Hiding In Plain Sight Behind Barack Obama

Frank Bruni at the NYTimes raised 5 questions about telling  issues  in the  Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders debate in Brooklyn last night. As the GOP is hacking itself apart in a grisly dismemberment over who controls the perverse loyalties of its Base, Bruni notes  that the Democrats face fundamental schisms of their own. Specifically,  Bruni cites the major tensions:

“The surreal twists of the Republican race and its domination by two politicians whom most party traditionalists find odious have obscured the trouble that the Democratic Party is in, by which I mean the strained, increasingly fragile alliance of the idealistic progressives whom Sanders has emboldened and the pragmatic technocrats who, with the help of both Clintons, have defined Democratic politics for the last few decades.

The hostility that so many of Sanders’s supporters feel toward Clinton is a rejection of that kind of politics, and that hostility is where the fiercest energy in the party resides right now. It was audible on Thursday night, in the boos from the audience that sometimes rained down on Clinton.

And this would be generating more discussion — and more angst — if not for the G.O.P.’s implosion and the belief that the Republican nominee will likely be a fatally hobbled one.

But beyond and outside of the 2016 presidential election, Democrats have plenty of soul-searching and fence mending to do. The party must examine the firmness of its hold on young voters: If they alone were deciding the Democratic nominee, it would be Sanders in a walk.

The party needs to figure out its relationship with corporate America, long friendly to Clinton and now demonized by Sanders. It needs to assess its appetite for foreign interventions, a subject on which Sanders and Clinton differ sharply, as they demonstrated afresh on Thursday night.

There are profound policy differences between the candidates, and there’s a chasm between those Democrats who think that paradigm-exploding change is necessary (and possible) and those who roll their eyes at that, deeming it naïve and delusional.”

This clash of policies is underlined by the question of Wall Street Money taken in by both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Sanders keeps asking over and over how can Hillary be serious about campaign finance reform  and rolling back the Citizens United decision that identifies corporations as equivalent to individuals when those very same corporates [particularly Wall Street] are major campaign contributors . Those  corporations will be loathe to lose the ability to spend millions of free speech dollars on lobbying and campaign finance contributions without having to  get any approval from the corporations employees, stakeholders, suppliers and customers. Literally, free speech corporates speak with one elite voice.

Likewise, as the US teeters with huge Federal Reserve inflated national debt  and continuing huge $1/2 trillion balance of payment shortfalls,  the total US Debt continues to climb to unprecedented  levels:

ustodebt

As of 2015 $60 trillion of Government+Business+Household & Individual Debt , $180,000 per US Citizen

The risk of too big to fail financial institutions has not diminished but increased since 2008 despite the Dodd-Frank Law and protests of too much regulation and oversight by many financial institutions. For example, 5 US banks hold 95% of the $250trillion in dervative obligations in financial market. That is nearly 4 times the World GDP. It is these complex derivative instruments plus the accumulation of 50% of all banking assets in 7 US Banks that created the financial gridlock that only the US government could bail out at huge cost to US taxpayers and Homeowners.

And even worse, the government’s ability to monitor “too big to fail” financial institutions is currently being held up in protracted court cases. This becomes the crux of the Sander’s argument, by accepting huge campaign contributions from the Financial community, Hillary Clinton has lost her ability to monitor, prosecute and control that financial community which is lobbying mightily to rollback any controls on their activities. As Bruni points out that is when Hillary Clinton runs for cover, hiding behind Barack Obama:

‘Why shouldn’t voters be troubled by her Wall Street money? She noted that President Obama had done precisely the same kind of fund-raising, and that any insinuation that it was inherently corrupting meant that he too had been corrupted.“This is not just an attack on me,” she said. “It’s an attack on President Obama.”’

Indeed it is a facing up to the Obama Flaw.

The Obama Flaw

It is widely noted that Barack Obama got first 20% of his campaign funding in 2008 and then 33% of his 2012 campaign funds from the financial sector. Did those contributions influence Barack Obama’s administration. You decide considering that except for Bernie Madoff no financial executive went to jail for stream of financial misdeeds that started in 2006 and continue to the present day. In contrast, for the Savings and Loans crisis of 1980 to 1996 which cost taxpayer $130Billion over 1000 bankers were prosecuted and went to jail. For 6 times that amount of tax payer cost for the 2007-2009 Financial  Crisis, nobody on Wall Street went to jail under Attorney General Eric Holder. Prior to joining the Obama team , Eric Holder  who had work defending banks at Covington Burling law firm from 2001 to 2007. He has returned to Covington Burling in 2015.

This law firm’s clients have included many of the large banks Holder declined to prosecute for their alleged role in the financial crisis. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone opined about the move, ‘I think this is probably the single biggest example of the revolving door that we’ve ever had.'”

Seth Meyers of SNL fame took a Closer Look at the Obama Administration prosecution of financial executives:

The NYTimes found a similar pattern of “kid glove” treatment for white collar and financial criminal activities. Now ex-AG Eric Holder and other of his prosecutors have argued that a)the Bush Administration had left large gaps in financial investigatory work, b)the financial executive suite could not afford prosecutions during the crisis, and c)the complex evidence chain and lack of clear legal prohibitions made for difficult prosecutions.

But the bottom line is that under the Obama Administration Rule of Law has not applied to Wall Street Financial Institutions and their executive suite. Was this “quid pro quo” for 1/5 and then 1/3 of Barack Obama’s campaign funding coming from Wall Street? More likely than perhaps. If Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination and subsequent Presidency the hypotheses will get tested again. Some have argued that Mitch McConnell & the Tea Party cabal that plotted the scorched-earth NO Compromise with Obama did so because Obama had invaded the GOP Wall Street funding turf and this was one more motive to tarnish the President. Others have posited that when President Obama failed to prosecute both Bush Administration officials for WMD falsehoods and Wall Street Financial Rating Firms for their blatantly fraudulent Mortgage Debt ratings – the jigs was up. Obama was no agent of change – rather, as calculatingly flawed as they are.

Trump Is Right – Religious Radicals Are A Worldwide Scourge

isis

Source: Tweet by @No2ISIS

Donald Trump is absolutely wrong about all Muslims being radical and thus not fit to be trusted or allowed into the US. Rather this is calculated fear-mongering for his own political gain using the GOP Create Public Fear Playbook. Also Trump is using the other GOP Propaganda Trick, truthiness. Thus he includes just a small measure of truth [indeed a  small, virulent group of Islamic radicals are leading the Worldwide scourge of religious intolerance. The level of Muslim on Muslim and Muslim on non-Muslim terrorism is growing in ferocity – see just below] – and that glint of truth suffices for Trump as a justification for his draconian policies.

Most Americas, just like Dick Cheney, were until recently ignorant of the fundamental sectarian divide of Sunni-86% and Shia-14% of 1.6 billion Muslims [this is a must read link]. The divide is analogous to the Catholics versus Protestants in Christianity. Unfortunately there is great distrust between Sunni and Shia Muslims As a result in recent decades there has been increasing Muslim on Muslim conflict. In general, the consequences of religious conflict have been brutal over hundreds of years:

Religious War Death Tolls
Low Estimate High Estimate Event From To Religions involved % of  world population
3,000,000 11,500,000[14] Thirty Years’ War 1618 1648 Protestants and Catholics 0.5%–2.1%
2,000,000 4,000,000[15] French Wars of Religion 1562 1598 Protestants and Catholics 0.4%–0.8%
1,000,000[16] 2,000,000 Second Sudanese Civil War 1983 2005 Muslim and Christian 0.02%
1,000,000[17] 3,000,000[18] Crusades 1095 1291 Muslim and Christian 0.3%–2.3%
1,250,000 1,500,000 Iran -Iraq War 1980 1988 Muslim Sunni & Muslim Shiite  0.02%
143,000 340,000 Syrian Civil War 2010 ongoing Muslim Sunni & Muslim Shiite  0.006%
130,000[19] 250,000 Lebanese Civil War 1975 1990 Muslim Sunni & Shiite+Christian 0.005%

And to this list one could add the ongoing deadly religious conflicts occurring now in Burma [Buddhists vs Muslims], India [Hindus vs Muslims], Northern Ireland [Christian vs Protestants], Philippines [Muslims vs Christians], Indonesia [Muslims vs Muslims vs Christians], Palestine [Muslim vs Jews] etc. So religion as much as economic conditions or ethnic rivalries is a key cause  of  world strife and terrorism.

But Donald Trump Is Partly  Right About Religious Radicals

What is fueling the increased terrorism and conflict in modern times are religious radicals. And remarkably, US and Developed nations denial and cover-up of the religious radical’s role in terrorism has fostered their growth. These radical  religious groups can be  a minority in the population like the Orthodox Jews whose intransigent views are paralyzing any Palestinian-Jewish settlement. Or the Shia -Alawites 13% minority ruling class in Syria whose leader,  President Bassshar AlAssad, is destroying the country in a beastly civil war.

But perhaps the most dangerous Western  denial, is the role of Saudi Arabian based Sunni-Wahhabism. Their ultraconservative  Islamic beliefs are spreading terrorism throughout the Mideast and the World. The Saudis, awash in oil money, have financed  Wahabi radicals such as Osama bin Laden, various al’Qaeda affiliates, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan,  ISIS in Syria and Iraq.Using  complex funding networks. the Saudis finance thousands of mosques and madrassas where Wahhabi extremism are taught. And because Wahhabism condones takfir [a  Muslim who excommunicates other Muslims, or accuses them of apostasy] and jihad [has 2 meanings: 1)a personal struggle to maintain disciplined devotion to Islam; but more ominously  2) a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty against infidels ] – the result has been brutal acts of terrorist slaughter.  These terrorist attacks and broader jihad campaigns result in  both Muslim on Muslim  and Muslim on  infidels.mass killings throughout the world.

Saudis wash their hands of the responsibility of what their billions in funding has been used for. Thus, current King Salman of Saudia Arabia has declared  If there are those who change some work of charity into evil activities, then it is not the kingdom’s responsibility, nor its people, which helps its Arab and Muslim brothers around the world. ” And so in exchange for Saudi and Mid Eastern oil plus huge military contracts, the US and Europe have turned a blind eye towards a huge source of terrorist funding and theological support.

And so when Donald Trump demands that US ban all Muslims from entering the country until we know who is acceptable, there is just a glint of fact that would support his argument.

The Roots of Religious Radicalism

There are 6  major largely Western-created trends which are shaking the World to its core. Because these problems are often acute in Muslim countries they are a source of religious radicalism:

1)Relentlessly advancing automation, labor-cost cutting and job-out sourcing has devastated employment while creating huge pockets of 15-40% underemployment or outright unemployment in the Mideast,  North Africa, Southern and Eastern Europe, plus areas of South America and Asia.  As wages stagnate and government benefits face constant cutback, whole segments of societies, primarily among youth, have no steady incomes or ways of making a living;
2)Yet the executives and investors engendering these harsh economic  conditions on the working public are seeing their incomes balloon to new levels of income inequality. Thus the US phenomenon of  1% of the population controlling nearly 35% of all income is being repeated in  China, Russia, Brazil, India – all over the world;
3)The Economic turmoil of increasing magnitude and ferocity with the World-wide 2007-2009 Recession leaving countries throughout the world coping with wild currency fluctuations and huge wealth gaps awhile  the 1% elite class emerges with 50% or more of wealth in countries all over the world. These ultra wealthy oligarchs are often dictating government policies in countries throughout the world;
4)Already economically challenged, the inability of governments to cope with environmental and climate problems appears to confirm the sense that goverments are unable to handle ever more debilitating problems throughout the world. These conditions add more stress to daily public  life;
5)Unleashing technologies [ a third wave of artificial intelligence and computer automation which will further dumb down and outright eliminate jobs on an ever wider scale ] and social changes [ coping with the pace of change in urban life; the emergence of gay, lesbian and transgender rights; the rise of feminism and  womans rights in societies that have suppressed them are just a few contemporary social challenges ] that broad portions of global societies are unable to cope with;
6)The decline of religion worldwide has deprived  segments of the population of a source of support and  coping. Also as their cultural traditions are under attack, It also makes these members of society more susceptible to extremist religious views.

So given these economic and social conditions, it should not be a total surprise that both American and European youth as well as Muslim natives would embrace the end-times apocalyptic and vengeful visions of ISIS, the Taliban, AlQaeda, and other extremist radicals. What is the true travesty here is the simpleton solutions proposed by Donald Trump – “ban all Muslim travel to the US” or fellow GOP Presidential candidate Ted Cruz – “lets carpet bomb ISIS in Syria and Iraq”. These lowest common denominator policies by two leading GOP Presidential candidates not only indicates the Republican party does not measure up to Presidential standards but also the Party of No does not deserve its current  leadership position in both the Senate and the House.

Republican Truthiness

Republicans from Presidential candidates through to the rank and file have embraced truthiness. Of course, Stephen Colbert is famous for having defined truthiness way back in 2005 on his first Colbert Report show:
truthiness
Colbert chose the word truthiness just moments before taping the premiere episode of The Colbert Report after deciding that the originally scripted word – “truth” – was not absolutely ridiculous enough. “We’re not talking about truth, we’re talking about something that seems like truth – the truth we want to exist.” Since then truthiness has gone through many renditions:
truthiness – the quality of seeming or being felt to be true, even if not necessarily true – Google, Oxford English Dictionary
truthiness – the quality of seeming to be true according to one’s intuition, opinion, or perception without regard to logic, factual evidence, or the like – Dictionary.com
truthiness – the quality of stating concepts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than the facts – Urban Dictionary
truthiness – truth that comes from the gut not books – Merriam Webster Dictionary
truthiness – is people making up their own reality, one just “truthy” enough that they actually believe it. – Chris Mooney
truthiness – is what you want the facts to be, as opposed to what the facts are. What feels like the right answer as opposed to what reality will support – Stephen Colbert
In sum truthiness is about the old brain versus the new brain built into all of us. The  old or type 1 brain relies on very fast, emotionally laden, survival-oriented neuro-mechanisms to decide quickly what actions to take or conclusions to draw. In contrast, the type 2 brain defers to the longer, rational process of decision making associated with our frontal lobes and newer brain regions. See Daniel Kahnman’s Thinking Fast and Slow for all the details.

Defense Mechanism


What To Do About ISIS

Here is an superb analysis of what to do against ISIS after the Paris massacre.
crose
Charlie Rose pulled together a team of experts with diverse view points. They include:
1)Peter Baker NYTimes Washington political reporter.
2)Roger Cohen NYTimes Opinion Page writer
3)Matt Olsen, former director of the National Counter-terrorism Center in Washington
4)Bernard-Henri Lévy, French philosopher and writer
5)Michael Weiss, senior editor at The Daily Beast and co-author of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror.” His insights on whats happening on the ground and who the players are in Syria and Iraq are invaluable in the discussion.
The discussions and analysis are quite frank and pointed. See for yourself:

Be sure to watch Charlie Rose on PBS Wednesday Nov 18th for the follow on show discussing the situation. There should be top flight observations and analysis again. This is some of the best reporting on Syria, ISIS and Repercussions of the Paris Attacks and what decisions have to be made in Europe, US and Middle East.

Apple Abandons Web Designers

Two years ago, Takethe5th did a story on how Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and the Microsoft Minions did a 20 year continuous shafting of Web Developers. Well, in the Web World times change at a Back-to-the-Future pace. Now Apple under CEO Tim Cook has taken over the shit-on-you toilet  and is shafting all those Web Designers and Developers that have shown impressive loyalty to a proprietary brand in hardware,

True Steve Jobs was proprietary right from the beginning in hardware,  development tools and software for his Mac/OS and iOS operating system software. But Steve took a cross platform approach on the Web side supporting WebKit browser engine, CSS3 early, HTML5 early, clean DOM, and close to JavaScript/ECMAScript standard. But look what has happened under Tim Cook’s “leadership”.
1)Apple Safari has become the worst browser for HTML5:
web1Two years ago Apple Safari lead Microsoft Internet Explorer by a wide margin in HTML5Test.
web2Now Apple Safari has replaced Microsoft Edge/Internet Explorer at the bottom of the stack.

But the list of Apple transgressions against Web standards is growing longer by the year:
– Apple delays force Google and Opera out of Webkit – see here and here
– Apple barely support ContentEditable for HTML Editors – see here:
– Apple abandons WebSQL followed by Google – see here
– Apple refuses Pointer Events W3C Recommendation, Google follows as seen here:

Rick Byers of Google states: No argument that PE is more elegant. If we had a path to universal input that all supported, we would be great with that, but not all browsers will support PE. If we had Apple on board with PE, we’d still be on board too. The equation has shifted for us.

– Apple supports Application Cache API less crucial audio files – see here
– Apple undoes HTML5 Form Validation because it is only vendor who won’t halt the submission of an invalid form – see here.
– Apple does not support WebRTC – real time communication – see here.
– Apple support for ECMASCript/JavaScript 6 lags way behind all major vendors – see here.
– Apple Safari on Windows has not been updated for 3 years and counting
– Apple Safari on iPad crashes contagously
In general the Web Developer community ha every reason to see Apple as the new Microsoft, stifling Web standards:

We need to stop letting Apple stifle the work of browser vendors and standards bodies. Too many times, we’ve seen browser vendors with the best intentions fall victim to Apple’s reluctance to work with standards bodies and WebKit’s dominance on mobile devices. We cannot let this continue to happen.

from the jQuery team
and

Apple has a very, very strong influence over what standards get adopted and what standards do not. Partly it’s market share, partly it’s developer bias (see, for example, how other vendors eventually felt forced to start supporting the webkit prefix due to vendor prefix abuse).
Apple simply does not play well with other vendors when it comes to standardization. The same sort of things we once criticized Microsoft for doing long ago, we give Apple a pass on today. They’re very content to play in their own little sandbox all too often.

from Tim Kadlec

So congratulations to Web Designers and Developer, for all your loyalty to Apple hardware and software, Tim Cook has seen fit to return the favor by becoming worse than Microsoft in proprietary implementations and stifling hard won Web standards.

An American Theme ?

This situation has a strong echo in contemporary America – foisting work and loss on others. Almost all Business Executives that once made 15-20x times the average overall compensation of their employees. now enjoy a ratio of  over 300x . These same business executive are holding over $2 trillion dollars in earnings overseas. Just returning one third of that would spark a resurgence in the American economy.of massive proportions. Meanwhile many of those executives are working hard to lower wages and benefits, eliminate “redundant” workers by automation and outsourcing. Wall Street Bankers after getting rescued to the tune of trillionsof public dollars,rewarded that same public generosity with miniscule to no mortgage relief for millions of underwater mortgage holders while  retaining most of the executives who committed the fraud. And IT executives at Apple who depended on loyalty of their Graphic and Web Designer/Developers for their survival and the surging growth of the iOS family, now are short changing those same groups with their adoption of a deeply proprietary stance in both hardware, software and Web standards. Thank you Tim Cook [652 x average Apple workers salary]and company.

Titanic Split Threatens the GOP

gops2
The Grand Old Party is coming apart at the seams.
For the past 10 years the Republican  party has played loyal supporters to its 1% sponsors [think NRA, Climate Change deniers, Wall Street, etc, etc] while allowing its Tea Party rump of 40-50 House members to dictate policy that is increasingly unpopular with the GOP’s own members. On major issues the GOP has drifted ever further away from both national and GOP’s own popularly-supported positions. These are major national issues like background checks and  other gun control measures, action on global warming, Christian prayer in schools, campaign finance overhaul, etc. It is now a case  in which the GOP ignores the majority wishes of its own party supporters let alone national sentiment.

Instead the GOP has voted for unpopular measures with multiple votes such as  56 votes against Obamacare and repeated threats to shutdown the government despite the political damage that the 2013 shutdown of the government inflicted on the party. Part of this is frustration arising from the fact that in 2014 the GOP gained  majorities in the Senate [54 to 46 seats] and padded its lead in the House [247 to 188, a whopping 59 vote advantage]. So now the  NO GOP Congress could set its own agenda by overriding any Presidential vetoes with big majorities in both the Senate and the House.

But the notorious NO GOP Congress of 2008-2001 which had successfully defeated all of President Obama’s attempts to revive the economy, act on Climate change, or reset Gun Background check laws in the light of the Sandy Hook massacre, etc  – all had been successfully thwarted by the GOP. But one of the crucial ingredients for disabling Obama’s policies was the unprecedented use of the cloture vote in the Senate. Used sparingly on matters of national import [3-4 time/year] upto 1970s, cloture use quadrupled from 1980 to 2000 and then doubled again  with heavy  GOP use from 2006 to 2010 .

The cloture vote required 60 votes in the Senate to pass a measure subject to Cloture opposition. Votes on Infrastructure programs  to revive the Economy plus Climate Change bills among many others were defeated by the GOP in the 2006 to 2010 era  even though the Democrats had Senate and House  majorities at that time. So now that Democrats lost a Senate majority, they used the same Cloture tactics on the GOP for several recent bills associated with the Iran Deal. The result has been the Democarats have   insured that a Presidential veto on GOP rejection of the Iran Treaty could not be reversed so the Iran Deal would ultimately pass.in Congress despite fervent GOP opposition.

Congressional Stalemate Leads to GOP Chaos

But these recent Republican stalemates have sparked a  revolt among an ultraconservative elite in the GOP, the Tea Partiers now re-dubbed as the Freedom Caucus.[read this superb article]. This is a group of 40-50 GOP Congressmen who have the following common characteristics:
1)They are all white and, except for 1 Congresswoman, all male;
2)They represent severely gerrymandered districts that guarantee them 13% or better  Republican majority advantage in every election;
3)They have recourse to business and PAC money substantially larger than any GOP primary opposition or Democratic election time opponents;
4)They come from across the Southern Tier of Red States;
5)They benefit from the fact that GOP moderates [read those who  support some compromises with the Democrats] have been eliminated from their and nearby districts. So their no-compromise ethos can be easily adopted;
6)They can call upon information and organizational support from radical GOP Think Tanks;
7)They have been prepped in the arcane rules of House legislation so they can use House processes similar to the Cloture rule in the Senate, to effectively control the House agenda.

Their aggressive, no-compromise actions have lead to the current GOP Chaos, the latest and deepest split within the Republican party. The so called GOP establishement in both the House and Senate resent the fact that this comparatively small group,the Freedom Caucus, is now dictating policy. This resentment  is made worse because Donal Trump, the non-GOP Establishment  candidate for President in 2016 has manged to lead the polls for 6 months while espousing policy and attitudes that echo and often  go beyond the Freedom Caucus positions.

Nowhere is this chaos and internal conflict more evident in the deposing of John Boehner as House Speaker followed his heir apparent, Kevin McCarthy having to withdraw from the race to become the new Speaker. After such a ruthless move, nobody wants to take on the position including Paul Ryan, GOP Vice Presidential candidate. Time Magazine describes very well the perilous situation for both the GOP and the Nation:

In the current House, every bill represents a potential opportunity for the Freedom Caucus to depose the speaker if they are unhappy with the bill he has put forward, which is likely to be the case at least some of the time. If the Speaker puts forward a bill to continue funding the government, he can be deposed. If he tries to avoid a default on the nation’s debt, the same outcome is possible once again. The Ex-Im Bank reauthorization, the Federal Aviation reauthorization, tax extenders vital to the business community and a multi-year transportation infrastructure bill: all must-pass items by the end of the year—some, like the debt ceiling by early November. And yet little or no negotiating for a solution on any of these issues is taking place because of the chaos surrounding the House leadership elections.

The divisions between the Freedom Caucus/Tea Party and the Republican establishment are so deep they could now cleave the party in two.

A Third Party for Tea

Do not dismiss the notion of the GOP splitting and forming a third party. In 1912, the GOP split into the GOP and Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose party for that years’s Presidential election. And the historical record shows Third Party candidates taking the Presidency.So the precedent has been set.

Already current GOP front runner Donald Trump has not ruled out running as an independent. And given the amount of money that Trump can bring forward plus the huge $100 million money bags in  opaque Super PAC dollars available, the emergence of a third party for Congressional seats or even Presidential office cannot be totally discounted. Yes, the implications for the GOP in the 2016 Presidential election would be dire given a party in divorce proceedings. But given the chaotic conditions unleashed by the Supreme Courts disastrous Citizens United decision, the 1%,  dread  Bernie and Hillary’s policies on drastically limiting campaign finance. So, the elites might want to preclude that outcome if they could find a good stalking horse.

In sum, the US federal government has been dysfunctional since the election of Barack Obama because of the deliberate sabotage campaign sponsored by the GOP and their investors. The Republicans have been determined to show that government does not work by deliberately scuttling the recovery and effective policy proposals. NYTimes Paul krugman describe the GOP as Money Crazy, but that reflects the nature of their 1% sponsors. The chilling prospects of a Manchurian Candidate-like scenario now looms larger with the Chaos in the GOP as a symptom of the larger duress on the current US political system.

3 Abominable Obama Policy Decisions

The GOP Leadership is prepared to tell you that Barack Obama is the worst President in US History because they need  a scapegoat  for George W. Bush disastrous incumbency. Just consider the consequences of  Bush decisions. Bush systematically ignored all the September 9/11 warning signs preventing his administration from ‘connecting the dots that blasted into the World trade Center Towers and changed American History and policy for decades. Bush  literally and figuratively flew over the Katrina ravaged New Orleans setting a new standard for ignoring the needy.

Bush’s DOJ and other finacial agencies were so crippled in fighting Wall Street excesses that the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009 was made devastatingly worse. And Bush ceded so many military and foreign policy  decisions to Dick Cheney that he, with his Gang of Draft Dodgers Neocons,  conjured up the Iraq War myths and got the US embroiled in disastrous  sectarian wars in the Mideast. So the GOP recriminations on Obamacare and Deficit Spending are wasted breath especially considering the GOP  have some very legitimate targets – let us call them the 3 Obama Abominable Policy decisions.

3 Decisions by the President were early, awful … actually, abominable. First, Obama gave a pass on investigating and prosecuting the Bush administration for building up its false case for the Iraq War. Clearly there was evidence for malfeasance but the political wisdom in the name of bipartisanship was “do not prosecute”. The supreme irony is that as GOP’s reward for these “pardons” was to plot during Obama’s inauguration by the GOP Congressional leadership their brutally Partisan and largely successful NO Sabotage Strategy against Obama.

The second abominable decision was similar in scope. Presidential advisers Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner argued that the Wall Street Banks were too weak and so the Wall Street executives responsible for the Financial Bubble and the need to break up the banks and clear house of the financial wrong doers in effect had to be left left intact. Suffice it to say for these mercies the Obama administration was rewarded with very limited reduction in mortgage amounts by these same banks. And then to add to the insult, the Banks just bailed out to the tune of hundreds of billions of government dollars, committed  a series of scandalous robosignings of mortgage foreclosures followed by LIBOR interest rate manipulations, massive illegal tax shelters for the wealthy and money laundering for drug lords and political tyrants.  In essence this decision set the tone for the kid glove treatment accorded to Wall Street executives..

The third abominable Obama decision was the appointment of Eric Holder as Attorney General. Before he was appointed, Eric Holder had worked as Covington & Burling partner – “no law firm has done more to protect Wall Street executives from the consequences of their criminal activities than Covington & Burling.  Their roster of clients includes every mega-bank in America: JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Bank of America.” And Eric delivered for his banking clients while Attorney General – no prosecutions or disqualification of HSBC executives for blatant money laundering; no action against banks executives at JPMorgan-Chase,  Citigroup, Ally Financial, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and others for mortgage frauds and  foreclosure illegal robosignings; no executive prosecutions just fines for Barclays, Credit Suisse , JPMorgan-Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland for Libor interest rate fixes; again just fines for Credit Suisse for tax evasion manipulations; just fines against BNP Paribas for evading financial sanctions, just fines for Bank of  Americas  for gross mortgage misconduct , and similar treatment of fines but no white collar prosecutions or disqualification of bank executives of ever working for any financial institutions for their financial  crimes from 2007 thriough 2011. This is the US Attorney General aiding and abetting defiance of the Rule of Law by Wall Street executives.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder REUTERS/Gary Cameron

So now what does the NYTimes tell us? The Justice Department after having the white collar crime barn door propped open for 6 long years by Attorney General Eric Holder is now going to be working hard to get white collar financial crime prosecutions. But who will be opposing the US Justice Department in getting those financial white collar convictions – why of course, ex-Attorney General Eric Holder who now works for his old law firm of Covington & Burling as a partner defending Wall Street Financial Executives.

Meanwhile the Justice Department under Eric Holder was responsible for allowing Police Actions against Blacks to get out of hand so we have the Black Lives Matter crisis. Congratulations Barack Obama you have not just General Shinseki at Veterans Affairs, Department of Health’s Katherine Sibelius, but most despicably Attorney General Eric Holder as proof that a)Government does not work,  b)the Democrats can rival the GOP for government executive incompetence of the highest order, and c)most tellingly, big money talks bigtime in the Beltway.

But even, more amazing is the fact that the GOP lets all these issues slide and rather emphasizes that Obama fails because  “he is not born in the US”, Syria/Libya/Benghazi “failures”, Obamacare “sucks”, the Iran deal betrays Israel and false Deficit concerns. No wonder the American public is increasingly skeptical of the Beltway politicians as reflected in the latest Presidential polls. Bernie Sanders has hit the Beltway nail right on the head –  by allowing unfettered corporate and wealthy  elites  to flood money into not just Beltway but politics at every level – government is subject to ever more  corrupting and corrosive effects and has become ever more dysfunctional and unable to deliver good policy for the majority of Americans.

Incoming Jobs Tsunami: WTF! Economy

timorIn the past week, Takethe5th has been describing the incoming Jobs Tsunami in which AI and massive processing capabilities now take over a large chunk of white collar as well as blue collar jobs. Well here is a conference by Silicon Valley Guru Tim O’Reilly called the Next Economy which confirms the pervasive nature of the Jobs Tsunami. It is Tim’s fundamental argument that grabs attention – “Every industry and every organization will have to transform itself in the next few years, in multiple ways, or fade away.

Here is a sample of the topics to be discussed:

WTF?! In San Francisco, Uber has 3x the revenue of the entire prior taxi and limousine industry.

WTF?! Without owning a single room, Airbnb has more rooms on offer than some of the largest hotel groups in the world. Airbnb has 800 employees, while Hilton has 152,000.

WTF?! Top Kickstarters raise tens of millions of dollars from tens of thousands of individual backers, amounts of capital that once required top-tier investment firms.

WTF?! What happens to all those Uber drivers when the cars start driving themselves? AI technologies are flying planes, driving cars, advising doctors on the best treatments, writing sports and financial news, and telling us all, in real time, the fastest way to get to work. They are also telling human workers when to show up and when to go home, based on real-time measurement of demand.The algorithm is the new shift boss.

WTF?! A fabled union organizer gives up on collective bargaining and instead teams up with a successful high tech entrepreneur and investor togo straight to the people with a local $15 minimum wage initiative that is soon copied around the country, outflanking a gridlocked political establishment in Washington.With a mobile era epithet, WTF!, Tim O’Reilly underlines the massive scope of incoming change in Work and Business. It is Silicon Valley powered and who better to observe that scene.

State of Canadian Labor Relations and Media Coverage

TorontoPearson.com

TorontoPearson.com

Friday, July 3rd,  there was a two day wildcat strike at Toronto’s Pearson Airport. On a busy summer weekend 37 then 50+ workers called in sick on Friday and Saturday disrupting traffic at the Airport. Here was the coverage of the event in the Toronto Newspapers:

Toronto GlobeandMailToronto StarToronto SunNational Post
Toronto GlobeandMail

Scores of passengers saw their plans disrupted Friday when about 100 flights at Toronto Pearson International Airport were cancelled and many others delayed as a result of an apparent protest by workers facing job losses when a refuelling contract changes hands later this year.

A union spokesman says 30 of 47 workers scheduled for the Friday morning shift called in sick, while others refused to work overtime. Just 17 of 56 workers showed up in the afternoon with one shift remaining to provide fuel for the rest of the day’s flights. “Basically these guys are all going to lose their jobs Oct. 1 and so I think frustration is the key phrase,” ….

A number of airlines are switching their refuelling business to Aircraft Service International Group (ASIG) in Toronto as of Oct. 1 and have already moved to Swissport in Montreal as of July 1.Trbovich said employees of Consolidated Aviation Fueling Services will have to apply for the same type of job at ASIG at lower wages and with no pension. Workers currently earning between $18 and 23 per hour will start at minimum wage up to a high of $14.

Toronto Star

A wildcat job action by workers who refuel aircraft has delayed or cancelled dozens of flights to and from Toronto Pearson International Airport on Friday.

“We are experiencing some delays and cancellations due to discussions between the airlines and the aircraft fueling company,” the airport said on its webpage. “Please check with your airline regarding flight information before proceeding to the airport.”

Delays of more than four hours were reported on Friday morning and flight delays and cancellations could get far worse throughout the day for various airlines using the airport.

As the disruption extended late into Friday afternoon, Air Canada issued a tweet announcing that change fees would be waived for flights on July 3, 4, and 5. This follows an announcement from earlier today allowing changes to Friday flights to be made without charge.

The Star went on to describe the disruption suffered by several passengers but no mention was made of the the loss of pay, pensions and even jobs to be suffered by the fuel workers on Oct 1.

Toronto Sun

Dozens of employees responsible for fuelling planes at Pearson airport called in sick Friday morning over a job action dispute which left passengers stranded.Employees with Consolidated Aviation Fuelling Services held a “sick-in” to protest job losses after Air Canada announced it was switching fuel providers….

Air Canada is switching its Toronto and Montreal fuel providers from Consolidated Aviation to ASIG in Toronto, effective Oct. 1, and to Swissport in Montreal, effective July 1. Trbovich says the fuelling staff are worried about job losses, benefits and pensions. “The airline walked away from the contract and can’t say they are the victim in this,” Trbovich said.

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick says the airline isn’t involved in the labour dispute and that the disruption involves all airlines at the airport.”This is not a labour disruption between the airlines and their fuelling company,” Fitzpatrick said. “This is a labour disruption at Consolidated Aviation Fuelling Services which is affecting all airlines at Pearson. Delays and cancellations can be expected as a result and passengers should check on the status of their flight before getting to the airport.” The fuelling employees should be able to find work with the new company as their jobs are highly skilled and require strict security clearances, Fitzpatrick said.

Note like the Star, the Toronto Sun did not cite the fact that the fueling employees faced a cutback in wages of greater than 50% to just above minimum wage with no pension benefits despite the fact that “their jobs are highly skilled and require strict security clearances”. Given that assessment by Air Canada’s Fitzpatrick the obvious follow-up questions were whether Fitzpatrick would take a  new  PR job with a 50% drop in wages with no benefits and would the new minimum-wage employees enhance the security and reliability of fueling for domestic Air Canada flights.

National Post

More than two dozen flights were cancelled at Toronto’s Pearson Airport on Friday after a group of disgruntled staff did not show up to put fuel in the planes.More than 45 departing flights were cancelled as of Friday afternoon. The fuelling company, Consolidated Aviation Fueling of Toronto (CAFTL), said 60% of its employees unexpectedly took the day off. In a statement, CAFTL said the disruption is believed to be a “worker led response” to the airlines’ decision to cut ties with the company.

“We’re trying to contact our people to go back to work and they’re not doing it,” said Bill Trbovich, a spokesman with the International Associated of Machinists, which represents the CAFTL employees. “We didn’t condone it, OK? We didn’t know this was happening.” In October, CAFTL will no longer be the exclusive fuelling service at Pearson — with airlines independently entering into agreements with other companies.

Air Canada — one of the worst-affected airlines on Friday — issued a travel alert for Toronto Friday, citing an “airport disruption” and offering to waive penalties for passengers willing to change their travel plans.

“This is not a labour disruption between the airlines and their fueling company,” Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said in an email. “This is a labour disruption at (CAFTL) which is affecting all airlines at Pearson.” Air Canada plans switch to ASIG for fuelling in Toronto on Oct. 1. In a statement Friday, Air Canada said the CAFTL employees that lose their jobs “would be able to apply for jobs at ASIG.”

“The airlines are saying they were innocent victims in this, which is a crock of sh-t,” Trbovich said. “They started it.” Thirty-five arriving flights were also cancelled, but not because of the dispute, the airport said. The fuelling-related cancellations make up less than 4 percent of the 841 scheduled departures from Pearson on Friday.

The National Post also failed to tell its readers that the fueling employees could have their jobs back at 50% less wages and no pension benefits.

Summary of News Coverage

Toronto is served by four major newspaper but only the Toronto GlobeandMail got the story right, telling the crucial facts about the cut in wages with no benefits being offered by the new Fueling company that has taken over already in Montreal and will be taking over Oct 1 this year in Toronto. The 3 major Toronto TV news networks[CBC, CTV and Global] also got the story right but only in later broadcasts and web stories. Curiously, the Toronto Sun which did not tell the wage and benefits rollback story did describe Air Canada PR spokesmen as saying ” their jobs are highly skilled and require strict security clearances”; so why hire a contractor that pays these highly skilled workers minimum wage and no benefits?

Finally, in the online commentary sections of the newspapers  one found that the reaction was largely sympathetic to the fueling workers because the commenters filled in the crucial wage gap information. But there were some Donald Trump Wannabee Trolls that scoffed at any injustice or danger insisting that the free markets would quickly correct for any over reach. “The airlines that were affected by the refueling problem should replace Consolidated Refueling with a non-union supplier and then the employees who booked off sick can be without a job permanently” or “ok yes the new company pays less, should government guarantee them wage levels? what level? 30, 50 or how about 100 an hour etc. no pal the free market works things out,, your industry going down hill, back to school etc, people have to adjust to reality.

Raiding the Consumption Commons

Like most developed countries in Europe and North America, Canada relies on Domestic Personal Consumption for 70% of its economy. A vigorous, consuming Middle class is vital to the prosperity of all Canadians. But this “labor disruption” is another example of the  Canadian Business laser-like focus on driving down labor costs regardless of consequences. True, it is only a very small set of workers and wages. However, given the existing nearly 7% unemployment rate in Canada and a contracting economy [once again the IMF downgraded Canada economic growth, this time from 2.2% to 1.5%] Canada can ill afford a business sector that is relentlessly cutting wages, benefits and jobs.

But even of greater concern is the Tsunami of new AI Automation that will be hitting developed economies over the next 5 years that will result in even more cutbacks in major job categories from train and truck driving, legal counsel, financial analysis, medical tests and interpretation, to story writing and project management. This next job cutting wave will effect white color workers as broadly and deeply as blue color jobs. Being able to secure a living wage is going to become ever more challenging. Worse, gaining a living wage without having to go into debt to get the education and  training  required is tough enough; but there is the added risk the jobs just trained for may disappear. This  is going to be the social and economic challenge of the next 20 years not just in Canada but throughout the World.

More worrisome is the fact that Canadian Business seems as oblivious and uncaring of the imminent jobs dangers as portions of the  Canadian media and government. Even  some of the public believes the punishing fiction that business markets are perfect and faultless allocators of wages and capital forgetting the recurring history of business triggered depression and financial turmoil, child labor and  draconian working conditions plus the passing of environmental costs onto the public. The libertarian ideal that the best government is less government is constantly at odds with harsh business reality of costs being passed onto governments, public and other businesses.

 

Bernie Sanders on Guns

You know that Senator Bernie Sanders is making inroads on the Democratic Presidential Primary when you see the latest polls on Iowa and New Hampshire which show Sanders narrowing the gap with front runner Hillary Clinton. Also stories in liberal websites like TheDailyBeast.com  have become more like Hillary attack ads such as the following graphic:
dbeastThe headine is Bernie Sanders parrots the NRA . Reading the piece one would get the impression that Senator Sanders votes en masse against gun control. This is far from the facts. Politifact shows that Sanders has a long history  of voting for gun control measures about half the time with votes for background checks and banning the sale of assault rifles occurring often. It is no surprise that Sanders gets a D rating from the NRA. But it is a surprise that theDailyBeast omits these facts  leaving it up to readers to get the more balanced view of facts from The Tampa Bay Times Politifact website which shows in detail all of the Bernie Sanders votes on gun control. Also In contrast, a more complete story by NPR shows a much more nuanced view of how Sanders the politician has approached gun control; particularly in recent years.

Summary

After reading this and other stories, political analyst Cliff Schecter has dropped a couple of big notches in my assessment of his ability to deliver a  political analysis with probity and fairness. Ditto for theDailyBeast and their coverage of the 2016 Presidential races. In contrast, I have found the Tampa Bay Politifact organization to be like the CBO-Congressional Budget Office,  a good source of balanced accounting and fact checking information.  And if you are looking for a summary of all the latest 2016 Presidential polls,RealClearPolitics does a top notch job both in summary and details. Yes Dorothy, there are some reliable media sources for basic political information.