Posts Tagged ‘Wall Street Journal’

 

Did the doomsday clock on the petrodollar (and implicitly US hegemony) just tick one more minute closer to midnight?

Apparently confirming what President Maduro had warned following the recent US sanctions, The Wall Street Journal reports that Venezuela has officially stopped accepting US Dollars as payment for its crude oil exports.

As we previously noted, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said last Thursday that Venezuela will be looking to “free” itself from the U.S. dollar next week. According to Reuters,

“Venezuela is going to implement a new system of international payments and will create a basket of currencies to free us from the dollar,” Maduro said in a multi-hour address to a new legislative “superbody.” He reportedly did not provide details of this new proposal.

Maduro hinted further that the South American country would look to using the yuan instead, among other currencies.

“If they pursue us with the dollar, we’ll use the Russian ruble, the yuan, yen, the Indian rupee, the euro,” Maduro also said.

And today, as The Wall Street Journal reports, in an effort to circumvent U.S. sanctions, Venezuela is telling oil traders that it will no longer receive or send payments in dollars, people familiar with the new policy said.

 

Oil traders who export Venezuelan crude or import oil products into the country have begun converting their invoices to euros.

The state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela SA, known as PdVSA, has told its private joint venture partners to open accounts in euros and to convert existing cash holdings into Europe’s main currency, said one project partner.

The new payment policy hasn’t been publicly announced, but Vice President Tareck El Aissami, who has been blacklisted by the U.S., said Friday, “To fight against the economic blockade there will be a basket of currencies to liberate us from the dollar.”

There is no major market reaction for now – a modest bid to Bitcoin and some weakness in EUR and Gold (seems someone wants this to look like nothing).

However, as Nomura debt analyst Siobhan Morden warns:

“You can say whatever you want for your domestic propaganda and make it look like you’re retaliating against the U.S…. This political posturing will only be to their detriment.”

So what happens if Europe also sanctions Venezuela? Will Rubles or Yuan… or Gold be the only way to buy Venezuela’s oil?

* * *

This decision by the nation with the world’s largest proven oil reserves comes just days after China and Russia unveiled the latest Oil/Yuan/Gold triad at the latest BRICS conference.

It’s when President Putin starts talking that the BRICS reveal their true bombshell. Geopolitically and geo-economically, Putin’s emphasis is on a “fair multipolar world”, and “against protectionism and new barriers in global trade.” The message is straight to the point.

“Russia shares the BRICS countries’ concerns over the unfairness of the global financial and economic architecture, which does not give due regard to the growing weight of the emerging economies. We are ready to work together with our partners to promote international financial regulation reforms and to overcome the excessive domination of the limited number of reserve currencies.”

To overcome the excessive domination of the limited number of reserve currencies” is the politest way of stating what the BRICS have been discussing for years now; how to bypass the US dollar, as well as the petrodollar.

Beijing is ready to step up the game. Soon China will launch a crude oil futures contract priced in yuan and convertible into gold.

This means that Russia – as well as Iran, the other key node of Eurasia integration – may bypass US sanctions by trading energy in their own currencies, or in yuan.

Inbuilt in the move is a true Chinese win-win; the yuan will be fully convertible into gold on both the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges.

The new triad of oil, yuan and gold is actually a win-win-win. No problem at all if energy providers prefer to be paid in physical gold instead of yuan. The key message is the US dollar being bypassed.

RC – via the Russian Central Bank and the People’s Bank of China – have been developing ruble-yuan swaps for quite a while now.

Once that moves beyond the BRICS to aspiring “BRICS Plus” members and then all across the Global South, Washington’s reaction is bound to be nuclear (hopefully, not literally).

Washington’s strategic doctrine rules RC should not be allowed by any means to be preponderant along the Eurasian landmass. Yet what the BRICS have in store geo-economically does not concern only Eurasia – but the whole Global South.

Sections of the War Party in Washington bent on instrumentalizing India against China – or against RC – may be in for a rude awakening. As much as the BRICS may be currently facing varied waves of economic turmoil, the daring long-term road map, way beyond the Xiamen Declaration, is very much in place.

* * *

Having threatened China today with exclusion from SWIFT, we suspect Washington is rapidly running out of any great ally to sustain the petrodollar-driven hegemony (and implicitly its war machine). Cue the calls for a Venezuelan invasion in 3…2..1…!

CA.L- How unfortunately hilarious this is…

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Authored by Simon Black

 

Late yesterday afternoon the federal government of the United States announced that the national debt had finally breached the inevitable $20 trillion mark.

This was a long time coming. It should have happened back in March, except that a new debt ceiling was put in place, freezing the national debt.

For the last six months it was essentially illegal for the government to increase the debt.

This is pretty brutal for Uncle Sam. The US government hasn’t run a budget surplus in two decades; they depend on debt in order to keep everything running.

And without the ability to ‘officially’ borrow money, they’ve basically spent the last six months ‘unofficially’ borrowing money by plundering federal pension funds and resorting to what the Treasury Department itself calls “extraordinary measures” to keep the government running.

Late last week the debt ceiling crisis came to a temporary armistice as the government agreed once again to temporarily suspend the debt limit.

Overnight, the national debt soared hundreds of billions of dollars as months of ‘unofficial’ borrowing made its way on to the official books.

The national debt is now $20.1 trillion. That’s larger than the size of the entire US economy.

You’d think this would be front page news with warnings being shouted from the rooftops of America.

Yet curiously the story has scarcely been covered.

Today’s front page of the New York Times tells us about Hurricane Irma, North Korea, and alcoholism in Iran.

Even the Wall Street Journal’s front page has zero mention of this story.

In fairness, the number itself is irrelevant. $20 trillion is merely a big, round, psychologically significant number… but in reality no more important than $19.999 trillion.

The real story isn’t the number or the size of the debt itself. It’s the trend. And it’s not good.

Year after year after year, the US government spends far more money than it collects in tax revenue.

According to the Treasury Department’s own figures, the government’s budget deficit for the first 10 months of this fiscal year (i.e. October 2016 through July 2017) was $566 billion.

That’s larger than the entire GDP of Argentina.

Since the government has to borrow the difference, all of this overspending ultimately translates into a higher national debt.

Make no mistake, debt is an absolute killer.

History is full of examples of once-dominant civilizations crumbling under the weight of their rapidly-expanding debt, from the Ottoman Empire to the French monarchy in the 1700s.

Or as former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers used to quip, “How long can the world’s biggest borrower remain the world’s biggest power?”

It’s hard to project strength around the world when you constantly have to borrow money from the Chinese… or have your central bank conjure paper money out of thin air.

And yet tackling the debt has become nearly an impossibility.

Just look at the top four line items in the US government’s budget: Social Security, Medicare, Military, and, sadly, interest on the debt.

Those four line items alone account for nearly NINETY PERCENT of all US government spending.

Cutting Social Security or Medicare entitlements is political suicide.

Not top mention, both of those programs are actually EXPANDING as 10,000 Baby Boomers join the ranks of Social Security recipients every single day.

Then there’s military spending, which hardly seems likely to fall significantly in an age of constant threats and warfare.

The current White House proposal, in fact, is a 10% increase in military spending for the next fiscal year.

And last there’s interest on the debt, which absolutely cannot be cut without risking the most severe global financial meltdown ever seen in modern history.

So that’s basically 90% of the federal budget that’s here to stay… meaning there’s almost no chance they’re going to be able to reduce the debt by cutting spending.

But perhaps it’s possible they can slash the national debt by growing tax revenue?

Possible. But unlikely.

Since the end of World War II, the US governments’ overall tax revenue has been VERY steady at roughly 17% of GDP.

You could think of this as the federal government’s ‘slice’ of the economic pie.

Tax rates go up and down. Presidents come and go. But the government’s slice of the pie almost always remains the same 17% of GDP, with very small variations.

With data this strong, it seems rather obvious that the solution is to allow the economy to grow unrestrained.

If the economy grows rapidly, tax revenue will increase. And the national debt, at least as a percentage of GDP, will start to fall.

Here’s the problem: the national debt is growing MUCH faster than the US economy. In Fiscal Year 2016, for example, the debt grew by 7.84%.

Yet even when including the ‘benefits’ of inflation, the US economy only grew by 2.4% over the same period.

In other words, the debt is growing over THREE TIMES FASTER than the economy. This is the opposite of what needs to be happening.

What’s even more disturbing is that this pedestrian economic growth is happening at a time of record low interest rates.

Economists tell us that low interest rates are supposed to jumpstart GDP growth. But that’s not happening.

If GDP growth is this low now, what will happen if they continue to raise rates?

(And by the way, raising interest rates also has the side effect of increasing the government’s interest expense, essentially accelerating the debt problem.)

Look– It’s great to be optimistic and hope for the best. But this problem isn’t going away, and it would be ludicrous to continue believing this massive debt is consequence-free.

There’s no reason to panic or be alarmist.

But it’s clearly time for rational people to consider this obvious data… and start thinking about a Plan B.

Do you have a Plan B?

Hillary Clinton’s comment that half of Donald Trump’s supporters are “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic” – a heck of a lot of phobia for anyone to lug around all day – puts back in play what will be seen as one of the 2016 campaign’s defining forces: the revolt of the politically incorrect.

 It remains to be seen what effect Hillary’s five phobias will have on the race, which tightened even before these remarks and Pneumonia-gate.

The two events produced one of Mrs. Clinton’s worst weeks in opposite ways.

As with the irrepressible email server, Mrs. Clinton’s handling of her infirmity – “I feel great,” the pneumonia-infected candidate said while hugging a little girl – deepened the hole of distrust she lives in. At the same time, her dismissal, at Barbra Streisand’s LGBT fundraiser, of uncounted millions of Americans as deplorables had the ring of genuine belief.

Perhaps sensing that public knowledge of what she really thinks could be a political liability, Mrs. Clinton went on to describe “people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them . . . and they’re just desperate for change.”

She is of course describing the people in Charles Murray’s recent and compelling book on cultural disintegration among the working class, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.” This is indeed the bedrock of the broader Trump base.

Mrs. Clinton is right that they feel the system has let them down. There is a legitimate argument over exactly when the rising digital economy started transferring income away from blue-collar workers and toward the “creative class” of Google and Facebook employees, no few of whom are smug progressives who think the landmass seen from business class between San Francisco and New York is pocked with deplorable, phobic Americans. Naturally, they’ll vote for the status quo, which is Hillary.

But in the eight years available to Barack Obama to do something about what rankles the lower-middle class—white, black or brown—the non-employed and underemployed grew. A lot of them will vote for Donald Trump because they want a radical mid-course correction. Which Mrs. Clinton isn’t and never will be.

This is not the Democratic Party of Bill Clinton. The progressive Democrats, a wholly public-sector party, have disconnected from the realities of the private economy, which exists as a mysterious revenue-producing abstraction. Hillary’s comments suggest they now see much of the population has a cultural and social abstraction.

To repeat: “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic.”

Those are all potent words. Or once were. The racism of the Jim Crow era was ugly, physically cruel and murderous. Today, progressives output these words as reflexively as a burp. What’s more, the left enjoys calling people Islamophobic or homophobic. It’s bullying without personal risk.

Donald Trump’s appeal, in part, is that he cracks back at progressive cultural condescension in utterly crude terms. Nativists exist, and the sky is still blue. But the overwhelming majority of these people aren’t phobic about a modernizing America. They’re fed up with the relentless, moral superciliousness of Hillary, the Obamas, progressive pundits and 19-year-old campus activists.

Evangelicals at last week’s Values Voter Summit said they’d look past Mr. Trump’s personal résumé. This is the reason. It’s not about him.

The moral clarity that drove the original civil-rights movement or the women’s movement has degenerated into a confused moral narcissism. One wonders if even some of the people in Mrs. Clinton’s Streisandian audience didn’t feel discomfort at the ease with which the presidential candidate slapped isms and phobias on so many people.

Presidential politics has become hyper-focused on individual personalities because the media rubs them in our face nonstop. It is a mistake, though, to blame Hillary alone for that derisive remark. It’s not just her. Hillary Clinton is the logical result of the Democratic Party’s new, progressive algorithm—a set of strict social rules that drives politics and the culture to one point of view. A Clinton victory would enable and entrench the forces her comment represents.

Her supporters say it’s Donald Trump’s rhetoric that is “divisive.” Just so. But it’s rich to hear them claim that their words and politics are “inclusive.” So is the town dump. They have chopped American society into so many offendable identities that only a Yale freshman can name them all.

If the Democrats lose behind Hillary Clinton, it will be in part because America’s les déplorables decided enough of this is enough.

The long-running tragic saga of ITT Education Services, which was established nearly 50 ago and operates the ITT Technical Institutes for-profit college chain, finally came to a end this morning with both a bang and a whimper, when it announced that it is shutting down effective immediately, leaving the fate of 40,000 students currently enrolled in limbo, and some 8,000 workers without a job.

The company said the closure is due to an investigation and sanctions by the U.S. Department of Education.

“It is with profound regret that we must report that ITT Educational Services, Inc. will discontinue academic operations at all of its ITT Technical Institutes permanently after approximately 50 years of continuous service,” the company stated Tuesday. “Effective today, the company has eliminated the positions of the overwhelming majority of our more than 8,000 employees.”

As previously reported,  ITT Tech stopped enrolling new students on August 29, just a few days after it was cut off from a significant amount of federal funding by the government. ITT’s collapse was catalyzed when the Department of Education effectively killed the company two weeks ago, when it told the company on August 25 that it couldn’t enroll new students who use federal financial aid. The school accused federal officials of forcing the closure and denying it due process. The company has been the subject of state and federal probes for various reasons, including its recruitment tactics, lending practices and job placement figures.

Among the measures imposed, ITT was been ordered to pay $152 million to the department within 30 days to cover student refunds and other liabilities in case the company closes. The chain, based in Indiana, is still paying another $44 million demanded by the department in June for the same reason.

In order to have access to federal student loans, schools need to be accredited by a government-recognized accrediting agency. ITT Educational Services was found to be out of compliance with its accreditor’s standards twice this year, according to the Department of Education. Needless to say, for-profit schools tend to rely heavily on federal student aid.

The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools recently asked the company for proof of why its accreditation should not be withdrawn or suspended.

ITT’s death, while sudden, should not come as a surprise: enrollment has been slipping for a while. In July, the company reported its new student enrollment dropped almost 22% from the same period the year before.

Meanwhile, the roughly 40,000 students currently enrolled now find themselves in limbo: when a school closes its doors, it can leave its students stuck without a degree and massive student loans. ITT”s collapse is reminiscent of Corinthian Colleges, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May of 2015 in the wake of alleged predatory lending practices and accusations of inflated job placement numbers, leaving about 16,000 students stuck without a degree, and thousands more with huge debts. Some students were eventually able to receive debt relief.

Cited by PIX11, the Department of Education has said that ITT Educational Services’ students could be eligible for a closed school loan discharge, however that process may take years to complete, meanwhile the prospect of earning a college diploma, even if from a novelty school, has evaporated.

Enrollment in for-profit schools increased in the years following the recession when job growth was weak and people were looking to hone their skills or switch to more in-demand careers.

* * *

The full statement released by ITT is below:

ITT Educational Services, Inc. to Cease Operations at all ITT Technical Institutes Following Federal Actions

“It is with profound regret that we must report that ITT Educational Services, Inc. will discontinue academic operations at all of its ITT Technical Institutes permanently after approximately 50 years of continuous service. With what we believe is a complete disregard by the U.S. Department of Education for due process to the company, hundreds of thousands of current students and alumni and more than 8,000 employees will be negatively affected.

The actions of and sanctions from the U.S. Department of Education have forced us to cease operations of the ITT Technical Institutes, and we will not be offering our September quarter. We reached this decision only after having exhausted the exploration of alternatives, including transfer of the schools to a non-profit or public institution.

Effective today, the company has eliminated the positions of the overwhelming majority of our more than 8,000 employees. Our focus and priority with our remaining staff is on helping the tens of thousands of unexpectedly displaced students with their records and future educational options.

This action of our federal regulator to increase our surety requirement to 40 percent of our Title IV federal funding and place our schools under “Heightened Cash Monitoring Level 2,” forced us to conclude that we can no longer continue to operate our ITT Tech campuses and provide our students with the quality education they expect and deserve.

For more than half a century, ITT Tech has helped hundreds of thousands of non-traditional and underserved students improve their lives through career-focused technical education. Thousands of employers have relied on our institutions for skilled workers in high-demand fields. We have been a mainstay in more than 130 communities that we served nationwide, as well as an engine of economic activity and a positive innovator in the higher-education sector.

This federal action will also disrupt the lives of thousands of hardworking ITT Tech employees and their families. More than 8,000 ITT Tech employees are now without a job – employees who exhibited the utmost dedication in serving our students.

We have always carefully managed expenses to align with our enrollments. We had no intention prior to the receipt of the most recent sanctions of closing down despite the challenging regulatory environment that now threatens all proprietary higher education. We have also always worked tirelessly to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, and to uphold our ethic of continuous improvement. When we have received inquiries from regulators, we have always been responsive and cooperative. Despite our ongoing service to this nation’s employers, local communities and underserved students, these federal actions will result in the closure of the ITT Technical Institutes without any opportunity to pursue our right to due process.

These unwarranted actions, taken without proving a single allegation, are a “lawless execution,” as noted by a recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal. We were not provided with a hearing or an appeal. Alternatives that we strongly believe would have better served students, employees, and taxpayers were rejected. The damage done to our students and employees, as well as to our shareholders and the American taxpayers, is irrevocable.

We believe the government’s action was inappropriate and unconstitutional, however, with the ITT Technical Institutes ceasing operations, it will now likely rest on other parties to understand these reprehensible actions and to take action to attempt to prevent this from happening again.”

A survey by the Wall Street Journal shows  ‘Soft Skills’ Like Critical Thinking in Short Supply.

The sought-after soft skills most in demand are communication, organization, teamwork, punctuality, critical thinking, social savvy, creativity and adaptability.

 The job market’s most sought-after skills can be tough to spot on a résumé.

Companies across the U.S. say it is becoming increasingly difficult to find applicants who can communicate clearly, take initiative, problem-solve and get along with co-workers.

A recent LinkedIn survey of 291 hiring managers found 58% say the lack of soft skills among job candidates is limiting their company’s productivity.

In a Wall Street Journal survey of nearly 900 executives last year, 92% said soft skills were equally important or more important than technical skills. But 89% said they have a very or somewhat difficult time finding people with the requisite attributes. Many say it’s a problem spanning age groups and experience levels.

A LinkedIn analysis of its member profiles found soft skills are most prevalent among workers in the service sector, including restaurant, consumer-services, professional-training and retail industries.

To determine the most sought-after soft skills, LinkedIn analyzed those listed on the profiles of members who applied for two or more jobs and changed jobs between June 2014 and June 2015. The ability to communicate trumped all else, followed by organization, capacity for teamwork, punctuality, critical thinking, social savvy, creativity and adaptability.

At Two Bostons, a small chain of pet boutiques outside Chicago, owner AdreAnne Tesene conducts at least three rounds of interviews before she hires someone.

For higher-level positions, she invites job candidates and their significant others out to dinner with the rest of the management team, “so we can see how they treat their family.” She also has her employees fill out an evaluation of a new co-worker after 90 days.

Ms. Tesene, who opened her first store 11 years ago, said she sees fewer candidates who can hold a conversation, want to interact with people and are eager to excel.

Dare to Be Different?

Outside of communication and punctuality, I wonder how many companies really want what they say. Large technology firms like Google and Apple do. So might small startups.

What about banks?

For most bank positions, the last thing banks want is for someone to think for themselves. There are rules for everything.

Group Think

Critical thinking was 5th on the list. How many companies really want just that? One way to find out is to express opinions different that the one your boss has.

Want to work on a government sponsored global warming project? If so, you better not have be open to the idea that man-made global warming is a theory and not a fact.

Want to replace Ben Bernanke or Janet Yellen when they retire? If so, you better think just like them.

When your job depends on believing idiocy, you believe idiocy. You won’t get hired in the first place if you don’t.

Regardless of what they say, most companies really want punctual robots, not creative thinkers.

No one will care if robots are “socially savvy” as long as they do not make blatantly obvious mistakes.

What About Unions?

Public unions are the worst of all.

Union leaders expect union members to be paid on the basis of how long they have been on the job, not how well they do the job.

Not even communication skills matter, once someone is hired in the first place.

Short Supply or Lack of Demand?

If critical thinking is in short supply, it’s for one reason only: Lack of genuine demand.

Unions permeate the “thinking not necessary” culture, so do something for nothing beliefs at the Fed. So does Obama, and so do Democrats in general with counterproductive government handouts.

In general, critical thinking is so unwanted. It’s fully functional robots that are truly in short supply.

For the self-described “most transparent administration ever” it appears keeping the lies straight is becoming harder and harder. Having slammed the press, Donald Trump, and anyone who dare mention the “lack of logic” in paying a $400 million ransom for 4 Iran hostages, WSJ reports that Treasury officials have confirmed that Obama lied and in fact, the tightly scripted exchange of cash was specifically timed to the release of several American prisoners held in Iran. Trump was right again.

As a reminder, The Hill reported that, President Obama chastised the press for their coverage of the payment, noting that the deal with Iran was announced months ago as part of a larger diplomatic settlement.

 “This wasn’t some nefarious deal,” Obama said.

“It’s been interesting to watch this story surface,” the president said. “Some of you may recall, we announced these payments in January. Many months ago. There wasn’t a secret, we announced them to all of you.”

“What we have is the manufacturing of outrage on a story that we disclosed in January,” he added later.

“The notion that we would somehow start now in this high-profile way, and announce it to the world, even as we’re looking in the faces of other families whose loved ones are being held hostage and say to them, ‘we don’t pay ransom,’ defies logic,” Obama said.

Defies logic indeed – because having slammed the press for suggesting this was a “ransom payment,” we discover that is exactly what The Justice Department warned

In his remarks, the president didn’t mention the objections raised by his own appointees within the Justice Department, where, according to people familiar with the discussions, many officials raised alarms that the timing of the cash payment would look like ransom. (via WSJ)

  The head of the national security division at the Justice Department was among the agency’s senior officials who objected to paying Iran hundreds of millions of dollars in cash at the same time that Tehran was releasing American prisoners, according to people familiar with the discussions. John Carlin, a Senate-confirmed administration appointee, raised concerns when the State Department notified Justice officials of its plan to deliver to Iran a planeful of cash, saying it would be viewed as a ransom payment, these people said. A number of other high-ranking Justice officials voiced similar concerns as the negotiations proceeded, they said.

The U.S. paid Iran $400 million in cash on Jan. 17 as part of a larger $1.7 billion settlement of a failed 1979 arms deal between the U.S. and Iran that was announced that day. Also on that day, Iran released four detained Americans in exchange for the U.S.’s releasing from prison—or dropping charges against—Iranians charged with violating sanctions laws. U.S. officials have said the swap was agreed upon in separate talks.

The objection of senior Justice Department officials was that Iranian officials were likely to view the $400 million payment as ransom, thereby undercutting a longstanding U.S. policy that the government doesn’t pay ransom for American hostages, these people said. The policy is based on a concern that paying ransom could encourage more Americans to become targets for hostage-takers.

Of course, the denials kept on coming from The White House. However, as The Wall Street Journal now reports, new details of the $400 million U.S. payment to Iran earlier this year depict a tightly scripted exchange specifically timed to the release of several American prisoners held in Iran, based on accounts from U.S. officials and others briefed on the operation

 U.S. officials wouldn’t let Iranians take control of the money until a Swiss Air Force plane carrying three freed Americans departed from Tehran on Jan. 17, the officials said.

Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash back from a Geneva airport that day, according to the accounts.

President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials have said the payment didn’t amount to ransom, because the money was owed by the U.S. to Iran as part of a longstanding dispute linked to a failed arms deal from the 1970s. U.S. officials have said that the prisoner release and cash transfer took place through two separate diplomatic channels.

But the handling of the payment and its connection to the release of the Americans have raised questions among lawmakers and administration critics.

One of the Americans released in January as part of the prisoner exchange, a Catholic pastor named Saeed Abedini, said he and other American prisoners were kept waiting at Mehrabad airport for more than 20 hours from Jan. 16 to the morning of Jan. 17.

He said in an interview that he was told by a senior Iranian intelligence official at the time that their departure was contingent upon the movements of a second airplane.

Just as Trump had suggested (before oddly retracting his suggestion), the exchange did take place and as the BBC reported. a video did indeed exist of the events, referring to a documentary called “The Rules of the Game” which was broadcast on Iranian state TV in February. In the clip, one can see shots of an airport are accompanied by commentary which references 17 January in Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport.

Specifically, the video shows a loaded crate, partially blurred out, which allegedly shows the money in question.

 

And another version:

“Early hours of 17 January 2016, Mehrabad Airport (Tehran), $400m cash was transported to Iran by an airplane.

“A little bit later, part of the interest money was also paid to Iran, and the US government made a commitment to pay the rest of Iran’s money.”

While it is not clear if this is intended to be a literal description or whether the shots are just general views of the airport.

The video is shown below, and the pettets of cash appear at the 11:00 mark.

 It is unclear where Donald Trump might have caught the clip of the video, and whether or not the cash disclosed is what Iran claims it is (in light of the WSJ revelations it is very likely that this is indeed the alleged payment in question) but the footage was widely discussed several months ago when the hostages were released.  The Iranian TV ran it with a title “The Rules of The Game.” It was released on BBC TV during a segment discussing the release of the prisoners.In other words, it did exist.  

*  *  *

So to summarize – Obama lied; the administration did indeed make a $400 million in exchange for the release of four hostages (if it walks like a ransom, and talks like a ransom, it is a ransom), and Trump was right.

Finally, this is far from over, as The Wall Street Journal concludes, Republican lawmakers have charged that the $400 million payment equated to a ransom paid by the White House to gain the release of the Americans.

 Republican leaders said they are preparing to hold hearings on the $400 million transfer once Congress returns from its summer break in September. Rep. Sean Duffy (R., Wis.), chairman of a House investigative body, sent letters to the Justice and Treasury Departments, as well as the Federal Reserve, on Aug. 10 requesting all records related to the Iran exchange.

Mr. Duffy asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to identify all “persons within the Department authorizing or otherwise taking steps to carry out the payment.”

Obama administration officials have confirmed that they have paid the remaining $1.3 billion to Iran as part of the settlement reached in January on the failed arms deal. This marked the interest accrued over the past 37 years on the original $400 million paid by Iran. U.S. officials, however, have refused to disclose how the Obama administration made this additional payment. Lawmakers are seeking to determine whether this money was also paid in cash or if the Treasury Department was able to wire it electronically.

 Political pundits throughout the land are tripping over each other to compose the latest bland, uninsightful screed proclaiming the death of the Republican Party. This makes sense, because the primary purpose of a political pundit is to state the obvious years after it’s already become established fact to everyone actually paying attention.

 

Yes, of course, Trump winning the GOP nomination marks the end of the party as we know it. After all, some neocons are already publicly and actively throwing their support behind Hillary. While this undoubtably represents a major turning point in U.S. political history, many pundits have yet to appreciate that the exact same thing is happening within the Democratic Party. It’s just not completely obvious yet.

 

– From February’s post: It’s Not Just the GOP – The Democratic Party is Also Imploding

I believe Hillary Clinton lost the Presidency this past week. While the explosive DNC leaks will undoubtably have a long lasting effect, this post will barely reference the leaks. Rather, it will explain how recent decisions by the Hillary campaign played right into Trump’s hands by essentially waving a gigantic middle finger to the 73% of Americans who think the country is headed in the wrong direction.

What Hillary Clinton did in selecting Tim Kaine as VP was send a clear signal that not only is she the status quo candidate, she is proud of it. She didn’t just double down on being the establishment candidate, she tripled and quadrupled down. There is now no denying that Hillary Clinton is implicitly running on only two themes.

1. Trump is scary. I am not Trump.

 

2. Things aren’t really bad. I’ll continue along the path we’ve been on.

This message will result in a guaranteed loss against an opponent who is telling the American public “I know you’re angry, I’m angry too, and I’m going to blow up the status quo.” Recall that 73% of the U.S. public thinks the country is headed in the wrong direction. As the Wall Street Journal noted:

Some 73% in the new survey say things have gone off-course, with only 18% saying the nation is headed in the right direction.

 

 Numbers such as those are usually seen in times of national crisis, such as during the government shutdown of 2013, when only 14% said the nation was on-course, or during the 2008 financial crisis, when 11% said things were headed in the right direction.

In this post, I will prove that Hillary is signaling a “business as usual” approach to the status quo, and in return, the status quo is uniformly and excitedly rallying around her. This will disgust most Americans and lead to a Trump victory. People who dislike Trump more than Clinton will vote for him anyway, because they dislike the status quo even more.

So let’s take a look at Tim Kaine, starting with the topic of banks. Here are a few excerpts from a recent Huffington Post article titled, Tim Kaine Calls To Deregulate Banks As He Campaigns To Be Clinton’s VP:

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is on Hillary Clinton’s short list of potential vice presidential nominees. He’s also actively pushing bank deregulation this week as he campaigns for the job.

 

Kaine signed two letters on Monday urging federal regulators to go easy on banks ? one to help big banks dodge risk management rules, and another to help small banks avoid consumer protection standards.

 

As Kaine joins the deregulatory fight, several other lawmakers are pushing the CFPB in the opposite direction. On Wednesday, 28 senators sent a letter to the agency urging them to toughen up their new rule against abusive payday lending. Kaine didn’t sign it.

Moving along, what about the TPP, where does Mr. Kaine stand there?

Here’s a hint from the Intercept’s recent article, Hours Before Hillary Clinton’s VP Decision, Likely Pick Tim Kaine Praises the TPP:

Hillary Clinton’s rumored vice presidential pick Sen. Tim Kaine defended his vote for fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on Thursday.

 

Kaine, who spoke to The Intercept after an event at a Northern Virginia mosque, praised the agreement as an improvement of the status quo, but maintained that he had not yet decided how to vote on final approval of the agreement. By contrast, Hillary Clinton has qualified her previous encouragement of the agreement, and now says she opposes it.

 

Kaine’s measured praise of the agreement could signal one of two things. Either he is out of the running for the vice presidential spot, as his position on this major issue stands in opposition to hers. Or, by picking him, Clinton is signaling that her newly declared opposition to the agreement is not sincere. The latter explanation would confirm the theory offered by U.S. Chamber of Commerce head Tom Donohue, among others, who has said that Clinton is campaigning against the TPP for political reasons but would ultimately implement the deal.

Banking and fake free trade deals are two topics that get Americans animated across the ideological spectrum, and by selecting Tim Kaine, Hillary is not so subtly telling her donors not to pay attention to any anti-establishement rhetoric that may come out of her mouth during the campaign. She signaling that she knows the status quo has her back, and she has theirs.

Unsurprisingly, the oligarchs and their lobbyists who run the show and craft policies behind the scenes have gotten the message loud and clear. How can I be so certain? Let me give you a few examples.

First, let’s take a look at the extent to which lobbyists generally are embracing Clinton as opposed to shunning Trump. From The Hill:

Lobbyists are being welcomed back into the fold of the Democratic Party as the Obama era draws to a close.

 

President Obama campaigned heavily against special interests in 2008 and put in place several new policies limiting their service in his administration. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) banned lobbyist contributions, and lobbyists began complaining of a stigma — a “scarlet L” — being attached unfairly to their industry.

 

Times appear to be changing, though, with the outward hostility to the K Street crowd thawing.

 

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has accepted more than $9 million in bundled donations from registered lobbyists, while the DNC has rolled back the lobbyist bans that Obama put into place.

 

“In 2008 and 2012, there was no integration with the [Obama] campaign,” said Al Mottur, a senior Democratic lobbyist at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, adding that he would have liked to have helped. “Now, the campaign is welcoming — they’re open to us. That’s why I’ve done as much work for her as I’ve done on her behalf.”

 

Lobbyist bundlers have contributed to Clinton’s massive donor advantage over the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

 

Clinton’s bundler policy also gives lobbyists hope that she may reverse Obama’s policies, issued via executive order, that were intended to slow down what he called the “revolving door” between government and the private sector.

 

“There are a lot of people on K Street who certainly hope she would” reverse or ignore an executive order signed by Obama aimed at limiting registered lobbyists from getting jobs in the White House, said Mary Beth Stanton of Heather Podesta + Partners.

 

“With the anti-Washington sentiment of this campaign … it wouldn’t be something that would be discussed today,” she added. “That’s a staffing issue, and that’s not something that they’ll decide until they have to.”

In other words, we know she’ll have our back in office even if she has to pretend to dislike us to get elected.

 For 2016, the DNC reversed the prohibition on lobbyist cash entirely, both for the party and the convention, giving corporations and lobbyists the opportunity to participate fully.

Trump’s controversial campaign had a tangible effect on the Republican convention last week in Cleveland.

Many companies skipped the event and declined to make donations for fear of being associated with the businessman’s controversial rhetoric. Several Republican lobbyists who did come to Cleveland told The Hill that they would be taking care of business for clients and out as quickly as possible.

Clinton’s candidacy is also a draw for those on K Street, many of whom have been involved with the family for years.

“The community is supporting her, there is no question about that,” said David Castagnetti of Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas. His firm is also kicking off the convention with a party on Monday.

While disgusting, that’s nothing compared to the following excerpts from the Politico article titled, Wall Street Takes a Road Trip to Philadelphia. Brace yourselves…

 NEW YORK — Wall Street is taking the Acela down to Philadelphia this week.

Hordes of industry executives will descend on the city to celebrate Hillary Clinton’s nomination for president and renew close associations that vexed the Democratic standard-bearer throughout her primary battle with Bernie Sanders.

Goldman Sachs, which paid Clinton millions for private speeches, will be well represented in Philadelphia with executives Jake Siewert, a former Bill Clinton press secretary, making the trip along with Steven Barg, Michael Paese, Joyce Brayboy and Jennifer Scully, who was a major fundraiser for Bill Clinton in New York in 1992.

Blackstone, one of the nation’s largest private equity firms, will hold an official reception in Philadelphia on Thursday featuring its president, Tony James, sometimes mentioned as a possible Treasury Secretary in a Clinton administration. 

Recall: Here Come the Cronies – Buffett and Blackstone President Launch $33,400 a Plate Hillary Clinton Fundraiser

 Hedge fund managers and top Democratic donors including Avenue Capital’s Marc Lasry and Boston Provident’s Orin Kramer will also be on the scene as will Morgan Stanley executive and former top Clinton aide Tom Nides. Executives from Citigroup, JPMorganChase and other large banks will also prowl the streets and bar rooms of Philadelphia.

The financial contingent will be in an especially good mood following Clinton’s selection of Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. Kaine has shown a willingness to fight for regional bank relief from the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. But more than that, he’s not Elizabeth Warren, the potential VP pick that long had Wall Street terrified.

Republicans with ties to the financial industry will also be there, a sharp contrast to Donald Trump’s convention in Cleveland, which Wall Street largely shunned over fears of the GOP nominee’s populist agenda on trade, immigration and Wall Street reform.

The banker anxiety only grew during Trump’s convention as the party rolled out a platform plank calling for the re-imposition of a Depression-era Glass-Steagall law that could force banks to break up into smaller pieces. 

See: GOP Includes Reinstatement of Glass-Steagall Into Party Platform

 Wall Street groaned as Clinton moved to the left during the primary —especially on trade — but the industry remains far more comfortable with the idea of another President Clinton in the White House than a President Trump.

“I think she has shown perhaps ironically that she has a better understanding of business and Wall Street than Donald Trump does,” said Steve Rattner, an investment banker and Democratic donor who will make the short Acela ride down to Philly. “The GOP platform includes reinstating Glass-Steagall. And when you watched that [Trump acceptance] speech, Bernie Sanders could have given half of it. Putting partisanship aside, most of my Republican business friends are appalled at the thought of Donald Trump in the White House.” 

What braindead Rattner fails to understand is the majority of the American public despise him and his crony “business friends,” and will actively vote to keep them as far away from power as possible.

 So while the Clinton camp won’t boast about it given the continuing unpopularity of Wall Street and the populist tilt of the electorate, the City of Brotherly Love will be the City of Banker Love this week. The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for a comment.

Trump is likely to try to continue to exploit Clinton’s connections to the banking industry. On Saturday following the Kaine selection, Trump Tweeted: “Tim Kaine is, and always has been, owned by the banks. Bernie supporters are outraged, was their last choice. Bernie fought for nothing!”

“Wall Street doesn’t really side with a party based only on where regulation is going. We live in an environment where we know there is regulation and that we are under scrutiny,” said Robert Wolf, an investment banker and major Democratic fundraiser who will be in Philadelphia. “The bottom line is that if the economy does better, finance does better and everyone does better.”

Clinton has not showed Sanders’ ability to tap into a massive grassroots network of small donors and remains reliant on Wall Street cash to fund her campaign, making it difficult for her to shun bankers at her convention.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Clinton and outside groups supporting her have raised $375 million so far in the 2016 cycle. The securities and investment industry is one of her top sources of cash, donating $40 million to her cause so far, according to the CRP.

But in the background, the “Rubin wing” of the Democratic Party, named for Wall Street executive and former Bill Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, will be circulating through panel discussions, Democratic party committee events and cocktail parties.

Larry Summers, a Harvard professor and former Rubin protégé who also served as Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton, will take part in a POLITICO discussion on the economy on Wednesday along with Neera Tanden, a close Hillary Clinton adviser and president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, a think-tank some on the left now view as too centrist.

Make no mistake about it, if you think the Obama administration represents a bunch of oligarch-coddling banker puppets, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

But there’s more. Incredibly, the DNC has decided it would be wise to have billionaire New York City oligarch, Michael Bloomberg, speak at the convention. This is a man with extraordinarily deep ties to big finance, a  man who was a fierce proponent of “stop and frisk” while mayor of NYC, and the biggest Wall Street apologist alive. Yet this is the man Hillary Clinton’s team is parading out as some sort of hero.

As Bloomberg itself reports:

 Michael Bloomberg will endorse Hillary Clinton in a prime-time speech at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, a timely boost as the candidate prepares to accept her party’s nomination for president.

“As the nation’s leading independent and a pragmatic business leader Mike has supported candidates from both sides of the aisle,” said Howard Wolfson, an adviser to Bloomberg and a former spokesman for Clinton’s 2008 campaign. “This week in Philadelphia he will make a strong case that the clear choice in this election is Hillary Clinton.”

Of course Bloomberg has supported Republicans and Democrats. That’s what oligarchs do.

 The endorsement from the former mayor of New York City could resonate with swing voters and Republicans who haven’t warmed to their party’s nominee, Donald Trump.

“Given her demographic targets, Bloomberg is good get for @HillaryClinton,” David Axelrod, chief strategist for Barack Obama’s two successful presidential campaigns, said on Twitter.

The above paragraphs demonstrate perfectly just how mired in a bubble of corruption and cluelessness these people really are. Despite Trump winning the Republican nomination, despite him now leading Hillary in the polls, they still don’t get it. The idea that Wall Street cheerleader and billionaire oligarch Michael Bloomberg has any appeal to the 73% of Americans who think the country is headed in the wrong direction is absolutely preposterous.

But the cluelessness extends to those who are not merely Hillary Clinton sycophants. For example, take this excerpt from a recent post by Robert Reich, who fiercely supported Bernie Sanders in the primary:

 This week’s essay: Does Hillary Get It?

Does Hillary Clinton understand that the biggest divide in American politics is no longer between the right and the left, but between the anti-establishment and the establishment?

I worry she doesn’t – at least not yet.

I’m sorry Robert, but could you possibly be more delusional? How can you think someone who doesn’t understand the above at this point in time is qualified to be President.

Then, later on in the post, he makes the following suggestion:

 Hillary Clinton doesn’t need to move toward the “middle.” In fact, such a move could hurt her if it’s perceived to be compromising the stances she took in the primaries in order to be more acceptable to Democratic movers and shakers.

She needs to move instead toward the anti-establishment – forcefully committing herself to getting big money out of politics, and making the system work for the many rather than a privileged few.

Here was my Twitter response to this absurd notion:

Meanwhile, it’s time to admit that a material percentage of Bernie Sanders supporters will not be rallying behind Clinton. A combination of her choice of Tim Kaine as VP, and the DNC leaks, virtually guarantee that this will not happen.

Indeed, I thought the following paragraph from a Wall Street Journal article summed it up perfectly:

 But at the pro-Sanders rally, attendees were more than eager to list the reasons that Mrs. Clinton deserved to be incarcerated. At least once during a four-mile march from City Hall to Roosevelt Park, rallygoers began loudly chanting “Lock her up!” — the same chant heard on the floor of the RNC.

Interestingly, it appears the only thing an extremely polarized American public actually agrees on is that Hillary Clinton should be locked up.

Going forward, I fully expect Hillary to get a bump after Obama speaks at the DNC convention later this week. Moreover, with a guy as volatile and disliked as Trump as her opponent, there will be many ups and downs in the months ahead. Nevertheless, I think Hillary Clinton lost both the momentum and the election this past week, never to fully recover.