Eric Zuesse

Let's Face It, Our Presidential Candidates Are Hucksters

Here is Bill Clinton, the U.S. President who served Wall Street by removing all regulations on derivatives-trading and by ending FDR’s Glass-Steagall Act separation of investment-banking from consumer-banking, now telling an audience, that his successor George W. Bush had done this, and that Bush’s successor Barack Obama has unfortunately continued it. He said this on March 21st when explaining why everyone should vote for his wife to undo the ”awful” and “trickle-down” legacy of George W. Bush and Barack Obama:

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Clinton: 'Coal Will Be Part of the Energy Mix For Years to Come, Both in the U.S. and Around the World'

The “Down with Tyranny” blog quotes Hillary Clinton’s statement in a recent letter to Democratic U.S. Senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin, assuring him that as President she won’t be overly aggressive to reduce the coal industry, because coal-mining jobs are at stake; thus: “Coal will be part of the energy mix for years to come, both in the U.S. and around the world.”

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A Little-Known Way Our Political System Is Rigged to Favor the Establishment

Did you know that if a given political party already has an incumbent in a particular political post, it’s standard practice in the United States for a political party to prohibit its voter-list to be purchased by anyone who’s not an incumbent office-holder in that party — including by someone who wishes to challenge or contest within that party the incumbent, in a primary election?

Only incumbents have access to that crucial list — crucial for any candidate in a primary election (unless there is no incumbent who is of that party).

Here’s an example:

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a long-time unquestioningly loyal operative of Hillary Clinton, was selected by the Democratic President Barack Obama (though she had condemned Obama while he was running against Clinton in 2008) to run the Democratic National Committee, so that Obama’s Administration will be continued with little change by his (chosen) successor (just a change of the President’s name, and only a bit more of a neo-conservative on her foreign policies than he was). However, Ms. DWS has a very low approval-rating from her constituents, and a Bernie Sanders supporter wants to contest against her in a Democratic primary. But, he says:

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This Election Is the Biggest Threat to the Aristocracy and Biggest Opportunity for Voters, Since at Least 1932

The historical significance of the 2016 U.S. presidential contest isn’t yet generally recognized. Consider the evidence regarding this historical significance, in the links that will be provided here, and from which the argument here is constructed:

For the first time ever, a Republican campaign ad against Hillary Clinton is entirely truthful about her and focuses on the most important issue facing voters:

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Is Sanders' Striking Success in New Hampshire a Sign of a National Political Shocker in the Making?

The latest New Hampshire Democratic primary poll indicates not only a current reality in that state, but an underlying and far more important national trend, a trend exhibited in N.H. that has bearing more broadly throughout the country, and that shows U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders already well on the road toward locking up the Democratic nomination, barring any future game-changing disclosures about one or both candidates, which are always possibilities in any political contest, and can never be ruled out. The same poll also shows Sanders performing more strongly against any Republican than Hillary Clinton would. This is not the way things looked to most prognosticators back on April 30th when Sanders started his campaign.

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The Myriad Ways Political Corruption and Mass Incarceration Go Hand and Hand

Even if it might be the case that incarceration rates don’t necessarily correlate with corruption, they do necessarily reflect the extent to which a given nation’s government is (by means of its laws and its enforcement of those laws) at war against its own population; and, so, technically speaking, incarceration rates (the percentage of the population who are in prison) are supposed to reflect the prevalence of law-breaking within a given nation.

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Poll: 'Iraqis Are the Saddest & One of the Angriest Populations in the World'

The 2015 Global Emotions survey from Gallup finds that, “Iraqis Are Among the Saddest and One of the Angriest Populations in the World.” They explain:

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Exposing the Flaws of the U.S. Media's Dangerous Ukraine Propaganda

The New York Review of Books is a leading intellectual publication in the United States, and it (like all of the major U.S. “news” media) has "reported" on the Ukrainian civil war as having been incited by Russia's Vladimir Putin -- a simple-minded explanation, which also happens to be deeply false. The reality is that the residents of southern Ukraine, the part of Ukraine adjoining Russia, were overwhelmingly opposed to the overthrow of Ukraine's democratically elected President, Viktor Yanukovych, though they are portrayed in NYRB (and other “news” media) as being mere stooges of Russian propaganda for their opposing the coup that overthrew the President for whom they had voted overwhelmingly. (The only thing that America’s “news” media had previously reported about Yanukovych is that he was corrupt; but so were all of his predecessors, and U.S. media ignored this crucial fact. Selective reporting is basic to propaganda, and the U.S. major media are trained masters at it. Without a person’s knowing that Ukraine is by far the most corrupt country in the former Soviet Union, and the one with the worst economic performance of them all, Ukraine’s politics just can’t be understood at all: it has long been an extreme kleptocracy, ruled by psychopathic politicians, for the benefit of psychopathic oligarchs, who have robbed the country blind. That’s the deeper truth -- and it's key to understanding the current situation there.)

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PBS Frontline Exposes (Softly) Bush and Obama Authorization and Coverup of NSA Illegal Surveillance of Americans

The May 13 PBS "Frontline" documents that on Oct. 4, 2001, President George W. Bush signed a secret authorization for the NSA to see the "metadata" (the to-whom, and from-whom) records for all phone calls, and also "a lot of content of phone calls. They’re actually recording the voices — not for all of our calls, but for a lot of U.S. telephone calls." 

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Huffington Post Uncritically Trumpets Obama-Republican Big Lie About the Syrian War

On April 20th, Sabrina Siddiqui headlined at Huffington Post, "Bob Corker: 'Assad Was Wise' To Kill 1,200 With Chemical Weapons And 'Embarrass' The U.S." She didn't challenge the veracity of the Obama Administration's (and Republican Senator Corker’s) charge that the sarin gas attack came from Assad's forces instead of from jihadist rebels who were trying to oust Assad. But, evil though Assad is, that charge against him is a lie, which was definitively nailed down as such, by Seymour Hersh, on April 4th headlining at the London Review of Books, "The Red Line and the Rat Line: Seymour Hersh on Obama, Erdogan, and the Syrian Rebels." The gas attack was perpetrated by Turkish Prime Minister Recip Erdogan's allies the jihadist al-Nusra rebels, who are allied in Syria with Al Qaeda, against Assad.

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Obama's First-Amendment Defense of Political Liars

President Obama, through his U.S. Solicitor General, arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court, has now stated that lying in political campaigns isn't merely protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech, but that it is an especially protected form of speech, which must not be hindered by any state government, such as by the state of Ohio. Ohio has outlawed such intentional deception of voters, and has established heavy criminal penalties against it, when it can be proven. The idea behind this law is that any democracy in which lying in political campaigns isn't penalized by severe penalties, won't remain a democracy much longer, but will instead descend into a kleptocracy: theft of elections themselves (via lies), so that they become just nominal "elections," which are controlled by whatever aristocrats can put up the most money, to lie the most effectively, to the biggest number of voters: lying-contests.

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SEC Prosecutor Says SEC Top Brass Are Corrupt

Bloomberg News reported, on April 8, that a Securities and Exchange Commission prosecuting attorney, James Kidney, said at his recent retirement party on March 27, that his prosecutions of Goldman Sachs and other mega-banks had been squelched by top people at the agency, because they "were more focused on getting high-paying jobs after their government service than on bringing difficult cases." He suggested that SEC officials knew that Wall Street would likely hire them after the SEC at much bigger pay than their government remuneration was, so long as the SEC wouldn't prosecute those megabank executives on any criminal charges for helping to cause the mortgage-backed securities scams and resulting 2008 economic crash.

His "remarks drew applause from the crowd of about 70 people," according to the Bloomberg report. This would indicate that other SEC prosecutors feel similarly squelched by their bosses.

Kidney's speech said that his superiors did not "believe in afflicting the comfortable and powerful."

Referring to the agency's public-relations tactic of defending its prosecution-record by use of what he considered to be misleading statistics, Kidney said, "It's a cancer" at the SEC.

Two recent studies have provided additional depth to Kidney's assertions, by showing that Obama and his Administration had lied when they promised to prosecute Wall Street executives who had cheated outside investors, and deceived homebuyers, when creating and selling mortgage-backed securities for sale to investors throughout the world.

President Obama personally led in this lying.

On May 20, 2009, at the signing into law of both the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act and the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, Obama said: "This bill nearly doubles the FBI's mortgage and financial fraud program, allowing it to better target fraud in hard-hit areas. That's why it provides the resources necessary for other law enforcement and federal agencies, from the Department of Justice to the SEC to the Secret Service, to pursue these criminals, bring them to justice, and protect hardworking Americans affected most by these crimes. It's also why it expands DOJ's authority to prosecute fraud that takes place in many of the private institutions not covered under current federal bank fraud criminal statutes — institutions where more than half of all subprime mortgages came from as recently as four years ago."

Then, in the President's Jan. 24, 2012 State of the Union Address, he said: "Tonight, I'm asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. (Applause.) This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans. Now, a return to the American values of fair play and shared responsibility will help protect our people and our economy."

However, two years later, the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice issued on March 13, 2014 its "Audit of the Department of Justice's Efforts to Address Mortgage Fraud," and reported that Obama's promises to prosecute turned out to be just a lie. DOJ didn't even try; and they lied even about their efforts. The IG found: "DOJ did not uniformly ensure that mortgage fraud was prioritized at a level commensurate with its public statements. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Investigative Division ranked mortgage fraud as the lowest criminal threat in its lowest crime category. Additionally, we found mortgage fraud to be a low priority, or not [even] listed as a priority, for the FBI Field Offices we visited." Not just that, but, "Many Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSA) informed us about underreporting and misclassification of mortgage fraud cases." This was important because, "Capturing such information would allow DOJ to ... better evaluate its performance in targeting high-profile offenders."

Privately, Obama had told Wall Street executives that he would protect them. On March 27, 2009, Obama assembled the top executives of the bailed-out financial firms in a secret meeting at the White House and he assured them that he would cover their backs; he promised "My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks". It's not on the White House website; it was leaked out, which is one of the reasons Obama hates leakers. What the DOJ's IG indicated was, in effect, that Obama had kept his secret promise to them.

Here is the context in which he said that (from page 234 of Ron Suskind's 2011 book, "Confidence Men"):

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President Obama Will Decide Whether to Accept Iraq's Legalizing Rape of Children

On Tuesday, April 8, Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki's Shiite-led Iraqi Government placed before his Parliament a bill, strongly supported by Iraqi men, and approved by the governing coalition of Shiites and Sunnis, which will allow men to rape girls even in forced marriages (Iraqi law already allows forced marriages), and which will allow men to divorce any wife who is above the age of nine.

Currently, only females above the age of 18 are permitted to marry (or, it might be more accurate to say, to be married), under Iraqi law. This new law will enable even nine-year-olds to be sold off into "marriage."

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Gallup Poll Shows U.S. Recession Never Ended

In January 2014, a Gallup poll reported that the percentage of Americans who say they are "satisfied" with the country's economy is 28 percent. That's down from 68 percent during Gallup's previous survey, taken in January 2001.

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Elizabeth Warren Comes Down Hard Against Keystone XL Pipeline While Hillary Clinton's Allies Push It Ahead

On Friday, December 20, Democratic U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren finally separated herself clearly from former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, regarding the issue of climate change and global warming.

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Economic Opportunity Is Lowest In the Republican Bible Belt, Major Study Finds

The website Equality-Of-Opportunity.org was established this year by four leading economists from Harvard and Berkeley, and it now headlines their major findings, “Mobility in the 100 Largest Commuting Zones.” It ranks all 100 largest U.S. cities for the chances of a person born poor to rise from the bottom 20% to the top 20%.

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Far-Right Lobby Group ALEC Brags That All Politicians in Two State Legislatures Are Members

The far-right American Legislative Exchange Council claims that every member of the state legislature in two states belongs to ALEC.

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U.S. Wealth Is Now the Most Concentrated at the Top Since 1916

A new report shows that income in the U.S. in 2012 was more concentrated at the top than at any time since 1916. 

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Are Conservatives Easier to Manipulate?

A Gallup Poll on May 29 strikingly titled “U.S. Support for Euthanasia Hinges on How It’s Described” contains unambiguous new evidence that Republicans are more manipulable than Democrats—at least when the question concerns the important issue of whether or not a terminal patient’s request for assistance to die should be carried out by the person’s doctor. It reported that, “A May 2-7 Gallup survey finds 70% of Americans in favor of allowing doctors to hasten a terminally ill patient’s death when the matter is described as allowing doctors to ‘end the patient’s life by some painless means.’ At the same time, far fewer – 51% – support it when the process is described as doctors helping a patient ‘commit suicide.’”

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The World's Richest 8% Earn Half of All Planetary Income

The lead research economist at the World Bank, Branko Milanovic, will be reporting soon, in the journal Global Policy, the first calculation of global income-inequality, and he has found that the top 8% of global earners are drawing 50% of all of this planet's income. He notes: "Global inequality is much greater than inequality within any individual country," because the stark inequality between countries adds to the inequality within any one of them, and because most people live in extremely poor countries, largely the nations within three thousand miles of the Equator, where it's already too hot, even without the global warming that scientists say will heat the world much more from now on.

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America Is Far from #1

"The Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013,” by the World Economic Forum, is the latest annual ranking of 144 countries, on a wide range of factors related to global economic competitiveness.

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