Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pardon me while I say, "I told you so" about Donald Trump

A while ago in a post called, "Hillary, Donald, the first debate, and
When he's not drowning out everyone
else, he sulks
the Trump Noise Machine," I made a prediction.


Here’s the prediction: 
Since Donald Trump doesn’t have the smarts, the knowledge, or the temperament to debate Hillary effectively, he’ll try to make up for his lack of substance and skill by doing his best to drown out Hillary with an abundance of noise.  
His spokes-puppets do it all the time. In CNN and other network news interviews, they constantly interrupt people with different points-of-view, or talk over them, trying to shout down what they can’t beat with facts or logic. (A perfect cross-talker is Trump spokesperson Kelly Ann Conway.)

When the debate actually happened. Trump interrupted so many times that I lost count. Fortunately, Vox, didn't. They report

"Trump interrupted Clinton 51 times at the debate. She interrupted him just 17 times."

And part of Hillary's interruptions seemed aimed at trying to get a word in edgewise.

My own post went on to recommend:
Ideally, the moderator ought to be given a remote switch which would turn off the microphone of either debater if he or she runs over a time  limit, or interrupts the other.
That failing, we need a moderator who’s tough as nails, who will interrupt the interruptor and tell him or her in plain language that this kind of behavior is worthy of an unruly kindergarten child, not a presidential candidate.
I hate to say I told you so.Mr. Trump, you are an interruptive boor who tried to prevent millions of Americans from hearing what Ms. Clinton has to say. Speak only when it's your turn. Otherwise, shut the hell up.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Who will win the Clinton-Trump debate? I asked my favorite learned futurist.

Her guess is as good as yours. Maybe better.
If you’re new, or even relatively new to this space, you’ve probably never heard of Madame Galzogorist, the fortune teller to the shmateh trade.

She inhabited a shabby room in an old loft building, one flight up in New York’s Garment District. A victim of painted signs that were misspelled (“Readings: $5 Speical,”) and of electrical signs that malfunctioned (see above) she nevertheless provided deep insights into the political unknown. For a nine year old example (my God, have I been at this blog that long?) go here.

Recently, I decided to check in with her about the first Clinton-Trump debate. Here’s a transcript of the interview:

Crank: Good afternoon, Mme. Galzogorist. I wonder if you’d give me a reading? I'd like to know the outcome of the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Mme. G: Did you bring money? My prices have gone up. Ten bucks, minimum.

Crank: I happen to have a ten dollar bill here….

Mme. G: That’s all you brought me? Cheapskate! Well, you always were. Now, what was it you wanted again?

Crank: Results of the first Clinton-Trump debate?

Mme. G: Let me look into my crystal ball here. Ah yes, I see. Buy corn futures. Short term. Buy one day, sell the next. Fast in and out.

Crank: I wanted political results. You’re giving me investment advice.

Mme. G: All opinions stated are merely and exclusively opinions, and may not be construed as advice. Nothing said here is meant either as an inducement to buy or an inducement to sell. Your results may vary. Past performance is no indication of future results. If you have been to an area where certain fungal infection are common…

Crank: But what about the debate?

Mme G:  I’m trying to tell you. Buy corn futures. This debate is likely to generate the biggest televised event since the McCarthy-Army hearings of 1950-whatever. Huge audiences. All with their fat asses plunked down on a couch, munching away on empty calories. Many munching on microwave popcorn. Some on pre-popped bags full of the stuff. It’s going to drive corn prices through the roof a Trump tower.

Crank: Yes, but the debate results?

Mme. G: The results will be an increase in corn prices on the commodity market. Perhaps more of a blip than a bubble, but an opportunity for the agile investor willing and financially able to take a certain degree of carefully-considered risk. Also, potato chips and corn chips. Who’s big in chips? The Pepsi-Cola Company? They own Dorritos, right? And people will need to wash down all that salty stuff with something wet and sweet and bubbly. Buy Pepsi-Cola. Either the stock, or short-term calls.

Crank: But who will be ahead after the debate?

Mme. G: Chief Executive Officers of snack food and beverage companies. Watch for them to collect humongous end-of-year bonuses. They will fall on their knees, thanking God for Hillary and The Donald. Networks trying to build their audience bases will also benefit. The American people? Not so much. Anybody who has half a brain and who has wrung most of the alcohol out of it is already intimately familiar with the character, vision or lack thereof, and suitability or lack thereof of both the candidates. The rest is all a circus. Speaking of circuses, there may be an opportunity for appliance makers to sell home cotton candy machines here. Spun sugar, that’s what America yearns for. That, and a rich diet of intellectual treacle.

Crank: Okay, let’s get to the really big question. Who’s going to win the next Presidential election?

Mme. G: For that you’d need to cross my palm with many, many. many fifty dollar bills. Many, many, many.

Crank: I’m a little short on fifties right now.


Mme. G: So what’s new? Come back when you’ve got more money. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Why isn’t Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf under Federal indictment for fraud?


                    CEO Stumpf: he pocketed  a $200 million 
                    profit from the misfortunes of Wells Fargo
                     customers that his bank engineered
Some time time ago, over 5,000 employees of Wells Fargo Bank began opening accounts in their customers’ names that the customers hadn’t asked for. There were two million — yes, two million — of these fraudulent accounts, it came out during hearings of the Senate Banking Committee.

The account holders were charged various fees for these accounts  — accounts that they hadn’t asked for. 

The 5,300 Wells Fargo employees who helped commit this fraud were fired, it came out during the Senate hearings. So the guilty were punished, right?

Not so fast. Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania noticed a slight, umm, flaw in the testimony of Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf.

As American Banker reports it, Toomey said, “When thousands of people conduct the same kind of fraudulent activity, it’s a stretch to believe that every one of them independently conjured up this idea to commit this fraud. Doesn’t it defy comon sense to think there wasn’t some orchestration of this?”

And who might be leading the orchestra? Senator Elizabeth Warren had a clue. She said to Stumpf:

“While this scam was going on, you personally held an average of 6.5 million shares, and the share price went up by $30, which translate into more than $200 million in gains [for you].”

And make no mistake. The people in whose names those accounts had been fraudulently opened got hurt. The American Banker story reports:
Stumpf also appeared unready for questions about how customers' credit scores would be affected by the scandal. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said the impact on customers went beyond fees and fines because account openings could harm credit scores."What about the folks that may have got a house through Chase and paid a higher interest rate because of that?" Tester asked. "The truth is there are real-world implications here on young families and old families that are going to be put in a poverty situation because of that."Stumpf did not respond how the bank would address the situation, saying "we have more work to do.”
Stumpf’s testimony waffled on and on, back and forth, while he seemed to be absolving himself from any obligation to repay the ripped off bank customers. He had found 5,300 little people to take the fall for him, which was no big deal, Stumpf appeared to be saying, because those 5,300 out of work suckers were only one percent of the bank’s employees.

Senator Warren at one point nearly went ballistic, and fired cannonballs of righteous rage at the evently crooked bank president.

“You should resign,” she said. “You should give back the money you took while this scam went on, and you should be invetigated by  the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.”

I beg to differ, Senator Warren. He should be indicted by the Justice Department. And if he is found guilty — and I have little  doubt that if competently prosecuted he will be found guilty — he should do some time behind bars. How much time?

Well, I wouldn’t want to subject him to the harshness of drug laws that have put some casual pot smokers in prison for decades or more for a single act of possessing or selling a few ounces of marijuana. No, I would not.

Instead, I think he should be prosecuted for each specific act of fraud. For each count on which he is found guilty, he should be sentenced to, oh, let’s be very lenient here — say one measly month in prison, sentences for each act of fraud to be served consecutively, of course. Now let me just, umm, tally this up….

Two million  victims means two million months — those months divided by the 12 months in a year equals 166,666 years. (Not at all harsh considering that if you’d been tried for personally defrauding the bank that many times, not to mention that many drug sales, you’d be in prison for eternity plus a half million years.)

Heck, with time off for good behavior, betcha Stumpf could be out of the clink in less than 80,000 years. I know that may not sound like enough to people who’ve had their credit ruined, who didn’t get jobs or saw their careers wrecked because they had lousy credit,who couldn’t get a house because they had lousy credit, or who may be homeless today as a consequence of the scheme that put $200 million in Stumpf’s personal pocket.

But as I said, I believe in leniency.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Hillary, Donald, the first debate, and the Trump Noise Machine

If you can't beat them with logic or facts, try to drown then out with noise.
 I predictthat's what Trump will try during the first Presidential Debate.
Here’s a prediction:

Since Donald Trump doesn’t have the smarts, the knowledge, or the temperament to debate Hillary effectively, he’ll try to make up for his lack of substance and skill by doing his best to drown out Hillary with an abundance of noise.

His spokes-puppets do it all the time. In CNN and other network news interviews, they constantly interrupt people with different points-of-view, or talk over them, trying to shout down what they can’t beat with facts or logic. (A perfect cross-talker is Trump spokesperson Kelly Ann Conway.)

The American people deserve better. They deserve to hear the facts and points-of-view of each of the opponents so that we can make up our minds.

Which means that it comes down to the moderator (Lester Holt at the first debate) to hold both speakers in check — to make sure that they speak only their allotted length of time, and that they do not interrupt the other speaker.

Ideally, the moderator ought to be given a remote switch which would turn off the microphone of either debater if he or she runs over a time  limit, or interrupts the other.

That failing, we need a moderator who’s tough as nails, who will interrupt the interruptor and tell him or her in plain language that this kind of behavior is worthy of an unruly kindergarten child, not a presidential candidate.

The question is, is each of the four moderators (After Holt there’s Martha Raddatz, Anderson Cooper, and Chris Wallace — or will they all act like Matt Lauer and compete for the World’s Most Incompetent Journalist Award?

Tune in Monday night. Pop up a couple of bags of popcorn first. But tune in. And prepare for teeth-jarring rounds of Trump trying to shot down Hillary.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Could Donald Trump’s tax returns indicate support for the Bin Ladin family?


Osama Bin Trump? Don’t laugh. Read the evidence.

There are a lot of theories about why Donald Trump won’t release his tax returns. The only one we can dismiss out of hand is Trump’s own explanation — that he can’t release them because he’s under audit.

That piece of claptrap has been debunked ad nauseam. There’s no law that prevents him from releasing the information while the IRS is pouring through it.

So alternative theories about his unwillingness to disclose have emerged: He’s not really making as much money as he claims. He’s not really the multi-billionaire he claims to be. He’s not a successful businessman; he’s a failed businessman. He’s teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. He lied when he said he gives to charity. He doesn’t pay any taxes, or if he pays taxes at all, not nearly as much tax as the average working stiff.

Any or all of these may or may not be true. But any such speculation is fair, since he is seeking the presidency of the United States, and since he is the only candidate since before Richard Nixon who has kept his taxes as buried as some felon's stolen stash from a bank robbery.

Trump’s financial dealings:
the 9-11 nightmare theory

On the anniversary week of the 9-11 attack on the United States let me offer the scariest and most ominous speculation of all. I’m speculating that Trump hasn’t release his tax returns because they will reveal that he has been doing business with, and thus helping to support, the family of Osama bin Laden, and that he has contributed to middle-eastern charities that front for Al Queda and that helped to fund the terrorism of 9-11.

Trump’s possible connection to Bin Laden? Well, just for openers, Trump’s Federal Election Commission filings indicate he has a large hotel construction project in the works in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia through a pair of companies called THC Jeddah Hotel Advisor and DT Jeddah Technical Services Advisor.

So?

Well, if you want to get a substantial building project moving in Saudi Arabia, what’s your go-to company? Why, it’s the Binladen Group, founded by the father of Osama Bin Laden, the terrorist who engineered the 9-11 attack. That company is populated to this day by the late master terrorist’s blood relatives.

In fact, various Bin Laden relatives and a Bin Laden-owned construction company were sued by more than three thousand 9-11 attack survivors, who claimed the terrorist attack was funded by charities set up by the bin Laden and its corporate machinery. 

“Among the defendants were Al Queda, its members and associates, along with charities, banks, front organizations, terrorist organizations and financiers.” CBS New York and the AP reported. 

Most of the cases were thrown out, not because they lacked merit but simply because the court felt it lacked jurisdiction.

Ivanka helps spill the beans

In May of last year, a trade journal called Hotelier Middle East reported “The Trump Hotel Collection is eying luxury properties in the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, The Trump Organization executive vice president of development & acquisitions, Ivanka Trump told Hotelier Middle East in an exclusive interview.”

Trump’s daughter also told the trade journal, “We are looking at multiple opportunities in Abu Dhabi, in Qatar, in Saudi Arabia, so those are the four areas where we are seeing the most interest. We haven’t made a final decision in any of the markets but we have many very compelling deals in each of them.”

Nor do you have to go to the middle-east to find the Saudi-Trump connection. The New York Daily News recently reported…
Trump sold the 45th floor of Trump World Tower to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for $4.5 million in June 2001, according to a city Finance Department spokeswoman. In 2008, the apartments became part of the Saudi Mission to the United Nations, records show.
The five apartments included 10 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms at the time of the sale, and had yearly common charges of $85,585 for building amenities, documents obtained by The News show. If those common charges remain the same, Trump was paid at least $5.7 million by the Saudi government since 2001.
Seeks access, stiffs broker

The real estate agent who set up the 45th floor purchase said that Trump was not only seeking the $5.7 million but also access via the deal to markets in the middle-east.

By the way, the broker, Rebecca Ocampo, claimed Trump stiffed her out of the broker’s fee although for some unknown reason that I don’t want to speculate about, she dropped a law suit. There’s probably a whole other story in there that some enterprising reporter might want to dig out..

Given that it was a Bin Laden who engineered the 9-11 terror attack, and that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi Citizens, Trump’s interest in Saudi construction projects and with various other Saudis makes me wonder.

Did Trump support the Bin Laden family?

Blood on Trump’s hands?

Did Trump, in a frenzy of greed, attempt to milk more wealth out of the Arabian desert by contributing to front “charities” that financed terror attacks on New York?

Does Donald Trump have the blood on his hands of thousands of innocent Americans who perished during the events of 9-11?


Trump might be able to clear his name of these suspicions just by disclosing his complete tax records. His ongoing refusal to do so cannot but help make many Americans wonder.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Norwegian editor sticks it to Mark Zuckerberg

The Norwegian journal is called Aftenposten. The editor is Espen Egil Hansen. His article takes Mark Zuckerberg to task because Facebook tried to censor a world-famous war photograph, and finally knocked Hansen off Facebook for insisting the picture should remain.

At the end of his article, Hansen writes, "International media outlets: You may use our photos of Espen Egil Hansen and Aftenposten’s publications for this story. You may also use video material in your coverage."

I'm not sure whether this blog qualifies as an International media outlet, so I'll simply refer you here. Go, read, and try to keep your mind from exploding at the small mindedness of Facebook's management.


Oh, and this is the photograph, a classic of photo journalism illustrating in the most human terms I've ever seen the horror of war.


UPDATE: The Boston Globe is now reporting that Facebook has relented and decided to allow the horrifying picture of children fleeing a napalm attack  to remain on Facebook after all.

How kind of Facebook.

Cross posted at No More Mister Nice Blog


O

Thursday, September 01, 2016

What Wall Street can teach us about Donald Trump’s Wall

No no, not Wall Street bankers. Not Wall Street influence peddlers. Not Wall Street lobbyists, or wheeler-dealers, or bond traders, or or money managers, or quants. I’m talking about Wall Street, the actual street.

See…well, let’s go back to the very beginning. In 1609 Henry Hudson discovers New York Bay, and the river that now bears his name, and the island that’s now known as Manhattan.

By 1625, an Amsterdam outfit called the Dutch East India Company has set up a colony there, mostly to trade beaver furs for export to Europe. Everybody’s making money and everybody’s happy except for the beavers and they’re just….well, giant rats with flat tails and dopey-looking front teeth. They chew down trees and clog up waterways with their dams, so who in the 17th Century gives a damn?

The English, that’s who. They check out the scene and decide they want to take  over the colony and grab its profitable trade for themselves.

See where the streets end on this ancient map of
lower Manhattan? See the straight line below the
star? That's where the Dutch built a defensive
(but useless) Wall. The English simply sailed in.
Today, the only thing left of that wall is the name
of the street where it stood.
The Dutch get wind of this. Since the English are already in New England, more or less to the North, the Dutch figure the English might invade from the North. 

So the Dutch build a defensive wall across the island on the northern border of New Amsterdam, from the Hudson River to the East River. If you look at the map, where all the curved streets end and there’s a straight line running from left to right, that’s where the wall was.

“Lucky us,” the Dutch must have thought. “We’re safe from unwelcome visitors now. We have a wall.”

Umm, they forgot something. The English ignored the wall. Instead, they sailed into New York harbor in 1664  with a handful of ships, cannons bristling, and roughly 450 armed men. And they said something to the Dutch governor to the effect of, “Nice colony you got here, Governor Stuyvesant. It would be a shame if it should accidentally get flattened by cannonballs and all your people got bayoneted or hanged.”

Stuyvesant surrendered. The Dutch colony of New Amsterdam became the English colony of New York. As the city started expanding, the wall was in the way. So they tore it down, and built a street where part of it had stood. Yup. Wall Street.

So what’s this got to do with Donald Trump and the Wall To Keep Out Mexico? Simply this: 

If desperate immigrants from Mexico and Central America can’t walk across the border because there’s a wall in the way, they’ll do what the English navy did, and what Syrian refugees are doing in Europe. They’ll come by boat. 

And instead of just 2,000 miles of Mexican border to wall off, there will be a total, if you include Alaska, of 7,623 miles of Pacific coast, 1631 miles of Gulf coast, and 2,069 miles of Atlantic coast to wall off.

And also the United States of America will be walled off from the sea. No more beach house for you, Mister Billionaire. And also no more cruise ships, no more U.S. naval stations, and no easy way for rivers from the Hudson, to the Mississippi, to the Columbia to empty into the oceans. They'll just back up as the walls become dams. We'll be our own beavers.

And after we get done with the coastlines, we can also wall ourselves off from Canada.

Of course, every wall that walls somebody out, also walls people on the other side in. At that point it will be easier to keep the entire population of the United States prisoner, just as the Berlin Wall imprisoned East Berliners some decades ago. A wall is a wonderful tool for a dictatorship. Try to escape and you will be shot.

So Mister Trump, tear down that wall talk and go shoot off your mouth about something else. As the great American poet Robert Frost tried to tell you, back when you should have been studying him in military prep school instead of using a ruler to measure your, uh, fingers, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall."

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Your money or your life: Shkreli, Bresch, wheezing and choking children, and the Tyburn Jig

There used to be a time when they publicly hanged highwaymen. These were people who’d stop coaches on the road, flintlock pistols raised, and demand, “Your money or your life.” And they meant it.

When they were brought to justice, it was usually not a pretty picture. They were hanged, but not on a gallows from which a fall would break their necks. Highwaymen in the 18th Century died slowly and in frantic, panicked agony.
When everything was ready, the horses were whipped away, pulling the prisoners off the carts and leaving them suspended. They would only have a few inches of drop at most and thus many of them would writhe in convulsive agony for some moments, their legs paddling the air - “dancing the Tyburn jig” as it was known, until unconsciousness overtook them.
A new breed of highwaymen is abroad in the land today. Two of the most infamous are named Martin Shkreli, and Heather Bresch. I cannot reproduce their smirking photographs because the pictures  you should see are the property of news agencies, but if you take a look at Bresch here, and Shkreli here, it would appear that they were separated at smirk.

They both ride desk chairs instead of horses and their weapons are not pistols but prices. Both have unconscionably jacked up the prices of once-cheap life saving drugs for which there are no readily available substitutes. They’ve made fortunes by threatening and actually putting at risk the lives of innocent children, the elderly, and the physically frail. 

In Shkreli’s cased the drug in question is Daraprim. The magazine Vanity Fair reports:

Dara­prim, is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines because it treats toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that is particularly dangerous to pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, and the elderly. In that vulnerable population it can lead to seizures, blindness, birth defects in babies of infected mothers, and, in some cases, death.
Shkreli, through a company he controlled, Turing Pharmaceutical, raised the price from $13.50 per Daraprim tablet to $750. Usually, it’s taken for 21 days, a total cost  of $15,750 per patient at the jacked up price. Your money or your life.

Shkreli’s defense has been that medical insurance pays for most of it anyway, and he, a multi-millionaire if not a billionaire, paid $750 for his I-phone, so what’s the big deal if he charges $750 per pill? There are at least three reasons it’s a big deal.

First, not everybody has medical insurance, and so some individuals and families — for whom the $15,000 for a full medical regimen can be close to a year’s take home pay — are forced to flirt with bankruptcy or watch someone they love die needlessly. 

Second, even if medical insurance paid for 100 percent of the price (which it doesn’t) the cost gets passed on to all Americans, via hikes in our insurance premiums and in our taxes. So in effect, we are all being held at pistol point by this thug. 

Third, Shkreli’s  greed-motivated initiative will — and already has — lured others into the pharmaceutical highway robbery business. So he has made the problem he created for the rest of us a growing problem.

Shkreli, who is also under indictment for fraud in a separate case, shows the remorse of a python gorging itself on a pig. The consequence of his misbehavior, he tweets, is that he’s getting more sex.


Martin Shkreli
Verified account
@MartinShkreli
Martin Shkreli Retweeted Vincent
none, getting laid more i guess
Martin Shkreli added,

Vincent @johnvincentsays
@MartinShkreli what changes did you applied to your life after the whole media mess? (serious question)


Meanwhile, a copycat highwayman — well, highwaywoman in this case — got caught pointing her loaded flintlock of a price hike at little children and threatening the equivalent of blowing their heads off.

I’m referring to Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan, the company that makes EpiPen.  That'sthe product that saves adults and especially vulnerable little kids from dying while gasping for breath — due to allergic reactions to certain commonplace foods and other substances.

By steadily raising, and then raising again, and then re- and re-raising the price of EpiPen, Bresch finally managed to also raise the ire of parents of those vulnerable children. They took to the Internet, raised hell on social media, and ended up flooding Congress with 100,000 letters of righteous protest. The indignation was palpable. The New York Times reports:
...parents began posting receipts showing how much they were paying for EpiPens. One photo showed a Costco pharmacy receipt from Chandler, Ariz., for $1,698.28 that a parent had paid for three boxes of EpiPens, six pens total. A single mother from New Hampshire had a receipt for $925 for a two-pack of EpiPens.
This may have been a grave embarrassment for Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of Virgina, who happens to be the father of this child-killing thug-ette

It certainly explains why child-endangerer Bresch relented. Well, sort of relented. Mylan has agreed “to expand its coupon and patient assistance programs,” The New York Times reported. So only those parents who who are deemed rich enough to pay full price will have to. At least until Bresch changes her mind again.

And that’s not good enough. Highway robbery is highway robbery and ought to be treated as such. This nation needs a law that would make price gouging of monopoly drugs necessary to save lives — drugs like EpiPen and Daraprim — the vicious felony that it is.

Think about this: if somebody steals your car, he’s liable in some states to serve over eight years in prison. 

Currently, if the same person steals through price hikes your family’s money for an EpiPen or a Daraprim prescription, the only penalty is social pressure.

Yet the cost of the theft to each individual can be the same, or far more, than the loss of a car. 

So this nation needs a law that would make price gougers guilty of a felony, punishable by five years in a maximum security prison, for each person gouged. Remember, these highway robbers don’t gouge just one or two people. They gouge thousands of sick people and their families.

Five years per person gouged, sentences to be served consecutively. Somehow, I think that after the first twenty or thirty years buried alive in prison steel and concrete, Shkreli and Bresch might not be tempted to rob the vulnerable again.

Nor would other drug company executives.


Tell your Senators you want long prison terms for drug price gougers.

Oh, and also tell them you want Joe Manchin forcibly recused by his party from any committee, subcommittee, or matter relating to laws concerning healthcare and most especially pharmaceuticals