Archive for the ‘Democrats’ Category
Is the US becoming more like Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and the like, in terms of the money entanglement between big businesses and the government, with many revolving doors. Of course, no man (we’re told, and presumably it applies to women as well) can serve two masters (e.g., both business and government (the latter being the major social force that supposedly speaks for and protects the people, the public), the dilemma is resolved for many by choosing allegiance to a single master: money.
At least it looks that way from the outside. Lee Fang and Henrik Moulte report in The Intercept:
WHEN HILLARY CLINTON’S son-in-law sought funding for his new hedge fund in 2011, he found financial backing from one of the biggest names on Wall Street: Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein.The fund, called Eaglevale Partners, was founded by Chelsea Clinton’s husband, Marc Mezvinsky, and two of his partners. Blankfein not only personally invested in the fund, but allowed his association with it to be used in the fund’s marketing.
The investment did not turn out to be a savvy business decision. Earlier this month, Mezvinsky was forced to shutter one of the investment vehicles he launched under Eaglevale, called Eaglevale Hellenic Opportunity, after losing 90 percent of its money betting on the Greek recovery. The flagship Eaglevale fund has also lost money, according to the New York Times.
There has been minimal reporting on the Blankfein investment in Eaglevale Partners, which is a private fund that faces few disclosure requirements. At a campaign rally in downtown San Francisco on Thursday, I attempted to ask Hillary Clinton if she knew the amount that Blankfein invested in her son-in-law’s fund.
Watch the video:
After repeated attempts on the rope line, I asked the Clinton campaign traveling press secretary Nick Merrill, who said, “I don’t know, has it been reported?” and said he would get in touch with me over email. I sent the question but have not heard a response back.
The decision for Blankfein to invest in Hillary Clinton’s son-in-law’s company is just one of many ways Goldman Sachs has used its wealth to forge a tight bond with the Clinton family. The company paid Hillary Clinton $675,000 in personal speaking fees, paid Bill Clinton $1,550,000 in personal speaking fees, and donated between $250,000 and $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation. At a time when Goldman Sachs directly lobbied Hillary Clinton’s State Department, the company routinely partnered with the Clinton Foundation for events, even convening a donor meeting for the foundation at the Goldman Sachs headquarters in Manhattan.
Mezvinsky, who married Chelsea in 2010, previously worked at Goldman Sachs and started his fund along with two other former employees of the investment bank. Securities and Exchange Commission disclosures show that Eaglevale required new investors to put down a minimum of $2 million.
Clinton has dodged questions . . .
I clicked “military” and “NSA” and “law enforcement” along with “business” because, when they work as a team, they know a lot about use: purchase history, viewing habits, contents of emails and all other Internet-transmitted data… That’s a lot, if they combine all they have, since businesses know more and more about you (web trackers, the trackers that most carry with them (smartphones), which leave a trail of data and location, and so on: that’s a lot of information granular to the individual, as NSA programs evolve to do better and better pattern-recognition and learns the signature track of a would-be terrorist… You can see why they might put a lot of money into that. And, of course, once you have it, you can track anyone. You, for instance.
But you’ll do fine. Just don’t do anything suspicious and watch out for patterns. Piece of cake.
UPDATE: Speaking of the entertwining of moneyed forces across business and government and the public: look at the overt effort to control the memory of the public mind by deciding what things will become known and which will not. From a NY Times article:
The situation is complicated by the fact that these days rich tech companies, their owners or venture capitalists are as much the owners and producers of the media as the subject. With the traditional media in a weakened state, it is a trend that seems to be accelerating.
UPDATE 2: And now venture capitalists are putting money into VR products like this one, and that enables capitalist control of what you experience as well as of what you remember (in terms of knowing the history of how you came to the present state of affairs or any critical information deemed too secret for the public to know. And of course some state-secrets cases are themselves state secrets: opacity within invisibility.
UPDATE 3: An example of how much digital information there is about you: “Uber Knows Too Much About You,” by Sarah Jeong
Glenn Greenwald writes in The Intercept:
In January, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered a speech to the Security Council about, as he put it, violence “in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory,” noting that “Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half century of occupation” and that “it is human nature to react to occupation.” His use of the word “occupation” was not remotely controversial because multiple U.N. Security Resolutions, such as 446(adopted unanimously in 1979 with three abstentions), have long declared Israel the illegal “occupying power” in the West Bank and Gaza. Unsurprisingly, newspapers around the world — such as the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, the BBC, the LA Times — routinely and flatly describe Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza in their news articles as what it is: an occupation.
In fact, essentially the entire world recognizes the reality of Israeli occupation with the exception of a tiny sliver of extremists in Israel and the U.S. That’s why Chris Christie had to grovel in apology to GOP billionaire and Israel-devoted fanatic Sheldon Adelson when the New Jersey governor neutrally described having seen the “occupied territories” during a trip he took to Israel. But other than among those zealots, the word is simply a fact, used without controversy under the mandates of international law, the institutions that apply it, and governments on every continent on the planet.
But not the New York Times. They are afraid to use the word. In a NYT article today by Jason Horowitz and Maggie Haberman on the imminent conflict over Israel and Palestine between Sanders-appointed and Clinton-appointed members of the Democratic Party platform committee, this grotesque use of scare quotes appears:
A bitter divide over the Middle East could threaten Democratic Party unity as representatives of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont vowed to upend what they see as the party’s lopsided support of Israel.
Two of the senator’s appointees to the party’s platform drafting committee, Cornel West and James Zogby, on Wednesday denounced Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza and said they believed that rank-and-file Democrats no longer hewed to the party’s staunch support of the Israeli government. They said they would try to get their views incorporated into the platform, the party’s statement of core beliefs, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.
The refusal to use the word occupation without scare quotes is one of the most cowardly editorial decisions the New York Times has made since refusing to use the word “torture” because the Bush administration denied its validity (a decision they reversed only when President Obama in 2014 gave them permission to do so by using the word himself). This is journalistic malfeasance at its worst: refusing to describe the world truthfully out of fear of the negative reaction by influential factions (making today’s article even stranger is that a NYT article from February on settlers’ use of Airbnb referred to an “illegal settler outpost deep in the occupied West Bank”). And the NYT’s editorial decision raises this question, posed this morning by one man in the West Bank:
— A Man In The Sun (@AManInTheSun) May 26, 2016
The cowardice of the NYT regarding Israel is matched only by the Clinton campaign’s. Clinton has repeatedly vowed to move the U.S. closer not only to Israel but also to its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Pandering to Israel — vowing blind support for its government — is a vile centerpiece of her campaign.
The changes to the Democratic Party platform proposed by Bernie Sanders’s appointees such as Cornel West, Keith Ellison, and James Zogby — which Israel-supporting Clinton appointees such as Neera Tanden and Wendy Sherman are certain to oppose — are incredibly mild, including echoing the international consensus in condemning the Israeli occupation. As the Israeli writer Noam Sheizaf put it this morning, the NYT’s use of scare quotes is “just as pathetic as the Democratic fear that their platform would actually say Palestinians deserve civil rights.”
This craven posture is particularly appalling as Israel just this week has . . .
Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani report in The Intercept:
Three professional influence peddlers, including a registered corporate lobbyist, have been chosen by Hillary Clinton and Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., to serve on the committee responsible for drafting the party’s platform.
The 15-member panel has six members chosen by Clinton, five chosen by Bernie Sanders and four chosen by Wasserman Schultz.
Wendy Sherman and Carol Browner, two of the representatives chosen by Clinton, work at the Albright Stonebridge Group, a “government affairs” firm that was created in 2009 through a merger with Madeleine Albright’s consulting company and Stonebridge International, a defense contractorlobbying shop.
The website for the company touts its ability to win favors and influence with government officials throughout the world on behalf of corporate clients, from shaping regulatory standards in the U.S. for a European automotive business to engaging “with the highest levels of the Saudi government.” H.P. Goldfield, vice president at the firm, is a registeredlobbyist for the Saudi Arabian government.
The Albright Stonebridge Group did not respond to a request to provide a client list. But recent reports reveal that the firm has been tapped in recent months to work for Elliott Management, the hedge fund run by billionairePaul Singer, one of the most prolific donors to Republican Super PACs.
Sherman, who took a hiatus from her work at Albright Stonebridge to work at the State Department, filed an ethics disclosure in 2011 that revealed many of her former clients, including Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, Dow Chemical, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Wasserman Schultz appointed . . .
One is a lobbyist from Covington & Burley, Eric Holder’s firm before and after his stint as Attorney General.
This interesting piece by Benjamin Wallace-Wells in the New Yorker, which that our political leaders are devolving into a kind of titled aristocracy and royalty in the context, say, of the War of the Roses, during which great struggles were undertaken within the public on which party to support. And those leading the parties might be purely a fiction of position: the person designated to be “x”, but of course succession is never, as we’ve seen, certain. It’s going to make a fantastic miniseries by some future Shakespeare interpreting (and thus shaping) the preceding history of the culture. They have power, but otherwise they are placed by position and cultural role and family connections (just as with royalty and titled artistocrats) and so on. Looking at it from that perspective US political history since (say) 1932 has been extremely interesting.
Bill Moyers and Michael Winship write at Moyers & Company:
To paraphrase the words of that Scottish master Robert Burns, the best laid plans of mice, men — and women — go often astray, or “gang aft agley,” as they say in the Highlands. No one knows this better than Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Twice now, the flight of her presidential aspirations has been forced to circle the airport as other contenders put up an unexpected fight: In 2008, Barack Obama emerged to grab the Democratic nomination away and this year, although all signs point to her finally grabbing the brass ring, unexpected and powerful progressive resistance came from the mighty wind of the Bernie Sanders campaign.
Certainly, Hillary Clinton is angered by all of this, but the one seemingly more aggrieved — if public comments and private actions are any indication — is Democratic National Committee chair and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Hillary surrogate who takes umbrage like ordinary folks pop their vitamins in the morning.
As we recently wrote, “… She embodies the tactics that have eroded the ability of Democrats to once again be the party of the working class. As Democratic National Committee chair she has opened the floodgates for Big Money, brought lobbyists into the inner circle and oiled all the moving parts of the revolving door that twirls between government service and cushy jobs in the world of corporate influence.”
And that ain’t all. As a member of Congress, particularly egregious has been her support of the payday loan business, defying new regulations from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that would rein in an industry that soaks desperate borrowers. As President Obama said, “While payday loans might seem like easy money, folks often end up trapped in a cycle of debt.”
In fact, according to an article by Bethany McLean in the May issue of The Atlantic, “After studying millions of payday loans, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that 67 percent went to borrowers with seven or more transactions a year, and the majority of borrowers paid more in fees than the amount of their initial loan.”
A recent editorial in the Orlando Sentinel notes that 7 percent of Florida’s population “must resort to this predatory form of small-dollar credit – nearly the highest rate in the nation…” What’s more, “Based on a 14-day loan term, the typical payday loan… had an annual percentage rate of 278 percent. Many lenders advertise rates of more than 300 percent.” Let us repeat that slowly… 300 percent!
So why has Wasserman Schultz been so opposed to the CFPB’s proposed rules? She has said,“Payday lending is unfortunately a necessary component of how people get access to capital, [people] that are the working poor.” But maybe it has something more to do with the $2.5 million or so the payday loan industry has donated to Florida politicians from both parties since 2009. That’s according to a new report by the liberal group Allied Progress. More than $50,000 of that cash has gone to Rep. Wasserman Schultz.
But we digress. It’s the skullduggery going on within the Democratic Party establishment that’s our current concern and as we wrote in March, Rep. Wasserman Schultz “has played games with the party’s voter database, been accused of restricting the number of Democratic candidate debates and scheduling them at odd days and times to favor Hillary Clinton, andrecently told CNN’s Jake Tapper that superdelegates — strongly establishment and pro-Clinton — are necessary at the party’s convention so deserving incumbent officials and party leaders don’t have to run for delegate slots ‘against grassroots activists.’ Let that sink in, but hold your nose against the aroma of entitlement.”
Now Wasserman Schultz has waded into the controversy over what happened or didn’t happen last weekend when Sanders supporters loudly and vehemently objected to the rules at the Nevada State Democratic Convention. In truth, some behaved badly at the event and others made trollish, violent and obscene threats to Democratic state chair Roberta Lange via phone, email and social media. There’s no excuse for such aggressive, creepy conduct, and Sanders was quick and direct in apologizing for the behavior of the rowdies and bullies.
But there is a double standard at play here. Why, pray tell, shouldn’t the peaceful majority of Sanders people be angry at the slow-motion, largely invisible rigging of the political process by Wasserman Schultz and the Clinton machine — all for the benefit of Secretary Clinton?
Wasserman Schultz claims the party rules over which she has presided (and manipulated) are “eminently fair.” She told CNN on Wednesday morning, “It is critical that we as candidates, we as Democratic Party leaders, everyone involved needs to make sure that we can take all the steps that we need to, to ensure that the process is not only run smoothly but that the response from the supporters of both candidates is appropriate and civil.”
In response to the DNC chair’s remarks, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver talked to CNN, too, and said Wasserman Schultz had been “throwing shade on the Sanders campaign since the very beginning… Debbie Wasserman Schultz has really been a divider and not really provided the kind of leadership that the Democratic Party needs.”
The Nation’s Joan Walsh, a Clinton supporter critical of the Sanders campaign, concurs: “Once again, Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz escalated a conflict that she should have worked to defuse,” she writes. “… Wasserman Schultz is not helping her friend Hillary Clinton with her attacks on Sanders. Just the appearance of fairness can go a long way in assuaging worries about fairness. Wasserman Schultz’s defiant rebuke to the Sanders camp has made it worse.”
So, too, has her abolition of the restraints that had been placed on corporate lobbyists and big money — now they can write checks bankrolling what doubtless will be swank and profligate parties during this summer’s Democratic National Convention. At The Intercept, Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani report that a number of the members of the Philadelphia host committee “are actively working to undermine progressive policies achieved by President Barack Obama, including health care reform and net neutrality. Some… are hardly even Democratic Party stalwarts, given that many have donated and raised thousands of dollars for Republican presidential and congressional candidates this cycle.”. . .
To help Debbie Wasserman Schulz exit, make a contribution to the campaign of Tim Canova, her opponent in the Democratic primary.
Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:
Remember Harry Markopolos? That’s the tenacious financial expert that pounded on the door of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for years, providing it with detailed, written evidentiary support for the premise that Bernie Madoff, the respected former Chairman of the NASDAQ stock market, was running a massive Ponzi scheme. The SEC never confirmed the fraud before Madoff confessed as he ran out of money in December 2008 because it skipped the most basic of investigation techniques: it failed to verify if real stocks and bonds actually existed in Madoff’s client portfolios. They didn’t.
There’s a new Markopolos in town with that same brand of leave-no-stone-unturned tenacity and he has his sights set on the charity operations of Hillary and Bill Clinton, known as the Clinton Foundation and its myriad tentacles. Ortel’s actions come just as Hillary Clinton makes her final sprint for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States with Bill in tow as her economic czar. Like Markopolos, Charles Ortel does not mince words.
In a 9-page letter dated yesterday and posted to his blog, Ortel calls the Clintons’ charity the “largest unprosecuted charity fraud ever attempted,” adding for good measure that the Clinton Foundation is part of an “international charity fraud network whose entire cumulative scale (counting inflows and outflows) approaches and may even exceed $100 billion, measured from 1997 forward.” Ortel lists 40 potential areas of fraud or wrongdoing that he plans to expose over the coming days.
Like Markopolos, Ortel has an impressive resume. Ortel’s LinkedIn profile shows that he received his B.A. from Yale and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He previously worked as a Managing Director at investment bank Dillon Read and later as a Managing Director at the financial research firm, Newport Value Partners. In more recent years, Ortel has been a contributor to a number of news outlets including the Washington Times and TheStreet.com.
The charges being made by Ortel are difficult to dismiss as a flight of fancy because mainstream media has tinkered around the edges of precisely what Ortel is now calling out in copious detail.
In a 2013 New York Times article, “Unease at Clinton Foundation Over Finances and Ambitions,” reporters Nicholas Confessore and Amy Chozick hint that Hillary Clinton’s political operatives are occupying offices at the Clinton Foundation headquarters, writing that they “will work on organizing Mrs. Clinton’s packed schedule of paid speeches to trade groups and awards ceremonies and assist in the research and writing of Mrs. Clinton’s memoir about her time at the State Department, to be published by Simon & Schuster next summer.”
A June 2015 article in the Wall Street Journal by Kimberley Strassel stopped hinting and spelled it out boldly, calling the Clinton Foundation a “Hillary superPac that throws in the occasional good deed.” Strassel explained: . . .
Seth Abramson reports at Huffington Post:
For a full year — from early 2015 to early 2016 — Sanders supporters were told that superdelegates pick whoever they believe is the strongest general-election candidate.
They were told this, first and foremost, by the 359 superdelegates who endorsed Hillary Clinton before even a single American had voted. These superdelegates were making a clear statement about how their endorsement had been earned: not by popular votes or delegate counts, but by their own determination that Clinton had the best chance of all of her competitors — most of whom hadn’t announced their candidacies yet, by the way — of winning in November of 2016.
Thereafter, specific superdelegates came out to double down on this premise that superdelegates don’t choose a candidate based on votes or delegates but on electoral viability. For instance, earlier this spring Howard Dean took a lot of flak from progressives when he said that his assessment of a candidate’s likelihood to bring the Democrats victory in the general election would trump any other consideration.
That stinks, said Sanders supporters.
And they went on to make clear, through their candidate and otherwise, that they plan to overturn the superdelegate system as soon as they can — indeed in 2016, if possible.
They also said that, until superdelegates are eliminated, they’ll play by their rules.
What those rules state is this: if a front-runner emerges who’s unable to secure the Democratic nomination using pledged delegates alone — and note, it only takes 59 percent of the pledged delegates available to do so — superdelegates will choose a nominee based on their assessment of each candidate’s electoral viability.
Fine, said Sanders supporters.
And it was fine — for a while.
What happened next was that the Clinton campaign fell apart.
After winning more than 60 percent of the pledged delegates through March 1st, Clinton is now likely to lose the majority of pledged delegates awarded between March 2nd and June 14th — a two and a half month period that makes up roughly the final two-thirds of the Democratic nominating process.
But it isn’t just this — as striking a fact as it is — that has caused real concern about whether Clinton can win in the fall. It’s also that Clinton’s unfavorables have risen to historic levels; that Clinton performs consistently worse than Sanders against Donald Trump in both general election and battleground-state polling; that there are states (for instance, Georgia, Arizona, and Ohio) that polling shows Sanders would win and Clinton would lose in the general election, along with many others (among them New Hampshire and Pennsylvania) where Clinton is in a dead heat with Trump and Sanders wins handily; that Clinton loses independent voters to Trump while Sanders wins them overwhelmingly; that Clinton can’t draw crowds with even a fraction of the numbers or energy that Sanders’ crowds routinely have; that Clinton isn’t considered nearly as honest or trustworthy as Sanders, according to every poll of voters; and that a movement candidate will be needed to defeat Donald Trump, whereas, instead of a movement candidate, what Clinton is giving the Democrats is Al Gore 2.0.
The problem, in sum, is that Clinton is looking like a clear November loser, and Sanders a probable November winner.
That Sanders is likely to win the two-thirds of the Democratic primary that comes after Super Tuesday is just one piece of this larger picture.
The point is, both Sanders and his supporters believe they have successfully made the case that his electoral viability in November exceeds Clinton’s — and if you look at the hard data relevant to that question alone, it’s hard to argue that Sanders and his supporters don’t have the better argument to make on this score.
What happened next is that the DNC, with the collusion of the corporate media, changed all the rules.
Ignore what we said in 2015 and as late as February of this year, the media and the DNC told Sanders and his supporters. When we said superlative electoral viability was the gold standard for securing a superdelegate’s vote at the Democratic National Convention in late July — assuming no one has clinched with pledged delegates alone — what we meant was that if Clinton is leading in votes and delegates on June 7th, all of her opponents must shut down their campaigns immediately and endorse the Secretary forthwith. Why? Because that’s what Hillary did in 2008, and you have to do whatever Hillary did in 2008.
There is (these scions condescendingly assured Sanders’ millions of supporters) no June-to-mid-July process in which a candidate makes his or her pitch to superdelegates either face-to-face or telephonically, as we told you there was; there is, in fact, no ongoing discussion about electoral viability at all, come to think of it. Didn’t we tell you all along that whoever was leading in votes and delegates on June 7th would be immediately declared the winner of the Democratic nomination, and that superdelegates simply rubber-stamp the election results, whatever they may be?
No, that’s not what you said.
And that’s not what you said in 1984 when you created superdelegates, either.
In 1984, . . .
Debbie Wasserman Schulz, head of the DNC, is a terrible person, but she has a good opponent in her primary, Tim Canova. I urge you to contribute to his campaign and rid the Democratic Party of DWS.