Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Roger Stone’s Expose of the Clintons



 
Although I’ve had a healthy political animus against Hillary Clinton for years, it was only after reading Roger’s Stone’s Clintons’ War on Women (2015) that my. eyes were opened to the unspeakable extent of the Clinton crimes and corruption. Indeed the book should be called: The Crimes and Corruption of the Clintons. I had lately taken to calling Hillary “a monster,” largely due to the baleful, destructive foreign policy outcomes that she oversaw in Syria, Honduras, Libya, the Ukraine and the Maldives – and surely elsewhere. The Stone book showed me that I had only scratched the surface of how deeply debased were the Clintons and what might be the prospects if she reached the Oval Office.

Regarding Bill, I had a passing acquaintance from the work of Christopher Hitchens of his history of his sexual assaults on women. From Stone I also learned that it was Hillary who was  Bill’s chief  enforcer; compelling the silence of many of  Bill’s victims. Stone insists that it is Hillary who is the dominant figure in their marriage, and his portrait suggests that she is one of those larger- than- life figures – a force of nature that overwhelms those who oppose her. Stone portrays her as intimidating, powerful, ruthless, and as corrupt perhaps, as anyone in public life.

While I had  assumed that ethics was not the Clintons’ highest priority, I  hadn’t realized the extent to which  they were in the major leagues, scoring into the hundreds of  millions of dollars for their various “charitable”  and non-profit organizations such as the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative, the  Clinton Health Access Initiative and the Clinton Presidential Library. Stone alleges that some of the funds from these organizations went to support their extravagant and grandiose lifestyle. A measure of the Clintons’ brazen hypocrisy was exposed when Hillary was forced to concede that it was “inartful” to claim that they were  broke when they left the White House.

Stone’s credibility?!

Roger Stone is a long-time senior Republican operative currently working for the Donald Trump campaign.  Obviously, he has every reason to dig up as much the dirt as he can. But since he eschews policy debates, and writes only of their personal histories, I found him a more reliable source for the reality behind Bill and Hillary than I could expect from Democratic Party operatives and from Clinton supporters. Stone makes clear that he understands that it would do him little good with much of his intended audience to print accusations that are not credibly supported. He quotes from sources like the New York Times and the Washington Post and he includes the traditional scholarly apparatus of an index, a  ten- page bibliography and hundreds of footnotes.

Potential readers will decide for themselves whether to take his charges seriously and whether to read his book. For the most part I found Stone’s narrative persuasive, revelatory – and shocking.  I was made aware that much of what I had known about the Clintons was largely restricted to what appeared in the mainstream media. I was also largely persuaded that the Clintons’ public relations and intimidation campaigns were generally successful in that they have managed to keep a great deal of damning information from acceptable public discourse.

Co –president Hillary of the sharp elbows

Stone alleges, and had little difficulty persuading me of his finding, that Hillary was a sharp elbowed, foul-mouthed bitch, who regularly cursed out her aides, not to mention her security detail. Nor was her husband or colleagues spared her often brutal tongue lashings. A terrible example may very well be the case of Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster, (her former lover, claims Stone) whom she publicly humiliated in a July 1993 White House meeting. According to FBI agent Copeland, at the well-attended meeting, Hillary told Foster “that he didn’t get the picture, and he would always be a little hick-town lawyer who was obviously not ready for the big time,”(208)[1] It was this public humiliation, opine insiders, that pushed him “over the edge”  to suicide. (see below)

According to Stone, when Hillary thought it appropriate, she both verbally and physically abused her husband. Stone includes several pages of examples of Hillary’s “outrageous, nasty, and even violent behavior,” which took place both before and during Bill’s presidency. Among other examples, Stone cites an article by David Brock for the American Spectator entitled “His Cheatin’ Heart: Living With the Clintons: Bill’s Arkansas bodyguards tell the story the press missed,” According to state trooper Larry Patterson, once, when Hillary was unhappy with a quote Governor Bill gave to the [Little Rock] morning paper, she unleashed her “garbage mouth” calling him a “motherfucker, cocksucker, and everything else. (190-191)

One outburst of  “shrieking profanities” allegedly occurred  on the day of  Bill Clinton’s inauguration in January 1993 when Hillary made her feelings known when her husband stubbornly refused to accede to her demand that he transfer to her Vice President Al Gore’s office. (190)]

In another example in March 1993, when Hillary learned that her husband was partying in D.C. with Barbara Streisand while she and Chelsea were in Little Rock, attending vigil on her dying father, Hughie, Hillary rushed back to the White House and beat her husband to the point where Bill sported a “nasty-looking scratch on his neck.” Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers said that “it was a big scratch, clearly not a shaving cut.” (192-193)

Bill’s and Hillary’s Co –Presidency

While it was public knowledge that Hillary wielded great  influence, I had not been aware of Stone’s assertion that Hillary was effectively co-president. Stone claims that on key issues she was very often or most often the decider.  If that’s true, then at the very least she shares responsibility for some of the worst of his politics. Prominent among Bill Clinton’s presidential betrayals, were:

--  the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 for which both Bill and Hillary have lately  been forced to  apologize in the face of the Black Lives Matter movement and the  Sanders challenge  for advancing  the New Jim Crow.

--  The Gramm–Leach/Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 overturned New Deal banking and investment restrictions. Critics have charged that the law opened the way for banks too-big-to-fail. Graham Leach led to the “creation of giant financial supermarkets that could own investment banks, commercial banks and insurance firms, something banned since the Great Depression.” (Wikipedia)

-- the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which many, not least this writer,  have to thank monthly for our ever-rising cable bills in exchange for  mediocre service. Among the lowlights of the Act are  media consolidation; the loss of scores if not hundreds of independent radio stations, and  the “corporate welfare” which freely gave away  valuable public digital broadcasting licensees.

--  the Waco 1993  standoff and assault
Stone is particularly exercised by the ruthless role he claims Hillary played in ordering the U.S. assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas in April 1993 ending a 50-day standoff with the FBI. The assault took the lives of 76 women, children (eighteen younger than eight) and men -- some burned to death. Stone devotes a page to listing the  names and ages of the victims at the front of his book.

Stone’s charges that it was Hillary who was mostly responsible for needless death  at Waco is at variance with official story claims that Attorney General Janet Reno, representing the FBI, persuaded President Bill Clinton to ok the attack. His allegation is bolstered by phone-log evidence pointing to  Hillary’s role, along with Vince Foster and Associate Attorney General Webb Hubbell, who together  coordinated the crisis. Stone cites a source that claimed that an impatient Hillary, frustrated with the long standoff, pressured a reluctant Janet Reno to act. (199-200)

Bill’s assaults on women

Stone goes into some of the details of Bill’s alleged myriad assaults on women including details alleging three assaults, citing one rape (Juanita Broaddrick, pp. 49-56) one inappropriate advance (Paula Jones, pp. 58-61)  and one assault/attempted rape (Kathleen Willey 77–88).  Stone alleges that these instances are a fraction of the sexual assaults committed by Bill that Hillary and her team had not managed to squelch.   As Stone put it on reddit, these accusations are not about consensual sex or merely adultery or one night stands.

It's about sexual assault and rape. The number of women who have accused Bill Clinton is staggering, and they are entirely believable. They have not been paid by anyone to bear false witness against Bill.

Early in Stone’s book we get a glimpse of where Bill might have picked up his “cavalier attitude toward sexual conduct” and where both Clintons might have learned lessons regarding the impunity that comes with high office. It seems that Bill told Cliff Jackson -- one of his buddies during his Rhodes Scholar days at Oxford -- a story about how President Lyndon Johnson had sex with an anti-war hippie on the floor of the Oval Office. It seems that they were in flagrante when a secretary walked in on them.  The lesson Bill took away from the incident was: “How slick, how neat that Lyndon could get away with this.” (p. 341)

Stone cites reports that Bill was a notorious assaulter of women going back to his twenties. As a Rhodes Scholar, Bill was one of the few who left Oxford without a degree when he was expelled at age 23 in 1969 “for sexually assaulting a 19-year- old coed named Eileen Wellstone … at a pub.” (40-41)

According to Stone, Bill was a close associate of convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Stone claims that Bill took seventeen flights on Epstein’s private jet, the “Lolita Express,” routinely used for orgies at 30,000 feet, often with underage girls. (See also “The Billionaire Pedophile Who Could Bring Down Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton,”)

Stone alleges that it was due in large part to Clintonian political  influence that Epstein received a mere slap on the wrist prison sentence of thirteen months during the course of which he   spent most of his time out of jail, only retiring there in the evenings since the judge allowed him a sixteen-hour-a day pass.

Hillary’s emails

Stone cites widely quoted remarks by an exercised Mitt Romney, in April 2015, where he points to some of the alleged corruption which could be the motivation behind Hillary’s decision not to allow her emails to flow through government servers. Romney said:

I mean, it looks like bribery. I mean, there is every appearance that Hillary Clinton was bribed to grease the sale of [perhaps] 20% of America’s uranium production to Russia, and then it was covered up by lying about a meeting at her home with the principals, and by erasing emails. And you know, I presume we might know for sure whether there was or was not bribery, if she hadn’t wiped out thousands of emails. (352)
                                                                                          
Stone claims that Hillary never followed through on the promise she made to the Obama administration to “disclose the names and seek approval on donations” to the Clinton Foundation as a means of inhibiting conflicts of interest. (339-340). 

In the most recent flap over ongoing Justice Department inquiries regarding Hillary’s emails, the mind boggles – even after reading Stone – at the Clintonian sense of impunity. What could Bill have been thinking, one wonders, when he found or created an opportunity to engage in a 30-minute “largely social” conversation with Attorney General Loretta Lynch in her plane at the Phoenix airport on July 2, 2016?  The New York Times reported that, when the inevitable outcry exploded, an all-too-obviously embarrassed Lynch joked that “she should have acted more swiftly to keep [Clinton] from boarding.”  If, in the course of their conversation, Bill did indeed read Lynch the riot act, spelling out her career prospects if she did not decide in Hillary’s favor, then the Clintons may very well have made a cold calculation that a few days of unpleasant headlines is a smallish price to pay for dodging a government indictment and a presidential campaign in shambles. (See for example: Former president delayed Phoenix takeoff to snare '20-25 minute encounter' with Attorney General”)

The Clinton Foundation – A Cash Cow

I had heard of the Clinton Foundation before I read the Stone book but I  hadn’t realized how seemingly easy it has been for the Clintons to brush aside regulatory restrictions intended to prevent  charitable donations from leaking into personal accounts.

 Stone charges that while Clinton was Secretary of State she oversaw large contracts to corporations like Boeing, G.E., Lockheed Martin which in turn made donations to the Clinton Foundation of $5 million, $1 million, $250, 000 respectively. One example of extraordinary amounts going to the Clintons was the $600,000 NBC (49% of which was owned by General Electric) paid to Chelsea Clinton just before an enormous U.S. contract was awarded to General Electric while Hillary was Secretary of State. (346)

Nor does Stone have many kind words for Chelsea Clinton whom, he charges, is a “grifter”  just like her parents. Stone cites witnesses describing her as “loud and demanding,” offensive to top staff at the Clinton Foundation resulting in a good deal of turnover. Nicknamed by them as “the Princess,” she has been termed “opinionated and aggressive.”(347)

Stone spends several pages detailing a number of complicated deals beginning  when Hillary was a senator in 2009 and later as Secretary of State which involved transferring control of  uranium mining from Kazakhstan to a Canadian company  and finally to Rosatom, a Russian state-owned company. Stone claims that Russia now controls uranium mining holdings stretching from Central Asia to the American West; and that the Russians control one-fifth of the uranium mining in North America.
  
In addition to the national security implications of these uranium deals, Stone alleges corruption, citing payments from these deals going to the Clintons.  Stone points to, among much else, a New York Times April 2015 article headlined: “Cash flowed to Clinton Foundation amid Russian Uranium Deal.” Stone says that the New York Times “confirmed” that investors who profited from the deal “’donated’ an astounding $145 million to the Clinton Foundation.” Bill was paid a $500,000 speaking fee by Renaissance Capital, a Russian investment firm with ties to the Kremlin in June 2010, the same month that a key contract was signed for Rosatom control of the uranium holdings. (349-353)

Stone lists about a page (of “instances in which the actions of the State Department benefitted the immediate interests of the Clinton Foundation.” 341-342)  Stone details the amounts in these cases that flowed to the Foundation and to the Clintons.

-- a developer donates $100, 000
-- Chevron donates between $500,000 and $1 million
-- Swedish telecom company Ericsson pays Bill $750,000 for a single speech
-- a Chinese firm Rilin Enterprises pledged $2 million to the foundation’s endowment

The Haiti Earthquake Opportunity

Stone charges that the Clintons were deeply involved the corruption surrounding recovery efforts consequent to the 2010 Haitian earthquake. The Clintons were crucial brokers “involved in every phase of the relief effort including a UN donors conference at which 150 nations and organizations pledged an “astonishing” $9 billion. Stone charges that the Clintons controlled the disbursement of this money and tapped it for their own benefit and for the benefit of “their foundation and friends.” (345) Stone writes that only 900 homes were built with the “millions and millions” donated.

Stone notes that in one Haiti-related case, a Clinton pal from Florida, one Claudio Osorio, acquired federally backed tens of millions of dollars in 2010 to build hundreds of homes there but constructed nothing and pocketed the money. He was a contributor to Hillary’s 2008 campaign and also to the Clinton Global Initiative. (374)

Along with Osorio, Stone lists details of  Clinton pals and “crony-funders:”  Vinod Gupta, Sant Chatwal, Amar Sigh, Victor Dahdaleh, and Gilbert Chagoury who were all variously charged with, and in some cases convicted, variously, of fraud, illegal campaign financing, obstruction of  justice, illegal campaign donations, and tampering with witnesses.. Among the monies that went to Clinton and/or to the Clinton Foundation or to the Clinton Global Initiative from these persons was $3 million from Gupta, millions from Chatwal and Singh, and millions in fundraising for Clinton and/or the Democratic Party from Chagoury. (374-375)

Clinton and Drugs and Mena and the CIA

While Clinton was president I had heard of CIA drug smuggling at the airfield at Mena, Arkansas –about 135 miles from Little Rock -- that allegedly took place during the period of Clinton’s governorship -- 1983 – 1992. (Clinton was also governor of Arkansas from 1979-81.) Not until I read Stone’s book, did I see allegations that a portion of those drugs were for Bill Clinton’s personal use.

Stone’s evidence for Bill’s drug use comes from several witnesses, including

-- Betsey Wright, his chief of staff when he was governor, who said that Clinton had to be sent to drug rehab multiple times;
-- from “party girl”  and self-confessed drug courier Sharline Wilson, who saw him “messed up” one night (131);  
--from his long-time lover Gennifer Flowers (who witnessed him taking marijuana only);
-- from Sam Houston, “a respected Little Rock doctor” who claimed that Clinton “was admitted to the University of Arkansas Medical Center for emergency treatment for cocaine abuse and overdose.” (132)

Stone also asserts that an investigation into Bill’s half-brother, Roger, who pleaded guilty to distributing cocaine,, had to be cut short because the “trail led directly to the governor.” (132-134) According to a book by R. Emmett Tyrell, Madame Hillary (2004):  “Half a dozen or more Arkansans have testified to doing drugs with both Clinton brothers or to witnessing them doing drugs.”

The testimony from Betsey Wright comes second-hand from  Larry Nichols, a Clinton former associate, whistleblower, and Clinton nemesis.  Nichols went to work for Governor Clinton as marketing director for the Arkansas Development Finance Authority (AFDA) in the summer of 1988 and was fired a few months later in December 1988 after confronting Clinton regarding the  corruption he saw  in the AFDA. (69)

Stone writes that like the Clinton Foundation years later, the AFDA, an agency intended to provide low interest loans to schools, churches and small businesses, was a cash-cow for the Clintons. The AFDA turned out to be a vehicle for “grants” to wealthy contributors, a portion of which came back to Clinton in campaign contributions. Nor was Clinton, Stone alleges, averse to “dipping in to get cash from the agency.” (68)

Clinton, the CIA, and GHW Bush

How did it happen that, as Stone alleges, Mena, Arkansas became a major site for drug drops and distribution?” Stone alleges that Bill along with the CIA and Vice President (and former CIA director, and later president) George H. W. Bush, provided protection for Barry Seal, “one the biggest drug smugglers ever brought before [a U.S. court].” (146)  Stone reports that Clinton himself was a “CIA asset recruited at the University of Oxford in 1968 as documented by authors Roger Morris, Cord Meyer and … Christopher Hitchens.” (148)

40 Clinton Murders?

In his introductory chapter Stone notes “widespread claims” of Clinton responsibility for 80 murders. Stone thinks that that is too large an estimate by half. ( 25) Does Stone believe that Clinton oversaw 40 murders? Even Lyndon Johnson was accused of  fewer than a dozen murders.

In any event, Stone explicitly examines circumstantial evidence of only one Clinton-related murder, that of Jerry Parks, a decade-long associate of Clinton. Stone believes that it was “Parks’s knowledge and participation in the Dixie Mafia/CIA drug running at Mena. Stone’s claim is that what “Parks knew threatened the Clinton presidency” and he was murdered in 1993.

In one other case, investigator Robert Morrow, Stone’s co-author, charges that in 1992 the Clintons and Buddy Young sent “three goons  to beat up and nearly murder Gary Johnson” the next door neighbor of Bill’s inamorata, Gennifer Flowers, whose security camera happened to record some of Bill’s comings and goings. (170)

The boys on the tracks

On the night of August 22-23, 1987 two teen-age boys – Kevin Ives (17) and Don Henry (16) were killed under mysterious circumstances. Their prone bodies were run over by a train as they lay on a stretch of track known to be a hub of “prolific illegal activity” in Saline County Arkansas, not far from Little Rock, (137) Stone doesn’t actually accuse Bill Clinton of their murder but presents evidence of his participation in the cover-up and his close association with one of the key players, Don Harmon.

At first the boys were officially deemed to be killed by accident. They were incapacitated, claimed Arkansas medical examiner Fahmy Malack, from “twenty marijuana joints” and they fell into “a trance on the railway tracks … side by side.”(139).   Later this account was seen to be a cover for murder. The mother of one of the boys, Linda Ives, relentlessly pursued the case and her story was told in a book by Mara Leveritt, The Boys on the Tracks.

A key player in these events was one Don Harmon, a Defense Attorney who was named as special prosecutor, presumably by Governor Bill Clinton. It turned out that Don Harmon is likely to have had a deep conflict of interest. One witness, Sharline Wilson, drug courier for Harmon, puts him at the scene of the crime on the night and hour that it seems likely the boys were killed. Sharline Wilson claimed that Harmon and his men were at the railway tracks, watching over a drug drop -- expecting to pick up three to four pounds of cocaine and five pounds of marijuana. While she waited in the car some distance away she heard two trains, then she heard screams. “When Harmon came back [she reported], he jumped in the car and said, ‘Let’s go.” He was scared. It looked like here was blood all down his legs.” (138)

Clinton protected Arkansas medical examiner, Fahmy Malack  (138) whose controversial finding of accidental death for some time managed to cover up alleged murder.  Clinton subsequently gave Malack a $14 thousand raise and when Malack became a political liability he was moved to a new job at three quarters of his old salary. (140)

According to Stone many “other witnesses, close to the deaths of Ives and Henry, also met brutal, mysterious deaths.” (142) Stone details four other potential witnesses  who died or disappeared in 1989 and briefly details their connection to the incident. They are: Greg Collins, Daniel “Boonie” Bearden, Jeff Rhodes and Richard Winters, a grand jury witness, whose murder, Stone believes, was “staged to appear as if he were gunned down during a robbery.” (142-143)

Vince Foster

Stone doesn’t subscribe to conspiracy theories that the Clintons murdered Vince Forster. Stone seems to agree that Vince Forster committed suicide in 1993. The conspiracy theory that Stone does advocate, for which he provides persuasive circumstantial evidence,  is that after Foster committed suicide in his White House office, his  body was secretly and illegally moved to Fort Marcy Park, a public park in nearby McLean, Virginia.

Stone deduces that the body was rolled up in a carpet and  moved so as  to keep investigators away from his White House office which otherwise would have become a crime scene.  In that case, the Clintons would not have been able to retain control over Foster’s presumably highly sensitive files. Hillary later wrote that “sweeping” Foster’s office [of Whitewater documents] was ok because it wasn’t “a crime scene.” (213)
***

At the end of his book, Roger Stone wonders why an aging Hillary (born in 1947, she’s nearly 68) wants to run for president since doing so  focuses intense attention on what she has been attempting to hide throughout her career.  My own guess is that she may be on the corruption treadmill. Absent  her candidacy she  would lose the leverage she currently enjoys with those seeking multi-million dollar favors.

A voter’s dilemma

This election has thrown up perhaps the worst two choices of major party presidential candidates perhaps in U.S. history – although to some it might seem that every quadrennial election does the same. Stone’s book has made it that much harder for me to support the Democratic ticket. I voted Green in NYC in 2012 though I supported President Obama’s candidacy to the extent that I hoped he would defeat George Romney. I hoped that he might be constrained in some cases by his party affiliation.

While I applaud Donald Trump’s attack on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), I panic at the thought of him in the White House. As for Hillary, I’m now less convinced than I might have been that the former Goldwater girl has the least interest in working for any segment of the American people beyond herself and the .01%

This is going to be a tough year and an even tougher future.


[1] Numbers in parentheses refer to page numbers in Roger Stone and Robert Morrow, The Clintons’ War on Women (New York, Skyhorse Publishing, 2015)

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Did Obama Sabotage his Mortgage Relief program?

May 2016
  
In January 2008, when Senator Obama was running for the Democratic nomination  for president he shocked many  Democrats when he went out of his way to praise President Ronald Reagan. It was impossible at the time to know what he meant, but it now seems clear that he was signaling his intention to govern not as a reformist Democrat, but as someone who would oversee the world on fire --- a world where Donald Trump can seriously vie for the presidency.

The way in which he sabotaged his own mortgage relief program – HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program) – ensuring that in most cases no relief would be forthcoming --  stands as  a model of his retrograde and intentionally destructive agenda.

A follow-up article will outline a theory explaining his motivation.
***

Obama Inherits 15 Million Underwater Homeowners

At the heart of the Great Recession of 2008 were the millions of underwater homeowners -- those whose mortgage debt had risen more than 20 percent higher than the value of their homes.  At the peak of the 2008 crisis, there were 15 million underwater  homeowners. By late 2015, their numbers had dropped, according to various estimates, to as low as 4 million – or as high as 7.4 million.

That the numbers had fallen from their highs were no thanks to the Bush administration which was nearing the end of its term -- nor did their Republican party remit do more than barely feign interest in such matters.

‘What about the incoming Obama administration? Supporters of the new president might have expected that helping distressed homeowners would be a priority since a goodly number were surely among his core constituency. Not to mention  assisting more than 10 million families would provide a  crucial boost to the economy and would immeasurably strengthened his party and burnish his national appeal. Yet, apart from lip service and misleading press releases, the Obama administration turned out to have just as little interest as had its predecessor in assisting Main Street.  Indeed, looking back, we can now see that, just like his predecessor, his agenda, when he entered office was to block aid to homeowners, despite its negative effects on the economy.
.
Two books that emerged in 2012 which trace  the Obama administration’s  refusal to assist  middle and lower class homeowners  are Neil Barofsky’s Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street; and  Sheila Bair’s Bull By the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street from  Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself . Both books are insider accounts attesting to the authors’ struggles against the Treasury Department run by Timothy Geithner.

Indeed, it turns out that Geithner was basically following White House orders. Neither books come right out and nailing President Obama as chiefly responsible for setting US policy, but there can be little doubt that Geithner acted throughout with the complete backing – and understanding of the White House.  By 2012 and certainly by the time I read the Barofsky and Bair books in 2014 and 2015, I was clear that President-elect Obama chose Geithner because he understood that the former head of the New York Federal Reserve (and tax dodger) favored Wall Street over Main Street on principle and would act accordingly. It was evident that   Obama chose Tim Geithner to be his point man blocking reform.

In the spring of 2012 I had  blogged on the homeowner crisis issue when evidence emerged that, as he began his third year of office,  President Obama was again breaking his promises. A  New York Daily News op ed  revealed the administration’s treachery. The two authors of the op-ed, Mike Gecan and Arnie Graf, had hoped that at long last, the president was indeed serious about “speeding assistance to homeowners.” That many were still suffering there was no question.  Gecan and Graf reported that in 2012 there were 12 million homeowners who were collectively $700 billion underwater. The writers were exercised when they found that the administration’s newly formed “Residential “Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group” was a sham even though it was to be co-chaired by high profile New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. 

They cited the experience of a hopeful Schneiderman who twice travelled to Washington to take up his duties with the mortgage fraud Working Group. There he found that there was no sign of an office, no phones or phone number, and no staff. According to their op-ed,  this newly formed group was the sixth such group that the White House had created  and  the total number of staff hired for the previous five groups, “according to  a surprised Schneiderman,” was one! 

By 2013 White House’s opposition to supporting Main Street was so widely understood that half a dozen states attorney’s general for a time refused to sign off on the administration’s clearly insufficient plan to stem mortgage fraud. They couldn’t support a program whereby the government offered merely $25 billion which was  merely !0% of what homeowners who were victims of “predatory banking practices”  required.
***

A little hint from Barofsky?

President George W. Bush had appointed Neil Barofsky Inspector General to monitor the $700 billion bank bailout program called TARP – the Troubled Asset Relief Program.  Barofsky’s oversight position was created as a concession to Congress which had hoped to ensure that at least a portion of the bailout funds would go to struggling homeowners. A  Democrat, Barofsky,  was chosen for the post of SIGTARP –Special Inspector General of TARP --  largely because Congress hoped to put in place  a man who would stand up to powerful banking interests. He had been serving with distinction for the past eight years as Assistant District Attorney for the Southern District of N.Y.

Barofsky recounts an incident from early in Obama’s presidency that had dismayed and confused me and later made me reconsider what I took to be the new president’s priorities.  
In February 2009, President Obama spoke at the Dobson High School gymnasium in Mesa, Arizona to announce a $50 billion mortgage modification program. Arizona was an  appropriate venue for Obama’s presentation, reeling, as it was, from an avalanche of foreclosures,. Barofsky points to some of the statistics:  Nationally there  were  “2.3 million properties receiving foreclosure fillings and more than 900,000 bank repossessions in 2008 alone.”  Unemployment had shot up  2% in the previous six months.

Behind the scenes, even while many were heartened by Obama’s speech, Barofsky and his team were concerned -- as well as was Sheila Bair for slightly different reasons (see below).Especially worrying was that Treasury hadn’t given SIGTARP any details about the program even while it was announced that the plan guidelines would be issued in two weeks. Barofsky felt it was too short a time “put together a well thought out program.” Barofsky’s office was in the loop because SIGTARP was created to oversee government expenditures on these programs and to insure a clean, fraud-free disbursement of funds. (Barofsky 124-127)

The day after the president’s mid February announcement in Arizona, Barofsky was working with his colleagues in his Washington office with the TV in the background when they heard some shouting. They looked up at the TV monitor and saw

Rick Santelli, a CNBC anchor, in midrant against the new TARP mortgage modification program. He described it as a plan for "losers" and compared it to Castro's Cuba. At one point, he turned to the roaring traders on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and asked, "How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills? Raise their hands.” Finally, in a phrase that would change the landscape of conservative politics in the country, "We're thinking of having a Chicago tea party in July.”…
Santelli’s rant , and the political movement it inspired, hung over the [SIGTARP] program for the rest of my time in Washington. (p. 127)

In February 2009 I wondered if Rick Santelli was to have the last word  -- if his rant would  be sufficient to kill U.S. action to help underwater homeowners.  Barofsky’s narrative  helped remind  me that Santelli’s rant came just a day after the president’s announcement and suggested an otherwise outlandish conspiracy theory – defined as any theory not sanctioned by the authorities and their media messengers.  I wondered if the Obama administration may have had a hand in engineering Santelli’s high profile public relations attack on his own mortgage modification program -- perhaps via a leak from someone in Geithner’s Treasury Department, 

I wondered how Santelli could know in advance that President Obama’s program would allow “losers” to mooch on government largess? Barofsky writes that the details of the program, “the nuts and bolts of how the program would work” were not yet in place, and so could not yet be public information.  President Obama, in his remarks in Arizona, had emphasized that his plan would focus on “rescuing families who've played by the rules and acted responsibly.” The president was careful to emphasize that his plan

will not rescue the unscrupulous or irresponsible by throwing good taxpayer money after bad loans.  It will not help … speculators who took risky bets on a rising market and bought homes not to live in but to sell.  It will not help dishonest lenders who acted irresponsibly, distorting the facts and dismissing the fine print at the expense of buyers who didn't know better.  And it will not reward folks who bought homes they knew from the beginning they would never be able to afford.  So I just want to make this clear:  This plan will not save every home.  (my emphasis)

While Santelli might have simply ignored Obama’s cautious guidelines and rushed to judgment about the way “losers” and speculators might get their hands on taxpayer funds, how could he know –without a heads up – that his remarks would not face a strong White House inspired rebuttal from sympathetic spokespeople inside and outside government?  Santelli’s reference to the Tea Party later made me wonder if the White House and Treasury actually welcomed and encouraged Tea Party and Republican opposition.

The White House rebuttal never happened. By not engaging in strong pushback, the White House was effectively green-lighting the upcoming Tea Party campaign and Republican and grass roots opposition.
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Shelia Bair

Widely perceived as an effective reformist and an opponent of banks that were “too big to fail,” Sheila Bair served as Chairperson of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation from 2006 to 2011 -- two years into Obama’s term.  Bair also found Timothy Geithner to be her bĂȘte noire, forcing her to work around the obstacles he often put up, as she did her best to work for the public interest. Well before the end of her term it was clear that she would not be reappointed by the Obama administration.

Cheating homeowners, not helping

As it happened, Sheila Bair was at the president’s side in Arizona when he announced his home modification program. Bair cringed when the president announced that he aimed to help three to four million homeowners.  She was vexed because she understood that Obama was announcing figures he should have known (or surely knew) were inflated. Her own, more aggressive, program –turned down by Treasury -- would at most help about 1.2 million homeowners.  History proved her right when three years later, by the time she wrote her book, fewer than 900,000 homeowners were making lower modified payments. 

Worse than merely inflated claims, an adverse effect of the White House’s inadequate program, was that about a million  homeowners were cruelly  thrown into foreclosure by the program even though they had been making timely modified payments for months. These homeowners had signed up for “trial modifications” -- an administration idea to quickly announce high numbers – but were later informed that they had not filed all the extensive documentation required.  Thus more homeowners suffered than were helped as the unlucky ones were duped into premature or unnecessary foreclosures.  .

Geithner’s motive vs Obama’s

Geithner’s motive for blocking aid to Main Street is comprehensible, though reprehensible. He seems to have viewed his area of responsibility as a zero sum game: i.e., his policies reflect the view that help for Main Street conflicts with the interests of big banking and Wall Street. What’s clear is that Tim Geithner should have been among the last people tapped by a Democratic president to administer programs so critical to the middle class and others.  Nor is it accidental that regimes such as Bush’s and Obama’s should especially target the middle class since they are the ones with the wherewithal and the interest in challenging injustice and inequity.

The question remains: Why did Obama choose someone like Geithner who represented the interests of the 1%, or perhaps more accurately the .001%   Why didn’t  Obama  take seriously his mandate to serve the national  interest?

What was Obama’s motivation?  Why would he deliberately sabotage his own constituency, his own reputation and that of his party, not to mention the health of the US economy and the resulting international ramifications? Why did he pursue a malevolent agenda? Why did he become the more effective evil, institutionalizing retrograde and destructive policies?  Why did he act in a way that would make him so unpopular and so weaken his party? Why would he deliberately give up the opportunity to gain public acclaim and enhance his legacy?

One thing we can construe from the Barofsky and Bair narratives is that they portray an Obama administration that has not been passive. Barack Obama has not been conflict averse, nor disengaged. The president’s destructive and obstructive record instead bespeaks an aggressive, focused, determined mind, equally as  ruthless and relentless as the people he placed in powerful positions.

Obama’s appointments to senior and mid-level positions all-too-often represent the president’s counterintuitive agenda. Geithner was not alone in subverting the policies that Obama’s supporters hoped to see. There were and are too many others -- often Republicans -- who continue to serve as Obama's point men and women, pursuing policies antithetical to the hope and change the country and the world so sorely needed. Some of their names are Eric Holder, Larry Summers, Robert Gates, James Comey, David Petraeus, John Brennan, Michael Hayden, Hillary Clinton – and more..

Barack Obama is, or ought to be, known by the company he keeps.

The End







Monday, October 12, 2015

Is Obama doubling down on his Proxy War on Russia in Syria?


On October 9, 2015  it appeared to  blogger Moon of Alabama  (MoA)  that the US was giving up on its war against Syria due to Russian determination to employ heavy duty military force in support of Assad. The next day, MoA  reported that  Obama is, instead,  doubling down, risking war with Russia. 

The person who told the Saudis to deliver 500 TOW missiles to Syria ASAP was likely CIA chief Brennan. He also ordered to plan for attacks on the Russian base.So instead of a calming down and cooperating with Russia to fight the Islamic State the Pentagon was told to shorten its program and to hand out weapons to everyone who asks. The CIA is feeding more weapons to its mercenaries via its Gulf proxies and is planning for direct attacks on Russians.The war on Syria, and now also on Russia, is unlikely to end in the near future. With the U.S. throwing more oil into the fire the war will burn not only in Syria but in every other country around it
.(Obama Launches A Proxy War On Russia In Syria, 10.10.15, MoA    http://www.moonofalabama.org/)

Ruthless Obama? Yes, he’s been ruthless since the third day  of his administration in January 2009 when  he launched  his first drones strikes on West Waziristan. But reckless? Up to now he’s only been reckless with the lives and homelands of foreigners. But to let  Brennan loose on Syria, and allow the U.S. to escalate the  proxy war with Russia is cause for concern about  a recklessness that we haven't  seen before.

Up to now Obama seemed to be content with winning  the  domestic public relations war attacking  Assad and Putin, while covertly arming ISIS, al-Nusra,  the Free Syrian Army  and all the other jihadist factions. His agenda has not been  to topple Assad, but to keep the war going indefinitely. But with this new escalation the  administration now seems to be ready fight Russia on more level terms. 

Hopefully Obama  will maintain the flexibility to pull back from red lines that shouldn’t be crossed. In that case, the only ones who  will suffer will be millions of Syrians and Iraqis and Turks, etc.,. – and hundreds of millions of  Europeans  who will continue to be flooded with a continuing mass of   refugees.  


At his next press conference, reporters might like to ask what the president thinks will be the effect on the world economy and polity of the continuing unrest,  destabilization  and suffering  his policies have been causing. 

Update
MoA (10.12.15) published evidence – a photo of a downed drone -- of U.S. special forces operating in South Syria, in contravention of international law.

MoA concludes on an optimistic note citing Russian plans to triple its  daily sorties in support of several thousand new fighters from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon in support of Assad. He feels this ought to be enough to expel “the intruders from South Syria.”
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