The Senate health care bill was unveiled on Thursday, and it appears to be dead on arrival. At least four conservative senators say that they can’t vote for the current version because it doesn’t go far enough, while several moderate Republicans are expressing concerns that it goes too far in repealing popular Obamacare provisions. You can read the full text of the bill here. Since Democrats are going to be united in voting against any bill that the Republicans put forward, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can only lose two Republican votes if he wants something to pass. I don’t know how that is going to be possible, and so in the end we may be stuck with Obamacare for the foreseeable future and that would be a total disaster. It is astounding to me that Republicans don’t want to pass the exact same clean Obamacare repeal bill that they got to Obama’s desk in 2016. If they got that same bill to Trump’s desk, he would sign it. Instead of trying to do everything at once, just repeal Obamacare and then start working on various pieces of the health care system one at a time. According to Real Clear Politics, Congress currently has an average approval rating of just 17.6 percent. It is an institution that has failed the American people over and over again, and we are never going to move things in a positive direction in this country until we do something to clean up that cesspool of filth and corruption. If we truly want to fix health care in this country, we need to rebuild the entire system from the ground up based on free market principles. But of course the bill that was just unveiled in the Senate simply tries to patch up the system we already have, and that ultimately won’t work…
In the waning years of the Obama administration, the National Security Agency (NSA) swept up and reviewed the communications of Americans to an extent previously unknown, in direct violation of the Constitution and its own revised guidelines, recently unsealed documents reveal. The NSA is authorized to collect intelligence on foreigners under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). With this type of intelligence collection, it is virtually inevitable that Americans’ communications will be incidentally intercepted, however there are procedures in place to keep those communications protected and anonymous. Typically, when an American citizen is swept up in NSA surveillance, they are supposed to be ‘masked’ to protect their identity, but there are large loopholes in place that allow the NSA to spy on Americans without a warrant or any probable cause whatsoever. When the NSA conducts what is known as ‘upstream collection’ of internet communications, it is impossible to target a single email, instead sweeping up ‘packets’ of data containing several messages. The NSA is supposed to sift through the data packets and discard all but the targeted email(s).
Macron’s funding reveals that elite Socialists were really behind him changing the label to sell a centrist agenda, but in reality, to maintain their agenda. Macron was able to raise funds from French abroad with the promises of change, and this targeted particularly the French who fled Hollande living in London and New York. He did a photo-op with Nobel Prize laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz before journalists who is critical of the management of globalization, against laissez-faire economists who he classifies a ‘free market fundamentalists’, as well as international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Stiglitz is an American economist and a professor at Columbia University and is a former senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank. He was also a former member and chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Bill Clinton and supported Hillary over Obama saying she is more ‘liberal’ (socialist) than Obama. Stiglitz believes in Georgism, which is a variety of Marxism whereby the State should own all the resources derived from land, which is an old Physicocrat(French) idea that wealth is derived from land. In this way, all natural resources should belong to government from mining to energy just for starters as if government operated industries ever ran efficient or were free from corruption. He also supported a single tax for all and believes that, while people should own the value what they produce themselves with everything derived from land should belong to government characterized as belonging equally to all members of society (government).
President Trump, as part of his ‘America First’ program, has proposed lowering the US corporate tax rate to 15 percent and to close a myriad of loopholes in an effort to simplify the tax code, and to also encourage the nation’s largest businesses to bring production back home. The proposal represents a tangible shift in the relationship between Washington and big business. In 2014, President Obama’s Treasury Department introduced new measures to crack down on corporate tax inversions, a strategy companies utilized to exploit gaping tax differentials between the United States and other countries. Burger King’s acquisition of Canada’s Tim Hortons, a coffee and doughnut chain, for example, was motivated in large part by Canada’s more hospitable tax environment.
Investment Research Dynamics is pleased to present another guest post by Stewart Dougherty. I wanted to preface Stewart’s formal essay with some thoughts he shared with me in our email exchanges leading up to his latest essay: I haven’t shared with you one of the most important tenets of Inferential Analytics … namely, that the universal human condition is addiction. Addiction comes in hundreds of forms. Two of the most powerful are to money and power. HRC is addicted to both. She simply cannot let go of her presidential ambition, or her greed. I must admit, when I saw her interviewed the other day regarding Syria, she looked terrible. Her legs looked as if they were about explode out of her pants, which were stretched to snapping. She looked like a human sausage. I thought her doctors would have been reversing her obesity by now, but apparently not. Among her other addictions, she is addicted to food, and is a glutton [IRD: she’s also an alcoholic]. Mentally, she is a complete mess. So I could be wrong … if she cannot get her gluttony under control, she cannot get to 2020. She simply will not have the required stamina, and could croak at any time. My assumption is that when she smells Trump’s blood in the water, she will become so galvanized that she will get the gluttony under control, even if it’s only to get through the election. They will make Obama her running mate, if that’s what’s required to get her across the finish line. Then he can effectively have a third term, while she vegetates in a food coma.
The world’s eyes and ears have once again turned toward Syria following last week’s chemical weapons attack and U. S. President Donald Trump’s subsequent air strikes on the Assad government. Mainstream media, independent media, and social media platforms are fixing fierce attention on the ongoing developments. These events undoubtedly deserve widespread, ongoing scrutiny. From the United States government’s lack of evidence that the Syrian government was behind the chemical attack to the media’s complicity in driving a pro-war narrative and president Trump’s hypocrisy in bombing Syria – after criticizing former president Barack Obama for doing the same thing – further critical analysis of the recent airstrikes is vital. But even as skepticism toward these events should remain heightened, so should awareness of countless other major developments. Here are five to follow: 1. Trump Appoints Pharmaceutical Consultant to Head the FDA – This week, the president appointed Scott Gottlieb, a pharmaceutical industry insider who has served the boards of multiple pharmaceutical companies, to chair the Food and Drug Administration. Gottlieb currently still works as a consultant for GlaxoSmithKline. He has received $414,000 from GSK, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Valeant Pharmaceuticals. He has also received tens of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from pharmaceutical companies like Merck and Mikart, as well as other corporations – including Goldman Sachs. He has taken several trips through Washington’s revolving door, with brief stints at the FDA mixed in with multiple positions consulting pharmaceutical companies. Trump’s pick follows in the footsteps of Barack Obama, who also appointed a pharmaceutical industry insider to chair the FDA.
Three organizations have filed lawsuits against President Trump’s administration for not publicly disclosing White House visitor logs. According to The Hill, the lawsuits were filed against the Department of Homeland Security by The National Security Archive, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University after the administration failed to release the records pursuant to several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. ‘We hoped that the Trump administration would follow the precedent of the Obama administration and continue to release visitor logs, but unfortunately they have not.’ CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. ‘Given the many issues we have already seen in this White House with conflicts of interest, outside influence, and potential ethics violations, transparency is more important than ever, so we had no choice but to sue.’ ‘President Obama routinely released the data we’re seeking with no damage to presidential privilege, and this information is central to the Secret Service mission and thus clearly agency records subject to FOIA,’ Tom Blanton, the director of the National Security Archive, said in a statement.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Apr 10, 2017.
Noah Smith, writing in Bloomberg, says that middle class America has indeed been fleeced by our national economic policies. We agree. But which policies have been responsible? Smith mentions and immediately dismisses trade, immigration, economic regulation, and welfare policies. The real villain in his view is an alleged turn toward managing the economy on free market lines: ‘Your prosperity was taken by the very people who promised to ensure and enhance it. The decades from 1980 through 2008 were the age of neoliberalism — the ideology of the free market.’ This is a story that we hear more and more. Neoliberals, the favorite new epithet on the left for free market exponents, have ruled the roost for decades ( note how the Obama administration is simply ignored in the preceding quote), and have left the poor and middle class far worse off than they were. The truth is that the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama era had much in common, and it was not free market principles. It was an era of unrestrained crony capitalism, in which special interests formed stronger and stronger alliances with government in order to secure economic monopolies and other privileges.
Fox News’ legal analyst Andrew “Judge” Napolitano returned to the air on Wednesday morning, nine days after the network benched him when President Donald Trump cited the Fox talking head as the source of claims that Barack Obama used British intelligence to wiretap him. Napolitano refused to change his story saying he stood by his claim about spying on President Donald Trump that got him benched by the network on March 21 for an indefinite period. ‘I stand by my statement on surveillance,’ Napolitano told Bill Hemmer. According to Deadline, Napolitano was there to talk about a Fox News report that the FBI allegedly wired a staffer of former Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock, who has been charged with fraud and corruption. But first, Hemmer asked Napolitano about that Obama/Brit intel wiretap claim he first made on Fox & Friends. Napolitano said that was his story and he was sticking to it.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 29, 2017.
Lengthy standing ovation from the Freedom Caucus when @POTUS walked into the Cabinet Room just now. Big momentum toward #RepealAndReplace. pic.twitter.com/N1FLGAVFMN — Cliff Sims (@CSims45) March 23, 2017
Summary of the chaotic day’s key events: GOP House leaders delayed their planned vote Thursday to repeal and replace “Obamacare,” which as AP put it was a “stinging defeat” for Paul Ryan and President Trump in their first major legislative test. The decision came after Trump failed to reach agreement with a bloc of rebellious conservatives. Moderate-leaning Republican lawmakers were also bailing on the legislation, leaving it short of votes. At least 30 Republicans said they opposed the bill, enough to defeat the measure. But the number was in constant flux amid the eleventh-hour lobbying. The bill could still come to a vote in coming days, but canceling Thursday’s vote is a significant defeat. It came on the seven-year anniversary of President Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act, years that Republicans have devoted to promising repeal. “No deal,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N. C., said after he and his group of more than two dozen rebellious conservatives met with Trump to try to get more concessions to reduce requirements on insurance companies. The Republican legislation would halt Obama’s tax penalties against people who don’t buy coverage and cut the federal-state Medicaid program for low earners, which the Obama statute had expanded. It would provide tax credits to help people pay medical bills, though generally skimpier than Obama’s statute provides. It also would allow insurers to charge older Americans more and repeal tax boosts the law imposed on high-income people and health industry companies. The measure would also block federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year, another stumbling block for GOP moderates.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 23, 2017.
The character of events from week to week, and as discussed by both Batchelor and Cohen, is manifestly worsening. While the proxy wars are stabilizing to some little extent, we see the political wars in governments as fall out of the New Cold War in a constant state of escalation. Cohen notes a New York Times piece by Charles Blow that coined a name for what is happening as an ‘Era of Suspicion’ and the author considered this a positive thing for the country – where all the interest groups are being forced by the hate and fear campaign to align with the anti-Russian narrative whether it serves their interests or not. This past week Batchelor brings up the news about the Estonian Ambassador, Eerik Marmei and the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pavlo Klimkin who spoke to a Senate subcommittee about Russia disrupting elections in Europe, and the danger of cyber warfare by Russia. Also mentioned were the Trump charges that Obama had his Trump Tower ‘bugged’. Cohen then launched into what the consequences of this new ‘Era of Suspicion’ and the professor describes how the pressure to conform has influenced all the politicos (Flynn debacle) and the masters of industry in the United States, who want to have business dealings with Russia, into remaining cautiously silent. These and other efforts are being used to isolate Trump and neuter or redirect any chance of dtente or even honest discussion of serious geopolitical events. It is working too – with Republicans also becoming divided. Some Republicans are looking at Vice President Pence for the president’s position. Cohen also discusses the role of ‘expert consultants on Russia’ in the media and their efforts to vilify Putin and the Kremlin. All interviews using these people are factually untrue. The most egregious of these, for example, maintained that Putin was ‘deliriously happy that Washington was in complete chaos over Russian policies’. Batchelor exclaims that this is ‘complete rubbish’. It was also Batchelor’s opinion that it was serious that Trump did not mention Russia in his address to Congress. What this indicates is that dtente is getting much less likely. Cohen also mentions the resurrection of McCarthyism with a Committee of Un-American Activity being formed and concludes that disorder is the contrived tenure of modern Western diplomacy. In my opinion Trump has to decide whether folding to the will of his opposition will stop this campaign to remove him or will it show weakness that will lead to escalation. His reticence to talk about Russia may be testing the waters, or be showing weakness. Senator Graham, who talked with the president, seems to think the latter and the US will ‘push back’ against Russia. I think Trump is folding too. The push back will see more support for NATO and perhaps more military help for Ukraine. Cohen discusses the quasi NATO presence now in Ukraine, and he also brings up a potential increase in US troop presence in Syria. He discusses the dangers of a combined military presence of US and Russian assets in Syria. Cohen then discusses the simple solution to ease the danger, and it really is simple. Disengagement. But Putin needs Washington (Trump) to cooperate. But Cohen now considers this as unlikely as he thinks Trump is folding to his opposition in Washington. In Ukraine the political and economic situation is worse and where President Poroshenko is having no control over the ukronazis – who are now embargoing coal imports from the Donbass. This hurts Kiev, but also illuminates the reality of a failing central government. A personal question: Will NATO continue to base troops there? It would mean contending with or working with nazis in a failed state environment? But would most of the West hear about it? That’s where we are, living behind a virtual information wall that George Orwell would immediately recognize. From my point of view the Military Industrial Complex has shown no sense of danger in supporting a ‘confrontation for profit’ policy against Russia, and now the people of the West are effectively ‘walled off’ from learning about critical realities by a systemic corruption of the MSM. Washington is creating its own “Iron Curtain”. Not even discussions at the highest levels of Washington are tolerated unless they support the narrative. One wonders how long this can go on with the Military Industries dependent on tax dollars, and the financial sector and other interests looting the economy and destroying that same tax base. This becomes another reason to impose that ‘Era of Suspicion’ on the whole country; if one cannot advise or discuss an argument against war dangers (or government policies) without censure, then war becomes more inevitable in spite of the fundamentals that work against it. One could say, ‘unleash the dogs of war’ but first hugely increase the fiscal deficit.
Rather than bemoan the inevitable failure of centralized “fixes,” let’s turn our attention and efforts to the real solutions: decentralized, networked, localized. Those looking for centralized solutions to healthcare, jobs and other “macro-problems” will suffer inevitable disappointment. The era in which further centralization provided the “solution” has passed: additional centralization (Medicare for All, No Child Left Behind, federal job training, Universal Basic Income, central banking “free money for financiers”, etc.) have all entered Diminishing Returns. The systemic costs of centralization–corruption, cronyism, soaring prices, declining quality, over-reach, insider rackets, regulatory capture by corporations and oligarchs– are soaring as the benefits of centralization plummet. ObamaCare was the penultimate flowering of centralization: every self-serving healthcare cartel and racket had a say in the centralized sausage-making, and the results were entirely predictable: highly profitable to the healthcare cartels and rackets, and soaring costs that rendered the program unaffordable.
By the way, now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like. — Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) March 12, 2017
There may have been much more to the termination of US attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, than meets the casual glance. According to Reuters, which cites a law enforcement source, two days before U. S. Attorney Preet Bharara was fired on Saturday, the high-profile New York prosecutor declined to take a call from President Donald Trump. Bharara reportedly contacted the DOJ for authorization to speak to the president on Thursday – one day before the DOJ announced it had requested all Obama-era attorneys to hand in their resignations. When he apparently did not receive it, Reuters adds that he called back the woman who had contacted him to say “he did not want to talk to Trump without the approval of his superiors.” As reported previously, Bharara – in his role as chief federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York – oversaw several notable corruption and white-collar criminal cases and prosecutions of terrorism suspects. He was one of 46 Obama administration holdovers who were asked to resign by the Justice Department on Friday.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 12, 2017.
The Republicans have a problem. Healthcare prices are so swollen by government imposed monopolies that most people cannot possibly afford to pay the crazy bills without subsidies. What to do? Example: my son recently went to an out-of-state emergency room for food poisoning. The bill came in at over $8,000. And how is this for fairness: our insurance company knocked it down to about $4,000. An uninsured person would have been liable for the full amount. Might even have faced bankruptcy for failure to pay it. I personally lobbied for a provision in Obamacare preventing hospitals for charging the uninsured more than the insured. Obama said no. Why? Because the idea upset the hospitals. They wanted to be able to continue to exploit the uninsured. Whew. What does that tell us about Obama? Under these circumstances, average people cannot possibly pay their medical bills unassisted. Yet if you repeal Obamacare by imposing new price controls and subsidies, in other words, pour old, spoiled wine into new bottles, you just perpetuate the problem. So what to do? Prices can never be reduced by price controls, much less by price controls on government imposed monopoly prices. Most people do not realize that the government, through Medicare, has fixed medical prices for half a century and the results speak for themselves. At the same time, government has fed price increases by protecting monopolies set up by the drug companies and the American Medical Association. This is what government always does, and it wrecks any sector of the economy where this crony capitalist system is applied.
Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, has confirmed that it hired the consultancy of Tony Podesta, the elder brother of John Podesta who chaired Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, for lobbying its interests in the United States and proactively seeking the removal of various Obama-era sanctions, the press service of the Russian institution told TASS on Thursday. “The New York office of Sberbank CIB indeed hired Podesta Group. Engagement of external consultants is part of standard business practices for us,” Sberbank said. Previously, The Daily Caller reported that Tony Podesta was proactively lobbying for cancellation of a range of anti-Russian sanctions against the banking sector. In particular, he represented interests of Sberbank and was paid $170,000 for his efforts over a six-month period last year to seek to end one of the Obama administration’s economic sanctions against that country. Podesta, founder and chairman of the Podesta Group, is listed as a key lobbyist on behalf of Sberbank, according to Senate lobbying disclosure forms. His firm received more than $24 million in fees in 2016, much of it coming from foreign governments, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Former President Barack Obama imposed the Russian sanctions following the break out in violence in east Ukraine in 2014.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 9, 2017.
The idea of playing by the rules is a tough concept to grasp for some politicians, particularly those with ties to the ever-corrupt city of Chicago. So when David Plouffe, Obama’s former campaign manager and then Chief Policy Advisor for Uber, sent an email to Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emmanuel seeking assistance in fighting rules that would block Uber from picking up passengers at Chicago’s airports, he probably thought his illegal lobbying efforts would go unnoticed. That said, Chicago’s ethics board had a slightly different opinion on the issue and has decided to slap Plouffe with a $90,000 fine and levied another $2,000 fine on Uber. Apparently Plouffe wasn’t registered with the city as a lobbyist for Uber, a requirement he was undoubtedly familiar with, when he sent the following email to Mayor Rahm Emmanuel: “Assume both of us thought the airport issue was settled and we would never have to discuss again, but unfortunately two significant new hurdles were introduced. Coming to you because of their severity that would prevent us from operating. We were all set to announce Monday we were beginning pickups.”
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 17, 2017.
Two days after democratic senators Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin sent a letter to Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein, asking if Goldman effectively runs the country through its extensive alumni links at the Trump administration, and requesting details on “lobbying” activities in the bank related to review of the Dodd-Frank Act and the Obama-era fiduciary rule on financial advice, as well as asking for any communication between the bank’s employees and Cohn, Mnuchin, nominee for the SEC chair Jay Clayton and chief strategist Steve Bannon, Bloomberg reported overnight that yet another Goldman banker, Jim Donovan, was under consideration for the No. 2 job at the Treasury Department, however it appears he has “got one big thing working against him.” That “thing” is the overdue realization by the new president that his cabinet openly appears to have been created and staffed by populism arch nemesis #1, Goldman Sachs. Besides Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s pick for Treasury Secretary, former Goldman officials working for the new administration include former president Gary Cohn, now director of the National Economic Council; Stephen Bannon, the chief White House strategist; and Dina Powell, formerly the bank’s head of philanthropic investment, who’s an assistant to the president and senior counselor for economic initiatives. So just like Goldman would staff every central bank’s core positions prior to Trump, after the US election, the world’s most influential investment bank has shifted all of its attention on just one person, and he is finally starting to realize that that may not be a good thing.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 12, 2017.
If you want to be an American TV talking head or a Western presstitute, you are required to be braindead and integrity-challenged like Bill O’Reilly, CNN, MSNBC, and the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and all the rest. In an interview with President Donald Trump, O’Reilly said: ‘Putin is a killer.’ O’Reilly is indifferent to the fact that thermo-nuclear war is a killer of planet Earth. For O’Reilly, President Trump’s desire to normalize relations with Russia is an indication that the President of the US is comfortable making deals with killers, as if America’s last three presidents have not been mass killers comfortable with their destruction in whole or part of many countries and millions of peoples. President Trump’s response to O’Reilly’s was: ‘We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think – our country’s so innocent?’ The only thing wrong with President Trump’s response is that it implicitly accepts that Putin is no different from Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Yet there is no evidence that Putin is a ‘killer.’ This accusation is an assertion from those who prosper from having a ‘Russian threat’ to keep the money and power flowing to themselves.
Trump’s ongoing spat with Iran escalated on Tuesday, when Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed the US president’s warning to Iran to stop its missile tests, saying the new U. S. president had shown the “real face” of American corruption. “We are thankful to (Trump) for making our life easy as he showed the real face of America,” Khamenei said according to his website. He made the remarks in an address to the commanders of the Army Air Force on the verge of the Islamic Revolution’s victory anniversary which falls on February 10 this year. “During his election campaign and after that, he confirmed what we have been saying for more than 30 years about the political, economic, moral and social corruption in the U. S. ruling system,” he added. It is unclear if Trump’s domestic opponents will be quick to agree with the Iranian. Provocatively, the Supreme Leader once again alleged that it was the US that created ISIS: “The new U. S. president says Iran should thank Obama! Why?! Should we thank him for [creating] ISIS, the ongoing wars in Iraq and Syria, or the blatant support for the 2009 sedition in Iran? He was the president who imposed paralyzing sanctions on the Iranian nation; of course, he did not achieve what he desired. No enemy can ever paralyze the Iranian nation.”
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 7, 2017.
“George Soros and Clinton Inc. were nearly able to declare ‘Mission Accomplished’ on their vision of establishing an opaque ‘New World Order’,” Feierstein, a hedge fund manager who has spent 38 years working in the New York, Tokyo and London global financial markets, said on Tuesday. On Monday, Trump announced that he was scrapping the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that his predecessor President Barack Obama had sought to complete during his eight years in office. The top-secret TPP free trade agreement was one of the worst trade deals ever crafted by Washington’s pay-to-play culture of corruption, Feierstein stated. The TPP was deliberately crafted to ensure a form of “globalization” so that these same corporations who designed the “rules” could operate in the dark with total impunity while stripping member nations of their sovereignty and denying consumers of all their rights and protections, Feierstein explained. “TPP was Obama’s ‘Crown Jewel’ achievement after 35 years of failed neoliberalism funded by oligarchs for the benefit of oligarchies,” he observed.