The Wall Street Journal Thinks Hillary is Too Close to Wall Street!

Wall-Street--Lower-Manhattan-53049New Orleans   Did the sun just rise in the west? Is down up and up now down? Did hell just freeze over? What’s up with the world?

Why do I wonder?

Simply put when the rightwing editorial page of the Rupert Murdock owned Wall Street Journal makes the case that Hillary Clinton is too close to Wall Street something is definitely topsy-turvy in the world as we know it. This is a classic case of the exception proving the rule. Normally, the editorial page of the Journal is the national equivalent of the society page in your local daily paper: a must miss feature! They run a hater nation page there with a heavy-handed Republican bias, and if their editorials are just snide and snippy, instead of hurtful and malicious, it counts as a good day.

All this is very worrisome, because if the Wall Street Journal thinks that Hillary Clinton is too close to Wall Street, where they butter their bread, then what are the rest of us to think? One can try to pry facts off of someone’s shoes, but it’s hard to get something that seems like gospel out of your head.

The Journal used the recent New Hampshire debate before the upcoming primary as the platform for their question about the $675,000 Mrs. Clinton had received from the financial giant Goldman Sachs.

“Host (CNN) Anderson Cooper asked her whether she really had to be paid $675,000 for giving three speeches. ‘Well, I don’t know. That’s what they offered,’ said Mrs. Clinton – to much audience laughter. She then tried the argument that every Secretary of State does it, and then settled on the unbelievable claim that at the time she took the money she didn’t know she would be running for President again. Mr. Cooper was so startled he asked her to repeat the point.”

Ouch! The Journal then piles on by following that very expensive blow with some cheaper shots, claiming that Clinton’s deal reflected the working détente between Democrats and Wall Street where the big Demo-dogs take their money, then mega-mouth attacks on them in public, while letting them get away with, well, everything let’s hope, but murder, in private. The Journal wants to believe that has to do with Wall Street trying to muscle out competition from elsewhere, but the rest of us worry, especially in light of the riches and ruin of recent years, that it is really about having them march in the constant favor parade whose big and small floats pave the way to even more of their riches at the expense of the rest of us.

The kicker comes at the end as they wrote,

“When asked on CNN if she regretted her income windfall from Goldman, Mrs. Clinton replied, ‘No, I don’t, because, you know, I don’t feel that I paid any price for it and I am very clear about what I will do and they’re on notice.’ Mrs. Clinton is the one on notice that there is a political price to be paid for it…And because everyone knows why Goldman paid her $675,000.”

This isn’t a shouting match about emails that amount to making a mountain out of a molehill, but something a lot more serious, and these answers really aren’t enough to make any of us comfortable, even the Wall Street Journal.

Congress is the Undercard, the Real Fight for Healthcare is Still Corporate

imrs.phpNew Orleans   Recently the House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act for something like the 62nd time. They have now almost banned Obamacare from being funded as many times as they have barred ACORN! The more you understand about the continued tug of war behind the scene with employers, hospitals, drug companies, doctors, and insurance companies, the more you realize the political machinations on the front pages are window dressing, just part of the puppet show as the pols are pulled back and forth, up and down by the big players. Not to mix too many metaphors, but they are the weak under-card in this fight, while the heavyweights are the companies punching back and forth for advantage.

Of course we have the scandalous way that some drug companies are trying to play arbitrage with people’s health and hike the prices of rare drugs through the roof, regardless of the body count, not caring about anything other than making Wall Street happy. This situation is so grotesque that Congress may be forced to do something about it. We also have 800 pound gorilla setting on the examining table and continuing to pose the most serious problem, increasingly noticed, but left unattended, and that is the persistent problem that employers did not play fair on Obamacare and have largely squeezed through the loopholes, providing coverage in name only with deductibles, co-payments, and monthly bills all collectively so high that millions of lower waged workers are having to embrace the fines, because actual health coverage on offer is financially out of their reach and unreasonable.

A story in Modern Healthcare about the insurance companies’ tug of war was also depressing and enlightening particularly because the companies continue to play such a huge, daunting role in the exchanges, pricing, and coverage. CMS, the Obamacare administrator, is trying to nail down regulations for 2017, understanding that they need to lock as many backdoors as possible before the Obamas pack out of the White House. They proposed a rule that would require any health insurers to require all insurer networks “to include hospitals and doctors within certain travel times or distances from members. There would also be minimum provider-to-member ratios for some medical specialties. The CMS wanted to make sure consumers had access to enough healthcare providers as more insurers moved to narrow-network products.”

And, that’s when everything hit the fan. The CMS is basically trying to make sure that those who buy into care get a standard package across the country to meet their health needs. The insurers and some of their buddies in the state insurance commission offices, who are most frequently their captive audiences, in some states are crying like stuck pigs. They claim they want to tailor the networks to each state rather than have a federal cookie cutter approach, but the real deal is likely just making a deal that makes the big insurers they are used to currying happier to do business with them. Many hospitals and doctor groups line up with CMS on this one rather than being hammered even harder by the insurance bullies. According to Modern Healthcare some of them even advocate that “the CMS…go a step further and build network standards for appointment wait times.”

Meanwhile hospitals and doctors have their own issues. Doctors employed by hospitals in Oregon have even organized a union because of rough handling by the hospitals. Hospitals are being scored by CMS for service, recovery, and billing and some of the outfits that can’t make the mark are squealing about the scores rather than trying to do better on the tests. Meanwhile hospital requirements for providing affordable care to justify their tax exemptions, enjoyed by many, are still resisting and avoiding any accountability.

My best advice is to not take your eye off of the healthcare fight. It’s a long way from over yet, and any notion that we won, has been gone since the early rounds.

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Please enjoy Since You Been Gone by The Heavy.  Thanks to KABF.

Keeping Politics Weird

17keepaustinweirdtshirtLondon   Going to Austin, Texas from time to time, you still see bumper stickers and window signs in this huge, boomtown that still say, “Keep Austin Weird.” At least with politics there’s no need for a bumper sticker, because these days it seems all about making sure politics is weird.

In the United Kingdom, the Conservative ruling party is claiming there is a constitutional crisis because the largely honorific, unelected House of Lords rather than being content with their sinecures and titles actually straightened their backs for the first time in 100 years and refused to go along with tax credit cuts for the working poor which would have hit millions for a loss of about $1200 per year. Lords are not just to the manor borne but include Labor lords and Liberal-Democrat lords and they teamed up for a bit of pushback getting headlines for something other than spending their expense money at massage parlors and the like. The Conservatives may modify the cuts or delay them somewhat and also may just back the House of Lords with more Lords to fatten their majority and put off another faux crisis like this for another century.

Meanwhile on the other side of the pond we have Donald Trump reduced to begging the crowd in Iowa to push his polling numbers back to the top and pretending he went to public high school with the rest of us by shouting in the Republican debate that Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio really don’t like each other. The one thing that Trump has contributed to the Republican primaries thus far is total admission that political primaries are in fact exactly the same as high school student council popularity contests. It was a surprise to find that Governor Chris Christie from New Jersey is still running for president. Same for Senator Rand Paul and Governor Bobby Jindal, but hey, let’s keep politics weird.

Meanwhile over here, I will fly out of Heathrow and leave the discussion of the splits in the Labour Party and its civil war over the election of Jeremy Corbyn, a harder left leader than many expected after a drubbing of the party’s former leader in the recent election that has left the party reeling. Somehow the former leader, Ed Milliband, turned up at a training of sorts offered by a UK community organizing group, and US-based Industrial Areas Foundation community organizer, Arnie Graf, was quoted in the New Statesman crowing about the fact that Milliband would have done better to have gone to the training before he was blown away in a curious exercise of kicking sand in his face after having claimed to help him previously. Arnie then took shots at Corbyn and his supporters, Vermont’s Senator Bernie Sanders, and progressives in general proving mainly that he was either having a very bad day and was caught by a reporter in the middle of it or has suddenly become even older and crankier than Bernie himself.

And, then to make sure Hillary is anointed by Democrats rather than loved by them and isolating progressives’ hopes for the future even more, she made it clear she was still committed capital punishment come hell or high water, just wanted a kinder and gentler path to the electric chair. Soon there will be a bumper sticker on her car saying, Keep Politics Weird, as well.

James O’Keefe, Video-Scammer, Provokes Giant National Yawn and Smirk

ct-okeefe-jpg-20150902Little Rock    You know the Bob Dylan song with the famous line, “Oh, Mama, can this really be the end?” Well, watching James O’Keefe latest episode of political absurdity and chicanery fall crashing to the ground with a giant thud brings that line to mind, and you know how it is, now I can’t stop humming it.

O’Keefe was the video scammer who set the stage for rightwing agitprop videos with a highly edited sting of bits off conversation in ACORN’s housing affiliate as part of a coordinated conservative attempt to attack and defund the organization in the United States. Some of his antics led he and his confederate, who posed as a hooker, to pay $100,000 to people abused, but he critically damaged ACORN. Since then he has continued to try to reclaim some space as a press hog in one stunt after another, including one at the federal building in New Orleans which led to his arrest and lengthy probation. Most recently he was hanging around Texas trying to play gotcha with Affordable Care Act navigators enrolling eligible families, but that was pretty much a dud.

It’s another political season, so like a nightmare, “he’s back!” Or, at least he wanted be back when he summoned the media to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. likely with the aim of trying to bring down Hillary Clinton this time. According to Dana Milbank a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post, there was a full house of reporters who attended on a slow news day out of boredom and likely looking for free food. As he writes, O’Keefe was there to…

…unveil evidence of “illegal activity conducted by high-level employees within Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.” He then rolled tape of … a Canadian woman attempting to buy a T-shirt and some campaign pins at a Clinton rally. To O’Keefe, this was evidence of foreign contributions being made to Clinton — an “illegal activity” with a total value of $75. Many of the 50 reporters who showed up at the National Press Club for this unveiling felt as if they had been punked. “My first reaction is this is about buying a T-shirt,” said one. “It doesn’t seem like much of a bombshell.” “Is this the best thing you have?” I asked O’Keefe. “Is this a joke?” inquired Olivia Nuzzi of the Daily Beast. “This feels like a prank. … We’re talking about buying campaign swag.” But O’Keefe was serious: “This is just the beginning! We’ve got more!” Next installment: O’Keefe catches a Mexican national buying a Clinton sweatshirt?

Ouch, not only did he crash and burn, he got ridiculed, but he earned it.

This is too rich for me not to share more as Milbank goes on:

“It was a conduit donation, which was a crime,” O’Keefe proclaimed to his press club audience. Umm. So if it was a crime for the Clinton campaign to receive this “contribution,” wasn’t it also a crime for O’Keefe’s “journalist” to take a foreigner’s cash and hand it over to the campaign? I put the question to O’Keefe, who called his lawyer to the microphone. “It’s a technical violation of the law,” the lawyer, Benjamin Barr, admitted. “It’s akin to jaywalking.” (O’Keefe’s methods have been in doubt before: He paid $100,000 to settle a lawsuit by an ACORN worker years after that expose.) It’s unclear whether a purchase of campaign swag by a foreign national would violate campaign-finance laws under any circumstance. But it’s absolutely clear that the sort of violation alleged by O’Keefe would never be enforced. Nor could it be, because O’Keefe’s shirt-gate case unraveled quickly under questioning at his news conference. He didn’t know the identity of the Canadian, he said, or even if she really was Canadian. His “journalist” who facilitated the transaction gave the Clinton campaign a fake name, and O’Keefe wouldn’t identify the videographer. He also had no plans to report the supposed violation by the Clinton campaign to the Federal Election Commission.

This is what is known as a takedown. Who shows up for his dog-and-pony show the next time? Oh, Mama, can this really be the end?

As Milbank finishes it feels like it:

But O’Keefe had achieved his purpose. “It’s going viral,” he said, noting that “it’s in the Washington Post right now.” It was, under this headline at that time: “New James O’Keefe video sting catches Clinton campaign being kind to a Canadian.”

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Bob Dylan’s Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again

Buzz for Bernie on the Left Coast

lowwagerally520San Francisco   I’m not totally shocked, but I didn’t see all of this coming.  Meeting with random associates, comrades, and friends from diverse fields and directions, everyone on the Left Coast is buzzing about Bernie Sanders and his race for President.

Running a union, there’s no way to miss the fact that several thousand union activists have signed a letter of support for Sanders’ campaign. That kind of news is flooding my email “in-box.”  The Vermont and South Carolina AFL-CIO councils have issued resolutions of support, worrying AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka enough that he has already had to issue an alert to state and local bodies to stand down and leave it to the Executive Council and the national unions to make these decisions.  Larry Cohen after ten years at the helm of the Communications Workers resigned one day and the next day announced that he was going to work as a volunteer for Sanders campaign in part because of Sanders’ longtime voting record with labor in Congress and in his home state, but also in protest of Hillary Clinton’s support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations.

In California though his beachhead among progressives is extensive and much wider than labor activists.  For example, in meeting with community, political, and labor activists in Contra Costa County in the East Bay, it was startling to hear how often the conversation migrated to Sanders and his prospects.  Importantly, this interest was deeper than simply speculation about how far Sanders might make it in the Democratic Presidential sweepstakes.  The substantive discussion – and hope – was whether or not a strong run could ignite more movement and support for independent politics at every level, including the prospects for an effective and national alternative party. There was a feeling that support building for Sanders was not an “anybody but Hillary” drive, but a reward and real excitement over a candidate deeply committed and bravely progressive on positions one  after another.

Unspoken, but undoubtedly felt, was the feeling that a card carrying Socialist and avowed independent, building a significant vote total and campaign effort, could create a real Left willing to embrace the opportunity to lead and contend for power, rather than still facing the PTSD of the Cold War.

Many desperately wanted a California campaign.  They want the chance to pile up the votes and use the campaign to build their own infrastructure for now and the future.  Others speculated that the Working Families Party or other nascent national efforts might be able to grow in the slipstream of a Sanders campaign.

Having lunch in Oakland with a longtime supporter of ACORN, I did a double take when she also turned the conversation to Sanders.  Her argument was both personal and political.  Family members including a young nephew were planning at this point to sit the election out in 2016, feeling no enthusiasm and a pox on both their houses kind of attitude.  She felt she had moved the twenty-something towards Sanders as someone different.  Perhaps the buzz for Bernie can go deeper than white, elderly, and rural where he is finding more than enough of his Vermont-type base in his early forays in New Hampshire and Iowa.  Another comrade argued that Sanders might be able to double-down with younger voters from an equally solid place based on his longstanding work with veterans and his advocacy and effectiveness on the Veterans Committee of the Senate.

Grasping straws?  Building dream castles in the sky?  Hard to tell, but if this kind of excitement about Sanders starts to catch fire more broadly around the country, maybe what Sarah Palin famously called this “hope-y thing” might find a cozy home in the Sanders’ campaign with long term results.

Hillary Rodham as an Intern in the Summer of ‘71

angeladavisprotestMontreal    The final brick that far right conservatives and the blogsphere try to build in the Hillary Clinton, “girl radical,” wall is her 1971 summer internship with the Oakland-based “movement” law firm Treuhaft, Walker, and Burnstein that specialized in civil liberties, civil rights, labor, and the gamut of whatever was needed by the Bay Area left at the time.  Every piece of available evidence seems to indicate that whatever might have been happening in that firm, Hillary Rodham was a diligent and hard worker according to Malcolm Burnstein, one of the partners, and the experience all flowed over her like water on a duck’s back.

It is easy to see the attraction of spending a few months there.  First, compared to the dreariness of New Haven where she was attending Yale Law School, she would be living in the bounty of the bay area with an apartment in Berkeley at 22 years old.  Heaven at the time, no doubt!  Burnstein has reported no memory of the cases she might have worked on.  Perhaps child support, he thought or possibly landlord-tenant cases, because the firm was dealing with a lot of that as well. Nothing major, he recalls.

Nonetheless Treuhaft, Walker, and Burnstein must have been an exciting place just to hear about what was going on at the water cooler, because the three partners were in the thick of the action.

Robert Treuhaft was a long time labor and civil rights lawyer in the Bay Area, perhaps equally famous as the second husband of Jessica Mitford, one of the even more famous Mitford sisters.  He was reportedly the unacknowledged co-author of Mitford’s well-known expose of the funeral industry, The American Way of Death, which he inspired and researched with a year’s sabbatical from the firm.  Hillary would have also no doubt heard about Mitford’s book published in 1969, only two years before she was internship, concerning the losing anti-draft trail for Dr. Spock, Marcus Raskin, and others.  Both Mitford and Treuhaft were former Communists, but that was many long years before Hillary walked through their door.  Mal Burnstein was no slouch as well and handled many of the arrests and legal proceedings involving the Berkeley Free Speech Movement.  He also was a natural lawyer-of-choice for Vietnam War protestors and many of those protests cases and draft resistance beefs would have no doubt still been on the docket while she was passing through that summer.

Even more interesting to Hillary might have been watching the whirlwind of Doris Walker, the third partner in the firm.   Walker had long stood up for and battled back against discrimination based on her longtime membership in the Communist Party, but that would have been of no moment in 1971 to an intern.  On the other hand, the fact that Walker was one of the lawyers for Angela Davis and the lead counsel in her trial being conducted during that period would have been like a ringside seat to history.  Davis, an embattled professor at the University of California both for her Communist membership and her fiery speeches, had been arrested in 1969 as an accomplice in the killing of a Marin County judge and others in the jailbreak at the trial of Jonathan Jackson, younger brother of George Jackson of the Soledad Brothers. During the summer of 1971,  the support for Davis was at fever pitch.  There were sixty support committees around the country.  There were a half-dozen lawyers involved in her defense that was estimated to cost a half-million at the time and involved, reportedly for the first time, psychological profiling and consulting for jury selection. Hillary would have had to have been unconscious throughout the summer not to know from the lawyers and the associates of the firm, all of the drama and details of the preparation for Davis’ defense.  On top of all of that, during Hillary’s internship, Walker was also head of the National Lawyers’ Guild and is widely credited with reviving the organization during that time.  The law firm was action central!

All of which proves absolutely nothing other than the fact that Hillary’s youth had a good measure of spice and chili powder before she hunkered down and chose the corporate track after graduation with the white shoe, corporate practice of the Rose firm in Little Rock once she landed there.  She was alive in the sixties and early seventies, and she got to “see action,” but clearly no matter how close she was to the flame, she flew as far away as she could possibly get.

Association and acquaintances mean nothing.Action and allegiance mean everything. Hillary had a choice in the summer of ’71.  She absolutely did NOT choose our side. She was no fellow traveler.  She was just passing through.

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Chi-Lites – Give More Power To The People