Did you hear the latest?
Microsoft Corporation, which can't make a stable operating system after 40 years of effort, is going to cure cancer.
So, please stop yer whining about their low taxes and clever market-capturing legal manipulations.
Just hush up!
They are your friends.
And also stop your mindless yammering about the rich and powerful controlling the national dialogue.
NO ONE IS LISTENING!
So save your breath.
At least our old buddy Neil Young always comes through for us.
What’s wrong with Hillary? Since her collapse on 9/11, that question has become inescapable.
I am not going to try to prove that Hillary Clinton has Parkinson’s Disease, or some other serious, degenerative neurological or neuro-vascular condition. I suspect she does, especially since her collapse on 9/11, and the acknowledgement that she was passing off as an allergy what she now claims is pneumonia. Suddenly, the various videos of her strange tics, and the diagnoses thereof, have been less easy to dismiss. One can’t help but wonder what better explains her lackluster campaign?
But the speculation is futile at this point. Either she has some serious condition or she doesn’t, and if she does, it will likely manifest itself in undeniable ways. If her head-shaking, coughing, and collapsing episodes are effects of discrete, trivial things like allergies and overheating, these episodes will stop, and she’ll continue merrily along with her campaign (and likely presidency). She’ll have a lot of public appearances, perform well in the debates, hold regular press conferences, etc., without incident. Of course, the obvious and best thing for her to do, if she’s really healthy, would be to show full medical files with raw test results.
If she does have a serious and degenerating neurological condition, she will try to avoid press conferences, lengthy public appearances with lots of people, and any stressful event where she cannot be physically managed by handlers. But avoiding all that in a presidential campaign is virtually impossible, starting with the debates. So if she is seriously ill, it’s inevitable that obvious symptoms will re-appear, in public and with more frequency.
We shall see.
The main problem for her campaign right now is that nobody believes anything she says. Does anybody think she’s not hiding something? The perception that she’s already been dishonest about her health has already magnified the persistent impression that she’s untrustworthy in general, and is undermining her attempt to persuade reluctant Democratic constituencies that they must come out and vote for her. It’s harder to persuade Bernie-or-Busters or BLM activists that it’s important to vote for you when you can’t stand up. At this point, the debates are going to be watched like NASCAR races, and if she has a three-minute coughing fit, nobody is going to believe it’s an allergy. She will have hit the wall.
I’m sure there are some people who do, but I have no personal wish or political investment in the idea that Hillary has a serious health problem, and feel no need to prove that she does. Of course, the health of a president is a concern for every American (and see Eric Draitser’s analysis of what it might mean for us after the election), but, in the context of the election, her possible health problem makes no difference to me, or leftists like me, who already reject voting for Hillary for a myriad of reasons.
For us, it’s politically irrelevant.
On the other hand, neither do I have any personal or psychological investment in the idea that she does not have a serious health problem, as I know some people do. The state of Hillary’s health will have the greatest personal and political impact on the people who support her, and who have been insisting that all progressives must vote for her — because she’s the only hope for defeating Trump, and that’s the most important thing. Those are the people who actively resist the idea that Hillary’s seriously ill, and attack those who even raise the possibility, because it would require her supporters to recognize and acknowledge things about her that they would rather not.
Consider what it means if it emerges, and — as it would — destroys her campaign, that Hillary does have a serious, degenerative neurological condition which she knew about since at least 2012.
It would mean that she entered the Democratic primary withholding crucial facts about her health — facts that she knew would disqualify her from becoming president for many people, and would certainly have affected Democratic voters’ choice between her and Bernie Sanders. It would mean, in fact, that she had deprived the party of an honest chance to choose Bernie, who, given this, would unquestionably have been a better candidate against Trump. It would mean that she went into the general election knowingly risking the likely exposure of those facts, the destruction of the Democratic Party’s campaign, and the resultant election of President Donald Trump. That would all be on her, and on the fact that she considered her ambition — her right — to be President worth the risk to all that she destroyed.
As I say, none of this would surprise me, or change my mind about Hillary in the slightest. But I do wonder how the people who have been preaching the moral imperative to vote for Hillary, because they think defeating Donald Trump is the most important thing in the world, would react to this. Would they recognize that she bears the primary responsibility for enabling a Trump presidency – that, indeed, her primary concern was never preventing a Trump presidency, but achieving her ambitions?
Would they recognize — what at that point would be hard to deny — that her arrogance, narcissism, and mendacity are unsurpassed, even by the Donald? Would they understand the need to reject the rotten personality-, money-, and media-driven two-party system that breeds such psychopathic politics? Or would they continue to blame it all on the Bernie Bros and Conspiracy Theorists?
I’ll leave the answers to those questions to those who have the most riding on them.
Hillary is already becoming as big a problem for the Democrats as Trump is for the Republicans. She spent the month of August in private fund-raising parties, only to emerge on Labor Day with a coughing fit, lie about it, and collapse a few days later. She’s generating more mistrust and no enthusiasm. She is slipping in the polls. To Donald Trump! Even her media supporters decry the anxiety and growing “I can’t go there” desperation in her campaign. And it’s reported that Democratic “operatives” consider they are in “unchartered political territory,” and have held an “emergency meeting” to consider a possible replacement. The Democrats are not breathing easy right now.
The state of her health has something to do with that, and will certainly be a big factor in whether her desultory campaign can revive in time. If she does have a serious condition, and it emerges before the election, it would mean that every day she dragged out the charade did further damage to the party, and to the stop-Trump campaign she and her supporters claim is their ultimate concern. It would have been much easier for the Democrats to have elected another nominee in August, and would be somewhat easier to pick another nominee now, than it will be to find a new candidate in October, if Hillary seizes up in one of the debates.
Not that her supporters should be too worried. She still retains considerable advantages—demographic and financial—over Trump, including the support of the Republican, National Security, and media establishments. Nothing is going to get Hillary out of the race except some degenerative disease, if she has one. So if she doesn’t, she’ll take a deep breath, spring back, and win the election easily. I do think that’s still the most likely outcome.
By now Hillary Clinton’s comment that half of Donald Trump’s supporters are “sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic” and hence “irredeemable” is known throughout the land. They, said she, belong in a “basket of deplorables.” She thus consigns to her “basket” many millions of Americans, in fact more each day as Trump does ever better in the polls.
Make no mistake about it, this bit of invective was no accident. Hillary is carefully scripted, and especially so in these months of her campaign. Cameras were rolling and she knew it. Moreover, she has said the same thing repeatedly on camera in front of high-end donors. Why then did she say such a thing?
The first and obvious point is that it was heartfelt. She, like the rest of the Elite, harbors deep feelings of contempt for the common Joe and Jane. And the contempt is bipartisan. As many have noted, her comment echoes that of Romney in 2012 who accused “47%” of American voters of being ne’er do well freeloaders, expecting a handout from the government. That is the Republican Elite’s brand of contempt. The Dem Elite on the other hand offer their contempt in terms of identity politics. To them the great unwashed are a mass of bigots and worse. (Other years it is the Balck “superpredators” who feel their sting.)
It cannot be otherwise. Every exploiting, parasitic Elite feels contempt for its subjects, so this is not news. Imagined superiority, after all, is what justifies, in the minds of the few, their rule over the many.
And certainly Hillary’s words will give the attendees at a $250,000 per plate event a feeling of moral superiority that they are not among the “irredeemables” but are in fact among the Redeemers. And if that sounds messianic, that is because it is. Such a feeling of moral superiority is also a handy way to take the edge off the guilt welling up from the way these folks rake in their lucre. Well worth the $250,000 price of admission! A case in point are those in the room who made off with a bundle after the 2008 crash, which was made possible by the repeal of Glass-Steagall in the Clinton “co-presidency.”
But now a question arises. Romney tried to keep his contempt for the people a secret, but Hillary boasts of hers. Why? After all, it is a cardinal rule of politics that one should never attack the voters, the supporters of one’s opponent, but only the opponent himself or herself. Why then did Hillary disparage the Trump supporters themselves in such a public way?
We may make sense of this by suggesting that Hillary’s remarks were aimed not at Trump supporters but at progressives. Her purpose is to shame liberal voters who might be willing to consider and discuss the issues that Donald Trump is raising in a rational way. After all, if you speak in favor of Trump because you support some of his ideas, you too may be quickly classified as a “deplorable.” In that case you will be lucky if you have any friends if you are a “progressive.” This applies most acutely to foreign policy where Clinton demonizes Putin as “Hitler” whereas Trump wants to “get along” with him, a policy of détente. If you agree with Trump’s détente, then be very quiet about it. The basket awaits you.
Why most true progressives will not vote for Hillary Clinton?
Read the essay below and tell me you don't agree.
I adore Ted Rall and think what's happened to him emanating from those furthering fascist doctrines in the USA! USA! USA! is horrendous (and about right if you think of who's in charge), and that what he's done and continues to do for the furtherance of true democracy in the USA! USA! USA! is without parallel. He's one brave American.
Pay no attention to that very important woman who was allowed to collapse head first into the ground. (No one seems to have been paying much attention before it happened (and don't tell me that those were looks of concern on those attendants' faces) and only afterward if they could benefit from it.) The video of that moment could be considered an omen.
Democrats are wallowing in the Anger stage of the Kübler-Ross model of grief. How on earth, they howl on op-ed pages and cable-news talking-head shows, can this be? Why doesn’t the electorate — that useless “basket of deplorables” — not see what is plain for all to see, that Hillary possesses more qualifications for the nation’s highest political office in her tiniest pinkie toe than The Donald has in his whole 267-pound body?
For that matter, why isn’t the media holding him accountable for his lies?
“Donald Trump, who lies whenever he speaks and whose foundation is a Ponzi scheme compared to the Clintons’, is being graded on a ridiculously generous curve,” Michael Tomasky companied at The Daily Beast.
Hillary says she’s tired of watching the media treat Trump with kid gloves — but she’s happy that some people (her allies and surrogates) are finally paying attention:&NBSP; “I’ve been somewhat heartened by articles recently pointing out the disparate treatment of Trump and his campaign compared to ours — I don’t understand the reasons.And here we have it: the biggest reason Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be president. She is an atrocious politician.
Hillary’s political incompetence manifests itself in two ways.
First, she repeats her mistakes.
Everyone messes up. When smart people screws the pooch, however, they learn from their mistakes. When they make new mistakes, they make a whole new different kind of mistake. Not Hillary. Hillary keeps going back to the disaster well for another cup.
Take her vote to invade Iraq. It was unforgivable for a Democrat to support Bush. So Democrats didn’t forgive her. That vote, and her refusal to apologize, is the main reason she lost to Obama in 2008. An intelligent politician would have recognized that her party’s base is generally antiwar, and acted accordingly. Hillary pushed Obama to arm and fund radical Islamist insurgents in Libya and Syria, two of the Arab world’s most prosperous countries. Thanks in large part to her, both nations are embroiled in endless, brutal civil wars. As far as we can tell, she’s still a nasty George W. Bush-style interventionist — a stance that may well cost her 2016 too.
Then there’s the email thing.
Polls have consistently shown that voters don’t trust her. Why? Because she’s too secretive. Given that knowledge, you’d think Clinton and her advisers would act as transparently as possible. Straight and narrow! By the book!
But no. Not only does she illegally use a private email server for her State Department email, she deletes thousands of them. When she gets caught, she blames Colin Powell. Then she claims none of those emails were classified — but some were. The email thing never goes away — so what does she do next? She lies about catching pneumonia. (I’m fine. Just mild seasonal allergies. Wait, I was overheated/dehydrated. Actually, I have pneumonia. Had. Two days ago. Gonna be just fine now.)
Which is why the DNC may be asking themselves if it’s too late to bring back Bernie Sanders.
The second half of Hillarian political malpractice is her stubborn refusal to accept something that she can’t do anything about: the media, and the voters, really do give Trump a pass on a lot of stuff for which they hold her feet to the editorial fire.
And there’s a reason for that. People hold Clinton to a higher standard than Trump because she has a long record in government: eight years as First Lady, eight years as Senator, four years as Secretary of State. She has a record. So we know what she’ll do if she wins: suck up to corporations like Wal-Mart, push through the TPP and other unpopular “free trade” agreements and start another war or two in the Middle East.
Trump, on the other hand, is a novice. So they grade him on a curve. “People are willing to give him a pass because he doesn’t have a career in service,” said Lanhee Chen, an advisor to Romney in 2012. If he doesn’t know from Ouagadougou, people accept that. He’ll figure that stuff out, hire some people. No one knows what he’d do — which, in a change year, is at the core of his appeal.
(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower.)
Our finest-talking (and fastest-) progressive buddy has a secret to share with us.
A B I G secret.
And he's a Hillary LOVER!
Try not to listen to this if you're already not feeling well (and/or if your heart is not already in trouble).
'The Young Turks' founder Cenk Uygur responds to this footage of an audience both booing and laughing when former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said he is voting for Hillary Clinton because she is "honest."
“They LOL'd," Uygur said. "That's literally a LOL."
The prominent Bernie Sanders supporter said it is time for the "Democratic establishment" to admit that they were wrong, that Sanders was the stronger candidate, and if he had been nominated he would be winning right now.
"We’ve got 48 days to Armageddon," Uygur said about Trump's impending victory over Clinton. "Get your head out of your--... let’s be polite here and say, 'get your head out of the sand.' She’s losing! She’s a terrible candidate!"
CENK UYGUR: Democratic party establishment, you knuckleheads. What have you done? What have you done? You thought that she was the better candidate. The state of Florida is pretty relevant, electorally, in a national election for president. And you've got a crowd there laughing out loud at the idea that your candidate it honest. Oops!
It turns out that we weren't just telling you Hillary Clinton is a bad candidate because we like the other guy. It’s because we were right, but they’ll never admit it. I don't know if the Democratic Party is just stupid... or if they think, 'maybe we get fired if Bernie Sanders comes in here and has a revolution, so I don't want Bernie Sanders under any circumstance. I'd rather have Trump as president.'
Or it is a combination of the two... The whole country, and maybe even the whole world, is in a world of trouble because the Democratic Party thought Hillary Clinton would be a better candidate...
I'm telling you this not just to rub it in to the Democratic Party, because they were wrong and we were right, and not just because if Hillary Clinton loses, they will go around blaming the people who were right, instead of taking responsibility for their idiotic actions. It is not about that.
It is about: We’ve got 48 days to Armageddon. Trump is leading in Ohio, he is leading in Florida, and the Democratic Party still thinks they can't lose...
Get your head out of your — let’s be polite and say, get your head out of the sand. Okay? She’s losing! She’s a terrible candidate! Figure out a strategy in the next 48 days to turn around, otherwise you’re going to make Donald Trump, the monster, idiot, whatever you want to call him, loser… Donald Trump will become the most powerful man on earth.
Jesus, what have you done to us? Turn around quickly, find a way to win this election, otherwise you might have ruined the whole world with your arrogance.
And we're not kidding, folks.
If there's not a Bernie BERN movement restarted seriously (with large bucks behind it) in the next few days, we can kiss it good bye.
Want some more data?
Here's where the Donald's troops whoop it up against the Obama/Hillary "Recovery."
A N D
Americans are dipping into their savings, if they have any, even more than they did last year, a new survey finds. Nearly 70 percent of Americans report having less than $1,000 in savings, and the pattern touches all age groups. Even those making $100,000 to $149,999 a year had less than $1,000 or nothing at all in savings 44 percent of the time, according to GoBankingRates.com, which released its findings Monday._ _ _ _ _ _ _
Speaking of heart attacks . . . did it ever occur to you that our institutions, which are now the main sources of lying, cheating and outright theft of client's (and taxpayers') money, have also had a heart attack? (Metaphorically that is. If they ever had hearts.)
Imagine how you might feel if you were part of a distinguished family that built a respected business over 120 years only to see it gobbled up against your wishes by a banking behemoth, Wachovia, which collapsed a year later and was then forced into a shotgun wedding with another mega bank, Wells Fargo. Today, the Senate Banking Committee will put the finishing touches on this tragic tale of how a fine St. Louis family, the Edwards, lost control of their legacy of putting the customer first, to end up as part of a company now being shamed for opening two million fake accounts that were never authorized by its customers.
The Edwards family story will not be part of today’s Senate hearing, but one can easily imagine that five generations of Edwards will be looking down from heaven today on the proceedings and cursing one name: Bob Bagby, the man who orchestrated the sale of the 120-year old brokerage firm, A.G. Edwards & Sons to Wachovia in 2007.
Albert Gallatin Edwards, the founder of A.G. Edwards & Sons in 1887, was the son of Illinois Governor Ninian W. Edwards. The Edwards family shared a close friendship with Abraham Lincoln and he and Mary Todd were married in the Edwards home on November 4, 1842. Before founding A.G. Edwards with his son, Benjamin F. Edwards, Albert Gallatin served as Assistant Treasury Secretary under Lincoln and four subsequent presidents. He knew a thing or two about banking.
Posted on September 14, 2016
by James Kwak
There’s been a fair amount of triumphalism about the Census Bureau’s recent report on income and poverty, which showed a 5.2% increase in median real household income from 2014 to 2015.
. . . this is not particularly strong evidence that everything is rosy, or that “America is already great,” as some would have it. As many people have pointed out, median household income in 2015 was only back to its 1998 level. Actually, when you take into account a methodological change in 2013, it’s still 5% below its 1999 peak.
Also, if you’re going to celebrate the good years, you should acknowledge the bad years. Here is the annual change in median income for every year since 1985, ranked from best to worst:
“Or We’ll Lose the Whole Middle Class”: Gallup CEO
Economic Recovery, But Not For the “Invisible Americans”
by Wolf Richter • September 20, 2016
Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO at Gallup, who presides over endless surveys of American consumers and businesses and knows a thing or two about them, has a message for the media and the political establishment that seem to be clueless: this meme about the recovering economy – “It was even trumpeted on Page 1 of "The New York Times" and "Financial Times" last week,” he says – “I don’t think it’s true.”
In an article posted on Gallup’s website, he made his case:
The percentage of Americans who say they are in the middle or upper-middle class has fallen 10 percentage points, from a 61% average between 2000 and 2008 to 51% today.
Ten percent of 250 million adults in the U.S. is 25 million people whose economic lives have crashed.
What the media is missing is that these 25 million people are invisible in the widely reported 4.9% official U.S. unemployment rate.
Let’s say someone has a good middle-class job that pays $65,000 a year. That job goes away in a changing, disrupted world, and his new full-time job pays $14 per hour — or about $28,000 per year.
That devastated American remains counted as “full-time employed” because he still has full-time work — although with drastically reduced pay and benefits. He has fallen out of the middle class and is invisible in current reporting.
And these “Invisible Americans,” as he calls them, are facing the “disastrous” emotional toll often associated with a sharp loss of household income. It hits “self-esteem and dignity,” and produces an “environment of desperation.”
Even many American with good jobs and incomes are just “one degree” away from the misery of those with falling wages, or the underemployed or unemployed.
Clifton names three metrics that “need to be turned around or we’ll lose the whole middle class”:
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of the total U.S. adult population that has a full-time job has been hovering around 48% since 2010 — this is the lowest full-time employment level since 1983.
- The number of publicly listed companies trading on U.S. exchanges has been cut almost in half in the past 20 years — from about 7,300 to 3,700. Because firms can’t grow organically — that is, build more business from new and existing customers — they give up and pay high prices to acquire their competitors, thus drastically shrinking the number of U.S. public companies. This seriously contributes to the massive loss of U.S. middle-class jobs.
- New business startups are at historical lows. Americans have stopped starting businesses. And the businesses that do start are growing at historically slow rates
“Free enterprise is in free fall — but it is fixable,” he says. It all depends on small businesses. They need to thrive again. They’re “our best hope” for the economy to pick up some speed. And once they’re thriving again, they can “restore the middle class”:
Gallup finds that small businesses — startups plus “shootups,” those that grow big — are the engine of new economic energy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 65% of all new jobs are created by small businesses, not large ones._ _ _ _ _ _ _
But small businesses as a group are not doing well. Over the past three decades, the US averaged nearly 120,000 more business births than deaths per year. But between 2008 and 2011, according to Census Bureau data, on average 420,000 businesses were born per year, while on average 450,000 died. That the core of the US job creation machine has been faltering is not a sign of a healthy or even a “recovering” economy.
Clifton’s sobering message – that a big part of American households and therefore consumers are still in serious disarray in part due to the problems small businesses are facing – appears to be getting totally lost among the media hype, including the deafening razzmatazz about the 5.2% jump in “household income,” reported last week by the Census Bureau, and widely misconstrued by the media.
This disarray is even worse, once it’s parsed, as the Census Bureau has done, by men and women. Because men’s median income, adjusted for inflation, is now lower than it had been in 1974!
Read… That 5.2% Jump in Household Income? Nope, People Aren’t Suddenly Getting Big-Fat Paychecks
By Pam Martens and Russ Martens
September 19, 2016
Tomorrow the U.S. Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing to take testimony from Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf and Federal regulators to understand how this mega bank was able to get away with opening more than two million fake customer accounts over a span of years. The accounts and/or credit cards were never authorized by the customer and were opened solely by employees to meet sales quotas, get bonuses or to avoid getting fired for failing to meet sales targets.
The only reason the Republican-controlled Senate is holding this hearing is because the Wells Fargo fake-account story got a lot of coverage in the media when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a $185 million settlement over the charges on September 8. The reason the story got a lot of media coverage is because it’s a simple story to tell: widely respected bank opens two million accounts for its customers without their knowledge or permission, sometimes illegally funneling money to the new account from the old account to generate fees.
In July of last year, when Citibank, the deposit-taking retail bank settled charges with the CFPB for $700 million for deceptively selling add-on products to credit card customers, the Senate Banking Committee yawned and did nothing. The story didn’t get major press attention because it was a complicated story to tell. Among a long list of fraudulent practices, the CFPB found that Citibank led 2.2 million customers to believe they were paying to have their credit card monitored for fraud and identity theft, “when, in fact, these services were either not being performed at all, or were only partially performed,” according to the CFPB.
The CFPB charges against Citibank came exactly two months after Citbank’s parent, Citicorp, pleaded guilty to a felony with the Justice Department in connection with the rigging of foreign currency. On the same day, another U.S. mega bank, JPMorgan Chase, also pleaded guilty to a felony related to the same crime. Both banks are more than a century old and both banks, on May 20 of last year, pleaded guilty to a felony for the first time in their history.
The public first got its peek into the corrupt culture at Citigroup, the bank holding company of Citibank, on December 4, 2011 when Richard Bowen, a former Citigroup Vice President and whistleblower, appeared on "60 Minutes." Bowen explained how he had found that Citigroup was buying fraudulent mortgages and selling them to investors as sound investments. When his superiors ignored his warnings, in November 2007 he wrote to top management, including the CFO, chief risk officer and Robert Rubin, the Chairman of Citigroup’s executive committee who, as a former Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton, had pushed to deregulate Wall Street banks – allowing them to hold FDIC insured products and cross-sell their carnival barker wares to the public.
Bowen explained on "60 Minutes" what happens when an honest employee speaks out in one of the Wall Street banking behemoths: “I was relieved of most of my responsibility and I no longer was physically with the organization.” He was told not to show up at the bank.
Bowen’s treatment at Citigroup was replicated against a different whistleblower at JPMorgan Chase, now the largest U.S. bank by assets, according to a report by Matt Taibbi in "Rolling Stone." Alayne Fleischmann, an attorney, described to Taibbi what she saw within JPMorgan Chase as “massive criminal securities fraud.” Taibbi describes what happened to Fleishmann as follows:
“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.”
Fleishmann had found problems very similar to what Bowen had found at Citigroup. JPMorgan Chase was buying fraudulent mortgages and packaging them and selling them to investors. In one package of mortgage loans, Fleishmann found that approximately 40 percent were based on overstated incomes in violation of Chase’s tolerance for error of five percent in securitizations. Fleischmann told a managing director at JPMorgan Chase that “the bank could not sell the high-risk loans as low-risk securities without committing fraud,” according to Taibbi.
JPMorgan Chase went on to sell boatloads of these fraudulent mortgage products while Fleishmann was “quietly dismissed in a round of layoffs.” Obama’s Justice Department took all of this testimony from Fleishmann and had evidence of her written warnings that went unheeded. But even then, it let JPMorgan Chase and its executives off without prosecution.
When the big Wall Street banks collapsed under the weight of their own corruption in 2008, rather than being prosecuted by the Justice Department, the banks were bailed out through a secret, unprecedented $13 trillion revolving loan program operated by the Federal Reserve. Citigroup received the largest amount of these loans: over $2.5 trillion between 2007 and 2010. These loans were made frequently at less than one percent interest while the insolvent Citigroup charged some of its customers double-digit interest rates on credit cards.
Which brings us to today’s crisis of confidence in the U.S. banking system. The underfunded Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Republicans in Congress are attempting to neuter further, has received thousands of new complaints against the banking giants of Wall Street, which are publicly available for viewing here. (Just put the name of the bank you want to inspect in the search box.) Searching under the name Citibank brings up 29,000 rows of complaints. A search under Chase, the retail banking unit of JPMorgan Chase, brings up 37,000 rows of complaints.
The seriousness of the complaints against these two banks strongly suggests that the failure to prosecute these banks for frauds against their customers has led to far more than moral hazard. The complaints paint a crystal clear image of a U.S. banking sector that is evolving at lightning speed into an entrenched criminal enterprise.
The Senate Banking Committee is adding to this crisis by holding isolated hearings of isolated banks that look only at the current scandal. The serial scandals are simply symptoms. The disease is a U.S. banking sector that relies on fraud and abuse of its customers to meet its profit targets just as the low level employees of these banks are pressured into fraudulent acts to meet their sales quotas.
September 16, 2016
Leaked documents from the investigation into the Wisconsin governor’s alleged campaign-finance violations show how dark money really works in modern politics.
Rarely do members of the public get to see behind the closed doors of political nonprofits, which may receive unlimited amounts of money from mega-donors without disclosing anything about their operations. But a trove of leaked documents from an investigation into Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s 2012 recall election campaign has offered an unprecedented look at how politicians operate in a post-Citizens United world that features record levels of undisclosed political money.
The documents, leaked to "The Guardian" newspaper, detail the allegedly illegal coordination between Walker’s campaign and an outside group.
Walker, in a scramble to win a bitterly contested election, asked a slew of right-wing billionaires in 2011 and 2012 to pour money into the Wisconsin Club for Growth, a dark money group working closely with a top aide to the governor. After Walker won, a special prosecutor opened an investigation into the campaign’s alleged coordination with the group. The leaked documents come from that controversial investigation, which Walker and his allies had dismissed as a partisan witch-hunt.
In 2015, the Wisconsin Supreme Court even shut down the investigation, ruling that the Walker campaign did not violate the law because coordination between candidates and outside groups is only prohibited for so-called express advocacy—direct calls to vote for or against a specific candidate. The Walker campaign only coordinated with Wisconsin Club for Growth on issue advocacy ads, which don’t expressly tell voters how to vote, the court ruled, and the activity was therefore legal. The decision infuriated government watchdogs, especially since two conservative justices refused to recuse themselves despite having received outside support from the Wisconsin Club for Growth during their own previous judicial elections.
Not only has the Walker scandal roared back into the spotlight, it may be headed for the Supreme Court. In April, the special prosecutor in the case called on the high court to overturn the state Supreme Court’s decision to end the investigation, arguing that coordination on issue advocacy is, in fact, illegal, and that the plaintiffs didn’t receive a fair trial because the two justices failed to recuse themselves. The Supreme Court is expected to announce later this month whether it will hear the case.
The documents revealed by The Guardian provide a detailed look at how Walker and his aides used Wisconsin Club for Growth to circumvent traditional campaign contribution limits, and get around a state ban on political donations from corporations.
In one leaked email, Walker casually mentions that he got John Menard, CEO of the home improvement chain Menard’s, to contribute $1 million directly from his corporation to the Wisconsin dark money group. A $10,000 check to the group from a wealthy financier had the words “Because Scott Walker asked” written on the memo line.
The "Guardian" article also details how Walker went around the country to court right-wing mega-donors. Just two months before his recall election, Walker went on a fundraising tour down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, stopping over the course of a few hours at a hedge fund, a corporate law firm, and Morgan Stanley. He even had a 45-minute meeting with Donald Trump at the real estate mogul’s headquarters. Trump later cut a check to the outside group for $15,000.
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson gave $200,000, and hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer gave $250,000.
“Stress the donations to WiCFG [Wisconsin Club for Growth] are not disclosed and can accept Corporate donations without limits,” stated an emailed list of talking points to Walker from his top fundraiser.
The documents show that special prosecutor Francis Schmitz had found that “a review of email reflects that RJ Johnson … was involved in the media buys on behalf of Wisconsin Club for Growth and [Walker campaign committee] Friends of Scott Walker.”
Walker was even briefed about controversies surrounding some of the donors in the event that their names ever became public. One of the controversial donors mentioned Harold Simmons, owner of NL Industries, a company that produced lead paint. Walker was briefed about how Simmons’ company had avoided a $52 million lawsuit by the City of Milwaukee seeking damages for children who had suffered from lead poisoning.
In three payments throughout the recall election campaigns, Simmons contributed $750,000 to the group. The public had previously not known about his contributions. This revelation was particularly striking because after the elections, Republicans in the state legislature approved an amendment that gave former lead paint manufacturers retroactive immunity from lawsuits, a measure NL Industries officials had lobbied for aggressively. Watchdogs are now alleging that undisclosed political money allowed a potential pay-to-play scheme to fly under the public radar.
Overall, millions of dollars flooded into the Wisconsin Club for Growth from billionaires and corporations during 2011 and 2012 to support Walker and the six Republican state senators who were also facing recall elections.
The campaign’s coordinated effort with the outside group was a success. After Walker won his recall election, he sent an email to an aide asking: “Did I send out thank you notes to all our c(4) donors?”
“The campaign and the outside groups were almost indistinguishable. It appeared to be a coordinated campaign from start to finish,” says Brendan Fischer, associate counsel for the Campaign Legal Center and a watchdog who has closely tracked Walker over the years. “This is a snapshot into how dark money actually works. The public had no idea that any of this was going on. This demonstrates that dark money is really only dark for the public. The politicians know where it’s coming from.”
Now the Supreme Court may be forced to reckon with the outcome of its 2010 Citizens United v. FEC ruling to deregulate independent political spending.
Now the Supreme Court may be forced to reckon with the outcome of its 2010 "Citizens United v. FEC" ruling to deregulate independent political spending. That ruling paved the way for unlimited contributions to outside groups based on the rationale that, as Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority, unlimited spending would not lead to corruption or the appearance of corruption because the outside spenders were acting independently from candidates.
“I think [the leaks] show that the assumptions inherent in Kennedy’s opinion have been undermined by reality,” Fischer says.
While tax laws technically require (c)(4) groups like Wisconsin Club for Growth to focus primarily on social-welfare issues, there is minimal oversight by the Internal Revenue Service, which critics say allows political groups to conceal donors’ identities and spend millions of dollars on “issue advocacy” ads that are often just thinly veiled political ads.
“They are pretty clearly political entities meant to do things that are not social welfare. Saving Governor Walker’s governorship is not a social welfare function,” says Robert Maguire, a political nonprofit researcher for the Center for Responsive Politics. “This kind of thing that is happening in a lot of different quarters, but this is just a rare occasion where we get a peak behind the curtain. It’s exactly what a lot of us thought was going on.”
The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that candidates are free to coordinate with these political nonprofits because they are purportedly engaging in issue advocacy. But in a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Center for Media and Democracy, the Brennan Center, and Common Cause, the government watchdog groups urge the Supreme Court to address this issue, arguing that the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling is based on a faulty interpretation of legal precedent.
The recent Wisconsin disclosures paint a clear picture of how dark money really operates in modern politics. The question now is whether the Supreme Court will take up the case.
Posted on Sep 18 2016 by Sustainable Pulse
According to new research from University of Virginia in the U.S., widespread adoption of genetically modified (GM) crops has decreased the use of insecticides, but increased the use of weed-killing herbicides as weeds become more resistant, leading to serious environmental damage.
Economist Federico Ciliberto led the largest study of genetically modified crops and pesticide use to date, alongside Edward D. Perry of Kansas State University, David A. Hennessy of Michigan State University and GianCarlo Moschini of Iowa State University. The four economists studied annual data from more than 5,000 soybean and 5,000 maize farmers in the U.S. from 1998 to 2011, far exceeding previous studies that have been limited to one or two years of data.
Herbicide Use / Environmental Impact (EIQ)
“The fact that we have 14 years of farm-level data from farmers all over the U.S. makes this study very special,” Ciliberto said. “We have repeated observations of the same farmers and can see when they adopted genetically modified seeds and how that changed their use of chemicals.”
Since 2008, genetically engineered crops have accounted for more than 80 percent of maize and soybean crops planted in the U.S. Maize seeds are modified with two genes: one kills insects that eat the seed and one allows the seed to tolerate glyphosate, a herbicide commonly used in weed killers like Roundup. Soybeans are modified with just one glyphosate-resistant gene.
Unsurprisingly, maize farmers who used the insect-resistant seeds used significantly less insecticide – about 11.2 percent less – than farmers who did not use genetically modified maize. The maize farmers also used 1.3 percent less herbicide over the 13-year period.
Soybean crops, on the other hand, saw a significant increase in herbicide use, with adopters of genetically modified crops using 28 percent more herbicides than non-adopters.
Ciliberto attributes this increase to the proliferation of glyphosate-resistant weeds.
Commentators and other peer-reviewed studies have even stated that the rise in pesticide use on GM crops has gone up much further since the 1998-2011 data that was reviewed in this new University of Virginia study. The period from 2011-2016 is when glyphosate-resistant weeds have become a major economic problem for U.S. farmers based on the increase of use and thus money spent on pesticides cutting in to their bottom line.
“In the beginning, there was a reduction in herbicide use, but over time the use of chemicals increased because farmers were having to add new chemicals as weeds developed a resistance to glyphosate,” Ciliberto said.
Maize farmers, he said, have not yet had to address the same level of resistance, in part because they did not adopt genetically modified crops as quickly as their counterparts in the soy industry. However, the study did find evidence that both maize and soybean farmers increased herbicide use during the last five years of the study, indicating that weed resistance is a growing problem for both groups.
From 2006 to 2011, the percentage of hectares sprayed with only glyphosate shrunk from more than 70 percent to 41 percent for soybean farmers and from more than 40 percent to 19 percent for maize farmers. The decrease resulted from farmers having to resort to combining glyphosate herbicides with other chemicals as glyphosate-resistant weeds became more common.
“Evidence suggests that weeds are becoming more resistant and farmers are having to use additional chemicals, and more of them,” Ciliberto said.
Insects do not appear to have developed a similar resistance, in part because federal regulations require farmers to have a “safe haven” in their fields that is free of genetically modified crops. Insects and worms in those safe havens have no need to develop resistance, and because they interact and breed with insects in other parts of the field, they help prevent the development of resistant genes.
Despite the decrease in insecticide use, continued growth in herbicide use poses a significant environmental problem as large doses of the chemicals can harm biodiversity and increase water and air pollution.
Ciliberto and his colleagues measured the overall environmental impact of the changes in chemical use that have resulted from the adoption of genetically modified crops, using a measure called the environmental impact quotient, or EIQ, to account for chemicals’ impact on farmworkers, consumers and the environment. Comparing adopters to non-adopters, they found little change in the impact on farmworkers and consumers. However, the adoption of genetically modified soybeans correlated with a massive negative impact on the environment as increased herbicide use also increased contamination of local ecosystems.
Further investigation of the environmental impact quotient (EIQ) finding is now being called for by independent scientists in the U.S. and Europe using the even more accurate Pesticide Risk Tool (PRiME).
Overall, Ciliberto said he was surprised by the extent to which herbicide use had increased and concerned about the potential environmental impact.
“I did not expect to see such a strong pattern,” he concluded.
Sep. 19 2016
Here’s what passes for funny in a room packed full of weapons-industry executives and lobbyists: When Vice Adm. Joseph Rixey — the man in charge of the Pentagon agency that administers foreign arms sales — said “I know you don’t go after human rights violators for potential customers.”
The line produced chuckles in the room.
Rixey was the guest of honor at a reception Wednesday hosted by the Senate Aerospace Caucus, a group of more than a dozen senators who “work to ensure a strong, secure, and competitive American aerospace sector,” according to their mission statement online. The event in a sumptuous Senate reception room was cohosted by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), the lobbying group for weapons contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon.
Rixey is the director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the Pentagon agency charged with overseeing the Pentagon’s relations with the militaries of U.S. allies. As such, DSCA plays a key role in many foreign military sales to other countries, often acting as an intermediary and looking for a producer in the United States.
In other words, when foreign countries want to buy U.S. weapons, the DSCA finds them — either in U.S. stockpiles, but more often by signing lucrative contracts with defense contractors. According to Rixey, over the past year, the DSCA has approved upwards of $47 billion in such contracts, for weapons transfers to countries like Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.
The AIA chair, Lockheed Martin CEO Marilyn Hewson, showered Rixey with praise. “As director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, Adm. Rixey performs a crucial role in this effort. Thank you admiral for all that you do, to help, and thank you for being here tonight, but for all that you do in helping us to sell our products and to partner with countries around the world,” she said.
AIA President David Melcher also had warm words. “Joe Rixey’s done tabletops with industry and with his own team, he’s done the right things to try and move this thing along, and I couldn’t be more pleased to introduce somebody who really is trying to make a difference and make government work,” he said.
In his own remarks, Rixey lauded the relationship between the DSCA and industry. “We at DSCA are thankful that we have the support of our counterparts within the United States government and with defense industries as we look to find areas we can continue to collaborate, improve efficiencies, and overall effectiveness,” he said.
Rixey was joined by caucus co-chairs Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., who praised the industry for its role in overseas weapons sales on both foreign policy and economic grounds. As they spoke alongside representatives from the weapons industry, guests were treated to an open bar, and an assortment of food that included artisan cheeses, chocolate covered strawberries, and macaroons.
“The aerospace industry helps keep the world safe and stable by strengthening our relationships with our allies and building our partners’ capabilities,” Murray told the arrayed lobbyists. “I want to thank all of you again for being here tonight and your interest in what I consider to be one of — if not the most — important industries in my home state of Washington, and America.” Boeing is the largest private employer in Washington state.
Moran asked AIA for its help in passing appropriations bills.
“If you can help us advocate both here in the Senate and with our colleagues in the House, beg us, insist, hold the proverbial gun to our head to make certain that we do appropriations bills when we return in December,” he said.
Officials from the group thanked the senators for their support. Murray has long been an advocate for robust spending on aerospace industry priorities, as has Moran.
“On behalf of the entire industry we thank you very much for your support,” Hewson told Moran and Murray.
The 2007 Honest Leadership and Open Government Act was meant to stop lobbyists from treating lawmakers and government officials to fancy dinners, or lavish parties. But the law had many loopholes — including a notorious “toothpick rule” allowing them to serve as much finger food as guests can eat.
Leaving us with extremely limited life style choices.
"Living In A Van Down By The River – Time To Face The True State Of The Middle Class In America"
No longer the majority and falling behind financially
After more than four decades of serving as the nation’s economic majority, the American middle class is now matched in number by those in the economic tiers above and below it. In early 2015, 120.8 million adults were in middle-income households, compared with 121.3 million in lower- and upper-income households combined, a demographic shift that could signal a tipping point, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data.1
Driftglass has the final word on this (certainly at this moment in history) most important subject:
Once again we find the only thing we can count on is each other. Getting the unregistered to get registered. Getting the souls to the polls.
Once again, it falls to the dirty hippies to help protect America from its worst impulses and ugliest demagogues.
And once again, as we bitch and gripe and roll our eyes, we will roll up our sleeves and do our bit to save the day.