Notes on the TPP.

The TPP was written in complete secrecy by corporate CEOs and their lawyers, along with official governmental trade negotiators, over a five year period. The trade negotiator for the US is Michael Froman. He served in the Treasury Dept under Bob Rubin within the Clinton administration, during which time the Glass-Steagall Act was overturned, leading directly to the conditions giving rise to the economic meltdown years later.  After that gig, he and Rubin both went to work for Citigroup (big bank and hedge fund a-go-go). In 2013, he became our trade negotiator. I mention this because it’s relevant that our trade negotiator is a big bank guy who worked for one of the banks that helped tank the economy in ’08.

Obama signed the TPP in Feb. this year, as did all the leaders of the 12 signatory nations. None of them, however, has gotten the deal ratified in their countries yet; i.e., the TPP has not been passed through the parliaments or Congresses of any of the 12 nations yet and so has not legally gone into effect.

They have 2 years to ratify the TPP. If it isn’t ratified by Feb 2018, they can put it into force with only 6 countries participating, if the GDP of those 6 countries combined equals 85% of the GDP of the original 12 countries.

The TPP includes an ISDS [investor-state dispute settlement] mechanism. This clause allows a company to sue a treaty-participating country for monetary damages if local laws affect their business. It does not allow them to make changes to local laws, but it does allow them to sue a government for “damages”. The ISDS is run by a tribunal of 3 judges: all of whom are corporate heads, chosen by a panel of big corporations. It has been pointed out that previous trade agreements with an ISDS clause have pushed participating countries to loosen environmental and labor regulations in an effort to preemptively stave off potential lawsuits under ISDS, thus inherently influencing which laws are passed or altered by signatory countries.  It is the ISDS that ensures an end to our national sovereignty, as if the TPP even without it, weren’t bad enough. Any member of Congress that votes yes for this trade agreement and the president that signs it into law is committing treason, in my opinion.

While the ISDS clause cannot forcibly change US laws, some US laws will need to be changed in order to comply with the TPP itself. Obama had the duty (signed into law with the passage of the “Fast-track” bill; aka the Trade Promotion Authority or TPA) of working with the heads of the various US agencies (Dept of Ag, Commerce Dept, Treasury Dept, OSHA, etc.) to create a list of which laws would need to be altered, and to present this list to Congress at the same time the TPP is formally presented to them for vote. Obama signed an executive order in July handing this duty over to Michael Froman (our trade representative). We will find out what laws have been changed if/when Congress votes yes on the TPP. Congress can only vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the TPP and its attached list of regulatory changes; they are not allowed to amend, filibuster, debate, add to, delete from, or alter any text at all.

Which means that any politician (like Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid) who suggests that the TPP can “be improved” by Congress before it is passed is lying through his teeth. Congress cannot change a word of the TPP. Any improvements that Congress might want to suggest before they would pass the damned thing would necessitate the renegotiation of the agreement with the other countries. (Congress cannot amend the text themselves, but they might, behind the scene so to speak, suggest changes that would ensure passage.) In other words, if Congress says they want x,y, or z clauses to be changed, the TPP has to be re-presented to all the countries with the alterations and the whole negotiation started over again, with the leaders of these countries having to sign a new agreement and presenting that new one to their parliaments for ratification. Obama wants this thing done before he leaves office, so it’s unlikely he would consider any recommendations from Congress that would cause the TPP to have to go into renegotiation. And when Clinton makes breezy promises to “improve” it when she is the president, she is eliding the fact that any improvements she might want will likewise send the agreement into renegotiation. (Remember, the countries only have 2 years to ratify the TPP through their parliaments, so there is little time to negotiate a new treaty.)

The “fast-track” bill that Congress wrote and passed and that Obama signed into law last year has its own stipulations that the media has chosen to completely ignore. This bill governs how Congress votes on any trade agreements for the next 6 years. It reads that Congress can only vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on any of these agreements without debate, alterations, or amendments, as I mentioned above. I also mentioned that it made the president responsible for telling Congress of any changes to our existing laws that have to occur to comply to the agreements (a duty that Obama handed off to Froman).

In case you think I am inventing the idea that some of our laws will require alteration or amendment (or, in fact, to be overturned altogether) with passage of the TPP, it is quite obvious that this is the case, as the Fast-track bill includes these paragraphs:

“if changes in existing laws or new statutory authority are required to implement such trade agreement or agreements, only such provisions as are strictly necessary or appropriate to implement such trade agreement or agreements, either repealing or amending existing laws or providing new statutory authority.[…]”


“within 60 days after entering into the agreement, the President submits to Congress a description of those changes to existing laws that the President considers would be required in order to bring the United States into compliance with the agreement.”

But there are further rules imposed by the fast-track law, and these are overarching requirements for any trade agreement for the next 6 years. Fast-track demands that no trade agreement can discourage or prejudice commercial activity between the US and Israel. It stipulates that trade agreements must discourage movements such as BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) against Israel. This “no-BDS” clause includes everyone; the definition is given thusly:

“Definition.–In this paragraph, the term ‘actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel” means actions by states, non-member states of the United Nations, international organizations, or affiliated agencies of international organizations that are politically motivated and are intended to penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories.”

This formal declaration against the BDS movement was included despite the fact that Israel is not a participating country in any of the troika of trade agreements potentially coming up for vote in the near future. [What I call the troika consists of the TTP, the TTIP, and TISA.]

Fast-track also puts an end to any notion that we will ever have the labeling of products like GMOs or nano-technology, as it includes the following, a provision that none of the trade agreements can include:

“unjustified trade restrictions or commercial requirements, such as labeling, that affect new technologies, including biotechnology; […]”

When Obama signed the fast-track bill into law, he also signed the updated TAA (aka the Trade Adjustment Assistance law). This bill acknowledges the fact that trade agreements cost the US millions of jobs and so Congress authorizes funds for the “re-training” of American workers who will need to find new jobs with which to support themselves. The TAA has existed for years, but was set to expire in 2015. Congress reauthorized the bill and increased the funding because they knew that the upcoming TPP would cost jobs. They had to pass the TAA in order to get the fast-track bill passed: Obama demanded both at the same time, as did members of Congress who otherwise opposed the fast-track legislation, specifically because they know the TPP, TTIP, etc. will lead to job losses. Some of them even said so out loud while debating the fast-track and TAA bills – that the TPP will cost the US several million jobs, which is a vast understatement, according to labor experts. In order to pass the TAA re-training bill, Congress scotch-taped it to the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a trade bill supported by the Congressional Black Caucus, to attract more yes votes. In the updated bill, Congress supplied the necessary $950 mm funding (their estimate of the minimum needed for worker re-training if the TPP passes) by cutting Medicare further. They extended the Medicare sequestration reductions – Medicare benefits have been cut repeatedly since Obama took office – through 2024 and reduced reimbursements for Medicare patients who are on dialysis for acute renal failure. If you are one of the Americans qualified to get “re-training” money to help you “upgrade your skills” so you can find a new job at McDonald’s or WalMart after the TPP erases your current job, thank an elderly dialysis patient. Oh, wait, you won’t be able to – they’ll all be dead. And by the way, the amount of money you’ll get from the federal government toward a “re-training” program is $1500. Good luck.

No-one in the media noted that while Congress was talking about how the TPP was a swell idea, so “wonderful” that they wanted (and got) the fast-track bill in order to get the TPP passed as quickly as possible when it comes to a vote, they were admitting within the body of a bill passed at the same exact time as fast-track that the TPP was going to cost US jobs. Obama’s trade-policy advocates say the TPP will create jobs at the same time they say it will cost jobs. Which is it?  According to them (depending on the day of the week and which shill they have talking about it for them that day), it will do both.  Let’s call it the “Vietnam War Theory of Economics and Job Growth”. This new economic theory is that jobs must be lost in order for jobs to be created, and that a “good” trade deal is one that will lead to lost jobs and lower wages, which then must be partially offset by more federal spending for the displaced work force (funded with the tried and true method of simply taking monies from another sector of the public sphere); said pool of “displaced workers” having been created by the government passing the trade agreement in the first place.

And the TPP is what Clinton calls the “gold standard” of trade agreements, at least until she decided she had to lie about her position on it in order to garner votes.  For some reason, we allow our votes to be heavily invested in outright political lies.

The TTIP and TISA, the other two trade agreements currently under negotiation, have the same issues that the TPP does, and while I am not going into the specific details of those two here, if they are signed and brought before Congress, they will also be enacted within the mandates of the fast-track law. Some good information about both can be found on wikipedia, and websites such as are doing an outstanding job of reporting on them.

The TPP and the other trade agreements aren’t about trade. Tariffs are already near zero. They are about giving big, multi-national corporations complete control of and power over judicial and legislative decisions in every country, as well as providing unlimited opportunities for corporate cartels to strip money from wages and reduce governmental spending on the commons.


Where’s the candidate?

A quick post.  Updated below.

With the election in less than a month, one would think the candidates would be really pushing the fundraisers and personal appearances at rallies, etc. Trump sure as shit is, and has descended so deep into sheer lunacy (despite his recent use of prepared teleprompter speeches; gotta wonder who wrote the latest screeds for him and how much they got paid for that crap) that there can be no doubt he is desperately hoping he loses this ridiculous burlesque.  I have maintained all along that he just wanted to say he could have won (or that he did win, but was cheated out of it), but that he doesn’t really want the job.  At this point, he is saying and doing things that are so outrageously, blindly ignorant for an adult – never mind for an adult running for president – that I stand by my other original belief: he is running not only as a kind of a joke, but to actively help elect Clinton.
He probably grouses to his wife in private (and for the life of me I can’t remember which woman calls herself the wife now – total blank on the name), “Jesus, can’t these idiots tell I want Clinton to have to carry this shitty country into the next decade? Why do they keep coming to these goddamned rallies? What have I got to do – foam at the mouth in public? Whip it out and take a piss right next to the freaking podium?”

But for some reason, Clinton has only one personal appearance scheduled between now and Oct 25th: she will appear at the next debate on Oct. 21. All the other fundraisers, rallies, and events on behalf of the Clinton campaign will feature other speakers. Maybe it’s getting too tedious to hide the fact that no-one shows up at her events. Maybe the poll numbers are so fictitious that they have decided to keep her hidden lest they lose control over the narrative. Maybe the hologram machine is in for repairs.  Maybe the fix is so hard-wired in and the result such a foregone conclusion at this point that there is no need to bother with the pretense any longer.

I can’t tell which of these misanthropes could have legitimately “won” the election, should the thing have not been so managed and manipulated from behind the scenes. The whole thing is so openly full of artifice and sham that no result will be verifiable whatever the “official” tally is. For what it’s worth, I have noticed that here in my state, there are ZERO yard signs for Clinton. I do see yard signs all over for Trump.  I haven’t seen any bumper stickers for either one, however.  I guess nobody supports either candidate enough to commit to a permanent defacement of his car. Yard signs can be tossed in the trash later. In comment sections at other sites, the same thing is noted: no signage for Clinton whatsoever. So who knows? The oligarchs want her in, so that will probably decide the thing.

The only way we would have to judge the validity of any numbers purported to be the election results would be via exit polling on election night, assuming the media is even capable of accurate reporting there. (Snort. The accuracy and truthfulness of the media has gone straight to hell right smartly in the last decade or two).  But the DNC doesn’t want to do exit polling any more.  I’ve never seen such a bullshit “election” in my life.  All the talk about the possible rigging of the election – done by Clinton’s people, if you listen to Trump, and done by the Russians, if you listen to Clinton – all the blather about security breaches and hacking has led the politicians to suggest that the Dept. of Homeland Security take over the voting process and to offer other such anti-democratic notions. I suspect the idea, on the whole, is to suggest in advance that the election results might be questionable so as to cover for any and all unexpected contingencies.  It sounds counter-intuitive – why would they hint that the election is riggable if they are the ones rigging it? – but in fact this gives cover for anything that happens and for whatever recourse proves to be “necessary” later on.  There are also the added benefits of confusion and uncertainty, perhaps even civil discord, that may result from a peculiar-looking election.

Nobody has pointed out that the voting machines do not interface with the internet (no, Russia cannot hack into the voting machines from afar), but that these voting machines do have vulnerability issues both in the factory before they are deployed and at the voting stations themselves, where they can be tinkered with to alter the results they report.  Oddly (or perhaps not so oddly), not one single politician has suggested that a simple paper receipt, printed at the time of voting and handed to the voter, detailing his choices that day, would provide not only a tally for the voter himself to immediately verify, but would be proof of the vote count should an official reconciliation later be required.  And please don’t tell me the voting machines could not have that capability; the local supermarket is able to give me a printed receipt itemizing all my purchases as soon as I pay for my groceries, and they are using a freakishly simple cash register as their technology.  

This is a sad end to the empire. I have known we were headed downhill since the 2000 election shit, but I never expected the final stages to be so depressingly stupid and so obviously corrupt. (Corrupt at every level, I mean, not just the election part.) The ignorance, though, the idiocy and relentless dreary mendacity of all parts of the system: the media, the politicians, the voters, the judicial system, the corporations, the elites….my God, I can hardly bear it. I knew it would not be fun. I didn’t think it would be so dismal and vapid.

And that’s all I have to say about this bleak spectacle for today.

As to the War-pig’s absence from even bothering to campaign for herself; I guess it’ll just remain one of life’s little mysteries.

Update:  Peter van Buren has a blogpost up this morning regarding the allegations of sexual assault coming out against Trump.  It’s an interesting article and raises some of the same questions I have had about this phenomenon.  

In addition to what van Buren writes, my own thoughts follow these lines: Who can explain Americans? These same “horrified and appalled” people regularly spend 15 bucks to see movies where they can enjoy, for their prurient viewing pleasure, much worse treatment of women, men, children and animals than what Trump is alleged to have done. They salivate over movies where people are blown up, dismembered, raped, and tortured. Only they aren’t horrified at the images they paid to see; they breathlessly await the sequels.

We have no end to the number of swinish males in our political, entertainment, and sports venues. Trump is a pig. Bill Clinton is a pig. Bill Cosby is a pig. Anthony Weiner is a pig. Etc. (Need I go on?  I can do this all day.)  

I’ve been surprised at the number of these abused-by-Trump women who are suddenly surfacing. They were adults when the alleged incidents happened, but they were all helpless at the time? Not a single one slapped his piggy face, kicked him in the nuts, or screamed “Get your hands off me!” or “Help!” at the top of her lungs to attract attention to his actions? Not a one filed a suit or told anyone right away? None of these reported occurrences includes any recitation of affirmative action taken by the women, which is very odd. I heard one story on a cable news show last night, where the woman claims to have been accosted by Trump in the first-class section of an airplane years and years ago. She said that he was groping and kissing her “for 15 minutes” while she “kept hoping that the stewardess or someone would show up”, but “no-one ever did”. (She was an adult at the time; all these women were, and that bears repeating. These weren’t helpless little children.) Nowhere did her story include anything suggesting she fought back, yelled for help, complained to the airlines later, or filed assault charges once the plane landed – she simply let him do it and just kind of quietly wished to herself that he’d knock it off or that a hero would magically swoop in and intervene. It’s supremely peculiar that none of these victims did anything at all, at the time or later, in her own behalf.

All that being said, here’s what gripes my old lady’s ass – women and girls still can’t walk about freely without worrying about being raped or attacked, even in these United States. We have to be alert to our surroundings in a way men don’t have to. Not that we’re in mortal danger every moment – I’m not saying that, and it would be ridiculous to suggest such a thing – but girls have to learn early that they better be in a group after dark and they should pay attention to what’s going on around them. It gripes me that our Congressmen and women (who are all “disgusted” by Trump) are busy trying to take away our right to choose and take away our insurance coverage for birth control. Or trying to take away birth control altogether. Or trying to force bullshit “abstinence only” sex-ed into the schools. That they are not supporting financial-aid programs for single mothers and are stripping aid in programs like WIC and SNAP. That they do support and allow the illegal bombing of people in countries all over the globe and that this kills a number of women and children (and, yes, men) every single fucking day. That they do support sanctions on multiple countries that result in the starvation and lack of medicines for women and children (and, yes, men) every single fucking day.  Perhaps Michele Obama, who is pleading with the country that our women and children be “protected from” the Predator Trump by voting for Clinton can enlighten us as to exactly how many women and girls were drone-bombed into the afterlife by her husband, or how many women were separated from their children for years after being incarcerated for minor drug offenses.

Vis a vis the two particular candidates in this cycle: each time the news airs a Trump sex story, they ought to also show the video of Hillary laughing like a demented ghoul when she found that her little “R2P intervention” in Libya resulted in the sodomizing, torture and assassination of Ghaddafi, who, no matter what sort of propagandized shit you may have heard and chosen to believe about him because you are a cretin and couldn’t be bothered to do your own research, was the leader of a sovereign nation. Neither the man nor the nation had threatened the US in any way, but Ghaddafi was assassinated and something like 50,000 Libyans were murdered by NATO forces and the “rebels” we armed and sponsored. She found that amusing and delightful. You ought to seriously consider her proclivities and inclinations along with Trump’s during these last few weeks.

Neither candidate is fit for any office.

Click on the highlight to read Peter van Buren’s article.


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Posted by on October 14, 2016 in elections


Into the ethical morass of the DNC.

In the “Oh, my God, how’d I miss this?” category:

Since the leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee proved that the DNC was unfairly biased against Sanders from the beginning, trying to undermine his bid for the Democratic nomination, and diverting funds to the Hillary Victory Fund at the expense of other Democrats (not only Sanders, but also the down-ticket Democratic hopefuls in Congressional races), a bunch of Sanders’ supporters and donors brought a class-action lawsuit against the DNC for bias and election fraud.  No-one wants to talk about what the emails actually said and proved, only that the DNC website was hacked into.  Nor does anyone want to talk about the obvious lack of complaint from the DNC about the authorship and contents of the emails: the DNC has not ever claimed that the emails are false or fraudulent or engineered.  Staff members of the DNC really did write these emails and they weren’t altered in any way.  However, despite media and political claims to the contrary, no-one is really sure who did the hacking, and there is certainly no proof it was the Russians.  One might wonder why they would bother anyway, and one might also take note of the fact that a hacker calling himself Guccifer 2 has taken credit, but that doesn’t stop Hillary Clinton and the media from blaming the Russians of this perfidy.  She wants a war with Russia in the worst way, going so far as to suggest in a recent speech that the hacking of that website, obviously run by staffers of dubious technical ability considering their poor security systems, deserves a military response.  Given that the US spies on the entire planet, hacks into the emails and listens to the phone conversations of everyone – ally and enemy alike – we should be careful what we consider grounds for military attack on another country.  Every country around the world would have a basis for bombing the US if hacking into websites is the litmus test.  

In any case, now the Sanders’ supporters bringing the lawsuit against the DNC have gotten a rebuttal from the DNC lawyers: the DNC has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit based on the “fact” that the Sanders’ supporters and donors “knew all along that the DNC was corrupt” and therefore they cannot sue.  Ipso facto, ad hominem, e pluribus unum, illegitimi non carborundum, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, amen.

Attorneys working for the Democratic National Committee are hoping a federal judge will throw out a lawsuit filed by a bunch of Bernie Sanders supporters who believe they got duped by the DNC.

‘The DNC was biased in favor of one candidate – Hillary Clinton – from the beginning and throughout the process,” the plaintiffs wrote in their original lawsuit.

The complaint, which was filed in federal court in Florida, alleges fraud, as well as negligence as it relates to a Russian Hack on the DNC server.  [Teri’s note: this so-far unproven claim is ubiquitous in the media.  Very shoddy reporting by every media outlet.]  The Bernie backers contend that the trove of DNC emails posted by Wikileaks further proves that the Democratic Party was working against Bernie Sanders from the start.

However, in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed this week, attorneys with the DNC fired back. They believe that the lawsuit is completely without merit, and that the Bernie supporters are using “litigation as a political weapon against a national party (and to support their SuperPAC) in the middle of an election.” They also don’t believe the Bernie backers have standing to even bring the lawsuit.

The DNC attorneys also get a bit creative in their effort to get this lawsuit thrown out. They claim that all of the named plaintiffs already knew that the DNC was biased  when they donated — so therefore how could they have been duped if they knew? We are not joking, that was one of their actual claims in the motion to dismiss. […]

source: lawnewz


And here we have the start of a whole new meme; the Hillary Clinton Defense. “Everyone knew all along the Foundation was pay-to-play. You can’t impeach me over it now!”  “The voters knew all along I was lying about the TPP. They can’t accuse me of bait and switch now that I am signing it into law.”  “Everyone knows that Bill and I offered Lynch and Comey some juicy positions in exchange for not indicting me on the email thing. What did you think that meeting on the tarmac was for? You can’t call it corruption now; you knew what we were doing when we did it right in front of your stupid faces and you didn’t call it corruption then!”

We can have a growth cottage industry of lawyers working for people who need to use the Hillary Clinton Defense. People who feel they shouldn’t be sued for vehicular manslaughter because everyone could see they were bad drivers. People who shouldn’t go to jail for peeping tom charges because it should have been obvious to everyone in the neighborhood that they were a tad on the freaky side. Etc.

I’m having some trouble digesting this defense from the DNC – you can’t sue us for corruption because everyone knows we were corrupt anyway. This is the bottom of the barrel in defenses, as near as I can tell.  God, life is a wonderment, ain’t it?  Especially on the way down to banana republic status.

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Posted by on October 3, 2016 in elections, Russia


Sorry, Hillary. The Constitution doesn’t work that way.

This morning, I had an email in my in-box suggesting that I thank Hillary Clinton for her pledge to introduce, within the first 30 days of taking office, an amendment to the constitution which would overturn the Supreme Court’s disastrous 2010 “Citizen’s United” decision.  This decision by the Court declared that money is the same as speech and allowed unlimited corporate spending in elections, releasing a veritable flood of political bribe money into election contests at every level.

The email piqued my interest, as Clinton is vowing here to help overturn a decision that has benefitted her enormously.  It seems obvious political pandering.  Why would she swear to turn off the spigot that has brought her loathsome self so close to winning the White House?

I decided to verify that she had actually made this statement; not because it is such a remarkably risible promise, which it is, but because I immediately realized that as president, Clinton could do no such thing.

She did, in fact, make these remarks to Netroots Nation audience via a video message.  From the transcript:

[…] Now, I know many of the people in this room supported Senator Sanders in the primary. I’m looking forward to hearing from you, learning from you and working with you.

You’ve helped put political and campaign finance reform at the top of the national agenda, and I intend to keep it there.

Today I’m announcing that in my first thirty days as President I will propose a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and give the American people — all of us — the chance to reclaim our democracy.

I will also appoint Supreme Court justices who understand that this decision was a disaster for our democracy, and I will fight for other progressive reforms including small dollar matching and disclosure requirements.

I hope some of the brilliant minds in this room will seek out cases to challenge Citizens United in the courts because I know I can’t do this alone. We need you to keep speaking out keep organizing and keep holding elected officials — including me — accountable.

We know what happens when progressive voices get drowned out by the other side, and we cannot let that happen, so I’m looking forward to fighting alongside you and with Senator Sanders in the weeks months and years to come because you know what we are stronger together. Thank you all very much.

After all the questionable tactics used by the DNC, the voting “irregularities” (ahem), the bizarre and entirely inappropriate, extrajudicial Comey decision [not to recommend indictment for her illegal email system] that shoe-horned Clinton into the position of being the presumptive Democratic nominee, it’s swell to hear that she would like to give the American people ,”all of us – the chance to reclaim our democracy”.  Sure, now that you are a breath away from the Oval Office, you’ll let us have some of that imagined democracy back.  Well, that remains to be seen.  We still have to contend with the Diebold machines, voter ID laws, and gerry-rigged districts in November.  But the thought has to count for something, doesn’t it?  I really like the “we know what happens when progressive voices get drowned out by the other side,” too; she takes a moment here to crow about what she and the DNC just did to Sanders and his progressive supporters. Yeah, Hillary, we know what happens when you drown the progressives.  We just watched you do it.

Most Americans, no matter their political leanings, deplore the Citizen’s United decision.  And so her promise to commit herself to proposing a constitutional amendment to reverse it is being greeted with unabashed enthusiasm.  The website where I found the above transcript is a typical example.  The author closes with this: 

“This is great news. Our thanks to Hillary Clinton for committing to explicitly offer a constitutional amendment to stop the flood of big money in elections unleashed by the most disastrous decision of the Roberts Court.

“However, we do need more than an amendment that merely reverses that decision. We need an amendment that states that corporations are not people and money is not speech. There are other Supreme Court decisions that also need to be overturned, so that our democracy can endure.”

Poor thing actually seems to think that not only can the president offer an amendment, s/he can simply overturn Supreme Court decisions at will.  However, while all such sentiments may be heartfelt and sincere, I have to point out that Clinton cannot really do any such thing as “offer a constitutional amendment” and the progressive community is enabling her continued misinformation when they praise her for a promise she cannot legally fulfill.  She may even be aware of this herself.  Note this part of her remarks: “I hope some of the brilliant minds in this room will seek out cases to challenge Citizens United in the courts because I know I can’t do this alone.”

Damn straight you can’t do it alone.  She was either aware at the time she made “the vow” that she could not as president ever fulfill it, and therefore was simply making another empty political promise or she has no idea what the constitution allows on the matter of amendments.  In any case, one might note that “challenging it in the courts” is not at all the same thing as “proposing a constitutional amendment”, but I guess everyone was so thrilled with the idea that Clinton was going to amend the constitution once she was enthroned that they didn’t catch the nuance there.  Nor can she “appoint” Supreme Court justices, words she uses in her video message; she can only nominate them for Congressional approval.

The president (and the Supreme Court, as well, by the way) has no role in amending the constitution. None whatsoever.  The president cannot propose an amendment, author an amendment, introduce an amendment, ratify an amendment, veto an amendment, or “call for” an amendment, and furthermore, is not even called upon to sign one into law, should it get that far.  A couple of successful amendments have been signed by the sitting president, but that is for ceremonial purposes only.  At most, a president can only kind of politely suggest to members of Congress, behind the scenes, that they accept or decline a particular proposal.  The constitution is clear about the lack of any other role for the president in this instance.

Article V
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

To put this into very understandable language for the layman, I found this simple explanation of the way it happens:

Given the enormity of the role modern American presidents play in contemporary politics, it may come as a surprise that presidents are not directly involved in amending the U.S. Constitution. While they can use the bully pulpit to lobby for or against a proposed amendment, and while some presidents have played ceremonial roles in signing ratified amendments, they cannot introduce, ratify or veto an amendment. The Constitution leaves that role to the U.S. Congress and the states.[…]

A constitutional amendment may be proposed in two ways: either by a two-thirds-majority vote of both houses of Congress, or through a constitutional conventional called for by three-fourths of state legislatures. The latter has never been used. Congress proposes an amendment through what is called a joint resolution; unlike bills passed by Congress, these resolutions do not require the president’s signature.

The States’ Consideration
After a joint resolution passes Congress, it is sent to the Office of the Federal Register for official publication. Then, it is sent to each state’s governor, who in turn submits it to the legislature for consideration. In one case, the 21st Amendment, state conventions, rather than legislatures, were called upon to approve the amendment. Three-fourths of state legislatures must ratify the amendment for it to go into effect. […]

After three-fourths of the states ratify a constitutional amendment, it is sent to the National Archives for official certification. The certification signing has become a ceremonial event attended by dignitaries, including the president. Presidents may also sign the certifications as witnesses, as President Lyndon Johnson did with the 24th and 25th amendments, and President Richard Nixon did with the 26th Amendment.

Whatever Clinton does or does not understand about the law, and I submit that her valiant attempts to obfuscate her willful breaking of the law show at least a working knowledge of the laws of the land, the public must inform themselves as well as they can.  Empty, meaningless rhetoric and indulgence of the wishful thinking of the voters should be met with information and skepticism, not praise.  Promises made by Clinton in particular should be treated for their worth: a bucket of warm spit.

The email issue alone should have proved to everyone Clinton’s immense distain for the law.  FBI director James Comey presented an air-tight case for conviction and then declined to recommend indictment, basically offering stupidity as her defense.  He went on at length about her intent, or lack thereof, to break the law, although “intent” is not mentioned in the laws in question and is normally not something considered in seeking indictment.  Her intent is obvious in any case.

She decided to use a private server and a personal email system to circumvent the required State Dept. system.  In fact, it came out in Comey’s hearing before Congress that she had used multiple such systems.  She hid this from officials for years, even after leaving the State Department, and lied to Congress about it.  When caught, she deleted tens of thousands of emails and had the server scrubbed.  She had access to highly classified information and allowed it to be removed from its secure custody (the State Dept. secured system) and sent it to people not authorized to have it.  She knowingly mingled State Dept. business with Clinton Foundation [Clinton Global Initiative] business.  She instructed her aides and employees to protect her emails from FOIA requests.  Clinton didn’t even have her system password-protected, and was warned several times by her IT staff that they thought it had been hacked.  Since then, she has lied repeatedly to the public about all aspects of this criminality.  How is any of this anything but proof of willful intent?

Don’t people realize that she destroyed pretty much the entire record of four years of the Secretary of State?  We will never know how much of what should have been public archive has thus been lost, as the thorough scrubbing of her system means it cannot ever be restored.

Comey tried to play Pontius Pilate and absolve himself of participation in this affair by admitting during the Congressional hearing that he had not personally been present when the FBI questioned her; instead, he had relied on the notes and recommendation of the FBI underlings who had been there to make his decision for him.  His disinterest in personally taking part in what was perhaps the most important and historic interview the FBI ever conducted is as inexplicable as the Bill Clinton/Loretta Lynch serendipitous and “accidental” meeting on the tarmac just days before the interview itself.

I recently read that when asked, Clinton said she would not suspend the activities of the Clinton Foundation while in office (‘should she win’, she did not think to add).  She did promise, however, that there will more “transparency” in its operation. Imagine the coin to be made while she is actually in office; it’s going to make what they’ve taken in bribes so far look like petty cash.  

Well, why not? None of these assholes care if everyone knows what they are doing any more. They know there’s nothing we can do about it.  Too bad it appears that the Clinton Foundation will not be getting the scrutiny it calls for.  That is where a real investigation should be launched and continued for as long as it takes to untangle the pay-to-play scheme that is involved.  In the meantime, she should be ineligible for any public office.  Her engineering the utter destruction of Libya makes her a war criminal and should be sufficient to bar her from the presidency, but we have long since completely ended any pretense of following international norms, much less our own laws.

Oh, and the Goldman Sachs speeches, another minor pimple on her ass – hell, I’m just waiting to hear how much she is going to charge the tax-payers for her State of the Union speeches.

All that is apparently forgotten by the media, and we will soon hear an eager Elizabeth Warren, champion de-jour of all things labeled “progressive”, cheering for this amendment-by-presidential-fiat thing.  

Elizabeth Warren as “progressive” is an entity entirely fabricated by the media, of course. The stances she took on various issues were clearly outlined by her on her website when she was first running for US Senate. Apparently no-one bothered reading the damn thing and instead relied on the media’s “interpretation” of her positions. At the time of her running for Senate, she offered, on every single issue, a policy statement that read as though it had come straight out of the PNAC [Project for a New American Century] playbook.

Her statements about Israel (fiercely Israel-first and anti-Palestinian), Iran (rabidly Iranphobic, even going so far as to say that Iran “must not have an escape hatch”), homeland security (all aspects of which she enthusiastically endorses as “necessary” in the “fight against terror”), etc. are completely in line with every repulsive neoliberal, hawkish, projecting our power abroad, AIPAC-inspired statement made by far-right politicians for years, and now parroted by supposed “democrats” and “liberals” such as Clinton and Obama.

The fact that she has now decided to become Clinton’s purse-pet, the yappy little doggie that rich girls carry around in their over-sized pocketbooks, is not surprising.  She may like to be portrayed as a political naif, but she sure picked up the politician’s unerring ability to kiss the ass of power very quickly.

And there is Sanders.  Despite once ardently stating that Clinton was “not qualified to be president”, Bernie has now officially endorsed her and dropped his campaign.  

Yes, I know he promised long ago to endorse “whomever the eventual Democrat nominee turns out to be”; which should have been a signal that he didn’t think it would be himself.  Bear in mind that Clinton may be the presumptive nominee, but she is not the actual nominee yet, and won’t be until the delegates vote on the convention floor.  He needn’t have endorsed her until the convention.

He promised to “take it to the convention”. His endorsement before the convention may have early fulfilled his promise to Clinton and the DNC (to endorse the nominee), but he reneged on the one he made to the voters.

Then, as some sort of really sucky consolation prize, he promised his supporters he would work to make the DNC platform more “progressive”.  But the Clinton camp voted down all of his planks and what we are left with is basically a Republican platform with some Democratic-sounding civil rights’ platitudes thrown in.  So Sanders got nothing in the way of concessions, but vowed he would fight for more progressive ideals to be added to the platform while he was attending the convention. This is where the platform becomes the Official Platform via delegate voting.  Except – pretend to be surprised – he is not going to do that either.

“Party rules empower Sanders, who endorsed Hillary Clinton Tuesday, to try to force votes at the Philadelphia convention on proposed planks that failed to muster the necessary votes at a Platform Committee meeting last weekend in Orlando.

“But Sanders has decided against using the so-called minority report process, the senator’s top policy aid informed allies Tuesday. […]”

Well, clarity is a good thing, isn’t it?  So now at least we know where we stand.  Hint: we got nothin’.  Diebold will handle the race from here on out.

And now Sanders has the “honor” of being “allowed” to speak at the Democratic Convention.  He is scheduled for the first night, no doubt so that everyone will forget what he had to say by the time the event comes to a conclusion.  The message is a clear, “Thanks for coming.  Now, don’t let the door hit your old ass on the way out, you hear?”   His staff remarked, however, that “nothing is set in stone”; what that means is anyone’s guess.   Maybe he won’t speak at all, or maybe he will end up being Clinton’s VP pick and speak on the second-to-last night, the traditional night for the vice presidential pick to give a speech.  That would be the final sellout to Bernie voters; their guy giving up his seat in the Senate to become a useless toadie in the Clinton White House.

On Thursday, the final night of the convention, we get the really big show.  That’s when the (by then official) nominee gets to speak.  This year, not only will Clinton be speaking on Thursday, but we will also be administered the extra-special torture of having to endure a speech from her daughter Chelsea as part of the denouement to the festivities.  I’m sure everyone involved is hoping the teleprompter will scroll slowly enough for her to keep up with it.  I’m hoping it will simply read, “I am the Odious Queen War-pig’s royal offspring, and I will see you in 4 to 8 years if we can keep this con going that long, and thank you for coming.”  And then she will exit the stage.

On the other side, we have Trump.  A cretin and TV reality star, who beat out a couple of football teams’ worth of notably horrible and repugnant candidates to become his party’s nominee.  His belonging to the wealthiest class in America doesn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm of his “fans”, as he calls them; they are oblivious to the inherent mockery of his entire campaign.  He should have picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate.  That would have created some jobs; we’d need oracles to interpret the stream-of-consciousness ramblings emanating from the White House. I suspect he is running simply to assure the presidency for Clinton.

Clinton and Trump are rightfully the most reviled candidates ever to run for president.  Clinton is the first candidate in US history to be under active criminal investigation while running for president.  More and more people are coming to the decision to either vote for third-party candidates or to refuse to vote at all.  Two extraordinarily wealthy grifters, at least one of whom willfully broke the law while serving in high office, two idiots, one who wants to nuke ISIS (and thus the entire Middle East) and reinstate torture, and one who wants to expand the current (and illegal) war zones into Russia, Syria, and Iran.  That’s what we have to chose between.  Hope you weren’t planning on having time to spend whatever is left in that retirement account – we aren’t looking at very good odds on your being around to cash it out.  But no matter who wins the election or what happens as a result, they can’t blame the voters for it.  When given this sort of appalling choice and the open rigging of the primaries, the voters cannot be blamed for just walking away.

Hey, on a positive note, if Clinton wins, she’ll get the rap instead of Bernie for the economy continuing to rot, the environmental disasters looming ahead, the treasonous TPP trade agreement, and the next iteration of the Long Wars. Hope she enjoys the hell out of being in the WH again; couldn’t happen to a person who deserves the wrath of the people more.

Fake candidates making false statements, running in a faked election, with totally sham media coverage, in a country falsely claiming to be the face of democracy, while it perpetrates illegal, false wars on fake enemies it created, running its economy on fraudulent paper: nobody should be surprised when this tent folds.

This is not going to end well; no matter who “wins” the election, everyone across the globe loses. This time around, the oligarchs don’t care if the losers include us Americans; surely we all realize by this juncture that we are no longer the ‘exceptional ones’ to the people who run this country.

It’s time to think of your own survival. Time to plant your own garden, flee the system to the extent that you can, tend to yourself and your family.  Don’t add to anyone else’s difficulties.  Be a good human.  

Here is some inspiration for you.  It’s all I have to offer right now.  

[…] You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

[…] And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

[…] Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”

And I have this: “Woodstock”.  Written by Joni Mitchell and included on one of her albums, but the most popular version, as below, was performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

Well, I came upon a child of God.
He was walking along the road.
And I asked him, Tell me, where are you going?
This he told me:

Said, I’m going down to Yasgur’s Farm
Gonna join in a rock and roll band.
Got to get back to the land and set my soul free.

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Well, then can I roam beside you?
I have come to lose the smog,
And I feel myself a cog in somethin’ turning.
And maybe it’s the time of year
Yes, and maybe it’s the time of man
And I don’t know who I am
But life is for learning.

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

By the time we got to Woodstock,
We were half a million strong
And everywhere was a song and a celebration.
And I dreamed I saw the bomber death planes
Riding shotgun in the sky,
Turning into butterflies
Above our nation.

We are stardust, we are golden
We are caught in the devils bargain
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

This video contains footage from the actual Woodstock event and also has a little added verse (from another Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song) at the end.

[Note: this post dedicated to my golden brah, who has fled the system and is showing me by his concrete example how to get back to the garden.]



This is for posterity.

Now, if this isn’t just the epitome of Current America.  Illegally turn the city over to an unelected “manager” in a replacement coup of their elected mayor.  Privatize the water system. Don’t monitor said water system.  Find out, belatedly, but after being warned several times, that the water is toxic.  Cover up the facts until people are turning up sick, brain-damaged or dead.  Blame it on A) the Democrats, B) the Republicans, C) anyone no longer in office, D) the janitor, E) God, or F) the impoverished poor people who didn’t (i.e., couldn’t) pay their exorbitant water bills from the price-gouging private company and who therefore deserved what they got.  This is just the invisible hand of the market at work, or some such eternal and bright capitalistic truth, right?  Here are a couple of hard and real truths for you: it is unlikely the people who inflicted this on the public in Flint will ever pay any legal price for it.  It is inconceivable that any of them actually care about the matter, although they may mumble some platitudes about how unacceptable it all is, as though they had no idea how this whole thing happened; if they cared about what sort of crap was flowing from the faucets of the city, they would never have made the decisions they did.  And here’s the saddest truth: the people who have been harmed by the water system are utterly dependent on the ones who let it happen in the first place to find a solution.

However, we can now use this as a teaching moment for these poor young ones so they will learn how to use their new free water filters, which they are going to need for the rest of their lives whether they are living in Michigan’s Dead Zone or some other pit of hell carved out specially for them elsewhere in the nation, because they aren’t ever going to get anything better than toxic waste to drink no matter where they are corralled by the assholes in charge, and it is damn near impossible to get out of one of these poverty pockets once you’ve accidentally landed in one.  They can’t even legally sell their homes and try their luck elsewhere, assuming there was an elsewhere to go to; Michigan law is such that a person can’t sell a home knowing that there is no drinkable water running from the taps.  But apparently, yeah, what all God’s children in Flint (and Detroit and elsewhere) need right now is just a little instruction on how to use those fucking water filters and a lesson about the water cycle.  What you never want to talk about – or for them to learn about – is how democracy is supposed to work and how it has been subverted all over the country by corporate interests and toady politicians, or how the EPA, the USDA, and other protective agencies used to be funded and run, or how this shit never had to happen to them in the first damn place.

Oh, and this is an opportunity to collect artifacts from this historic event.  Don’t want to be last in the game of collecting and collating details on how America killed its own.

I wonder how those babies, black and white, will one day feel about being living “artifacts” while they were growing up in the fetid swamp of this new experimental system of governance where privatization and austerity, controlled by corporate interests and imposed by fiat coming from the very officials who are charged with holding the common good in trust, took their futures away from them.   Maybe they should talk to the American Indians about how it feels to be viewed as part of the historical record of artifacts being gathered even as they are struggling to deal with the events, which are still occurring at ground zero.  Maybe the museum holding this event should ask the descendants of the Tuskegee men if their grandfathers might have felt better about the whole thing if only someone had just thought to accumulate and collate the medical artifacts for the public’s perusal while they were still being experimented on.  (Seriously, what the hell is wrong with this country?)

Maybe the curators of this museum event can start some other collections to document life downwind and down-river from one of the 100 nuclear plants around the US – hey, the people living near Hanford and Indian Point have some stories to share.  The museum officials already missed their chance to compile information on what normal human health was prior to the global take-over of the agricultural systems by the companies that are testing their unproven hypotheses about the safety of genetic modification throughout the food chain and saturating everything with toxic chemicals along the way, as well as destroying any nutritional value that was previously available in these foods.  [Here I must give a shout-out to the Clintons and the Gates, the two families who have done more than anyone else, in joint effort with the GMO companies themselves, to inflict this particular form of mass health speculation on the human beings trying to live on this planet.  Well done.  You have now reached what some individuals consider the peak position in the hierarchy of hominids.  You have become, in essence, the world’s apex predators – of your fellow men.  Some people actually admire that.]   I’ll tell you what: neither the museum curators nor the insurance company sponsoring this event will teach the right lessons for posterity to learn in this exercise, and they aren’t collecting the right “artifacts”, because this situation has fuck-all to do with the water cycle and really very little to do with the purity of the water from the nearby lakes and rivers, either.  It has everything to do with poverty, corrupt grifters acting as government officials, the weakening of whatever remains of any useful regulations, and the imposition of the profit-seeking private corporatocracy on a captive population.  The US takes puffy pride in its claim of equality for all, but here’s the thing; no-one whines that he isn’t equal to the poor slob on the bottom rung.  Everyone wants to be equal to the guy above him.  Our current social, political and economic systems reflect that.  So not much will be done to address the root causes of the water problem in Flint.  The best they can hope for is that the free water filters continue to come in and that those filters aren’t made by the same contractor that made the formaldehyde-laden trailers offered to the hurricane Katrina victims. Nothing will be done to ameliorate, much less correct, the grinding and dismal conditions for the poor in this “most equal” of countries. 

And I’m sure it is only moments before some politician or media asshole starts talking about how the people of Flint are getting too much free stuff in the way of those water filters and bottles of potable water.  That just smacks of socialism and the welfare state, after all, doesn’t it?

Children in Flint, Michigan can now visit the Sloan Museum for “Water Works” classes that teach them how to filter their drinking water. The museum is also compiling notes from the community on the lead-contaminated water crisis for future reflection.

As part of the “Water’s Extreme Journey” traveling exhibit, kids experience the water cycle “from the perspective of a water drop trying not to become polluted,” according to the museum’s website.

“One of the takeaways for the public should be that the health of the Flint River is actually quite good,” Exhibit Manager Warren Lehmkuhle said in a museum statement. “It was the lack of corrosion treatment, treatment that even lake water goes through, that caused the problem with our water.”

Students will be given the opportunity to construct and test their own filtration systems, as well as learn the whole history of Flint’s water systems going back as far as 1873. At the end is a comment board where residents can share their stories of how the water crisis impacted them. 

“I think we have a responsibility to document as much as possible now for future generations because, as with any kind of museum collecting, it is much easier to accumulate artifacts pertaining to current events now, rather than waiting 50 years when they are considered historic,” Curator of Collections Jeremy Dimick said in the statement. “If we do a good job collecting items and information now, the community will be better able to look back on the event 50 and 150 years from now.”

The exhibit, sponsored by local health care plan provider HealthPlus, opened on January 23 and ends May 8.

The city’s water source was switched from the Detroit system to the Flint River in 2014 without the proper follow-up of adding anti-corrosive agents, resulting in lead from pipes seeping into the drinking water supply. Research done in September 2015 by the Hurley Medical Center found that the average number of Flint children under the age of 5 with blood-lead levels considered too high by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had doubled since the switch.
The World Health Organization (WHO) lists reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), shortening of attention span, increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment as examples of brain damage children can face when exposed to lead. Other harmful effects include anemia, hypertension, kidney failure, damage to the immune and reproductive systems.

“The neurological and behavioral effects of lead are believed to be irreversible,” according to the WHO.

And when you residents of Flint leave your stories on the museum comment board about how the water crisis has affected you, please remember; this is for posterity. So, be honest. How do you feel?



The oligarchs are hosting an election.

The oligarchs and corporatocracy are hosting an election in the United States this year.  They have chosen the candidates, the issues to be discussed, the methods of voting, the perimeters of the voting districts, and dictated what the media will say about the event.  You, as a member of the “voting public”, are invited to attend the event or just watch from a distance.  It hardly matters, since it is unlikely the outcome depends upon your participation.

This week-end, the media is exclusively talking about, in exhausting and tedious interviews with “the experts”, the potential results of the Iowa caucuses; the first in our series of caucuses or primary elections (depending on the state) that will decide the nominees for the Democrat and Republican parties.  I wasn’t sure how a caucus worked as Maryland is a primary state, so I dug up some information on the subject.  Turns out it is a fairly useless procedure which actually goes on for months in caucus states, although the pundits only pay attention to the first round of the affair.  The fact that the way the public votes during this first of the series of caucuses may not be proportionally represented once the Dem. and Rep. delegates make it to the National Conventions to cast their vote for the nominee goes completely unremarked.  Everyone eligible to vote during the general election can go to the caucuses, which are held in school auditoriums, churches, or even private homes.  Well, assuming there is not a blizzard in Iowa that night, that you have a babysitter – these things take hours – that you aren’t sick and that you don’t have to work that evening. There are close to 1700 precincts in this first round of caucuses.  Usually only about 20% of the voters show up, and Iowa is not one of our more populous states in any case; these facts do not deter the “experts” from declaring that the Iowa caucuses are really, really, really important.  

So how do caucuses work?  Here’s the quick and dirty.  To start with, at the initial caucus, a delegate is chosen to represent the voting outcome at the next level of caucuses/conventions.  After the precinct caucus, there are the county conventions, the district conventions, the state convention and then the DNC or RNC national convention.  Are you beginning to get how silly it is to consider the first in this series of caucuses to be the most important?  The national committees of each of the two major parties decide the caucus rules, so how they are run differs.  The Republicans have a simple process.  First they say the Pledge of Allegiance.  Because, duh, they’re Republicans, and wherever two or more Republicans are gathered, there will be a flag and everyone will pledge to it.  Close scrutiny is given as to whether all those present appear sincere during the Holy Recitation.  [Aside: I always wondered about the idea of pledging to a flag rather than just the country, but that’s just me.  It appears that we are the only country that routinely uses a pledge like this, and certainly the only country which has schoolchildren doing a pledge of any sort, with the exception of North Korea, where the kids start their day pledging allegiance to their Dear Leader.  Originally, when Americans recited the pledge, people were expected to raise their right hands toward the sky while speaking, but after Hitler rose to prominence in Germany, that started to look, rather obviously, like the Heil Hitler salute, so the gesture was changed.]  Anyway, after reciting the pledge, the caucus-goers are treated to some speeches from someone or another.  Then they have a secret ballot where everyone writes down his/her choice for the nominee.  Some places use ballots, some just scraps of paper.  The votes are tallied and reported to the RNC.  Everyone goes home, except for the chosen delegate of that precinct and some party leaders, who shoot the shit a while longer.

The Democrats have a much more complicated system.  The voters arrive and are separated into groups depending on whom they support.  Then the various factions scream campaign slogans at each other, trying to convince anyone who doesn’t support their candidate to switch sides.  They throw water balloons at each other until a gong sounds, at which point, everyone scrambles for the limited number of seats available in the middle of the room.  Well, okay, I made up the part about the water balloons and the musical chairs, but the rest is pretty much correct.  After a designated time, people have to sort themselves out according to how they have decided to vote and a count is taken.  If the guy your side supports has less than 15% of the votes, he’s out.

If your guy has been tagged out for the rest of the game, you will then be harangued to join someone else’s group.  Eventually, someone calls a welcome end to this part of the process and a final tally is taken.  There is no secret ballot here: all your neighbors can see which group you are standing with.  The number of delegates to represent each candidate are chosen in proportion to the number of voters who chose him, and the delegates go on to the next round of caucuses at the county level, etc.   The delegates can switch their votes around to some other candidate at the later levels of caucus, and some delegates to the Democratic national convention are simply assigned by the DNC, so it would appear that there is absolutely no meaning in any of this.  For all I know, bags of money are left on doorsteps to convince the delegates to switch their votes later.

At both the Dem and the Rep caucuses, ties are sometimes settled by tossing a coin.  Maybe they should just start with the coin toss from the get-go.  If you want to read more about this stuff, you can go here:

For the rest of us, there are primary elections where people go into their polling place and cast a ballot.  A number of states don’t allow Independents to vote in the primaries, since they are used to vote for the Dem and Rep nominees.  Delegates to the Rep and Dem national conventions, where they will vote for the final candidate of each party, are supposed to be chosen in proportion with the voter’s choices, but here you run into the issue of the strange “electoral college” system we use.  No-one knows how it works.  It has appeared in past elections that the delegates can vote randomly or that their votes can be over-ridden by the national committees.  In any case, after all that hoopla, everyone goes on to the national elections to vote for a president.  At that point, you can vote for whomever you want, although there will be names on the ballot you don’t recognize because the media has never mentioned them.  You can hope the voting machines aren’t rigged at either the primary or the general election level, but chances are about equal that they are.

I mentioned that the caucuses use paper ballots or simply a head count, so you might think that those votes can’t be rigged; however, this year both parties have been given a free app from Microsoft so that party leaders can calculate the totals instantly and send them in to the press.  Thank you, Bill Fucking Gates!  You just never sleep, do ya?  Bernie Sanders, no dummy, is a mite suspicious about the motivation behind this free Gates swag offered to the process, and his team has built its own reporting system to verify the results.  

The 2016 election, no matter who “wins”, will have the intended effect of shooting the hostages.  Those hostages would be us; the workers slaving away to the rules written by the oligarchs and corporate cartels and never able to catch up, the people unlucky enough to be living in  oil- and resource-rich countries (including the US – we just haven’t glommed onto the fact yet that our resources are vastly more important to the elites than we are; a truth that we will only dimly perceive and that, way too late), and those who try to protest the alarming rise of Monsanto, Exxon, Goldman Sachs, et al, and protest their enablers in the various houses of governments around the planet.  The protesters will be silenced by any means the cartels deem necessary.  These huge corporations and the bankers are in control of not only our human activities, but the natural world as well, and whomever wins the presidential election is unlikely to stand up for us.  At the congressional level, it is certain that a mere handful of “our elected representatives” gives a damn about the “voters”.  They will sell us down the river, as they have done for a long time now.  No matter which nominal candidate wins, the cartels and warmongers will be the actual winners.  This is the final Great Taking, and they will have it all – the money, the assets, the lands, the resources – and we are expendable.

The situation is far simpler than the media pundits and self-proclaimed experts would have you believe.  We are in the middle of a class war.  The rich versus all.  There is a secondary class war; that of the middle class versus the poor, which has been strategically engineered by the elites for decades.  The middle classes are narrowing and are, on the one hand, being taught to believe that the poor are the enemy and are to be despised as lazy and useless; and on the other hand, convinced that one day, they too will make it to financial success.  Liberals want to pretend the class war between the middle class and the poor doesn’t exist, or that it all about race.  Conservatives push the narrative that there is no class war at all, that we can all be rich if we just work hard enough.  We could have had a national discussion about our poverty crisis, but Obama was probably the last chance we had at seeing that happen.  And he doesn’t seem to notice, much less care about the issue.  The Democrats in Congress have agreed to all the austerity measures put to a vote, and finished off 2015 by nodding to the virtual end the food stamps for the elderly and the disabled and lowering these benefits drastically for the poor; the Republicans never wanted anyone to have food stamps or such in the first place.

The statistics on food poverty in the US are really staggering.  We currently have the highest level of food insecurity since the 1970s.  We had almost entirely eradicated hunger in our country back then.  Right now, one in six Americans is going hungry every day, while 30% of Americans are described as “food insecure” – meaning they can’t guarantee they have a way to put food on the table.

The low interest rates imposed by our economic policies (decided by a bunch of former big bank executives in cooperation with the private Fed) has resulted in zero interest income for Americans who try to save some money, and the same zero interest is realized on the skimpy retirement funds older people may have set aside.  Congress has basically done away with the annual cost of living increases given to those living on social security by using fake numbers for the rate of inflation. 

Only two of the candidates, Sanders and strangely, Trump, talk about unemployment.  The real unemployment rate, if it were to be accounted for accurately, would be around 25%, not the 5% currently claimed by the Labor Department.  Wages have been stagnant for decades, and according to the last Oxfam report, “the 62 richest billionaires now own as much wealth as the poorer half of the world’s population.”  Just wait until the TPP trade agreement and the wonders of automation, technology, and robotics strips what’s left of the jobs right out from under our feet.  As economist Michael Whitney said:

[…] Obama and the Republican-led Congress have done everything in their power to keep things just the way they are by slashing government spending to make sure the economy stays weak as possible, so inflation is suppressed, the Fed isn’t forced to raise rates, and the cheap money continues to flow to Wall Street. That’s the whole scam in a nutshell: Starve the workerbees while providing more welfare to the slobs at the big investment banks and brokerage houses.  It’s a system that policymakers have nearly perfected as a new Oxfam report shows. […]

Wealth like that, “ain’t no accident”, brother. It’s the policy.

Want to know how much the average person in the US earns?  The candidates won’t talk about it, but I will.

The Social Security Administration has released its data for 2014. Their chart shows actual W-2 earnings in the US as given by the IRS records based on tax returns for 2014.

The numbers are pretty abysmal. The median wage was under $29,000, meaning that half of American workers earned under that amount. The “average wage” is higher than that at $44,569, but is so skewed by the few on the highest income bracket that it is not a really meaningful number, in my opinion.  (The 134 people who earned over $50 mm last year can really alter that average; even taking that into account, 67% earned under the $44,569 “average wage” in 2014.)  In 2014:

-38 % of all American workers made less than $20,000 
-51 % of all American workers made less than $30,000 
-62 % of all American workers made less than $40,000 
-71 % of all American workers made less than $50,000 

Since the SSA and the IRS reports are based on each “wage-earner’s” tax-return total earnings rather than counting each and every W-2 turned in to the IRS as a discrete “wage”, this means that the data does not give any information on what the average job might pay and one should not make the mistake of coming to any conclusions about that. In other words, a “wage-earner” may have earned $30,000 in 2014, but might have had to work two or three jobs to earn that amount.  The SSA charts are easy to read, and there is a tool you can click on to look at charts from previous years.

This time around, the oligarchy has trotted out some of the most repugnant, bizarre, and downright ignorant candidates to which we have ever been treated.  Their motto for 2016 is: “2016 – the year we won’t give you any lesser evils to choose from.”  But this is the end result of the capitalist system on display, and we are a capitalist country on its down trajectory; at this point, Americans will buy dog shit if it is packaged properly and advertised heavily.

None of the candidates will cut any of the Pentagon’s budget, nor will any of them consider the possibility that we ought to end the crusades against foreign nations, none of which actually threaten us and with none of whom we are legally at war.  Last year, we dropped an estimated total of over 23,000 bombs in six countries.  This breeds terrorism, for the obvious reasons.  ISIS was a creation of the US; of our policies and actions, if not a direct creation of the CIA and secret ops in conjunction with mercenaries.  Yet according to the people running for president, what we need is more bombs, more American forces killing people abroad, and more help in the fight from “allies” like Saudi Arabia and Turkey.  There could be another way to fight terrorism, as one might note that in socially balanced societies, terrorism does not thrive, but we seem incapable of considering an alternative to bloodshed.  We are addicted to it now.

This has resulted in a flood of refugees and/or terrorists to the EU which did not exist prior to the destruction of law and order in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or Syria – before the “strong men” who ruled and did not tolerate bombings and mayhem by religious zealots were murdered by the US.  Now we are bent on some ridiculous quest to further “contain the Middle East” and kill those who are determined to avenge their loved ones. As always, the innocent on both sides get fried, while the war machine enjoys the profits.

Even Sanders thinks the [illegal] drone-bombing should continue; I wonder if he will feel okay about carrying out the “Terror Tuesday” duties should he become president?  Will he be surprised to find that he is just as adept and casual at ordering the murders of strangers across the planet as Obama has been?

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said Sunday that if elected president he would not end the U.S.’s controversial drone program in the Middle East.

Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos ” that he would continue with the targeted killing campaign but suggested he would somehow reform the program so that drones don’t kill innocent people abroad.

“I think we have to use drones very, very selectively and effectively. That has not always been the case,” Sanders said. […]

We are going back in to Libya, as if we hadn’t already destroyed that once thriving country and created a failed state.  See “Pentagon prepares another war in Libya”:

We have never left Afghanistan and have re-entered Iraq.  We are the main drivers behind the destabilization and bloodshed in Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Ukraine.  We are aiming for Russia, Iran, and China.  Oh, Jesus, forget it; I can’t even begin to list all the countries we are bombing, invading, attempting to destabilize, ruin economically, or instigate coups in now.

Why do Americans approve of drone-bombing, ignore the CIA-instigated terrorism around the globe, seemingly enjoy being at war against countries that don’t threaten us, see the warrior class as superior and deserving of accolades and perqs despite the fact that they are engaged in killing people while we are legally at war with no nation, and scream with approval when some political demagogue talks about “keeping us safe” and nuking the rest of the world into submission?  Why is the public satisfied with the selection offered us in presidential candidates in which even the nominally Democratic “front-runner” is a woman who wants to invade yet another country and do away with their elected leader and who constantly threatens a multitude of other countries?   Why do none of the “candidates” talk about reducing the Pentagon’s budget, getting rid of the Fed, overturning the Patriot Act, or – at the least, for God’s sake – dislodging the most egregiously unconstitutional clauses in the NDAA?  Why do our “Christian” ministers approve of the “war on terror”?  Why do the pundits and the politicians promote violence against everyone and why does the public apparently agree with this as though it were reasonable and of some necessity?  

Because in this country we have been taught that greed and theft are virtues, that bullying is the sum total of diplomacy, that other cultures are inherently dangerous and to even examine and consider their viewpoints is subversive. We have been taught that every country on the planet is inferior to our own.  The corporate oligarchs and their courtiers in Congress love ignorance, racism, and herd mentality and have worked very hard to see that Americans are poorly educated and even more poorly informed.  

But we sure got Iraq’s gold. And Libya’s. And Ukraine’s. Wanted their oil, too, but it is proving to be a little more difficult to wrest complete control over the oil fields, because we created ISIS (in the case of Iraq and Libya), who are interfering in the process (which may be on purpose to hurt the Dread Russians, under the rather abstruse economic theory that harming Russia’s economy is worth the cost of harming ours) and because we created Nuland’s Nazis Civil War (in the case of Ukraine), which has so far blocked completion of the Biden Bid for Oil Takeover of Eastern Ukraine.

Even so-called “liberal” writers add their voices to the propaganda in support of more war, although they do it a little more subtly than the conservative pundits.  This is from the “liberal media” at Salon, reprinted by the “liberal media” compiler at Alternet, in an article ostensibly about the one of the GOP debates:

 […] Oh, the candidates know that Bashar al-Assad is on one side and ISIS is on the other and that Vladimir Putin is being a dick, all of which is probably more understanding than the typical Republican voter has regarding the whole thing. But memorizing these little factoids is hardly relevant when you still think the solution to an intricate civil war that mostly isn’t about us at all is to stand around declaring how tough you are. […]

Uh-huh. Those aren’t “factoids”; they’re bullshit.  While the rest of the article about the GOP debate that night is probably true and is certainly funny, this bit is typical blase media propaganda stupidity and why I quit reading Salon, which supposedly offers the liberal viewpoint of things.  Facts:  al-Assad is on one side.  ISIS, the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the CIA, and the weapons’ manufacturers are on the other. Putin is not being a dick; Russia is the only country that is helping the legitimate government in Syria legally right now. Let’s say that again: Russia is there legally. The rest of the countries currently bombing Syria to hell and gone are not. Russia and al-Assad are trying to get the US-created and US-armed terrorists out of there.

Apparently, Sanders and O’Malley are the only two amongst the candidates who think that we should uphold the nuclear deal with Iran (which was not trying to develop nuclear weapons anyway), while even our former Sec. of State is of the opinion that we ought to show the Iranians just what dickhead liars we are and sanction them again; retroactively, mind you, since the ballistic missile test that has caused the uproar was carried out prior to our agreement with them.  The missiles tested by Iran were incapable of carrying a nuclear payload and so wouldn’t have broken the agreement no matter when it was signed at any rate.  Nonetheless, as soon as Clinton called for further sanctions, Obama signed an executive order to do just that.

US Treasury imposes new ballistic missile sanctions on Iran:

Once again we have shown that we cannot keep our “agreements”, “treaties”, or “deals” for more than one second after the ink dries.  The only reason any country even “negotiates” with us any more is that they are aware that if they don’t, we will invade their country and bomb the fuck out of it.  As a nation, we have no morals, no rigorous intellect, and no diplomatic abilities.  As a nation, we are liars, thieves, and murderers, completely bereft of the normal human empathy, the ability to compromise, and the honest self-assessment required to interact in a mutually beneficial way with other societies.

How long before some other nation says, “basta!” and drops a Fat Man on our asses?

All the candidates swear undying support for Israel, none more vociferously than Clinton, as though this were some purity test they have to undergo, and sadly, many Americans see it just that way.  America is exceptional in this way: its politicians place allegiance to a foreign country above loyalty to their own, and the only promises they keep are the ones they make to that foreign country.  And sometimes that oath to serve the interests of the other country above their own nation is the tipping point to get them elected.

What this says about the political system, the politicians, and the electorate in the US is appalling and embarrassing.

So we are being offered for our viewing pleasure an assortment of motley con men and corporate stooges.  Sanders may be the exception to some extent and the fact that the media and the other candidates are busy red-baiting him and regularly try to dismiss his positions out of hand bolsters my belief in his sincerity in some measure.  As I said, however, he isn’t going to dismantle the war machine, and that is a large part of all the other problems this country has.

Then you have the narcissistic Trump, billionaire and game-show host, who has picked up on the unrest out in the flyover zones and plays to it with gusto.  It’s hard to tell what he would do if elected, since he can barely keep his proposals and ideas straight in his own head.  His speeches frequently contradict things he has said before, but it is hard for people to get through all his verbiage to pick up on that.  He’s so loquacious you’d think he was being paid by the word.  He was recently endorsed by our other great orator, Sarah Palin, who left off tending her miscreant brood to offer up this bit of gloss: “Where, in the private sector, you actually have to balance budgets in order to prioritize, to keep the main thing, the main thing, and he knows the main thing: a president is to keep us safe economically and militarily. He knows the main thing, and he knows how to lead the charge.”  You just know the two of them spent their time while waiting in the green room before the great endorsement speech fighting over who was hogging the mirror.  But Trump himself is one of the rich elite who has made his jack off the capitalist system; he isn’t going to gore that ox.  On the other hand, he probably wouldn’t start a hot war with Russia, so there’s that.

There is the skeevy and very creepy Ted Cruz, who was doubtless the Grand Inquisitor in Spain during his last incarnation on this earth.  He is in a fight with the establishment Republicans and neocons, or so we are told to believe, although his ideas about carpet-bombing the Middle East and “lifting the rules of engagement” in the fight with ISIS suggest he fits right in with the PNAC crowd.  He is talking here about illegal methods of warfare and getting rid of the Geneva Conventions, but that doesn’t bother too many of the people in charge, most of whom supported the same ideas when offered by George W. Bush.  Cruz is like some crazed fundamentalist faith-healer who wants to pray the gays away and damn it all, get his chance to nuke some shit for Jesus.  He responded to the Flint, Michigan water crisis by donating bottled water… teaming up with the anti-abortion group Flint Right to Life, with instructions that the water go exclusively to crisis pregnancy centers.  These centers are anti-abortion organizations that try to manipulate women into keeping their pregnancies.  Tough shit about those already-born children and adults who have been drinking toxins in Flint for the last few years.  He, like all the Republicans, wants to cut taxes for corporations, get rid of all bank regulations, privatize everything that could possibly turn a profit for the corporate world, doesn’t support any minimum-wage increases, and has a tax plan that completely decimates the poor and middle class while ass-kissing the wealthy.  He sort of forgot to report his Goldman Sachs campaign contributions to the FEC, and his wife works there; we have yet to see if anyone cares.  Cruz appeals to a certain evangelical, but hawkish, subset of the American public.   Despite their professed “Christian” faith, if Cruz and his base were given the choice between Jesus and that other guy, they’d be screaming, “Free Barabbas!” at the top of their lungs.

Marco Rubio sometimes rattles off sound-bytes like he’s on amphetamines, but he is not saying anything we haven’t heard from the farthest right of the right-wing; he’s just saying it hysterically.  Lots of people think he is cute and endearing, but the dude is one rabid neocon.  He loves the spy programs, Homeland Security, the Pentagon, and torture, and hates the needy, the LGBT community, and Muslims.  That’s his platform.

Chris Christie ruined his own home state and now wants to have a go at the rest of the country. He calls himself the “disaster governor” with pride (I put a different twist on the title than he does, I gather) while at the same time refusing to help the victims of the two disasters that have hit New Jersey since he’s been in office.  We just had a huge blizzard here on the East Coast, and parts of NJ were inundated with flood waters along with the snow.  He happily chirped that there was no “residual damage” because the flood had receded, although it’s quite obvious that buildings that have had 5 feet of water and icebergs wash through them are going to be left with damage, if not have to be outright condemned and torn down.  Not to mention the other stuff that got majorly fucked up in the flood.  We can guess what kind of relief he’s going to offer the affected cities.  He’s said some other things on the campaign trail.  I couldn’t say for sure what, though.

Carly Fiorina is just vicious as a wolverine with rabies, and Ben Carson thinks it would be okay to bomb children on general principles.  When asked if he would order airstrikes that might kill innocent children by the thousands, he mentioned operating on kids with brain tumors and how they hated it but later on loved him, and finished his comments by saying,”and by the same token, you have to be able to look at the big picture and understand that it’s actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job, rather than death by 1,000 pricks.”   So in other words, Ben Carson thinks bombing civilians and children is somehow merciful because it finishes the job quickly.  The crowd applauded the twisted fuck for his bedside manner.

Jeb Bush is running and may end up being the Republican nominee if the oligarchy can finesse the situation properly.  This might not make him very happy, actually, as he seems most intent on making himself invisible.  He’s like the chubby kid who tried out for the soccer team because his daddy made him.

O’Malley has some fine ideas about the economy and doesn’t seem to be too enthusiastic about continuing the efforts to take over the world, so he will be quickly taken off the scene.  Poor guy barely made in on the scene, so eager are the Democrats to waylay one of their own.

I wrote an entire post about the war-pig Hillary Clinton, who is currently busy trying to paint Sanders as a Commie, so I’ll try not to repeat all the same stuff here.  She is so sure she will be the Democratic nominee, as are the pundits and mainstream media, that she hasn’t bothered to reciprocate to Sanders’ pledge to back the eventual nominee.  I think the media and the talking heads totally fail to understand the rancor and pure loathing felt for her at the street level.  If one reads the comment section on any article about the candidates, even articles supporting Mad Hillary, one sees the same thing over and over: people hate her.  People do not trust her.  People do not intend to vote for her even as “the lesser of two evils”; she is not seen as the lesser evil in any line-up.  To the public, she is defective and never should have made it through quality control.  Clinton is the least sincere candidate we have ever had running for office, and the people sense that.  She will sign the TPP into law given the chance, and you can be sure that she would reneg on all her promises, except the ones where she promises to bomb other countries, as quick as shit through a goose should she be elected.  She has a neocon’s view point toward the use of military power, which she and the media insist on referring to as “foreign affairs”, thus mistaking military policy with diplomacy and foreign policy, a viewpoint that made her such a bad and dangerous Sec. of State.  She felt her job in the State Dept. was to threaten other countries and to work arms deals instead of promoting civil discourse between nations.  She, in fact, gets “foreign policy guidance” from the same firm that advises Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.  (Which may help explain why all the ideas Clinton and the Republicans have for dealing with terrorist issues are similar in that they are illegal by US law, in violation of international laws, and break numerous treaties and agreements.)  The media that promotes her jabbers on about the “commander-in-chief” part of the president’s job because even they recognize in some part of their reptilian brains that Bernie Sanders’ domestic policies appeal to the voters more than hers do.  They – and she – hope that by presenting her as a hard and tough predator, she will gain some popularity with the fearful.  The constant talk about terrorism and terrorists, from all the candidates, serves to keep most of us focused away from the neglected and dismal state of things in our own country.

She may be running into trouble now.  With any luck, and with the assumption that some agencies in the US are still willing to do their jobs, she may be facing criminal charges.  God knows, she should have been jerked up short by the DoJ long before now.  I was very interested to see that one of the major legal threats to her involves the use of her position at the State Dept. to garner donations to the Clinton Foundation, and that Haiti is specifically mentioned.  I brought these things up in my last post about her.

Hillary Clinton’s Coming Legal Crisis

by Charles Lipson
January 13, 2016

The latest release of Hillary Clinton emails entails real risks for her, churning just beneath the surface of her successful primary campaign. True, Democratic voters have shown little interest, and the mainstream media only a bit more. Their focus, when they do look, is on the number of documents now considered classified, their foreign-policy revelations, and the political damage they might cause. These are vital issues, but Clinton faces a far bigger problem. She and her closest aides could be indicted criminally.

Secretary Clinton is exposed twice over. First, she used an unsecured, home-brew server to send and store reams of classified materials. Second, in her official capacity, she worked closely with major donors to the Clinton Foundation. Each poses legal risks, with potential ramifications for the Democratic frontrunner, her party, and the Obama administration.

To understand the gravity of these issues, it is important to recognize that this is not just an “email scandal.” It is an “email + server + foundation” scandal.” Secretary Clinton didn’t just send sensitive (and now-classified) emails over open lines, she stored them on private servers that didn’t meet the government’s cyber-security standards for sensitive documents. On its face, retaining classified materials in such vulnerable settings is a criminal violation. Senior intelligence officials have been charged for less – far less. Storing some 1,300 classified documents on a personal server, and doing it for years, poses a special problem because it shows the mishandling was not inadvertent. It was Clinton’s standard operating procedure.

The State Department has done everything it can to protect its former boss. When it finally received her documents, it flatly refused to comply with long-standing Freedom of Information Act requests by releasing them. It took several court orders for the agency to begin trickling out small batches with large sections blacked out. The redactions only underscore why the documents should never have been held on private, unsecured servers in the first place.

The latest document dump shows why the State Department is so skittish. One reveals the secretary of state telling a senior department official, Jake Sullivan, to strip all the security markings off one document and send it to her on an insecure connection. We don’t yet know if Sullivan actually complied, but, if he did, both he and Clinton face serious legal jeopardy.

Beside these national-security matters, the emails reveal obvious conflict-of-interest issues pertaining to the significant overlap between Clinton’s official duties and her family foundation’s operations.

Major donors to the foundation often had business before the State Department, and they sometimes received help. After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, for instance, Bill Clinton was named co-chairman of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, and, according to the Wall Street Journal, “the State Department began directing parties interested in competing for Haiti contracts to the Clinton Foundation.”

Not surprisingly, many contractors became foundation donors, or were already. The FBI now has to decide if any of this was a “pay to play” arrangement. Proving a quid pro quo is notoriously difficult, but Fox News reported Monday that public corruption is now a second track in the FBI investigation.

So far, Hillary has suffered only modest political damage from these scandals. Democratic primary voters are mostly indifferent; her main challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders, says he’s tired of hearing about it; and, other than Fox News, no major media outlet has done serious investigations.

But that doesn’t mean these messy issues are dead — depending on what happens inside the Justice Department. Clinton is about to face the most serious crisis of her candidacy — a set of legal decisions by the FBI and then the Department of Justice. Those will either kill the issue or kill her chances.

The FBI reportedly has assigned some 100 agents full time to the investigation and another 50 temporarily. The bureau would not commit such massive resources unless the initial investigation raised troubling questions of potential criminality. FBI Director James Comey is monitoring the case closely and coordinating with the intelligence agencies, which have to review the documents. Comey has a reputation for integrity, and it is his call whether to refer charges to the DOJ. Attorney General Loretta Lynch would then decide whether to indict.

Whatever Lynch decides, there will be a maelstrom if FBI agents found substantial evidence of criminal wrongdoing.[…]

Regardless of the attorney general’s decision, if the FBI does recommend criminal charges for Hillary Clinton or any of her associates, she will face two very pointed questions from the media, the electorate, and her Republican challenger.

“Secretary Clinton, if you are elected president, do you unequivocally promise to appoint an independent counsel to investigate these charges and, if warranted, prosecute them?”
“Do you promise you will not pardon anyone before these cases are fully adjudicated?”

She won’t be able to wave these questions off and say, “The attorney general decided all that.” It will look too much like a coverup by a Democratic administration for a Democratic Party leader.

To reach the White House, Hillary Clinton has to get past the coming legal crisis, and she will have to answer those hard questions.

You should really read the whole article; I left some paragraphs speculating about the potential effects this could have on the elections out of the blockquote due to space.  Another interesting article is a brief one written by Glen Ford at blackagendareport regarding the Clintons’ interference into Haiti’s elections, and gives a bit of a rundown on their unwelcome and colonial-style relationship with Haiti.  See, “The Clintons: We Came, We Stole, Haitians Died”:

I fail to understand how anyone can think we still have a democracy in this country.  When you look at these candidates and take honest stock of what they are offering, how can you find any escape in some sad and outdated notion that this is a government of, by, and for the people?  Hell, the Obama trade agreements, the first of which (the TPP) is quietly coming up for a vote soon if Congress bothers to follow its own legislation, suffice to render our national sovereignty and any pretense of a government “for the people” null and void if they are passed.  I will allow some exception for Sanders in my condemnations, as I think he may actually mean at least some of what he says and is the only one who even affects to worry about how life is going for the average American.  He ought to talk more about the TPP, since it has come out that this dangerous piece of crap posing as a “trade agreement” will probably do away with the UK’s health system and could prevent universal healthcare forever in the US.  As to the rest, when any of those bought-and-paid-for bastards steps up to the podium and lies to the audience about how much he/she really, really cares about the working stiff and has our best interests at heart, I feel nothing but contempt and revulsion.  The corruption at the top of this country is so widespread and so legalized that we cannot avoid another financial catastrophe and perhaps even another world war.  These are the goals of the oligarchy so they can strip the US and the rest of the world of its remaining assets, and the dolts, criminals, grifters, and bullshit artists up there on the stage posing as “presidential material” are willing to lead us right into the pit.

No-one with enough neurons firing to keep breathing can take this election seriously.  I doubt I will bother to take a chance on the voting machines myself.  Seems pointless, unless by some weird happenstance Sanders is on the ballot.  If it comes to a race between Clinton and Trump, that might also motivate me enough to haul my ass out of the chair to go vote for Trump, just to help save us from her.

What a wretched selection we have in front of us.  Who shall we have?  Caligula or Nero?  Choices, choices.  

I don’t blame those who think that perhaps it is time to join the dolphins and get the hell out of Dodge.  If only there were a way to escape to some other planet entirely.  A different country on this one may not be far enough – the Powers That Be have their clutches on all of them.


The governmental responses to the Paris terrorist attacks.

In response to the terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday night, France has rolled out its plans, seemingly prepared in advance much like the US’ response to 9/11: France is already increasing its bombing of Syria and is imposing strict new laws on its own people at home.

Despite the fact that at least half the terrorists in this case were already known to the French law enforcement community, the intelligence services mysteriously “ceased watching” the suspects a few days before the attacks. Oddly, and also reminiscent of 9/11, the French military and police forces were conducting anti-terrorist training exercises the morning of the attacks in Paris, so Paris was packed with law enforcement, but somehow the terrorists slipped around town to multiple locations unimpeded. The police response was notably slow at each location as well.  Despite these being obvious failures of the security community in France, the first steps rolled out in response are not directed as rebuke to or reform of these agencies, but are instead measures taken against the civilian population and which are a distinct curtailing of civil rights.  

Internally, French president Hollande has ordered a 3-month State of Emergency which will be extended further “as needed”. The state of emergency law allows French authorities to impose curfews, carry out random searches of private homes at any time, collect weapons owned by private citizens, use military tribunals rather than the courts, curtail public meetings, censor the press, order the house arrest of individuals (without trial), and close public places (most public places were closed for the week-end and the law allows for future closures at any time with little or no prior notification to the public).  The French government has already begun raids of private homes searching for accomplices to the terrorists and is increasing the number of soldiers patrolling Paris and suburbs. Right now, there are 5000 French military troops in Paris; there will be another 1500 added by Wednesday and the prime minister has promised to deploy another 10,000 troops throughout the rest of the country as quickly as possible. (There were already 7000 troops deployed internally in France since the “Charlie Hebdo” thing in January of this year, in addition to the number just in Paris alone.) This pretty much puts martial law in effect.

Hollande met with leaders of all the political parties in France over the week-end and they all agree with the new “state of emergency” law and to expanding participation of war abroad.  He asked for an increase in spending on security, police, and intelligence agencies, which will breach the EU’s budget agreements, and is seeking constitutional revisions to add to the powers of the president under emergency situations.   

Marie Le Pen, who is the leader of the National Front party (they are distinctly neo-fascists) called for the complete disarming of the suburbs, and Wauquiez, the secretary of the Le Republicans party (very right-wing) said that anyone in France who has an intelligence file (i.e., people being watched for one reason or another by the authorities) should be placed in internment camps.

Interior Minister Cazeneuve stated that the state of emergency might be used for “the dissolution of mosques in which people intervene to call for or promote hatred.”   What exactly constitutes “promoting hatred” is no doubt open to debate.

On Monday, Hollande made a speech to both houses of parliament in which he suggested sweeping changes to the democratic rights inherent in the French constitution and proposed modifying the constitution itself.  His measures would give arbitrary powers to the president and transfer authority from civilian institutions to the French military; he pointed out that the several articles supporting these sweeping changes were already part of the constitution under the state of emergency he imposed, but said that they needed to be modified and strengthened.  The articles in question allow the president full and arbitrary powers “when the institutions of the Republic, the independence of the Nation, its territorial integrity, or the carrying out of its international engagements are threatened in a grave and immediate way, and the regular functioning of the constitutional public authority is interrupted…”

It’s a fairly broad read of the articles to invoke them with the claim that ISIS could threaten all the institutions of France, or its independence and territorial integrity.  Nonetheless, massive changes appear to be in the works for the good people of France, who have enjoyed a free and democratic republic until now.

Joyeux Noel et bonne annee, gens. [Merry Christmas and happy new year, people.]

Other countries are calling for more bombing throughout the Middle East, as though killing more people will somehow stop blowback of the sort that the Paris attacks might have been.  It is also possible that the Paris events were a false flag designed to have the effect of solidifying the intent of the “coalition of the willing” to come together more firmly and utterly destroy Syria in particular and the Middle East in general.  We even had the requisite magic, indestructible passports and a peculiarly belated claim from ISIS that they were, in fact, behind the attacks.  It was only after Hollande claimed that he “knew” that ISIS was behind the attacks that ISIS thought to take credit.  I wonder how easy it is for someone fleeing a war-torn country to apply for a passport and how quickly that country can process the applications when it is under full military assault.  Millions of people have fled Syria; is it even likely that all, or most, of them waited for visitor’s passports before fleeing for their very lives?   It’s a moot point anyway; we are now being told the terrorists were not Syrian refugees, but French and Belgium nationals.  And why do these terrorists only target the civilian population, rather than the politicians and neocons who are responsible for the wars in their homelands?   If this is a case of false flag, it seems to be working.

At the G20 meeting taking place now, a bunch of countries (which are, well, noticeably not Syria nor territories of Syria nor colonies of Syria nor in any way, shape, or form countries going by the name of Syria) are deciding how Syria should be governed and run. The big questions seem to be: do we simply assassinate al Assad, demand he a) step down now or b) step down later, set up an [illegal] interim government without him (like we did in Libya just before we assassinated Ghaddafi), tell the people of Syria they will have early elections but al Assad cannot run for office this time, despite his winning the last election with 80% of the vote (like we did in Haiti, where we allowed Aristide to return home, but said he couldn’t run for office even if the people wanted him to – which they overwhelmingly did), and the final big question is, of course, do you suppose anyone will notice if we just fucking bomb Syria into a landfill and kill all the civilians in the meantime? Takes care of that part of the refugee problem, anyway.

The US now kind of wants Russia to take part in the bombing of Syria to get rid of our manufactured enemy ISIS (who, let’s face it, are getting a tad out of control), but don’t want Russia to bomb the “moderate” terrorists, who just happen to be aiming their sights on al Assad, whom we really want to get rid of.  I have to ask here, what the fuck is a “moderate” terrorist?  Is that a terrorist who will cut your head off but not eat your liver afterwards?  What we really want, of course, is that damn pipeline that al Assad won’t give us, and we hope Russia will ignore that losing the pipeline will hurt the Russian economy and can be convinced to not only help us get rid of ISIS, but along the way, also help us take down the only guy who is protecting Russia’s interests in that pipeline matter.  (“Real shame about your airplane there, Mr. Putin.  Shitty things happen when you don’t play by our rules.”)

Not one leader, and this is notably true in the US, which favors sanctions and other such assorted illegal actions in lieu of diplomacy, has suggested sanctions or investigations into who is buying all that black-market oil from ISIS which profits the group enormously.  Turkey and Iraq are among the known purchasers, and reports have been leaked that suggest at least two EU countries buy ISIS oil.  Somehow the US can sanction individuals and/or entire countries for any matter under the sun that affects “our interests”, but is completely nonchalant about the ISIS oil buyers or the methods of money transfers they utilize.  Remarkable.

France has placed itself in the absurd situation of seeking help from Russia against ISIS in Syria while at the very same time committed to the NATO buildup against Russia in Ukraine and eastern Europe.  The US and other NATO countries are doing the same thing, although few seem to have noticed the spectacular oddness of it all.  John Kerry, while in Paris a day ago, put the burden for intelligence-sharing on Russia and Iran (“…So the faster Russia and Iran give life to this process, the faster the violence can taper down, and we can isolate [IS] and Al Nusra and begin to do what our strategy has always set out to do”), despite the fact that we have been condemning both those countries for participating in military activity in the Syria up until this very moment, and have been making threats against both countries for decades.   We can only hope these idiots don’t start bombing each other (and us) in a mad melee while they are busy “coalescing” and bombing ISIS.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced he is adding financing to the military budget and doubling the drone fleet.  Countries all over the place are suddenly stating they are under “credible terrorist threats” and have begun canceling events, adding to their internal police forces and closing borders to refugees.  Roughly half the state governors in America have said they will not accept Syrian refugees – not that very many have come here in any case – despite the fact that it is not legal for them to bar refugees from their communities.

As for the larger US, we are suddenly bombing Libya again, in addition to Syria.  (Along with the seven or so other nations we are bombing.)  No authorization for any of the bombing we are doing anywhere, of course, and particularly egregious to be bombing a country we already ruined beyond repair a couple of years ago, but no-one in the media seems disturbed. Matter of fact, it is so humdrum that I’ve only seen one or two articles on the incident.

The final paragraph in the above article sums up the media’s insouciance for facts and displays its ability to re-write even recent history, replacing truth with bullshit.

The Islamic State has been able to thrive in Libya in large part because of the country’s political instability four years after its revolution. Since last year, Libya has had two governments vying for resources and legitimacy. But neither is able to impose security across the vast desert nation or curb a sprawling array of militias, militant cells, smugglers and criminal groups.

It was not a revolution, those were CIA-funded, al Qaeda-affiliated “rebels” brought into the country of Libya to overthrow the then-current government.  Then an unbelievable amount of bombs were dropped under the lead of the US, ruining damn near everything, and then we assassinated the leader of this sovereign nation.  The country had been working pretty well up until that point, with Ghaddafi having over a 90% approval rating from the Libyans themselves.  And, by the way, the “sprawling array” of militias, militant cells, smugglers and criminal groups weren’t a problem until we wrecked the country.

In response to the events in Paris, I guess the PTB have decided their course of action: more of the same of what they’ve been doing.  Yeah, because that’s been working so well up to now.  We managed to create and fund al Qaeda and ISIS through our activities in the Middle East for all these long years, and we supply weapons to our “ally” Saudi Arabia, which in turn follows much the same set of Wahhabi beliefs that ISIS and the other Islamist militant groups do and which actively provides material and financial backing for terrorist groups worldwide.  The House of Saud is loathe to bomb ISIS, but has been savagely willing to use those weapons to bring hell on earth to Yemen and Pakistan.  Yesterday, it was announced that the US State Dept. has approved a new $1.3 bb sale of smart bombs to Saudi Arabia, which the Pentagon says will be used in the Saudis’ military campaigns in Syria and Yemen.  We consider Turkey an ally even as they purchase black-market oil from ISIS and back the “moderate terrorist” groups [al Qaeda and ISIS allies] and ignore the reports that our ally Israel is giving medical aid to ISIS wounded.  One thing that no-one will consider is to let the Arab nations figure out if they really want the kind of life ISIS is selling and let them sort it out for themselves.  

To underscore that our desire to spread weaponry, mayhem and misery is equal opportunity for the entire globe, the US Senate just cleared the revised Defense Authorization legislation for vote, legislation that will provide $715 mm to Iraqi forces fighting ISIS, $406 mm for the Syrian opposition forces (the so-called moderate terrorist groups), and $300 mm for lethal weapons for the neo-Nazis we put in power in Ukraine.

Obama has promised a quarter of a billion dollars to sponsor “maritime security” in the South China Sea.  The money will fund gunboat patrols and surveillance for Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia as the US tries to gin up the territorial disputes with China in that area.  (Wait’ll he finds out that China, Japan and South Korea are holding meetings to work out some trade questions and the sea-lane disputes without him.  See note at bottom.)  Escalation of war threats all over the globe.

Sounds like a plan, if a dismal one.

Note: Looks like China and Japan are starting to figure out they need each other more than either needs the stupid war-mongering US. and its manufactured dispute over some sand bars:

Nov 2015 – S Korea, Japan, and China agree to restore trade ties. 
Regional powers also agree to restart trilateral meetings that have not been held since 2012 due to strained relations.
 Two articles.


Posted by on November 16, 2015 in China, civil rights, Iran, Iraq, Libya, MIC, Russia, security state, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen