Nel's New Day

February 24, 2017

DDT: Week Five – Part 1

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) can make his supporters believe anything—including a fondness for a country that conservatives have traditionally hated. Since 2015, approval of Vladimir Putin has increased 20 points to 32 percent among Republicans and 11 points to 23 percent among Independents. Putin’s popularity with Democrats has decreased five points to ten percent. The 32 percent is the highest since 2003 when George W. Bush looked into Putin’s eyes and liked what he saw—before he didn’t. Conservatives like Putin in spite of—or perhaps because of—the Russian hacking to influence the presidential election, Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, suppression of the press, brutality toward LGBTQ people, murders of people opposed to Putin, lack of free elections, violation of the nuclear treaty, and national control by oligarchs.

FBI Director James Comey got DDT elected, and now the White House wants Comey’s help to keep DDT in the White House by telling reporters that the connection between DDT’s campaign staff and Russia weren’t true. The communication violates a Department of Justice memo during George W. Bush’s time that the White House should advise the department on criminal and civil enforcement “only where it is important for the performance of the president’s duties and where appropriate from a law enforcement perspective.” DDT still has Attorney General Sessions in his pocket to keep the current DOJ from investigating him, but the GOP legislators are getting antsy about the situation after their crowd’s anger expressed during the “Resistance Recess.”

DDT also asked legislators to tell reporters that he has no ties to Russia, and they did it. Last week, senior lawmakers, who should be in charge of investigating the Trump-Russia connections called news organizations and challenged these stories. This is not a rumor; the lawmakers admitted that they called the reporters to dismiss the information of DDT associates’ contacts with Russia as infrequent and inconsequential. Press secretary Sean Spicer said the White House asked the legislators to do this, but he claimed that there was nothing wrong with asking them to contact reporters and tell them what DDT wanted. Two members of Congress who followed DDT’s orders are Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees. Nunes has refused to investigate the Russian connection.

In the Washington Post Greg Miller and Adam Entous wrote:

“U.S. intelligence reports cite multiple contacts between members of Trump’s team and Russians with links to the Kremlin, during the campaign and afterward, according to officials who have seen them. Such reports were based on intercepted Russian communications and other sources, the officials said.”

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), who has seen this information as the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, concluded that the investigation “may very well be the most important thing I do in my public life.”

Other DDT news from the past week:

DDT Cooks the Books: DDT has figured out how he can prove his GDP growth target of 3 to 3.5 percent a year: just start with that fantasy number and then put in statistics to show that it’s right. Forget the old-fashioned way of figuring out how policies either increase or decrease the rate. DDT’s projections are at least one percentage point above the consensus reality projection. DDT also told economists to change the way that the trade deficit is calculated by omitting as exports anything that is imported and then sold to another country. For example, a car sold to a company in the United States from Mexico and then re-sold to one in Canada is considered only an import and not an export which inflates the overall trade deficit. DDT plans to use his artificial system to rail against trade deals or demand border taxes. It’s hard to understand why he bothers to create this system  because he invents his own numbers for anything, for example citing a $800 billion deficit when it’s only $500 billion. He also consistently argued that the employment rate of 4.6 percent is, in Trumpland, 42 percent because he includes everyone without a job such as retirees, college students, and many other people who don’t want jobs.

DDT Reduces Military Child Care: DDT’s promised to provide “all men and women in uniform [with] the supplies, support, equipment, training, services, medical care, and resources they need to get the job done incredibly well and perfectly.” But DDT’s hiring freeze has caused at least two Army bases to suspend childcare programs including preschool. An exemption in the hiring freeze includes “child care to the children of military personnel,” but another Army memo has caused personnel shortages by putting another layer of bureaucracy on its already burdensome hiring system.

Christie Turns DDT Down: The New Jersey governor has crawled to get crumbs from DDT, but the meatloaf may have been the last straw. On Valentine’s Day, Christie lunched at the White House and was told that he would have the meatloaf. Then DDT asked Christie if he wanted to be the Labor Secretary after Andrew Pudzer left in disgrace—hard to do when one considers DDT’s nominees. Christie said no. He’s considering a gig as host of a sports talk radio show when his term has expired.

DDT Employees Fail Background Checks: Gerrit Lansing, White House Chief Digital Officer, is only one of at least six staffers dismissed because they failed their FBI checks. Some of them were “walked out of the building by security” because they could not muster security clearance. Caroline Wiles, director of scheduling and daughter of DDT’s Florida campaign director, was one of those who left, but she said she’ll get another job in Treasury.

Conway Gets in Hot Water: DDT’s counselor, Kellyanne Conway, had been pulled from doing interviews after White House officials claimed that she repeatedly made statements “at odds with the administration’s official stance.”  Even DDT sycophant Joe Scarborough said she wouldn’t be on The Morning Show because she didn’t tell the truth—although he didn’t use the “T” word. Now 15 law professors have filed a professional misconduct complaint against her, calling on Conway to be sanctioned for violating government ethics rules and “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”

Among other concerns, the complaint cited Conway’s lie that President Obama had “banned” Iraq refugees from coming into the country for six months after the non-existent “Bowling Green Massacre” and for her hawking Ivanka Trump’s products. Another issue was her claim that the White House put forth “alternative facts.” The filing stated, “Alternative facts are not facts at all; they are lies.” The complaint stated that Conway “is currently acting in a way that brings shame upon the legal profession.” One of the filers, Abbe Smith, said she had never before filed a complaint and goes not generally believe that lawyers should face discipline under the stated rule, which includes conduct outside the practice of law, but called Conway’s conduct “so outside the norm for a member of the legal profession.”

DDT’s Conflicts of Interest, Profit Making from the Presidency Continues: No new businesses. That was DDT’s promise in January. Sons, Eric and Donald, Jr. cost the taxpayers more big bucks on their weekend in Dubai when they opened a new Trump golf course. The club still hasn’t gotten its liquor license from the United Arab Emirates which means that DDT will need to provide his standard “pay for play” deal. The government also has to provide all the club’s services including water and roads. It’s a guarantee that the sons will take part in the negotiations. DDT deals are pending in India, Indonesia, Uruguay, and Canada, and another one may be created in the Dominican Republic where Eric visited on February 2. Meanwhile, DDT’s DC hotel, another illegal venture at this time, was bankrolled by Deutsch Bank, currently under DOJ investigation. At least, taxpayers can follow the plans because we pay for Secret Service to follow Eric and Donald Jr. everywhere.

China may be breaking its own laws by giving trademarks to DDT, something that they refused to do until DDT achieved the candidacy for president. Once again DDT may have violated the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars public servants from accepting anything of value from foreign states unless approved by Congress. The one trademark that DDT received for construction services, but he’s wants them for condoms, toilets, and many other items. DDT brings a new definition to presidential dignity.

In a movement toward further dictatorship, DDT is blocking reputable news outlets from Spicer’s briefings. The Huffington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times CNN, Politico, Buzzfeed, and reporters from several foreign news outlets were not allowed in this afternoon’s closed-door briefing. Associated Press and Time boycotted in the meeting because of that decision. A reporter from Wall Street Journal attended but said that he would not go again if other outlets were excluded.

Before DDT’s inauguration, Spicer had said that he might skip televised briefings in exchange for off-camera briefing or gaggle with reporters. Yet in December, Spicer said that news organizations can’t be banned from the White House because “that’s what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship.” At least he understands what he’s doing. Conservative, tabloid-type outlets such as Breitbart, Washington Times, and One American News Network were still allowed to attend.

The other big story today was the report from the Department of Homeland Security refutes the need for DDT’s Muslim ban. But that’s a story for tomorrow.

 

November 27, 2016

Trump Makes Money from Presidency

In a letter to Eugene’s Register-Guard, self-identified “deplorable” further proved that Donald Trump (DT) supporters live in a fantasy land when she concluded by stating that “we can all agree that President-elect Trump is not in it for the money.” And she was being serious. A run-down of DT’s conflicts of interest show how wrong she is.

DT’s extensive global business dealings brings the total to 150 companies in at least 25 countries. The true extent is not known because of DT’s refusal to release his tax information. Richard Painter, Chief Ethics Counsel for George W. Bush, said:

“If we’ve got to talk to a foreign government about their behavior, or negotiate a treaty, or some country asks us to send our troops in to defend someone else, we’ve got to make a decision. And the question becomes: Are we going in out of our national interest, or because there’s a Trump casino around?”

Philippines: President Rodrigo Duterte has named Jose E.B. Antonio, DT’s partner in a $150 million tower in Manila, a special envoy to the U.S. Antonio met with DT’s children for a private meeting after the election, and his son, Robbie Antonio, said that his father and the Trumps plan other Trump-branded resorts in the country. Duterte wants U.S. troops out of his country; he has killed thousands of suspected criminals without trial.

South Korea: As partner in a South Korean company involved in nuclear energy, DT wants the country to take care of its own military defense rather than counting on the U.S.—including the development of nuclear weapons.

Brazil: The beachfront Trump Hotel Rio de Janeiro—financially branded but not owned by DT—is part of an investigation regarding illicit commissions and bribes resulted in favoritism by two pension funds invested in the project.

Argentina: DT reportedly asked President Mauricio Macri to approve long-delayed permits for the Buenos Aires Trump high rise. Although DT denied doing this, permits were granted the next day.

India: Builders on DT’s real estate ventures are tied to the country’s most important political party. With more projects underway than in any other location outside the U.S., DT can obtain special government favors, including reductions in loans from state-owned banks, as low as 8 percent from the typical 15 percent. A week after he was elected, DT and his children met with their Indian business partners who said that they discussed the expansion of their Trump dealings because he is the president-elect. An official said that meeting with the U.S. president’s son can be the same as a meeting with the president. One DT project is under investigation for fraudulent permits. Black money—money on which taxes have not been paid—is commonly invested in real estate, and special political favors leads to windfall profits. Bribes are so common that bureaucrats have rate sheets showing how much to each official.

trump-hindu-sena

[DT as member of “Hindu Sena,” or Hindu Army, a local organization. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)]

Ireland: DT wants a flood-prevention sea wall on the coast that would endanger an endangered snail’s habitat and sand dunes near the course, both protected by European Union rules.

Britain: DT has spoken with British politicians in opposition to wind farms that he believes will mar the view from his golf course in Scotland.

Turkey: Officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a religiously conservative Muslim, had demanded that DT’s name be removed from Trump Towers in Istanbul after he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. DT suggested that Erdogan can crack down harshly on dissidents after the recent, failed coup, and Erdogan’s calls for action against Trump Towers have stopped. In his offshore manufacturing, DT maintains his partnership in a company making luxury furniture and sold under the Trump Home Collection. DT has said that he has “a little conflict of interest [in Turkey].”

Saudi Arabia: During his campaign, DT started eight hotel projects in this oil-rich Arab kingdom that he said he “would want to protect.” Citing all the money that people from Saudi Arabia give him, DT said, “Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”

Russia: DT made millions with the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. In 2008, DT, Jr., said that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” adding that “we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

U.S.: DT is urging diplomats to stay at his new Washington, D.C. hotel when they are in town for official business. He owns a government lease for the hotel although the lease states that it cannot be held by a government official. His on-going labor disputes in Nevada may be solved by his appointments of all five members of the National Labor Relations Board. DT also owns stock in the company building the pipeline where protesters are trying to protect water and Native American sacred land in the Dakotas.

Other Global Issues: DT has a failed project in Toronto which was funded by Chinese investors and a dispute with Deutsche Bank, also owing them possibly billions of dollars. The bank is negotiating with the U.S. after lying to investors about its involvement in subprime mortgages during the housing crisis and ensuing global recession. The DOJ opened with $14 billion, but the deal could be sweetened in exchange for lessening DT’s loans, especially because the bank is being investigated for shady equity trades benefiting Russian clients.

Ivanka Trump plans to make money off DT’s election. After the family appeared on 60 Minutes, her business urged reporters to write about the $10,800 gold bangle bracelet she wore during the interview. She has also participated in conversations with at least three world leaders: Turkey, Argentina and Japan. DT was given a gold driver worth $4,000 at the meeting with Japanese officials.

Another issue is identifying responsibility for protecting Trump properties, possibly against terrorism, around the world. David J. Kramer, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor during the George W. Bush administration, said DT’s financial situation could stop the government from using the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, that attempts to prevent contractors from paying bribes to secure government work abroad.

Even without overt DT action, officials in foreign countries may feel pressured to support his businesses by moving forward building permits or pushing more business to DT’s hotels or golf courses. DT’s diplomats may also not wish to frustrate his business partners or political allies.

Republicans were virulently opposed to Hillary Clinton’s potential involvement in the Clinton Foundation, and at least one representative, Justin Amash from Michigan, is now calling on DT to be transparent. Amash tweeted, “If you have contracts w/foreign govts, it’s certainly a big deal, too. #DrainTheSwamp.” As DT rearranges the alligators in the deepening swamp, almost no Republicans are mentioning the murky morass. Instead they plan to investigate Hillary Clinton’s emails.

DT has already pointed out that there is no law against his conflict of interest. At this time, he is ignoring the Emoluments Clause (Article 1, Section 9) in the U.S. Constitution, “emolument” meaning compensation for labor or services. The clause states that “no person holding any office of profit or trust” shall “accept of any present, emolument, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state” unless Congress consents. This provision could go as far as preventing DT from renting space in his New York tower to the Bank of China or hosting foreign diplomats in one of his hotels.

When President Obama took office, David J. Barron, a Justice Department official who is now a federal appeals court judge in Boston, declared that the clause “surely” applies to the president and money can be barred if it comes from a foreign state. Barron added, “Corporations owned or controlled by a foreign government are presumptively foreign states under the Emoluments Clause.”

The Supreme Court has no rulings about this clause because no previous president has refused to give up his businesses when taking over the office. The question is who would have standing to challenge the President of the United States. Violations may require impeachment and not a lawsuit, something that a GOP-controlled House of Representatives is unlikely to do. Yet Virginia Gov. Edmund Jennings Randolph stated during a Constitutional debate in June 1788 that a violation of the provision by the President would be grounds for impeachment.

Legal scholars are calling on Electoral Voters to not make DT the next president unless he follows earlier presidents in selling his companies and putting the proceeds in a blind trust. Harvard Law Professor Larry Tribe, a preeminent constitutional scholar, said, “[T]o vote for Trump in the absence of such complete divestment… would represent an abdication of the solemn duties of the 538 Electors.” Painter and Norman Eisen, President Obama’s Chief Ethics Counsel, joined Tribe in this opinion. DT could agree to have his businesses audited and any payment from a foreign government turned over to the United States, Painter suggested, but Tribe does not think this action would actually cure the Constitutional violation. DT won’t do this anyway.

If DT makes no changes before he takes the Oath of Office, he would immediately violate his promise not to be “indebted to, or otherwise the recipient of financial remuneration from, any foreign power or entity answerable to such a power.” Taking the oath would qualify him for one of the “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” that would require him to be “removed from Office.” The only alternative is for Congress to “endorse Trump’s exploitation of public office for private gain and authorize his emoluments as the Constitution allows,” according to Eisen.

Eisen summarized the situation perfectly: Swearing in DT without his selling his properties would force the U.S. into a “wholesale oligarchic kleptocracy of a kind that we have never seen before in our history.” Without taking action, the GOP can find itself in the midst of a constitutional crisis.

June 3, 2016

Trump, Worse Than What Clinton Said

Hillary Clinton’s speech yesterday about Donald Trump was brilliant, but some of the ideas in Hillary Clinton’s takedown Donald Trump yesterday came directly from Mitt Romney’s speech about Trump just three months ago. “[Trump’s] domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president and his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill,” Romney said. Trump said Clinton lied about what he said, but here is a fact-check on everything she said.

Trump is the man that GOP voters say they support because they think that Hillary Clinton is “unlikeable,” a workaholic, and too friendly. A complaint, not supported, is that she lied about the email and Benghazi issues, yet Trump lies about literally everything–an average of every 41 seconds. Trump charged thousands of dollars for enrollment at “Trump University,” a multilevel marketing scheme instead of a university. No college degree—just information about real estate investing. “Students” were told to ask for credit line increases to pay the $35,000 for the “Trump Gold Elite” package and promised that going into this debt would increase their credit score. Some supposedly experienced real estate investors had never worked in real estate; some had declared bankruptcy in the past; and others just disappeared before the end of the “education.” Documents show the con of the “university” recruiters.

Trump’s lawsuit gained fame after his racist statements about its judge, Gonzalo Curiel. At first Trump called him a Mexican but then toned down his rhetoric to say that he is of “Mexican heritage.” Even so, Trump accused the judge of having a “conflict of interest” because of Trump’s claim that “I’m building a wall.” According to Trump, all judges of Hispanic descent should recuse themselves because of his racist remarks.

Curiel was actually born in Chicago and has been on the hit list of a Mexican drug cartel. Trump also referred to Curiel as a “hater” and “a very biased and unfair judge,” despite Curiel’s courtesy to Trump in postponing his trial until November 28, after the general election. Trump used President Obama’s appointment of Curiel in other attacks on him, but the judge started his judicial career as a GOP appointment by California’s governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006.

Although some GOP Latinos are hoping for a shift in Trump’s racist campaign, Ruth Guerra, the RNC’s Hispanic media communications director, left her job for a super PAC because of her inability to defend Trump. Conservative strategist Ana Navarro said, “If you’re a Hispanic holding your breath and hoping for Donald Trump to get better in his outreach to Latinos, you’re going to die of asphyxia.” In a news conference this week, Trump singled out two Hispanic network television reporters for criticism, calling ABC’s Tom Llamas a “sleaze” and CNN’s Jim Acosta “a real beauty.” Trump started his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists,” “criminals,” and “killers.” Last month he attacked New Mexico’s GOP Gov. Susanna Martinez, the only female Hispanic governor in the nation, for being  lazy and ineffectual. Today, 84 percent of Hispanics have an unfavorable view of Trump compared to only 50 percent who held the same view of Mitt Romney four years ago.

In an even more bizarre twist today, Trump pointed to a supporter in the Redding (CA) audience and said, “Look at my African-American over here.”

Hispanics aren’t the only people on Trump’s hit list. A few of his terms for women are “bimbo, dog, and fat pig” as shown in this anti-Trump ad released by a GOP PAC last March. Clinton has been falsely accused of calling Monica Lewinsky, but she her only description of Lewinsky was a “narcissistic loonie toon.”

Trump’s involvement in at least 3,500 state and federal legal actions shows that litigation is his favorite method of “negotiation”:

  • Trump as plaintiff – 1,900 cases;
  • Trump as defendant  – 1,450 times;
  • Bankruptcies or other big business court filings – 150 times;
  • Casinos – 1,700 times;
  • Personal injuries – 700 times;
  • Real estate disputes plus government and taxes – 465 times;
  • Trump University, Miss Universe, and libel suits – 55 times;
  • Dismissed or discontinued cases – 500;
  • Trump wins – 450 cases;
  • Settled – 175 cases;
  • New cases filed since Trump formally announced his candidacy – 70.

Trump refuses to release his tax returns, but he could be into debt for as much $1 billion to the German Deutsche Bank that has been long-time fighting the U.S. regarding regulations. The bank had to pay $2.5 billion fine for rigging interest rates and reached multiple settlements for price fixing metals. His ambiguous financial statement lists 16 loans from 11 different creditors, five unpaid ones worth $50 million or more. His income may be dropping: bookings for his hotels have dropped by 60 percent. Trump has pledged to repeal the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Trump’s claim that he raised $6 million for veterans, including his own $1 million donation, after refusing to participate in a Fox debate failed to show donations to these groups until the Washington Post asked about the money this past week. His excuse was that he was demanding tax information from the groups—the same information that he won’t provide to the U.S. public. He didn’t raise that $6 million, he hadn’t donated $1 million, and he didn’t donate the money to veterans.

Trump’s over 500 businesses listed in a personal financial disclosure form filed with the FEC creates a massive conflict of interest for Trump. Unelected officials working in the executive branch cannot collect income from outside businesses and participate in government decisions affecting private financial interests, but congressional members, federal judges, the vice-president, and the president are exempt from this restriction. Many Trump businesses are in countries that oppose the candidate’s personal foreign policy such as Dubai, Qatar, and China, and he operates businesses in Azerbaijan, Brazil, Egypt, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Israel, Philippines, South Africa and Turkey.

Trump said that his children would run the Trump business affairs if he is elected. But the closeness of the three to Trump could still represent a conflict of interest, and Trump is known for frequently reversing his declarations, calling them a “suggestion” rather than an intent. Trump has already used his victory speeches for infomercials regarding his water, wine, and steaks. An elected Trump could turn the White House into a Wal-Mart, as Timothy O’Brien wrote in Bloomberg. 

Yesterday, Trump completed his takeover of the GOP after House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) quietly announced in his small-town newspaper that he would be voting for Trump as president.  Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman wrote, “Speaker Paul Ryan endorses nominee who wants to ban Muslims from the country. The hostile takeover of the GOP is now complete.” Washington Post called it “a sad day for Ryan—and for America.” GOP politicians who  can’t bring themselves to praise him come up with such statements as “it is what it is” (Marco Rubio), “he will help turn the House GOP’s agenda into laws” (Ryan). Former House majority leader Eric Cantor, said, “He’s a businessman . . . [but] he’s been on so many sides of every issue that you never know.” Wikipedia gives a list of “endorsements,” but many of these people are just resigned to vote for Trump. Yet many of the worst GOP leaders have expressed ambivalence about Trump support. Pundits have come up with a new term for these non-endorsers—SINOs or Supporters in Name Only.

As bad as the GOP leaders are in their support of Trump, voters following him are worse. Victor Vizcarra, 45, is representative of this mindless mindset looking for excitement when he said he chose Trump after Sanders because a Clinton administration would be “boring.” He continued:

 “A dark side of me wants to see what happens if Trump is in. There is going to be some kind of change, and even if it’s like a Nazi-type change, people are so drama-filled. They want to see stuff like that happen. It’s like reality TV. You don’t want to just see everybody be happy with each other. You want to see someone fighting somebody.”

And maybe a few nuclear explosions! People who want to think that Vizcarra is an anomaly are wrong. More and more, voters want to send their rage-filled message and experience the rush of craziness in “reality” shows like as Survival. They don’t care that their frantic search for entertainment in politics will lead the U.S. into the abyss.

Marty Kaplan wrote:

“Hillary Clinton has a presidential temperament. Her script promises stability. If the choice in November is between “’The Apprentice’ Goes to Washington” and “The Progressive Who Gets Things Done Show,” which one will the audience vote to watch?”

The answer could be really scary.

August 8, 2014

The Art of Buying Judges Escalates

Tennessee had an election yesterday, and the Koch brothers lost. The fight was over replacing three justices on the state Supreme Court. It wasn’t that they did anything wrong; it was just that they had been appointed by a Democrat. Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey decided that the Democratic appointees needed to be traded out and gave $425,000 of his own campaign’s money for the cause.

State Supreme Court justices get their positions in different ways across the nation. In Tennessee, voters decide whether to retain members of the Supreme Court. The electorate kept all three “controversial” justices for another eight years by about 57 percent over 43 percent who voted against them. To keep their positions, justices had to raise money for their campaigns just as legislators do, often getting contributions from lawyers who will try cases in the court.

Spending on television spots for justices has escalated in the past decade, almost tripling the 2001/2002 expenditures for the 2011/2012 election cycle. For that election, the costs went over $3 million in five separate states, with Michigan alone spending almost $9 million. As a comparison, television campaigning for justices in my state of Oregon was about $100,000.

Special-interest groups provided 38 percent of all television spending for state Supreme Court justices in the last election cycle, with 90 percent of this special interest money going to just six states—Florida, Oklahoma, Iowa, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. Oklahoma’s Yes for Fair and Impartial Judges spent more than $450,000 in 2012 calling on voters to “keep politics out of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.”

One result of all this funding is the increase in state Supreme Court rulings for prosecutors and against criminal defendants for fear of being portrayed as “soft on crime.” For their study, researchers examined data between 2000 and 2007 from supreme courts in states where campaigns spent over $3 million: Illinois, Mississippi, Washington, Georgia, Wisconsin, Nevada, and West Virginia. The study used 4,684 rulings in criminal cases starting five years before a given state’s first $3 million high court election and ending five years after that election.

Illinois is an example of the change. After the 2004 race breaking campaign spending records and bombarding voters with attack ads featuring violent criminals, the high court ruled in favor of the prosecution in 69 percent of its criminal cases—an 18 percent increase over the previous year. Mississippi had the same experience: justices ruled against criminal defendants in 90 percent of the cases in 2002, a 20 percent increase from 2000. Wisconsin matched Mississippi.

Correlations were strongest when more ads came from independent groups unaffiliated with the candidates because these groups are more likely to use attack ads. Nevada, with no independent spending, lacked the pattern in the other states. In states such as Washington and Georgia, where spending spiked and then declined, the percentage of rulings against criminal defendants followed the same pattern.

Smear ads in Michigan described one justice candidate as having “volunteer[ed] to help free a terrorist.” In Ohio, a state Republican Party ad accused Supreme Court candidate Bill O’Neill of being “sympathetic to rapists,” based on a decision he made as an appeals judge overturning a rape conviction due to ineffective assistance of counsel. During the 2004 West Virginia Supreme Court election, a group funded by coal mogul Don Blankenship warned that an incumbent justice “voted to release” a “child rapist” and then “agreed to let this convicted child rapist work as a janitor in a West Virginia school.” Another campaign ad, this one in the 2012 Louisiana Supreme Court race, claimed that one of the candidates had “suspended the sentence of a cocaine dealer, of a man who killed a state trooper, two more drug dealers, and over half the sentence of a child rapist.”

Over-incarceration has been a growing problem in the past half century, and the United States has searched for solutions. The federal government is scaling back the use of harsh mandatory minimums, and some states, including Georgia, are experimenting with alternative sentencing. Politicization of judicial elections must be included as part of these solutions.

Other rulings show the conflict of interest between judicial practices and campaign contributors. Judge Rudolph Randa of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin frequently attends Koch brothers’ conferences at no expense to himself. Recently, he ended the investigation into potentially illegal campaign coordination between Gov. Scott Walker and conservative organizations such as Wisconsin Club for Growth. He described the coordination as “promoting political speech,” and prosecutors were told to return all seized property and destroy copies of documents they had obtained. Fortunately, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Randa’s order before the documents were returned or destroyed.

Campaign ads across the nation have attacked judges’ rulings: same-sex marriage in Iowa, the Affordable Care Act in Florida, and collective bargaining in Wisconsin. In 2012, politicians, including former presidential candidate Rick Santorum and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, joined the “No Wiggins bus tour” in opposition to one of the judges who ruled to legalize marriage equality in Iowa. Wiggins kept his seat with 54.5 percent of voters supporting him, but the last three justices involved in the 2009 decision are up for election in 2016. After Bill O’Reilly and Nancy Grace attacked individual state judges a few years ago, legislators filed articles of impeachment against them.

Last fall, a group called the Judicial Crisis Network lobbied the Oklahoma legislation to stop vetting candidates with the Judicial Nominating Committee and select them only through direct partisan elections. The organization, originally known as the Judicial Confirmation Network, has the sole purpose of raising money and funding campaigns for conservative judicial candidates. Information about the group’s background was not divulged during its testimony.

Some anti-choice groups are pushing to have Republican governors and legislators select state judges. Kansans for Life supported the change in state law that allows the governor—in this case, the ultra-conservative governor—to pick justices for lower state courts without making the application pool, interview process, or selection criteria public.

In states with Democratic governors or legislators, the anti-choice groups threaten legislators with negative scorecard votes. In Pennsylvania, a legislator’s vote to remove partisan elections for justices would be considered by these groups as a “pro-abortion” vote. The same thing happened in Minnesota.

The Republican State Leadership Committee has started the Judicial Fairness Initiative to back judge candidates with conservative ideologies. The RSLC has already contributed $650,000 to Justice for All NC, a state that had over $3 million in judicial campaigns in the last election cycle. Alice Bannon, of the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, described the politicization process of judge selection, “Judges essentially become politicians with robes.”

In 14 states, campaigning judges identify themselves as a member of a specific party. All 163 judges in Alabama, for example, are elected in partisan contests. In two states, Virginia and South Carolina, the legislatures elect judges. The Florida governor nominates the state’s seven Supreme Court justices and 60 Courts of Appeal judges, and the Hawaii governor appoints 44 judges at varying levels.

A total of 38 states elect judges in a country where people expect courts to be fair and impartial. Their reason for existing is to resolve disputes on an impartial basis and protect people’s rights. More than 90 percent of all cases go through a state court that’s becoming increasingly controlled by money from lawyers, lobbyists, and business interests.

West Virginia has public funding for judicial elections, and a few states—Arizona, California, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Washington—have recusal laws preventing a judge from hearing a case involving a campaign donor. At least the Koch brothers lost yesterday in Tennessee.

April 25, 2014

Justices Need Mandated Code of Conduct

The job of judges is to determine whether laws are constitutional. The United States has an elaborate judicial system that terminates in the U.S. Supreme Court where nine president-appointed and Senate-approved justices are the final say for everything. They can stop fairness in voting, permit unlimited, hidden campaign donations, and reinstate racist policies just by having a majority—usually five justices—ruling in favor of or against a position and calling it constitutional.

A series of studies may show how the justices determine what they consider “constitutional.” A phenomenon called “motivated reasoning” indicates that brains are not capable of disinterested reasoning. Brains reject information not in accord with strongly held beliefs. For example, common conservative misconceptions such as the beliefs that President Obama is a Muslim or the healthcare act authorizes “death panels” are perpetuated, no matter how much factual information people are provided.

Liberals also suffer from “motivated reasoning.” The brains of strong partisans of either parties resist unflattering information about their party’s presidential candidate. Yale Law Professor Dan Kahan and three colleagues studied this by taking brain scans of these people while processing negative information about the preferred candidate. They discovered that the area of the brain connected with calm, reasoned activity demonstrated little activity while processing this information. When presented with uncomfortable information about a candidate, the portion of the brain connected with emotion distress became active until it found a way to rationalize the material. The centers related to positive feelings then turned on, much in the same way as when drug addicts get their “fix,” according to Westen. Committed partisans are addicted to retraining their commitments.

When approving Supreme Court justices, senators have tried to select ones that are not ideological wild cards. Although Justice David Souter, a George H.W. Bush nominee, was quite moderate, the GOP began the cry, “No more Souters!”

At the same time, a president works to have ideologically supportive nominees who will not undo his policies. Yet strongly partisan justices are the worst choices for the Supreme Court, that carries a lifetime appointment with no mandate to follow the Code of Conduct required for all other judges. Supreme Court justices answer to no one except their consciences.

Motivated reasoning studies show that these consciences will convince them that their personal partisan preferences provide the correct reason. Studies show that highly partisan justices may more easily reach partisan decisions after listening to strong counterarguments.

The test subjects in the studies usually have strong feelings about the subject. In routine cases, justices may manage a more impartial approach. It is, however, the politically charged decisions that more seriously affect a majority of people in the nation. The Affordable Care Act, abortion, voting rights, business interests, religion, minority rights, marriage equality—all these resonate greatly with a majority of the justices. In almost all cases dealing with these issues, the votes of at least two-thirds of the justices seem to be predetermined before they hear any arguments.

No one points out the peccadilloes of people better than humorists, and Andy Borowitz is one of the best. Here are some of his viewpoints on recent SCOTUS rulings:

About McCutcheon v. FEC that vastly increases the amount of money that the wealthy can donate to political campaigns:

“Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts summarized the rationale behind the Court’s decision: ‘In recent years, this Court has done its level best to remove any barriers preventing the wealthiest in our nation from owning our government outright. And while the few barriers that remained were flimsy at best, it was high time that they be shredded as well.’

“Citing the United States Constitution, Justice Roberts wrote, ‘Our founding fathers created the most magnificent democracy in human history. Now, thanks to this decision, the dream of owning that democracy is a reality.’

“Justice Antonin Scalia also weighed in, telling reporters at the Court, ‘After all the pro-gay decisions we’ve been making around here lately, it was nice to finally have a win for the good guys.’”

About Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus that SCOTUS heard last week regarding whether political campaign advertising can knowingly lie. The ruling has not yet been announced.

“The Court [argued] that ‘any attempt to restrict or punish lying by politicians is an unconstitutional infringement on a religion they have practiced for decades.’

“The Court’s decision won praise from politicians of both parties, with many saying that the Justices’ recognition of lying as a religion was ‘long overdue.’

“Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts argued, ‘For politicians, lying is a religious observance akin to attending a church or a synagogue, except that they do it seven days a week.’”

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thompson have been the most open outside the court to announce their opinions. Both Scalia and Thomas take money from right-wing groups before judging on cases in which their decisions directly benefit these groups. Any judge outside the Supreme Court would be required to recuse themselves in these cases.

Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas, has been instrumental in founding and operating far-right groups with anonymous donations made possible by Citizens United, which Justice Thomas helped pass in 2010.

Scalia suggested that people “revolt” if they think their taxes are too high. He made this comment at the same time that Cliven Bundy called the radical self-appointed militia to help him in his revolt against paying his debts to the government.

While Scalia distorts the constitution, he rails against any judges who disagree with him, calling them “activist judges” and saying that judges like these started the Holocaust. He also talks about the importance of “natural law,” which translates as Biblical or Christian law with no respect for civil law.

Another current case in which Scalia has a conflict of interest is McCullen v. Coakley, deciding on whether women’s clinics in Massachusetts can be allowed buffer zones. Scalia’s wife, Maureen Scalia, is an anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy counselor” for the anti-abortion group Nurturing Network. The purpose of these crisis pregnancy clinics is to stop women from terminating their pregnancies.

Many Supreme Court justices can no longer put aside their viewpoints, usually far right, in making their decisions. The rulings have shown a strong pro-business bent to the detriment of citizens’ civil rights. It’s time to pass a law forcing them to follow the same Code of Conduct that all other judges in the United States must comply with instead of letting them run amok.

February 28, 2014

Conflict of Interest, in the Eye of the Beholder

When is a conflict of interest not a conflict? Today it’s when the State Department says it isn’t. After the agency hired the Environmental Resources Management (ERM) as its consulting firm to review environmental effects of the Keystone XL pipeline, people complained about the connections of the consulting firm, but the agency’s inspector general investigated and found—no problem!

The State Department’s has again reported that the environmental impact study commissioned to ERM regarding the trans-country pipeline found no significant climate impacts. That’s the study from a company listing TransCanada as a client just a year before the Keystone contract while telling the State Department that it had been at least five years since ERM worked with the company building the pipeline. ERM didn’t mention that one of its divisions, ERM West, worked with TransCanada on the Alaska Pipeline Project until last summer—after ERM was hired to write the report.

Until the State Department was asked about the conflict of interest, ERM didn’t say anything about its bidding for contracts in Canada that could include two new TransCanada projects. As recently as 2010, ERM was part of a lobbying group, the International Carbon Black Association, that a subsidiary (Cancarb) of TransCanada owns—a company that includes major Keystone XL proponents and potential beneficiaries. ERM also failed to identify its membership in several trade organizations that support the pipeline, including the Western Energy Alliance, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association.

ERM must have understood its conflict of interest when the firm suddenly removed the names of subcontractors formerly working on TransCanada projects from its website. Later the names reappeared without their affiliations to TransCanada.

Although ERM was paid to prepare the environmental impact report, another firm, one that is outright owned by a tar sands developer, actually did the assessment. Jacobs Engineering’s most recent contract was with Canadian oil sands leader Suncor.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) has asked the Government Accountability Office to do a separate investigation into State’s process for vetting contractors, and he says the GAO is planning to act on his request. He added that the inspector general’s report focused on “whether the State Department followed its own flawed process for selecting a third-party contractor. The fact that the answer is ‘yes’ doesn’t address any outstanding concerns about the integrity of ERM’s work, the State Department’s in-house ability to evaluate its quality or whether the process itself needs to be reformed.”

Supporters of the Keystone XL think that it will solve their dual needs for jobs and low-cost energy. The short film “Keystone PipeLIES Exposed” explains how the Keystone XL project fails to do either one. Big business has highly inflated the number of jobs created, and most of the smaller number of jobs disappears after construction ends. Even with a rosy view, the State Department concluded that 3,900 direct jobs would be created during pipeline construction; at its completion, there would be 35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs.

The pipeline would most likely increase fuel prices in the United States while generating no taxes from TransCanada after it files a “Master Limited Partnership.” Tar sands oil shipped to the Midwest current sells for about $70 per barrel, much less than the $100 a barrel possible on the open market. As the map shows, the oil will move through the U.S., be refined, and then ship off to the international market which has a higher yield than in this country.

pipeline

The United States gets higher fuel prices and almost no jobs, but it does get leaking pipelines across the country that destroy the nation’s water, especially in the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest freshwater supply in the middle of the country. As the leaks devastate the U.S. agriculture, taxpayers pay to clean up the spills because tar sands oil is exempt from corporations having to pay into the oil spill liability trust fund.

In its environmental impact, the State Department certified that the pipeline’s additional carbon emissions would be the equivalent of an additional 300,000 cars on the road. The contractor most closely linked to TransCanada reported, however, that this was negligible because TransCanada wouldn’t stop drilling.

So who benefits from the United States destroying its food supply, water, and environment? China, according to Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL). Now that the Chinese have our manufacturing jobs, they need raw materials and energy. Canada is the most stable country to provide energy, and people in the United States might be willing to let the oil pass through our country into China—all with no benefits for anyone in the U.S. China annually imports about $50 billion in goods from the United States and exports about $350 billion in mostly manufactured goods to the United States. Each year, China also buys about $300 billion in U.S. assets, mostly U.S. Treasuries.

China has put about $30 billion of the trade surplus into Canadian tar sands. All the oil that passes through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline has to be sold in the U.S., but the Keystone XL Pipeline is permitted a tax-free zone to provide Chinese energy independence. The Koch brothers, who own the refineries, benefit; the people of the United States don’t.

If people in the United States were intelligent and far-seeing, we would keep the environment clean and sell food to China when they can no longer grow it. Their air pollution is so bad that it is like a nuclear winter. The slowing photosynthesis in plants may greatly decrease the possibility of growing food. This week’s smog in Beijing and large parts of six northern provinces is so bad that the PM 2.5 particles can enter the bloodstream through the lungs. A safe level is 25. Flights are grounded, highways are closed, and tourists are kept at home. Air pollutants adhering to greenhouse surfaces have cut the light inside by 50 percent.

Buildings are seen through thick haze in Guangzhou

In a first for China, a man in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province near Beijing, is suing the local environmental protection bureau for failing to rein in the smog. Li Guixin is also asking for compensation because of economic losses.

The Keystone XL pipeline has received publicity because it goes from one country to another, requiring presidential approval. Within the United States, however, pipeline construction is not inhibited in the same way. In the five years since the first TransCanada application, the 589-mile Flanagan South, moving through about 1,950 wetlands and waterways including the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, has been approved because of a loophole allowing companies to fast-track pipeline projects and bypass environmental protection laws. About half the length of Keystone XL, Flanagan South carries tar sands and Bakken crude from Pontiac (IL) to Cushing (OK).

FlanaganSouth

Although each part of the pipeline could not exist without the rest of it, the Army Corps of Engineers allowed each water crossing to be separate for the purpose of permits, thus avoiding any environmental review. A federal judge who heard a lawsuit last week will decide within the next few weeks whether the Sierra Club’s claims have merit. The same loophole was used on the southern half of Keystone XL, which began shipping oil last month despite the pipelines’ leaks.

Enbridge, the company in charge of Flanagan South, was responsible for the 1,000,000-gallon spill in July 2010 when tar sands crude went into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. Oil is still being removed from the area after Enbridge missed its EPA deadline to finish cleanup by the end of 2013.

Even conservative Nebraskans understand the danger of pipelines crossing lands vital for agriculture and water. After Gov. Dave Heineman approved the Keystone XL route through the state, a judge struck down his decision because it forced landowners to sell their property. Lancaster County Judge Stephanie Stacy ruled that only the state Public Service Commission can give TransCanada eminent domain powers. The commission was created in the 1890s to stop governors from giving political favors to railroad executives.

Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, said,”TransCanada learned a hard lesson today: Never underestimate the power of family farmers and ranchers protecting their land and water.” We need more Jane Kleebs to protect land and water across the United States.

August 24, 2013

The Keystone XL Pipeline Needs to be Stopped

Good news came yesterday when the State Department announced that its decision on the Keystone XL pipeline may be postponed until next year because of allegations that the department hired a reviewer of the project who has a conflict of interest. Keystone needs a cross-border permit to finish the northern part of its pipeline carrying Alberta tar sands oil to the Gulf of Mexico. Environmental Resources Management, hired by the State Department to conduct the environmental review did extensive work for TransCanada and the many oil companies that stand to benefit if the pipeline is built. In addition, the company lied on its federal conflict of interest disclosure forms by declaring that it no such ties.

The tar sands of Alberta, containing an estimated 169.3 billion barrels of oil, are estimated to be the third largest reserve of crude oil on the planet, behind only Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, and are also the most polluting source of energy on earth. If the pipeline is approved, it will transport more than 800,000 barrels of oil every day and emit 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. Building the pipeline would be the equivalent of adding 37.7 million new cars on the road every day and firing up 51 new coal power plants. Substituting tar sands oil for conventional oil increases global warming emissions by 20 percent.

randy thompsonPeople are becoming more cautious about transporting the oil across the United States. Randy Thompson, a rancher in Martell (NE) is one person fighting the pipeline because it goes through the Ogallala Aquifer which lies under the eight states that the pipeline would cross.

Ogallala

He wrote that TransCanada said that people could use bottled water if the pipeline gets breaks, releasing oil into the water source. As Thompson said:

 “Now that’s a bunch of bunk. To get up in the morning and shower with a bottle of water? These guys have got to be kidding.  As far as I’m concerned, TransCanada and their Keystone XL pipeline can go to hell. I don’t want any part of them, not in my land and not in Nebraska.”

The existing parts of the Keystone Pipeline have shown serious flaws, including dents and welds that forced the company to dig up and rebuild dozens of sections in the southern section. TransCanada’s Keystone 1 pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Midwest had 12 spills in its first year starting in June 2010, the highest spill rate of any oil pipeline in U.S. history. The company had promised that there would be no more than one during that first year.

Whistleblower Evan Vokes, a former TransCanada employee, testified to a Canadian Senate committee this summer about the company’s “culture of noncompliance” and “coercion” with “deeply entrenched business practices that ignored legally required regulations and codes” and carries “significant public safety risks.” He said that he has seen the same “breaches of construction quality” in parts of TransCanada’s Keystone XL already laid in Texas.

“There’s thousands of cracks in the system — it’s just which ones will become the problem? It’s low probability, high consequence,” Vokes said.

Also in early summer, President Obama said that the pipeline would not be a major job creator and could actually raise gasoline prices. He added that his decision of whether to approve the pipeline would be connected to climate change, that it would receive the necessary federal permit only if the “net” effects of the pipeline did not “significantly exacerbate” carbon pollution. In his statements, the president also said that Canada could “potentially be doing more” to curb emissions from the oil sands.

Gasoline prices would rise because multinational companies investing in tar sands oil would ship more of the product pouring through the Keystone from Gulf Coast refineries to overseas countries which has a high demand for diesel and gasoline. Even the Canadian crude currently sent from Canada into the Midwest could easily be diverted into the Keystone to satisfy overseas demand.

At this time, the tar sands extraction site at Cold Lake, Alberta is suffering from a giant oil leak that, thus far, can’t be contained. Oil companies pressurize the oil bed to force bitumen to the surface; the resulting blowout has caused the bitumen to seep out of control, poisoning the environment. The company can’t find the location of the leak that’s been going on for at least three months.

Ordinary oil floats on top of water when it spills; tar sands oil sinks to the bottom of water or soil, thus creating far more disaster to its surroundings. The same thing happens with the hundreds of ruptures in the pipelines that have spilled more than one million gallons of tar sands oil in rivers, wetlands, and drinking water reservoirs.

The wastewater also destroys the environment. When 9.5 million liters of salt and heavy-metal-laced wastewater leaked into wetlands that the First Nation tribes used for hunting and trapping, every plant and tree died. Before that leak, other major spills included over 4 million liters of oil and water from pipelines run by two different companies.

As more people look into pipeline ruptures, the news gets worse and worse. The Apache Corporation claimed that their leak came from aging infrastructure, but the pipeline, designed to last 30 years, was only five years old. Alberta’s Energy Minister Ken Hughes hid a pipeline safety report pending the Keystone decision in the U.S. after a spill that leached 475,000 liters of oil into the Red Deer River, a major drinking water source. Over the past 37 years, Alberta’s pipeline network has had 28,666 crude oil spills plus another 31,453 spills of other liquids used in oil and gas production  from salt water to liquid petroleum. That’s an average of two crude oil spills a day—every day.

TransCanada’s proposed internal spill-detection systems for the Keystone XL in the U.S. would permit spillage of more than 12,000 barrels every day, 1.5 percent of its 830,000 barrel capacity before any warning occurred.

British Columbia is smart enough to reject the Northern Gateway, a pipeline across their land from Alberta to the Pacific Ocean. According to Environment Minister Terry Lake, Enbridge had not satisfactorily answered the BC government’s questions during the hearings. Unfortunately, the Canadian government has the ultimate authority over the pipeline decision, but the BC ruling may affect its ruling.

british columbia

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the corporate-controlled organization that writes conservative bills for states, has taken an interest in the Keystone. An oil-industry lobby group has provided them a model bill to limit states’ abilities to negotiate “low-carbon fuel standards” to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. The purpose of the ALEC bill is intended to block environmental agreements.

Inaccurate” is one way that the U.S. Department of the Interior described the State Department’s conclusions that the impact of the Keystone XL pipeline on wildlife would be temporary, saying that the impact could have long-term, adversarial—possibly permanent–effects. A 12-page letter from the Interior Department lists a number of serious issues from constructing both the pipeline and the related infrastructures that the State Department had ignored.

We can only hope that a U.S. permit for the Keystone XL pipeline is looking more and more unlikely.

August 10, 2013

Larry Summers, Disastrous for the U.S.

With Ben Bernanke’s term as chair of the Federal Reserve expiring at the end of this year, President Obama has floated the names of two people for replacement: Janet Yellen and Larry Summers. As usual when the people of both genders have been suggested, sexism enters the discussion. CNNMoney is currently the most blatant, surveying 45 female economists about their preference for the position. As of yet, I haven’t heard about a survey of male economists. Others have said that selecting Yellen would be a choice “driven by gender.”

The differences between these people, however, go much farther than gender. Jen Sorensen’s cartoon outlines some of  these differences:

Yellen v Summers Summers comes with very heavy, smelly baggage. He sided with Ken Lay and Enron during the California energy crisis. While Chief Economist of the World Bank, he displayed a dismissive attitude toward climate change and subsequently opposed the Kyoto Protocol. He also opposed the Volcker Rule that would keep banks from speculative investments that hurt their customers; his recommendation regarding the stimulus seriously underestimated the amount of funding needed for this. Summers is a hothead with a record of deregulating institutions, an approach that exacerbated the financial crash before President Obama took over.

During the 1990′s he led the way in overturning Glass-Steagall Act that separated commercial and investment banking. The resulting recession in 2008 was called the Summers Bubble. He has had no regrets in his fight to deregulate the banks and fought against any banking regulations, culminating in his paid position at Citigroup for over a year. He also consulted for venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, asset-management and advisory firm Alliance Partners, and stock-exchange operator Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. His healthy income from speaking includes more than $100,000 earlier this year for a single speech to a conference organized by Drobny Global Advisors.

Summers accepted $135,000 for a one-day visit to Goldman Sachs only a few months before he became Obama’s chief economic advisor, money that one commentator described as “basically an advanced bribe.” While president of Harvard and a member of the board making investment decisions for the endowment fund, Summers consulted for hedge fund D.E. Shaw and then made $5.2 million from the company the year after he left the university.

This one comment from his 1998 testimony before Congress should keep him from chairing the Federal Reserve: “To date there has been no clear evidence of a need for additional regulation of the institutional OTC derivatives market, and we would submit that proponents of such regulation must bear the burden of demonstrating that need.”

Summers opposed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to head the new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau because he supports the corrupt Wall Street perspective, whereas Warren criticized the White House policy on bank regulations. As Matt Viser wrote in the Boston Globe about Warren’s interview in March 2010 on PBS’s The Charlie Rose Show:

“[Warren] said some of Obama’s economic advisers—especially Summers and Geithner—were beholden to Wall Street interests. ‘I think we have different world-views,’ she said…. ‘It will not save us if a handful of Wall Street banks prosper and the rest of America fails,’ she said. ‘Our focus, our energy, our heart has to be on the rest of America.’”

Summers has a long history of disparaging women’s abilities. While president of Harvard, he said that women do not succeed at math and science simply because they lack the “aptitude” in these areas. Luckily most people have paid attention to his sexism rather than noting another probably reason for losing his job at Harvard, his protection of friend Andrei Schleifer.

In 1992 Schleifer became head of a Harvard project directing U.S. government money to help develop the Russian economy through privatization. Tens of millions of dollars in noncompetitive U.S. contracts flowed to Harvard for Shleifer’s Russian work, and his team directed the distribution of hundreds of millions more. Schleifer invested money through his wife in a mutual fund, stopping others from setting up their own funds and violating the project’s conflict of interest policy.

The U.S. government sued, finding that Schleifer and another investor, Schleifer’s friend Jonathan Hay, had tried to circumvent the conflict-of-interest rules. Using false claims, Schleifer engaged in self-dealing, and Hay tried to launder $400,000 through his girlfriend and father. In a civil settlement, Schleifer paid $2 million and Hay between $1 million and $2 million. Harvard paid $26.5 million in addition to the legal fees of between $10 million and $15 million. No one admitted liability.

Before the settlement, Shleifer maintained his friendship with Summers and lobbied for him to become president of Harvard. After Summers achieved this post, he made arrangements to keep Schleifer at the university. “Conflict of interest issues should be left to the lawyers,” Summers told Dean Jeremy Knowles in his pitch for Schleifer. He said he was sensitive to “ethics rules,” but testified that “in Washington I wasn’t ever smart enough to predict them . . . things that seemed very ethical to me were thought of as problematic and things that seemed quite problematic to me were thought of as perfectly fine. . . .”

Summers and Schleifer maintained a close relationship, talking on the phone an average of more than once a day. No one knows which budget was responsible for the approximately $40 million that Harvard was required to pay, but Summers told members of the faculty of arts and sciences that the money did not come from the budget of the faculty of arts and sciences. A spokesman for the university said that the settlement came from “university funds available for these purposes.”

Although Summers seems to recognize the serious issue of economic inequality, his prescriptions for fixing that problem have nothing to do with being the head of the Federal Reserve. Summers believes that the income inequality comes from technology and globalization and has nothing to do with finance—which is the area of the Federal Reserve. As chair, he would have nothing to do with the tax system rewards, equal access to the educational system, or the entrenchment of the social classes.

Yellen has a good track record of economic problems and knows that the most important concern regarding economic stability is employment. Internal Fed transcripts show that Yellen spoke up many times between 2005 and 2007, warning about the looming housing crisis, credit crunch, and eventual recession. That compares with Summers who sneered at claims in 2005 that deregulation and securitization could lead to a full-blown financial crisis.

Yellen, Vice Chairperson of the Federal Reserve, seeks greater transparency for the Federal Reserve. An accomplished economist, she has spent her career in public service, part of the Fed Reserve since 1977. Her focus is on the public good, not the personal good that describes Summers’ goal.

Ezra Klein wrote that Yellen would have to be more qualified than male competitors “to be competitive for the job.” If Yellen is chosen, the reason is that she worked much harder to reach her place at the top, and her choice will be seen as “gendered.” As Jen Sorensen wrote: “It’s symbolic of every time a highly-qualified woman hits the glass ceiling when forced to compete with a loud, arrogant blowhard with a strong sense of self-entitlement and undeserved mystique of greatness.”

The Federal Reserve not only regulates the money supply but also acts as a principal regulator of America’s largest banks. As a lackey of the banks, Summers will allow them to drive the United States into a deep depression, perhaps worse than the one over 80 years ago.  As Rick McGahey wrote, “America needs a Fed leader who will protect small businesses, ordinary investors, and the economy from misbehavior by big banks and financial corporations. We need a fierce regulatory watchdog, not a lapdog of the banks.”

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