Saturday, October 31, 2015

Not Debatable?  (Scariest Stock Market Ever?)  Ryan Rules, Riots & Reduces Social Security/Medicare/Disability  (Not Holding GWB Accountable)  Afghanistan Smoke Burns USA USA USA  (The Demobilization of the US People and the Spectacle of Election 2016) Happy Halloween!

Lots of scary stuff going on now.

And you just thought it was the Halloween madness.

Obama Keeps Pentagon Spigot Open
A Military-Backed Comedian Will Be Guatemala’s Next President & Activists Aren’t Laughing

Reminder:  The Bubonic Plague Is Alive and Well

Reliable Rebel
Jeremy Corbyn and the Revival of the Radical Left

The disciples of New Labour lost spectacularly to Jeremy Corbyn, an easy-going leftist. His strategy was simple: he talked in plain terms about the moral wrongness of a Tory agenda to which Labour had ceased to offer clear opposition—and about what Labour could do to create a more just and equal country. The party once closely identified with the cautious, compromised politics of the Third Way is now, against all expectations, led by a socialist.

Corbyn is a mainstay of the British left. For years, he has demonstrated alongside trade unionists, left-wing students, and assorted other radicals.
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The Scariest Halloween Stock Market Chart

The stock market's advance is immortal - isn't it?
What would Halloween be without a scary chart of "The Stock Market That Cannot Die?"   We know the stock market cannot die because we're constantly told it's immortal:

(Click on photo to enlarge)

You know the drill:  the Federal Reserve will never let the market fall, never, never, never: it will continue to loft higher for all time, in immortal glory.

Like a blood-sucking vampire, the market is parasitically feeding off the real economy. As the host weakens, the parasite increases its control. Now the market is telling the real economy:  if I die, you die, too.
The entire Status Quo is now utterly dependent on a rising stock market:  not just for the illusion of the wealth effect, but for tax revenues, pension fund stability, and the fantasy that a rising market is a substitute for a healthy economy.
It's terribly frightening to be in thrall to a parasite that will bleed its host dry to maintain itself. But that's not the scariest possibility.
The scariest possibility is that the stock market will fall despite all the promises that its advance is immortal.
If this were to happen, all those "safe" index funds would implode along with the broad market.
One of my pumpkins whose entire 401K retirement account is in "safe" S&P 500 index funds looked at the chart above and completely lost it. The possibility that the market is not only not immortal but might be poised for a staggering decline can drive even the most trusting investor to drink.

Posted by Charles Hugh Smith
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A calm, definitive take about a very scary situation from my buddy at The Green Eagle:

Working the Refs
Well, now that the dust has cleared from the most recent Republican excuse for a debate, it is becoming more clear what they accomplished.  Here's a short list:

1.  Managing to define the totally business-controlled CNBC as a dastardly part of the "liberal press," out to do them harm by asking any question they don't find it convenient to answer.

2.  Finally make it totally legitimate to deal with any question that challenges them in any way, by ignoring it and simply going off on a tirade against the press, accompanied by thunderous applause from their hand-picked audience of ignorant savages.

This method of dealing with things was, of course, raised from an occasional dodge to SOP by Sarah Palin. This is one of the legacies that she left us:  utterly misplaced anger is now a substitute to answering a question.

3.  By canceling the upcoming debate that was to have been run by NBC, they have established that they do not need to have even the pretense that this is a real effort to examine the candidates' beliefs.  They are now free to run these debates as nothing but a cynical political sideshow; a self-awarded freedom they will certainly take advantage of.

4. Surrendering to the candidates the right to determine what sort of questions get asked.  Given the cynical bunch of grifters they have assembled, you can imagine how that will work out.

There has been a decade long (at least) trend among Republican candidates to insist that they not be forced to answer any questions they don't want to, or submit to anything even resembling an impartial interview.

They have turned the right of the public to know who the candidates are, into the right of the candidates to have nothing known about them except their packaged publicity. This is ideal for Republicans, of course, because their real agenda - stripping the country of its wealth, to give to their rich backers - is hardly likely to have widespread appeal.

In order to win elections, it is vital to them that they prevent any real information about themselves from seeing the light of day.  This newest manipulation of the debate process is one more step toward an election process that is as forthright as a Volkswagen pollution control system. 

And from my buddy at The Field Negro:

I am still trying to figure out why the RNC is still whining about the debates Wednesday night.

They actually cut ties with NBC because of the perceived bias against the poor republicans by that network.

I honestly don't get it. Obviously Ben Carson and company does not understand the meaning of the word debate. In a debate you are supposed to get tough questions and answer them to the satisfaction of the person asking them.

"'We were betrayed,” he (Rance Priebus) said, “and I think the candidates were betrayed by CNBC.”'

Huh? "Betrayed"? These men (and woman) are trying to lead the most powerful country on earth and they can't handle a couple of questions from CNBC moderators? That's not a good look. Hillary hung in for 11 hours while facing down Trey Howdy Gowdy and his faux Benghazi (drink,drink, gulp) hearings. They are lucky Black folks don't care about them, because, like Hillary, they would have had to deal with the Black Lives Matter kids as well.

“It’s not about me and gotcha questions, it’s abut the American people and whether they have the right to actually hear what we think,” Carson insisted.

Ben, we hear what you think,  we just can't believe that you are serious.

As a very dangerous (and highly media-touted) politician has been being called a wonk by "reporters" for many years (although how a real wonk could be so ignorant about so many academic/scientific subjects is a topic for another essay), it may be more enlightening to call him what he really is.

An economics-incompetent ideologue who demands obedience to his secretive decisions about what should be funded (and should not be funded) with U.S. taxpayer money.

And our peace prize president ushers us back into Afghanistan for decades to come?

Wouldn't you have liked to be a fly on the wall in the meetings urging that?

Some taxpayer input, at least, should have been a part of the decision-making process, shouldn't it?

US Tax Dollars up in Smoke Over Afghanistan
Citizens Earn it, Government Burns it, Creating a Haze

Want to meet a government official who tells the truth — in spades? Then you will definitely want to set aside time to hear of the stunning findings of the top US investigator for spending in Afghanistan.
The biggest problem is not theft, but waste, he says. For example, the $500 million spent on airplanes that no one could fly, and that ultimately had to be scrapped, a process that cost yet more thousands of dollars. Or the gift of soybeans, which the Afghans will not eat and will not grow. Or how about the creation of a navy for Afghanistan — a country that is landlocked?

The biggest source of the problem is the lack of accountability, he says. But that is changing.

“God bless whistleblowers,” says Sopko. “If we didn’t have them, things would be a hundred times worse.” And some of his sources of information would surprise you.

Not all of the money was wasted in Afghanistan, he says. You cannot believe where all the money (from corruption in Afghanistan) has ended up — but a lot of it is here in the United States.”

If anyone can find it, it’s probably John Sopko.

Click HERE to Download Mp3
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More Halloween scares needed?

Not really.

'Truth' Recalls a Lost Opportunity to Hold George Bush Accountable

By Charles Pierce, Esquire
30 October 15
On the story of Dan Rather and Mary Mapes' pursuit of the 43rd president's National Guard records, and a parallel — and more successful — effort at the "Boston Globe."
indly Doc Maddow had Dan Rather on her show on Thursday to talk about the new movie, Truth, which depicts the events surrounding the 60 Minutes II investigation into George W. Bush's still-largely-vaporous service in the Texas Air National Guard.

According to people I know who have seen it, the movie portrays both Rather and producer Mary Mapes (played by Cate Blanchett) as people who got the story right, but got the details just wrong enough to leave the door open for attacks on their credibility from Republican ratfckers. The attacks were so virulent that CBS caved completely, Mapes and Rather wound up losing their jobs, and the story fairly well disappeared from the news, even though there is a wealth of other detail to suggest that C-Plus Augustus ducked out of his sworn duty—including Garry Trudeau's bounty of 10K to anyone who can prove C+A made it to Alabama, which, as far as I know, remains uncollected.
As kindly Doc Maddow pointed out, CBS was far from the only news organization to question Bush's devotion to duty. In September of 2004, The Boston Globe ran a story in which the newspaper proved fairly convincingly that, at least twice, Bush clearly shirked his obligations. One of these episodes should have gotten him a round-trip ticket to Tan Son Nhut Airbase as punishment but, curiously, it did not.

The story was written by Walter Robinson, and reported out by the Globe's crack Spotlight team. I mention all of this because the two stories are about to collide at a multiplex near you. At about the same time that Truth opens, a movie called Spotlight also will be released, and it depicts the battle that the Globe undertook to bring the scandal of clerical sex-abuse in the Boston Archdiocese to light. A lot of the same people, including Robinson, Sasha Pfeiffer, Steve Kurkjian, and my old pal Mike Rezendes, who are portrayed in Spotlight, shared a by-line on the Bush story 11 years ago. These were great reporters then, and they were great reporters when they cracked the Church story, and they are still great reporters today. And C-Plus Augustus dodged a 50-caliber shell when the attack on CBS killed this story for good.
# Philothustra 2015-10-30

Exactly. I was in Texas in 1968-74 and knew some of Dubya's playboy pals-- big cokeheads, not that I care. Dubya himself was a bighat playboy personified, riding on the coattails of papa daddy's stolen fortune and the Prescott Bush Nazi legacy.
Dubya stole every office he was given, but Cheney never let him near the reins of power. That's why he was kept in Texas at the Crawford Ranch for three months in the early days of the "Bush" presidency. He was never supposed to be in DC when 9/11 came down-- they knew he was too scatterbrained to trust to give live press conferences.
The probability of a terrorist attack= 100%
The source? New Pearl Harbor Team, Dick Cheney, conspirator in chief.
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The Demobilization of the US People and the Spectacle of Election 2016

Thursday, 29 October 2015
Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch
You may not know it, but you're living in a futuristic science fiction novel. And that's a fact. If you were to read about our American world in such a novel, you would be amazed by its strangeness. Since you exist right smack in the middle of it, it seems like normal life (Donald Trump and Ben Carson aside). But make no bones about it, so far this has been a bizarre American century.
Let me start with one of the odder moments we've lived through and give it the attention it's always deserved. If you follow my train of thought and the history it leads us into, I guarantee you that you'll end up back exactly where we are - in the midst of the strangest presidential campaign in our history.
To get a full frontal sense of what that means, however, let's return to late September 2001. I'm sure you remember that moment, just over two weeks after those World Trade Center towers came down and part of the Pentagon was destroyed, leaving a jangled secretary of defense instructing his aides, "Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not."
I couldn't resist sticking in that classic Donald Rumsfeld line, but I leave it to others to deal with Saddam Hussein, those fictional weapons of mass destruction, the invasion of Iraq, and everything that's happened since, including the establishment of a terror "caliphate" by a crew of Islamic extremists brought together in American military prison camps - all of which you wouldn't believe if it were part of a sci-fi novel. The damn thing would make Planet of the Apeslook like outright realism.
Instead, try to recall the screaming headlines that labeled the 9/11 attacks "the Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century" or "a new Day of Infamy," and the attackers "the kamikazes of the twenty-first century." Remember the moment when President George W. Bush, bullhorn in hand, stepped onto the rubble at "Ground Zero" in New York, draped his arm around a fireman, and swore payback in the name of the American people, as members of an impromptu crowd shouted out things like "Go get 'em, George!"
"I can hear you! I can hear you!" he responded. "The rest of the world hears you! And the people - and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!"
"USA! USA! USA!" chanted the crowd.
Then, on September 20th, addressing Congress, Bush added, "Americans have known wars, but for the past 136 years they have been wars on foreign soil, except for one Sunday in 1941." By then, he was already talking about "our war on terror."
Now, hop ahead to that long-forgotten moment when he would finally reveal just how a twenty-first-century American president should rally and mobilize the American people in the name of the ultimate in collective danger. As CNN put it at the time, "President Bush... urged Americans to travel, spend, and enjoy life." His actual words were:
"And one of the great goals of this nation's war is to restore public confidence in the airline industry and to tell the traveling public, get on board, do your business around the country, fly and enjoy America's great destination spots. Go down to Disney World in Florida, take your families and enjoy life the way we want it to be enjoyed."
So we went to war in Afghanistan and later Iraq to rebuild faith in flying. Though that got little attention at the time, tell me it isn't a detail out of some sci-fi novel. Or put another way, as far as the Bush administration was then concerned, Rosie the Riveter was moldering in her grave and the model American for mobilizing a democratic nation in time of war was Rosie the Frequent Flyer. It turned out not to be winter in Valley Forge, but eternal summer in Orlando. From then on, as the Bush administration planned its version of revenge-cum-global-domination, the message it sent to the citizenry was:  go about your business and leave the dirty work to us.
Disney World opened in 1971, but for a moment imagine that it had been in existence in 1863 and that, more than seven score years ago, facing a country in the midst of a terrible civil war, Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg had said this:
"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom at Disney World - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish for lack of vacations in Florida."
Or imagine that, in response to that "day of infamy," the Pearl Harbor of the twentieth century, Franklin Roosevelt had gone before Congress and, in an address to the nation, had said:
"Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our airlines, with the unbounding determination of our people to visit Disney World, we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God."
If those are absurdities, then so is twenty-first-century America. By late September 2001, though no one would have put it that way, the demobilization of the American people had become a crucial aspect of Washington's way of life. The thought that Americans might be called upon to sacrifice in any way in a time of peril had gone with the wind. Any newly minted version of the classic "don't tread on me" flag of the revolutionary war era would have had to read: "don't bother them."
The Spectacle of War
The desire to take the American public out of the "of the people, by the people, for the people" business can minimally be traced back to the Vietnam War, to the moment when a citizen's army began voting with its feet and antiwar sentiment grew to startling proportions not just on the home front, but inside a military in the field. It was then that the high command began to fear the actual disintegration of the US Army.
Not surprisingly, there was a deep desire never to repeat such an experience. (No more Vietnams! No more antiwar movements!) As a result, on January 27, 1973, with a stroke of the pen, President Richard Nixon abolished the draft, and so the citizen's army. With it went the sense that Americans had an obligation to serve their country in time of war (and peace).
From that moment on, the urge to demobilize the American people and send them to Disney World would only grow. First, they were to be removed from all imaginable aspects of war making. Later, the same principle would be applied to the processes of government and to democracy itself. In this context, for instance, you could write a history of the monstrous growth of secrecy and surveillance as twin deities of the American state: the urge to keep ever more information from the citizenry and to see ever more of what those citizens were doing in their own private time. Both should be considered demobilizing trends.
This twin process certainly has a long history in the US, as any biography of former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover would indicate. Still, the expansion of secrecy and surveillance in this century has been a stunning development, as ever-larger parts of the national security state and the military (especially its 70,000-strong Special Operations forces) fell into the shadows. In these years, American "safety" and "security" were redefined in terms of a citizen's need not to know. Only bathed in ignorance, were we safest from the danger that mattered most (Islamic terrorism - a threat of microscopic proportions in the continental United States).
As the American people were demobilized from war and left, in the post-9/11 era, with the single duty of eternally thanking and praising our "warriors" (or our "wounded warriors"), war itself was being transformed into a new kind of American entertainment spectacle. In the 1980s, in response to the Vietnam experience, the Pentagon began to take responsibility not just for making war but for producing it. Initially, in the invasions of Grenada and Panama, this largely meant sidelining the media, which many US commanders still blamed for defeat in Vietnam.
By the First Gulf War of 1991, however, the Pentagon was prepared to produce a weeks-long televised extravaganza, which would enter the living rooms of increasingly demobilized Americans as a riveting show. It would have its own snazzy graphics, logos, background music, and special effects (including nose-cone shots of targets obliterated). In addition, retired military men were brought in to do Monday Night Football-style play-by-play and color commentary on the fighting in progress. In this new version of war, there were to be no rebellious troops, no body bags, no body counts, no rogue reporters, and above all no antiwar movement. In other words, the Gulf War was to be the anti-Vietnam. And it seemed to work... briefly.
Unfortunately for the first Bush administration, Saddam Hussein remained in power in Baghdad, the carefully staged post-war "victory" parades faded fast, the major networks lost ad money on the Pentagon's show, and the ratings for war as entertainment sank. More than a decade later, the second Bush administration, again eager not to repeat Vietnam and intent on sidelining the American public while it invaded and occupied Iraq, did it all over again.
This time, the Pentagon sent reporters to "boot camp," "embedded" them with advancing units, built a quarter-million-dollar movie-style set for planned briefings in Doha, Qatar, and launched its invasion with "decapitation strikes" over Baghdad that lit the televised skies of the Iraqi capital an eerie green on TVs across America. This spectacle of war, American-style, turned out to have a distinctly Disney-esque aura to it. (Typically, however, those strikes produced scores of dead Iraqis, but managed to "decapitate" not a single targeted Iraqi leader from Saddam Hussein on down.) That spectacle, replete with the usual music, logos, special effects, and those retired generals-cum-commentators - this time even more tightly organized by the Pentagon - turned out again to have a remarkably brief half-life.
The Spectacle of Democracy
War as the first demobilizing spectacle of our era is now largely forgotten because, as entertainment, it was reliant on ratings, and in the end, it lost the battle for viewers. As a result, America's wars became ever more an activity to be conducted in the shadows beyond the view of most Americans.
If war was the first experimental subject for the demobilizing spectacle, democracy and elections turned out to be remarkably ripe for the plucking as well. As a result, we now have the never-ending presidential campaign season. In the past, elections did not necessarily lack either drama or spectacle.
In the nineteenth century, for instance, there were campaign torchlight parades, but those were always spectacles of mobilization. No longer. Our new 1% elections call for something different.
It's no secret that our presidential campaigns have morphed into a "billionaire's playground," even as the right to vote has become more constrained. These days, it could be said that the only group of citizens that automatically mobilizes for such events is "the billionaire class" (as Bernie Sanders calls it). Increasingly, many of the rest of us catch the now year-round spectacle demobilized in our living rooms, watching journalists play... gasp!... journalists on TV and give American democracy that good old Gotcha!
In 2001, George W. Bush wanted to send us all to Disney World (on our own dollar, of course). In 2015, Disney World is increasingly coming directly to us.
After all, at the center of election 2016 is Donald Trump. For a historical equivalent, you would have to imagine P.T. Barnum, who could sell any "curiosity" to the American public, running for president. (In fact, he did serve two terms in the Connecticut legislature and was, improbably enough, the mayor of Bridgeport.) Meanwhile, the TV "debates" that Trump and the rest of the candidates are now taking part in months before the first primary have left the League of Women Voters and the Commission on Presidential Debates in the dust. These are the ratings-driven equivalent of food fights encased in ads, with the "questions" clearly based on what will glue eyeballs.
Here, for instance, was CNN host Jake Tapper's first question of the second Republican debate:
"Mrs. Fiorina, I want to start with you. Fellow Republican candidate, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, has suggested that your party's frontrunner, Mr. Donald Trump, would be dangerous as president. He said he wouldn't want, quote, 'such a hot head with his finger on the nuclear codes.' You, as well, have raised concerns about Mr. Trump's temperament. You've dismissed him as an entertainer. Would you feel comfortable with Donald Trump's finger on the nuclear codes?"
And the event only went downhill from there as responses ranged from non-answers to (no kidding!) a discussion of the looks of the candidates and yet the event proved such a ratings smash that its 23 million viewers were compared favorably to viewership of National Football League games.
In sum, a citizen's duty, whether in time of war or elections, is now, at best, to watch the show, or at worst, to see nothing at all.
This reality has been highlighted by the whistleblowers of this generation, including Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and John Kiriakou. Whenever they have revealed something of what our government is doing beyond our sight, they have been prosecuted with a fierceness unique in our history and for a simple enough reason.
Those who watch us believe themselves exempt from being watched by us. That's their definition of "democracy." When "spies" appear in their midst, even if those whistleblowers are "spies" for us, they are horrified at a visceral level and promptly haul out the World War I-era Espionage Act. They now expect a demobilized response to whatever they do and when anything else is forthcoming, they strike back in outrage.
A Largely Demobilized Land
A report on a demobilized America shouldn't end without some mention of at least one counter-impulse. All systems assumedly have their opposites lurking somewhere inside them, which brings us to Bernie Sanders. He's the figure who doesn't seem to compute in this story so far.
All you had to do was watch the first Democratic debate to sense what an anomaly he is, or you could have noted that, until almost the moment he went on stage that night, few involved in the election 2016 media spectacle had the time of day for him. And stranger yet, that lack of attention in the mainstream proved no impediment to the expansion of his campaign and his supporters, who, via social media and in person in the form of gigantic crowds, seem to exist in some parallel universe.
In this election cycle, Sanders alone uses the words "mobilize" and "mobilization" regularly, while calling for a "political revolution." ("We need to mobilize tens of millions of people to begin to stand up and fight back and to reclaim the government, which is now owned by big money.") And there is no question that he has indeed mobilized significant numbers of young people, many of whom are undoubtedly unplugged from the TV set, even if glued to other screens, and so may hardly be noticing the mainstream spectacle at all.
Whether the Sanders phenomenon represents our past or our future, his age or the age of his followers, is impossible to know. We do, of course, have one recent example of a mobilization in an election season. In the 2008 election, the charismatic Barack Obama created a youthful, grassroots movement, a kind of cult of personality that helped sweep him to victory, only to demobilize it as soon as he entered the Oval Office. Sanders himself puts little emphasis on personality or a cult of the same and undoubtedly represents something different, though what exactly remains open to question.
In the meantime, the national security state's power is largely uncontested; the airlines still fly; Disney World continues to be a destination of choice; and the United States remains a largely demobilized land.
As many rural people know, sometimes an old bull will "go bad." He'll become increasingly irrational, unpredictable, and dangerous, and such bulls have been known to kill the farmers, or to kill themselves by charging into trees or the side of a barn. America appears to be like an bull "gone bad."
The problem isn't just the Republicans. In no other nation could you find a political "left" whose motto is: "Stand in Solidarity -- to protect the status quo of the bourgeoisie!" Meanwhile, Democrats have quietly worked to dismantle nearly a century of progressive politics and policies. The "masses" have no idea of what to do, or how to go about doing it. Because there is no "left" to push back against the right, we have no choice but to accept the increasingly fascist nature of this country.
From the article:
"Those who watch us believe themselves exempt from being watched by us. That's their definition of "democracy." When "spies" appear in their midst, even if those whistleblowers are "spies" for us, they are horrified at a visceral level and promptly haul out the World War I-era Espionage Act. They now expect a demobilized response to whatever they do and when anything else is forthcoming, they strike back in outrage."
That's a pretty concise history of US domestic policy since 1947, and even more so since Watergate; "striking back in outrage" is a pretty concise description of officaldom's response to the Occupy movement, in addition to describing the fates of Manning and Snowden, and Ellsberg before them.
Any mobilization of the 99%, to be successful, will have to take the form of a massive withdrawal of our consent from illegitimate and unaccountable power. Whistle-blowing is just one of many ways to manifest that withdrawal.
It is bread and circuses without the bread. You can link this trend to other things, such as the decline in newspaper readership, the end of preeminent radio and television journalists who people actually listened to (Murrow, Cronkite, etc.), the end of the Fairness Doctrine, and the major networks ignoring international stories. In other words, the consolidation of media and its increasing emphasis on subjects that aren't controversial to the big corporations. Throw in the decline in high school standards and you have an increasingly ill-informed public that doesn't know how to ask the right questions. If it's not immediately profitable to someone then intellectualism is disparaged in this country.
Maybe overall it's a lack of a common national effort - both the Civil War and World War 2 (and to some extent WW 1) touched everybody in America, and huge numbers of people were directly or indirectly involved in the conflict. But modern warfare doesn't need large bodies of soldiers and sailors, so most citizens (including those who would have served) can go about their lives with the story taking place "out there." Cheer the troops when they come home, toss a few bucks to the "wounded warriors," fly the Jolly Roger (er, POW/MIA) flag, see the world like a John Wayne movie, and don't ask why the country is fighting or your rights are slipping away.

Tom Engelhardt

Tom Engelhardt, cofounder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute's His latest book, coauthored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet:  The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.

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New Book on CIA Master-Plotter Dulles, Sneak Peek: Part 1

The Coverup in JFK’s Death Begins

Friday, October 30, 2015

Homeless? (Republican Debate Boobs/Train Wreck)  Bob (CIA) Woodward Encourages Paul Ryan's Assaults on Our Poor and Elderly  (“Obama’s Wars:” The Real Story Bob Woodward Won’t Tell)  Carly Fiorina Is a Poster Child for the Powerful (You Have Not Seen a Real Refugee Crisis) Bet You'd Like To Know How Many Trillions the Banksters Ran Off With   (Think Bob Rubin!)  Hastert Hushes It Down  (Glass-Steagall Big Lie)

Why Richard Gere's "homeless" photo went viral: It's more common — and closer to home — than we like to think
Why Richard Gere’s “Homeless” Photo Went Viral:  It’s More Common — and Closer to Home — Than We Like to Think

“When I went undercover in New York City as a homeless man, no one noticed me. I felt what it was like to be a homeless man. People would just past by me and look at me in disgrace. Only one lady was kind enough to give me some food. It was an experience I’ll never forget.”

To date, the image has received 1.55 million likes on Facebook and has been shared over 640,000 times.

There were also hundreds of comments, many of them confessional, including the phrase:  “I was homeless for a while…” After reading them, it’s difficult to avoid the impression that homelessness is not only a lot more common than many realize, but the kind of person who becomes homeless increasingly seems to be, well, ordinary.

Hillary Clinton Hasn't Learned a Thing From Iraq

. . . Clinton did end up supporting the administration's Iran nuclear deal, but her support came with a history of bellicose baggage.
Back in 2008, for example, she warned that Washington could "totally obliterate" Iran. During that presidential campaign, she chided Obama as "naïve" and "irresponsible" for wanting to engage the country diplomatically.
Even after the nuclear agreement was sealed, she struck a bullying tone: "I don't believe Iran is our partner in this agreement," Clinton insisted. "Iran is the subject of the agreement." She added that she "won't hesitate to take military action" if it falls through.
Contrast Clinton with the more moderate Secretary of State John Kerry. It's no wonder Obama's two signature foreign policy achievements - the Iran deal and the groundbreaking opening of diplomatic ties with Cuba - came after Clinton left.
There was a very telling moment about Clinton's attitude during the debate when Cooper asked, "Which enemy are you most proud of?"
Alongside the NRA, Republicans, and health insurance companies, Clinton listed "the Iranians" - which could mean either the Iranian government or the nation's 78 million people. In either case, it wasn't a very diplomatic thing to say while her successor and former colleagues are trying to chart a new, more cooperative relationship with Iran.

When it comes to war and peace, it might not matter too much if a Republican or Hillary Clinton wins the White House. In either case, the winner will be the military-industrial complex President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about.

Republican Debate Train Wreck

When it came to one issue that Rubio is vulnerable on – his wildly regressive tax plan that completely undermines his middle-class-man-of-the-people message – John Harwood got railroaded by Rubio, who insisted his plan was “pro-growth” and even boasted that he would eliminate taxes on investments. That probably would have been a good time for Harwood to point out that zeroing out taxes on capital gains is a massive windfall for the super wealthy, who draw most of their income from investments, but he passed.
As for the rest of the field, there weren’t many surprises. John Kasich kicked off the debate by reiterating his complaint that candidates like Ben Carson and Donald Trump are ridiculous clowns, and then largely disappeared for the remainder of the event. Rand Paul was a nonentity, Christie got a couple of shouty tough-guy moments in, and Huckabee popped off some folksy zingers. Carly Fiorina spent the evening sermonizing about the evils of government without ever veering into specifics. Ben Carson somnambulated through the night and made clear that his grasp of complex economic issues is tenuous at best. Trump was Trump – nothing you haven’t seen before.
With Rubio and Cruz turning in solid performances, you could sort of start to see how the contours of the race might eventually take shape. Right now you have Jeb barely hanging on as the establishment favorite in the race, while Trump and Carson have the hearts and minds of the “outsider” bloc of voters. All three are, to varying degrees, weak candidates:  Jeb doesn’t seem to even know why he’s in the race, Carson’s campaign is an elaborate fundraising scam, and Trump is a blowhard and obvious bullshit artist. If you assume that all three will eventually collapse, then establishmentarian Rubio and “outsider” Cruz are well-positioned to pick up their support networks.
Of course, that assumes Trump’s support will collapse or Jeb will pull the plug anytime soon. Even if they don’t, tonight’s terrible debate helped clarify who the serious candidates are.

The Man Who Warned Us About Donald Trump, "Fox News" and the Rise of the Idiocracy

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Speaking of the current Idiocracy . . .

The Republican debate last night unveiled the nakedness of the self-serving thought processes surrounding the policies urged on the poor USA USA USA!!!!  (Always more tax breaks for the rich and deep blood-letting cuts in programs and services that provide very little aid already to the middle classes and the poor.)

The question was extremely substantive. Carson's answer was laughably vague. The problem here isn't that Carson was asked whether he can do math, but that he couldn't show that his tax plan was based on sound math. And that's because it isn't.
As for the question to Kasich, he was asked about a speech he gave on Tuesday calling his rivals' proposals "crazy." As the New York Times reported, Kasich argued "that Republicans who proposed abolishing Medicaid and Medicare, imposing a 10 percent flat tax, or deporting millions of people were out of touch with reality."
Kasich is right about all that, by the way. And while the question was, as Cruz said, an invitation to attack some of the other candidates, it was keyed to a substantive debate about some very strange policy ideas.
Meanwhile, Cruz himself was also asked a substantive question. The moderators asked why he was opposing a bipartisan budget deal that would avert a debt ceiling crisis, a Medicare crisis, and a Social Security Disability Insurance crisis. Rather than answer that question, he attacked the moderators for refusing to ask substantive questions, during which he pretended a slew of unusually substantive questions were trivial political attacks.
Cruz's strategy was smart, and he was arguably the debate's big winner. But it bespoke a deeper weakness. Republicans have boxed themselves into some truly bizarre policies — including a set of tax cuts that give so much money to the rich, and blow such huge holes in the deficit, that simply asking about them in any serious way seems like a vicious attack. Assailing the media is a good way to try to dodge those questions for a little while, but it won't work over the course of a long campaign.

They Knew There Would Be No Nuremberg for Them

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Our favorite CIA undercover journalist, Bob Woodward, has not slowed down a beat from putting the slam on real patriots.

Not yet anyway.

Bob Woodward Gushes Praise For Paul Ryan's Assault On The Poor
. . . Some people just depress the hell out of you because you've watched them sell out to the Republican-led Corporatocracy that America has become. One of the journalistic heroes of the Nixon Era, Bob Woodward, is now a stooge for the Republican Party and has been one of the most vehemently anti-Obama pundits out there, expecting him to magically fix problems that are only to be solved by a GOP Congress.

On Fox News Sunday, Woodward called Ryan a “true conservative” who “vibrates reasonableness.”
. . . Since we are on Fox 'News,' no one asks exactly what these big ideas are and who will suffer the most as a result of his bold plans.
Woodward truly thinks that Ryan wants to 'fix the government' by reforming entitlement spending. Fixing the government by hurting the poor is hardly considered a solution for millions of Americans who will suffer from his bold ideas. Reforming entitlement spending is code for cutting funds allocated to those who are most in need, it does not help the efficacy of government.
There are many others who beg to differ that this a moment to be optimistic. Solid progressives absolutely disagree that Ryan's plans for entitlements and tax policy are 'refreshing,' or even the least bit financially sound or fair for Americans. Robert Greenstein believes that this Ryan's allegedly bold plan for 'entitlement reform' is anything but the "Path for Prosperity" he claimed it to be.

Affluent Americans would do quite well. But for tens of millions of others, the Ryan plan is a path to more adversity.

Greenstein was the Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture under President Carter as well as the man appointed by President Clinton in 1994 to serve on the Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform and headed the federal budget policy component of the transition team for President Obama. Ryan budget is thus an exercise in obfuscation — failing to specify trillions of dollars that it would need in tax savings and budget cuts to make its numbers add up. No one should take seriously its claim to balance the budget in ten years.
It’s also an exercise in hypocrisy — claiming to boost opportunity and reduce poverty while flagrantly doing the reverse. Here’s just one example:   Ryan has criticized some of the poor for not working enough and says that he wants to promote work and opportunity. But his budget eliminates Pell Grants entirely for low-income students who have families to support, must work, and are attending school less than half time on top of their jobs.
You're not alone if you are wondering who funds Woodward these days. Eric Boehlert raised a good point a few years ago that it isn't Liberals. Liberals certainly do not subscribe to the ridiculous cult of Paul Ryan as the savior of the GOP. This Emperor has no clothes, but Bob Woodward thinks he's dressed to the nines.
How did America’s Nixon-era, “journalistic hero” become so un-cool? Go here for some "WhoWhatWhy" deep background. And if you haven’t yet, be sure to read this on Watergate, from Russ Baker’s Family of Secrets, where Woodward’s true colors really come out.

When a conservative says they want to "fix government" it always means get rid of Social Security Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, student loans, unemployment...anything that helps actual real people must be eliminated while also passing giant tax cuts for rich people and corporations, but of course we have ALL the money in the world for the DoD and wars, but nothing for veterans. That goes without saying.

"Entitlement programs" - things you pay into for your entire working life as a form of insurance, and for which you should legitimately expect to get a return on for your contributions.

So what happens to all that contributed money that would no longer be distributed among its shareholders?

Well - I understand Iran needs bombing...

They never run on the destruction of either program, but their "fixes," privatizing chief among them, are highly destructive.

Precisely. Not a single word out of his mouth in the last ten years has been anything .... anything but centrist-right, both-sides dribble, and his cadence … I'm sorry, but he seems incapable of thinking quickly. Absolute Chauncey Gardiner-esque luckiest journalist who has ever lived.

What's happening in our society has a fairly simple psychological explanation.

On one side we are the "haves." The "haves" benefit from all that society has to offer and see society through the prism of special privilege. The daily vagaries of the "have nots" are completely alien to them as they have no correlate in their own lives with which to compare them, making empathy for the plight of the less well off members of society difficult.

On the other side we have the "have-nots." "Have-nots" find themselves dealing with shrinking wages, job exports, and a greatly reduced social safety net in an environment of increasing hostility toward those who are forced by circumstances beyond their control to rely on it. For their pains they are pejoratively dubbed by the haves as "moochers" and "takers."

The "haves" and the "have nots" don't mix socially, and indeed, seldom, if ever, find themselves in a forum favorable to examining the issues from both sides. The media don't help in this. The "haves" have a voice piece, the MSM, which addresses the problems and solutions facing America solely in terms of ideas which benefit the "haves", even though the "have-nots" are by far numerically superior to the haves and in any true democratic process would have a larger, not smaller, voice than the haves.

There is a name for this - aristocracy. The aristocracy benefits only indirectly from policy, however, by virtue of being above the line beneath which one is reliant of the safety net or the real and dread fear thereof. The true beneficiaries are the ones truly controlling the political process - the oligarchs - comprised of veritable handfuls of multi-national corporations whose goals are at cross-purposes, not just with the interests of the poor, but with the sovereign interests of the nation.

Anyone who thinks Paul Ryan has the answers to anything has totally lost it as far as I'm concerned. All other industrialized nations do far, far better by their citizens than this one does in terms of healthcare, education, economics etc. Paul Ryan's solutions would take us back several centuries. As far as Woodward is concerned, I lost any respect I had for him back in the 70s decades ago.

"Bob Woodward, what has happened to you?"

He sold out and got fabulously rich. Now he sides with Nixon's associates.

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“Obama’s Wars:”  The Real Story Bob Woodward Won’t Tell

Just one year before the publication of “Obama’s Wars,” Bob Woodward became a player in his own book-in-progress. He morphed into his true identity: Warrior Bob. Actually, there’s an even deeper persona, Agent Woodward — but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

In June of 2009, Woodward traveled to Afghanistan with General Jim Jones, President Obama’s National Security adviser, to meet with General Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of forces there. Why did Jones allow this journalist to accompany him? Because Jones knew that Woodward could be counted on to deliver the company line — the military line. In fact, Jones was essentially Woodward’s patron.

The "New Republic"'s Gabriel Sherman wrote at the time that

… Jones was a guest of Woodward at his wife Elsa Walsh’s fiftieth birthday party held at Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee’s house. He and Elsa were glued to Jones at the cocktail party before the dinner started…

In September of last year, McChrystal (or someone close to him) leaked to Woodward a document that essentially forced President Obama’s hand. Obama wanted time to consider all options on what to do about Afghanistan. But the leak, publicizing the military’s “confidential” assertion that a troop increase was essential, cast the die, and Obama had to go along. Nobody was happier than the Pentagon—and, it should be said, its allies in the vast military contracting establishment.

The website "Firedoglake" chronicled the developments in a pungent essay:

Apparently General McChrystal and the Petraeus cabal aren’t willing to wait for their Commander in Chief to set the strategy. Prior to the President’s interviews, McChrystal’s people were already telling journalists that they were “impatient with Obama” as Nancy Youssef reported. This “Power Play,” as I mentioned last night, included a veiled threat that McChrystal would resign if he didn’t get his way.
And sure enough, just hours after the Commander in Chief was on the airwaves, somehow McChrystal’s classified report hit the "Washington Post" … compliments of Bob Woodward no less.
Wow, what a coincidence!
This episode highlights a crucial aspect of Bob Woodward’s career that has been ignored by most of the media. Simply put, Woodward is the military’s man, and always has been.

For almost four decades, under cover of his supposedly “objective” reporting, Woodward has represented the viewpoints of the military and intelligence establishments. Often he has done so in the context of complex inside maneuvering of which he gives his readers little clue. He did it with the book Veil, about CIA director William Casey, in which he relied on Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, a rival of Casey’s, as his key source. (Inman, from Texas, was closely identified with the Bush faction of the CIA.) The book was based in part on a “deathbed interview” with Casey that Casey’s widow and former CIA guards said never took place.

Typically, Woodward uses information he gets from his main sources to gain access to others. He then gets more secrets from them, and so on down the line.  His stature — if that’s the word — as a repository of this inside dope has been key to the relentless success machine that his media colleagues have perpetuated. The "New York Times" review of his Obama book laid out the formula:

In Obama’s Wars, Mr. Woodward, as usual, eschews analysis and commentary. Instead, he hews to his I Am a Tape Recorder technique, using his insider access to give readers interested in inside-the-Beltway politics lots of granular detail harvested from interviews conducted on background, as well as leaked memos, meeting notes and other documents.

Some of this information is revealing about the interplay of personality and policy and politics in Washington; some of it is just self-serving spin. As he’s done in his earlier books, Mr. Woodward acknowledges that attributions of thoughts, conclusions or feelings to a person were in some cases not obtained directly from that person, but from notes or from a colleague whom the person told — a questionable but increasingly popular method, which means the reader should take the reconstructed scenes with a grain of salt.
And then, thanks to all this attention, and even with that grain of salt, the book went to #1.

But might there be more to Woodward and his oeuvre than just questionable work practices? Well, let’s see. Woodward granted former CIA director George H.W. Bush a pass by excluding him from accounts of Iran-Contra, which occurred while the notorious intriguer was vice president under the notoriously hands-off Ronald Reagan. (When I asked Woodward about this for my book Family of Secrets, he replied, “Bush was … What was it he said at the time? I was out of the loop?”)

Later Woodward got exclusive access to H.W.’s son. He spent more time with George W. Bush than did any other journalist, writing several largely sympathetic books about his handling of Iraq and Afghanistan before playing catch-up with prevailing sentiment and essentially reversing course.

Now, for a bit of cognitive dissonance. Woodward’s signature achievement - bringing down Richard Nixon - turns out not to be what we all thought. If that comes as a surprise, you have missed a few books, including bestsellers, that put pieces of this puzzle together. (Family of Secrets has several chapters on the real Watergate story, but there are others that present detailed information, including those by Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin, James Rosen, Jim Hougan and others.)

Here’s the deal:  Bob, top secret Naval officer, gets sent to work in the Nixon White House while still on military duty. Then, with no journalistic credentials to speak of, and with a boost from White House staffers, he lands a job at the "Washington Post." Not long thereafter he starts to take down Richard Nixon. Meanwhile, Woodward’s military bosses are running a spy ring inside the White House that is monitoring Nixon and Kissinger’s secret negotiations with America’s enemies (China, Soviet Union, etc), stealing documents and funneling them back to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They then give what they stole to columnist Jack Anderson and others in the press.

That’s not the iconic Woodward of legend, of course — so it takes a while for this notion to settle in the mind.  But there’s more — and it’s even more troubling. Did you know there was really no Deep Throat, that the Mark Felt story was conjured up as yet another layer of cover in what became a daisy chain of disinformation? Did you know that Richard Nixon was loathed and feared by the military brass, that they and their allies were desperate to get Nixon out and halt his rapprochement with the Communists?  That a bunch of operatives with direct or indirect CIA/military connections, from E. Howard Hunt to Alexander Butterfield to John Dean — wormed their way into key White House posts, and started up the Keystone Kops operations that would be laid at Nixon’s office door?

Believe me, I understand. It sounds like the “conspiracy theory” stuff that we have been trained to dismiss. But I’ve just spent five years on a heavily documented forensic dig into this missing strata of American history, and I myself have had to come to terms with the enormous gap between reality and the “reality” presented by the media and various establishment gatekeepers who tell us what’s what.

Given this complicity, it’s no surprise that when it comes to Woodward’s latest work, the myth-making machine is on auto pilot. The public, of course, will end up as confused and manipulated as ever. And so things will continue, same as they ever were. Endless war, no substantive reforms. Unless we wake up to our own victimhood.

Image Credit:  (

Robert Reich | Carly Fiorina Is a Poster Child for the Powerful

27 October 15
arly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and now among the front-runners in the Republican primary, has an essay in this morning’s Wall Street Journal in which she blames Obama and Hillary Clinton for widening inequality. “People at the top seem to be doing just fine …. in the period 2009-2012, 95% of the gains went to the top 1%.” Her explanation:  “because big government only works for big business, the powerful, the wealthy and the well-connected."
Her premise is wrong, of course (inequality took off in the 1980s under Reagan, and Republicans have done everything in their power to keep it widening since then). But it's also an odd argument for Ms. Fiorina -- who’s the poster child for big business, the powerful, the wealthy and the well-connected. Last year her former company, Hewlett-Packard, spent $5,179,818 on lobbying, mostly to reduce its tax bill, and donated over $1 million to political campaigns and parties, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Ms. Fiorina herself contributed more than $5.7 million to her failed Senate campaign in 2010, and counts among her major backers hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo.
Fiorina doesn’t propose getting big money out of politics, reversing “Citizens United,” public financing of elections, or even disclosing the sources of all campaign funding. All she wants is a “smaller government,” which, presumably, means one that does absolutely nothing for anyone other than big business, the powerful, the wealthy, and the well-connected.
What do you think?

Wondering why everything's taking off now (at least with regards to the again-roaring-for-no-real-reason stock market with its accompanying casino credit speculation)?

Could be this:

We have already discussed in the past in this space, the topic of financialization. But seeing as how the stock market keeps rallying while the economic statistics have remained for the most part, punk, time to revisit the issue once again. Is it all simply FED or no FED? Or is the interest-rate issue ground zero and/or purely symptomatic of the triumph of financialization over the real economy?
Further urged to revisit the topic by the seemingly contradictory developments of the ECB banks reportedly humming along nicely while trade between Asia and Europe remains obviously, significantly crimped.
Let’s make this plain English because it takes too much energy to interpret most of what is written on the topic.
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Ian Welsh

Posted: 27 Oct 2015  
Refugee Crisis?

You have yet to see a real refugee crisis.
Rising global temperatures could push the sun-baked cities of the Persian Gulf across a threshold unknown since the start of civilization: the first to experience temperatures that are literally too hot for human survival.
It will be WORSE in many parts of the tropics.  Humidity increases effective heat.
Habitats, or refugees.

Really, both.

This is the level of stupid we have engaged in.

People rag on about how bad Communism was, how many deaths it caused, but they never properly add up capitalism’s deaths.  These, however, will make capitalism anathema to our children.  They will consider us insane and worse than insane: psychopaths who knew what they were doing when they condemned a billion or more people to death, billions to impoverishment and did it anyway, for little more than greed.

The U.S. Is Still Stonewalling an Independent Review of Why It Bombed a Hospital

Dennis Hastert Pleads Guilty in Hush-Money Case

The brief hearing revealed no new details about why Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million to an unidentified person. The payments were allegedly intended to conceal past misconduct by the Illinois Republican, but prosecutors have never explained the nature of the wrongdoing.

The Associated Press and other media, citing anonymous sources, have reported that the payments were meant to hide claims of sexual misconduct from decades ago.

In exchange for the plea, prosecutors were expected to drop a charge that Hastert violated federal banking laws.

. . . Hastert was speaker for eight years — longer than any other Republican. He also parlayed his connections into a lucrative lobbying career after leaving Congress in 2007.

. . . Known as a savvy deal maker in Congress, Hastert and his attorneys negotiated the plea deal in recent weeks, avoiding a trial that could have divulged embarrassing secrets dating back to his days as a high-school wrestling coach.

No illegalities allowed by these upstanding guys here.

Err . . . none reported anyway!

The "New York Times" Invented a Big Lie About Glass-Steagall, and Then Obama Told It, and Now Hillary . . .

A funny thing happened in 2012 after Andrew Ross Sorkin, a financial writer at the New York Times, wrote his spectacularly false narrative telling readers that the repeal of Glass-Steagall Act had nothing to do with the crash because problem firms like Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and AIG didn’t own insured commercial banks — which would have been prohibited under the Glass Steagall Act, had it not been repealed in 1999. In fact, all three of the firms did, indeed, own banks insured by the FDIC at the time of the crash.

We figured that Sorkin had just made an error, or, well, three monster errors, so we wrote to his editor. We heard nothing. We wrote to the "New York Times" public editor who is supposed to uphold the integrity of the paper. Nothing. We wrote to the publisher. Nothing. To this very day, the errors remain in the Sorkin article. When the so-called paper of record allows three outrageously wrong errors to persist as fact, it doesn’t look like sloppy journalism, it looks like a conspiracy to deny the public an honest narrative.

Sorkin’s lie has since been regurgitated by two other writers at the "New York Times:"  Paul Krugman and William Cohan. The lie has also spread to President Obama and Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, as a cover for why they won’t buck Wall Street and work to reinstate this critically needed legislation as Senators Elizabeth Warren, John McCain, Bernie Sanders and dozens of others in Congress are demanding. Marcy Kaptur’s legislation in the House of Representatives to restore the Glass-Steagall Act has 67 cosponsors.

The "New York Times" seems disingenuous at best and conspiratorial at worst:  admitting in an editorial that it blew it big time in advocating for the repeal of Glass-Steagall while hiding in the wings as its writers are allowed to push a false narrative that the "New York Times" refuses to correct.
The editorial page editors wrote on July 26, 2012:
“While we are on this subject, add "The New York Times" editorial page to the list of the converted. We forcefully advocated the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. ‘Few economic historians now find the logic behind Glass-Steagall persuasive,’  one editorial said in 1988. Another, in 1990, said that the notion that ‘banks and stocks were a dangerous mixture’ ‘makes little sense now.’
“That year, we also said that the Glass-Steagall Act was one of two laws that ‘stifle commercial banks.’
“Having seen the results of this sweeping deregulation, we now think we were wrong to have supported it.”
Last week, the opinion page of the "Bloomberg News" operation joined the factually-challenged chorus. Paula Dwyer wrote about the financial crash in 2008:
“Here the main actors were Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley — all free-standing investment banks with no commercial banking units. Again, Glass-Steagall played no role.”
What is particularly preposterous about this is that almost everyone on Wall Street knew that Lehman Brothers for years prior to the crash had been peddling insured certificates of deposits from its banking unit in order to raise cheap cash. Surely someone at the vast Wall Street news and data gathering behemoth known as Bloomberg L.P. should have spotted this obvious error.
Lehman Brothers owned two FDIC insured banks, Lehman Brothers Bank, FSB and Lehman Brothers Commercial Bank. Together, they held $17.2 billion in assets as of June 30, 2008, 75 days before Lehman went belly up. Merrill Lynch owned three FDIC insured banks. At a conference held at the National Press Club in 2003, Merrill Senior VP, John Qua, talked about Merrill’s sprawling bank empire:
“Merrill Lynch conducts banking in the United States through two depository institutions – Merrill Lynch Bank USA, a Utah industrial loan corporation; and Merrill Lynch Bank and Trust, a New Jersey state non-member bank. We also own a federal savings bank that offers personal trust services to our clients. And we conduct significant banking activities outside the United States through banks in London, Dublin, Switzerland, and elsewhere. The combined balance sheet of our global banks is approximately $100 billion.”
Bear Stearns owned Bear Stearns Bank Ireland, which was swallowed up by JPMorgan after Bear Stearns collapsed in March 2008. JPMorgan noted in 2012: “It is the only EU passported bank in the non-bank chain of JPMorgan and provides the firm with direct access to the European Central Bank repo window. It has also been added to the JPMorgan Jumbo issuance programs to issue structured securities for distribution outside the United States.”
Morgan Stanley, with its thousands of stock brokers, owned the Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Bank , also insured by the FDIC, and now renamed the Morgan Stanley Bank, National Association. As of June 30, 2015, this insured bank has $126.6 billion in assets, according to the FDIC.
The only firm that Paula Dwyer got right was Goldman Sachs. But today, Goldman has jumped on the bandwagon with its own insured bank, Goldman Sachs Bank USA with $122.6 billion in assets.
There’s a quick and simple way to blow a mile wide hole through all of these false narratives. As the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported and Senator Elizabeth Warren stated in the Senate Banking Committee on March 3 of this year, Citigroup (the largest insured bank in the U.S. in 2008 in terms of assets), Merrill Lynch (which owned insured banks) and Morgan Stanley (also owner of an insured bank) required a cumulative total of more than $6 trillion in secret loan assistance from the Federal Reserve during the financial crash. Warren stated:
“During the financial crisis, Congress bailed out the big banks with hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money; and that’s a lot of money. But the biggest money for the biggest banks was never voted on by Congress. Instead, between 2007 and 2009, the Fed provided over $13 trillion in emergency lending to just a handful of large financial institutions. That’s nearly 20 times the amount authorized in the TARP bailout.
“Now, let’s be clear, those Fed loans were a bailout too. Nearly all the money went to too-big-to-fail institutions. For example, in one emergency lending program, the Fed put out $9 trillion and over two-thirds of the money went to just three institutions: Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch.
“Those loans were made available at rock bottom interest rates – in many cases under 1 percent. And the loans could be continuously rolled over so they were effectively available for an average of about two years.”
Citigroup, not Bear Stearns or Lehman Brothers, was the institution that first undermined confidence on Wall Street and set the crisis in motion. That fact is underscored by the documentation from the GAO that Citigroup began its secret loans from the Fed on December 1, 2007 and they continued through at least July 21, 2010, aggregating to a total of $2.513 trillion. Bear Stearns didn’t fail until March of 2008 followed by Lehman on September 15, 2008.
The Federal Reserve, the very institution that allowed the merger of Citibank with an insurance company (Travelers Group), an investment bank (Salomon Brothers), a retail stock brokerage firm (Smith Barney) and 2,000 operating subsidiaries in 1998 to form Citigroupin violation of the Glass-Steagall Act and the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 which, respectively, barred banks from merging with securities firms and insurance companies from merging with insured banks – propped up this insolvent bank during the crisis with massive amounts of secret loans, to avoid the embarrassment of its lax regulation and permitting the Frankenbank merger in the first place.
At the time of the crisis, Citigroup had $2 trillion in assets on its balance sheet and $1.2 trillion off its balance sheet. It was the insolvent elephant in the crisis, receiving the following from the taxpayer:   $45 billion in TARP funds, over $300 billion in asset guarantees and $2.513 trillion in cumulative loans from the Fed.
At the time the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed on November 12, 1999 with President Bill Clinton signing the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the United Stated had enjoyed 66 years of financial stability under the legislation. It had been enacted in 1933 in the wake of the 1929 crash and the realization by Congress that corruption on Wall Street was systemic and the nation’s deposit taking banks that protect the life savings of average Americans could not be under the same roof or affiliated with high-risk speculators and the criminally-inclined on Wall Street.
The premise that high-risk gamblers cannot be adequately policed is as true today as it was in 1933. In 1995, one derivatives trader, Nick Leeson, blew up the British bank, Barings, by hiding losses of $1.3 billion. In 2012, JPMorgan Chase’s London derivatives traders were trading with insured deposits from the U.S. bank, eventually owning up to $6.2 billion in losses.
We’ll never know if JPMorgan could have been another Barings because the infamous London Whale trading was exposed by "Bloomberg News" and the "Wall Street Journal" and alerted regulators. Reporters apparently knew more about the trading than JPMorgan CEO, Jamie Dimon, who initial calledly it a “tempest in a tea pot.”
The U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations conducted an in-depth investigation of the matter and held hearings. The Chairman of the Subcommittee at the time, Senator Carl Levin, stated that JPMorgan “piled on risk, hid losses, disregarded risk limits, manipulated risk models, dodged oversight, and misinformed the public.”
Thanks to the repeal of Glass-Steagall, JPMorgan Chase now owns one of America’s largest insured depository banks. And, according to this February report from the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Financial Research, JPMorgan Chase and the resuscitated Citigroup now pose the greatest interconnected risk to the U.S. financial system – seven years after the greatest financial crash since the Great Depression. In May of this year, both admitted to a criminal felony charge involving the rigging of foreign currency trading.
If that thought is not sobering, try this on for size. According to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the regulator of national banks, as of the second quarter of this year, just four large commercial banks represent 91.1 percent of the total notional amount of derivatives contracts, or a total of $180.29 trillion dollars held in just four banks. (That’s trillion with a “t.”) Those commercial banks are all affiliated with stock underwriting and derivatives trading: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citibank (part of Citigroup), and Goldman Sachs.
Editor’s Note:  For our readers’ enjoyment, we filed a Freedom of Information Act request and obtained video from the June 25 and June 26, 1998 hearings conducted by the Federal Reserve in the lead-up to repealing Glass-Steagall. The first video is your humble editor explaining to the “experts” what was going to happen if they allowed the Citigroup merger to proceed and repeal Glass-Steagall. The second video is Chuck Prince, eventually to become Chairman and CEO of Citigroup as it teetered toward the largest taxpayer bailout in U.S. history, explaining to the Federal Reserve officials how the bank would always remain strong and viable.

And they still are.


Bipartisan Budget Deal Averts Devastating Cuts but Lets Pentagon Sidestep Caps

Hidden within the surprise budget deal that congressional lawmakers and the White House unveiled on Tuesday is a major windfall for the Pentagon.

The GOP Debates and the Ghost of Tom Joad

William Rivers Pitt:  Both debates were a showcase for hatred of the federal government, except every one of those candidates shamelessly coddled a trillion-dollar government "defense" sector to the detriment of all the Tom Joads out there.

Dat's all folks!