Friday, September 30, 2016

Wells Fargo Must Be Broken Up-- Too Big AND Too Much Failure


I spent yesterday morning watching-- and tweeting about-- the House Financial Services Committee "examination" of Wells Fargo's crooked CEO John Stumpf. Exasperating! Without an Elizabeth Warren or an Alan Grayson, these kinds of hearings don't shed much light on anything. Keith Ellison, Maxine Waters and Gwen Moore made some excellent points but, over all, there was never any chance anything of substance would take place since nearly all the members of this cesspool of a committee take immense bribes from the Financial Sector. During the hearing-- and this was announced by Ranking Member Waters-- Jesse Hamilton and Tom Schoenberg from Bloomberg reported that the Department of Justice and the the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, are finally getting tough on Wells Fargo. While the anti-regulation Republicans who dominate the bankster-friendly committee were trying to make a case for fewer regulations-- one of the dumbest of the freaks on the committee, New Hampshire teabagger Frank Guinta, tried floating a a crackpot conspiracy theory about Stumpf conspiring with the CFPB-- the Department of Justice revealed that Wells Fargo had been very illegally ripping off military families.

Federal prosecutors and the bank’s regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, are planning to punish the San Francisco-based lender for alleged violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, said the people, who asked not to be named because the investigation isn’t public. A penalty of as much as $20 million is expected from the OCC, one of the people said. That’s an unusually large fine for abuse of this law, which in most cases requires that firms obtain court orders before seizing vehicles from soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are delinquent on their loans.

These enforcement actions against the bank follow a $185 million settlement in which employees of the firm opened more than two million accounts that customers may not have been aware of with the aim of meeting internal sales targets. The matter has sparked weeks of sharp criticism, congressional hearings and the forfeit of tens of millions in bonuses for top executives.

...Shielding soldiers from financial stress has been a priority for lawmakers, and the Justice Department has recently stepped up enforcement actions against banks for taking assets illegally. Banco Santander SA’s U.S. unit agreed to pay $9 million last year over allegations that it improperly confiscated more than 1,000 vehicles from military members, the largest settlement ever obtained in a case involving repossessions of automobiles with delinquent loans.

Wells Fargo-- which was the world’s most valuable bank before the account scandal hurt its stock price-- has branches on eight U.S. military bases, include Fort Bliss in Texas, Georgia’s Fort Benning, Fort Dix in New Jersey and Hill Air Force Base in Utah. On its website, the bank says it has “a history of making banking easier for our servicemen and servicewomen.”

The bank has previously been accused of not adhering to the military lending law, which Congress approved decades ago to protect soldiers from legal hassles while they’re on active duty. Wells Fargo agreed to pay $28 million along with four other mortgage servicers that were fined for improper home foreclosures, according to a statement issued by the Justice Department last year. It didn’t admit or deny the allegations.
By the end of the hearing, Ranking Member Maxine Waters had come to the conclusion that Wells Fargo is too big to manage effectively and has to be broken up. I suspect that most of the Democrats-- though probably few of the corrupt New Dems on the committee like Himes and Delaney-- agree. Here's how she kicked off the serious (non-Republican) part of the hearing:

Before Hensarling convened his committee yesterday, David Cay Johnston published a post at HuffPo calling for bankster imprisonment. I agree with him, and I feel members of Congress like Jeb Henslarling, Sean Duffy, Bruce Poliquin, Frank Guinta, Roger Williams, Robert Pittinger, Ann Wagner, et al deserve a life behind bars even more than the banksters. They, after all, swore an oath and are supposed to be working for the public good. Johnston's point was that "our government continues to look the other way as many top bankers thumb their noses at fraud laws. There is a term," he wrote, "for the criminality that infects our biggest banks and damages the economy, and there is a solution to this problem. But there is also an obstacle. The term is “control fraud.” That’s when executives use their control of a corporation to run frauds because they make much more money that way."
President Obama has explained away his failure to prosecute Wall Street crooks by saying what they did was wrong, but not illegal. Eric Holder, when he was attorney general, lied again and again, saying that many prosecutions were underway even though an inspector general’s report showed he knew that was not so.

We need a government that will prosecute corrupt bankers without fear or favor-- and the top candidate at the moment should be Stumpf, who wants us to believe that low-level bank workers were the problem, not top executives.

No one can seriously believe that the 5,300 low-level employees Wells Fargo fired were rogues. They did what top management didn’t just order, but hounded them to do for years, as E. Scott Reckard reported in the Los Angeles Times in 2013. His exposé cited the daily dread experienced by Wells Fargo branch manager Rita Murillo each time her phone rang:

Regional bosses required hourly conferences on her Florida branch's progress toward daily quotas for opening accounts and selling customers extras, such as overdraft protection. Employees who lagged behind had to stay late and work weekends to meet goals, Murillo said.

American Banker’s Kate Berry described a “cutthroat sales culture,” with 20 different Wells Fargo management reports tracking cross-sales, even as no one in upper management was held accountable for the frauds then committed by low-level employees told to do the impossible or lose their jobs.

Wells Fargo, [former bank regulator and now Professor William K.] Black told me last week, is “a clear example of control fraud. It was the defining policy of Wells Fargo. Indeed, it was the defining policy of Norwest before it acquired Wells Fargo.”

...Wells Fargo illustrates what I have long written about: a major breakdown of ethics at the top of American society, especially in accounting and law. A good illustration of this is what N. Gregory Mankiw, the Harvard economics professor who was President George W Bush’s top economic advisor, says about bankers who loot the banks they control.

Mankiw says we should expect bankers to be thieves. Seriously. Here is what he told a 1993 Brookings Institution conference on the S&L scandals and all the prosecutions resulting from Black’s diligence: "Given the incentives that regulators set up, it would be irrational for operators of the savings and loans not to loot."

Black derides this as “Mankiw morality,” and says government is failing in its duty to enforce the laws against corrupt bankers.

Mankiw is not alone in looking at everything and anything but crime and lack of punishment. Consider how Priyank Gandhi, an assistant professor of finance at the University of Notre Dame, described the issues right after the Senate hearings in a commentary for CNBC:
If the [Wells Fargo] fraud is not more widespread than it currently appears, and if further investigation does not reveal any new material facts, I would think that in time, pessimism about the bank will peak, the share price will stabilize (or dare I say even rebound), and there will be no serious repercussions or consequences from the scandal.
The focus should not be on the stock price, but on integrity.

For more than a quarter of a century the news has been filled with tales of top bankers who abused their positions of trust to cheat, lie and steal, including all the mortgage securities fraud that sank the economy in 2008.

Congress created the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to find out how the 2008 economic collapsed happened. The commission laid it all out in detail in a report that no one has ever shown contains a single error. It is a story of corrupt bankers, dishonest brokers and liars everywhere-- as well as sightless sheriffs who saw the evidence of criminality and did nothing.

Congress threw the report into the trash. It did nothing to enforce the law, only to enact new rules that bankers continue to flout.

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Lester Holt Told the First Big Lie-- A Guest Post By Sam Husseini


Before the faceoff between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, many were pleading that Lester Holt, the NBC anchor and moderator Monday night, to be a “fact checker.”

Any delusions in that regard should have been dashed right away as he perpetrated a root falsehood at the very start of the event.

Holt claimed that the event was “sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. The commission drafted tonight’s format, and the rules have been agreed to by the campaigns.”

While the CPD certainly controls much of the event, it’s not a “nonpartisan” organization at all. It’s about as far from nonpartisan as you can get. It’s totally bipartisan. It’s a creation of the Democratic and Republican parties designed to solidify their dominance over the public.

Its origins are in an agreement “Memorandum of Agreement on Presidential Candidate Joint Appearances” from 1985 signed by Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., then Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Paul G. Kirk Jr., then Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The two would go on to head the CPD.

But that original agreement didn’t even have the word “debates” in it. This Commission is the mechanism by which the Democratic and Republican parties came together to push aside the League of Women Voters, which had organized presidential debates before 1988. It was to make sure that the campaigns, not some independent entity, would decide on moderators, on formats-- and to critically exclude other participants unless both sides agreed. They simply wanted to ensure “televised joint appearances”-- which became emblematic of a pretense of democratic discourse.

Holt’s fabrication-- he can’t possibly be ignorant of this-- is really a root problem of our politics. All the lies and spin from Clinton and Trump largely manifest themselves because each side excuses them because “the other” is worse. That is, the very “bipartisan” structure of our elections is in large part responsible for the dynamics we’re seeing.

Normally decent people ignore all of Clinton’s deceptions because they loathe Trump and normally decent people excuse Trump’s fabrications because they detest Clinton. That’s why candidates with incredibly high un-favorability ratings-- as Clinton and Trump famously have-- may still have millions voting for them, like two crumbling buildings help up by each other.

And the voters have “nowhere else to go” because they are in effect held prisoners by fear. Millions of people who might agree with other candidates-- Jill Stein of the Green Party or Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson or the Constitution party or socialist parties-- do not actually coalesce around those candidates because they fear helping Trump or Clinton. This mindset probably prevents stronger challengers to the duopoly from ever coming forward in the first place.

There are two ways out of this that I see:

* Pollsters: Pollsters can find ways of finding out what the public actually wants. That is, every tracking poll today has the same format-- some minor variation of “if the next election for president were held today, with Donald Trump as the Republican candidate, Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate, Gary Johnson the Libertarian candidate, and Jill Stein the Green Party candidate, for whom would you vote?” (NBC/Wall Street Journal)

What pollsters are not doing is asking people who they actually want to be president. That is, there are lots of people who want Johnson or Stein, but feel like they have to vote for Clinton or Trump to stop the other. So while media outlets claim that Gary Johnson is at 8 percent in “the polls” and Jill Stein is at 3 percent in the “opinion polls”-- that’s not accurate. They are not opinion polls. Polls are not gauging the actual views and beliefs of the public. They are ostensibly predicting a future event. But they are molding that reality as we go along. Most brazenly because the CPD has set 15 percent in these polls as the criteria for exclusion.

USA Today, in a refreshing departure from usual polling, recently found that 76 percent of the public want Stein and Johnson in the debates. And here’s the kicker: When reformers suggested that someone should be included in the debates if a majority wanted them in, the heads of the Commission rejected the effort. Paul Kirk, now co-chairman emeritus of the CPD, said: “It’s a matter of entertainment vs. the serious question of who would you prefer to be president of the United States.” But that’s the problem: The polls the CPD is relying on don’t actually ask the public who they prefer to be president. We could have a “third party” candidate with plurality support and we wouldn’t know it because the question to gauge that isn’t asked of the public.

Obvious recommendation: Pollsters should actually have an interest in the opinions of the public and ask them who they prefer to be president.

* Voters Can Unite: The other way out of this seemingly perpetual duopoly bind is that voters come together. That’s what I outline at People who feel compelled to vote for Clinton because they detest Trump can team up with their opposite number. This requires real work. Instead of stopping Trump by voting for Clinton, a progressive can stop Trump by taking a vote away from him.

That is, instead of a husband and wife who are actually unhappy with both Clinton and Trump casting votes that in effect cancel out each other-- one voting for Trump and the other for Clinton-- they can both vote for candidates they actually prefer. Each would be free to vote their preference-- Johnson, Stein, whoever.

The progressive would undermine Trump not by voting for a candidate they don’t trust-- Clinton-- but more skillfully: By taking a vote away from Trump. The conservative would not feel they have to suffer the indignity of voting for a candidate that’s distasteful-- Trump-- they would instead succeed in depriving Clinton of a vote.

It’s that kind of outside the box thinking that’s going to get us out of the binds that the ever duplicitous duopoly attempt to impose on the citizenry.

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Putin Would Be A Much Worse Problem For Trump Than Adderall Or Even Cocaine


A NYTimes intrepid team of reporters-- Patrick Healy, Ashley Parker and the indefatigable Maggie Haberman-- talked to a gaggle of Trump advisors who are tiptoeing through the mine-field of getting a little teensy-weensy pivot out of Trump about how he approaches debates. "A delicate approach to the candidate," they wrote, "is now in the works. Before his advisers can shape Mr. Trump’s performance for the next debate, on Oct. 9 in St. Louis-- which, contrary to speculation, he does plan to attend, a top aide said — they need to convince him that he can do better than he did in the first one and that only a disciplined, strategic attack can damage Mrs. Clinton with voters." No one wanted to mention Trump's obvious drug problem and how it manifested itself Monday night but, they reported that "even as Mr. Trump’s advisers publicly backed him on Tuesday and praised his debate performance, they were privately awash in second-guessing about why he stopped attacking Mrs. Clinton on trade and character issues and instead grew erratic, impatient and subdued as the night went on. In interviews, seven campaign aides and advisers, most of whom sought anonymity to speak candidly, expressed frustration and discouragement over their candidate’s performance Monday night."

But Trump may have bigger problems than his horrible demeanor or an addiction to cocaine dating back to his man-about-town Studio 54 days. Most Americans are unaware of Trump's close ties to Russia but they have told pollsters that that would be a deal breaker. A national post-convention poll from the very end of July shows that "the Vladimir Putin/Russia issue has the potential to cause Donald Trump a lot of problems in the weeks ahead. Only 7% of Americans view Putin favorably to 69% with a negative opinion and only 14% see Russia as a whole favorably to 52% with a negative view. By a 47 point margin-- 5% more likely, 52% less likely-- voters say they're less likely to vote for a candidate if it's perceived Russia is interfering in the election to try to help them. And by a 26 point margin-- 9% more likely, 35% less likely-- they're less likely to vote for a candidate seen as being friendly toward Russia. If Democrats can effectively leverage this issue in the weeks ahead it has the potential to help turn this into a more lopsided race."

Watch Olbermann-- the tip of the spear-- up top and look at the independent ad that started running today at the bottom. Many people claim-- and with good reason-- that Trump is willing to take a pummeling for not releasing his tax returns because they would disprove his assurances that he has no binding ties to Russia. Even the ultra-conservative Arizona Republic cited Trump's Russia/Putin problem when they endorsed Clinton this week, the first time they've endorsed a Democrat since their founding in 1890!
Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, a thug who has made it clear he wants to expand Russia’s international footprint.

Trump suggested Russia engage in espionage against Hillary Clinton-- an outrageous statement that he later insisted was meant in jest.

Michael Isikoff reported a few days ago that U.S. intelligence officials are trying to determine if a Trump campaign official, Carter Page, has promised close Putin cronies Igor Diveykin and Igor Sechin, that if Trump is elected president he will lift U.S. economic sanctions. That would be illegal.
The activities of Trump adviser Carter Page, who has extensive business interests in Russia, have been discussed with senior members of Congress during recent briefings about suspected efforts by Moscow to influence the presidential election, the sources said. After one of those briefings, Senate minority leader Harry Reid wrote FBI Director James Comey, citing reports of meetings between a Trump adviser (a reference to Page) and “high ranking sanctioned individuals” in Moscow over the summer as evidence of “significant and disturbing ties” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin that needed to be investigated by the bureau.

Some of those briefed were “taken aback” when they learned about Page’s contacts in Moscow, viewing them as a possible back channel to the Russians that could undercut U.S. foreign policy, said a congressional source familiar with the briefings but who asked for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. The source added that U.S. officials in the briefings indicated that intelligence reports about the adviser’s talks with senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin were being “actively monitored and investigated.”

...Page came to the attention of officials at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow several years ago when he showed up in the Russian capital during several business trips and made provocative public comments critical of U.S. policy and sympathetic to Putin. “He was pretty much a brazen apologist for anything Moscow did,” said one U.S. official who served in Russia at the time.

He hasn’t been shy about expressing those views in the U.S. as well. Last March, shorty after he was named by Trump as one of his advisers, Page told Bloomberg News he had been an adviser to, and investor in, Gazprom, the Russian state-owned gas company. He then blamed Obama administration sanctions-- imposed as a response to the Russian annexation of Crimea-- for driving down the company’s stock. “So many people who I know and have worked with have been so adversely affected by the sanctions policy,” Page said in the interview. “There’s a lot of excitement in terms of the possibilities for creating a better situation.”

Page showed up again in Moscow in early July, just two weeks before the Republican National Convention formally nominated Trump for president, and once again criticized U.S. policy. Speaking at a commencement address for the New Economic School, an institution funded in part by major Russian oligarchs close to Putin, Page asserted that “Washington and other West capitals” had impeded progress in Russia “through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.”

Hillary's campaign hasn't really taken up the Putin issue in a big way yet, but this ad above from some of her allies, meant for millennial voters and released today, is pretty strong tea:

Meanwhile, it looks like Putin's authoritarian regime wasn't the only one where Trump was sniffing around looking to make some money for himself irrespective of American policy, American interests and-- in this case-- American law. Cuban-American Republicans in Florida aren't likely to be too happy about this one. I wonder what Trump-supporting outliers Mario Diaz-Balart and Marco Rubio will say when they read Kurt Eichenwald's Newsweek story that starts by asserting that Trump "secretly conducted business in communist Cuba during Fidel Castro’s presidency despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal."

Documents show that the Trump company spent a minimum of $68,000 for its 1998 foray into Cuba at a time when the corporate expenditure of even a penny in the Caribbean country was prohibited without U.S. government approval. But the company did not spend the money directly. Instead, with Trump’s knowledge, executives funneled the cash for the Cuba trip through an American consulting firm called Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corporation. Once the business consultants traveled to the island and incurred the expenses for the venture, Seven Arrows instructed senior officers with Trump’s company-- then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts-- how to make it appear legal by linking it after-the-fact to a charitable effort.

The payment by Trump Hotels came just before the New York business mogul launched his first bid for the White House, seeking the nomination of the Reform Party. On his first day of the campaign, he traveled to Miami where he spoke to a group of Cuban-Americans, a critical voting bloc in the swing state. Trump vowed to maintain the embargo and never spend his or his companies’ money in Cuba until Fidel Castro was removed from power.

He did not disclose that, seven months earlier, Trump Hotels already had reimbursed its consultants for the money they spent on their secret business trip to Havana.

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How about MISTER Piggy? How Trump Uses Expensive Doctors To Make Himself Look Less Porcine


By now, everyone knows the story of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado-- first explained at this blog in last June-- but the way Trump treated her was not unique to his attitude-- and actions-- towards women he did business with. He has a long, ugly history of discriminating against women who he didn't judge as attractive enough. This morning the L.A. Times reported that when Trump visited his golf course in Rancho Palos Verdes "the club’s managers went on alert. They scheduled the young, thin, pretty women on staff to work the clubhouse restaurant-- because when Trump saw less-attractive women working at his club, according to court records, he wanted them fired... Employees said several women quit or were fired because they were perceived as unattractive." Employees and ex-employees are still afraid to speak on the record about their experiences in fear of being sued by the suit-happy Trump, whose lawyers routinely terrorize anyone and everyone who tells the truth about him.
In their sworn declarations, some employees described how Trump, during his stays in Southern California, made inappropriate and patronizing statements to the women working for him.

On one visit, Trump saw “a young, attractive hostess working named Nicole ... and directed that she be brought to a place where he was meeting with a group of men,” former Trump restaurant manager Charles West said in his declaration.

“After this woman had been presented to him, Mr. Trump said to his guests something like, 'See, you don't have to go to Hollywood to find beautiful women,'” West said. “He also turned to Nicole and asked her, ‘Do you like Jewish men?’"

...Female employees said they faced additional pressures.

Strozier, the former catering director, said Vincent Stellio-- a former Trump bodyguard who had risen to become a Trump Organization vice president-- approached her in 2003 about an employee that Strozier thought was talented.

Stellio wanted the employee fired because she was overweight, Strozier said in her legal filing.

"Mr. Stellio told me to do this because 'Mr. Trump doesn't like fat people' and that he would not like seeing [the employee] when he was on the premises,” wrote Strozier, who said she refused the request. (Stellio died in 2010.)

A year later, Mike van der Goes-- a golf pro who had been promoted to be Trump National’s general manager-- made a similar request to fire the same overweight employee, Strozier said.

“Mr. van der Goes told me that he wanted me to do this because of [the employee's] appearance and the fact that Mr. Trump didn't like people that looked like her,” Strozier wrote.

When Strozier protested, Van der Goes returned a week later “and announced he had a plan of hiding [the employee] whenever Mr. Trump was on the premises,” Strozier wrote.

West, who worked as a restaurant manager at the club until 2008, wrote that Van der Goes ordered him “to hire young, attractive women to be hostesses.” West also said Van der Goes insisted that he “would need to meet all such job applicants first to determine if they were sufficiently pretty."
Even Trump supporters find his behavior towards women repulsive

Conservative Democrat Claire McCaskill (MO) tried turning the tables on Trump Wednesday with some reverse fat shaming, jokingly asking for "a public daily weigh-in" for the obese Trump. At the debate Monday he may have made fun of some unnamed 400 pound hacker on a bed he knows-- a governor?-- but when Trump was barking about how the extremely beautiful and dignified Alicia Mercado was too fat and ate too much, he was getting cosmetic surgery done regularly to make himself appear younger and less of a fat slob on a Chris Christie level of rotundity.

Remember the big commotion when child molester Mark Foley went to some Trumpist hate rally in Ft Lauderdale, Florida in August and sat right behind Trump? The two of them told the media afterwards that they are dear old friends. Wonder how that happened? Aside from the two both being involved with Palm Beach real estate, Trump's cosmetic surgeon was celebrated dermatologist-to-the-rich-and-famous Layne Nisenbaum of Island Dermatology and Laser in Palm Beach, Foley's long time lover. A top executive at the firm told us that Trump used Nisenbaum for a procedure called the Venus Freeze, which he described as a non-invasive anti-aging treatment that is meant to "reduce circumference," while improving cellulite, controlling weight, tightening skin and reducing wrinkles. "He was also getting botox injections every 6 to 8 months, as well as laser resurfacing and he had artificial fat filler under his lips to make his mouth droop less and make his multiple chins less apparent," the petrified-of-being-sued former executive at the now shuttered company told us under condition of strict anonymity.

UPDATE: It's Ted Lieu's District

At the very end of Ted Lieu's district, which starts up north in Agoura Hills and Malibu, is Rancho Palos Verdes and at the end of Rancho Palos Verdes is the Trump National Gold Club (formerly Ocean Trails Golf Club). There's a great view of Catalina Island and there should be-- it was the most expensive golf course ever constructed. As with every property Trump ever got involved with, he was quickly suing everyone in sight, including the very Republican city of Rancho Palos Verdes (for $100 million). One city official, speaking anonymously-- and in fear of being sued by... guess who-- told me that the "worst thing to have ever happened to this city was Donald Trump. We were due to get the PGA Grand Slam until he started spouting all his racist crap."

Ted Lieu isn't a fan of Trump either. A few minutes ago, he told us that "Trump's fat shaming, racist comments about Ms. Alicia Machado are categorically deplorable. Trump's latest attack of a private citizen sadly joins a laundry list of venal verbal assaults that he has made during his campaign for the highest office in the land. By attacking an Indiana judge, a Gold Star family, and now Ms. Machado, Trump has clearly demonstrated that the content of his character is severely lacking and that he has no business running for President, let alone actually serving in the Oval Office. This is further evidence that, in his heart, Donald Trump is a cruel person." Congressman Lieu is voting for Hillary Clinton.

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Congress Overrides Obama Veto; 9/11 Families Can Sue Saudi Officials — and Associated U.S. Companies?


President Barack Obama and Saudi Arabia's King Salman walk together to a meeting at Erga Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, April 20, 2016. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster (source)

by Gaius Publius

This story is straight-forward but has two interesting wrinkles. The House and Senate recently (and unanimously) passed a bill that drills a loophole into the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and allows victims of terrorism to sue foreign sponsors of attacks on U.S. soil.

The families of 9/11 victims had pushed hard for it. Most congressional Democrats and Republicans were united in supporting it. Only the executive branch, meaning President Obama, was opposed (more on that in a moment). So the bill passed ... and Obama vetoed it.

The Senate has now overridden his veto, 97–1 (only Harry Reid opposed; two not voting), quickly followed by the House override (348–77).

Here's the write-up via The Hill:
Senate overrides Obama 9/11 veto in overwhelming vote

The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to override President Obama’s veto of a bill that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia.

The 97-1 vote marks the first time the Senate has mustered enough support to overrule Obama’s veto pen.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was the sole vote to sustain Obama’s veto. Not a single Democrat came to the Senate floor before the vote to argue in favor of Obama’s position. ...

The White House lashed out at the Senate vote, calling it "embarrassing."

“I would venture to say that this is the single most embarrassing thing that the United States Senate has done, possibly, since 1983,” Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One.
 Here's what the legislation (acronym: JASTA) would do:
The legislation ... was crafted primarily at the urging of the families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks who want to sue Saudi Arabian officials if they are found to have links to the hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Which means the Saudis, naturally, were opposed:
The Saudi Embassy and a high-priced team of lobbyists it hired waged an intense campaign to persuade lawmakers to sustain the override, but it came too late.
So there's money involved, and given the wealth of the Saudis, a lot of it. Still, not enough to "persuade" either house of Congress to support the president's veto.

The Saudi government's opposition is easy to understand — they don't want to be sued for ginning up anti-U.S. terrorism while selling us oil. But what about Obama's opposition?

Obama's Opposition

I'll give you two data points, in the form of administration quotes, that offer an explanation for Obama's veto. First, Obama says he doesn't want to put what's been characterized as "U.S. military, intelligence and foreign service personnel [and] U.S. government assets" at risk. The Hill again:
Obama warned in a veto message to the Senate last week that the bill would improperly give legal plaintiffs and the courts authority over complex and sensitive questions of state-sponsored terrorism.

He also cautioned that it would undermine protections for U.S. military, intelligence and foreign service personnel serving overseas, as well as possibly subject U.S. government assets to seizure. ...

“The consequences of JASTA [the bill] could be devastating to the Department of Defense and its service members — and there is no doubt that the consequences could be equally significant for our foreign affairs and intelligence communities,” [Obama] wrote in the letter, which was later circulated by a public affairs company working for the embassy of Saudi Arabia.
From the last sentence, you can see that the Saudis and Obama are working together on this. No surprise. A little more on what Obama says he fears, via USA Today:
The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA, would provide an exception to the doctrine of "sovereign immunity," which holds that one country can't be sued in another country's courts. ...

The White House has argued that the bill would prompt other nations to retaliate, stripping the immunity the United States enjoys in other parts of the world. "And no country has more to lose, in the context of those exceptions, than the United States of America..." Earnest said.
Stripping the U.S. of immunity may not be bad. After all, fear of punishment has deterred many destructive deeds, and internationally, we're no angels. But John Cornyn, a sponsor of the bill, argues that this mischaracterizes it, saying the bill "only targets foreign governments who sponsor terrorist attacks on American soil, plain and simple."

If so, is President Obama protecting the U.S., or protecting the Saudis? And if just the latter, why? (I can think of several reasons — for example, America's determined dependence on oil, which ties us to that murderous regime; also, a certain future library and foundation that need funding, plus a regime that likes to contribute to foundations. Among others.)

Second, there's this intriguing bit from an earlier, pre-veto write-up by Reuters:
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters the president will veto Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act within the constitutionally mandated 10-day window, which ends Friday evening.

The Obama administration opposed the bill on grounds that other countries could use the law as an excuse to sue U.S. diplomats, service members or companies.
Notice that Josh Earnest was implicitly quoted in the second paragraph above. "Or companies"? Presumably U.S. companies, based on the construction of the sentence. So how could U.S. companies be sued if the "9/11 families" sued the Saudi government? And which ones?

Did U.S. Companies Help the 9/11 Hijackers?

In the hunt for that information, I found this, from Zero Hedge (emphasis in original):
Unleash the revisionist history. Congress released on Friday a long-classified report exploring the alleged ties of the Saudi Arabian government to the 9/11 hijackers.

The missing 28 pages from the 9/11 report begins as follows:
"While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi Government..."
The "28 pages," the secret document was part of a 2002 congressional investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks and has been classified since the report's completion. As CNN reports, former Sen. Bob Graham, who chaired the committee that carried out the investigation and has been pushing the White House to release the pages, said Thursday he was "very pleased" that the documents would be released.

The pages, sent to Congress by the Obama administration, have been the subject of much speculation over what they might reveal about the Saudi government's involvement in the attacks masterminded by terrorist Osama bin Laden when he led al-Qaeda.The pages were used by the 9/11 Commission as part of its investigation into the intelligence failures leading up to the attacks.

A telephone number found in the phone book of al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida, who was captured in Pakistan in March 2002, was for an Aspen, Colo., corporation that managed the "affairs of the Colorado residence of the Saudi Ambassador Bandar," the documents show.
Fascinating. Almost ascends to the level of John LeCarré, but with even larger implications. This much very high level protection of the Saudi government and its ruling family (after all, it's Obama doing the protecting) must mean there's something big, something very high level, to protect.

The 9/11 story is certainly not dead. Thanks to the 9/11 families, we're getting a little bit closer to knowing what actually happened.


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Today's House Financial Services Committee Meeting Will Demonstrate Why Not All Democrats Measure Up


Sleaze bag Sean Duffy is chair of the Financial Services' Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations-- Wells Fargo singled him out for this year's biggest bribe. Wonder why!

Today the most corrupted corner of Congress, the House Financial Services Committee, gets to "question" crooked Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, who Elizabeth Warren made mince-meat out of last week. Don't expect too many serious holding feet to the fire moments today. Members request getting onto the House Financial Services Committee primarily to be in position to be on the receiving end of the most gigantic flow of bribes in the history of Congress. Since 1990 the Financial Sector has doled out $2,375,923,205 in bribes to members of Congress and candidates for Congress. That's 2.3 BILLION dollars in flat-out bribes. And that's not because banksters are civic-minded! The surest way to get on that gravy train is to get on the House Financial Services Committee. Is it any wonder there is so little oversight of Wall Street predators?

The OpenSecrets chart above-- which only covers 2015-16-- shows the 25 Members of the House who have solicited and taken the most in bribery from the banksters. Shockingly-- or, alas, maybe not-- 13 of the most corrupt are members of the committee that's supposed to be keeping the banksters from ripping off the country, 10 typically crooked Republicans and the 3 most corrupt New Dems in Washington: Patrick Murphy (FL), Kirsten Sinema (AZ) and Jim Himes (CT). Some in Washington joke that when the House Financial Services Committee meets there's quorum for a meeting of the Wall Street owned and operated New Dems, the Republican wing of the Democratic Party.

Thanks to Warren's very public grilling-- flambé-ing?-- of Stumpf last week, on Tuesday Wells Fargo's board of directors announced that they are clawing back $41 million in stock options from the crooked CEO and $19 million from the retired bankster who was directly responsible for the scandal, Carrie Tolstedt. Neither gets a bonus this year and Tolstedt gets no golden parachute severance package. The board also hired a law firm to do an independent investigation. The Labor Department has also launched an investigation of its own. What about the SEC and the Justice Department. What are they waiting for? Sworn affidavits of guilt from Stumpf, Tolstedt and the other top brass at Wells Fargo who ordered the theft of millions of dollars from the bank's customers to boost their annual bonuses?

But who at tomorrow's hearings can we expect any serious oversight from? Certainly not from one of the biggest crooks on the committee of all, Sean Duffy, the head of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Duffy took more in bribes from Wells Fargo this cycle than any other member of the committee-- $15,000 this year alone! His Democratic opponent this year back in Wisconsin's 7th CD, Mary Hoeft, issued a statement to residents of northwest Wisconsin saying that "Sean Duffy, chair of a congressional banking oversight subcommittee, accepted more than $400,000 in political contributions from bankers to use against me in this campaign. At the very least, Sean should have acknowledged the ethical dilemma he faced when accepting money from the bankers he oversees. That doesn't appear to be the case. He is doubling down on his efforts to cripple the Consumer's Financial Protection Bureau, the very agency designed by Elizabeth Warren and others to make sure Big Banks are never able to bring our economy to its knees again--an economy where 7 million Americans lost their homes to bankruptcy." (You can contribute to Mary's campaign to replace Duffy here.)

Will Murphy even show up?
All the Republicans on the committee are Wall Street stooges-- them! They will be defending Wall Street with all their might today-- pushing Wall Street's #1 agenda item of destroying the CFPB-- while pretending to be as stern with Strumpf as they sometimes make believe they are with Drumpf. The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, a notorious criminal from Texas named Jeb Hensarling, has taken more in Wall Street bribes than anyone else currently serving in the House other than Speaker Ryan ($7,202,670 for Hensarling and $8,237,251 for the Beltway media's esteemed Speaker). Other members of the Committee you can be sure will either be licking Strumpf's posterior today or laying low are Ed Royce (R-CA- $6,601,798), Jim Himes (New Dem-CT- $5,374,477), Scott Garrett (R-NJ- $4,874,049), Peter Roskam (R-IL- $4,028,343), Steve Stivers (R-OH- $4,026,487), Vice-Chair Patrick McHenry (R-NC- $3,760,861), Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL- $3,536,090), and Randy Neugebauer (R-TX-$3,466,470). Other shameless Wall Street hatchet men on the committee include Peter King (R-NY- $2,672,724), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO- $2,275,065), and Frank Lucas (R-OK- $2,066,077).

So who might be worth listening to at the hearings today? Maxine Waters (CA), the ranking Democrat on the committee will probably scorch Wells Fargo and I'd hope that Mike Capuano (MA) and Keith Ellison (MN) get some time. There aren't any other members in that fetid cesspool worth listening to.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Who Wants To Double Down On The Catastrophically Failed War On Drugs?


Monday we learned exactly who. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy scheduled a debate on Charlie Dent's Dangerous Synthetic Drug Control Act (H.R. 3537) for Monday. It puts 22 synthetic compounds-- including 11 used to create synthetic marijuana (K2 or Spice)-- on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), forcing mandatory minimum sentences on violators. Proponents of the legislation claim it's meant to combat drug abuse. The vote was 258-101 but it was an interesting breakdown. Most Republicans voted YES and most Democrats voted NO, but that doesn't really tell the story at all. McCarthy and Dent led 192 Republicans to back it and they were joined by 66 mostly right-wing Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- Blue Dogs like Gwen Graham (FL), Henry Cuellar (TX), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Jim Cooper (TN), and Brad Ashford (NE) and New Dems like Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL), Ann Kuster (NH), Patrick Murphy (FL), Gerald Connolly (VA), John Delaney (MD), Jim Himes (CT), Scott Peters (CA), Denny Heck (WA) and drugged up mess Pete Aguilar (CA). Meanwhile, the House Liberty Caucus led the opposition and 20 Republicans joined 81 Democrats in voting against the bill. 72 members-- 33 Republicans and 39 Democrats-- weren't able to vote on the bill at all, many because of air traffic delays.

Most, though not all of the progressives joined Pelosi in voting NO, including Raul Grijalva (AZ), Barbara Lee (CA), Matt Cartwright (PA), Mark Pocan (WI), Judy Chu (CA), Donna Edwards (MD), Jan Schakowsky (IL), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ), John Conyers (MI), Mike Honda (CA), and John Lewis (GA). After the vote, Mark Pocan of Madison told us why he and many of his colleagues opposed the legislation. "This bill significantly expands mandatory minimum sentences. We are talking about ruining people’s lives with 20 year mandatory sentences without really thinking through the real issues of the war on drugs. Many of us in Washington are desperately trying to find ways to reform our criminal justice system and rectify the devastating effects of drug addiction, and adding these synthetic drugs as Schedule I is missing the larger point."

Similarly, Donna Edwards told us she sees the bill as "a sad step backwards at a time that the nation should be focused on reforms that roll back the flawed policies of mandatory minimum sentencing that contributed to mass incarceration. The bill adds 22 synthetic drugs to the federal schedule that could result in the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences. The problem of drug abuse that is so destructive to families and communities must be met with smart, fair, and balanced policies that invest in treatment rather than more incarceration."

The companion bill in the Senate was proposed by noted anti-civil libertarians Chuck Grassley and Chuck Schumer. Among the House Republicans more enlightened about how the criminal justice system is evolving than the very involved Schumer, not to mention Grassley, were pretty far right members of Congress like Dave Brat (VA), Tim Huelskamp (KS), Jason Chaffetz (UT), Mark Sanford (SC), Barry Loudermilk (GA), Mick Mulvaney (SC), Justin Amash (MI), Tom McClintock (CA), Raul Labrador (ID), Scott Garrett (NJ) and Mo Brooks (AL), not exactly "bleeding heart liberals."

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How to keep track of the ways a Trump vote is a declaration of suicidal cretinism? "New Yorker" cartoonist David Sipress spotlights one


She asked totally unfair questions and
someone purposely broke my pencil.

by Ken

As I expected, quarantining myself from The Debate didn't protect me from it. As I always say when I explain that I just don't watch campaign debates even when both parties fall within the expanded-normal spectrum of humanity, whatever I need to know about them finds its way to me, in spades. From what I'm gathering, even the astoundingly low expectations The Donald created for himself didn't shield him from a disastrous performance. At the same time, though, as far as I can tell, it doesn't seem to be making any difference in the grand scheme of things.

Understanding the Trump Voter has become a new cottage industry, but it's not enhancing my understanding, which continues to put me in mind of the all-too-forthcoming declaration my college roommate Brian recalled a local pol in his hometown of Manchester, NH, declaring: "Once I make up my mind, I don't let facts get in the way of my opinion."

I understand that those Trump Voters are feeling left out and are willing to sign on to just about any program that offers hope of systemic change. What I don't understand is how they manage not to see -- among the thousands of way sin which even thinking about voting for such a creature is an act of suicidal cretinism -- is that nobody in history has more enthusiastically supported and profited from that system.

Anyway, above we have David Sipress's Daily Cartoon, spotlighting a quality that, again, you'd think would jump out at even the most obstinately unobservant observer: the man's automatic and invariable practice of blaming everything that happens in his miserable existence on somebody else.

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How Do You Feel About Trump-- Or Any President-- Being Able To Launch A Nuclear First Strike Without Congressional Approval?


Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) is worth following on Twitter... even if you don't live in his Los Angeles area district (which stretches from Agoura Hills and Malibu in the north, through Santa Monica, Westwood, Venice and Beverly Hills and down to El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Torrance, Redondo Beach and Rancho Palos Verdes in the south). He often follows live events unfolding and comments on them with an incredible depth of knowledge and wisdom (and humor) in real time, something few members of Congress are willing to do. This morning I asked him about a bill he and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) just introduced in both houses of Congress, the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016. The bill is designed to prohibit a President from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. "The crucial issue of nuclear first use-- discussed in last evening’s Presidential Debate-- is all the more urgent given the fact that a majority of Americans do not trust Republican Nominee Donald Trump with our nation’s nuclear arsenal."

A full Air Force Colonel in the Air National Reserves, Rep. Lieu expanded on some of his tweeting from the debate. "In last night’s Presidential Debate," he told me, "Donald Trump once again proved that he is categorically unfit to be President of the United States because he lacks the temperament and qualifications to serve as Commander in Chief.  As a result, the crucial issue of first use of nuclear weapons is all the more urgent in light of the possibility that Trump could be sworn in as the 45th President in January 2017.  That’s why Senator Ed Markey and I have introduced the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016.  This legislation would align America’s nuclear weapons policy with the Constitution by prohibiting the President from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress."

The official press release for the bill emphasizes that "Our Founding Fathers would be rolling over in their graves if they knew the President could launch a massive, potentially civilization-ending military strike without authorization from Congress. Our Constitution created a government based on checks and balances and gave the power to declare war solely to the people’s representatives. A nuclear first strike, which can kill hundreds of millions of people and invite a retaliatory strike that can destroy America, is war. The current nuclear launch approval process, which gives the decision to potentially end civilization as we know it to a single individual, is flatly unconstitutional. I am proud to introduce the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016 with Sen. Markey to realign our nation’s nuclear weapons launch policy with the Constitution."

Markey was very much on the same page: "Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival. Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, U.S. policy increases the risk of unintended nuclear escalation. The President should not use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack. This legislation enshrines this simple principle into law. I thank Rep. Lieu for his partnership on this common-sense bill during this critical time in our nation’s history."

They enlisted former Secretary of Defense William Perry to help them make the case. He told legislators that during his time at the Pentagon he "never confronted a situation, or could even imagine a situation, in which I would recommend that the President make a first strike with nuclear weapons-- understanding that such an action, whatever the provocation, would likely bring about the end of civilization. I believe that the legislation proposed by Congressman Lieu and Senator Markey recognizes that terrible reality. Certainly a decision that momentous for all of civilization should have the kind of checks and balances on Executive powers called for by our Constitution."

When Ted was first writing the big back in early August, he told us how it had, at least in part, been inspired by Trump's nature. (At the time no one was speculating on Trump's drug addiction the way the whole country is after Monday night's debate and his subsequent denial that he was sniffling for the whole 90 minutes.) "The erratic and impulsive behavior of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has highlighted the structural dangers of America’s nuclear weapons launch protocols," he explained almost 2 months ago. "Having taught the Law of War when I served on active duty, and as a graduate of Air War College, it is clear to me that the traditional checks and balances on the Executive branch do not apply when it comes to nuclear weapons. This process needs to be fixed.

"The President does not need approval from Congress or the courts to launch nuclear weapons. All the President needs is the concurrence of the Secretary of Defense, who is appointed by the President.

"When Congress comes back into session," he said at the time, "I plan to introduce legislation that requires the concurrence of leaders in Congress-- who are not beholden to the President-- before a nuclear strike can be launched. We can no longer have the fate of civilization depend on just two people in the Executive Branch."

This isn't a Democratic or a Republican position. It's a constitutional position. I suspect Lieu's bill will get backing from both sides of the aisle, although perhaps some ultra-Trumpists like Texas sociopath Lamar Smith might find it offensive. In any case, please consider letting Ted know you're with him on this by chipping in a couple of bucks towards his reelection campaign.

By the way, 4 polls have come out so far asking who won the debate Monday. And despite Trump's post-debate bluster all 4 are pretty clear who most of the 84 million viewers thought made the better impression. Some deranged people thought Trump won; obviously, mostly people on crack or addicted to prescription drugs. The suburban women who his campaign wanted him to appeal to came away more turned off than ever. The consensus was that he comes across like "a bull in a china shop" and that no one wants their children or grandchildren growing up with him as a figure to emulate or even respect.

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Obama Administration Quietly Announces Rule Changes, Substantially Weakens Endangered Species Act


Endangered species by county in the U.S. This includes only the species that have been listed, not the many still under (very slow) review. (Source; click to enlarge)

by Gaius Publius

Thanks to Jeffrey St. Clair at Counterpunch for this heads-up...
In related news, the Obama administration quietly announced today drastic rule changes that will substantially weaken the Endangered Species Act by placing complicated and intractable burdens on environmental groups working to protect rare species. The rule changes are deemed a huge gift to the timber, mining and oil cartels.
...we find another of what has to be called a betrayal by Barack Obama, once more selling out the public interest to those with plenty of cash to spread around. In this case it's the big-money people running the industries listed above — timber, mining and oil extraction.

The details, from Lydia Wheeler at The Hill (my emphasis):
Endangered species rule changed, angering environmental group

The Obama administration is changing the process for petitioning the government to protect an endangered or threatened animal.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries finalized a rule Monday that changes the process by which species are petitioned for listing, delisting or reclassification under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Under the rule, first proposed in May 2015, petitioners will be required to notify each state wildlife agency where a species is located at least 30 days before submitting a petition to the federal government. The delay will gives states an opportunity to provide agencies with pertinent information on the species.

The new rule also restricts the number of species that can be petitioned for at one time. Under the rule, only one species is allowed per petition.
Note that this is being done entirely within the Executive Branch, at Barack Obama's sole discretion. No congressional stimulus was needed.

The lie is in the explanation of this industry-friendly change. As the article notes: "The agencies say the changes will allow them to better leverage limited resources and more effectively conserve America’s imperiled wildlife."

The opposite, of course, is true. The "limited resources" are a result of budget cuts, which means the agency is underfunded, and the statement that the rule will "more effectively" conserve imperiled wildlife, they mean "less effectively." According to Brett Hartl at the Center for Biological Diversity, the change will indeed further weaken enforcement of the Endangered Species Act:
These new restrictions on citizen petitions are nothing more than a gift to industries and right-wing states that are hostile to endangered species. ... These rules make it harder to get imperiled species the Endangered Species Act protections they desperately need and they do nothing to address the backlog of hundreds of imperiled species that are still waiting to get the protections they deserve.
In addition, the change that requires petitioners to notify states prior to petitioning the Fish and Wildlife Service gives developers in those states a nice heads up. 

The piece also notes that a legally mandated two-year process is taking more than a decade for most applications, thus the backlog. Note that the applications place species on the list — until listed, companies can do with them as they choose.

Your bottom line — Would a new Trump administration be almost completely evil, in this and most other regards? Of course. (I'll write more about how it would be evil if it looks like there may be one. Trump would be worse than Bush for one unique and simple reason. He won't be the one governing.)

But will a second Clinton administration be any better at protecting public resources from big-money campaign donors who want to exploit (monetize) and pillage them? Three guesses.


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Would Trump's Cocaine Addiction Affect His Ability To Be President?


And you wonder why he only sleeps 3 hours a night?

By the time I started working at Warner Bros Records I had long given up drugs, something I left behind with the 1960s, a dear old friend that was no longer part of my life. "Drugs," for the most part meant marijuana. Smoking weed had been an integral part of my college life and it ended there. I was in a sweltering parking lot in my van at the Pakistan-India border on December 1, 1969 when I had a life-changing experience. Instead of having to exercise will power top avoid drugs-- something I sometimes succeeded at and sometimes failed at-- the desire itself was ripped from my body. Thank God! And that was the end of that. A life of drug use was o-v-e-r. The pull wasn't something I had to resist; it no longer existed. And in those years I was smoking pot, I was, less regularly, using other drugs as well. I tried almost everything and I loved some, like acid, and hated others, like DMT. Cocaine was something in between-- something that gave me a lot of pleasure but that I could tell was very bad for me. It wasn't hard for me to stop using it-- considerably before by experience in my VW van on the Pakistan-India border. I never felt the slightest interest in using it since and soon it'll be 50 years!

But I still remember very much what it's like to be high on coke or to be strung out on coke. What time did the debate start last night? 4-5 minutes after 6 (PT)? 10 minutes in-- check the time stamp-- I sensed something crazy about Trump-- I mean crazy in a different than normal Trump crazy way. I had heard rumors in the past that he had a prescription drug problem and certainly what could have happened last night was that he chopped up some adderall of something and snorted it before hitting the stage. Hey, don't be judgmental; different people prepare in different ways. When I was in the midst of chemotherapy, somewhere along the line my doctor prescribed adderall. I hated it. But many people love it and its supposed to be especially helpful for people who, like Trump, have short attention spans. It contains a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, which stimulate the central nervous system and affect chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control. Just sayin'. But adderall isn't what I was sensing even in the first few minutes of the debate. Nor were the diet pills (meth) he used to peddle on his pyramid scheme infomercials.

This is what I tweeted 10 minutes in:

Ten minutes later I wasn't laughing. He really was coked up! The next tweet:

Right around that time Hillary was saying, "Donald, I know you live in your own reality." Yeah, he does, but what I was feeling was that at the moment he was living in a cocaine reality. 11 minutes passed and I was positive.

Utterly positive... it was totally affecting his thought and speech patterns, even more than usual:

So was my old friend Susan positive-- and she's very smart:

I was glad I wasn't the only one who noticed. Another old friend, a Warner Bros co-worker, Steve, sent me a photo:

I ran a little poll when I noticed the incoherent babbling was getting worse and worse.

That's when the DWT art director sent me the photo up top. GOP strategist--and hipster-- Rick Wilson seemed to recognize the same same thing:

I wondered why no one in the mainstream media was saying anything about it. Then he started blaming all the sniffing on a "defective mic," something he doubled down on the next morning when he was making a fool of himself on Fox and Friends.

By the end of the night, I was suggesting that Kellyanne check him into one of those fancy Republican Party detox centers where they put their officials when everything explodes on their faces. I learned today that about an hour after I started tweeting about Trump's sniffling and crazy behavior could signify coke use, that Howard Dean had suggested it as well, significant not because of his place in politics but because he's also a medical doctor. On MSNBC Tuesday he explained his tweet to a hostile and especially moronic anchor-- establishment media hates this kind of speculation.
[H]e sniffs during the presentation, which is something that users do. He also has grandiosity, which is something that accompanies that problem. He has delusions. He has trouble with pressured speech. He interrupted Hillary Clinton 29 times. He couldn't keep himself together. So, look, do I think at 70 years old he has a cocaine habit? Probably not. But, you know, it's something that-- I think it would be interesting to ask him and see if he ever had a problem with that.
Dean's right; dummy MSNBC anchor is wrong. But the mainstream media won't go near this with a 10 foot pole. John Podhoretz, once a proud #NeverTrump dude, has been slinking back to the GOP OK Corral the same way Ted Cruz did. He sounded jilted the morning after but nothing to do with the cocaine elephant in the room. Although he found the unhinged Trump "exciting," he also admitted he was "embarrassingly undisciplined." When the coke was sparking all Trump's brain cells in the first 20 minutes, Podhoretz claims he was making sense (at least to inhabitants of RepublicanWorld) but then, as the high started wearing off... Well Podhoretz explained that "due to the vanity and laziness that led him to think he could wing the most important 95 minutes of his life, he lost the thread of his argument, he lost control of his temper and he lost the perspective necessary to correct these mistakes as he went... Trump was reduced to a sputtering mess blathering about Rosie O’Donnell and about how he hasn’t yet said the mean things about Hillary that he is thinking... [H]e went into a bizarre digression in which he alternately wondered whether his son Barron might grow up to become a hacker and defended Vladimir Putin from the accusation Russia had tapped into the Democratic National Committee’s emails (which the FBI says almost certainly happened). That has to count as the biggest choke of his political life... [Everything] was buried inside a weird word salad that reduced its effectiveness to almost nil." If you know anything about coke freaks, that should sound very familiar. And here's the part about Podhoetz feeling jilted:
His supporters should be furious with him, and so should the public in general. By performing this incompetently, by refusing to prepare properly for this exchange, by not learning enough to put meat on the bones of his populist case against Clinton, he displayed nothing but contempt for the people who have brought him this far-- and for the American people who are going to make this momentous decision on Nov. 8.
Canadian journalist John Ibbitson, writing for the Toronto Globe And Mail Tuesday morning felt the decision had been made, namely that no reasonable voter could want Trump as president after the debate. "Trump," he wrote, "was loud, angry, rude, boastful. He bashed China and Mexico, he constantly interrupted, he swaggered and strutted and jutted his chin. Most of all, he described a dying dystopian republic brought to its knees by Hillary Clinton and her friends that he alone could redeem." Sounds like a crazy cokehead to me-- "rambling, bloviating, incoherent, shouting, interrupting, boasting, ridiculing, low-blowing-- while rarely landing a single palpable hit."
And late in the debate, when asked by the moderator why he said he opposed the war in Iraq when in fact he had supported it in 2002, Mr. Trump went off on a rant of such length and violence of tone that millions could only have watched in horror, ending with the audience laughing when he pronounced: “I have a much better temperament than she does.”

He disproved that, however, by then insinuating he knew some terrible secret about Ms. Clinton that he would not repeat, because he was above such things. Simply disgraceful.

...To want Donald Trump as president, you would have to be as angry and bitter as Donald Trump was Monday night.
Or on crack.

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