A “Beer Hall Putsch”…Trump-style

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner raised eyebrows Tuesday by suggesting that there was uncertainty about whether the presidential election would happen in November as scheduled because of the coronavirus pandemic and that he had some role in making that determination.

Hours after his remarks to Time magazine generated a strong reaction on social media, Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, issued a clarification, saying he was unaware of and not involved in any “discussions” about changing the date of the 2020 election. Neither Trump nor Kushner as his adviser has any legal authority to change the timing of the presidential election.

The brief and disconcerting episode raised doubts about Kushner’s familiarity with the laws and constitutional provisions governing U.S. presidential elections. As the Congressional Research Service says, “The text of the Constitution does not appear to contain a constitutional role for the Executive Branch in such decisions.”

The dimwits who say they will follow Trump to Hell and back will, of course, be more than willing to march behind their fuehrer to any beer hall of his choice.

Wall Street executives speaking out about the crisis that gave us the Great Recession

It’s been nearly seven years since a financial meltdown almost destroyed the global economy. Some of Wall Street’s major players reflect on riding out the maelstrom.

Once upon a time, Jimmy Cayne, now 81, had a lot to say about the sad fate that befell Bear Stearns, the Wall Street investment bank he ran for nearly 15 years before its shocking collapse, in March 2008. In more than 20 hours of interviews with me that summer, portions of which later appeared in my book House of Cards, he blamed Wall Street competitors and an amorphous group of hedge funds for conspiring to take down the 85-year-old firm. He was especially angry about then New York Federal Reserve Bank president Tim Geithner’s decision to allow Bear’s competitors access to crucial Federal Reserve funding, permitting them to fight another day, while his firm was denied such funds and faced the choice of either filing for bankruptcy or being sold to JPMorgan Chase for a pittance (which is what happened). Smoking $150 Cuban cigars, obtained through secret sources in Lebanon, he fumed, “The audacity of that prick in front of the American people announcing he was deciding whether or not a firm of this stature was good enough to get a loan…. It’s just that for some clerk to make a decision based on what, your own personal feeling about whether or not they’re a good credit [risk]? Who the fuck asked you? You’re not an elected officer. You’re a clerk. Believe me, you’re a clerk.”

That was then. These days, Cayne isn’t talking. Neither he nor his attorney Melissa Prober, at Kramer Levin, responded to requests to speak about the financial crisis for this article. But Cayne is still around.

That’s just the beginning of the several sketches of the Masters of the World who went through crushing times at the start of the Great Recession. You know. That economic crash that most politicians – mostly Republicans – still either deny or take no responsibility for.

The article is a solid read. Frankly, I’m astounded whenever anyone on Wall Street does interviews with Bill Cohan. Anyone of the regular crooks, that is. Have nothing to hide then you won’t worry about the interview. But, Cohan will let it all out. Including his own critical analysis.

The Great Kansas Tea Party Debacle

Brownback_Cartoon

The Republican party headquarters in Wichita, Kansas, shares space in a strip mall with Best Friends Pet Clinic, a cowboy-boot repair shop and a Chinese restaurant called the Magic Wok. Inside, on a recent Wednesday afternoon, a modest gathering of party faithful mill about, I’M A BROWNBACKER stickers affixed to their blouses and lapels.

It’s a terrible slogan. Four years ago, when Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback first took office, you might’ve wondered if these people, on some subliminal level, actually wanted to be humiliated by a filthy-minded liberal activist looking to add a new “santorum” to Urban Dictionary. As a senator and a failed presidential candidate, Brownback was already one of the nation’s most prominent social conservatives, “God’s Senator,” in the words of a 2006 Rolling Stone profile. But Brownback turned out to be even more radical when it came to economic policy. In 2012, he enacted the largest package of tax cuts in Kansas history, essentially transforming his state into a lab experiment for extreme free-market ideology. The results (disastrous) have reduced the governor to making appearances at grim strip malls like this one in a desperate attempt to salvage his re-election bid.

The last time I came to Kansas, in March 2013, Brownback could often be found wandering the halls of the state Capitol, sporting one of his signature sweater vests, smiling and nodding at passing strangers or offering impromptu lectures to schoolchildren paused in front of the oil painting of John Brown, the fearsome Kansas abolitionist, that hangs outside his office. Here in Wichita, though, he looks exhausted. When he takes the stage, he squints out at the audience through puffy eyes. His Texas counterpart, Gov. Rick Perry, stands behind him, having been summoned north to help bail out Brownback’s flailing campaign…

Then the Texan steps to the podium and delivers a version of a speech I saw him give earlier this year in Kentucky, where he had been mobilized on a similar mission for Mitch McConnell. After boasting about all the jobs his policies have drawn to his state, Perry praises Brownback for placing Kansas on a similar “upward trajectory,”…

There are a couple of problems with Perry’s speech. First of all, he happens to be delivering it in Wichita, where, this summer, Boeing, for decades the largest private employer in the state of Kansas, shuttered its entire operation, shifting those jobs to cities like Seattle, Oklahoma City and San Antonio, Texas (oops).

The larger problem, of course, is that Perry wouldn’t even have to be here in Kansas if Brownback’s economic plan had not already proved catastrophic…not only cutting taxes but also slashing spending on education, social services and the arts, and, later, privatizing the entire state Medicaid system. Brownback himself went around the country telling anyone who’d listen that Kansas could be seen as a sort of test case, in which unfettered libertarian economic policy could be held up and compared right alongside the socialistic overreach of the Obama administration, and may the best theory of government win…

That word, “experiment,” has come to haunt Brownback as the data rolls in. The governor promised his “pro-growth tax policy” would act “like a shot of adrenaline in the heart of the Kansas economy,” but, instead, state revenues plummeted by nearly $700 million in a single fiscal year, both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s downgraded the state’s credit rating, and job growth sagged behind all four of Kansas’ neighbors. Brownback wound up nixing a planned sales-tax cut to make up for some of the shortfall, but not before he’d enacted what his opponents call the largest cuts in education spending in the history of Kansas.

Read ’em and weep, folks – except the good folks don’t deserve the tears. They knew what this idiot was going to do. Even though every previous attempt by a supply-side economics reactionary had failed – all the way up to and including Reagan’s guru, David Stockman. Read Mark Binelli’s whole article.

They voted Brownback into office. He did what he promised to do. The state now waits for bankruptcy, fully prepared to deal with nothing but more disaster, education system crushed, employers ready to flee.

Any history-literate cynic knows American aren’t well enough-educated to vote in their own economic interest. Our nation’s history of bigotry and racism aid the whole process. Reactionary demagogues who would only be considered fringe candidates in other Western nations regularly take their seats in Congress. But, still – Kansas voters outdid themselves with God’s favorite candidate.

Thanks, Mike

How close did we come to nuking North Carolina?

A secret document, published in declassified form for the first time by the Guardian today, reveals that the US Air Force came dramatically close to detonating an atom bomb over North Carolina that would have been 260 times more powerful than the device that devastated Hiroshima.

The document, obtained by the investigative journalist Eric Schlosser under the Freedom of Information Act, gives the first conclusive evidence that the US was narrowly spared a disaster of monumental proportions when two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs were accidentally dropped over Goldsboro, North Carolina on 23 January 1961. The bombs fell to earth after a B-52 bomber broke up in mid-air, and one of the devices behaved precisely as a nuclear weapon was designed to behave in warfare: its parachute opened, its trigger mechanisms engaged, and only one low-voltage switch prevented untold carnage.

Each bomb carried a payload of 4 megatons – the equivalent of 4 million tons of TNT explosive. Had the device detonated, lethal fallout could have been deposited over Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and as far north as New York city – putting millions of lives at risk.

Though there has been persistent speculation about how narrow the Goldsboro escape was, the US government has repeatedly publicly denied that its nuclear arsenal has ever put Americans’ lives in jeopardy through safety flaws. But in the newly-published document, a senior engineer in the Sandia national laboratories responsible for the mechanical safety of nuclear weapons concludes that “one simple, dynamo-technology, low voltage switch stood between the United States and a major catastrophe”…”It would have been bad news – in spades,” he wrote…

Jones found that of the four safety mechanisms in the Faro bomb, designed to prevent unintended detonation, three failed to operate properly. When the bomb hit the ground, a firing signal was sent to the nuclear core of the device, and it was only that final, highly vulnerable switch that averted calamity. “The MK 39 Mod 2 bomb did not possess adequate safety for the airborne alert role in the B-52,” Jones concludes.

The document was uncovered by Schlosser as part of his research into his new book on the nuclear arms race, Command and Control. Using freedom of information, he discovered that at least 700 “significant” accidents and incidents involving 1,250 nuclear weapons were recorded between 1950 and 1968 alone.

Heartwarming to find my cynicism perfectly justified. All the lies we are fed about the need for classifying tons of military and spy tales – significantly distorted by the amount of crap classified as secret to keep anyone from discovering what bumbling idiots we have running our government, our military.

Missing: the clinical trials that did not make the news

This week the media ignored a study looking at that exact question. It was also one of the most important papers to be published this year: only one in five trials on cancer treatment actually gets published; the rest are missing in action. And it gets worse: only 5.9% of industry-sponsored trials on cancer treatment get published. Later, it will get worse again.

For decades people have known that negative results tend not to get printed in academic journals, and it can happen for all kinds of reasons: they’re not newsworthy, they’re not much fun to write up, they don’t look good on your CV, and they might not flatter your idea or product.

One suggestion which I bang on about incessantly is that all clinical trials should be registered before they begin: then people stand a chance of noticing if and when a trial goes missing in action. This took about 20 years to be put into practice. But there is a problem: who will chase up the missing studies?
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List of at-risk US banks increases sharply – now, there’s a surprise!

An official “watch list” of potentially troubled US banks has lengthened from 90 to 117 as the credit crunch wreaks havoc throughout the financial industry.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which guarantees customers’ money held in US banks, said the quarterly list was the longest since mid-2003 and is asking its members to increase contributions to a dwindling bail-out fund…

So far this year, nine US banks have collapsed including California’s IndyMac Bancorp, the third largest failure of a high-street bank since the FDIC was created 75 years ago.

The FDIC does not disclose the identity of institutions on its watch list. But it said the aggregate total of assets held by troubled banks had risen from $26bn to $78bn, partly because the FDIC seized control of $32bn at IndyMac…

The FDIC has increased the number of staff handling banking failures by 60% as it faces the most challenging environment since the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s which drove hundreds of small financial institutions out of business.

Too many bankers went along with the Voodoo economists in the White House. And, let’s face it – they saw that nothing serious [or competent] was done to prevent the Enron fraud or punish corporate corruption.

Starting with sleazy storefront mortgages – unregulated and unlicensed – the majority of the banking industry, nationally and throughout the Western world, climbed on board the downbound train to get a piece of the action.

Congress and White House bought in. Of course.