There is very little I (and almost everyone I know) despise more than being confronted constantly with the smug faces of the smarmy banksters like Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Bankfein and their warm friendship with President Obama (not even getting into the smug Bush dog faces involved in every type of taxpayer scam).
Very few real Dems voted for the Dims that were running (and running in) this last election (and the ones that did still clung to very little hope that they weren't as dim as their words portrayed them during the campaign - h/t to KY's finest). And very few real Dems watch the fake ones move into powerful, highly paid industry positions after neolib public service without a very bad taste in their mouths for Dems in general.
You think the following vignettes might contain a few clues about the whys and wherefores going into the future?
Fleischmann is the central witness in one of the biggest cases of white-collar crime in American history, possessing secrets that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon late last year paid $9 billion (not $13 billion as regularly reported – more on that later) to keep the public from hearing.
Back in 2006, as a deal manager at the gigantic bank, Fleischmann first witnessed, then tried to stop, what she describes as "massive criminal securities fraud" in the bank's mortgage operations.
Thanks to a confidentiality agreement, she's kept her mouth shut since then. "My closest family and friends don't know what I've been living with," she says. "Even my brother will only find out for the first time when he sees this interview."
Six years after the crisis that cratered the global economy, it's not exactly news that the country's biggest banks stole on a grand scale. That's why the more important part of Fleischmann's story is in the pains Chase and the Justice Department took to silence her.
She was blocked at every turn: by asleep-on-the-job regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission, by a court system that allowed Chase to use its billions to bury her evidence, and, finally, by officials like outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, the chief architect of the crazily elaborate government policy of surrender, secrecy and cover-up.
"Every time I had a chance to talk, something always got in the way," Fleischmann says.
This past year she watched as Holder's Justice Department struck a series of historic settlement deals with Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America. The root bargain in these deals was cash for secrecy. The banks paid big fines, without trials or even judges – only secret negotiations that typically ended with the public shown nothing but vague, quasi-official papers called "statements of facts," which were conveniently devoid of anything like actual facts.
Jamie Dimon (Photo: Bloomberg/Getty)
And now, with Holder about to leave office and his Justice Department reportedly wrapping up its final settlements, the state is effectively putting the finishing touches on what will amount to a sweeping, industrywide effort to bury the facts of a whole generation of Wall Street corruption. "I could be sued into bankruptcy," she says. "I could lose my license to practice law. I could lose everything. But if we don't start speaking up, then this really is all we're going to get: the biggest financial cover-up in history."
And what's the rest of the explanation for the election wipeout?
More than education (as is being loudly touted by all the neolib Dims still in charge) is needed for real Dems to vote Democratic again.
Or I could be mistaken and everyone just had something better to do on election day.
Blaming the election results on low turnout is a distraction: turnout is, as we like to say, endogenous. The voters Democrats depend on, younger, lower-income, nonwhite, weren't motivated, as they often aren't. I think it’s presumptive to claim that their lack of interest is a technical problem to be solved by better outreach and mobilization. No doubt more accurate targeting and so on can play a role, but surely the biggest element is that, unlike the Republicans, the Democrats don’t stand for anything their base is likely to get motivated about.
Worse, in power Democrats do stand for principles (privatizing education and more liberal and lucrative finance, to mention just two) that are anathema to large parts of their base.
It is not an exaggeration to say, as Arun Gupta does, that “it’s time to rethink this notion that Democrats lack principles. They have a clear agenda and are actually more ideological than Republicans. Democrats like Obama are willing to lose power to carry out the neoliberal agenda.”
And what about those almost always in charge of the levers of power?
They have not been resting since being shunted off stage (and largely out of view or portrayed as harmless fools by suborned media) after their last disastrous "Big Plan for American Greatness."
The Energy Policy Act of 2005, which exempts the oil and gas industry from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act for fracking, is seen by critics as the legacy of ashes left behind by the George W. Bush Administration.
Yet almost a decade later, the two lawsuits filed against Denton show the Bush oil and gas legacy clearly lives on and stretches from the state where the fracking industry was born all the way to Iraq and back again.
Besides sharing blood as father and son, Jeb Bush and George P. Bush also operate inside the world of fracking finance.
Jeb works at the firm Britton Hill Holdings LLC, while George Prescott works at St. Augustine Capital Partners and served a short-lived stint on the board of directors of the Midland, Texas-based fracking exploration and production company, Arbella Exploration from February through September.
“Its first investments have been tied to the exploitation of shale oil and gas in the U.S.,” explained an article in Bloomberg. “Britton Hill raised more than $40 million for its first fund in May 2013, according to a private placement notice filed with the SEC at the time.”
Jeb Bush; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Britton Hill has investments in a company fracking in the Marcellus Shale basin and another that owns a fleet of gas carriers seeking to export U.S. propane to Asia. Mitch Jones, common resources director for Food and Water Watch, wrote a blog post critical of Jeb Bush and Britton Hill the day the Bloomberg article came out.
“These relationships, where politicians move between Washington and Wall Street, between government and finance and resource exploitation, is another reason why we need to get money out of politics,” wrote Jones. “It’s these sorts of relationships that corrupt our system and provide the permanent political-business elite with their hold on our government.”
The critique promulgated by Jones about Jeb Bush could just as easily apply to his son, who recently said his father is “more than likely” to run for president in 2016.
According to multiple press accounts and an independent DeSmogBlog review of Texas campaign finance data, George P. Bush took hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil and gas industry in his land commissioner electoral race. He also received the endorsement of the Texas Oil and Gas Association's political action committee, the plaintiff for the other lawsuit.
“George P. Bush fully appreciates the role a strong domestic energy industry plays in ensuring our state and our nation’s prosperity and security,” Robert L. Looney, president of the Texas Oil and Gas PAC stated in endorsing him. “Mr. Bush is committed to advancing public policy that ensures Texas oil and gas producers can power our state forward and create good-paying jobs.”
Photo Credit: George P. Bush for Texas
Like Britton Hill Holdings, St. Augustine Capital Partners also invests in fracking, according to its website.
“St. Augustine has participated in partnerships with seasoned operators to develop drilling programs in the Marcellus and Permian Basins, in addition to offering financial advisory services for those opportunities,” St. Augustine explains.
“St. Augustine provides business development for dynamic middle-market service companies ranging from liquid storage construction to logistical operations,” the firm further details. “Additionally, St. Augustine has participated as a general partner for numerous oil and gas exploration and production related projects in a variety of geological formations.”
The firm also “has worked closely with” the Texas Railroad Commission, according to its website.
Commissioner David Porter (Photo Credit: Texas Railroad Commission)
In the months leading up to the Denton vote, the Railroad Commission situated itself as the industry's go-to spin machine in the attempt to discredit activists fighting for a fracking ban. Railroad commissioner David Porter, who formerly worked as an oil and gas industry accountant, was also one of the first entities out of the block to say an affirmative ban vote in Denton would receive ruthless contestation by the Texas government.
Serving as land commissioner in Texas is often a resume padder before running for governor, an article about George P. Bush published in GreenWire explained.
“[The] Texas land commissioner [is] a powerful post that controls the state's oil and gas contracts,” the article explains. “Every land commissioner in the past three decades has gone on to run for lieutenant governor or governor.”
Baker Botts: From Texas to Iraq and Back
One of the co-counsel for Baker Botts in its lawsuit against the City of Denton is Evan Young, part of a powerful legal cadre that includes former Texas Supreme Court Justice Thomas Phillips. Phillips testified in front of the Denton City Council in July in opposition to the Denton fracking ban proposal on behalf of TXOGA (see video below, starting at 6:25).
Phillips also concurrently works on the legal defense team for former Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry — 2012 Republican Party presidential nominee and former chair of the powerful Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission — who faces state-level felony charges in Travis County for abuse of power.
According to his Baker Botts biography, Young formerly clerked for the conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and worked as legal counsel in the Office of the Attorney General under Attorneys General Alberto R. Gonzales and Michael B. Mukasey from 2006 through the end of the presidency of George W. Bush.
“While on the Attorney General’s staff, he accepted a detail to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq,” explains his Baker Botts biographical sketch, “where he was the Deputy Rule of Law Coordinator. In that position he worked to assist the Iraqi government in its efforts to strengthen its legal regime.”
Among the legal regimes Baker Botts helped create while Young was still working for the U.S. Department of Justice was one helping oil flow out of the ground in occupied Iraq and into the U.S. As of 2012, the U.S. is one of the world's biggest importers of Iraqi crude, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA).
Table Credit: U.S. Energy Information Agency
An article published by American Lawyer in 2007 explains that Baker Botts helped cut a controversial legal deal between Hunt Oil and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).
That deal gave Hunt the right to explore oil in Kurdistan, the first U.S. company given the green light to do so. The Iraqi Constitution that the U.S. helped write says making such a move is illegal.
“Not only was the deal made in a war zone, but Iraq is still working on oil resources legislation,” wrote American Lawyer. “Under the October 2005 Iraqi Constitution, local oil is owned by 'the Iraqi people.' “
Ray Hunt, CEO of Hunt Oil Company, gave George P. Bush $25,000 for his campaign according to Texas campaign finance data. And the Baker Botts Amicus Fund gave him $2,000 worth of donations, with Young and Phillips each donating $500 to get George P. Bush elected.
Image Credit: Texas Ethics Commission
In late July, Iraq's Oil Ministry launched a lawsuit against the Kurdish Regional Government in a U.S. District Court in Houston for what it says is a million barrels of illegally stolen oil exported out of Kurdistan — which is still sitting on a tanker called the United Kalyvryta 60 miles off the coast of Texas in Galveston Bay.
The Oil Ministry pointed to the Iraqi Constitution in its lawsuit as the legal precedent.
In March 2014, just months before the Iraqi government brought the lawsuit, Baker Botts published a legal memo on the legal and geopolitical ramifications of Kurdish oil exports.
Image Credit: VesselFinder
Constitutional, “Big Government” Double Standards?
Though Baker Botts cited the Texas Constitution in its lawsuit against the City of Denton, the Iraqi Constitution was disposable for the firm and its client Hunt Oil when it came to procuring oil exploration and exportation rights in Kurdistan.
Baker Botts' counsel also seems to have brushed aside concerns by both the U.S. and Iraqi government that the extra legal maneuvering for oil exploration and production rights in the area would create regional instability, the blowback of which is now visible in the form of the ascendant and lethal Islamic State.
Further, Sharon Wilson, an organizer for Earthworks — an environmental group that campaigned for the fracking ban in Denton — pointed to a quote from George P. Bush back in October.
“Enough … big government solutions to our problems,” George P. Bush said at an October event his father Jeb Bush also spoke at.
“Denton residents, not politicians, directly spoke in overwhelming numbers that they don’t want fracking in their city,” Wilson told DeSmogBlog. “Overturning the will of the people by government fiat is the very definition of big government. George P. is going to have to put his money where his mouth is or decide if his mouth is where his money comes from.”
And a few final thoughts on the coming into view quickly now that the election's past ultimate demise of "Obamacare" at the hands of the Republicans who supposedly loved its emphasis on big profit-making companies running it versus the over 80% taxpayer-popular Medicaid for all/public option (and its bargaining-chip status at the time with the Dim neolibs).
The Affordable Care Act faces its gravest legal threat since the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate in 2012.
That’s because the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear King v. Burwell, a case in which opponents of the health reform law are seeking to invalidate federal health insurance subsidies for the millions of Americans who live in the 36 states that did not set up their own Obamacare insurance exchanges. Seizing on language in the ACA that they assert restricts subsidies to “an Exchange established by the State,” the Obamacare opponents brought the case before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, which rejected the challenge. The Supreme Court’s decision to take up the case is a worrying sign for the Obama administration, which had hoped that the Supreme Court would let the lower courts have the final say.
Why did the 5 radical, reactionary SCOTUS justices wait until three days after the election to decide to take the case?
- They didn't want to announce it before the election, which would energize the progressive base.
- They waited until they were sure that the radical, reactionary Republican Party controlled both houses. This allows Scalia to say (with a smirk!) "it's not us denying healthcare to millions of people. All congress has to do is pass a simple little fix to the law," knowing full well that nothing will be done. (See Voting Rights Act.)@mfrasca
So when the conservative Roberts voted to allow the ACA he knew it would come to this point and the ACA would fall without him voting against it?
@fishfry Of course, the opponents of the ACA could make a real faith effort to address these problems or they could engage in destructive tactics that make an imperfect but functional system crash without anything to replace it. Apparently for our friends of the Court, this is a no brainer...most definitely, a no brainer.
@fishfry Single-payer IS the answer, but Americans don't want it. They'd rather go without healthcare themselves than see "those" brown people get it.
Given the success of their friends on Tuesday, there is the strong probability that ACA will be gutted by the Supreme Pac. Of course it's in trouble.
In fact Obamacare is dead.
IMO the only reason the Republican Supreme Court kept even part of the ACA Alive before was so that Republicans could campaign on it and bring out the base going into the 2012 and 2014 elections.
Now that the GOP does not need the campaign issue and to circumvent a possible veto, the Republican Court is going to fulfil the Party platform and repeal it from the bench. Look for the Republicans to rule beyond the case at hand and fulfil their mandate to kill the entire thing,
ObamaCare is history.
@Philadelphia Steve you make that sound like a victory. To destroy a service to the people, and the entire current healthcare industry, without a vastly improved replacement is suicide. its like rooting for your own extinction.There are far too many stupid people on the right, and their strategies always have to be stupid to appeal to their voters. That's sad as hell. @MCJNY This is exactly right. This move is equivalent to the push by GOP crazies not to raise the debt ceiling, damn the consequences.
J R Cannon22 hours ago
"To destroy a service to the people and the entire current healthcare industry, without a vastly improved replacement is suicide. It's like rooting for your own extinction."
If folks in power, Republicans included, gave a damn about things like consequences beyond the short-term "victory" of a little more money or power, then we wouldn't have a country where such a huge chunk of the population is in prison and probably set to recidivate; where the manufacturing base is practically non-existent; where over 90% of the wealth is in the hands of less than 5% of the populace.