A June 16th article in the New York Times headlined “Wall Street Donors Are Swooning for Mayor Pete. (They Like Biden and Harris, Too.)”. It noted that “Two candidates in the top tier of polls, Mr. Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have railed against the financial industry and opted against the kind of fancy fund-raisers with catering and $2,800 admission prices that lubricate the donor industry.” By contrast, against those two: “Mr. Biden, Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Harris have aimed to blend aggressive large- and small-money operations, much as Mr. Obama’s campaigns successfully did.” Democratic voters who are satisfied with the Democratic Party of Barack Obama and of Hillary Clinton will be satisfied with either Buttigieg or Biden or Harris to become the U.S. President. “Mr. Buttigieg has hired a full-time professional New York fund-raiser.” And, “Even a donor who recently put together an event for one of Mr. Buttigieg’s rivals said that, these days, ‘the easiest event to sell out is a Buttigieg event.’”
Harris is also attractive to Wall Street, but her particular strengths are in Hollywood and Silicon Valley, because she’s a U.S. Senator from California, and because even if she doesn’t win the nomination, they will still need to stay within her good graces, because she’s one of their two U.S. Senators and will be pitching for them there — or else not.
On the other hand, Politico headlined on June 13th, “California poll: Warren surges to second, Harris falls to fourth”; and, so, Harris won’t likely be able to score even nearly as big in the California money-competion as she has been expecting, and the trend seems therefore to be for Warren to emerge as the female contender, and also as the progressive (even if only on financial issues) contender, for the votes from Democrats. But Sanders still could win California: whereas Warren scored 18%, he scored 17% in the poll.
The likeliest four to win the nomination, therefore, currently seem to be Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders, and Warren. Those are the four contenders from whom the winner will likely be chosen by the time the South Carolina primary becomes decided, on (as tentatively scheduled) 29 February 2020.
Given that neither Sanders nor Warren would likely have sufficient attraction to the big-money people who fund the campaigns, it will probably come down to either Biden or Buttigieg, and I would expect that by the time of late February, Buttigieg will have drawn, to himself, enough of Biden’s supporters, so as to be able to be the leading “moderate” in the contest. He’ll have done this on the basis of little more than promises to the voters, which he won’t keep any more than Obama or Clinton did (or than Biden or Harris would). That’s the ‘middle of the road’ type of politician, the type who keeps his promises only to his biggest donors. That would mean a failed United States, the end of the American dream. Like Obama had told Wall Street’s tycoons right after coming into the White House, when he met secretly with them inside the White House: progressives are just “pitchforks” who want them to be punished, just as Southern White racists during the days of Jim Crow had wanted Blacks to be surrounded and lynched. Obama told them that to pursue them legally would be nothing more than bigotry against the rich, and that he would “protect” them from it — and he did. Here is how I wrote about that, at Strategic Culture, back on 17 June 2018:
The Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice issued on 13 March 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 lies. 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.” …
On 27 March 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 them “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks”. It was never on the White House website; it was leaked out, which is one of the reasons Obama hates leakers (such as Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange). 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 had said that (from page 234 of Ron Suskind’s 2011 book, Confidence Men, with boldfacings by me):“My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”It was an attention grabber, no doubt, especially that carefully chosen last word.
But then Obama’s flat tone turned to one of support, even sympathy. “You guys have an acute public relations problem that’s turning into a political problem,” he said. “And I want to help. But you need to show that you get that this is a crisis and that everyone has to make some sacrifices.” According to one of the participants, he then said, “I’m not out there to go after you. I’m protecting you. But if I’m going to shield you from public and congressional anger, you have to give me something to work with on these issues of compensation.”
No suggestions were forthcoming from the bankers on what they might offer, and the president didn’t seem to be championing any specific proposals. He had none: neither Geithner nor Summers believed compensation controls had any merit.
After a moment, the tension in the room seemed to lift: the bankers realized he was talking about voluntary limits on compensation until the storm of public anger passed. It would be for show.
Obama said “Everyone has to make sacrifices,” but he was talking to people who simply refused to be included in that “everyone.” As the mega-crooks who had been profiting from the crimes that had brought about the global economic collapse, those “sacrifices” should have been life-imprisonments. Only by means of such accountability, would their successors not try anything of the sort that these banksters had done. But such was not to be the case. So, the crimes continued.
Obama kept his word to them. The banksters got off scot-free, and kept their personal hundreds of millions of dollars ‘earned’.
He had been lying to the public, all along. Not only would he not prosecute the banksters, but he would treat them as if the only problem was the “pitchforks,” who were “an acute public relations problem that’s turning into a political problem.” The banksters weren’t a problem, but the public were, and he would protect them from the public. And he thought that the people who wanted them prosecuted were like the KKK who had chased Blacks with pitchforks before lynching. The “pitchforks” were to blame, and he would protect the banksters from those. According to the DOJ, Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) was “established by President Barack Obama in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.” But, according to the Department’s IG, it was all a fraud: a fraud (against the public, for the banksters) that, according to the DOJ, itself had been going on since at least November 2009.
The 13 March 2014 IG’s report continued by pointing out the Obama-appointed Attorney General’s lies, noting that on 9 October 2012, “the FFETF held a press conference to publicize the results of the initiative,” and:
“The Attorney General announced that the initiative resulted in 530 criminal defendants being charged, including 172 executives, in 285 criminal indictments or informations filed in federal courts throughout the United States during the previous 12 months. The Attorney General also announced that 110 federal civil cases were filed against over 150 defendants for losses totaling at least $37 million, and involving more than 15,000 victims. According to statements made at the press conference, these cases involved more than 73,000 homeowner victims and total losses estimated at more than $1 billion.
“Shortly after this press conference, we requested documentation that supported the statistics presented. … Over the following months, we repeatedly asked the Department about its efforts to correct the statistics. … Specifically, the number of criminal defendants charged as part of the initiative was 107, not 530 as originally reported; and the total estimated losses associated with true Distressed Homeowners cases were $95 million, 91 percent less than the $1 billion reported at the October 2012 press conference. …
“Despite being aware of the serious flaws in these statistics since at least November 2012, we found that the Department continued to cite them in mortgage fraud press releases. … According to DOJ officials, the data collected and publicly announced for an earlier FFETF mortgage fraud initiative – Operation Stolen Dreams – also may have contained similar errors.”
Basically, the IG’s report said that the Obama Administration had failed to enforce the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009. This bill had been passed overwhelmingly, 92-4 in the Senate, and 338-52 in the House. All Republicans had voted against it. (Perhaps Obama was secretly a Republican.) The law sent $165 million to the DOJ to catch the executive fraudsters who had brought down the U.S. economy, and it set up the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and had been introduced and written by the liberal Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy. President Obama signed it on 20 May 2009. At that early stage in his Presidency, he couldn’t afford to display publicly that he was far to the right of every congressional Democrat, so he signed it.
Already on 15 November 2011, Syracuse University’s TRAC Reports had headlined “Criminal Prosecutions for Financial Institution Fraud Continue to Fall,” and provided a chart showing that whereas such prosecutions had been running at a fairly steady rate until George W. Bush came into office in 2001, they immediately plunged during his Presidency and were continuing that decline under Obama, even after the biggest boom in alleged financial fraud cases since right before the Great Depression. And, then, on 24 September 2013, TRAC Reports bannered “Slump in FBI White Collar Crime Prosecutions,” and said that “prosecutions of white collar criminals recommended by the FBI are substantially down during the first ten months of Fiscal Year 2013.” This was especially so in the Wall Street area: “In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest projected drop in the rate of white collar crime prosecutions — 27.8 percent — was the Southern District of New York (Manhattan).” On 29 July 2015, Syracuse University’s TRAC Reports headlined “Federal White Collar Prosecutions At 20-Year Low,” and linked to their full study, which showed that, whereas in fiscal year 2004-2005, under George W. Bush, “Bank Fraud” had been the #1 most-prosecuted of all ”white collar crime matters,” it was, in the latest fiscal year, 2014-2015, only #3.
These were extremely serious crimes: they crashed the world’s economy in 2008. But there was no White House interest in pursuing them. Instead, the Obama Administration blocked any such prosecutions, or even investigations into specific cases.
So: if these sorts of lies weren’t outright frauds against the American public, then what could possibly be?
But that’s not all of what belongs in the “whopper” or “Big Lie” category from Obama: he lied constantly about Ukraine, and about Syria, and about Russia and about his intentions toward Russia, and about his proposed international-trade treaties: TPP. TTIP, and TISA.
None of these whoppers was included in the listing that the NYT presented in their 14 December 2017 article “Trump’s Lies vs. Obama’s”.
How horrifically bad a U.S. President Barack Obama was, wasn’t reported by America’s press. Perhaps this is why the three leading candidates among America’s Democratic Party voters today are Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris. Supporters of any of those three are supporting, to become the Party’s nominee, someone who would respond to an economic crash very similarly to the way that Obama did (for the elite crooks, against the public). All three despise the “pitchforks” who want accountability, and each respects only his own mega-donors.
Being satisfied with a U.S. President such as Obama was, is to be satisfied with a Democratic Presidential candidate such as Biden or Buttigieg or Harris is.
The Times article on 16 June 2019 mentioned also that there are other candidates, who currently are scoring lower in the polls, but who would be reaping big money from Wall Street, if only the given candidate had a realistic chance of winning the nomination: such as Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Betto O’Rourke, and Michael Bennet. Sanders and Warren could never be supported by the big donors. Such candidates are too progressive to suit any of America’s billionaires, and therefore even if one of them were to win the nomination, that person’s campaign would end up being starved for funds from the few people who control the country. The big donors want only politicians who will keep only the promises that are made privately to the big donors, and not the promises that the candidate makes to the public. The big donors don’t care about the public promises, but only about the private ones, because, in today’s America, those are the only promises that a politician keeps — such as Obama exemplified. He had the slickness that Democratic Party billionaires demand. He’s able to retain his popularity among Democrats even after he had screwed them for eight successive years. They’re looking for another Obama. Pete Buttigieg will likeliest be that person.
The most progressive of all of the candidates, Tulsi Gabbard, hasn’t caught on even amongst progressive voters — she’s currently at less than 1% in the primaries polls — and, consequently, whereas there are plenty of Biden clones among the well-heeled candidates, the only two candidates with any chance of actually winning the nomination and who are even moderately progressive, Sanders and Warren, are being shunned by the people who finance political campaigns. Unless one of those two gets tens of millions of small-dollar donors, the best that we’ll have during 2021-2025 will be either an Obama-Clinton clone, or else the current President, Trump.
There’s no realistic way that the U.S. will have any improvement over Bush and Obama and Clinton and Trump, unless Democratic Party voters refuse to settle for the people who are being backed by the Democratic Party’s billionaires. And it also won’t happen from the Republican Party’s billionaires. The only way it even possibly could happen is if Democrats choose only a progressive, and won’t any longer settle for merely a liberal (a “moderate” in the Democratic Party) (such as Democratic Party primary voters have done in the recent past, and seem inclined to do now). It would need to be a substantially different electorate.
Just as Republican voters are ignorant of how bad the Bushes and Trump are, Democratic voters are ignorant of how bad the Clintons and Obama are. Each Party’s voters are the fools of that Party’s billionaires, and don’t even know it.
However, The rottenness of the billionaires’ picks could still end up defeating the billionaires. And here are examples of how:
On June 19th, the Washington Post bannered “Back home in South Bend, Buttigieg faces ‘his nightmare’”, and reported that:
A white police officer had shot and killed a black man early Sunday. Buttigieg canceled several days of campaign events — including an LGBTQ gala in New York — and rushed back to Indiana to “be with the South Bend community,” in the words of a campaign spokesman.
Instead of showcasing Buttigieg’s ability to lead through a crisis, however, the shooting is exposing what has long been considered an Achilles’ heel of his candidacy: his frosty relationship with South Bend’s black residents. …
“How’s he handling it?” said Oliver Davis, the longest-serving black member of the South Bend Common Council. “Well, he talked to the media before the family. He skipped the family vigil, full of black residents. And then he then gave a speech to the police. So, how do you think that went over?”
That speech was to the swearing-in of South Bend’s new police class. It had six members. All of them are white. They are to be the new people policing black neighorhoods in Mayor Buttigieg’s South Bend. How well is Buttigieg likely to perform in the largely Black South Carolina Democratic primary, on or around 29 February 2020?
Also on June 19th, the New York Times headlined “Joe Biden and Democratic Rivals Exchange Attacks Over His Remarks on Segregationists: Mr. Biden’s fond remarks about dealing with segregationist senators are raising questions about both his political past and his political acumen now in dealing with it.” On that same day, Politico bannered “Biden comments trigger renewed scrutiny of his record on race” and reported that Biden was one of the leading U.S. Senators for criminalizing the types of narcotics that especially Blacks were addicted to, and that he was largely responsible for filling our prisons with Blacks. So: How well is Biden likely to perform in the largely Black South Carolina Democratic primary?
If those two candidates get eliminated on account of their too obviously not turning out to be like Obama but instead more like Hillary Clinton, then, perhaps, Sanders, or Warren, or the female Black, Harris, will come to dominate and possibly to win the nomination. But, if Sanders wins it, then none of the billionaires will be funding the Democratic Presidential campaign. But, if Trump’s campaign gets virtually all of the billionaires’ money, then could that fact alone sink his campaign, by exposing, even to some of Trump’s customary voters, that he doesn’t really represent their interests, after all?
Author’s note: first posted at strategic-culture.org
Trump’s blind spot
The year is 1962. In the midst of the Cuban missile crisis, the United States needs Mexico to place nuclear missiles on its territory. In a phone call, Mexico’s President tells US President Kennedy that Mexico will provide whatever the United States needs. This was opening Mexico up to a potential nuclear strike by the Russians in the midst of the tense crisis, exposing the vital security of the country for the benefit of the United States, writes Iveta Cherneva.
What is remarkable about this episode is that Mexico was agreeing to a thing so ludicrous, and this was the result of a successful decade-long US foreign policy towards Latin America.
The benefit of carefully crafted US foreign policy is noticed in times of need and further down the path, not immediately. US standing and credibility matter precisely in critical situations.
Unfortunately, US President Donald Trump’s blind spot is foreign policy.
When he took the decision to betray the Kurds by withdrawing US troops from the Kurdish parts of Syria, Mr. Trump did not expect the deserved backlash from Senate Republicans. Senator Lindsey Graham, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has called it “the biggest mistake of his presidency” and Trump didn’t understand why.
Through his approach to US foreign policy, Trump is undoing years of planning and careful calculation, and not just in the Middle East.
Trump’s Kurdish decision does not come from a specific school of thought, as some might have suggested. Trump’s moves are all over the map; he just doesn’t understand the intricate game of chess that is involved in crafting US foreign policy.
His withdrawal of US forces from the Kurdish territories is not grounded in isolationism of the principled kind preached by Senator Rand Paul. It soon became apparent that the US troops in Syria are not coming back home, they are simply being repositioned to guard the oil fields in Syria.
Coupled with the decision to send US troops to Saudi Arabia to do the same, it became clear that Trump simply likes to guard oil. He told the Kurds to go live in the Syrian parts that have oil because apparently then the US would care to protect them. He also said that the US wants some of that oil.
But guarding oil is not a grand strategy. That is oil-centered trumpism of the kind that even George W. Bush didn’t dare to articulate quite like this.
In his surprise at Republican Senators’ anger, it was apparent that Donald Trump didn’t understand what in terms of geopolitics was contained in a small group of US soldiers. Neither did he get the fine geopolitical balance at play. It seems that there are very few things that can make Republican Senators break ranks and foreign policy is what gets them.
A Bulgarian proverb says that “where you hit it is not where it cracks”. The Kurdish decision will reflect on other areas — US standing will crack elsewhere, not immediately and not where Trump expects it to.
Across issues and across geographical regions, Trump is undoing decades of carefully crafted policy and language where every phrase and every move meant something.
As the Mexico nuclear shield episode shows, the benefits of carefully crafted US foreign policy are noticed in times of need and further down the path, not immediately.
US standing in the international arena matters. Trump has harmed it and the results won’t be immediately apparent.
But Republican Senators see further in foresight. They will be the key figures in Trump’s impeachment. Republican Senators have the right to be angry at this lack of grand strategy and they will remember that when the impeachment comes to Senate.
Foreign policy is Trump’s blind spot and what he does not realize is that it might cost him the impeachment.
The coup in Bolivia shines yet more dark light on America
Just when one might have thought things geopolitical might be about to turn for the better, which means the worldwide geopolitical nightmare engineered by the U.S. and Trump and all the rest of the mob in Washington might fade a bit, it just gets worse.
Bolivia’s recently re-elected and then self-resigned President Evo Morales because he is graciously trying to avoid more upset and possible carnage in Bolivia, was on the chopping block of the U.S., and chopped he was although he is not dead yet and apparently hiding out among his indigenous supporters somewhere in Bolivia but has accepted asylum in Mexico.
Yes, Morales may have tried to overstay his presidential term by extending the term limits and maybe, just maybe, there were some very minor “irregularities” in the voting process in his country, but that’s immaterial. He still won a huge plurality of the votes against his challenger. The U.S.’s government changing machine has been out for his head for over a decade, and he had the guts at the U.N. not long ago with Trump and Pompeo nearby to point out to the world just what the U.S. has been about for far too long: criminal meddling all over the globe.
It’s weird, though. Evo did a good job for over a decade. You cannot argue about his economic record in Bolivia. He created, surprisingly, what might be termed a “prosperous socialism” wherein ALL boats were lifted, and especially the prospects for the poor majority. One would think the oligarchs and the “rich” in Bolivia might see some benefit in a society where most everyone got at least something better than they had. But the “rich” and particularly the obscene rich, and imperialists, they can never get enough. Any diminution in their wealth, or more importantly any restrictions on how wealthy they might become because some sharing with the poor is mandated by good government, has now been forbidden. Do they not realize that social calm for all, relatively, is better than total societal discord? Apparently not. Whatever new government is formed in Bolivia, the country is going to regress violently and the poor set back forcefully, with extreme prejudice. People who are by nature cruel and lacking compassion, feeling themselves exceptional, like oligarchs, never learn…until they are strung up on lamp posts and finally destroyed, as has happening time and again in history in various locations.
It may be hard to believe, but the U.S., which is largely controlled by multi-billionaire oligarchs (and this is a phenomenon that has been building for 30 or 40 years) under an increasing “neoliberal” regime (and not just in the U.S.), may see a day when even they will see their fortunes vanish both materially and socially. Lamp posts likely await them, too, when things become unbearable for the 95 percent of the citizenry. For the privileged, greed really is bottomless for most of this class of people. They live in a fantasy world. But of course there are exceptions. Yet the U.S. aims for resources overseas that it does not control – like Venezuela’s oil, like Bolivia’s as yet mostly untapped lithium, like Afghanistan’s riches, and much more.
Which begs the question whether it was a good idea that President Rouhani told the world this week that Iran has discovered an additional 53 billion barrels of oil. Even if only 25 percent of this can be eventually extracted, it’s fabulous. Iran IS wealthy, fabulously so in every respect, especially in its people, except that for now it can’t market its petroleum wealth. Maybe that is a good thing temporarily, for Iran appears to be growing other industry, including the growth and export of saffron to name just one item.
Meanwhile, as risky as it may be, Iran has allegedly “blown past” uranium enrichment levels mandated by the JCPOA. This is absurd. Iran is allegedly enriching uranium up to levels of 4.5 percent. That nowhere close to bomb material at over 90 percent. The JCPOA permits 3.6 percent, allegedly. The IAEA and the European signatories to the JCPOA are concerned and want Iran to go back to the limits of the deal. This includes limits on the size of the stockpile of enriched material, too, which is currently, according to reports, less than 100 kilos above that limit.
However, Iran is doing just what it said it would and no more — inching away from the JCPOA because the signatories of the JCPOA, the Europeans, have done virtually nothing, cowards that they are, to stand up to the Trump mobsters and realize that their long-term interests reside east of the Bosporus. At least Nordstream 2 is soon going to be a delivering fact. Europe did not back down to U.S opposition to that, and should have stood by Iran when Trump, caving to Netanyahu, abandoned the JCPOA. As far as many observers are concerned, particularly after the U.S.- coup in Bolivia, Iran is doing just the right things and the world, literally, prays that pariah America falls on its own swords.
From our partner Tehran Times
Floods, Fires, Coups and Impeachment Make a Busy Week
Venice is flooded. The water is hip high in St. Mark’s Square threatening the church and the expensive shops and restaurants on its perimeter. The mayor blames climate change.
In Australia, the bush fire season is underway. One in New South Wales is scorchingly close to nearby homes having already destroyed two buildings on a country property owned by the actor Russell Crowe.
Floods, too, in the north of England, while Boris the chameleon has a comfortable 10-point lead in the polls over his labor opposite number, Corbyn the plonker. No matter how outrageous or inept, Boris might be, the plonker makes nary a dent on that voluminous target. So much for the left in Britain as it awaits another drubbing at the polls.
Then in Bolivia, Evo Morales has fled to Mexico claiming his life was at risk. If he clearly looks Bolivian Indian, his successor, the leader of the senate, Jeanine Anez is just as clearly white. As in South America elsewhere, the white Spanish elite are at the top of the food chain, followed by the mixed mestizos and at the bottom the indigenous people. The exceptions are Argentina where the original inhabitants were massacred out of existence, and Chile which is German immigrants from long ago.
Trump welcomed the coup in Bolivia — was there covert support? If Morales won plaudits for fighting poverty and as the country’s first indigenous leader, he also overstayed his welcome, at least internationally. He defied constitutional limits by running for a fourth term in a close election which the Organization of American States faulted for “clear manipulation”. Mr. Morales promised fresh elections. But the elite-run military and police clearly saw an opportunity. Morales supporters are organizing demonstrations.
The US does not have coups; it has impeachment. Bill Clinton notable for his expression, “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is” … and for a new low in disgusting personal behavior, was impeached. The procedure requires the House to determine articles of impeachment and then send a team to prosecute in the senate. The individual being impeached has the right to his own lawyers to mount a defense. The senate eventually retires to consider and deliver a verdict. A two-thirds majority is required for conviction. Bill Clinton survived despite his impeachment being based on facts unearthed by Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr. Can anyone then imagine a Republican senate convicting Donald Trump over a sentence in a phone call?
So what is the purpose of this futile exercise in the House of Representatives? Perhaps Democrats hope to sling enough mud to sway the independent note in the forthcoming election. Perhaps they want a few moments in the limelight, and TV interviews before, during and after.
A fraught world with real climate issues the legislators prefer to ignore — after all they are well-funded by fossil fuel interests. Forget the actual storms, our elected representatives prefer storms in a tea cup. The House Intelligence Committee, which is holding the hearings, will probably forward the matter to the full house as the political games continue.
Meanwhile, record numbers of homeless sleep under bridges as temperatures plunge to -15C (5 F) in the midwest and the east of this wealthy country. Do the politicians care?
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