Wednesday, September 30, 2015

(Vacuousness A Winner?)  Trump's Base  (NC Horror Show)  Yellen's and Pope's Words Changed?  (Both Siderism Means Nowhere To Hide? (Go Bernie and Jill!))  Stock Markets of Ten Largest Global Economies Are Crashing  (Wal-Mart Flinches?)  Casino Cooling Off?  (Water On Mars But Is There Intelligent Life on Earth?)

(Updated 9/30/2015)

Wait, wait.

Didn't I already write this column?

Did the nonstop obstructionism disappoint the GOP'ers more than it did the rest of us?

I'm going out on a ledge here . . . .

John Boehner was a terrible, very bad, no good speaker of the House. Under his leadership, Republicans pursued an unprecedented strategy of scorched-earth obstructionism, which did immense damage to the economy and undermined America’s credibility around the world.

Still, things could have been worse. And under his successor they almost surely will be worse. Bad as Mr. Boehner was, he was just a symptom of the underlying malady, the madness that has consumed his party.

For me, Mr. Boehner’s defining moment remains what he said and did as House minority leader in early 2009 . . .
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The Incredible Vacuousness of the Race for the Republican Presidential Nomination

Sixteen candidates, after inexplicably excluding Mark Everson, the former IRS commissioner under George W. Bush and the first to announce, are hurling epithets, war-mongering bravados, and assorted boasts against one another. After their so-called debates, the media emphasize the insults of Trump and others against one-another. Reading the coverage and watching the TV clips, one comes away with the impression that snarls, quips, ripostes, and gaffes, now pass for news.

How rancid! How demeaning to our country and its people! It is bad enough that voters have been reduced to spectators watching a reality show with the candidates, bidding to become the most powerful person on Earth, with a finger on the button. It is bad enough that the ever-hovering Super PACs and their indentured candidates . . . don’t seem to want to be serious, knowledgeable, or at all compassionate toward the powerless and deprived.

This potpourri of poseurs made it possible for Carly Fiorina to rise to the “top tier” on the basis of a few statements that exude the feigned confidence of the failed corporate CEO she once was.

First off, I have to give my buddy at Rectification of Names cred for today's best Trump outing. You win, sweetie!

September 29, 2015

Trump's Base

Something that struck me over the weekend, and I found a picture to go along with it:  Trump's supporters are Beavis and Butt-head, 15-20 years later. They don't think he would be a good president, or even that that's an interesting or important question. They think, with their special pop aesthetic sensibility, that he's cool, heh-heh, which does not mean the same thing as good, and that everybody else sucks, which does not mean they're bad. To Beavis and Butt-head, a Trump presidency could be well-produced but authentic and gross, and possibly with a lot of disturbing violence, like maybe a Guns 'n' Roses album? What's not to appreciate?

Image by MTVHive.

That's not to suggest that Trump is in any sense less serious as a candidate than Carson or Fiorina, Cruz, Santorum, Jindal, for example, because I don't think he is; just that he's better than they are, rather, at meeting these kinds of expectations.
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The Senator added:  “And I think that we will be amazed that when this goes into effect, and I don’t know the exact number of people that this can ultimately effect, but I think you are going to see a lot of them either go and get that 20-hour a week job or they’re going to enroll in some kind of higher education to improve their job skills. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to get here.”

NC Senate Votes to Cut Food Stamps After GOP'er Promises It Will Make Lazy People Go to College

I went to school with Angela Bryant. Granted we were only in junior high and in the first integrated classroom in NC (I smiled at her when the new group of students was ushered into my classroom and she came over immediately to sit with me), but we made a true connection, an intellectual connection, and thus I wasn't surprised when I first read of her later triumphs in the NC Legislature.

I've never heard of the loud-mouthed, myopic Sanderson before, but that's probably explained by the Koch-funded Republican sweep of the NC General Assembly in the last election.

Democratic State Sen. Angela Bryant offered an amendment on Thursday to overturn the food stamp cuts, saying that there are not enough jobs to go around in rural counties.
“Over several sessions here we have reduced funding for job training and education,” Bryant pointed out during floor debate. “So we are basically relegating them, I guess, to steal for food.”

Bryant asserted that there were better ways to police the abuse of SNAP benefits, but her amendment was dead in the GOP-controlled Senate.

“I think that everybody in this chamber would agree that one of the best things we can do for anyone who has found themselves caught up in the — whether it’s the SNAP program or unemployment or any other of the program that we offer to people who are in emergency situations — one of the best things that we can do is to help them find a job,” Sanderson said.

The Senator added:  “And I think that we will be amazed that when this goes into effect, and I don’t know the exact number of people that this can ultimately effect, but I think you are going to see a lot of them either go and get that 20-hour a week job or they’re going to enroll in some kind of higher education to improve their job skills. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to get here.”

On Monday, "The Charlotte Observer"'s editorial board blasted Republican lawmakers as “heartless.”
“Then there are the occasions when such decisions are just mean,” the paper noted. “Keep in mind that the food stamps are issued under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is paid for with federal dollars. That means HB 318, if it passes, won’t save North Carolina money. In fact, the bill’s passage could be costly to retailers that sell food, especially in the rural areas that see SNAP dollars because of double-digit unemployment.”

“If Republicans have some new information about widespread SNAP fraud in North Carolina, we’d sure like to see it. But in their endless hunt for people who might possibly be taking advantage of government programs, they continue to needlessly hurt people who truly could use some help.”

Thanks, R.J., every time you send me more NC news my chest just bursts with pride.

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Yellen's words were changed as well as the Pope's?

Any guess at who would have benefitted from changing them?

We should have been listening more attentively, perhaps, to the rightwing's prior teleprompter rants.

Of course, we know clearly from the research done by the Office of Financial Research and the unprecedented felony counts handed out in May against the largest banks that it’s far too late to be wondering if “inappropriate risk-taking” could undermine financial stability. That horse kicked down the barn door long ago and is running wild.

Who Messed With Janet Yellen’s and the Pope’s Speeches Last Week?

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens
September 28, 2015
Both Fed Chair Janet Yellen and Pope Francis delivered speeches on Thursday of last week that took an odd turn of events. A section of the Pope’s official speech transcript that slammed the finance industry was gutted before the Pope delivered his address to a joint session of Congress. In the case of Yellen, evidence strongly suggests that egregiously bad event planning sabotaged her speech at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, triggering media hysteria and prognostications of how fast Stanley Fischer, the Fed’s Vice Chairman, would slide into Yellen’s seat as Chair of the Fed.

The official transcript of the Pope’s speech to Congress appears here. It contains the following passage:

“Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ (Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776). If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.”

The C-Span video of the Pope’s address, available here, shows the above section was gutted from the address when the Pope spoke to Congress.

Apparently, someone did not want finance, as in Wall Street, to be slammed by the Pope. Of course, the Pope is correct — the United States and its people are now enslaved to Wall Street — with no relief in sight from the body the Pope was addressing. So out of touch is Congress with the needs of the “human person” that a Gallup poll taken last month showed just 14 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. That fact no longer needs to trouble members of Congress since “human persons” no longer elect them. They are now elected by multi-million-dollar attack ad campaigns filling the airwaves against their opponents, funded by corporations, courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

What happened to Janet Yellen, the chair of the most powerful central bank in the world, was more nuanced. Yellen’s speech last Thursday evening on inflation and monetary policy had been heralded for days by the media as potentially providing clues into what the Fed might do with interest rates before year end. After the Fed had held rates steady exactly one week prior on September 17, Yellen’s upcoming talk at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst on September 24 was creating major media buzz.

One would think that such a widely anticipated speech would be available in full in video form on the Internet. The official text is readily available at the Federal Reserve’s web site, but the video of the actual speech as delivered is non-functioning on the Fed’s web site (as of this morning, at least). The video is also non-functioning at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst where the event was held.

"Bloomberg News" says this is the “full speech” on video but it is decidedly not. The video cuts off the last portion of the talk where Yellen has difficulty figuring out how the text is supposed to read. That last, long paragraph of the speech, which Yellen effectively rewrote from the lectern, with awkward pauses, can be viewed here.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen Speaking at University of Massachusetts-Amherst on September 24, 2015

Fed Chair Janet Yellen Speaking at University of Massachusetts-Amherst on September 24, 2015

If you watch the first video, it is clear that for 48 minutes, Yellen read from the official text as written, delivering a flawless presentation. She glanced up regularly at the audience, seamlessly returned to the text on the page, and even operated a remote control to show the audience a series of slides that buttressed her comments on inflation. But if you focus on the last few minutes of this video, Yellen places her hand on the lectern as if to steady herself, then touches her forehead just before the video cuts off. What is left is the final paragraph of her speech, which runs in the second video.

What Fed Chair Yellen is talking about just prior to her difficulties is enough to make anyone dizzy or provoke an anxiety attack. Yellen says:

“…continuing to hold short-term interest rates near zero well after real activity has returned to normal and headwinds have faded could encourage excessive leverage and other forms of inappropriate risk-taking that might undermine financial stability. For these reasons, the more prudent strategy is to begin tightening in a timely fashion and at a gradual pace, adjusting policy as needed in light of incoming data.”

Of course, we know clearly from the research done by the Office of Financial Research and the unprecedented felony counts handed out in May against the largest banks that it’s far too late to be wondering if “inappropriate risk-taking” could undermine financial stability. That horse kicked down the barn door long ago and is running wild.

The final words in Yellen’s speech were delivered by her as follows:

“Some slack in labor markets remains and the effects of this labor market slack and the influence [pauses and says “uhm” and begins to read ahead in the typed speech, apparently sensing that words are wrong. After reading ahead, she picks up with:] “ So some labor market, some slack remains in labor markets and the effect of this slack and the influence of lower energy prices and past dollar appreciation have been significant factors, uh, keeping inflation below our goal. But I expect that inflation will return and the influence of lower energy prices and inflation below our goal” [Those last three words are clearly wrong and Yellen stops speaking and can be seen to be reading ahead in the typed speech; she then says] “I expect this to occur as the temporary factors that are currently weighing on inflation wane, provided that economic growth continues to be strong enough to complete the return of the economy to full employment [brief pause] “and to” [Yellen stops again and continues to read ahead in the speech; then she says] “to return to full employment and long-run expectations remain well anchored.” [Now Yellen begins reading crisply again from the typed text, reading as it is written, even glancing up once at the audience and again finding her place in the typed text without pause.]

It’s not abundantly clear if Yellen was having health difficulties, if the last paragraph of the speech was typed incorrectly on her paper, or if a combination of both were at work. What is abundantly clear is that Yellen’s handlers packed her agenda that day, then put her on a darkened stage with a hot spotlight beaming down on her, no glass of water visible on the lectern to deliver an hour-long speech, and a massive spray of pollen spewing flowers directly in front of her lectern.

According to the University of Massachusetts’ Facebook page, Yellen started her day at the University in the morning with a “welcome breakfast” attended by faculty from the Economics department and graduate students. According to the "Wall Street Journal," Yellen also met during the day with graduate students, visited an undergraduate class and lunched with more economics professors at the University. The speech didn’t begin until 5 p.m. so she may not have had any food since lunch. Yellen is 69 years old.

The official spokeswoman for the Fed, Michelle Smith, told the media that Yellen had “felt dehydrated at the end of a long speech under bright lights.”

"Reuters"’ reporters Jonathan Spicer and Ann Saphir felt compelled to bring a neurologist into the conversation and were reviewing contingency plans for Fed Vice Chairman, Stanley Fischer, to take over. The "Reuters" report stated:

“ ‘If you ask me, is it concerning, I think it is concerning,’ said Dr. Andrew Stemer, an assistant professor of neurology and radiology at Georgetown University School of Medicine. 

“But he added it was hard to offer a diagnosis without lab tests, an exam or medical history:  ‘I want to be cautious about speculating on things that I can’t know…I’m sure she’s getting excellent care and that her physicians are working this up.’

“Fed chairs typically do not travel with medical staff. Instead they are accompanied by a security detail and at least one public relations handler, as Yellen did in Amherst on Thursday and Friday. Security officials conducted a 20-minute sweep of the university auditorium before the event, and they were on hand as she departed later.

Were a Fed chair to become incapacitated, the vice chair — former Bank of Israel chief Stanley Fischer — would take over the Board of Governors. Depending on how long the Fed chair was away, William Dudley, head of the New York Fed and vice chair of the Federal Open Market Committee, would temporarily chair the policy-setting committee pending a vote of the committee.

“ ‘It might be a little nerve-wracking for financial markets if that were to occur, but I think the fact that Fischer is well-known and well-respected could limit how much volatility a succession event would cause,’ said Michael Feroli, JPMorgan’s chief U.S. economist and a former Fed staffer.”

Citigroup would love nothing better than to see its former executive, Stanley Fischer, elevated to the throne. JPMorgan and the rest of Wall Street would love nothing better than to see an unrestrained Bill Dudley running the New York Fed.

What words of advice do we have for Janet Yellen? Replace your handlers.
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Boehner goes.

Crazies now take over U.S. House of Representatives completely?

I'm Surprised Boehner Lasted This Long

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Facebook Page

25 September 15

ctually I’m amazed John Boehner survived as long as he has. His one virtue as Speaker of the House has been his total lack of principle, which has enabled him to cobble together majorities or pluralities out of a Party that’s gone off the rails, becoming increasingly misogynist, homophobic, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim; filled with paranoid whackos, voodoo economists, anti-science half-brains, creationists, and white supremists; while being financed by billionaires, Wall Street, and big business.

The problem for the rest of us right now is they’re still a majority in Congress, and many are aiming to close down the government unless Planned Parenthood is defunded and then to default on the nation’s debt rather than lift the debt limit.

John Boehner will not go down in history as one of America's greatest Speakers of the House, but at least he served as something of a buffer between the Republican crazies and the rest of America. (This morning when Marco Rubio announced Boehner's plan to retire, attendees at the Values Voter Summit in Washington roared their approval and then rose in a standing ovation.) After the end of October, that buffer is gone.


# Vegan_Girl 2015-09-26 06:40

I really like the picture. It kinda sums it all up.
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Noam finalizes the analysis.

oam Chomsky weighed in on U.S. presidential politics in a speech Saturday at The New School in New York. In addressing a question about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Chomsky assessed the political landscape:  "Today’s Democrats are what used to be called moderate Republicans. The Republicans have just drifted off the spectrum. They’re so committed to extreme wealth and power that they cannot get votes ... So what has happened is that they’ve mobilized sectors of the population that have been around for a long time.

It is a pretty exceptional country in many ways. One is it’s extremely religious. It’s one of the most extreme fundamentalist countries in the world. And by now, I suspect the majority of the base of the Republican Party is evangelical Christians, extremists, not — they’re a mixture, but these are the extremist ones, nativists who are afraid that, you know, "they are taking our white Anglo-Saxon country away from us," people who have to have guns when they go into Starbucks because, who knows, they might get killed by an Islamic terrorist and so on. 

I mean, all of that is part of the country, and it goes back to colonial days. There are real roots to it. But these have not been an organized political force in the past. They are now. That’s the base of the Republican Party. And you see it in the primaries. So, yeah, Trump is maybe comic relief, but it’s not that different from the mainstream, which I think is more important."

I think we should recognize that the other candidates are not that different. I mean, if you take a look at — just take a look at their views. You know, they tell you their views, and they’re astonishing. So just to keep to Iran, a couple of weeks ago, the two front-runners — they’re not the front-runners any longer — were Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. And they differed on Iran. 

Walker said we have to bomb Iran; when he gets elected, they’re going to bomb Iran immediately, the day he’s elected. Bush was a little — you know, he’s more serious:  He said he’s going to wait 'til the first Cabinet meeting, and then they'll bomb Iran. I mean, this is just off the spectrum of not only international opinion, but even relative sanity.

This is — I think Ornstein and Mann are correct:  It’s a radical insurgency; it’s not a political party. You can tell that even by the votes. I mean, any issue of any complexity is going to have some diversity of opinion. But when you get a unanimous vote to kill the Iranian deal or the Affordable Care Act or whatever the next thing may be, you know you’re not dealing with a political party.
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The Stock Markets Of The Ten Largest Global Economies Are All Crashing

By Michael Snyder
September 24th, 2015

You would think that the simultaneous crashing of all of the largest stock markets around the world would be very big news.  But so far the mainstream media in the United States is treating it like it isn’t really a big deal. Over the last sixty days, we have witnessed the most significant global stock market decline since the fall of 2008, and yet most people still seem to think that this is just a temporary “bump in the road” and that the bull market will soon resume.

Hopefully they are right. When the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 777 points on September 29th, 2008 everyone freaked out and rightly so.  But a stock market crash doesn’t have to be limited to a single day.  Since the peak of the market earlier this year, the Dow is down almost three times as much as that 777 point crash back in 2008. Over the last sixty days, we have seen the 8th largest single day stock market crash in U.S. history on a point basis and the 10th largest single day stock market crash in U.S. history on a point basis.

You would think that this would be enough to wake people up, but most Americans still don’t seem very alarmed. And of course what has happened to U.S. stocks so far is quite mild compared to what has been going on in the rest of the world.

Right now, stock market wealth is being wiped out all over the planet, and none of the largest global economies have been exempt from this. The following is a summary of what we have seen in recent days…

#1 The United States – The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down more than 2000 points since the peak of the market.  Last month we saw stocks decline by more than 500 points on consecutive trading days for the first time ever, and there has not been this much turmoil in U.S. markets since the fall of 2008.

#2 China – The Shanghai Composite Index has plummeted nearly 40 percent since hitting a peak earlier this year.  The Chinese economy is steadily slowing down, and we just learned that China’s manufacturing index has hit a 78 month low.

#3 Japan – The Nikkei has experienced extremely violent moves recently, and it is now down more than 3000 points from the peak that was hit earlier in 2015.  The Japanese economy and the Japanese financial system are both basket cases at this point, and it isn’t going to take much to push Japan into a full-blown financial collapse.

#4 Germany – Almost one-fourth of the value of German stocks has already been wiped out, and this crash threatens to get much worse.  The Volkswagen emissions scandal is making headlines all over the globe, and don’t forget to watch for massive trouble at Germany’s biggest bank. *

#5 The United Kingdom – British stocks are down about 16 percent from the peak of the market, and the UK economy is definitely on shaky ground.

#6 France – French stocks have declined nearly 18 percent, and it has become exceedingly apparent that France is on the exact same path that Greece has already gone down.

#7 Brazil – Brazil is the epicenter of the South American financial crisis of 2015.  Stocks in Brazil have plunged more than 12,000 points since the peak, and the nation has already officially entered a new recession.

#8 Italy – Watch Italy.  Italian stocks are already down 15 percent, and look for the Italian economy to make very big headlines in the months ahead.

#9 India – Stocks in India have now dropped close to 4000 points, and analysts are deeply concerned about this major exporting nation as global trade continues to contract.

#10 Russia – Even though the price of oil has crashed, Russia is actually doing better than almost everyone else on this list.  Russian stocks have fallen by about 10 percent so far, and if the price of oil stays this low the Russian financial system will continue to suffer.

What we are witnessing now is the continuation of a cycle of financial downturns that has happened every seven years.  The following is a summary of how this cycle has played out over the past 50 years

  • It started in 1966 with a 20 percent stock market crash.
  • Seven years later, the market lost another 45 percent (1973-74).
  • Seven years later was the beginning of the “hard recession” (1980).
  • Seven years later was the Black Monday crash of 1987.
  • Seven years later was the bond market crash of 1994.
  • Seven years later was 9/11 and the 2001 tech bubble collapse.
  • Seven years later was the 2008 global financial collapse.
  • 2015:  What’s next?

A lot of people were expecting something “big” to happen on September 14th and were disappointed when nothing happened.

But the truth is that it has never been about looking at any one particular day.  Over the past sixty days we have seen absolutely extraordinary things happen all over the planet, and yet some people are not even paying attention because they did not meet their preconceived notions of how events should play out.

And this is just the beginning.  We haven’t even gotten to the great derivatives crisis that is coming yet.  All of these things are going to take time to fully unfold.

A lot of people that write about “economic collapse” talk about it like it will be some type of “event” that will happen on a day or a week and then we will recover.

Well, that is not what it is going to be like.

You need to be ready to endure a very, very long crisis.  The suffering that is coming to this nation is beyond what most of us could even imagine.

Even now we are seeing early signs of it.  For instance, the mayor of Los Angeles says that the growth of homelessness in his city has gotten so bad that it is now “an emergency”
On Tuesday, Los Angeles officials announced the city’s homelessness problem has become an emergency, and proposed allotting $100 million to help shelter the city’s massive and growing indigent population.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti also issued a directive on Monday evening for the city to free up $13 million to help house the estimated 26,000 people who are living on the city’s streets.

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the number of encampments and people living in vehicles has increased by 85% over the last two years alone.

And in recent years we have seen poverty absolutely explode all over the nation. The “bread lines” of the Great Depression have been replaced with EBT cards, and there is a possibility that a government shutdown in October could “suspend or delay food stamp payments”

A government shutdown Oct. 1 could immediately suspend or delay food stamp payments to some of the 46 million Americans who receive the food aid.

The Agriculture Department said Tuesday that it will stop providing benefits at the beginning of October if Congress does not pass legislation to keep government agencies open.

“If Congress does not act to avert a lapse in appropriations, then USDA will not have the funding necessary for SNAP benefits in October and will be forced to stop providing benefits within the first several days of October,” said Catherine Cochran, a spokeswoman for USDA. “Once that occurs, families won’t be able to use these benefits at grocery stores to buy the food their families need.”
In the U.S. alone, there are tens of millions of people that could not survive without the help of the federal government, and more people are falling out of the middle class every single day.

Our economy is already falling apart all around us, and now another great financial crisis has begun.

When will the “nothing is happening” crowd finally wake up?

Hopefully it will be before they are sitting out on the street begging for spare change to feed their family.
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It's a clusterfuck all right.

All around the world.

And even Wal-Mart is starting to feel the heat.

Fed Cred Dead

The economy is a two-headed monster. One head is the trade in real goods and real services. The other head is the financialized traffic in swindles and frauds that surrounds banking. There is some deception and overlap about which is which. For instance so-called health care might be perceived as a real service. In fact, it’s a hostage racket, designed to victimize “patients” at their weakest, with a “protection” premium that easily runs to $12,000-a-year for a married couple, even when they aren’t sick, and vulnerable. Just see what happens if you go to an emergency room with an injury that requires six stitches. Next stop:  re-po land.

Most of the remaining on-the-ground economy consists of people merely driving their cars absurd distances, burning gasoline, between exquisitely-tuned giant warehouse store operations that were designed to destroy local Main Street trade — and accomplished that, by the way, to the applause of the local citizens whose towns were destroyed (“We want bargain shopping!”).

Now, of course, even WalMart is looking over its shoulder at the collapse of the complex arrangements that allowed it to metastasize across North America like some cancerous fungus. Globalism is winding down as the gargantuan matrix of Ponzi schemes based on owed money dissolves debt by debt. It isn’t long before nobody is a credit-worthy borrower, and no transaction in real goods can be risked unless cash hits the barrelhead — which turns out to be a very awkward way of doing business.

It’s especially like this these days in the so-called “emerging markets” — e.g. places in the world with large populations of willing factory slaves. The traffic in shipping-out containers full of flat screen TVs (or shipping-in the raw materials to make them) won’t work very well without letters-of-credit, which are promises between banks to make sure that the stuff on the receiving end gets paid for. That becomes difficult when national currencies drop 3.5 percent in value one day and then 4 percent another day, and so on. An eight-year-old can figure out how that math works.

My new theory of history applies well to the macro situation:  people do what they do because it seems like a good idea at the time.

For instance, a few decades ago, the suburban / “consumer” arrangement of daily life seemed like a good idea. You buy cheap land twenty-seven miles outside what used to be a functioning (now obsolete) city. Build lots and lots of houses out of cheap, shitty materials such as strand-board and vinyl, pave a lot of new roads, line many of them with even shittier strip-mall buildings and Big Box “power centers,” and there you have a wonderful basis for an economy. That was more or less the Ronald Reagan Utopia.

Now it’s all aging badly, fraying, too costly to fix and, increasingly, not worth scraping off the land and replacing with a new cheap, shitty building. The younger generation doesn’t even want to live in that suburban dystopia. They run shrieking from it to Brooklyn, or even downtown Troy, New York, up the Hudson River Valley. Alas, this younger generation has also been broadly victimized by the college loan racket — reinforced by the revised bankruptcy laws that make it impossible to ever write-off this sort of debt. When will they get political about it? Their debt loads will disfigure their lives as surely as a tour of duty in Vietnam would have forty years ago. Perhaps Siri has not informed them about this.

Last week was the watershed for central banking and for the illusion that the current disposition of things has a future. The Federal Reserve blinked on its long-touted Fed funds interest rate hike and chairperson Janet Yellen was left standing naked in the hot glare of her own carbonizing credibility, a pitiful larval creature, still maundering about “the data,” and “the median growth projection,” and other previously-owned figments spun out of the great PhD wonk machine in the Eccles Building.

The Federal Reserve itself is the victim du jour of its own grandiose fatuous fecklessness, in particular the idea that it could play a national economy like a three-button flugelhorn. What seemed like a good idea at the time when Alan Greenspan and then Ben Bernanke stepped into the pilot house now just looks like the fraud of frauds:  enabling corporations to borrow ever more money from the future to pretend that their balance sheets are sound. That scam has nowhere left to go, except into the black hole that has been waiting for it. All the Fed really has left is to destroy the value of the dollar (to save it! Just like Vietnam!).

This ought to be an interesting week in the financial markets as the players have had a long, anxious weekend to absorb the death of Fed cred. And October, too. Expect dramatic re-pricing. Sometime a few months down the line, financial markets will present a “relief rally.” Don’t get suckered on that one.

Meanwhile, what remains on the other head of this two-headed economy besides driving to-and-from the Walmart? Pornography? The tattoo industry? Meth and narcotics? Prostitution? Professional sports on the flat screen? Kim and Kanye? Grand theft auto? Do you really think Donald Trump can fix this?
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Feeling lucky?

The casino is just starting to get H O T.

Chart-Watchers Zero In on More Warning Signals for U.S. Equities

New Book:   Financial Markets “Contribute Little, If Anything, to the Betterment of Lives and the Efficiency of Business”

If you want to engage in a serious effort to reform Wall Street, buy two copies of economist and financial writer John Kay’s book coming out in the U.S. on Tuesday. Keep one copy of the book for yourself (share it with family and friends) and send the other copy to a member of the Senate Banking committee. That committee is highly likely to be looking at reforming Wall Street again in the near future, given the convulsions in equity, credit and commodity markets of late and an endless stream of ongoing charges of corruption against the mega banks.
In his book, Other People’s Money:  The Real Business of Finance, Kay demonstrates not only a sagacious understanding of the grotesque underpinnings of financial markets but he maps out a series of common sense, structural reforms to bring the financial industry back to its key mandates:  efficient allocation of capital and honest handling of other people’s money.

From beginning to end, Kay peels back the crass hypocrisy of the market overseers, writing that much of what the financial sector does “contributes little, if anything, to the betterment of lives and the efficiency of business. And yet many things that finance could do to advance these social and economic goals are not done well – or in some cases at all.”

What the financial sector has ably done, says Kay, is brainwash politicians and a chunk of society to the idea that it is “special.” “But,” says Kay, “finance is not special, and our willingness to accept uncritically the proposition that finance has a unique status has done much damage…The industry mostly trades with itself, talks to itself and judges itself by reference to performance criteria that it has itself generated.”

Political leaders, funded in their campaigns by the financial sector, have been major purveyors of the propaganda that Wall Street is a unique industry that must be protected at all costs.
The Chair of the U.S. Central Bank admitting that she can’t completely rule out that the U.S. may never escape from its zero bound range of interest rates is very likely the most unnerving utterance to escape the tongue of a Central Banker since time immemorial.
. . . The market turmoil stems from the reporter’s inclusion of the word “never” – that the United States “may never escape from this zero lower bound situation.” While Janet Yellen may have thought she cushioned her remarks by calling it “an extreme downside risk,” Americans today fully grasp that Wall Street blowing itself up in 2008 was also an extreme downside risk but it happened, triggering a series of other highly unlikely extreme downside risks:  the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression, the biggest housing rout in seven decades, a global banking crisis that is still not fully under control, and the fastest expansion of the national debt in history. Since the repeal of the banking protections in the Glass-Steagall Act, 100-year financial floods are coming as frequently as afternoon showers in the tropics.

The saga of global deflation took on more urgent overtones in overnight trading as commodity prices slumped further. Industrial metals took hits ranging from one percent to almost three percent with copper down 2.8 percent in early morning trade. At 10:22 a.m., West Texas Intermediate crude oil is down more than 2.36 percent at $45.58. European coal prices slumped to a record low according to a report from Bloomberg Business.

All of this is consistent with a global economy battling deflation and not consistent with a roster of Federal Reserve presidents filling the airwaves with chatter about when the Fed’s rate hike is coming. The gap between “never” and next month is simply laughable.

 Nope. It was not the secret that the mainstream media would like you to think it was.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

There May Be Water Flowing on Mars. But Is There Intelligent Life on Earth?

Evidence for flowing water on Mars:  this opens up the possibility of life, of wonders we cannot begin to imagine. Its discovery is an astonishing achievement. Meanwhile, Martian scientists continue their search for intelligent life on Earth.

We may be captivated by the thought of organisms on another planet, but we seem to have lost interest in our own. The Oxford Junior Dictionary has been excising the waymarks of the living world. Adders, blackberries, bluebells, conkers, holly, magpies, minnows, otters, primroses, thrushes, weasels and wrens are now surplus to requirements.

In the past four decades, the world has lost 50% of its vertebrate wildlife. But across the latter half of this period, there has been a steep decline in media coverage. . .

Think of what would change if we valued terrestrial water as much as we value the possibility of water on Mars. Only 3% of the water on this planet is fresh; and of that, two-thirds is frozen. Yet we lay waste to the accessible portion. Sixty per cent of the water used in farming is needlessly piddled away by careless irrigation. Rivers, lakes and aquifers are sucked dry, while what remains is often so contaminated that it threatens the lives of those who drink it. . .

Every year, clever new ways of wasting stuff are devised, and every year we become more inured to the pointless consumption of the world’s precious resources. With each subtle intensification, the baseline of normality shifts. It should not be surprising to discover that the richer a country becomes, the less its people care about their impacts on the living planet.

Our alienation from the world of wonders, with which we evolved, has only intensified since David Bowie described a girl stumbling through a “sunken dream”, on her way to be “hooked to the silver screen”, where a long series of distractions diverts her from life’s great questions. The song, of course, was Life on Mars.

So there!

Ground control.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

  *Is something about to happen in Germany that will shake the entire world? According to disturbing new intel that I have received, a major financial event in Germany could be imminent. Now when I say imminent, I do not mean to suggest that it will happen tomorrow. But I do believe that we have entered a season of time when another “Lehman Brothers moment” may occur.

Most observers tend to regard Germany as the strong hub that is holding the rest of Europe together economically, but the truth is that serious trouble is brewing under the surface. As I write this, the German DAX stock index is down close to 20 percent from the all-time high that was set back in April, and there are lots of signs of turmoil at Germany’s largest bank. There are very few banks in the world that are more prestigious or more influential than Deutsche Bank, and it has been making headlines for all of the wrong reasons recently.

Just like we saw with Lehman Brothers, banks that are “too big to fail” don’t suddenly collapse overnight. The truth is that there are always warning signs in advance if you look closely enough.

In early 2014, shares of Deutsche Bank were trading above 50 dollars a share. Since that time, they have fallen by more than 40 percent, and they are now trading below 29 dollars a share.

It is common knowledge that the corporate culture at Deutsche Bank is deeply corrupt, and the bank has been exceedingly reckless in recent years.

If you are exceedingly reckless and you win all the time, that is okay. Unfortunately for Deutsche Bank, they have increasingly been on the losing end of things.

Prior to the “sudden collapse” of Lehman Brothers on September 15th, 2008, there had been media reports of mass layoffs at the firm. To give you just a couple of examples, CNBC reported on this on March 10th, 2008 and the New York Times reported on this on August 28th, 2008.

When big banks start getting into serious trouble, this is what they do. They start getting rid of staff. That is why the massive job cuts that Deutsche Bank just announced are so troubling

Deutsche Bank aims to cut roughly 23,000 jobs, or about one quarter of total staff, through layoffs mainly in technology activities and by spinning off its PostBank division, financial sources said on Monday.

That would bring the group’s workforce down to around 75,000 full-time positions under a reorganization being finalised by new Chief Executive John Cryan, who took control of Germany’s biggest bank in July with the promise to cut costs.

Cryan presented preliminary details of the plan to members of the supervisory board at the weekend. A spokesman for the bank declined comment.
Deutsche Bank has also been facing mounting legal troubles. The following is a brief excerpt from a recent "Zero Hedge" article

The bank, which has paid out more than $9 billion over the past three years alone to settle legacy litigation, has become something of a poster child for corrupt corporate culture.

In April, Deutsche settled rate rigging charges with the DoJ for $2.5 billion (or about $25,474 per employee) and subsequently paid $55 million to the SEC (an agency that’s been run by former Deutsche Bank employees and their close associates for years) in connection with allegations it deliberately mismarked its crisis-era LSS book to the tune of at least $5 billion.

But it was out of the frying pan and into the fire so to speak, because early last month, the DoJ announced it would seek to extract a fresh round of MBS-related settlements from banks that knowingly packaged and sold shoddy CDOs in the lead up to the crisis. JP Morgan, Bank of America, and Citi settled MBS probes when the DoJ was operating under the incomparable (and we mean that in a derisive way) Eric Holder but now, emboldened by her pyrrhic victory over Wall Street’s FX manipulators, new Attorney General Loretta Lynch is set to go after Barclays PLC, Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG, HSBC Holdings PLC, Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC,UBS AG and Wells Fargo & Co.
Of course the legal troubles are just the tip of the iceberg of what has been going on over at Deutsche Bank over the past couple of years. The following is a pretty good timeline of some of the major events that have hit Deutsche Bank since the beginning of last year. It comes from a "NotQuant" article that was published back in June entitled “Is Deutsche Bank the next Lehman?“…

Monday, September 28, 2015

Picking Through PAC Millions?  (Turning the Country Into Beggars Was the Goal of Neolibs)  Nihilists Galore (Although They Can't Spell It They're Everywhere)  Pope Frank Tells Hillary "No?"  (How Many Politicos Have the Koch Bros. Bought?)  The New Shackle of Serfdom:  Clinging to Healthcare Insurance

What happened to the Walker Super PAC money?

Republican presidential candidate Wisconsin Gov., Scott Walker speaks at a presidential forum sponsored by Heritage Action at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Friday, Sept. 18, 2015, in Greenville, S.C. Walker suspended his campaign on Monday afternoon.(AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) raised $97 million for his House campaigns and leadership PAC from the time he received his first donations in 1989, Center for Responsive Politics data shows — far more than any other sitting House member.

Pope Francis and Other Celebrities Reject Invitations to Hillary’s Annual Global Foundation Meeting

. . . for all his bragging about how much he’s given politicians, parties and other committees, Trump is a bit of a piker by today’s standards. Yes, he’s given a lot over the years — a little over $1 million since the 1990 cycle at the federal level. But his biggest contribution? A $100,000 gift in 2012 to the Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC allied with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that’s devoted to getting Republicans elected to the House.

But stack that up against donors like hedge fund magnate Robert Mercer, healthcare investor Miguel Fernandez or roofing supply magnate Diane Hendricks, each of whom made multimillion-dollar contributions just in the last quarter of this year to super PACs backing their favored candidates ($11 million to a group backing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), $3 million to one supporting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and $5 million to one working to elect Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, respectively.)
And they’re not alone. Plenty of other Republican donors have given $1 million-and-up to super PACs. And though Democrats don’t play the super PAC game as enthusiastically as Republicans, even the group supporting Hillary Clinton had seven individual $1 million donors last quarter.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, shown here at this week's GOP presidential debate, has already benefited in a couple of ways from a dark money group supporting him. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Podcast:  Play in new window | Download

Five-fold Upsurge:  Super PACs, Dark Money Groups Spending Far More Than in ’12 Cycle at Same Point in Campaign

This week, Eric has an in depth conversation with economist Michael Hudson, author of the new book Killing the Host:  How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy.
Eric and Prof. Hudson discuss the evolution of finance capital from its humble parasitical beginnings to the comprehensive global network of economic tapeworms and barnacles that it is today. They examine neoliberal terrorism, how debt is used as a weapon, and the disastrous effects of the financialization of the real economy.

Hudson outlines the relationship between the parasites and their bloodsucking policies of austerity, providing insight using the example of Latvia, where he witnessed first hand the smash-and-grab nature of such prescriptions. Plus, Eric and Michael touch on Obama as Wall Street errand boy, the importance of left economic organizing, and much much more.

The Public Interest & Its Planned Obsolescence

Planned Obsolescence of the Public Interest by Renegade Economists on Mixcloud

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So, we're now the country, the proud country, of beggars (or would it be just the largest part of the new western culture of begging)?

Our work is not worth our hard-fought efforts because the owners (of us) just divide up the spoils and laugh at how easily they've achieved their goal of total domination (and our easy subservience).

Every TV, radio and in-person appeal you hear from now on will be modeled on asking you/begging you to give "just a few dollars if that's all you have" to either the desperately needy or to needy institutions that used to be supported for the benefit of everyone by everyone's tax dollars, but which now are transferred directly to the rich and well-connected as tax cuts, special tax breaks, or outright gifts - as in QE to the banks.

Get used to it.

You voted these bastards in.

P.M. Carpenter has a most thoughtful essay expounding deeply on this subject:

Boehner's Ouster Was No "Conservative" Coup

Let the record show that Speaker John Boehner was deposed, by his own hand, in 1994. It was then, observes the "Times"' Carl Hulse in a useful recap of recent events, that Boehner joined with other Gingrichites in "agitating against the leadership with claims that top lawmakers were badly out of touch."

Let the record show as well that Boehner was deposed in 2010, when "revolutionary" Gingrichism flowered into Tea Partyism. The record must also show with essential continuity that Boehner was, in fact, deposed from 1932 to 1964 — the epochal cradle of conservatism's mature fanaticism.

All along, the fanaticism has been festering; the boils on its butt were the New Deal, the Great Society, the Civil Rights Movement and feminist and gay-liberation movements — progressive-authentically conservative attempts at softening the brutalities of classism, racism, sexism and raw prejudice.

One might discern with equal legitimacy that Boehner was deposed in the old Old Guard's reaction to the fin-de-siecle Progressive Movement, which itself had blossomed in reaction to the Gilded Age — which fanatical conservatives have been struggling to resurrect for more than a century.

It is that era — the one spoofed by that most American of all Americans, Mark Twain — that modern "conservatives" adore (and thus the Progressive Movement is that for which old-school conservative George Will reserves his deepest contempt):  women were in the kitchen, blacks were in their place, immigrants were despised but capitalistically exploited, gays were locked in the closet, and government was useful only to the extent of keeping wealth concentrated among aristocratic worthies.

John Boehner surfed to power on the crest of one relatively recent conservative wave, but a much larger one — one which swelled in power from all that preceded it — overtook him.

In a "Times" op-ed, former House Democratic staffer John Lawrence notes that Boehner possesses "a personable, thoughtful side … [in] contrast to the bombastic, tiresome nihilists who have driven him out of Congress." With each successive "conservative" crest (actually pseudoconservative, or reactionary, or even something worse, which I'm getting to), the atavistic conservative ways have been swamped and drowned. By now, continues Lawrence, it has come to this:  "the Tea Party … could not care less if they create chaos that diminishes the stature of government."

Yet, in those two quotes, there's a conflict. Nihilists don't wish to "diminish" government; they wish to destroy it. And it is that philosophical impulse that defines today's conservatism. If it can't rule in toto, it can destroy; and in that there resides an unmistakable crypto-fascistic tenor.

Total, unfettered power is its logical goal, for if one is gloriously 100-percent right about everything, then it follows that opponents are 100-percent wrong about everything. And in one's (often theocentric) splendor, how can one conscientiously compromise with what must be unmitigated evil?

In my view, then, the Tea Party typology that has the GOP by the balls has long since passed the rhetorical niceties of "ultraconservatism" or "pseudoconservatism" or "reactionaryism." It utterly rejects pluralism and is absolutist in its philosophy of power-by-any-means, an end-by-any-means. And in that, it is a philosophical doppelgänger of Göring's testimony before the Nuremberg court:  We knew we were absolutely right about what was good for Germany and our opposition was therefore wrong, so why would we have tolerated any opposition that could have only done harm to Germany?

What we have here — here, today — is thus a massive failure to communicate. Reigning Tea Party typology isn't conservatism, or any breed of it. It is crypto-fascism. And while I have no problem communicating that, too many others are delicately reserved, perhaps for good reason:  It sounds hysterical.

But it isn't. Because the Tea Party's crypto-fascism is, happily, also doomed. It just doesn't have the juice to achieve its goal of total power — and the power it does have is, demographically, as much of a dead man walking as John Boehner was. When they finally recognize it for what it is, Americans don't much like extremism, whether from the left or the right.

College Football, Brought to You by Charles and David Koch…

College football season has begun, and this year it is being brought to you by Koch Industries and not just in Kansas. CMD has obtained an exclusive list of the Koch-branded college football games, below.
The twelve Koch-backed college football games this season will feature Koch signage, a Koch video board, and Koch-branded giveaways.
Koch Industries is owned by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, who have made their fortune on refineries and fossil fuels. The Koch netork of billionaires is one of the largest and most influential political operations in the country, and they are major funders of climate change denial operations like the American Legislative Exchange Council. The Kochs and their political network have pledged to raise and spend nearly a billion dollars to influence who wins the 2016 election.

The Tea Party, Americans for Prosperity, ALEC . . . let me count the ways (fake independent organizations) . . . with which the Koch Brothers have beat the U.S. electorate to a bloody, quivering pulp, and thereby endeavored to take over the people's power and thus, the American government in toto.

IRS Was Going after Charles and David Koch — and Obama Shut It Down.

It Wasn’t Conservatives That Were Being Investigated by the IRS:  It Was the Koch Brothers’ Front Groups
By Pam Martens: May 16, 2013

The President Obama of 2013 who is feigning outrage over the IRS adding extra scrutiny to nonprofit applications being filed with the words Tea Party in their title is not the same man who singled out Americans for Prosperity in a speech in 2010.

Americans for Prosperity was founded and funded by billionaires Charles and David Koch, who have funneled money into politics through front groups for over four decades to advance their corporate deregulatory agenda that powers their profits and personal wealth.

The Kochs are majority owners of Koch Industries, one of the largest private corporations in the world. (According to "Forbes," the brothers’ wealth has almost doubled in just three years to $34 billion each – while 46 million Americans without lobbyists and clever tax attorneys live below the poverty level, including one in five children.)

Americans for Prosperity is a front for creating Tea Party groups around the country to project an outpouring of grassroots’ momentum for the Koch agenda.

. . . The role of the President to lead and focus the Nation on the overarching issues was left to Congressman Ted Deutch, a Democrat from Florida’s 21st District, who correctly sized up the real problem in yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. 

Since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision,” said Deutch, “the number of groups applying for this tax exempt status to the IRS has more than doubled … That’s because these so-called social welfare organizations don’t have to disclose their donors; they can still maintain their 501(c)(4) status even if they write huge checks and even if they write them to Super PACs.

In 2012, when a record $1.28 billion was spent by Super PACs and outside groups to influence the election and a quarter of that money cannot be traced to any source, the evidence shows that many of the (c)(4)s are being established for the sole purpose of funneling anonymous cash to Super PACs. Now, the IRS should not automatically accept all applications for tax exempt status when groups are increasingly being established for explicit political purposes.

So as part of the investigation, part of the discussion, we need to know whether the tax exempt status of any (c)(4), whatever its politics, was either denied or revoked, not because of politics, but because they’re ripping off taxpayers by gaining this tax exempt status.”
Deutch continued: “Of course the American people should be outraged that IRS employees would scrutinize specific groups based on political affiliations but I’m sure that my colleagues would all agree that the American people – the hardworking taxpayers of the Nation – should also be outraged that they are likely subsidizing tax breaks for the makers of the malicious Super PAC ads that poisoned our airwaves during the 2012 election season.”

In fact, the Tea Party is not a “political affiliation.” The Tea Party is not the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the Greens or the Libertarians. It is a name that has become so heavily aligned with the Koch brothers that if you search Koch brothers together with the words Tea Party in the Google search engine, you find 1.4 million links. Those links are backed with facts, starting with this video.

In the video, David Koch appears before an annual convention of chapters of Americans for Prosperity and states “… my brother Charles and I provided the funds to start the Americans for Prosperity.”

Later in the video, members of the state chapters of Americans for Prosperity report to David Koch on how many Tea Party groups they have created. One man states:  “… Hey folks, we’ve held 29 Tea Parties”; another says his chapter has “organized dozens of Tea Parties.” Another woman reports her Americans for Prosperity group turned out 10,000 people at a Tea Party rally in California.

If the rank and file employees of the IRS decided to use the phrase “Tea Party” to digitally search for illegal political fronts in the mountain of nonprofit applications they received, they had hard facts on the ground for their suspicions.

On August 30, 2010, Jane Mayer penned a 10,000-word investigative report for the New Yorker on the Kochs and their political front groups. The title of the article summed up the scam:  “Covert Operations.” Mayer writes as follows:

“Americans for Prosperity has worked closely with the Tea Party since the movement’s inception. In the weeks before the first Tax Day protests, in April, 2009, Americans for Prosperity hosted a Web site offering supporters ‘Tea Party Talking Points.’ The Arizona branch urged people to send tea bags to Obama; the Missouri branch urged members to sign up for ‘Taxpayer Tea Party Registration’ and provided directions to nine protests. The group continues to stoke the rebellion. The North Carolina branch recently launched a ‘Tea Party Finder’ Web site, advertised as ‘a hub for all the Tea Parties in North Carolina.’

“The anti-government fervor infusing the 2010 elections represents a political triumph for the Kochs. By giving money to ‘educate,’ fund, and organize Tea Party protesters, they have helped turn their private agenda into a mass movement.”
In the same month of August 2010, the "New York Times" ran an article headlined “The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party,” singling out the Koch brothers. The article was bylined by Frank Rich, who wrote:

“Tea Partiers may share the Kochs’ detestation of taxes, big government and Obama. But there’s a difference between mainstream conservatism and a fringe agenda that tilts completely toward big business, whether on Wall Street or in the Gulf of Mexico, while dismantling fundamental government safety nets designed to protect the unemployed, public health, workplace safety and the subsistence of the elderly.”

Later in the article, making a reference to the nonprofits in the shadows of the corporate front groups, Rich writes:  “The Koch brothers must be laughing all the way to the bank knowing that working Americans are aiding and abetting their selfish interests.”

Rank and file IRS agents didn’t create their suspicions about the Tea Party out of thin air; they got their best leads from the media – much of which is now showing the same lack of courage to clarify the issues as the President.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged at the hearing that he has quickly opened a criminal investigation of the IRS employees’ conduct. This is the same U.S. Attorney General who has sat for five years on a mountain of evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Wall Street firms without indicting one major player – despite the fact that the country came close to financial collapse from this industry’s systemic corruption.

To borrow the phrase from Frank Rich, the Koch brothers must be laughing all the way to the bank.
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Professor Paul Craig Roberts feels a movement in the force (or thinks he hears freedom stirring in the countryside).


For A Majority Of Americans, U.S. Government Has Lost Legitimacy

September 26, 2015

Noam Chomsky (33:30 point on the video) tells us that in the November 2014 Congressional elections, U.S. voter participation was at the level of 1830 when only white male property owners had the vote.

A September 25 Gallup Poll tells us why:

These are hopeful signs. They mean that the American people are beginning to see through the propaganda that confines them within The Matrix. A majority now understands that the U.S. government represents a small oligarchy and not the citizens of the United States. Change requires awareness and knowledge of reality, and this awareness is now forming.

Oh, and a few ex-parte comments on the governments' hopes and dreams to dominate its former allies.

No Brains In Washington

Paul Craig Roberts
Washington’s IQ follows the Fed’s interest rate — it is negative. Washington is a black hole into which all sanity is sucked out of government deliberations.

Washington’s failures are everywhere visible. We can see the failures in Washington’s wars and in Washington’s approach to China and Russia.

The visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, was scheduled for the week-end following the Pope’s visit to Washington. Was this Washington’s way of demoting China’s status by having its president play second fiddle to the Pope? The President of China is here for week-end news coverage? Why didn’t
Obama just tell him to go to hell?

Washington’s cyber incompetence and inability to maintain cyber security is being blamed on China. The day before Xi Jinping’s arrival in Washington, the White House press secretary warmed up President Jinping’s visit by announcing that Obama might threaten China with financial sanctions.
And not to miss an opportunity to threaten or insult the President of China, the U.S. Secretary of

Commerce fired off a warning that the Obama regime was too unhappy with China’s business practices for the Chinese president to expect a smooth meeting in Washington.

In contrast, when Obama visited China, the Chinese government treated him with politeness and respect.

China is America’s largest creditor after the Federal Reserve. If the Chinese government were so inclined, China could cause Washington many serious economic, financial, and military problems. Yet China pursues peace while Washington issues threats.

Like China, Russia, too, has a foreign policy independent of Washington’s, and it is the independence of their foreign policies that puts China and Russia on the outs with Washington.

Washington considers countries with independent foreign policies to be threats. Libya, Iraq, and Syria had independent foreign policies. Washington has destroyed two of the three and is working on the third. Iran, Russia, and China have independent foreign policies. Consequently, Washington sees these countries as threats and portrays them to the American people as such.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will meet with Obama next week at the UN meeting in New York. It is a meeting that seems destined to go nowhere. Putin wants to offer Obama Russian help in defeating ISIS, but Obama wants to use ISIS to overthrow Syrian President Assad, install a puppet government, and throw Russia out of its only Mediterranean seaport at Tartus, Syria. Obama wants to press Putin to hand over Russian Crimea and the break-away republics that refuse to submit to the Russophobic government that Washington has installed in Kiev.

Despite Washington’s hostility, Xi Jinping and Putin continue to try to work with Washington even at the risk of being humiliated in the eyes of their peoples. How many slights, accusations, and names (such as “the new Hitler”) can Putin and Xi Jinping accept before losing face at home? How can they lead if their peoples feel the shame inflicted on their leaders by Washington?

Xi Jinping and Putin are clearly men of peace. Are they deluded or are they making every effort to save the world from the final war?

One has to assume that Putin and Xi Jinping are aware of the Wolfowitz Doctrine, the basis of U.S. foreign and military policies, but perhaps they cannot believe that anything so audaciously absurd can be real. In brief, the Wolfowitz Doctrine states that Washington’s principal objective is to prevent the rise of countries that could be sufficiently powerful to resist American hegemony. Thus, Washington’s attack on Russia via Ukraine and Washington’s re-militarization of Japan as an instrument against China, despite the strong opposition of 80 percent of the Japanese population.

“Democracy?” “Washington’s hegemony don’t need no stinkin’ democracy,” declares Washington’s puppet ruler of Japan as he, as Washington’s faithful servant, over-rides the vast majority of the Japanese population.

Meanwhile, the real basis of U.S. power — its economy — continues to crumble. Middle class jobs have disappeared by the millions. U.S. infrastructure is crumbling. Young American women, overwhelmed with student debts, rent, and transportation costs, and nothing but lowly-paid part-time jobs, post on Internet sites their pleas to be made mistresses of men with sufficient means to help them with their bills. This is the image of a Third World country.

In 2004 I predicted in a nationally televised conference in Washington, DC, that the U.S. would be a Third World country in 20 years. Noam Chomsky says we are already there now in 2015. Here is a recent quote from Chomsky:

“Look around the country. This country is falling apart. Even when you come back from Argentina to the United States it looks like a third world country, and when you come back from Europe even more so. The infrastructure is collapsing. Nothing works. The transportation system doesn’t work. The health system is a total scandal–twice the per capita cost of other countries and not very good outcomes. Point by point. The schools are declining . . .”

Another indication of a third world country is large inequality in the distribution of income and wealth.

According to the CIA itself, the United States now has one of the worst distributions of income of all countries in the world.

The distribution of income in the U.S. is worse than in Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, UK, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Yemen. and

The concentration of U.S. income and wealth in the hands of the very rich is a new development in my lifetime. I ascribe it to two things.

One is the offshoring of American jobs. Offshoring moved high productivity, high-value-added American jobs to countries where the excess supply of labor results in wages well below labor’s contribution to the value of output. The lower labor costs abroad transform what had been higher American wages and salaries and, thereby, U.S. household incomes, into corporate profits, bonuses for corporate executives, and capital gains for shareholders, and in the dismantling of the ladders of upward mobility that had made the U.S. an “opportunity society.”

The other cause of the extreme inequality that now prevails in the U.S. is what Michael Hudson calls the financialization of the economy that permits banks to redirect income away from driving the economy to the payment of interest in service of debt issued by the banks.

Both of these developments maximize income and wealth for the One Percent at the expense of the population and economy.

As Michael Hudson and I have discovered, neoliberal economics is blind to reality and serves to justify the destruction of the economic prospects of the Western World. It remains to be seen if Russia and China can develop a different economics or whether these rising superpowers will fall victim to the “junk economics” that has destroyed the West. With so many Chinese and Russian economists educated in the U.S. tradition, the prospects of Russia and China might not be any better than ours.

The entire world could go down the tubes together.

And speaking of the rest of the world going down those oil-and-gas-slicked tubes:

Russia’s False Hopes

September 23, 2015
Paul Craig Roberts
Russia so desperately desires to be part of the disreputable and collapsing West that Russia is losing its grip on reality.

Despite hard lesson piled upon hard lesson, Russia cannot give up its hope of being acceptable to the West. The only way Russia can be acceptable to the West is to accept vassal status.

Russia miscalculated that diplomacy could solve the crisis that Washington created in Ukraine and placed its hopes on the Minsk Agreement, which has no Western support whatsoever, neither in Kiev nor in Washington, London, and NATO.

Russia can end the Ukraine crisis by simply accepting the requests of the former Russian territories to reunite with Russia. Once the breakaway republics are again part of Russia, the crisis is over. Ukraine is not going to attack Russia.

Russia doesn’t end the crisis, because Russia thinks it would be provocative and upset Europe. Actually, that is what Russia needs to do—upset Europe. Russia needs to make Europe aware that being Washington’s tool against Russia is risky and has costs for Europe.

Instead, Russia shields Europe from the costs that Washington imposes on Europe and imposes little cost on Europe for acting against Russia in Washington’s interest. Russia still supplies its declared enemies, whose air forces fly provocative flights along Russia’s borders, with the energy to put their war planes into the air.

This is the failure of diplomacy, not its success. Diplomacy cannot succeed when only one side believes in diplomacy and the other side believes in force.

Russia needs to understand that diplomacy cannot work with Washington and its NATO vassals who do not believe in diplomacy, but rely instead on force. Russia needs to understand that when Washington declares that Russia is an outlaw state that “does not act in accordance with international norms,” Washington means that Russia is not following Washington’s orders. By “international norms,” Washington means Washington’s will. Countries that are not in compliance with Washington’s will are not acting in accordance with “international norms.”

Washington and only Washington determines “international norms.” America is the “exceptional, indispensable” country. No other country has this rank.

A country with an independent foreign policy is a threat to Washington. The neoconservative Wolfowitz Doctrine makes this completely clear. The Wolfowitz Doctrine, the basis of U.S. foreign and military policy, defines as a threat any country with sufficient power to act as a constraint on Washington’s unilateral action. The Wolfowitz Doctrine states unambiguously that any country with sufficient power to block Washington’s purposes in the world is a threat and that “our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of” any such country.

Russia, China, and Iran are in Washington’s crosshairs. Treaties and “cooperation” mean nothing. Cooperation only causes Washington’s targets to lose focus and to forget that they are targets. Russia’s foreign minister Lavrov seems to believe that now with the failure of Washington’s policy of war and destruction in the Middle East, Washington and Russia can work together to contain the ISIS jihadists in Iraq and Syria. This is a pipe dream.

Russia and Washington cannot work together in Syria and Iraq, because the two governments have conflicting goals. Russia wants peace, respect for international law, and the containment of radical jihadists elements. Washington wants war, no legal constraints, and is funding radical jihadist elements in the interest of Middle East instability and overthrow of Assad in Syria. Even if Washington desired the same goals as Russia, for Washington to work with Russia would undermine the picture of Russia as a threat and enemy.

Russia, China, and Iran are the three countries that can constrain Washington’s unilateral action. Consequently, the three countries are in danger of a pre-emptive nuclear strike. If these countries are so naive as to believe that they can now work with Washington, given the failure of Washington’s 14-year old policy of coercion and violence in the Middle East, by rescuing Washington from the quagmire it created that gave rise to the Islamic State, they are deluded sitting ducks for a pre-emptive nuclear strike.

Washington created the Islamic State. Washington used these jihadists to overthrow Gaddafi in Libya and then sent them to overthrow Assad in Syria. The American neoconservatives, everyone of whom is allied with Zionist Israel, do not want any cohesive state in the Middle East capable of interfering with a “Greater Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates.”

The ISIS jihadists learned that Washington’s policy of murdering and displacing millions of Muslims in seven countries had created an anti-Western constituency for them among the peoples of the Middle East and have begun acting independently of their Washington creators.

The consequence is more chaos in the Middle East and Washington’s loss of control.

Instead of leaving Washington to suffer at the hands of its own works, Russia and Iran, the two most hated and demonized countries in the West, have rushed to rescue Washington from its Middle East follies. This is the failure of Russian and Iranian strategic thinking. Countries that cannot think strategically do not survive.

The Iranians need to understand that their treaty with Washington means nothing. Washington has never honored any treaty. Just ask the Plains Indians or the last Soviet President Gorbachev.

If the Russian government thinks that Washington’s word means anything, the Russian government is out to lunch.

Iran is well led, and Vladimir Putin has rescued Russia from U.S. and Israeli control, but both governments continue to act as if they are taking some drug that makes them think that Washington can be a partner.

These delusions are dangerous, not only to Russia and Iran, but to the entire world.

If Russia and Iran let their guard down, they will be nuked, and so will China.

Washington stands for one thing and one thing only:  World Hegemony.

Just ask the Neoconservatives or read their documents.

The neoconservatives control Washington. No one else in the government has a voice.

For the neoconservatives, Armageddon is a tolerable risk to achieve the goal of American World Hegemony.

Only Russia and China can save the world from Armageddon, but are they too deluded and worshipful of the West to save Planet Earth?

That crazy man Charles Hugh Smith thinks there's a way out of our high-cost, low-coverage healthcare nightmare.

The New Shackle of Serfdom:  Clinging to Healthcare Insurance

September 21, 2015

The shackles of this new serfdom are invisible, but no less destructive for being invisible.

One of the more remarkable characteristics of American life is our passive acceptance of systems that are so obviously completely insane. Yes, I refer to our healthcare system,
 a.k.a. sickcare because in America sickness is profitable and health is not, and healthcare profiteering that would be the envy of pirates and warlords everywhere is the norm.
What warlord wouldn't jump on the opportunity to jack up the cost of a medication from $13.50 a tablet to $750 overnight, or as the article highlights, jack up the cost of an off-patent med from $1 a pill to $750 a pill in a few years?
This piratical pillaging is not an outlier - it's the norm in America's parasitic pharmaceutical industry:
Cycloserine, a drug used to treat dangerous multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, was just increased in price to $10,800 for 30 pills from $500 after its acquisition by Rodelis Therapeutics.
Imagine getting to jack your weekly wage from $500/week to $10,800/week while issuing a laughably lame excuse.
These profiteering prices are not the shackle of serfdom, at least not directly; few pay these prices in cash - insurers pay. And when prices rise, insurers jack their rates up accordingly (plus a bit to cover their costly political lobbying and the profit margins expected of quasi-monopolies).
Healthcare insurance is the new shackle of serfdom: Americans are forced to cling to whatever coverage they have, lest they lose coverage and risk bankruptcy.
Low-income Americans theoretically don't have to worry, as their medical care is covered by Medicaid. (They only need to find doctors and clinics that accept Medicaid. Good luck with that....)
Retired Americans only have to scrape up the few hundred bucks for Medicare Parts A, B, C, D, and of course E through Z (shall we talk about insane levels of complexity in the system? Perhaps another time...).
Modern capitalism has one necessary dynamic: the mobility of labor and capital.Financial capital is entirely mobile now; a click of a mouse button is all that's needed to send capital almost anywhere.
What happens to labor mobility when no one dares quit because that would mean losing their medicare coverage? Yes, I can already hear the obvious:  the new employer will provide the same coverage.
Oh really? What if the new employer is the worker himself? What if the new employer is too under-funded to afford America's insanely costly healthcare?
And please don't offer ObamaCare as the "solution":  in high-cost regions such as the left and right coast, any household with a moderately middle-class income doesn't qualify for ObamaCare subsidies.
Please explain the wisdom of shackling employers to employees' medical insurance, and employees to these employers.

You can't, because there is no wisdom in this insanity. The system is not the result of planning or coherence - it's simply the result of a jumbled series of historical accidents.
Yet this is the system we cling to.

Why? 1) We have no choice or 2) it's so insanely profitable for those at the top of the heap.
 Are these good reasons?
Is shackling our workforce to their current employer simply to avoid the risk of not having insurance and not qualifying for subsidies good for the economy? No.
This system makes no sense whatsoever.
There are only one way out of this insanity: break the shackles from employer to employees'  healthcare insurance and from employees to employer.
There are only two ways to break these shackles:
1. Offer everyone universal healthcare coverage via a government agency
2. Go back to a cash-only system. The "Impossible" Healthcare Solution:  Go Back to Cash (July 29, 2009)
Guess how many pills the pirate would sell for $750 each if insurers were eliminated and cash payments by patients were the only form of payment: yup, near-zero. The parasitic pirate would either have to drop the price back to $13.50 (or better yet, $1) or go broke and have to sell the rights, or be accosted by those who'd lost loved ones to his rapacious greed.
The shackles of this new serfdom are invisible, but no less destructive for being invisible.
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