Brilliant – Watch This Clip

Watch this clip. Brilliant. Follow the money behind the votes. It really is just paid corruption.

“David Sirota critiques coverage of DC budget battles
Reliable Sources

Former Bernie Sanders campaign advisor David Sirota says the news media should be following the money on Capitol Hill, sharing context “about which industries are buying which politicians.” Sirota also argues that the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 is impacting American politics today.”

I can’t find a way to post the clip here so Click This to watch.

Corruption Bred Corruption, Until…

This post first appeared at Government Cheese.

Corruption always breeds greater corruption. Once someone can get ahead through corruption they have an advantage over the non-corrupt. The non-corrupt can’t compete and are driven out.

Allowing money to influence politics AT ALL (including “think tanks,” “non-profits” like ALEC, corrupt information sources like Fox, Epoch Times & talk radio, etc) bred greater and greater corruption to the point where a corruptly-constituted Supreme Court allowed unlimited money in political campaigns. That unlimited money drives a massive and unbeatable influence machine.

And then there’s just basic corruption – politicians paid by oil companies to allow them to profit off of killing the planet.

Our “system” is probably irretrievably corrupted. Tobacco kills around 480,000 Americans each year and causes a huge amount of disease and suffering beyond that. It is still legal and largely uncontrolled.

And, of course, the climate crisis has been allowed to reach a tipping point.

(Yesterday a “liberal” friend was talking about how “progressives” killed the infrastructure bill. That “opinion” comes straight from corrupt information sources. Despair.)

Planet-Killing Corruption In Plain Sight

This post first appeared at Government Cheese.

One senator who makes a fortune from coal is blocking the country from last-ditch efforts to keep the climate crisis from becoming catastrophic. Well, it’s really one Democratic senator and EVERY Republican – all of them, their entire party and propaganda infrastructure paid by the fossil-fuel industry. But they go unmentioned.

The Guardian explains, in, Joe Manchin leads opposition to Biden’s climate bill, backed by support from oil, gas and coal,

In the current electoral cycle, Manchin has received more in political donations from the oil and gas industry than any other senator, more than double the second largest recipient. He is also the No 1 beneficiary of donations from the coal mining sector, leads the way in money accepted from gas pipeline operators, and is sixth in the ranking of senatorial donations from electricity utilities.

… But Manchin’s ties to the fossil fuel industry run deeper than political donations. After initially working in his family’s furniture and carpet business, Manchin set up a coal brokerage firm called Enersystems in 1988, running it until he became a full-time politician.

… His shares in Enersystems are worth between $1m and $5m, according to his latest financial disclosure document, with the senator receiving more than $5m in dividend income from the company over the past decade. The coal brokerage represents 71% of Manchin’s investment income, and about a third of his total net worth.

For history there should be a memorial monument that names names. It should list the names of individuals who contributed to the horrific situation they inherit.

But place that monument well above sea level.

The Bipartisan Mistake

Joe Biden’s agenda – if it survives at all – was massively watered down by the insistence on negotiating a “bipartisan infrastructure bill.” This is the same thing that happened to Obama’s health care bill.

– Negotiating with bad-faith Republicans wasted months
– The result was ridiculous and requires the reconciliation bill to restore essential components
– The reconciliation bill is being watered down by corporate interests paying some Democrats
– The reconciliation bill might even be killed by these corporate interests

What is it about Democrats that causes them to instinctively require Republican permission to get anything done?

This time they’re fucking around with the last remaining effort to do something to contain the climate crisis.

Senate Dems Are Complicit In These Shootings

More shootings, nothing happens. Decades of shootings nothing happens. Millions of guns on our streets is hundreds of millions of gun manufacturer corporate profit and we all know that is why nothing happens. (Same for climate, healthcare, tobacco, you name it. It is blatant corruption and we all know it.)

I am just so sick of this. The public has been begging the Congress to do something about this for so long. Begging. Children in schools have to do “active shooter drills.” I had to do “duck and cover” nuclear war drills and it was traumatizing, imagine children doing these drills and then hearing about school after school being shot up. The adult public also lives with fear of being in a mass shooting.

41 Republican senators represent 21% of the public. The filibuster blocked anything from happening and Dems would not end the filibuster. That is the definition of “complicit.” Dems who allowed the filibuster to continue before this are complicit in this week’s shootings. Any Dems still allowing this to continue are complicit in every future shooting.

Right now we have fascists walking the streets with assault weapons openly displayed. That is fucking terrifying.
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On “Speaking Fees,” Biden and Yellen

In the 90s there was a scandal about “buckraking,” where journalists were reporting positively about certain moneyed interests while raking in huge “speaking fees” from them. (A good example was 1996’s Money Talks by Howard Kurtz, Part 1, Part 2.)

While Congress has since banned honoraria for its members, the market for reporters and pundits who speak to business audiences has never been hotter. Some big-name media people routinely receive $15,000, $30,000, even $50,000 for a single speech. And the bulk of that money comes from corporations and lobbying organizations with more than a passing interest in the issues the journalists write about and yak about for a living.

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Protectionism, Trade and Democracy

This post originated at Imagine Democracy

“Protectionism” literally means we, as a nation, protect our national interests. It is one more word that has been twisted to make people think it’s a bad thing, like “entitlement” (the things we are entitled to as citizens in a democracy) or “welfare” (people in a democracy making each others’ lives better.)

“Trade” is about competitive advantages. It used to mean one region can grow bananas and another can grow corn, and by trading they each end up with both bananas and corn in their kitchens. (Good.) Today, though, it means authoritarian governments have the “competitive advantage” of allowing slavery and pollution so their factories can make things for less. So (the executives of) big corporations move production there, then squeeze the remaining workforce here with threats to move their jobs as well if they won’t lower their standard of living. (Bad.) All the gains of that “trade” are passed to a few already-wealthy owners and managers of that means of production. They use some of the gains to influence our laws to allow them to do this.

A democracy obviously would consider its people’s standard of living an interest worth “protecting” and would never allow businesses to influence lawmaking.

Trade can be done a different way but that requires democratic governance. Economists (used to) tell us that society gained from trade because making the economy more “efficient” by moving production to lower-cost regions frees up resources, providing increased investment and general prosperity; better infrastructure, higher pay and more free time for everyone in the society. And the production moved to the lower pay area means jobs and investment there, so they also move up that same ladder to increased investment and prosperity. That assumption depended on viewing society as liberal democracies capable of making and enforcing rules that would pass these gains on to everyone.

The failure of our country to maintain itself as a democracy has resulted in the allowance of trade with slavers and polluters, resulting in the extreme inequality we see. Thereby enabling further squeezing of workers and environment here. It also incentivizes authoritarian governments to allow slavery and pollution.

The solution to this, and so many other problems, is, of course, to remove the influence of money from our political system.

So Much For The System

What was left of our “system” has now passed the turning point.

We wanted accountability for crimes we could clearly see with our own eyes. But Republicans effectively killed investigations or oversight in the Congress. The people at the top of the FBI and Justice Dept were removed and the rest held under threat of ruin. The entire system of checks and balances was besieged.

We the People were left hopeless and helpless, no part of our government able to step up and tell us why the crimes we could see happening were continuing. So we put all of our eggs in the Mueller basket for any remaining hope to save us.

We all saw collusion and obstruction in plain sight, and believed the Mueller investigation knew even more. We KNOW there was money laundering, extortion, bribery, fraud, lies and lies and lies and you name it. Don Jr lied to Congress and we know it. Erik Prince did, and we know that. Flynn and Gates and Cohen and others were given light or no sentences so they could tell us what happened.

We know that at the least Trump had lied about his plans to build Trump Tower Moscow. The Russians knew at the time that he had lied so he was compromisable. And he acted compromised. (Meeting alone with Putin with no transcription? Ending sanctions?)

Our remaining hope for accountability lay in Mueller’s investigation and we were let down. The basket dropped and our remaining eggs are broken. Those who want accountability have lost. We failed to kill the king and now we face the consequences. The right’s media/propaganda/lie machine has an ability to set the discourse and reach the public that outweighs our ability to do anything about it. Trump is now exonerated for every crime or future crime and will be beyond reach.

The right-wing drumbeat to leave Trump alone will now become merciless. Dems will now be cast as sore-losers who engaged in a plot to to smear a good, Godley man and his family for political gain. Anyone questioning Trump’s divine right to rule will be marginalized, ostracized, called you name it. Democrats will be the radicals who want to force us into communist training camps

I asked in May, 2017, “Will our system withstand the attack? We don’t know. Kleptocracy is powerful.”

Now we know the answer. The promise of a “taste” of the kleptocracy will buy Republicans a lot of good will. (Stock buybacks alone have topped $1 trillion since the tax cuts.)

The Republican project is complete. Accountability is over. Corruption rules. The rich and powerful are fully in charge. “American carnage” reigns.

Corruption: “Take The Gold Or Take The Lead”

Corruption is such an issue… This is part of a 2014 post titled Eric Cantor Goes To His Reward

I’m posting this in honor of Joe Biden cashing in on public service by receiving $200K for speeches.

Take The Gold Or Take The Lead

Our system has become corrupted and everyone knows what I mean. Everyone understands that government officials who “play ball” can get a huge paycheck after leaving government if they help certain big businesses while serving in government. The Nation explains, in When a Congressman Becomes a Lobbyist, He Gets a 1,452 Percent Raise (On Average), Secret deals, bribery and “buying” members of Congress are commonplace in today’s government. (See also: Tauzin, Billy.) (And: Public Interest Groups Call For Corruption Investigation Into Prescription Drug Law.)

Neil Barofsky was Special United States Treasury Department Inspector General overseeing the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). In the preface to his book Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street, Barofsky explained that people in government are given two choices, “the gold or the lead.” From the NY Times review, (emphasis added, for emphasis)

Mr. Barofsky, wearing an unseasonal wool suit at odds with a “Washington-appropriate wardrobe,” is poised to let the hostess seat them at a front table of her choosing, but Mr. Allison insists on a private table in the rear. Then he gets down to business.

“Have you thought at all about what you’ll be doing next?” Mr. Allison asks Mr. Barofsky, soon adding, “Out there in the market, there are consequences for some of the things that you’re saying and the way that you’re saying them.”

“Allison was essentially threatening me with lifelong unemployment,” Mr. Barofsky concludes, and alternatively suggesting a plum government appointment some day if Mr. Barofsky would simply “change your tone.”

When Mr. Barofsky tells his deputy of the exchange, the deputy says, “It was the gold or the lead,” resorting to the lingo of their joint experience prosecuting Latin American drug kingpins in New York: Cooperate and share the riches, or don’t and get plugged.

There are “consequences” if you don’t play ball. But if you do play ball, there are rewards. And everyone knows it.

Cantor represented Wall Street instead of Virginia in the Congress. His Virginia constituents didn’t like it, and booted him. Cantor has gone to his reward: a big pot of Wall Street gold. And everyone knows it.

Solution? Make it a law: No person employed by the government in any capacity may receive compensation in any form that is significantly greater than the compensation they received for their public service, for a period of five years.

Democracy and Corruption

I wrote this in May, June 2017 but it was never published. I’m getting around to posting it now.

How Did Trump Happen To Us?

How did Trump happen to us?

We are experiencing a shock and awe attack. Every single day we face a flood of terrible things being pushed at us so fast that we do not have time to react. Our system and commons and norms and standards and protections and rule of law are rapidly being dismantled. We are overwhelmed, exhausted, our spirits wear down, we don’t know what to do. Worse, the country risks normalization and eventual acceptance of the cruelty and insanity coming from the top.

Will we get out of this? With the nuclear codes in the hands of a crazy, egomaniacal, racist, malignant narcissist, will we live another year? If we’re alive will we be in jail?

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Progressives Should Focus On Russia

Too many on the “left” say progressives should not be focusing on the Russian interference in our democracy. They say it is just an excuse to allow the failure of Clinton and Democratic leadership to offer the public good policies that help people instead of just helping corporations and the rich slide. Some even say it is just old 1950s-style “red-baiting.”

Criticism of Russia is not related to previous pre-1990s criticisms of communism or socialism. Russia is not that. Today it is a kletocracy run by one guy and a bunch of oligarchs, sort of the perfect Koch/Thiel/Trump/corporate state that Republicans are trying to bring about here.

They Did It

The Trump campaign did do this and the Republican Party is running cover for it, just so they can continue to loot us with tax cuts for the rich and taking away the things our government does to make our lives better.

Its better for progressives if the spectrum of power goes from the left to centrist Dems, instead of from centrist Dems to the far right as it does now. Using Russia to get lots of Rs out of power and move that spectrum left only helps us obtain an environment in which Medicare-for-All, free college and university, allowing everyone to vote, restoring taxation and regulation on corporations, breaking up monopolies, bringing racial and gender justice, ending privatization, finally fighting climate change and all the other things needed to heal the country and planet are possible to achieve.

We need the public to understand that conservative/Republican/corporate rule is anti-democracy and not legitimate. Focusing on Russia helps us get there.

The Russia Story Isn’t Going Away

It’s not like the Russia story is going to drop from the news, allowing other things to be discussed. So ride the wave instead of fighting the tide.

The Russia story actually gives us an opportunity to talk about good policies instead of policies that hurt the country, by tying that discussion to Russian efforts to hurt us. All the talk about Russia gives us the opportunity to tie Republican anti-government policies to the ways Russia hoped to benefit from their interference in our democracy. Russia helped put them there in an effort to hurt the country and Republican policies hurt the country.

The Russia story delegitimizes Republicans by exposing their lack of legitimacy. (Along with voter suppression, gerrymandering and other ways they are not legitimately in power.) The more they and their policies are delegitimized the more progressive policies fill the vacuum.

Note how Medicare-for-All is being widely discussed, even while the Russia story dominates.

All the talk about Russian interference in democracy offers us a chance to remind people of what democracy means. erference in our democracy.

White House Propaganda, Graft: This Is Not Normal

Early in this millennium, Mississippi’s Trent Lott was the Senate’s Majority Leader. Then it was disclosed that he had done something outside the bounds of what most Americans considered “normal” and acceptable. Lott had spoken favorably about Strom Thurmond’s 1948 Presidential candidacy on a platform of racial segregation. So he had to go.

Favorable comments about a segregationist were enough to unseat a national leader fifteen years ago. This was considered a major scandal, and a short time after his comments were revealed, Lott was forced to resign his leadership position in the Senate.

That is what “normal” used to mean. That was then, this is now.

Breitbart is a “news” website, which was until recently run by Steve Bannon. It is a far-right outlet that promotes “alt-right” concepts often involving white nationalism.

Bannon often refers to what he calls a “‘Camp of the Saints’-type invasion” to describe what he sees as a rising tide of threats to Western civilization. When he says these things,  Bannon is referring to a 1973 French novel that “describes the takeover of Europe by waves of immigrants that wash ashore like the plague,” and “reframes everything as the fight to death between races.”

Steve Bannon, race-baiting propagandist, is now the White House Chief Strategist. Yet this is not a national scandal.

In fact, Bannon is not the only “alt -right” person in the Trump White House. Other Breitbart staffers are also getting jobs in the new administration, as are other far-right figures. It is said that White House alt-right figures removed reference to the genocide of Jewish people in the White House’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement.

This is not normal.

President Trump recently accused former president Obama of a massive criminal conspiracy involving abusing presidential power to “wiretap” Trump’s campaign to help Trump’s opponent. This is , to say the least, not normal.

The White House has begun sending Americans a daily state-propaganda email “newsletter” called “Your 1600 Daily.” It is sent unsolicited, in violation of the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act. It comes from an official White House government email address, and is signed by “The White House. ”

One day this briefing advertised a meeting with “victims of Obamacare.” Another asks Americans to “Share Your Obamacare Disaster Story With President Trump.” Wednesday’s makes the claim, “Under his leadership, the United States will be the world’s great magnet for innovation and job creation.”

It promotes extremist news outlets like Townhall, and white nationalist outlets like Breitbart.

This is just not normal. In other times this, too, would be a major scandal.

And then there is the blatant moneymaking. Last week China granted Trump a number of lucrative trademarks, after Trump broke a campaign promise to declare China as a currency manipulator, which would have initiated a process that could lead to tariffs on Chinese-made goods entering the country.

This week we learn that the family of Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner will make at least $400 million in “a sweetheart deal” with a Chinese-government-connected firm.

But there are a number of red flags surrounding the transaction, and no way to rule out concerns that this represents just the latest instance of potential conflicts between the Trump administration’s obligation to the public and its own financial gain.

And that’s just a taste of the financial shenanigans going on. For example, despite Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington from the influence of lobbyists, his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, has started a lobbying firm. See if you can guess what he’s selling to clients.

Fox News commentator Monica Crowley was asked to join the Trump White House, but had to back out after it was disclosed that she had engaged in plagiarism. Now it is reported that she is going to work as a lobbyist for Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian billionaire and Putin supporter. She’s making big bucks, because she has influence with the Trump White House. That is just a recent example of so many examples of corruption.

But wait, there’s more. The President of the United States is holding campaign rallies just one, two months into presidency. And he is raising “campaign funds” from donors. What?

Meanwhile the Republicans in Congress, in the thrall of corporate cash and billionaires, assist their benefactors rather than do their Constitutional duty to hold these people accountable.

This is like the story of the frog in boiling water. The water is starting to boil, but because the warming happens slowly, the frog gets used to it and doesn’t notice it is cooking.

What’s going on here is not normal. They are so much not normal and happening so fast that we risk becoming desensitized to what normal means.

So a reminder: This is not normal. Do not allow yourself to ease into any level of acceptance of this, or a belief that what is happening in our country is part of a pattern or a political pendulum that will swing the other way or a back and forth between parties or think checks and balances are going to save us and our nation.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their OurFuture site. I am a Fellow with CAF, a project of People’s Action. Sign up here for the OurFuture daily summary and/or for People’s Action’s Progressive Breakfast.