Friday, October 2, 2015

Obama's Connection to Heinz Ketchup

On February 13, 2015 BusinessInsider reported that Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and the investment firm 3G Capital were buying ketchup maker Heinz for $28 billion. Secretary of State John Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry, the Heinz ketchup heiress, might make $671,520 from this deal...

On March 25, 2015, H.J. Heinz Company and Kraft Foods Group, Inc. announced that they have entered into a definitive merger agreement to create The Kraft Heinz Company, forming the third largest food and beverage company in North America, in a transaction valued at approximately $60 billion. The law firm Cravath, Swaine and Moore LLP (limited liability partnership) is representing Heinz in connection with this transaction.

President Obama appointed Mary Jo White to be the Chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and her husband John W. White is a lawyer at Cravath, the firm that's representing Heinz. Mary Jo White’s husband also sits on the advisory group to the PCAOB (Public Company Accounting Oversight Board) — the accounting watchdog board tasked with preventing another Enron.

The PCAOB is a "nonprofit" corporation (not a government agency) established by Congress to ​oversee the audits of public companies in order to protect the interests of investors and further the public interest in the preparation of informative, accurate and independent audit reports. The PCAOB also oversees the audits of broker-dealers, including compliance reports filed pursuant to federal securities laws, to promote investor protection.

Does anybody see any conflicts of interests here? Or do they see multiple conflicts on interest?

Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away by way of introduction from any other person in the world, so that a chain of "a friend of a friend" can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. With President Obama, Mary Jo White and John Kerry we only see 1 degree of separation for corruption.

*US corporations have spent LITERALLY over $1 trillion last year in mergers-and-acquisitions and in stock buybacks — far more than investing in American workers or raising wages — but they're always lobbying congress for more tax cuts.

Joe Biden might Run against Bernie Sanders (but not Hillary Clinton)

An interesting statement from the uber-establishment potential candidate for the Democratic nomination, Joe Biden. Speaking to the Concordia Summit on public-private partnerships in New York City, Biden mentioned a potential rival in an aside about lingering issues with the economy:

“If you take a look at everyone from the IMF to Standard & Poors, the greatest concern they have about economic growth is the concentration of wealth. Listen, I’m not Bernie Sanders. He’s a great guy, by the way. No he really is. I’m not a populist. But I’m a realist.”

The vice president continued by saying that it’s in the interest of employers to compensate their employees well so they can go out and buy the goods and services their companies produce.

So he acknowledges that there is widespread concern about income inequality and the concentration of wealth, but he's just not willing to lead an effort to do anything to fix it beyond asking employers to pay their employees more. [Yeah right, like that's going to happen, if only he just asks them nicely.]

It's interesting because it cements the idea that Joe Biden (as the consummate "moderate" Democratic insider) is thinking about running against Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton — and that, as many have supposed (because he's a "realist") he's ready to step in if Hillary falters — but not if it might mean splitting the centrist vote, thereby helping Bernie Sanders win the nomination.

Uncle Joe wouldn't just be running against Republicans, but all the ideas that Bernie Sanders advocates.

CNN: "The speculation about Biden's future has reached a fever pitch, fueled by Democrats searching for an alternative to Hillary Clinton or a backup plan in case her candidacy falters." Anybody but Bernie Sanders (who is running as a Democrat) seems to be the plan for the Democratic Party Machine.

And speaking of Hillary...

POLITICO: In the spring 2008, when while serving as a co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Debbie Wasserman Schultz secretly reached out to the Obama campaign to pledge her support once the primary was over. By 2012, Obama and the White House didn't want her around. By that time Debbie Wasserman Schultz had her DNC staff explore and plot how she could remain chairwoman if Obama lost the race for re-election. But now it seems as if she's pushing for Hillary again — one way is by limiting the debates to favor Hillary over Bernie Sanders.

As an aside: Hillary has $32 million cash on hand, more than Bernie’s $26.5 million. But the Clinton campaign spent roughly 90 percent of the money she raised over the summer.

Speaking of Hillary, from Yahoo News: Hillary Clinton Lets Big Banks Off the Hook for Financial Crisis

"Hillary Clinton's explanation of what caused the 2008 financial crisis contains a notable omission. Throughout the 2016 presidential primary campaign, Clinton has taken a markedly less critical view of large financial institutions like Citigroup Inc. than Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and presidential rival Bernie Sanders. Instead, Clinton has placed the blame on "shadow banking," a term she has used to describe hedge funds and high-frequency traders."

Washington Post: The Obama administration hopes to announce today that they have reached consensus on the TPP trade deal (which Hillary and Biden supports).

But as I noted earlier: 81% of all Republicans in Congress (Senate and House) voted FOR fast track and TPP -- while 80% of all Democrats in Congress (Senate and House) voted AGAINST fast track and TPP — as does Bernie Sanders.

And then there's this: International trade ministers met this week in Atlanta and the Wall Street Journal reported that they continue to be divided over provisions related to prescription drugs and how long companies will be able to keep lower-cost generics off the market. Americans already pay the highest prices in the industrialized world for prescription drugs and if the TPP is passed the Alliance and other senior and consumer groups are deeply concerned that the situation will be worse. [Wall Street Journal]

Hillary Clinton followed in Bernie Sanders' footsteps by criticizing Big Pharma and their obscene drug prices.

Where are the Jobs?

Job Growth Weakens in September (by Dean Baker from the Center for Economic and Policy Research): "Private sector job growth at slowest pace in more than four years."

Over 94.6 million working-age Americans currently are not in the labor force — about 12 million just since the Great Recession “officially” ended. We keep sweeping those who drop out of the labor force under the rug to keep the unemployment rate down, but they’re still reflected in the labor force participation rate and the employment-population ratio.

Zerohedge: "They Just Don't Want A Job" - The Fed's Grotesque "Explanation" Why 94.6 Million Are Out Of The Labor Force

And note, we didn't "make back" those 8.7 million jobs lost during the Great Recession. The jobs created since then weren't even enough to employee the millions of high school and college graduates we have every year.

After struggling to recruit new soldiers, the Army narrowly met its goal for the year ending Sept. 30. For fiscal year 2015, officials said they recruited 59,170 new soldiers, exceeding its goal of 59,000. USA Today says that "The improving economy has offered young men and women more job options, toughening the task for recruiters."

FYI: Junior Enlisted Ranks (Private, Private Second Class, Private First Class, Specialist, Corporal) under two years service earn a base pay of $1,805 GROSS a month (which would equal $416.53 a week over 52 weeks before deductions of Federal tax, State tax, FICA-SS, FICA-Medicare, Service Members Group Life Insurance (SGLI) and meal deductions.

$416 a week is $10.42 an hour for a 40/hr week job. Are young people opting for a career at Wal-Mart or McDonalds paying an average of $8.60/hr (with part-time hours) over the military in this "improving" economy? Hmmmmm?

New York Times: What the Terrible September Jobs Report Means for the Economy

RELATED --- New Scandal: How H-1B Visas Ship Jobs Overseas, via the Economic Policy Institute

GOP blaming Obama for Russian jets in Syria

According to the Telegraph, the Russian aim is to defeat the non-ISIS/ISEL opposition first, so that ISIS/ISEL then becomes the Syrian regime's only enemy. That would force the West to back Syria's President against ISIS/ISEL. The Russians want to clean the country of non-ISIS/ISEL rebels first so the US will then work with them — as ISIS/ISEL will then be the only enemy.

Of course, Iran is involved too. And it's obvious that our war in Iraq had caused this by creating a power vacuum. It was wrong for Bush to send US troops into Iraq, but now (after withdrawing those troops), Obama most likely wants some sort of stalemate until he’s no longer the president, in which case the next president might send in US troops again to battle ISIS (unless it’s Bernie Sanders, who says he will not allow the US to lead a fight against ISIS.)

The US and West were just letting the region smolder. But now Russia is setting it ablaze.

But what I can’t understand is why the Republicans have been bashing Obama for his middle-east policies for withdrawing our troops from Iraq, saying this was how ISIS was formed. But what was the Republican’s plan?

In 2008 George W. Bush signed the U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement. It included a deadline of December 31, 2011 before which "all the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory". The last U.S. troops left Iraq on December 18, 2011 in accordance with this agreement. US Forces, in the form of air support, resumed operations in Iraq in June 2014 to defend it against ISIS.

Obama had said: "The reason that we did not have a follow-on force in Iraq was because the Iraqis — a majority of Iraqis did not want U.S. troops there, and politically they could not pass the kind of laws that would be required to protect our troops in Iraq."

Even the Wall Street Journal acknowledges this: "With time running out, given long-standing U.S. policy that troops stationed overseas must have legal immunity, negotiations ended and the troop withdrawal was completed."

Again, what was the GOP's plan? To leave all our troops in Iraq to be at the mercy of the Iraqi government's laws? Or to send in troops now, under the same conditions? (Just like they say they want to repeal and replace Obamacare, but never say what they would replace it with.)

As Russia intensified its airstrikes in Syria, Hillary Clinton broke with the Obama White House to urge a no-fly zone in the country.

* House Republicans passed a measure yesterday aimed at stopping President Obama from lifting sanctions on Iran until Tehran pays the $43.5 billion it still owes in damages to the families of terror victims.

We always knew that politicians like to exaggerate and bloviate...

How Steve Jobs Fleeced Carly Fiorina: The former HP CEO boasted of her friendship with Apple’s leader — but he took her to the cleaners. Daily Beast: HP Employees Won’t Give Carly Fiorina a Dime

The Vatican said this morning that Pope Francis’ meeting with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk (an elected government employee) who went to jail for refusing to issue legal same-sex marriage licenses, “should not be considered a form of support of her position” [for refusing to do her job, and for not allowing others to do so in an accommodation to Davis, or for refusing to resign her government job, whose salary is paid by taxes — not by a private employer].

The Senate and House passed legislation that protects businesses with 51 to 100 employees from requirements under Obamacare. It’s a rare example of bipartisan agreement on health care. Obama reportedly doesn’t like it, but he’s going to sign it anyway. Hedge funds and private equity firms with so few employees can also be classified as small businesses. The Economic Populist: "The Small Business Tax Cut Act of 2012, sponsored by then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), would have slashed taxes on the adjusted gross income of as many as 22 million small businesses — those with fewer than 500 employees — by as much as 20 percent for one year (and would have added billions to the deficit)."

A tracker for Jeb Bush’s super PAC was removed from an Iowa event for Marco Rubio last night, a sign of growing tensions between the two Florida Republicans.



    Some teachers are resisting union endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president. Many are saying no — or at least, not yet — and calling upon their state leaders to resist a move by the president of the union representing 3 million teachers to endorse Clinton. The pressure has been intense enough to prompt some notable defections in the National Education Assn.

  2. Bernie Sanders has always been in favor of campaign finance reform -- and Hillary Clinton recently jumped on the "populist" bandwagon with this issue too.

    But maybe corporations aren't people after all...

    Mitt Romney: "We've gotta rethink campaign finance."

  3. Elizabeth Warren Made Washington Angry Again

    The American political elite have never really been riled up over Elizabeth Warren's policy positions. They're just frightened by the culture war she's waging against the soft corruption of Beltway careerism.

    Sure, Warren is tough on Wall Street. But such left-wing radicals as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill support reinstating Glass-Steagall and its restrictions on risky securities trading. On most issues outside economic policy, Warren is a conventional Democrat.

    But when she takes on the revolving door between Washington policymaking and corporate cash-outs, tempers flare all over the city.

    Cheating your investment clients and peddling corrupt research aren't conservative values -- they're Washington values.

  4. New York Times: Do We Value Low-Skilled Work?

    (by Brittany Bronson, an English instructor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and a restaurant server.)

    "One student recently told me that the sole reason he is pursuing a degree is because he doesn’t want to work in a job that requires no skills. As much as I want to reassure him that his education will guarantee him that, I cannot. The fact is, more and more college graduates are going to end up in jobs that don’t draw on the skills they paid so much to get."

  5. Paul Krugman at the New York Times (Oct.2, 2015):

    Voodoo Never Dies

    So Donald Trump has unveiled his tax plan. It would, it turns out, lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit. This is in contrast to Jeb Bush’s plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit, and Marco Rubio’s plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit ... You might think that there was a defensible economic case for the obsession with cutting taxes on the rich. That is, you might think that if you’d spent the past 20 years in a cave (or a conservative think tank).