Today's offering is chockful of economics informational goodness. Sorry it's so long, friends, but these essays may mean the difference for many people between understanding the facts defining the New Depression or going down in it.
The Republicans Are Now Officially the Party of White Paranoia
The rise of Trump obliterates all other issues — campaign 2016 is now almost entirely about race
Read Matt (above) and shake (in fear or it up?).
Professor Michael Hudson spells it out (see below) for those of us still in primary school. The rest of us should be able to elaborate on his most lucid essay. Our good friends at "Wall Street on Parade" have a field day.
Hudson writes from his most powerful perch in chapters describing how these financial parasites have tricked our society into accepting them as a normal, productive part of our economy. (Since we write about these thousands of diabolical tricks four days a week at "Wall Street On Parade," poignant examples came springing to mind with every turn of the page in Killing the Host. From the well-placed articles in the "Wall Street Journal" to a front group’s pleas for more Wall Street handouts in a "New York Times" OpEd, to the dirty backroom manner in which corporate speech was placed on a par with human speech in the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, to Wall Street’s private justice system and the Koch brothers’ multi-million dollar machinations to instill Ayn Rand’s brand of “greed is good” in university Economics departments across America — America has become a finely tuned kleptocracy with a sprawling, sophisticated public relations base.)
By Pam Marten
September 01, 2015
The riveting writer, Michael Hudson, has read our collective minds and the simmering anger in our hearts. Millions of American have long suspected that their inability to get financially ahead is an intentional construct of Wall Street’s central planners. Now Hudson, in an elegant but lethal indictment of the system, confirms that your ongoing struggle to make ends meet is not a reflection of your lack of talent or drive but the only possible outcome of having a blood-sucking financial leech affixed to your body, your retirement plan, and your economic future.
In his new book, “Killing the Host,” Hudson hones an exquisitely gripping journey from Wall Street’s original role as capital allocator to its present-day parasitism that has replaced U.S. capitalism as an entrenched, politically-enforced economic model across America.
This book is a must-read for anyone hoping to escape the most corrupt era in American history with a shirt still on his parasite-riddled back.
Hudson writes from his most powerful perch in chapters describing how these financial parasites have tricked our society into accepting them as a normal, productive part of our economy. (Since we write about these thousands of diabolical tricks four days a week at "Wall Street On Parade," poignant examples came springing to mind with every turn of the page in “Killing the Host.” From the well-placed articles in the Wall Street Journal to a front group’s pleas for more Wall Street handouts in a "New York Times" OpEd, to the dirty backroom manner in which corporate speech was placed on a par with human speech in the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, to Wall Street’s private justice system and the Koch brothers’ multi-million dollar machinations to instill Ayn Rand’s brand of “greed is good” in university economic departments across America — America has become a finely tuned kleptocracy with a sprawling, sophisticated public relations base.)
How else to explain, other than kleptocracy, the fact that Wall Street’s richest mega banks collect the life insurance proceeds and tax benefits on the untimely deaths of their workers – all codified into law by the U.S. Congress – making death a profit center on Wall Street. Or, as "Frontline" revealed, that two-thirds of your 401(k) plan over a working lifetime is likely to be lost to financial fees.
Hudson writes: “A parasite’s toolkit includes behavior-modifying enzymes to make the host protect and nurture it. Financial intruders into a host economy use "Junk Economics" to rationalize "rentier" parasitism as if it makes a productive contribution, as if the tumor they create is part of the host’s own body, not an overgrowth living off the economy.
A harmony of interests is depicted between finance and industry, Wall Street and Main Street, and even between creditors and debtors, monopolists and their customers.”
What has evolved, says Hudson, is that Wall Street banks have “become the economy’s central planners, and their plan is for industry and labor to serve finance, not the other way around.”
To gloss over the collapse of this depraved economic model in 2008, Hudson says these Wall Street central planners simply depict “any adverse ‘disturbance’ as being self-correcting, not a structural defect leading economies to fall further out of balance. Any given development crisis is said to be a natural product of market forces, so that there is no need to regulate and tax the rentiers.”
Similarly, when citizens rise up en masse to demand a realignment of their economy, as happened with the Occupy Wall Street movement, first the public relations masterminds dismiss them as an unhinged gathering of smelly hippies, followed by their violent eviction in the middle of the night, with military precision, by the Praetorian Guard of the kleptocracy. In Manhattan, the Praetorian Guard (NYPD) has a high-tech surveillance center mutually staffed by cops and Wall Street personnel – and mainstream media find nothing unusual about this.
Hudson correctly calls 2008 a “dress rehearsal,” writing that “Wall Street convinced Congress that the economy could not survive without bailing out bankers and bondholders, whose solvency was deemed a precondition for the ‘real’ economy to function. The banks were saved, not the economy.” Hudson adds that the “debt tumor” was left in place. (This is the nightmare we are presently watching unfold.)
The result of the systemic disabling of regulations on Wall Street has resulted in the following, says Hudson: “…the wealthiest One Percent have captured nearly all the growth in income since the 2008 crash. Holding the rest of society in debt to themselves, they have used their wealth and creditor claims to gain control of the election process and governments by supporting lawmakers who un-tax them, and judges or court systems that refrain from prosecuting them.
Obliterating the logic that led society to regulate and tax rentiers in the first place, think tanks and business schools favor economists who portray rentier takings as a contribution to the economy rather than as a subtrahend from it.” (But, of course, those business schools are financially incentivized to think that way.
The outgrowth of these tricks to make parasites appear to be a natural appendage to a well-functioning economy results in a “veritable Stockholm Syndrome.” Hudson explains:
“Popular morality blames victims for going into debt – not only individuals, but also national governments. The trick in this ideological war is to convince debtors to imagine that general prosperity depends on paying bankers and making bondholders rich – a veritable Stockholm Syndrome in which debtors identify with their financial captors.”
Hudson has much to say on the perversity of corporations buying back their own stock. In one chapter, Hudson writes:
“In nature, parasites tend to kill hosts that are dying, using their substance as food for the intruder’s own progeny. The economic analogy takes hold when financial managers use depreciation allowances for stock buybacks or to pay out as dividends instead of replenishing and updating their plant and equipment. Tangible capital investment, research and development and employment are cut back to provide purely financial returns.”
On the timely debate over wealth and income inequality, Hudson writes that “Asset-price inflation is the primary dynamic explaining today’s polarization of wealth and income. Yet most newscasts applaud daily rises in the stock averages as if the wealth of the One Percent, who own the great bulk of stocks and other financial assets, is a proxy for how well the economy is doing. What actually occurs is that financing corporate buyouts on credit factors interest payments and fees into the prices that companies must charge for their products.”
Where this leads, says Hudson, is that “Paying these financial charges leaves less available to invest or hire more labor. Likewise for the overall economy, the effect of a debt-leveraged real estate bubble and asset-price inflation is that interest payments and fees to bankers and bondholders leave less available to spend on goods and services. The financial overhead rises, squeezing the ‘real’ economy and slowing new investment and hiring.”
Hudson is clearly on to something. The U.S. seems to be crashing like clockwork every 8 years with the crashes gaining in intensity. The 2000 dot.com crash wiped $4 trillion out of investment accounts while, 8 years later, the 2008 crash brought down the whole financial system, the U.S. and global economy, and it’s still producing a dead weight on economic growth.
Next year will mark the eighth year since the 2008 crash and if last week’s market convulsions were any indication, we’re in for some very rough sledding.
Chapter 8 of “Killing the Host” begins with this quotation from John Maynard Keynes:
“When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done.”
Hudson expands further:
“Instead of warning against turning the stock market into a predatory financial system that is de-industrializing the economy, [business schools] have jumped on the bandwagon of debt leveraging and stock buybacks. Financial wealth is the aim, not industrial wealth creation or overall prosperity. The result is that while raiders and activist shareholders have debt-leveraged companies from the outside, their internal management has followed the post-modern business school philosophy viewing ‘wealth creation’ narrowly in terms of a company’s share price.
The result is financial engineering that links the remuneration of managers to how much they can increase the stock price, and by rewarding them with stock options. This gives managers an incentive to buy up company shares and even to borrow to finance such buybacks instead of to invest in expanding production and markets.”
The net result of this, says Hudson, is an effective “debt-financed takeover from within.”
Hudson writes about the revealing September 2014 Harvard Business Review article by William Lazonick, who noted:
“Consider the 449 companies in the S&P 500 index that were publicly listed from 2003 through 2012. During that period those companies used 54% of their earnings — a total of $2.4 trillion — to buy back their own stock, almost all through purchases on the open market. Dividends absorbed an additional 37% of their earnings.”
“This management strategy created financial wealth by elevating the stock price,” writes Hudson, “not by producing more goods. Earnings per share rose not because companies actually earned more, but because there were fewer shares outstanding among which to spread the earnings. Many of the companies downsized and outsourced their employment and production. The immediate beneficiaries were corporate officers exercising their stock options.”
Hudson quotes another prolific writer on the subject of our bankster-controlled society, Paul Craig Roberts, who has noted the following about corporations buying back their own stock: “The debt incurred will have to be serviced by future earnings. This is not a picture of capitalism that is driving the economy by investment.”
Hudson says that what is happening today in corporate America is very different from the corporate raiders of the 1980s who used leveraged buyouts to gobble up companies. Today, says Hudson, “corporate executives raid their own company’s revenue stream. They are backed by self-proclaimed shareholder activists. The result is financial short-termism by managers who take the money and run. The management philosophy is extractive, not productive in the sense of adding to society’s means of production or living standards.”
Make no mistake about it: this is a dangerous book to the status quo. It is truth-telling at its finest in America’s darkest age of entrenched lies. Michael Hudson has clanged the alarm bells over more continuity government from the likes of Hillary Clinton and her fellow Wall Street Democrats. He’s also scuttled the chances that Donald Trump will be able to reengineer America from “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” to the evil fortress that kicks out infants by directing hatred and blame for America’s woes to impoverished immigrants running from their own leeches.
Hudson’s masterful book comes at the perfect juncture of stock market convulsions and an early election season when Americans are turning out by the tens of thousands to hear what the candidates for the Oval Office plan to do to return the wealth and the soul of America to the people.
Killing the Host is available as an e-book at "CounterPunch" and in print at Amazon.com.
From the source (PCR):
This month is a busy one for me. Family visitors and other responsibilities will necessitate that I take some time off, so expect my postings to be lighter than usual. After the 20th of the month, things should ease a bit.
In the meantime, below is my take on the economy in contrast to the disinformation fed to you by the government and financial media.
Whither The Economy?
Paul Craig Roberts
The great problem with corporate capitalism is that publicly owned companies have short time horizons. Unlike a privately owned business, the top executives of a publicly owned corporation generally come to their positions late in life. Consequently, they have a few years in which to make their fortune.
As a consequence of the short-sightedness of reformers and Congress, the annual salaries of top executives were capped at $1 million. Amounts in excess are not deductible for the company as an expense. The exception is “performance-related” pay, which has no limit. The result is that the major part of executive pay comes in the form of performance bonuses. Performance means a rise in the price of the company’s shares.
Performance bonuses can be honestly obtained by good management or mere luck that results in a rise in the company’s profits. However, there are a number of ways in which performance bonuses can be less legitimately obtained, almost all of which result in short-term gains to executives and shareholders and long-term damage to the corporation and economy.
Replacing American workers with foreign workers is one way. The collapse of communism in Russia and China and the collapse of socialism in India resulted in the under-utilized Indian and Chinese labor forces becoming available to American corporations. Pushed by “shareholder advocates,” Wall Street, and large retailers, US manufacturing corporations began closing their manufacturing plants in the US and producing offshore the goods, and later the services, that they market to Americans.
From the standpoint of the short-term interests of executives and shareholders, this decision made sense. But to transform manufacturing companies into marketing companies, as happened for example to Apple Computer, which apparently does not own a single factory, was a strategic mistake for the long-term. By offshoring the production of their products, US corporations transferred technology, physical plant, and business knowhow to China. American corporations are now dependent on China, a country that the idiots in Washington are endeavoring to turn into an enemy.
Further downside comes from the fact that research, development, and innovation are connected to the manufacturing process, because it is difficult for these important functions to be successful in a sterile atmosphere removed from the production process. As time goes by, US companies are transformed from manufacturing enterprises into sales organizations and lose connection to the work process, and these functions relocate abroad with the manufacturing jobs.
Offshoring manufacturing jobs left Americans with fewer high-value-added well-paid jobs, and the US middle class downsized. Ladders of upward mobility were taken down. Income and wealth distributions worsened. In effect, the One Percent got richer by giving away US incomes and GDP to China. Economists who shilled for the offshoring corporations promised new and better jobs to take the place of the lost manufacturing jobs, but as I have pointed out for years, there is no sign of these promised jobs in the payroll jobs releases or ten-year jobs projections.
Jobs offshoring began with manufacturing, but the rise of the high speed Internet made it possible to move offshore tradable professional skills, such as software engineering, Information Technology, various forms of engineering, architecture, accounting, and even the medical reading of MRIs and CT-Scans. The jobs and careers of university graduates were sent abroad and denied to Americans. Many of the jobs that remained in the US were given to foreign workers brought in on H1-B and L-1 work visas based on the obviously false claim that there was a shortage of talent in the US.
The gains in executive bonuses and shareholder capital gains were achieved by destroying the economic prospects of millions of Americans and by reducing the growth potential of the US economy. In the long-run this means the demise of the US as a world power. As I forecast in 2004, “the US will be a Third World country in 20 years.”
As jobs offshoring ran its course and had fewer remaining gains to offer the One Percent, short-term greed turned to new ways of wrecking both corporations and the US economy in behalf of executive and shareholder gains.
Executives of utility companies, for example, forewent maintenance and upgrades and used the money instead to buy back their own shares. If you have ever wondered why you can’t get faster Internet in your area or why your electricity is constantly interrupted, this is probably the cause.
Executives also use the company’s profits to repurchase shares, and when they lack profits, executives arrange bank loans to the companies in order to buy back shares. Executive “performance pay” goes up, but the corporations are left more heavily indebted and thus more vulnerable to recession and foreign competition. In recent years, buybacks and dividends have used up most of corporate profits, leaving the corporations bereft of updates and reserves.
Publicly owned capitalism’s short-term time horizon is also apparent with regard to nature’s resources and the environment. Ecological economists, such as Herman Daly, have established the fact that environmental destruction is the consequence of corporations moving many of the waste costs associated with their activities off their profit and loss statements and onto the environment.
As other ways of artificially raising corporate profits and share prices become exhausted, expect corporations to push harder against pollution control measures. As the environment declines in its ability to produce new resources and to absorb wastes or pollution — for example the large growing dead areas in the Gulf of Mexico — the planet’s ability to sustain life withers.
President Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency in order to reduce the external or social costs that corporations impose on the environment. However, the polluting industries were not slow in taking over or capturing the agency, as University of Chicago economist George Stigler predicted.
A basis of economic theory is the absurd assumption that man-made capital is a perfect substitute for nature’s capital. This means that if the environment is used up and ruined, not to worry. Innovation and technology will substitute for nature. This absurd foundation of economic theory is why there are so few ecological economists. Economics teaches not to worry about the environment.
To sum up, the One Percent have enriched themselves at the expense of the economy’s potential and everyone else.
Where does the economy stand at the present time, a question on many of your minds? I am not a seer.
Nevertheless, various things are obvious. In the US consumer demand is constrained by high debt and the absence of growth in real median family income. Evidence of the constrained US consumer shows up in lackluster real retail sales and in year-over-year declines in factory orders. On September 2, "Zero Hedge" reported that factory orders had fallen for 9 consecutive months.
As I point out, the monthly payroll jobs announcements are always overblown and consist largely of lowly-paid, part-time, domestic service employment. The 5.3% unemployment rate is phony, because it does not count any discouraged workers, and there are millions of them.
Indeed, the absence of jobs is the reason the labor force participation rate has continually declined, a contradiction to the alleged recovery. On September 1, the Economic Cycle Research Institute reported that the US government’s data on employment/population ratios by education shows that the employment/population ratio for those with high school and college diplomas is lower now than when the alleged economic recovery began in June 2009. The only job gains have been for those without a high school diploma, the cheapest labor available in the US. Clearly, these are not jobs that will produce any rebound in consumer demand.
And clearly education is not the answer.
The main economic releases from Washington — the ones that make the headline news: the unemployment rate, payroll jobs, GDP, and the consumer price index — are worthless. The unemployment rate does not include millions of unemployed, the CPI is rigged to undercount inflation, and as inflation is undercounted, real GDP is over-reported. Indeed, in my opinion and that of economic-statistician John Williams of shadowstats.com, nominal GDP deflated with a correct measure of inflation shows essentially no growth during the alleged recovery. What the government and financial media call economic growth is essentially price rises or inflation.
What is happening to America is that all of the surplus in the system accumulated over decades of success is being used up.
Americans have had no interest income from their savings since the Federal Reserve decided to print trillions of dollars with which to purchase the troubled financial assets of a small handful of mega-banks. In other words, the Federal Reserve decided that, contrary to the propaganda about serving the public interest, the Fed exists to serve a few oversized banks, not the American people or their economy. As an institution, the Federal Reserve is so corrupt that it should be shut down.
The elderly avoid the stock market, because a decline can be long-lasting and eat up a large chunk of one’s savings. The same can happen from long-term bonds. Therefore, older people prefer shorter term interest instruments. The Federal Reserve’s zero interest rate policy means that older people are using up their savings, at the expense of their peace of mind and their heirs, in order to prevent a collapse in their standard of living.
The elderly are also drawing down their savings in support of unemployed children and grandchildren. Unable to find jobs that will support the formation of a household or even an individual existence, many young college educated Americans are living with parents or grandparents, something I have not previously seen in my lifetime.
All the while the corrupt financial media pump us full of good economic news.
Many readers want to know if the stock market decline is over. It remains to be seen. In my opinion two opposite forces are at work. Based on earnings and the economy’s prospects, stocks are overvalued.
However, the appearance of a successful economy is important to Washington’s power, and this brings in the Plunge Protection Team, a US Treasury/Federal Reserve team that intervenes to support the market. Wall Street managed to get the team created in 1988, and in the recent troubled days there are signs of it in operation. For example, suddenly during a time of market decline, strong purchasing appeared, arresting the decline. Normally, optimistic purchasers who interpret declines as buying opportunities wait until the decline is over. They do not buy into the middle of a decline.
Today most stock purchases are made by money managers, such as mutual funds and pension funds. Individuals do not account for much of the market. Money managers are judged by their performance relative to their peers. As long as they move up or down with their peers, they are safe.
Once the professionals see that government is supporting the market, they support it. This behavior is bolstered by greed. Participants want the market to go up, not down. Therefore, even if money managers understand that stocks are a bubble, they will support the bubble as long as they think the Plunge Protection Team is holding up the market. The unanswered question in the minds of money managers is whether the Treasury and Fed are committed to maintaining an overvalued market or whether they are just holding it up long enough for their well-connected friends to get out. Only time will tell.
My book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West, will introduce you to the damage done by jobs offshoring and to the mistaken assumption of economists that the environment puts no constraints on economic growth.
The other part of the story comes from Michael Hudson, who explains the financialization of the economy and the transformation of the financial sector, which once financed the production of real goods and services, into a money-sucking leach that sucks all life out of the economy into its own profits. I recently posted a link to Pam Martens’ review of his book, Killing The Host.
If you can absorb my book, Michael Hudson’s book, and one of Herman Daly’s books, you will have a much firmer grasp on economics than economists have. Go to it.
And don’t forget to support this site.
In the wake of the financial terrorism going on in the U.S. (and the rest of the world), we shouldn't lose sight of environmental catastrophes that are happening simultaneously as safety regulations are dispensed with by deregulators, and citizens become guinea pigs for those who see new and dangerous ways (that won't affect them personally) to make even more ready cash.
September 3, 2015
Green Med Info
Keeping your receipts may make good financial sense, but it can seriously harm your health.
If you are like me, you hesitate at the checkout counter whenever the cashier asks you “would you like your receipt”? If your inner accountant is alive and well, you will find yourself wanting to keep it, which means touch it. But on the other hand, if you are already aware of the information in this article, the idea of handling a bisphenol A saturated thermal printer receipt without gloves makes as much sense as handling gasoline or paint thinner without protection.
And if you are really “neurotic” like me, you may find yourself thinking about the health of the cashier, who undoubtedly has been handling receipts all shift long, and will continue to be exposed — often unwittingly — to a significant dose of bisphenol A throughout the course of their employment. This is why I cringe doubly when I refuse a receipt, because I realize that the cashier has no idea why I would do so, nor that they have suffered a harmful chemical exposure in the very act of offering the receipt to me.
All this might sound overly cautious if it had not already been proven that exposure to thermal printer receipts is one of the primary routes through which our bodies become contaminated with the toxic synthetic chemical known as bisphenol A (BPA), a potent endocrine disruptor, carcinogen, and neurotoxic and cardiotoxic chemical, linked to over 50 adverse health effects. BPA is also found in airline tickets, gas and ATM receipts, and paper currency absorbs the BPA contained within these receipts, making daily exposure even more likely.
There are other important variables that play into how much of this chemical we absorb. For instance, bisphenol absorption is exponentially enhanced with the use of mass market skin care products, which are themselves mainly comprised of petrochemically-derived ingredients whose toxicities are also a major concern. For instance, back in 2014, a highly concerning study published in PLoS titled, “Holding thermal receipt paper and eating food after using hand sanitizer results in high serum bioactive and urine total levels of bisphenol A (BPA),” found that hand sanitizers, as well as other skin care products, contain mixtures of chemicals that can increase the absorption of fat-soluble compounds such as BPA by as much as 100 fold.
There is also the disturbing fact that 93% of healthy infants aged 3-15 months were found to be contaminated with BPA without any known cause of environmental exposure, revealing how truly widespread contamination is, regardless of direct exposure to thermal printer receipts.1
Now a new study published in "Environmental Health Perspectives" titled, “Bisphenol A, Bisphenol S, and 4-Hydroxyphenyl 4-Isoprooxyphenylsulfone (BPSIP) in Urine and Blood of Cashiers“, reveals that the problem of chemical exposure through paper receipts is not simply associated with bisphenol A exposure, but with other bisphenol analogs as well. As we have seen with the recent increase in products explicitly labeled as “bisphenol A free“, the industries that have become reliant on the chemical are now substituting bisphenol S (and perhaps other bisphenols) in these products, despite the fact that it possesses similar toxicity. This is all the more disturbing considering recent research revealing that bisphenol S may be 100x more potent an endocrine disruptor than bisphenol A.
The chemical class known as bisphenols actually includes over a dozen different forms, including bisphenols A, B, C, F, P. The new study found that the printer receipts contained between 1-2% BPA, BPS, or BPSIP (a bisphenol S variation), by weight. The blood and urine samples of cashiers were evaluated for bisphenol levels in post-shift samples compared with pre-shift samples, finding that the receipts contained between 1-2% BPA, PBS, or BPSIP, by weight, and that their levels of BPS were significantly higher than non-cashiers. Based on the cashier’s toxicological profile, the study concluded, “Thermal receipt paper is a potential source of occupational exposure to BPA, BPS, and BPSIP.”
So, what do you do if you shouldn’t touch or keep your receipts?
One easy ‘no touch’ way to track receipts is to take a photo of it and email it to yourself or a special email account you create to account for them. You could also use one of many phone apps that help you photo and track your receipts. Here is an article on IGeeksBlog.com on the “Best iPhone Receipt Tracking Apps: Never Miss An Expense Again.”
Also, consider that there is research on natural ways to mitigate bisphenol toxicity. We have a list of 13 natural substances, including kimchi, royal jelly, genistein and black tea, that have been shown to protect against this ubiquitous toxicant.
1 K Mendonca, R Hauser, A M Calafat, T E Arbuckle, S M Duty. Bisphenol A concentrations in maternal breast milk and infant urine. Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2012 Dec 5. Epub 2012 Dec 5. PMID: 23212895
(Sayer Ji is founder of Greenmedinfo.com, on the Board of Governors for the National Health Federation, and Fearless Parent, Steering Committee Member of the Global GMO Free Coalition (GGFC), a reviewer at the International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine.)
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Here are a few entries from Avedon Carol's superb blog:
They now want me to believe that our best bet for the Democratic nominee will be the Senator from the credit card companies. Longtime readers of The Sideshow will recall that Biden was right behind one of the most pernicious pieces of law imaginable, a celebration of usury and theft. It looks like he wants to be Hillary's Secretary of State, really, but that's just yet another reason to vote for Bernie._ _ _ _ _ _ _
David Cay Johnston reckons Donald Trump is all mobbed up, among other things, and gets a free pass from the media. Likewise, his extensive ties to the biggest Mafia figures in New York and Atlantic City, his history of cheating workers and vendors, and other unsavory aspects of his biography go largely unreported. I laid these out in an earlier National Memo column, but the major news organizations have tended to ignore skeletons in Trump's closet - again there are exceptions, namely Michael Smerconish on CNN; Chris Hayes and Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC. Trump gets a free ride because it's cheap and easy to cover what candidates say, but takes actual work to examine what they have done. And work costs more."
"Picking Apart One of the Biggest Lies in American Politics: 'Free Trade' [..] When Washington became president in 1789, most of America's personal and industrial products of any significance were manufactured in England or in its colonies. Washington asked his first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, what could be done about that, and Hamilton came up with an 11-point plan to build American manufacturing, which he presented to Congress in 1791. By 1793, most of its points had either been made into law by Congress or formulated into policy by either Washington or the various states. Those strategic proposals built the greatest industrial powerhouse the world had ever seen, and were only abandoned, after more than 200 successful years, during the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, and Bill Clinton (and remain abandoned to this day, as President Obama prepares to further expand 'free trade')."
"In Chicago, a new synagogue seeks Judaism minus Zionism [...] We believe that that's led to some very dark places and that the establishment of an exclusively Jewish nation-state in a land that has historically been multiethnic and multireligious has led irrevocably to the tragic issues that we're facing today."
Greek Left Platform Creates New Popular Unity Party: The new Popular Unity Party will hold up the "NO" Referendum, honor the Anti-Austerity wishes of the people, stop privatization, break up the banking system, build a new economy and exit the Eurozone."
'Go Back To Mexico' Sentiment Is Most Prevalent In States That Used To Be Mexico.
"The New York Times" did a story in which some ex-employees accused Amazon of being a brutal employer, and apparently Nancy Pelosi purports to be upset.
Dean Baker on Jeff Bezos, Amazon, and the Lack of Profits
"Stop calling abortion a 'difficult decision' [...] However, when the pro-choice community frames abortion as a difficult decision, it implies that women need help deciding, which opens the door to paternalistic and demeaning 'informed consent' laws. It also stigmatizes abortion and the women who need it."
"Why I am pro-Abortion, not Just Pro-Choice"
I think my favorite part of this Lily Tomlin interview is where she says, " It's the same as watching what the gay community has accomplished in the past 10 years. It's staggering, the progress they've made. I want the gay community to become president - they seem to get things done."
Honor Blackman turns 90, and you still would.
Julian Bond, Former N.A.A.C.P. Chairman and Civil Rights Leader, Dies at 75. He was a charming, witty, and very smart speaker - and in his day, possibly the best looking guy ever to be in politics, before or since. I was crushed when I woke up Sunday and his departure was the first thing I read. I always wanted him to be president - he would have been a great one.
As evidence of Julian Bond's unchanging good looks, here's a photo of him as a child, hanging out with Paul Robeson.
John Nichols in "The Nation," "Julian Bond Built Coalitions, Practiced Solidarity, and Showed Us the Future." "Is it rolling, Bob?"
* "NYT:" Bob Johnston, 83, Dies; Produced Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash Albums
* "Guardian" article, Legendary Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen producer Bob Johnston dies and obituary
The federal wildlife service on Thursday stood by its decision to authorize recent killings of two highly endangered North Carolina red wolves on private property, despite plans by conservationists to sue.
When Sony Pictures Entertainment decided to make a movie focusing on the death and dementia professional football players have endured from repeated hits to the head — and the N.F.L.’s efforts toward a cover-up — it signed Will Smith to star as one of the first scientists to disclose the problem. It named the film bluntly, “Concussion.”
In the end even Sony, which unlike most other major studios in Hollywood has no significant business ties to the N.F.L., found itself softening some points it might have made against the multibillion-dollar sports enterprise that controls the nation’s most-watched game.
In dozens of studio emails unearthed by hackers, Sony executives; the director, Peter Landesman; and representatives of Mr. Smith discussed how to avoid antagonizing the N.F.L. by altering the script and marketing the film more as a whistle-blower story, rather than a condemnation of football or the league.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog
05 September 15
An economy depends fundamentally on public morality; some shared standards about what sorts of activities are impermissible because they so fundamentally violate trust that they threaten to undermine the social fabric.
It is ironic that at a time the Republican presidential candidates and state legislators are furiously focusing on private morality – what people do in their bedrooms, contraception, abortion, gay marriage – we are experiencing a far more significant crisis in public morality.
We’ve witnessed over the last two decades in the United States a steady decline in the willingness of people in leading positions in the private sector – on Wall Street and in large corporations especially – to maintain minimum standards of public morality. They seek the highest profits and highest compensation for themselves regardless of social consequences.
CEOs of large corporations now earn 300 times the wages of average workers. Wall Street moguls take home hundreds of millions, or more. Both groups have rigged the economic game to their benefit while pushing downward the wages of average working people.
By contrast, in the first three decades after World War II – partly because America went through that terrible war and, before that, the Great Depression – there was a sense in the business community and on Wall Street of some degree of accountability to the nation.
It wasn’t talked about as social responsibility, because it was assumed to be a bedrock of how people with great economic power should behave.
CEOs did not earn more than 40 times what the typical worker earned. Profitable firms did not lay off large numbers of workers. Consumers, workers, and the community were all considered stakeholders of almost equal entitlement. The marginal income tax on the highest income earners in the 1950s was 91%. Even the effective rate, after all deductions and tax credits, was still well above 50%.
Around about the late 1970s and early 1980s, all of this changed dramatically. The change began on Wall Street. Wall Street convinced the Reagan administration, and subsequent administrations and congresses, to repeal regulations that were put in place after the crash of 1929 – particularly during the Roosevelt administration – to prevent a repeat of the excesses of the 1920s.
As a result of that move towards deregulation, we saw a steady decline in standards – a race to the bottom – on Wall Street and then in executive suites. In the 1980s we had junk bond scandals combined with insider trading. In the 1990s we had the beginnings of a speculative binge culminating in the dotcom bubble. Sad to say, under the Clinton administration the Glass-Steagall Act – that had been part of the banking act of 1933, separating investment banking from commercial banking – was repealed.
In 2001 and 2002 we had Enron and the corporate looting scandals. Not only did this reveal the dark side of executive behaviour among some of the most admired companies in America – Enron had been listed among the nation’s most respected companies before that time – but also the complicity of Wall Street. Wall Street traders were actively involved in the Enron travesty. And then, of course, we had all of the excesses leading up to the crash of 2008.
Where has the moral center of American capitalism disappeared? Wall Street is back to its same old tricks. Greg Smith, a vice-president of Goldman Sachs, has accused the firm of putting profits before clients. Almost every other Wall Street firm is doing precisely the same thing and they’ve been doing it for years.
The Dodd-Frank bill was an attempt to rein in Wall Street, but Wall Street lobbyists have almost eviscerated that act and have been mercilessly attacking the regulations issued. Republicans have not even appropriated sufficient money to enforce the shards of the act that remain.
The Glass-Steagall Act must be resurrected. There has to be a limit on the size of big banks. The current big banks have to be broken up using anti-trust laws, as we broke up the oil cartels in the early years of the 20th century.
We’ve got to put limits on executive pay and have a much more progressive income tax so that people who are earning tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars a year are paying at a rate that they paid before 1981, which is at least 70% at the highest marginal level.
We also need to get big money out of politics.
These changes can’t come about unless we have campaign finance reform that provides public financing in general elections and a constitutional amendment that reverses the grotesque decision of the Supreme Court at the start of 2010, in a case called “Citizens United versus the Federal Election Commission.”
None of this is possible without an upsurge in the public at large – a movement that rescues our democracy and takes back our economy. One can’t be done without the other. Our economy and democracy are intertwined. Much the same challenge exists in Europe and Japan and elsewhere around the world, where systems profess to combine capitalism and democracy.
Massive inequality is incompatible with robust democracy. Today, in the United States, the top 1% is taking home more than 20% of total income and owns at least 38% of total wealth. The richest 400 people in America have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans put together.
As we’ve already seen in this Republican primary election, a handful of extraordinarily wealthy people can virtually control the election result – not entirely, but have a huge impact. That’s not a democracy. As the great American jurist and Supreme Court associate justice Louis Brandeis once said: “We can have huge wealth in the hands of a relatively few people or we can have a democracy. But we can’t have both.”