Monday, November 7, 2016

(Wiki-Leaks Truth)  Wall Street Constant Rip-Off  (Assange Talks to John Pilger)  Kaine Konundrumed  (Hillaryd Or Pilloried?)  Social Security Catfood-Loving Crowd Screwed Again (Yay for the Con Artists?)  Social Security Theft Runs Rampant

The Clinton Foundation’s $20 Million Off-the-Books Mystery

Pro-Clinton Media Calls UK to Suspend Diplomatic Immunity of Ecuador Embassy Over WikiLeaks Publication of Hillary’s Emails

Putin:  Russians Were Told to Mind Their Own Business on Tsarnaev

Wall Street is ripping us off.

No question about it.

All the time.

Members of Congress were absolutely shocked – shocked! – that the employees of the commercial bank of Wells Fargo had created several million accounts and credit cards that their customers had never asked for simply to meet sales quotas set by the bank and/or to obtain bonuses.

But what is going on every single day at the brokerage firms owned by all of these banking giants is that the stock broker (variously called a financial consultant, financial adviser or Vice President of Investments) is able to triple the commission he collects on the bonds he sells you at his discretion. It’s been that way for 30 years, if not longer.
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The Secrets of the US Election:  Julian Assange Talks to John Pilger

This week Eric welcomes back to the show author and filmmaker John Pilger to discuss the specter haunting Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America:  Hillary Clinton. Eric and John discuss how Hillary represents a mortal danger to the world, and why Donald Trump has provided a very convenient bogeyman to hide the Democrat monster under our collective bed. The conversation also touches on the pernicious influence of the corporate media, the danger of liberal delusions and lesser evilism, the disastrous implications of a Hillary Clinton presidency for the poor and marginalized in the United States, and, of course, everyone's favorite subject: nuclear war. It's an uplifting hour with one of the leading anti-war, anti-imperialist voices of today.
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Who possibly would want this guy to be president?

Kaine, the Weepy Executioner

“I had to do it. I’m upset”

“Now, now, Little Timmy. You know you didn’t have to execute those eleven defenseless prisoners. You really can’t say you were forced to do it.”

“But if I didn’t kill them, the people of Virginia would think I was weak and might not like me anymore.”

. . . “Timmy, you know capital punishment is barbaric and a human rights violation, but you let the executions proceed anyway.”

“I’ve said that killing prisoners is a bad thing many times. Isn’t that enough?”

Now, Timmy, just because you say one thing, doesn’t mean you’re allowed to do the exact opposite. You know capital punishment in the United States is an abomination. Yet you executed six black prisoners. Six out of a total of eleven executions means you are carrying out a racist policy. Your saying you’re sorry is like when the axeman asks the person he’s about to behead for forgiveness. It really doesn’t mean anything.”

“But I say I’m opposed to racism.”

“Little Timmy, don’t you know that your words don’t mean anything when you do the bad thing anyway? You can’t say you don’t like killing puppies while at the same time you’re killing puppies. You can’t say I hate killing defenseless people while you’re killing defenseless people.”
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Smoking guns? Examples of wealth-shifting upward to the already rich? Certainly:

The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, rammed through in the Bill Clinton Administration by Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin from Citigroup. This enabled the subprime loan frenzy, enriching the New York banks but destroying $13 trillion in Americans’ household wealth.

Halliburton’s no-bid, obscenely profitable contracts in Iraq, served up by Vice President Richard Cheney during the Bush Administration; billions of taxpayers’ dollars to the corporation Mr. Cheney once chaired.

In the Obama Administration Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner from Wall Street administered the Troubled Asset Relief Program, bailing out his colleagues’ banks, again with billions of taxpayers’ money.

For the last 24 years the Executive Branch has been dominated by the corporate elite.
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Did someone mention morals or ethics or honorable behavior being observed by politicians recently?


This may not be the first election in which ethics and law were abandoned, but never before has it been so reliably exposed.

Not by the mainstream media, though. They either ignored the increasingly evident fraud or were complicit in it. From the Iowa caucuses onward, the press treated Clinton’s superdelegate endorsements as tallied votes. This continued even after the distortion and dishonesty of doing so were pointed out. Based on precisely that deception, however, the Associated Press announced Clinton’s presumptive nomination on Monday, June 6 — one day before primaries were held in California, Montana, New Jersey, North and South Dakota, and the District of Columbia. From Iowa forward also the Washington Post and the New York Times hammered the Sanders campaign without mercy or interruption. (The story was detailed later by Thomas Frank in Harper’s Magazine. Frank concludes:  I have never before seen the press take sides like they did this year, openly and even gleefully bad-mouthing candidates who did not meet with their approval.)

No, the major media failed to expose the fraud, but the social media and the Internet abounded with skepticism. Sanders fans questioned the uncounted caucuses in Iowa; the 70% reduction of polling places in Maricopa County, Arizona; the disqualified Sanders delegates at the Nevada convention; the cheap-shot call by the Associated Press. Many were certain the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee were joined at the hip, but there was scant factual evidence.

Enter Julian Assange and the leaked DNC emails. Now the illegal collusion was documented, the sabotaging of the Sanders campaign exposed. Wasserman-Schultz resigns as DNC chair. Then the Podesta emails and Hillary’s paid speeches:  “you need both a public position and a private position.” “My dream is a hemispheric open market, with open trade and open borders.” DNC vice-chair Donna Brazile, a CNN pundit, emails the Clinton campaign prior to the debate:  “From time to time I get the questions in advance.” The attempt to reschedule the Illinois primary. Another tranche of emails arrives:  Brazile’s complicity with the Clinton campaign is broadened, she is fired/resigns from her CNN post. The Clinton Foundation hosts pay to play, the Clintons’ personal enrichment, the $12 million deal with King Mohammed VI of Morocco….

Finally the compliant mass media did take note:  this is, after all, fine spectacle. Noted but not pursued. No determined effort was undertaken to investigate, to document further the deceit and dishonesty, and to assess its magnitude.

Once again that was left to the citizenry. The first careful, detailed study was published June 7, 2016 by two scholars, Axel Geijel of Tilburg University and Rodolfo Cortes Barragan at Stanford. It is entitled, "Are We Witnessing a Dishonest Election?" They compared states who’s voting systems produced verifying paper trails against states which did not. Sanders won the paper-trail states, where tampering with machine tallies could be quickly discovered; Clinton overpowered in states without paper trails, where tampering could never be detected. The authors also compared voting machine tallies with exit poll figures, and found disturbing discrepancies. They concluded, “…these data suggest that election fraud is occurring in the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primary election. This fraud has overwhelmingly benefited Secretary Clinton at the expense of Senator Sanders.” (The paper can be found here.)

Then, with the primaries concluded a group of outraged patriots with day jobs, organized as Election Justice USA, published an exhaustive report. The study is entitled, "Democracy Lost:  A Report on the Fatally Flawed 2016 Democratic Primaries," and it is available here. It details, in 99 pages of carefully assembled and compelling evidence, examples of election fraud uncovered in four categories:  voter suppression, registration tampering, illegal voter purging, and fraudulent voting machine tallies.


Dusty says:

November 4, 2016

When Hillary Rodham Clinton referred to the poor and working class folks who support the Donald, mostly white, as “deplorable” it told a lot but progressives didn’t want to deal with it. They let her “apology” put it to rest and we shouldn’t have. She sees as deplorable the people who aren’t wealthy, the people who have been hurt by the political economy of 1% capitalism. She sucks up to banksters and the rich and talks down to the rest of us who are not part of the elite. FYI:  I did not vote and would not for “the Donald” unless I was on a jury sending him to prison. Progressives really have to grow up and realize that politics is always about the dirty word “power” that progressives hate to talk about because it is seen as a word denoting anti-democratic virtues which is not the truth. The 1% understand power and use it to their advantage because they don’t have any illusions that our “political economy of the 1%” is about the use or distribution of the wealth of our nation, much or most of which began to accumulate for the wealthy during slavery, to benefit all of us. No, the use of the wealth of the nation is to benefit the 1% with some of the wealth used to keep working people alive to do the hard work and to die as soldiers drawn from the “deplorable population” to kill other deplorable folks in other parts of the world to defend the wealth of the 1%.

The cries finally arise from the beaten-down populace.

Hillary, Hillary she's our man!
If she can't do it, no one can!
Or possibly any other neolib can?

The lavish fee from Goldman for Hillary’s speeches was both a gratuity for past loyalty and a down payment on future services. Goldman’s ties to the Clintons date back at least to 1985, when Goldman executives began pumping money into the newly formed Democratic Leadership Council, a kind of proto-SuperPac for the advancement of neoliberalism. Behind its “third-way” politics smokescreen, the DLC was shaking down corporations and Wall Street financiers to fund the campaigns of business-friendly “New” Democrats such as Al Gore and Bill Clinton.
The DLC served as the political launching pad for the Clintons, boosting them out of the obscurity of the Arkansas dog-patch into the rarefied orbit of the Georgetown cocktail circuit and the Wall Street money movers. By the time Bill rambled through his interminable keynote speech at the 1988 Democratic Convention in Atlanta, the Clintons’ Faustian pact with Goldman had already been inked, their political souls cleansed of any vestiges of the primitive southern populism Clinton had exploited so effortlessly during his first term as governor.

In 1991, the Clintons traveled to Manhattan, where they tested the waters for Bill’s then rather improbable presidential bid. At a dinner meeting with Goldman’s co-chair Robert Rubin, Clinton made his case as a more pliant political vessel than George H.W. Bush, who many of the younger Wall Street raiders had soured on. Rubin emerged from the dinner so impressed that he agreed to serve as one of the campaign’s top economic advisors. More crucially, Rubin soon began orchestrating a riptide of Wall Street money into Clinton’s campaign war chest, not only from Goldman but also from other banking and investment titans, such as Lehman Brothers and Citibank, who were eager to see the loosening of federal financial regulations. With Rubin priming the pump, Clinton’s campaign coffers soon dwarfed his rivals and enabled him to survive the sex scandals that detonated on the eve of the New Hampshire primary.

After his election, Clinton swiftly returned the favor checking off one item after another on Rubin’s wish list, often at the expense of the few morsels he’d tossed to the progressive base of the party. In a rare fit of pique, Clinton erupted during one meeting of his National Economic Council, which Rubin chaired, in the first fraught year of his presidency by yelling:  “You mean my entire agenda has been turned over to the fucking bond market?” Surely, Bill meant this as a rhetorical question.

When the time came to do the serious business of deregulating the financial sector, Rubin migrated from the shadows of the NEC to become Treasury Secretary, where he oversaw the implementation of NAFTA, the immiseration of the Mexican economy, imposed shock therapy on the struggling Russian economy, blocked the regulation of credit derivatives and gutted Glass-Steagall. When Rubin left the Treasury to cash in on his work at Citigroup, Clinton called him “the greatest secretary of the Treasury since Alexander Hamilton.” Nine years later, following the greatest upward transfer of wealth in history, the global economy was in ruins, with Clinton, Rubin and Goldman Sachs’ fingerprints all over the carnage.

In mid-May, Hillary announced her intention to make Bill the “economic czar” for her administration. This served to quell any anxiety that she might have been infected during the primary campaign by the Sanders virus. For Wall Street, the Clintons are still as good as Goldman. Quid pro quo.

So, it wasn't a coincidence that Rubin and the rest of the banksters jumped on the Clinton bandwagon before the 1992 Election?

Fancy that.

It's sad to see a country overflowing with people who are cowed into believing that if they could somehow continue with the exact same (although guaranteed to be much worse eventually due to increased severity) program that had ensured its failure to recover from the recent past financial mismanagement, and that had no chance to ever make anyone except the top 1% successful, that somehow, sometime it will eventually recover.

After the perpetrators die, perhaps?

The choice of one of their cocktail-party buddies as their political opponent was almost too rich a gift to be deemed acceptable.


Not really.

I just wish that whenever the Citicorps ads run (constantly) on TV begging the uneducated slobs in the audience to take their credit cards with a 23% interest rate that the people silently watching, awaiting the next pretty voice or face to while away (trying to extinguish for a few seconds) their financial anguish, that they would be ineradicably filled with the overwhelming desire to vomit them out of the public domain and throw their political clients (metaphorically, of course) under the bus.

Because that would cause some revolutionary change.
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Mark Crispin Miller, one of the best thinkers (and teachers) of our times, takes the lead on this panel of experts of Constitutional and many other types of law (and they ain't happy about the Clinton victory dances):

Should the U.S. voter "reward Clinton's hawkishness because Trump's foreign policy is uncertain?"

Hillary led us to disaster in Iraq, in Syria, in Libya. ... Hillary and our failed Washington establishment have spent $6 trillion on wars in the Middle East, and now it’s worse than it’s ever been before.
. . . Imagine if some of the money had been spent, $6 trillion in the Middle East, on building new schools and roads and bridges right here in Michigan.
Now Hillary, trapped in her Washington bubble, that’s blind to the lessons, wants to start a shooting war in Syria in conflict with a nuclear armed Russia that could drag us into a World War III.
. . . The arrogant political class never learns. They keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. They keep telling the same lies. They keep producing the same failed results.

And the citizens applaud.


Until now?

Trump may well be lying when he says he does not seek a conflict with Russia or anyone else. Trump surely lies on other issues. But those are mostly rather obvious lies and some are even a bit comical. He is playing Reagan on economic issues, promising tax cuts that can not be financed (and which Reagan had to take back in the end when he introduced the biggest tax hike ever). On many issues we do not know what Trump is really planning to do (or if he plans at all). But he has never given the impression that he is hawkish or willing to incite a war.
Clinton on the other hand has a proven record of being a proactive hawk. She is willing to go to war and to kill people because the U.S. can.
She is a political animal totally dependent on her sponsors. Economically she is pro-banks, pro-big-business and for further deregulation. A neoliberal. The only "liberal" standpoints she has are on some hyped identity issues relevant only for a very tiny group of people like transgenders. She told her real voters, the people who pay her, that her public standpoint on many issues is different from the one she will pursue. She did not mean that what she will pursue will be less hawkish than her public stand, or that she will be more progressive on economic issues than she openly claims.
Clinton assures us that Trump is Putin's puppet who will start a nuclear World War III with Russia. She doesn't say how that computes. Will Putin order Trump to give him asylum in Washington while Moscow and Washington get nuked?
With Trump the U.S. would get a president who is a pretty unknown factor but, in my judgment, a less dangerous one to the U.S. and the world than Clinton. With her the next useless and deadly wars are practically guaranteed.

And no one wants an ignoramus like Trump as President.


The citizens of the United States now have an opportunity to hold Secretary of State Clinton to account for her "We came, we saw, he died" war on Libya and for escalating the war on Syria. The militaristic (and failed) pivot to Asia, the "regime changes" putsches in Honduras and Ukraine and the deterioration of relations with Russia are also to a large part her work. Should the voters reward her for all the death, misery and new dangers she created as Secretary of State by making her President?

Who would I vote for? Not Hillary. Not for Trump either. Some third party candidate - probably Stein of the Green Party. It would be a "useless and wasted" vote in the short term though such votes have some light influence on the programs of the big parties. In the long term the example of voting third parties will hopefully induce more people to do the same. If it becomes a more common, regular thing to do it might over time break the duopoly of today's consensus in Washington. It is a small chance, but possibly a big long-term reward.

Social Security Checks to Rise Just 0.3% in 2017

Dave Lindorff
Social Security got short shrift in the presidential “debates” this year, meriting only a brief mention at the end of the third event, and even then, only by Hillary Clinton, who vowed not to cut benefits in any effort to bolster the system’s funding (a promise she was only grudgingly pushed into by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign).*
But the truth is that benefits have been getting cut, are being cut in 2017, and unless something is done, will continue to be cut in the future. This is because the method used to calculate the annual adjustment for inflation each year is, to borrow a phrase popular with Donald Trump, “rigged.”
Just consider this. The Consumer Price Index or CPI, actually the CPI-U version of the index which is used by nearly all federal agencies, including the IRS (which uses it to recalibrate tax brackets each year), found inflation in the US running at 0.73% in 2015, and at 2.07% year-to-date through September 2016 (it was 1.46% for the 12-month period Oct. 2015 through Sept. 2016, suggesting that the rate has been actually accelerating through the latter part of this year. Yet the modified version of the CPI, called CPI-W, which Congress since 1983 has mandated that the Social Security Administration use to calculate cost-of-living adjustments in Social Security benefits, showed no inflation in 2015, and only 0.3% inflation for 2016.
That’s why Social Security beneficiaries -- the elderly, the disabled and dependent children of Social Security beneficiaries -- received no increase in their benefits during 2016 over the prior year, and why their benefit checks in 2017 will only increase by a paltry 0.3% (That would be an extra $4.50 a month or $54 for the year for someone receiving a typical Social Security benefit check of $1500 per month!).
Now reasonable people can argue whether the elderly and disabled spend more or less than other Americans on food, on entertainment, on transportation or on health care, but anyone who claims that the elderly have faced no higher costs during 2016 than in 2015, or that 2017 won’t cost them more than $54 extra than they had to pay to survive in 2016 is, to put it simply, lying.
Both parties in Congress have been stiffing seniors and the disabled for decades by insisting on Social Security using a lousy C

Both parties in Congress have been stiffing seniors and the disabled for decades by insisting on Social Security using a lousy CPI measure to calculate annual benefit inflation adjustments (courtesy the Union of Electrical workers) 
Anyone but a rich person who doesn’t even look at what she or he is spending knows that groceries are more expensive, that bus and taxi fares are up, and that the cost of cars, car repairs and car insurance have risen. Health care costs are rising too, as well as health insurance costs. So are rents. Basically everything the elderly have to pay for has gone up in price each year, but their mainstay - and for 33% of the elderly, Social Security is their only source of income, while for 61% it represents more than half their income - has stayed essentially flat.
That reality is documented by the broader CPI-U measure used by most agencies of the government. If that measure had been used to calculate Social Security cost-of-living benefits, instead of the CPI-W, that same typical recipient of $1500 in monthly Social Security benefits would have seen that checks rise by $11/month and $131 for the year in 2016 and would see a rise in 2017 of $30 per month and $360 for the year
Obviously something is amiss here.
Yet incredibly, instead of taking action to correct this political stiffing of the elderly and infirm, many in Congress, and until enormous protests caused him to back off, President Obama, have been pushing the idea of actually making things worse by shifting from the already bad CPI-W index (which, it should be noted, includes no retirees in its survey - only working people!), to something called a “chained-CPI” for calculating cost-of-living adjustments in Social Security benefits.
Labeled the "cat-food index" by its critics, the chained-CPI is based upon the sick notion that when prices of goods rise too much, people will switch to a cheaper product, for example turning from beef to chicken or maybe from chicken to cat food, so that is how to calculate their spending patterns. The assumption, based upon no research, is that the elderly will do this kind of downward substitution for most goods and services as prices rise.
Here is the truth about that outrageous idea, particularly popular among Republicans, but with a significant amount of support too among conservative Democrats:  According to the National Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), if the chained-CPI had been used to calculate benefit cost-of-limit adjustments, instead of getting help with their rising costs, the elderly would have seen their benefits cut by $130 per year over the last three-year period from what they did get with the Social Security Administration just using the currently mandated CPI-W methodology. (If any theory were designed to cause that which it claimed to be happening to happen, adoption of the chained-CPI for calculating Social Security benefits would be it!)
Meanwhile, for 30 years -- a whole generation -- the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), has been compiling and publishing an experimental consumer price index, the CPI-E, which seeks to more closely estimate the actual cost of living increase for the elderly. It’s not a real scientific index, in that no actual data gathering specific to the elderly population is done, but adjustments to the already existing CPI-W index are made - in particular increasing the weighting of medical costs from the CPI-U’s 5.5% of total estimated personal expenditures for all American residents to 10.8% of total personal expenditures for the elderly. This is based upon estimates that people over 65 spend about twice as much of their income on medical care as do younger people.
 That’s not perfect, since the same research shows that those over 75 spend three times as much on medical care as those under 65, but hey, at least it’s an improvement in recognizing reality. 
That experimental index has never been used by the Social Security Administration. It should have been. But really, given that some 60 million people currently depend upon Social Security to get by, what should happen is that Congress should mandate - and fund - a genuine, peer-reviewed large-scale and apolitical academic study of the real cost of living for the elderly and the disabled, and the BLS should develop not an experimental but a real Cost of Living Index for the elderly based upon that study. Since such a huge proportion of the US population depends upon Social Security, and since it is such a huge part of federal expenditures, clearly there should be such a reliable and honest index to rely upon in calculating the benefits paid to those people.

What would such a study find? Well, according to the BLS, in the 12-month period between Sept. 2015 and 2016, food and energy prices rose 2.2%, medical supplies (drugs) an services rose 5.2% and 4.8% respectively, shelter costs rose 3.4% and transportation rose 3.0%. Only clothing declined in price over the period, by 0.1%. So for our average elderly person, prices clearly rose significantly over this past year. But the situation is actually worse, since studies show that the average person over 65 spends two times what younger people spend on medical goods and services, meaning that roughly 5% increase in costs hits them twice as hard. The elderly often have a harder time switching to cheaper options, too. They can't, for instance, change their housing as easily if rents go up, they have ingrained eating habits that are hard to change, or may even need special diets that they can't change, and if they are using public transportation they are at the mercy of government-ordered fare hikes. Clearly, with the Social Security Administration stuck, on orders from Congress, using the CPI-W index and limited to offering a benefit increase of just 0.3% for next year, this data is all being ignored.

It’s time to stop the political games. Social Security is too important a program to have its benefits calculated based upon the politically motivated calculations one could make on a napkin, tinkering with existing CPI data that has nothing to do with the actual expenditures of the elderly and disabled.

The American people - the elderly and disabled and their caregivers, their children and their grandchildren (all of whom will eventually be Social Security recipients someday too) - should be demanding a real study, and a reality-based CPI for the elderly, and annual benefit adjustments that reflect the real world confronted by the elderly and disabled and not simply the fantasies of political hacks in Congress.

* Nor can Clinton be trusted with that pledge. As David Sirota and Avi Asher-Shapiro report in Investment Business Daily, Clinton's close relationship with Tony James, president of Blackstone, the giant hedge fund and many think, her likely nominee for Treasury Secretary, has plans to privatize retirement by mandating all workers invest in privately managed equity funds.

I've said for years that none of the people who have been entrusted with the management of our national financial house have been even minorly qualified to do this type of job. It's a race of incompetents (so to speak) ensuring our nation's doom. None of them could pass a good math test.

I rest my case.

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