping pay levels rising for all executives. Boards also include a smattering of “outsiders” who often turn out to have close financial or personal ties to the chief. And, of course, the chiefs themselves sit on their boards, usually chairing them.

The tale of boardroom coziness between directors and the bank bosses they supposedly govern was revealed in the disastrous Wall Street crash of 2008. Far from providing any reasonable restraints, few board members had questioned the casino games the banks were running, and fewer yet objected to giving reckless bankers billions of dollars in unwarranted bonuses.

Now, after the collapse, what has changed? Nothing. One survey of nine of the big banks we taxpayers bailed out shows that two-thirds of their failed board members are still there, and once again, they are shoveling inexplicably huge bonuses at the same old CEOs, who have returned to playing the same old casino games that caused the crash.

A system that enriches executive elites while crushing the middle class is worse than an embarrassment — it’s morally untenable.

April 21, 2011 Posted by | Fighting corruption internationally, TRUTHOUT | Leave a comment

TRUTHOUT!: News in Brief: ‘BP Makes Big Contributions to GOP Leaders, and More’

News in Brief: BP Makes Big Contributions to GOP Leaders, and More …

Wednesday 20 April 2011
by: Nadia Prupis, Truthout

BP Makes Big Contribution to GOP Leaders

ThinkProgress reports that oil company British Petroleum (BP) broke a self-imposed freeze on political contributions to make big donations to a few key Republicans in Congress, as well as some of the party’s electoral campaigns. BP gave $5,000 each to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-California) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Michigan), who is the chairman of the Energy Committee. Upton was the only one of the three to return the contribution. Other GOP leaders received between $1,000 and $3,000, while the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee got $10,000.

Detroit Leadership Turning Against Unions

According to The Wall Street Journal, a new state law has led to the mayor and school’s chief of Detroit, Michigan, to cut thousands of public-sector jobs in an effort to deal with lower enrollment in schools. Mayor Dave Bing last week presented a $3.1 billion annual budget to the City Council, which included a proposal to raise casino taxes and make significant cuts to city workers’ benefits; Robert Bobb, the head of the Detroit Public Schools, later in the week laid off 5,466 salaried employees, including all of the district’s teachers, although the move is likely to be fought by the Detroit Federation of Teachers and other unions. Bobb also previously identified almost one-third of the district’s schools that could be closed or made into private charter operators.Report Examines US-Mexico Relations Since 1890, Finds They Have Never Been Closer

New America Media writes that the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) studied the relationship between the United States and Mexico to find that cooperation between the neighboring countries, while difficult, is possible, and can offer benefits to both. The report, entitled “Obstacles and Opportunities for Regional Cooperation: The US-Mexico Case,” written by MPI senior policy analyst Marc Rosenblum, chronicles the history of US-Mexico relations from the 1890s to 2011. The report also analyzes the evolution of their migration policies, from a more casual, laissez-faire era to the US’s post-9/11 security focus today.

Former New Mexico Governor to Announce Presidential Bid

The former Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, is scheduled to announce that he will run for president in 2012, The Hill reports. Johnson, a Republican, is known for his anti-conformism and libertarian views, with many of his policies breaking party lines and endorsing measures that are controversial among other GOP candidates. Johnson’s presidential platform includes a call to withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq, support for reproduction rights and the legalization of marijuana.

April 21, 2011 Posted by | Fighting corruption internationally, Internationally significant information, TRUTHOUT | Leave a comment

TRUTHOUT!: ‘Researchers Say Oil Dispersants Still an Issue in the Gulf’

Researchers Say Oil Dispersants Still an Issue in the Gulf

Wednesday 20 April 2011
by: Mike Ludwig, Truthout

A boat wades through the oily waters of the Gulf of Mexico,  on June 16, 2010. The water has an iridescent rainbow sheen from the dispersant used to break up the crude oil spill. (Photo: kk+)

Scientists are still working to understand the ecological and human health impacts of the environmental disaster that followed BP’s Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico one year ago. While it may too soon to identify the long-term consequences of the disaster, a growing body of evidence reveals that the massive release of oil combined with the unprecedented amount of chemical oil dispersants applied by BP is still an environmental threat a year later.

Truthout reported on BP’s decision to exclusively use the controversial dispersants Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527 in early June 2010, when conservationists blamed the chemicals for massive fish kills and health agencies reported that the chemicals were making people sick. Research conducted in the past year suggests that Corexit, combined with dispersed oil in broad undersea plumes, could have been the culprit.

Dispersants like Corexit do not eliminate oil, but break it down into tiny, more biodegradable droplets that are less visible on the surface and can sink to the bottom. Nalco, the company that currently manufactures Corexit, claimed the chemicals were safer than dish soap and would decompose in 28 days. Scientific research conducted since the disaster, however, shows components of Corexit and dispersed oil lingered in Gulf waters much longer and could still be in the food chain.

In late May 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency urged BP to use dispersants thought to be safer and more effective, but BP argued that the Corexit line was the best choice and bought up large reserves of the chemical. BP continued to exclusively use Corexit dispersants even after it was revealed that Nalco’s board of directors includes Rodney Chase, who spent 38 years with BP and 11 years on BP’s executive board. A report released this week by watchdog group Food and Water Watch (FWW) reveals that Nalco has shown tremendous revenue gains as a result of $70 billion in dispersant sales to BP.

An unprecedented 1.84 million gallons of Corexit were added to the Gulf of Mexico over several months after the blowout, according to the FWW report. Nearly a million gallons of Corexit were applied near the leaking wellhead below the Deepwater Horizon, a novel and unprecedented application technique that has caused some experts concern over the long-term health of marine life.

Corexit applied in deep water was trapped in layers of the ocean and traveled on ocean currents, and a team of researchers with the University of Georgia found one chemical component of Corexit had not degraded by December 2010. This persistence, the FWW report claims, raises concerns about long-term impacts of the dispersants and shows that wildlife and seafood eaters may have been exposed to the chemicals for a longer period of time that previously thought.”We’re still extremely worried about the underwater plumes of oil and dispersant since they’re even more toxic than dispersant sprayed on the top of the water,” said FWW Director Wenonah Hauter. “The dispersed oil in plumes is more easily absorbed and consumed by marine animals. We should definitely consider this when researching the dolphin and sea turtle deaths. A year later, the body count keeps rising.”

The FWW points out that, on March 11, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an “unusual mortality event” after more than 80 dead dolphins washed up on Gulf state shores between mid-January and early March. As of April 7, 153 dead dolphins were found, and experts believe the actual death count to be as high as 7,650. Many of the dolphins were premature, stillborn or newborn. The carcasses of hundreds of turtles and other endangered species were also found.

“Basic physiology suggests that dispersed oil will negatively impact the reproductive capabilities of a wide variety of animals,” said Richard Condrey, an associate professor at Louisiana State University who specializes in coastal ecology and fisheries.

Researchers believe Corexit also made hundreds of people sick during the disaster in the Gulf, and efforts are underway to determine potential long-term impacts on human health. Corexit 9527 was one of the dispersants used to clean up the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. Nearly 7,000 cleanup workers reported feeling ill with breathing problems at the time, and chemicals in Corexit have long been suspected to be the culprits. FWW reports that the average age of death for Exxon Valdez cleanup workers is 50 years.

Despite these warning signs, BP chose to use Corexit exclusively. In early August, 275 oil and cleanup workers and 84 members of the general public reported “spill-related health problems” consistent with symptoms of exposure to Corexit, according to the FWW report. A door-to-door survey taken 11 days after the well was capped found that 48 percent of people living in coastal communities in Louisiana reported having short-term bouts of coughing, headaches, rashes, and other symptoms consistent with chemical exposure.

Although controversial, Corexit did keep large quantities of oil from washing up on America’s beaches. Critics, however, say widespread use of the dispersant on the surface and below the Gulf was a big experiment and safer products and methods should have been considered. The decision to apply Corexit with unconventional methods was a hasty one, the FWW report concludes, and only long-term research will reveal its full impact in the Gulf of Mexico.

April 21, 2011 Posted by | Internationally significant information, TRUTHOUT | Leave a comment

TRUTHOUT!: BP Still Being Awarded Lucrative Government Contracts

21 April 2011

BP Still Being Awarded Lucrative Government Contracts

Wednesday 20 April 2011
by: Jason Leopold, Truthout

(Photo: sunstarrr)

BP continues to receive tens of millions of dollars in government contracts, despite the fact that the British oil company is under federal criminal investigation over the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and twice violated its probation late last year.

Last week, the Defense Logistics Agency awarded Air BP, a division of BP Products North America, a $42 million contract to supply fuel to Dover Air Force Base for the next month and a half. BP is the biggest supplier of fuel to the Defense Department.

What makes this particular contract unique is that it is one identified as “an unusual and compelling urgency” contract, which means the government would be “seriously injured“and national security could be at risk unless the Defense Logistics Agency was permitted to “limit the number of sources from which it solicits bids or proposals.”

The Defense Logistics Agency sent out a request for proposals on March 25 and set a deadline of April 1 for offers to be returned. Included in the government’s proposal is a purchase request for 20 million gallons of jet fuel at an average price of $2.10 a gallon.

According to government contracting regulations, “an unusual and compelling urgency precludes full and open competition” and “delay in award of a contract would result in serious injury, financial or other, to the Government.”

Scott Amey, general counsel for watchdog group Project On Government Oversight (POGO), said, “unusual and compelling urgency” is often used by the government when it awards a no-bid, sole source contract.

“It’s just another way of getting around competitive bidding,” Amey said in an interview. “The military needs to justify why there was little or no competition.”

Michelle McCaskill, a spokeswoman for the Defense Logistics Agency, told Truthout a copy of the justification for “the unusual and compelling urgency” would be posted online within 30 days after the contract award.

She added that the contract awarded to Air BP “was needed to meet requirements at Dover [Air Force Base] during the period of April 15, 2011 – May 31, 2011.”

McCaskill could not obtain a timely response to questions about whether the Defense Logistics Agency received bids from other companies.

BP won the contract even though the company’s federal probation officer petitioned a US district court judge last November to revoke the company’s probation over a 46,000 gallon oil spill that occurred at BP’s Lisburne facility on Alaska’s North Slope in November 2009.

The probation officer, Mary Frances Barnes, said in court documents that the spill amounted to “criminal negligence” under Alaska state law and the federal Clean Water Act and violated the terms of the probation agreement BP signed in November 2007 following a 212,000 gallon oil spill on the North Slope a year earlier. BP has pleaded not guilty to the probation violation charge and is fighting the case in federal court.

Furthermore, last September, BP was found to have violated the terms of a settlement agreement it entered into with government regulators six years ago to make certain safety upgrades at its Texas City refinery, where an explosion in March 2005 killed 15 people and maimed and seriously injured 170 others. The Justice Department refused to pursue a probation revocation case in that incident, opting instead to give BP another year to make the upgrades at the refinery.


McCaskill would not say exactly what the government’s “unusual and compelling urgency” is in awarding the fuel contract to Air BP. One possibility is that the jet fuel Air BP is supplying is intended for aircraft leaving Dover Air Force Base carrying cargo to support NATO’s air war against Libya. Obama turned over control of the entire Libya operation, known as Operation Odyssey Dawn, to NATO on March 31. But over the past week, NATO has complained that it is running short of munitions.

McCaskill referred questions about whether the jet fuel Air BP is supplying over the next 46 days is being used on aircraft utilized for Libya operations to Dover Air Force Base. Brett Kangas, a spokesman for Dover, said he was unable to obtain answers to specific questions about what aircraft the fuel is being used for and what the mission is.

But a March 31 news release posted on Dover Air Force Base’s web site provides some clues. It says Dover has “four C-5M aircraft, all of which are involved in the support of the international crisis in Libya.”

“In order for the strike operations implementing the no-fly zone to continue, the ‘bullets’ have to make it to the fight and that is where Dover Air Force Base delivers,” the Dover press release states. “Delivering oversized cargo is the name of the game here at Dover [Air Force Base, Delaware].”

Last Friday, on the same day the Air BP contract was set to begin, unnamed US and NATO officials told The Washington Post NATO is running short on precision bombs and other munitions for the military action that began a little more than a month ago.

“The shortage of European munitions, along with the limited number of aircraft available, has raised doubts among some officials about whether the United States can continue to avoid returning to the air campaign if Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi hangs on to power for several more months,” the Post reported.

Kangas noted, however, that there is a possibility the jet fuel could also be used for C-17 aircraft flying out of Dover for humanitarian missions to Japan.

Awarding Air BP a contract to supply fuel for aircraft supporting Libya operations, if that turns out to be the case, would be ironic. Last year, BP confirmed that it told the British government in 2007 that the company’s $900 million oil contract with Libya would be at risk unless a prisoner transfer agreement, which allegedly included Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Libyan intelligence official convicted of the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, between the two countries was hammered out.

Too Big to Fail

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials held talks about possibly debarring or limiting BP from receiving additional government contracts several months after the deadly April 20, 2010, explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which claimed the lives of 11 workers and spilled at least five million barrels of oil into the Gulf.

But two senior EPA officials, who spoke to Truthout on condition of anonymity, said those discussions “went nowhere” largely because the federal government relies too heavily on BP to meet its needs and “arguments were raised” by “various agency officials” about the “possibility of debarment being a threat to national security.”

“But ultimately what it came down to was a lack of interest in holding this company accountable,” one EPA official said.

In an interview last year, Jeanne Pascal, the former debarment counsel at the EPA’s Seattle office who spent more than a decade working on issues related to environmental crimes BP had been convicted of, said she had to proceed with caution when she considered debarring the oil company from receiving government contracts.

“If I had debarred BP while they were supplying 80 percent of the fuel to US forces it would have been almost certain that the Defense Department would have been forced to get an exception,” Pascal said.

She had noted that the 80 percent figure was provided by her “contact,” an attorney, who works at the Defense Energy Support Center, the agency that responsible for purchasing all of the fuel for the military.

“There’s a provision in the debarment regulations that says in a time of war or extreme need exceptions can be granted to debarment so that federal agencies with critical needs can continue doing business with debarred contractors. I was in a quandary,” Pascal added. “If I moved forward with debarment we would have had a major federal contractor doing business with the federal government with no governmental oversight or audit provisions. I felt oversight terms and conditions were critical with BP, so I pursued settlement of the matter in the hopes of getting oversight and audit terms.”

Amey, POGO’s general counsel, said that “the government still turns [to BP] with goods and services and does not take into account their past performance, level of responsibility and the fact they violated laws is a perfect example of a contractor too big to fail.”

On POGO’s Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, BP comes in at number 48 in a list of the top 100 government contractors. But the company ranks second, behind Lockheed Martin, as having the most instances of misconduct – 53 – since 1995, which has resulted in more than $1.6 billion in fines.

Those factors do not appear to be of concern to the federal government.

According to, which tracks government contracts, BP was awarded 52 government contracts worth $56.5 million for fiscal year 2011 to supply fuel, gas, and other petroleum products to agencies such as the Defense Department and Department of Health and Human Services. From fiscal year 2006 through 2010, BP received 707 government contracts worth nearly $7 billion.

However, the federal government does want the public to believe it scrutinizes its awardees before turning over billions in taxpayer dollars to companies such as BP.

Last Friday, the government launched its answer to POGO’s Federal Contractor Misconduct Database: the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS).

“In 2008, Congress passed the law that created FAPIIS, which agencies must check before awarding a contract or grant to ensure the prospective awardee is ‘responsible,'” POGO reported. As a “condition for making FAPIIS public, a few concessions had to be granted to the entities listed in it. This included making so-called ‘past performance reviews’ off-limits to the public and only posting data entered into FAPIIS on or after April 15, 2011.”

That means the public won’t be able to find any information about BP’s past misconduct. Indeed, a search for BP Products North America’s government contracts did not turn up any critical reports about the company.

Prior to the database search, a message pops up. It says: “Contracting officials should be aware that use of the information in the FAPIIS systems should not result in de facto debarment. Current procedures emphasize that certain past performance in the system may no longer be relevant to a determination of present responsibility.”

April 21, 2011 Posted by | Internationally significant information, TRUTHOUT | Leave a comment

TRUTHOUT! ‘An independent, noncommercial platform for free thought is key to keeping politicians honest’

15 April 2011

Internationally significant articles from independent, noncommercial media:

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Thursday 14 April 2011

Congressman Dennis Kucinich | My Experience Dealing With the Department of Defense Regarding Pfc. Bradley Manning Has Been Kafkaesque
Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Truthout: “Since my initial request to visit Private First Class (Pfc.) Bradley Manning on February 4, 2011, the Department of Defense (DoD) has consistently sought to frustrate any attempts to communicate with Pfc. Manning regarding his well-being. I was initially told that I would need Pfc. Manning’s approval in order to meet with him. When Pfc. Manning indicated his desire to meet with me, I was belatedly informed that the meeting could only take place if it was recorded because of a Monitoring Order imposed by the military’s Special Courts-Martial Convening Authority on September 16, 2010, which was convened for the case.”
Read the Article

Amy Dean | Spreading Models of Success: The Denver Doctrine
Amy Dean, Truthout: “At a time when working people are fighting defensive battles to preserve essential services at the state and national levels, it is all the more important that labor and community advocates are also building for the long term. Some of the best forward-looking policy making by progressives in the past decade has happened at the level of municipal regions – through a process I call regional power building. In the 1990s and early 2000s, I served as president and CEO of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council and as founder of an organization called Working Partnerships, USA.”
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Paul Krugman | For Alan Greenspan, Redemption, and Wisdom, Remain Elusive
Paul Krugman, Krugman & Co.: “Mr. Greenspan is an ex-maestro. His reputation is pushing up the daisies, it has gone to meet its maker, it has joined the choir invisible. He’s no longer the Man Who Knows; he’s the man who presided over an economy careening to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression – and who saw no evil, heard no evil, refused to do anything about subprime, insisted that derivatives made the financial system more stable, and denied not only that there was a national housing bubble, but that such a bubble was even possible.”
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Report: Big Profits Drove Faulty Ratings at Moody’s, S&P
Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Newspapers: “Profits at both companies soared, with revenues at market leader Moody’s more than tripling in five years. Then the bottom fell out of the housing market, and Moody’s stock lost 70 percent of its value; it has yet to fully recover. More than 90 percent of AAA ratings given in 2006 and 2007 to pools of mortgage-backed securities were downgraded to junk status. Wednesday’s report provided greater detail about the behavior of Brian Clarkson, the president of Moody’s at the time of his departure in mid-2008, when the financial crisis was in full bloom.”
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The Planet Strikes Back
Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch: “To grasp our present situation, however, it’s necessary to distinguish between naturally recurring planetary disturbances and the planetary responses to human intervention. Both need a fresh look, so let’s start with what Earth has always been capable of before we turn to the responses of Eaarth, the avenger. Our planet is a complex natural system, and like all such systems, it is continually evolving. As that happens – as continents drift apart, as mountain ranges rise and fall, as climate patterns shift – earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, typhoons, prolonged droughts, and other natural disturbances recur, even if on an irregular and unpredictable basis.”
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Radioactive Human Embryos: Our Nuclear Legacy?
Dr. Brian Moench, Truthout: “In the 1940s, many of the world’s premier nuclear scientists saw mounting evidence that there was no safe level of exposure to nuclear radiation. This led Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atom bomb, to oppose development of the hydrogen bomb. In the 1950s, Linus Pauling, the only two-time winner of the Nobel Prize, began warning the public about exposure to all radiation. His opinion, ultimately shared by thousands of scientists worldwide, led President Kennedy to sign the nuclear test-ban treaty.”
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All Wisconsin Votes Unverified
Brad Friedman, Truthout: “It’s true that the newly corrected (and still unverified) totals from Waukesha place the current margin between Justice David Prosser – who has indicated fealty to Walker and the state GOP’s agenda – and his independent challenger, Asst. Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, are miraculously close to the numbers that will be needed to trigger a state-sponsored ‘recount’ of the ballots. It is also true that Nickolaus’ explanation for her ‘human error’ are questionable at best. Her reasons for waiting some 29 hours between discovering the enormous error, as well as her blame on failing to hit a ‘save button’ in Microsoft Access (which doesn’t feature such a button) demand independent scrutiny from state, if not federal, authorities.”
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News in Brief: More Rainwater Tests Positive for Radiation From Japan, and More …
The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday released a new set of data on the levels of radioactive material in milk, rainwater and drinking water as part of a continuing effort to track radiation from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan; Egypt’s ousted former President Hosni Mubarak and his sons are still under investigation, but a legal source said that no court date has been set for questioning; a recent Congressional Budget Office analysis shows the compromise will only cut $352 million over the next fiscal year.
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The Time Is Right to End “Zero Tolerance” in Schools
Gara LaMarche, The Huffington Post: “All too often, the debate about school reform has wrongly emphasized pushing troubled children out of school, rather than making systemic improvements so that all students have the support they need to learn. For that reason, advocates nationwide are embracing efforts to improve school climate. School leaders are recognizing the ineffectiveness of zero tolerance. And as states grapple with untenable youth-prison budgets and Congress prepares to debate reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a movement is building to end the ineffective, expensive, and tragic era of zero tolerance.”
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Why Public Support for Free Trade Will Collapse Soon
Ian Fletcher, Free Trade Doesn’t Work: “For once, some good news: public support for free trade will almost certainly collapse over the next few years. On this issue, the public is way ahead of the political class in the quality of its thinking, and the average hardware store owner in Nebraska understands the real economics involved better than the average U.S. Senator. Public opinion certainly continues to turn against free trade: an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll in September 2010 found 53% of Americans believing free trade agreements hurt the U.S., with only 17% believing them beneficial.”
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Sen. Bernie Sanders | Robin Hood in Reverse (Video)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont): Video of speech on the Senate floor by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont).
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There are words said by each of us that we regret, sometimes as soon as they pass our lips.

But there is a recurring pattern of disturbing hatefulness and violence in the statements of many right-wing political figures today.

Take David Prosser, the Scott Walker ally on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, who is still involved in an officially undeclared election against JoAnne Kloppenburg.

Just before the April vote, it was revealed that Prosser had called the chief justice of the state Supreme Court the “B” word to her face and threatened to “destroy her.” As is often the case with people who feel self-justified, Prosser apologized, but basically blamed Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, the first woman on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, for his disgraceful behavior, according to ThinkProgress:

“In the context of this, I said, ‘You are a total bitch,'” Prosser said.

“I probably overreacted, but I think it was entirely warranted … They (Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley) are masters at deliberately goading people into perhaps incautious statements.”

Meanwhile, another right-wing official, “Governor Christie of New Jersey told reporters Wednesday to ‘take the bat’ to 76-year-old Sen. Loretta Weinberg for collecting a taxpayer-funded pension while making $49,000 a year as a legislator,” again according to ThinkProgress.

But Prosser and Christie are hardly alone in unleashing abusive and violent rhetoric. There’s something wrong with our civility as a nation when so many bullies of the playground grow up to become judges and elected officials.

Mark Karlin
Editor, BuzzFlash at Truthout

Buyers Remorse? New Poll: House Republicans Doing Worse Job Than the Democrats Did
Read the Article at Crooks and Liars

ExxonMobil Is No. 2 in Avoiding Taxes. Maybe Next Year It Will Surpass GE and Be the No. 1 Corporate Deadbeat.
Read the Article at BuzzFlash

A Senate Panel Accused Powerhouse Goldman Sachs of Misleading Clients and Manipulating Markets
Read the Article at Talking Points Memo

Analysis: Obama Speech Frames a 2012 Choice for the Country
Read the Article at The Washington Post

If You Don’t Fight for Democracy and Justice, Then What You Get May Not Be Worth Having
Read the Article at BuzzFlash

IKEA Accused of Abusing Rights and Pay of American Employees
Read the Article at The Los Angeles Times

A Birther State of Mind: Arizona Passes Birther Bill for Candidates
Read the Article at Talking Points Memo

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April 15, 2011 Posted by | Fighting corruption internationally, Internationally significant information, TRUTHOUT | Leave a comment

TRUTHOUT: ‘Government by People Who Hate You’ – increasing USA corporate welfare by cutting social welfare?

14 April 2011

Government by People Who Hate You

“In principle, the country’s elite should be laying low right now. After all, their greed and ineptitude has given us the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. But after getting the Wall Street banks back on their feet with trillions of dollars of government subsidized loans, the elite are once again making a full-frontal assault on the living standards of the middle class. Last week it was Medicare, but they promise to be back to attack Social Security in the not too distant future.

The ostensible rationale for this attack is the country’s huge budget deficit. This is garbage. As all the pundits know, the country has a huge deficit today because the Wall Street boys drove the economy off a cliff. If the government deficit were not propping up the economy, we would be looking at 11 or 12 percent unemployment, rather than 8.9 percent. Spending creates jobs, and at this point, it is not coming from the private sector, so the government must fill the hole.

Over the longer term, the projections of huge deficits are driven by the projected explosion in health care costs. President Obama’s health care reform took steps toward constraining these costs, although probably not enough. Remarkably, Ryan’s plan abandons these cost control measures, virtually guaranteeing that quality health care becomes unaffordable for all but a small elite.”


Monday 11 April 2011
by: Dean Baker, Truthout

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wisconsin) budget plan would cut $5.8 trillion over the next decade by cutting programs like Medicare. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan put out a budget proposal last week that will leave the vast majority of future retirees without decent health care by ending Medicare as we know it. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis, most middle-income retirees would have to pay almost half of their income to purchase a Medicare equivalent insurance package by 2030. They would be paying much more than half of their income in later years.

This sort of broadside against the living standards of the middle class might have been expected to draw an outraged response in a nation that exalts the lifestyle and values of the middle class. Instead, the punditry rallied around Mr. Ryan’s plan to deal with the problem of runaway entitlement spending, crediting it for being “serious” even if they did not embrace all the details.

If there is any doubt that our political system is controlled by an elite who is completely removed from the bulk of the population, this response to the Ryan plan ended it. There is nothing at all serious about the Ryan plan. It is a naked attempt to redistribute yet more money to the country’s rich at the expense of everyone else.

The proposal to end Medicare relies on market efficiencies to get health care costs under control, as though we had not tried this before. Has Representative Ryan never heard of Medicare Advantage or Medicare Plus Choice? Doesn’t he know that we already have the opportunity to see the effectiveness of private insurers in containing health care costs in the vast non-Medicare insurance market?

Based on this extensive experience, we know that the private insurance market does not control costs. This is why the CBO calculated that Ryan’s plan would hugely raise the cost of health care for seniors. If every senior got a Medicare equivalent policy under Representative Ryan’s plan (which most will not be able to afford), the added cost of his system would be more than $20 trillion over the next 75 years.

This comes to more than $60,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. That would be money out of the pocket of ordinary workers and retirees that will go to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, highly paid medical specialists, and other health care providers.

When it comes to redistributing money upward, the bar for intellectual coherence is set very low. Pundits from across the political spectrum had a hard time containing their enthusiasm for Ryan’s plan even if few were willing to embrace it in its entirety. And if there was not enough substance over which to get excited, then there was always the 37 footnotes which Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer trumpeted last week.

In principle, the country’s elite should be laying low right now. After all, their greed and ineptitude has given us the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. But after getting the Wall Street banks back on their feet with trillions of dollars of government subsidized loans, the elite are once again making a full-frontal assault on the living standards of the middle class. Last week it was Medicare, but they promise to be back to attack Social Security in the not too distant future.

The ostensible rationale for this attack is the country’s huge budget deficit. This is garbage. As all the pundits know, the country has a huge deficit today because the Wall Street boys drove the economy off a cliff. If the government deficit were not propping up the economy, we would be looking at 11 or 12 percent unemployment, rather than 8.9 percent. Spending creates jobs, and at this point, it is not coming from the private sector, so the government must fill the hole.

Over the longer term, the projections of huge deficits are driven by the projected explosion in health care costs. President Obama’s health care reform took steps toward constraining these costs, although probably not enough. Remarkably, Ryan’s plan abandons these cost control measures, virtually guaranteeing that quality health care becomes unaffordable for all but a small elite.

And the pundits call Ryan’s plan “serious.” Yes, it is very serious. It is a serious plan for taking tens of trillions of dollars from low-income and middle-income people and giving them away as tax breaks to the rich and to the health care industry. It is about as serious as a robber with a gun pointed at your head.

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Dean Baker
Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University. He is a regular Truthout columnist and a member of Truthout’s Board of Advisers. 

April 13, 2011 Posted by | Fighting corruption internationally, Internationally significant information, TRUTHOUT | Leave a comment