October 8, 2016

Excerpts from Hillary Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street firms and other corporatist insiders

The 80-page attachment in the Podesta emails of Clinton's Wall St speech excerpts is at https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails//fileid/927/180 [Note: The page numbers in the Table of Contents of the attachment (a Word file) are not all accurate.] Update: Three complete transcripts are now available as Word file attachments at https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/11011

‘Saudis have exported more extreme ideology than any other place on earth over the course of the last 30 years’ p16

‘capture of oil and gas … from hydraulic fracturing … has created this enormous opportunity for us’ p20

‘with the new discoveries, with the new techniques for extracting oil and gas, the US & Canada are going to be powerhouses …’ p21

‘I am an all-in kind of person, all-of-the-above kind of person when it comes to America's energy and environmental future’ p24

‘I'm all for privacy, believe me.’ p26

‘the collection of the metadata is something that has proven to be very useful’ p28

‘You know, on healthcare we are the prisoner of our past. The way we got to develop any kind of medical insurance program was during World War II when companies facing shortages of workers began to offer healthcare benefits as an inducement for employment. So from the early 1940s healthcare was seen as a privilege connected to employment. And after the war when soldiers came back and went back into the market there was a lot of competition, because the economy was so heated up. So that model continued. And then of course our large labor unions bargained for healthcare with the employers that their members worked for. So from the early 1940s until the early 1960s we did not have any Medicare, or our program for the poor called Medicaid until President Johnson was able to get both passed in 1965. So the employer model continued as the primary means by which working people got health insurance. People over 65 were eligible for Medicare. Medicaid, which was a partnership, a funding partnership between the federal government and state governments, provided some, but by no means all poor people with access to healthcare. So what we've been struggling with certainly Harry Truman, then Johnson was successful on Medicare and Medicaid, but didn't touch the employer based system, then actually Richard Nixon made a proposal that didn't go anywhere, but was quite far reaching. Then with my husband's administration we worked very hard to come up with a system, but we were very much constricted by the political realities that if you had your insurance from your employer you were reluctant to try anything else. And so we were trying to build a universal system around the employer-based system. And indeed now with President Obama's legislative success in getting the Affordable Care Act passed that is what we've done. We still have primarily an employer-based system, but we now have people able to get subsidized insurance. So we have health insurance companies playing a major role in the provision of healthcare, both to the employed whose employers provide health insurance, and to those who are working but on their own are not able to afford it and their employers either don't provide it, or don't provide it at an affordable price. We are still struggling. We've made a lot of progress. Ten million Americans now have insurance who didn't have it before the Affordable Care Act, and that is a great step forward. (Applause.) And what we're going to have to continue to do is monitor what the costs are and watch closely to see whether employers drop more people from insurance so that they go into what we call the health exchange system. So we're really just at the beginning. But we do have Medicare for people over 65. And you couldn't, I don't think, take it away if you tried, because people are very satisfied with it, but we also have a lot of political and financial resistance to expanding that system to more people. So we're in a learning period as we move forward with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. And I'm hoping that whatever the shortfalls or the glitches have been, which in a big piece of legislation you're going to have, those will be remedied and we can really take a hard look at what's succeeding, fix what isn't, and keep moving forward to get to affordable universal healthcare coverage like you have here in Canada.’ [Clinton Speech For tinePublic – Saskatoon, CA, 1/21/15]
[cf Clinton campaign rally at Grand View University – Des Moines, IA, 1/29/16: angrily characterizing Bernie Sanders’ plan to pursue single-payer health insurance as ‘some better idea that will never, ever come to pass.’]

‘we’re still living in too uncertain a world to make radical changes right now’ p40
[translation: this is precisely when radical change is possible and why we must be vigilant to prevent it]

‘So if you look at a recent study that just actually was posted today, if you're in the middle class in Canada, you're better off in general than if you're in the middle class in the United States today. And if you're poorer in the United States, you are worse off than the poor in Canada and Europe. […] So yeah, we've done some very necessary and good things but we've also, in my view, not adequately addressed the challenges that have come in the last 20, 25 years. They've slowly crept up on us like all of us are the frogs in the giant pot and the heat's been slowly turned up and we haven't jumped out, and if we even started to thinking about it, we weren't sure what we'd find if we did. So we're all wondering around saying, what's going on, why is it happening? And it has certainly economic effects because as people's standard of living stalls, if they believe that their children are not going to be better off -- and remember, ever since we have done polling in this country, back to the Great Depression, no matter how poor the vast majority of Americans were, they believed it would be better in the future and they believed it would be better for their children. That no longer is the case. People are quite concerned that their livelihoods, their lives are not going to get any better, and they're even now worried that neither will their children. So this deserves the kind of thoughtful discussion, not the us versus them, finger pointing, blame placing, because that's not going to get us anywhere, but if we do not address and figure out how we're going to revitalize the middle class and begin the process of once again encouraging more people to rise up, then what I fear is that our politics and our social fabric are going to be dramatically altered.’ [Clinton Speech For JP Morgan, 4/22/14]

‘… there are rich people everywhere. And there are poor people everywhere’ p44

Clinton's remarks on Iran are creepy & unhinged. p44-46

‘the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity’ p47

legalization of pot?
CLINTON: Short [ie, I don’t support] in all senses of the word

Clinton praises Wal-Mart as model for politics p52

‘we are in a worse position than we were in the 90s’ p53

BLANKFEIN: … the financial services industry has been the one unifying theme that binds everybody [R/D] together in common. p54
[cf Huey Long (1932): ‘They've got a set of Republican waiters on one side and a set of Democratic waiters on the other side, but no matter which set of waiters brings you the dish, the legislative grub is all prepared in the same Wall Street kitchen.’

Clinton endorsed recommendations of Obama's Simpson-Bowles “cat-food commission”, which included cuts to Social Security. p63-65

‘So we now have what everybody warned we would have, and I am very concerned about the spillover effects. And there is still an argument that goes on inside the administration and inside our friends at NATO and the Europeans. How do intervene—my view was you intervene as covertly as is possible for Americans to intervene. We used to be much better at this than we are now. Now, you know, everybody can’t help themselves. They have to go out and tell their friendly reporters and somebody else: Look what we’re doing and I want credit for it, and all the rest of it’ [Speech to Goldman Sachs, 2013 IBD Ceo Annual Conference, 6/4/13]

‘To have a no fly zone … you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians’ p67

‘And with political people, again, I would say the same thing, you know, there was a lot of complaining about Dodd-Frank, but there was also a need to do something because for political reasons, if you were an elected member of Congress and people in your constituency were losing jobs and shutting businesses and everybody in the press is saying it's all the fault of Wall Street, you can't sit idly by and do nothing, but what you do is really important. And I think the jury is still out on that because it was very difficult to sort of sort through it all.’ [Goldman Sachs AIMS Alternative Investments Symposium, 10/24/13]

‘Sam Walton was a cheerleader for Walmart but also a great patriot, because he knew that he was able to build this company in this country, and it might not, if ever, have been possible anywhere else.’ [Hillary Clinton remarks at Sanford Bernstein, 5/29/13]

October 2, 2016

William Blum on the US election

From The Anti-Empire Report #145:

On more than one occasion during the recent US primary campaign, Senator Bernie Sanders was asked if he would run on a third-party ticket if he failed to win the Democratic nomination. His reply was a form of the following: “If it happens that I do not win that process, would I run outside of the system? No, I made the promise that I would not, and I’ll keep that promise. And let me add to that: And the reason for that is I do not want to be responsible for electing some right-wing Republican to be president of the United States of America.”

So instead he’s going to be responsible for electing some right-wing Democrat to be president of the United States of America. It’s certainly debatable who’s more right wing, Clinton or Trump. Clinton surely earns that honor on foreign policy. Think of Syria, Iraq, Honduras, Yugoslavia, Libya … et al.

The revelation that the Democratic Party was secretly favoring Clinton over Sanders is reason enough for Sanders to have broken his promise and accepted the offer of the Green Party to be their candidate.

September 30, 2016

Social, economic, and environmental justice are not just words.

State Representative Mike Mrowicki writes in The (Brattleboro, Vt.) Commons …

In this coming election, Donald Trump is only the tip of the iceberg.

The bigger problem we face in this election are all the Donald Trumps, who collectively tanked the economy in 2007 by behaviors that (as the presidential candidate Trump said) represented a good way to make money. In his words, it was “good business.”

It sure says something when trashing the world economy is thought of selfishly as “good business.”

[But who is the candidate of Wall Street, as reflected in her close – and personally very lucrative – relationship with Goldman Sachs and others?]

Similarly, it is all the Donald Trumps who use war and the military-industrial complex as the biggest drain on our economy and sense of safety.

[But who is the candidate of Endless War, as reflected by her overwhelming support by imperialist neocons? Which candidate is demonizing Russia in a throwback to McCarthyist jingoism?]

It is all the Donald Trumps of this country (and world) who are the real welfare cheats. If you look at tax breaks or tax expenditures for the wealthy, what just one of them withholds from tax and hides offshore would probably cover any aid to needy families for this whole state.

[But what candidate’s campaign does not depend on the riches available from those (legal) arrangements? And which candidate runs a “charity” (with its tax benefits) as a bribe-laundering service?]

It is all the Donald Trumps of the world who maintain the current medical system that profits on those who can afford it least and, in essence, creates rationing of health care and a two-tiered system of care: one for the wealthy and the other for those who can’t quite afford insurance, co-pays, deductibles, or medicines.

[But which candidate consistently mocks the idea of single-payer (while Trump has expressed support)?]

And it is all the Donald Trumps of the world who reinforce the current status quo of economic, social, and environmental injustice. In that way, they maintain their oligarchic, neo-Calvinist stranglehold on the inequities that allow them to hold the power of the pocketbook and keep the system as is.

[But which candidate is running precisely on continuing that status quo, on expanding those injustices, who defends NAFTA and praises the TPP and similar trade treaties, who promotes fracking, who (after promoting welfare and crime and bankruptcy “reforms” that particularly harmed minorities and women) exploits identity politics to divide people from each other, whose supporters attack and demean everyone who doesn't fall into step behind her?]

When now-Sen. Bernie Sanders started his Vermont campaign for justice back in the 1980s, he spoke of the same inequities and injustices that he carried forth into his presidential campaign this year.

His influence on changing and growing the Democratic platform has moved the mainstream to recognize those injustices. He is keeping the effort moving toward real progress on these issues that all the Donald Trumps are fighting against.

[Along with his supporters, Sanders was smeared and mocked and derided by the Clinton campaign. Whereas Trump is squarely against NAFTA-like trade deals that harm the middle class, and is squarely against imperialist military escapades that squander our common wealth to benefit only the military industry (and their investors [see Wall Street]). There was more in common between Trump and Sanders than between Sanders and Clinton, but Sanders, too, derided Trump and betrayed a shameful snobbery.]

I will be voting for those issues of social, economic, and environmental justice as I cast a vote for Hillary Clinton and down-ticket Democrats. ...

[With every election cycle since Bill Clinton’s first year as President, the Democrats provide more reason not to vote for them. Any of them. Social, economic, and environmental justice are not just words. And the actions of Democrats betray them. (See Obama and whistleblowers, drones, pipelines, arctic drilling.)]

[How would Mike Mrowicki respond to this Justin Raimondo piece at antiwar.com, “Trump’s Three Points for Peace”?]

[The iceberg of deplorable government includes Democrats as well as Republicans.]

September 25, 2016

The (self-described) educated and artistic class is as deplorable as everyone else. USA.

A couple of of outbursts from the intelligentsia on Facebook, Sept. 25:

From poet Doug Anderson

A standard right wing strategy is to create a false binary, or "straw man", to attempt to discredit the opposition:

If you object to blanket generalizations about Muslims they call you pro-terrorist.

If you object to the way police are treating black people, you must be anti-police.

If you object to the way corporations are crushing whole groups of human beings in favor of profits, you must be a communist.

The use of this logical fallacy is made possible by an education system that repeatedly fails at teaching critical thinking. The right's war on critical thinking is increasing in high school administrations and universities.

[As his replies to the comments also make clear, he objects to these as a straw man version of Trump’s campaign. He does not even hint at the cynical manipulations (let alone the implicit fascism) of the Clinton machine.]

1 hour later, from musician Pamela Allen

Alright then, my little pals, I'm going to hand out a piece of advice in an effort to keep us all alive and not in jail on assault charges before election day. People who are going to vote for Trump are going to vote for him. Their values are different from yours and they will not be convinced by any daring acts of logic or fact. They love his vision and hate yours just as you do theirs. End of story. Those who are going to vote for Gary Johnson are beyond the reach of reason. They erroneously believe that they are making a meaningful gesture of protest. If they've read up on him and still support him, you will not change their minds or influence their thinking. If they have not, they're just being contrarian and the same applies. Those who are voting for Jill Stein are the same nut, different basket. It is completely pointless to argue with or attempt to educate them. They know exactly what they are doing and will joyfully celebrate their moral superiority over you pathetic, brainwashed dupes should the worst happen. Those who are choosing not to vote at all are singled out for a particularly hot circle of hell. Their reasoning is beyond the ken of any thinking adult. What I'm trying to tell you, as I take my morning BP medication, is to spare yourself the aggro. No minds will be changed but you will give yourself an aneurysm and those fools will either head to the polls or they won't. Just a little Handy Hint For Election Survival from Miss Ex.

[Is this not an example of the very antidemocratic—and anti-intellectual—zealotry that she rails against? Sheesh.]

September 6, 2016

Mao Tse-Tung Quotation

Many things may become baggage, may become encumbrances if we cling to them blindly and uncritically. Let us take some illustrations. Having made mistakes, you may feel that, come what may, you are saddled with them and so become dispirited; if you have not made mistakes, you may feel that you are free from error and so become conceited. Lack of achievement in work may breed pessimism and depression, while achievement may breed pride and arrogance. A comrade with a short record of struggle may shirk responsibility on this account, while a veteran may become opinionated because of his long record of struggle. Worker and peasant comrades, because of pride in their class origin, may look down upon intellectuals, while intellectuals, because they have a certain amount of knowledge, may look down upon worker and peasant comrades. Any specialized skill may be capitalized on and so may lead to arrogance and contempt of others. Even one's age may become ground for conceit. The young, because they are bright and capable, may look down upon the old; and the old, because they are rich in experience, may look down upon the young. All such things become encumbrances or baggage if there is no critical awareness.

—"Our Study and the Current Situation" (April 12, 1944), Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 173 (from Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1966)

September 2, 2016

A comment about a comment about Trump supporters

A friend writes:

This vile comment from Nancy in Corinth, Kentucky: a real mental giant and portrait of human compassion: managing in every single sentence to lie, distort, sneer, caricature and demean; she is the very face of the Clintonian Democrats. This irresponsible nonstop hate-fest from the Democrats is a real phenomenon which may be studied in years to come; they are infected by an ugly mass hysteria, a cult, so many comments deeply unhinged and it's the same thing day after day – they have become creepily threatening and have been so since Bernie came on the scene to challenge their gruesome idol. Charles Blow has written his daily "be afraid!" column on how evil Trump is, as if we didn't already get his boring one-note message about 500 columns ago. He goes on about how Trump is a bully, yet it's the Dems who are the raging bullies. It's like the Salem witch trials. The Dems are fatally infected with an illusion of their own superiority ("how DARE they accuse us of elitism; we can't help it if we're just better than they are!"), spitting on anyone who refuses to go along with their stunted neoliberal/neocon visions, and openly reviling those they consider beneath them, namely, white poor rural southern people and, weirdly, those without a college degree, since their so-worshiped college degrees did not impart the ability to think critically; to discern truth from propaganda.

Just as Reagan made unfettered Darwinian greed acceptable, the spineless Dems have made self-serving peace with that, and now tout their own raging classism, racism, McCarthyism, and war-loving jingoism as de rigueur. Will they, when Clinton is "elected" and predictably makes a massive, terrifying mess of everything, look back at their bloody feeding frenzy in shame, or have they always longed to tear off the mask and just come out of the closet as the fascists they really are? Outrageously elitist comments are coming along fast and furious on the pages of The Times, and have been for months on end. These prissy, pushy Dems are unwittingly offering their own smug throats to be slit, with their relentless taunting, stereotyping, and shaming of millions of their fellow Americans. You can only push people so far, and these types like ole Nancy in Kentucky are so delusional, and brainwashed, they can't see what's coming down the road. If Clinton is pushed onto the throne, the peasants they so look down upon aren't just going to disappear; they are going to be very, very angry.

August 26, 2016

Vermont Health Connect: “Current wait times are 90 minutes”

We have had working health insurance coverage for the past couple of years (unlike in 2014), but now we have moved and need to change the billing address.

I go to the Vermont Health Connect web site and click "Report a Life Change" to learn: "These changes should be reported by calling Vermont Health Connect toll-free at 1-855-899-9600 or by logging into your account and reporting your change online." I log in with the result: "An unexpected error occurred. Please contact an administrator." And "Contact Us: Have questions or want to find out more? Tel: (855) 899-9600."

I call. I wait. I give up. I call again a couple days later, wait, give up. I call again and add my number to a queue to be called back "within 3 business days". [Update:  One week later, no callback.]

[Update, Sept. 12:  Two weeks later, no callback. The web site now says that one can report "life changes" on line. So I logged in to my account (trying Opera after receiving the message that "There was some technical error processing your request" in Firefox, and then in Opera being forced to reset the password), got to the irritating terms page, and clicked "Next" — to receive the message that "An unexpected error occurred. Please contact an administrator." Called: "Estimated wait time is greater than 90 minutes." Left another request for callback (an option that is offered only after a couple minutes of waiting).]

[Update, Sept. 23:  They called back! But we were out. That was on Sept. 15. Nothing since. Governor Shumlin defended the whole mess yesterday: "nearly 9 in 10 customers seeking to report a life change 'experience a smooth process,' he said." So I went on line again to report my change of address, and now I couldn't even log in. So I called again (to set up another callback). One of Shumlin's improvements appears to have been to no longer provide an estimated wait time, and after a few minutes there was no longer an option to request a callback. I was planning to wait 5 minutes, and just before that cut-off, someone answered! They have our new address!]

[Update, Oct. 21:  This month's premium notice was sent to our old address. I called VHC (no wait at all!) to confirm that they have the new one, which they do, so maybe it will arrive correctly next month.]

Meanwhile, this month's premium invoice was sent to our old address and instead of being forwarded to us by the Post Office it was returned to Vermont Health Connect who then sent it to our new address with a note about changing the address. We at last received it 1 day before payment was due.

So I called the telephone number provided with the invoice for credit/debit card payment. I should not have been surprised to learn that here, too, "current wait times are 90 minutes".

So I will send the premium payment by mail, trust the assurances from last year that there is a 90-day grace period before coverage is cancelled and current implications that a change of address does not require a complete new application. One also hopes that the address change manages to be made before next month's premium invoice goes out.

Again, before the "Affordable Care Act", so-called Obamacare, Vermont had an excellent functioning state-run health insurance program that through an income-based range of premiums provided near-universal coverage. It wasn't perfect, but it was a system that made living in Vermont very worthwhile. To improve on it, the state had long pursued a true universal single-payer system, electing Peter Shumlin as Governor in 2006 on the promise to implement it. Because of Shumlin's belief, however, that people could not handle the information that they would pay taxes for health insurance instead of paying more in premiums to private insurers whose business is to deny care, the details – and final legislative action – were continually postponed.

Then came Obamacare in 2010, with no provision for states with better systems to keep them. There was no effort by Shumlin or the state's Congressmembers to protect Vermont's system. So money and effort had to be spent to set up the "Obamacare Exchange" (which still doesn't work), and delays and ballooning expenses were justified by the 2-track project of preparing for the coming single-payer system. On May 26, 2011, Shumlin had signed the bill to enact single-payer health insurance.

Finally, Shumlin was re-elected (barely) in 2014 for a third term on the promise that the final plan was to be revealed in December (after the election). Instead, on December 17, he announced that single-payer was dead. It was dead because he was never ready to fight for the payroll taxes to pay for it. He pretended that the need for those taxes was a new discovery, but it was well known from the beginning that such taxes would be the means of funding it. Public advocacy groups had long been explaining to people that the new taxes would be substantially less than current premiums, but the state took no part in that information program. Business owners praised Shumlin, and a few months later he endorsed Hillary Clinton for President and then that he would not seek re-election in 2016.

Shumlin was elected to enact single-payer health insurance in Vermont. Instead, he killed it. Never trust a Democrat.

[Update, Oct. 24: Obama administration announces double-digit premium hikes for Affordable Care Act” (PBS News Hour): ‘Before taxpayer-provided subsidies, premiums for a midlevel benchmark plan will increase an average of 25 percent across the 39 states served by the federally run online market, according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services. … Moreover, about 1 in 5 consumers will only have plans from a single insurer to pick from, after major national carriers such as UnitedHealth Group, Humana and Aetna scaled back their roles. … While many carriers are offering a choice of plan designs, most use a single prescription formulary and physician network across all their products, explained [Caroline Pearson of the consulting firm Avalere Health]. “So, enrollees may need to change doctors or drugs when they switch insurers,” [s]he said.’ (Our premium is going up 10%. [Update, October 2017: premium for 2018 going up another 10.8%.])]

[Update, Dec. 14:  The first bill for 2017: The amount due has increased by 291%! For no apparent reason, the "advanced premium tax credit" (APTC) was slashed to 38% of what it was throughout 2016, despite the renewal notice dated Dec. 7 stating that it would actually go up. I called and waited 10 minutes and was told that the new amount is what I accepted of the new year's APTC. There was no record of when I did that (because I never did). I arranged to accept quite a bit more of the APTC that we are eligible for, so that the monthly premium will now actually be less that the past year's, but I was also told to go ahead and pay the current bill and hope that the extra will be credited ...]

[Update, Dec. 20:  A second first bill for 2017, dated 8 days after the first one (see previous note) arrived, but now with the amount due increased 18% from last year. It does not reflect the APTC that I arranged to accept (see previous note), so it is only adding to the confusion and one more thing to hope: that ignoring this superfluous bill won't cause trouble.]

[Update, Dec. 21:  A second renewal notice for 2017, dated 12 days after the first one (see two notes above) arrived: nothing different from the first one (though slightly different formatting), just more waste and confusion.]

[Update, Dec. 27:  Notice of partial premium payment. Which in fact was an overpayment (see three notes above). Isn't this fun.]