Saturday, September 30, 2017

Sanders's Bill Electrifies Growing Single-Payer Movement

Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders hold signs during an event on health care September 13, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Sen. Sanders held an event to introduce the Medicare for All Act of 2017. (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

No amount of economic legerdemain will ever successfully rationalize turning over an administrative monopoly clearly the natural duty of the government, to an insurance industry.  To start with they cannot deliver a cost effective product ever and a special tier of profit as well.  Just how many times do we need to see this proven?
That every other country has opted for single payer should spell it out.
Yet here we are finally seeing such a program been pushed out now.  They need to get the votes so that trump can step into it and see it through.  I am sure that Trump understands all this and has been merely biding his time all the way allowing the garbage to fail.

Sanders's Bill Electrifies Growing Single-Payer Movement

Thursday, September 14, 2017 By Michael Corcoran, Truthout | Report 
Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders hold signs on September 13, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, at an event held by Sanders to introduce the Medicare for All Act of 2017. (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

This piece is part of Fighting for Our Lives: The Movement for Medicare for All, a Truthout original series.

"It's been the summer of single-payer" -- RoseAnn DeMoro

The release of Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All Act has injected a remarkable jolt of energy into a movement for health care justice that was already on the ascent.

"The grassroots are more than ready to organize around this bill. It could not have come out at a better time, said Michael Lighty, public policy director of the California-based National Nurses United, in an interview with Truthout. "The growing momentum for the policy is really due to two things. First is that we have always known single-payer is the better policy. But now the politics are really changing.... With the momentum on the ground, this cannot be stopped."

Just the anticipation of the bill sparked a wave of energy for advocates of Medicare for All, a policy that Sanders' presidential campaign helped elevate into the national discussion. As a result, Sanders' bill arrives at a time when the movement stands ready to organize around Medicare for All with vigor. In the days and weeks leading up to release of the bill, organizers and constituents were already working tirelessly to influence their senators. This grassroots pressure led to a stunning 15 co-sponsors already on board in the Senate, surpassing the most optimistic expectations of advocates. Organizers are aware that there are formidable opponents to deal with but say they are ready for the fight.

This momentum was apparent long before yesterday. A similar (not identical) bill in the House, HR 676, which has been in Congress since 2003 now has a record 117 cosponsors. The GOP efforts to destroy Medicaid and repeal Obamacare have united health care activists across the country, galvanizing the fight for single-payer.

Political campaigns, protests and civil disobedience have often centered around Medicare for All, reflecting the fact that 25 percent of the country views health care as, according to a Monmouth poll, the "top concern for American families."

The public sentiment is clear. Nearly 60 percent of Americans, 80 percent of Democrats and even a plurality of Republicans support Medicare for All, according to an Economist/YouGov poll, This is not an outlier; polls have consistently shown a majority of support for the policy for more than a decade. Not even the dominant corporate media -- which for years have been dismissive of the policy -- can ignore the issue anymore, as both the New York Times and Washington Post have run articles about the growing momentum for single-payer.

Trickle-Up Effect: How Grassroots Support Has Penetrated the Establishment

Leading up to the bill's release, there was much anticipation over who, if anyone, would co-sponsor the legislation. Sanders introduced a similar bill in 2013 but could not garner a single co-sponsor. But much has changed since then. Today, Sanders is the country's most popular politician whose large and loyal base of supporters cannot be taken lightly by Democrats. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris (both the subject of much speculation as possible presidential contenders in 2020) announced their intention to co-sponsor the legislation long before it was released. By Tuesday Al Franken, Tammy Baldwin, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Sheldon Whitehouse and Jeff Merkley were on board. The number escalated to 15 by Wednesday morning.

Even some senators who have not co-sponsored the bill have started to show a new, if guarded, interest in the policy. Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has suggested the party should "be open" to the issue. Even red-state senators facing re-election have been considering the idea. Jon Tester of Montana suggested the policy should be discussed at a hearing on Monday. Joe Manchin of West Virginia played both sides, saying on Tuesday that he is "open" to the policy but later adding that he is also "skeptical." Even these tepid reactions are surprising given that both were among the four Democrats to oppose the GOP's Medicare for All amendment aimed at dividing Democrats during the ACA repeal session.

While 15 co-sponsors may not sound like a big number in a vacuum, given the single-payer blackout in Washington for the last 20 years, it is a considerable sign of progress. In 2009 Democrats could not even rally enough support to pass a small, mostly toothless public option, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) ruled would have "minimal effects" on access and cost. Now, the public option has become the default response of Democratic single-payer skeptics, like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (who is increasingly frustrating progressives) and Tim Kaine, who may well be trying to carve out a Third Way, centrist path toward the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. The most likely progressive presidential contenders (Harris, Warren, Booker, Sanders), however, are publicly on board.

"It's looking increasingly likely that supporting single-payer health care will be the standard for Democratic lawmakers who want to be considered serious 2020 candidates," wrote Addy Baird in a blog post for the Center for American Progress, which has received funding from the for-profit health industry. Such a statement would've been inconceivable just a couple of years ago.

"It seems every day a new, major voice is coming out in favor of single-payer: Jimmy Carter, Elizabeth Warren, Al Gore, Jimmy Buffet," said Ida Hellander, who spent 25 years at Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), in an interview with Truthout. "Bernie Sanders deserves a lot of credit. His campaign gave this issue a lot of attention."

Max Baucus's Flip Reflects ACA's Limited Utility

The most unlikely display of support for Medicare for All may have come from former Montana Senator Max Baucus, who retired from the body in 2014. In 2009, as chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, the Montana senator would not even discuss the merits of such a policy as he led the committee process for what would become the Affordable Care Act (ACA). His dismissal of single-payer sparked outrage among activists, notably the Baucus 8, who were arrested while protesting his decision.

On Thursday, however, Baucus stunned many when, according to the Bozeman Chronicle, he said "my personal view is we've got to start looking at single-payer.... We're getting there. It's going to happen."

Baucus's change of heart is noteworthy for several reasons. First, it speaks to the limited utility of the ACA. Obamacare, as it is known, has improved access to health care considerably; the number of uninsured has gone down to about 28 million from nearly 50 million. The law, however, preserved the commodification of health care and does not control the exploding costs of care, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which forecast health spending to grow to nearly 20 percent of GDP by 2020.

"I think what Baucus and others have come to see is that the Affordable Care Act has taken us as far as it can go," said former health insurance executive-turned whistleblower, Wendell Potter, in an interview with Truthout. "The trend of increased support is not like anything I can recall in the recent past."

Also of note are the circumstances under which Baucus announced his support of the policy. Baucus refused to even engage single-payer advocates in 2009, back when he was still in the Senate and -- like most of his colleagues in both parties -- received large donations from the drug and insurance industries. In fact, as the Montana Standard reported, just months before the ACA's passage, the industry accounted for 25 percent of Baucus's fundraising, "more than any other member of Congress." It is a telling indicator of the pervasive role of money in politics that now that Baucus is free from the need to fill his campaign coffers with corporate money, he is willing to speak out in favor of the policy.

Building Support for the Bill at the Grassroots Level

If the Medicare for All Act of 2017 became law, within four years all Americans would receive a "Universal Medicare card" that would be a ticket to comprehensive health care services: hospital stays, primary care, substance abuse and mental health treatment, dental and vision. Reproductive care would also be included, as the law would repeal the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding of abortion.

But in the lead-up to the bill's introduction, there were concerns about what would end up in the final legislation. Some reports suggested the Medicare for All bill would fall well short of expectations, while others argued that Sanders would abandon Medicare for All entirely and put all his energy behind a public option (he still speaks favorably of such incremental steps). Others expressed concern that the bill might include co-pays and cost sharing, which have been shown to cause even insured patients to defer much-needed care due to financial barriers.

Margaret Flowers, a board member for Physicians for a National Health Program, initially told Truthout that there were concerns that Sanders would "include co-payments for people who earn over 199 percent of the Federal Poverty Level," which would cause "greater administrative complexity" and "cause people to delay or avoid necessary care." Several organizers, however, told Truthout that Sanders' staff later informed advocates that cost sharing would not be in the final bill. After these assurances, these activists were more enthusiastic about the effort.

"After meeting with Senator Sanders' staff, we felt more reassured that his intention is to ultimately create a strong National Improved Medicare for All system," wrote Flowers and fellow advocate Kevin Zeese on Health Over Profit about their meeting, which took place about a week ago. "[Sanders] is seriously trying to figure out how to transform health care from being a profit center for big business to being a public good that serves the people.''

Indeed, the bill includes no co-pays or deductibles, although the bill does give the Health and Human Services secretary the ability to impose co-pays for prescription drugs to incentivize the use of generic drugs. "PNHP applauds Sen. Sanders and the thousands of grassroots advocates whose tireless advocacy has pushed single payer to the forefront of the national debate on health care," said Claudia Fegan, PNHP's national coordinator, in a statement. "We look forward to working with Sen. Sanders to strengthen and advocate for this bill."

Now there appears to be a wide consensus in support of the bill from the single-payer community. The national advocacy organization Healthcare-NOW has rallied the public to pressure senators all week. Medical providers are also playing a central role. Physicians for a National Health Program has been organizing for 30 years and has produced some of the field's seminal research. Nurses, who are the most trusted workers in the country, are also among the most enthusiastic supporters of Sanders's plan. Groups like the California Nurses Association, the Massachusetts Nurses Association and National Nurses United, for instance, are pouring considerable time and, often, resources into the reforms on both the state and federal level.

Jessica Early, a nurse practitioner and health care justice organizer for the Vermont-based group Rights and Democracy, told Truthout the "Medicare-for-All Act of 2017 puts forward an alternative vision [and] will have a profound positive impact on the lives of my patients."

Early emphasized that single-payer health care is a positive step that is absolutely necessary for her patients and others across the country.

"The health care fight is not over until we finally build a publicly funded universal health care system that puts patients ahead of private profits," she said.

Preparing for the Illusion of Grassroots Opposition

Meanwhile, the for-profit health industry is watching the push to make it irrelevant (save for possible supplemental insurance). "A single-payer reform would end insurers' role in the health care system, essentially wiping out their entire business," said David Himmelstein, a lecturer at Harvard and co-founder of PNHP, in an interview with Truthout.

The industry will respond in kind, predicts Potter, who has firsthand knowledge of the industry's methods. Chief among its strategies, he tells Truthout, is to create the illusion that the opposition to such reforms is not coming from the industry itself but from so-called patient-centered groups that it funds, as well as through allies like the Chamber of Commerce.

One popular trick is the creation of "Astroturf groups," often administered by public relations firms, which are designed to appear as organic groups devoted to patients, when in fact, they are directly funded by the industry. Potter helped to engineer this type of Astroturf initiative in 2007, when Michael Moore released the film Sicko, which made a strong critique against the US health system, in favor of a public health system. Potter later apologized to Moore for his role in this process.

This is just one of many techniques the industry and right-wing groups deploy to resist progressive measures. The industry and their allies have a vast network of think tanks and organizations that are well-funded and aggressive in their opposition to single-payer.

One such group is the Koch-funded State Policy Network, which the Center for Media and Democracy describes as an "$83 million right-wing empire." The State Policy Network has organizations in nearly every state that can react quickly -- and with resources -- to counter any policy they don't like across the country. Other opponents, such as the American Medical Association, Third Way Democrats and right-wing think tanks and media, will also be militant in their opposition to the single-payer bill.

Opponents' main talking points will include the tax increases that are required to finance a Medicare for All system; they argue it is therefore unaffordable. But, experts point out, this is misleading; one of the biggest benefits of single-payer is its cost efficiency. For instance, in Canada, which has a system very much like the Sanders plan, per capita health-care spending is $4,445, while the country spends 11.4 percent of its GDP on health care and insures everyone. Meanwhile, the United States spends $8,223 per person on health care annually, spends 18 percent of its GDP on health care and leaves nearly 30 million uninsured.

Similar disparities exist between the United States and every other nation in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) -- all 33 of which have public, universal health care systems. The United States is the lone member of the OECD without universal coverage. As of 2012, the average OECD country spends $3,268 per capita on health care and 9.5 percent of its GDP on health expenses, or about half of what the US spends.

Among the chief culprits for the misleading claim about costs was Hillary Clinton, who repeatedly used her air time to spread this right-wing falsehood when facing Sanders in the presidential primary. "It is really tragic. She had billions in free air time that our organizations could never afford to pay for, and instead of using it to speak out in favor of single-payer, she lied about it and smeared it," Hellander told Truthout.

Medicare for All's Moment

Given the bottomless pockets of the industry and its sophisticated misinformation techniques, there is a tough fight ahead for Medicare for All. Nonetheless, this has been one of the most important weeks in the history of the universal health care struggle.

Indeed, one must go back to 1971 to see a single-payer bill with any momentum proposed in the Senate. This was when Ted Kennedy introduced the National Health Security Act, which proposed a "straight national health system," as a CBS new broadcast reported at the time. To counter this, Richard Nixon proposed a system -- almost identical to the Affordable Care Act -- that would rely on the private sector and fail to provide universal care.

With 15 co-sponsors, Sanders' bill cannot be labeled as just an organizing tool. It is also a potential template for a transition to a humane health care system that leaves nobody behind. To accomplish this, of course, the public must stay engaged, pressure existing members of Congress and elect advocates of single-payer to Congress and to the presidency. But the fight is no longer just a conceptual one. Things are getting real for the health care justice movement.

Sanders clearly played an important role in this major step. But it is crucial to note that the resurgence of a single-payer movement is, at its root, the product of the tireless work of activists, organizers and educators who never ceased their efforts, even when the Democratic Party would only shun them.

"Yes, the lead taken by Sen. Bernie Sanders certainly has helped to spark the movement. But it is not Bernie Sanders alone who is bringing other politicians on board," said PNHP's Don McCanne. "The people lead, politicians follow, and that is not a phenomenon limited to the Democratic Party. So, gather the grassroots together and lead. Be there, bring others, and do it."

This is the strategy organizers are employing, trusting that this work -- and Sanders's bill -- is the product of a movement whose time has finally come.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Michael Corcoran

Michael Corcoran is a journalist based in Boston. He has written for The Boston Globe, The Nation, The Christian Science Monitor, Extra!, NACLA Report on the Americas and other publications. Follow him on Twitter: @mcorcoran3.

Jamie Dimon's 13 Billion Secret

Any vaguely capable underwriter knew what was going on.  Yet it was a gold rush.  All the safeguards had been compromised and the clients had not gotten wise.  So make as much now and hope you can stick the bill to the government when it does collapse.

Which is what happened.  The folks in the government have never taken full revenge.  I cannot believe that they do not know as the leaders all worked across the street.  again the loop is closed.

In my opinion, the too big to fail crowd need to be outright nationalized in order to progressively calve off much smaller competitive banking organizations. This also allows the massive investment made by government to be recognized and liquidated as well..


Four years ago, JPMorgan Chase reached a then-record settlement with the Department of Justice after, among other things, the bank received a copy of a U.S. attorney’s draft complaint documenting its alleged role in underwriting fraudulent securities in the years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. Following the bank’s $13 billion financial agreement, the draft complaint was never filed. Then the bank paid another settlement to prevent a separate legal case from potentially unearthing it. The contents of the draft complaint have long been a financial-crisis mystery, a Great White Whale of a document. At least until now.


SEPTEMBER 6, 2017 2:54 PM

In November 2013, JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank, agreed to pay a then-record $13 billion fine to federal and state authorities in order to settle claims that it had misled investors in the years leading up to the financial crisis. JPMorgan Chase’s settlement raised many eyebrows on Wall Street. The huge settlement appeared inconsistent with the oft-repeated narrative of the bank’s heroism during the crisis. JPMorgan Chase and its C.E.O., Jamie Dimon, after all, were appropriately lauded for swooping in to save both Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, acts of financial patriotism that certainly helped prevent the U.S. economy from further doubling over upon itself.

But people wondered why one of Wall Street’s ostensible white knights would pay $13 billion—$9 billion of its shareholders’ cash, plus another $4 billion in mortgage relief—in a government case. During a conference call on the morning that the settlement was announced, Mike Mayo, a veteran Wall Street analyst, asked Dimon and bank C.F.O. Marianne Lake the question that appeared to be on the minds of everyone in the financial-services industry: “How is it that JPMorgan got front and center with this issue? That it’s the Department of Justice working out an agreement with JPMorgan when JPMorgan performed so well during the crisis, yet here’s the one bank that’s paying a $13 billion fine?” Without missing a beat, Dimon retorted, “Mike, you’ve got to ask them, O.K.?” In other words, Dimon seemed to be saying to Mayo, as he later put it in Davos, that the whole thing was “unfair.”

A number of clues about what had forced Dimon’s hand, however, began emerging soon after the conference call. As I reported in The Nation in 2014, JPMorgan Chase’s settlement came at the end of an intense series of negotiations with a wide range of government officials. Perhaps the most pivotal moment in the conversations occurred in September 2013 when D.O.J. lawyers shared with Dimon and his attorneys a draft of a 92-page civil complaint that Benjamin B. Wagner, the then U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of California, and his colleagues were prepared to file in federal court. The draft complaint—based upon hundreds of thousands of subpoenaed internal JPMorgan documents; and interviews with its bankers, employees in its mortgage-backed securities division, and third-party mortgage originator—alleged that the bank’s due-diligence process had been subverted, and ignored, during the years before the crisis. In Wagner’s narrative, the bank was not nearly the white knight of Wall Street.

No one knew precisely what Wagner’s investigation had uncovered about JPMorgan Chase, however, because his brief was never filed publicly. Within weeks of Wagner sharing a draft copy of the complaint with Dimon—and following a tense face-to-face meeting at the Department of Justice between Dimon and Eric Holder, then the U.S. attorney general—the two sides agreed to the $13 billion settlement, at the time the largest ever. (It has since been surpassed by Bank of America’s $16.65 billion fine, settling similar claims.) In return, the Department of Justice agreed with Dimon and JPMorgan Chase that, among other things, it would not file Wagner’s complaint. Instead, an anodyne 11-page “Statement of Facts” was released. But it didn’t offer a tremendous amount of insight. “Much of it was the same-old-same-old, a not-very-lively description of a corrupted Wall Street mortgage factory,” wrote Gretchen Morgenson in The New York Times, “based largely on some facts that have been in the public domain for years.”

Wall Street C.E.O.s have many reasons for using their shareholders’ money to settle nettlesome lawsuits—from “optics” and brand preservation, to boosting their stock price and keeping embarrassing facts out of the public’s hands. And in the wake of his bank’s $13 billion settlement, Dimon made clear that he was frustrated that the bank had to settle. At a Microsoft C.E.O. summit, Dimon confessed that he “had to control his rage” regarding the topic.

To keen observers, though, it also seemed that he and JPMorgan Chase appeared intent on keeping Wagner’s unfiled complaint out of the public record. The specter of the document becoming public was again raised in a separate court case, when, a few weeks after the Department of Justice announced the settlement with JPMorgan Chase, lawyers for the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh, which had sued JPMorgan Chase’s investment bank, along with other defendants, alleging it had sold the bank more than $1.7 billion in squirrelly mortgage-backed securities, wanted a copy of Wagner’s complaint. In fact, a state judge in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, ordered the bank to turn over the draft complaint. But JPMorgan Chase settled the litigation after the judge’s ruling—a settlement that, among other things, included a provision that the draft complaint was to remain private. (Disclosure: after JPMorgan Chase fired me as a managing director in January 2004, I brought—and lost—an arbitration claim against the bank. I also remain in litigation with the bank as the result of a soured investment I made in 1999.)

Now, nearly four years later, as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit initiated by Daniel Novack, an enterprising First Amendment attorney in New York City, the D.O.J. sent Novack a partially redacted copy of Wagner’s curiosity-stoking draft complaint against JPMorgan Chase. Novack provided a copy of the partially redacted complaint to me. “By this action,” the draft complaint begins, “the United States seeks to recover civil penalties” against JPMorgan Chase and its investment banking arm “for a fraudulent and deceptive scheme to package and sell residential mortgage-backed securities” that the bank “knew contained a material amount of materially defective loans.” As the unfiled complaint continued, “JPMorgan knowingly securitized and sold billions of dollars of mortgage loans that were originated in material violation of underwriting guidelines and law.” (When reached for comments and responses to the various allegations in Wagner’s unfiled brief, a spokesperson for JPMorgan Chase told me, “These allegations have been addressed, resolved, or refuted years ago.”)

Wagner’s unfiled brief catalogs behavior rather at odds with the public narrative about the bank in the years preceding the crisis. It further asserts that JPMorgan Chase knew that “many of these loans were tainted with fraud” and “knowingly misrepresented” that the loans met its underwriting guidelines, even though they clearly did not, and that the loans had sufficient equity value to collateralize the mortgages even though they did not. Notably, Wagner’s complaint argues that “these fraudulent misrepresentations” cost investors “to suffer billions of dollars in losses.”

Wagner wrote in the unfiled complaint that, according to his investigation, Christine Coleand Bill King, managing directors at JPMorgan Securities, ran the Securitized Products Group inside the investment bank that manufactured and sold the tainted mortgaged-backed securities in hopes of generating fees that would lead to large end-of-year bonuses for them and other members of the group. The bonuses ranged into the millions of dollars, and could be many times the size of the bankers’ and traders’ salaries. Between 2005 and 2007, Wagner wrote, “the year-end bonuses of the traders and salespeople rose significantly, in correlation with the spike in volume of [residential mortgage-backed securities] issuances at JPMorgan.”

The unfiled complaint also alleges that the JPMorgan Chase bankers and traders acquired mortgages from third-party originators with the sole intention of packaging up the mortgages into securities and selling them off quickly to investors in exchange for large fees. Wagner wrote that the bankers, traders, and employees responsible for carefully scrutinizing the mortgages being packaged up and sold knew they were acquiring loans with material defects that would be securitized and sold to investors. The bank, the unfiled brief continues, “ignored its due diligence findings and securitized materially defective loans” and “knowingly purchased and securitized loans with material credit and compliance defects.” The document further alleges that the bank, and its employees, knowingly sold mortgage-related securities with “inflated appraisals” and that “ignored internal controls” and that it “intentionally misrepresented” to investors “the quality of the loans” in offering documents, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, for the securities.

Worse, the unfiled brief notes, the bank continued to sell mortgage-backed securities even though Dimon himself was worried that the residential mortgage-backed securities market was about to crash. According to Wagner, during the second week of October 2006, Dimon allegedly told King, the co-head of the Securitized Products Group, that he needed to “watch out for subprime”—a reference to low-quality mortgage-backed securities—because he feared that the market “could go up in smoke.” The document also notes that Dimon wanted King to reduce the bank’s exposure to that market. The “impetus” for Dimon’s concern, Wagner continues, was his review of reports from the mortgage-servicing arm of the bank that showed that delinquencies on such mortgages “were rising at an alarming rate.” At Dimon’s “insistence,” the unfiled complaint asserts, “JPMorgan formulated an exit strategy to divest itself” of the riskiest pieces of mortgage-backed securities that had been accumulating on its balance sheet. But, Wagner writes in the draft complaint, “despite knowledge at the highest levels that underwriting had deteriorated across the industry and early payment defaults were spiking, JPMorgan continued to purchase and securitize subprime loans without addressing the known breakdown of its due diligence practices and without disclosing its knowledge to investors.” This is pretty much the exact same thing that Goldman Sachs did leading up to the financial crisis, a practice for which the bank was roundly criticized.

Wagner’s unfiled complaint provided details on 10 allegedly fraudulent mortgage-backed securities that JPMorgan Chase underwrote and sold to investors. (Four of the 10 examples were redacted in the copy the D.O.J. provided to Novack and that Novack provided to me, because “the D.O.J. contends that these paragraphs contain information pertaining to an ongoing investigation,” according to a recent ruling in Novack’s case.)

The draft complaint further stated that the 10 examples “do not encompass the full extent of JPMorgan’s fraudulent scheme.” In one un-redacted example, the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of California described what happened to a $1 billion security that JPMorgan underwrote in August 2006 that contained more than 5,500 mortgages issued by Countrywide Financial, then an independent public company (and now part of Bank of America). Prior to purchasing the Countrywide pool, one-quarter of the loans were tested by an independent third-party consultant hired by JPMorgan. The third-party evaluator’s report, received by JPMorgan in May 2006, showed that up to 17 percent of the mortgages contained “material” defects, including “excessive” loan-to-value ratios, “incomplete or defective” appraisals, and missing verifications of income, employment, or assets at closing, among other problems.

According to Wagner’s draft complaint, after JPMorgan received the third-party report showing the defects in the mortgages, the company’s bankers “manipulated” the results by re-categorizing the defective mortgages because of “missing documents,” which lowered their risk assessment and made them appear to comply with the bank’s underwriting standards. But, according to Wagner’s unfiled complaint, “these missing documents were not delivered” and despite “knowledge of the material defects in the Countrywide pool,” JPMorgan Chase nevertheless bought 99 percent of the mortgages, and securitized all but seven of them into what became known as JPMAC 2006-CW2. Furthermore, the bank “did not inform investors of material amount of materially defective loans” that created the security. Wagner’s complaint, drafted seven years after the security was issued, noted that JPMAC 2006-CW2 “has suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in cumulative lost principal balance, and more losses are projected.” The complaint noted that although the top tranches of the security were once rated AAA, they had since been downgraded to “junk bond” status or below. And some had defaulted.

In another un-redacted example from Wagner’s complaint, a mortgage-backed security that JPMorgan Chase underwrote in February 2007—relatively late in the cycle—for some $980 million contained around 35 percent of mortgages originated by GreenPoint Mortgage Funding, Inc. The mortgages, which were drawn from two pools with unpaid principal balances of $459 million and $300 million, respectively, had many of the same underwriting flaws as found in the Countrywide mortgages. Once again, JPMorgan hired a third-party consultant to look at a sample of them and to report back to it about their quality. Approximately 25 percent of the sample evaluated came back as containing unacceptable risks because of the low quality of the initial underwriting. According to Wagner’s draft complaint, “JPMorgan had knowledge that a substantial portion of the loans did not comply with the originator’s underwriting guidelines and had a substantial risk of default.” The bank packaged up the GreenPoint mortgages and sold them anyway. In the end, investors suffered “hundreds of millions of dollars” of losses on that one security. In all, the unfiled document concludes, JPMorgan Chase and its investment bank “reaped substantial profits from their fraudulent scheme, having sold over $25 billion in nonprime RMBS”—residential mortgage-backed securities—“certificates backed by toxic loans.”

Mythmaking is a blood sport on Wall Street, and few are better at the game than Dimon. While Dimon has not been shy about criticizing Donald Trump and his many offensive policy proposals, it is worth recalling that he was considered a leading candidate to be Trump’s Treasury secretary and served on the president’s Strategy and Policy Forum (until he resigned last month in protest of the president’s response to Charlottesville). One of Dimon’s main jobs as C.E.O. is to find his successor, but so far one top executive after another has left the firm, with many of them becoming C.E.O.s at other financial institutions. (Matt Zames, the bank’s 46-year-old chief operating officer, became the latest Dimon heir apparent to leave JPMorgan Chase when he departed unexpectedly in June. “We have huge success and great people for succession of the bank,” Dimon told CNBC in August.)

Dimon had harsh words, of course, for the Obama administration over his belief that his bank was treated unfairly by the Department of Justice in the $13 billion settlement. Instead of penalizing the bank for its bad behavior, Dimon argued, it should be celebrated for helping to save the financial system from its further free fall. That may be true to some degree, but Wagner’s 92-page draft complaint puts the wood to Dimon’s spin machine and shows that he and his colleagues at the bank were no different than the rest of the Wall Street banksters who received big bonuses for packaging up mortgages they knew would not be repaid into securities that they could sell to investors for big fees. Dimon’s pay package for 2013, the year of the big government settlement, was $20 million—a raise of 74 percent from the year before.

To Save Australia’s Biodiversity, Put Kangaroo on the Menu

(Credit: structuresxx/Shutterstock)

 First, this is a huge problem globally for the future. In most cases it will be deer, endemic in many places even now.  They all must become subject to an orderly predation.  That predation ideally means collecting the animals at a prime age and then feeding them up into prime condition before humane slaughter.

It is that second step that makes the meat quality consistent and eliminates  any risk of gaminess.

This needs to be applied to all deer populations as well as moose and elk as well and really all members of the family.  In Australia it certainly needs to be applied to kangaroos.

I suspect that this method will be profoundly sustainable and nicely hold populations at safe levels while keeping the carnivore population deeply suppressed.  No one sane wants a full return of Black Bear and timber wolf populations and collecting key prey game for the winter is a great plan..

To Save Australia’s Biodiversity, Put Kangaroo on the Menu

By Nathaniel Scharping | September 12, 2017 2:40 pm

In Australia, a question lingers: Do we shoot the kangaroos?

The proposition sounds a bit inhumane at first blush, after all, the kangaroo stands proudly on the Australian coat of arms. The bouncing beasts are a fixture of the outback. But in recent years, the roos have been doing quite well—in fact, too well. Their numbers have been bolstered by the extinction of natural predators and generous rainfall; there are now so many kangaroos, that one ecologist is calling for increased consumption of kangaroo meat to bolster the yearly cull and bring kangaroo numbers to sustainable levels.

To save them, we need to eat them, the argument goes.

Roo To-Do

University of Adelaide associate professor David Paton is a staunch proponent of kangaroo consumption, as ABC News Australia reports. An ecologist, he’s conducted experiments with natural grasslands protected from kangaroo encroachment, and found that the landscape bloomed anew with native grasses and animals normally forced out by the hungry herbivores. The recent bounty of kangaroos, he argues, comes at the cost of biodiversity and pushes well past sustainable levels. A more aggressive stance is in order, Paton believes, and if pushing kangaroo consumption — leaner and healthier than beef and other meats — helps, all the better.

The Australian government already conducts yearly culls of the kangaroo population, based on a quota set on a state-by-state basis. It’s necessary, they say, to both promote ecological health and protect the interests of farmers in the region, who complain that the animals encroach on their lands, eating grasses that protect against erosion, consume crops and interfere with livestock. The culls are carried out by hunters trained to put them down humanely, they say, and the culls merely counteract the side effects of human meddling in the environment.

Animal rights groups, however, dispute the accuracy of those claims. Organizations like Animal Liberation South Australia say that the kangaroos are actually in more danger than it appears, and allege that kangaroo culls are more brutal than they appear. Though the animals are supposed to be killed with a single shot to the head, they say hunters often miss and merely wound the animals. Joeys are also unable to survive without their mothers, leaving many of them to die. It has also been argued that kangaroos are slow to recover from population declines because they raise only one joey a year.

Jumping Joeys

Government data on kangaroo populations shows a rapid increase, with the number peaking at around 53 million in 2013 — more than double that of 2010. As of 2015, there were an estimated 44 million kangaroos in Australia, meaning that they outnumbered humans there by a factor of about two to one. This, despite yearly culls, which are usually capped to about 15 percent of the population. Whats more, the data shows that the quotas are almost never filled, and normally less than two-thirds of the maximum number of kangaroos are killed.

Anecdotal reports from Australia indicate the presence of large kangaroo mobs near farmland, and videos of them making their way into cities have also surfaced.

The issue of culling kangaroos has surfaced before, such as in 2009, when the army shot about 6,000 of them at a training camp. Their numbers at that time were threatening endangered species of reptiles and insects living in the grasslands. The same threat persists today, making the prospect of popularizing kangaroo meat all the more pressing. You can already buy meat from kangaroos in grocery stores in Australia, although it’s not very popular. To avoid the semantic concerns, the industry has been attempting to promote its product abroad, with some success, although a bacterial scare in Russia in 2008 and 2014 cut off a substantial number of customers.

Getting Australian customers on board with eating their most iconic animal would be both a boon to the industry and to the government, which must now deal with thousands of dead kangaroos every year.

Besides, they’re actually supposed to taste pretty good.

What prevents Russia from having an economy akin to modern China?

  1. Russian mentality, as well as Spanish (and Latin American) one is not trade-oriented. Unlike Italian, Dutch, English, German and French gentry, Russian nobles never invested money in trade or industry. Russian merchants were not influential under the tsars and were completely exterminated by Stalin. The formation of the capitalistic elite in Russia is painful and contradictory. This is one of the reasons why Russia is not successful enough to fight corruption.
  2. Russian mentality is too much straight-forward. When Russia is hit by somebody, it hits back. China tries to sidestep from the blow and prefers not to hit directly a stronger or equal adversary. The latter strategy is usually better.
  3. Russia has a tradition of extensive development. It is very hard for Russia to learn how to intensify its strength using limited resources.
  4. China’s market is simply bigger. Russia had much better chances to compete when it had the population of the USSR, almost twice bigger than it has now.
  5. Russia has low population density. It hampers the development of infrastructure, especially in its Eastern regions.
  6. Russia is better in inventing new products, but it is not persistent enough to make them eventually perfect. Neither is it good in copying somebody else’s technology.
  7. Unlike the USSR, Russia does not possess anymore the complete chain of any production. It depends on foreign suppliers.
  8. Russia lost too much competence during the deindustrialization in the 90-ies.
  9. This being said, Russia is still competitive. The new generation of Russian elites will be able to show better performance.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Want to fix America’s health care? First, focus on food

I would like to say first that there is plenty to be done.  Yet much has been done as well. The big change is happening both on the farm and in the market place and that is the transition to sustainable organic methods.
On top of that the public is becoming educated and the additional transition to a proper economic protocol that eliminates poverty will actually fuel the transition.
The future is bright and a truly healthy humanity is emerging before our eyes.  It can and will happen sooner than anyone can dream.  Recall that every success has 7 billion seconders looking over your shoulder..

Want to fix America’s health care? First, focus on food 
September 12, 2017 10.33pm EDT

Dariush Mozaffarian

Professor of Nutrition, Tufts University

The national debate on health care is moving into a new, hopefully bipartisan phase.

The fundamental underlying challenge is cost – the massive and ever-rising price of care which drives nearly all disputes, from access to benefit levels to Medicaid expansion.

So far, policymakers have tried to reduce costs by tinkering with how care is delivered. But focusing on care delivery to save money is like trying to reduce the costs of house fires by focusing on firefighters and fire stations.

A more natural question should be: What drives poor health in the U.S., and what can be done about it?

We know the answer. Food is the number one cause of poor health in America. As a cardiologist and public health scientist, I have studied nutrition science and policy for 20 years. Poor diet is not just about individual choice, but about the systems that make eating poorly the default for most Americans.

If we want to cut down on disease and achieve meaningful health care reform, we should make it a top nonpartisan priority to address our nation’s nutrition crisis.
Food and health

Our dietary habits are the leading driver of death and disability, causing an estimated 700,000 deaths each year. Heart disease, stroke, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cancers, immune function, brain health – all are influenced by what we eat.

For example, our recent research estimated that poor diet causes nearly half of all U.S. deaths due to heart disease, stroke and diabetes. There are almost 1,000 deaths from these causes alone, every day.

By combining national data on demographics, eating habits and disease rates with empirical evidence on how specific foods are linked to health, we found that most of problems are caused by too few healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and too much salt, processed meats, red meats and sugary drinks.

To put this in perspective, about twice as many Americans are estimated to die each year from eating hot dogs and other processed meats (~58,000 deaths/year) than from car accidents (~35,000 deaths/year).

Poor eating also contributes to U.S. disparities. People with lower incomes and who are otherwise disadvantaged often have the worst diets. This causes a vicious cycle of poor health, lost productivity, increased health costs and poverty.
What a poor diet costs

It’s hard to fathom how much our country actually spends on health care: currently US$3.2 trillion per year, or nearly 1 in 5 dollars in the entire U.S. economy. That’s almost $1,000 each month for every man, woman and child in the country, exceeding most people’s budgets for food, gas, housing or other common necessities.

Diet-related conditions account for vast health expenditures. Each year, cardiovascular diseases alone result in about $200 billion in direct health care spending and another $125 billion in lost productivity and other indirect costs.

At the same time, health care costs cripple the productivity and profits of American businesses. From small to large companies, crushing health care expenditures are a major obstacle to growth and success. Warren Buffet recently called rising medical costs the “tapeworm of American economic competitiveness.” Our food system is feeding the tapeworm.

Yet, remarkably, nutrition is virtually ignored by our health care system and in the health care debates – both now and a decade ago when Obamacare was passed. Traveling around the country, I find that dietary habits are not included in the electronic medical record, and doctors receive scant training on healthy eating and other lifestyle priorities. Reimbursement standards and quality metrics rarely cover nutrition.

Meanwhile, total federal spending for nutrition research across all agencies is only about $1.5 billion per year. Compare that with more than $60 billion spent per year for industry research on drugs, biotechnology and medical devices.

With the top cause of poor health largely ignored, is it any mystery that obesity, diabetes and related conditions are at epidemic levels, while health care costs and premiums skyrocket?
Moving forward

Advances in nutrition science highlight the most important dietary targets, including foods that should be encouraged or avoided. Policy science provides a road map for successfully addressing our country’s nutrition crisis.

For example, according to our calculations, a national program to subsidize the cost of fruits and vegetables by 10 percent could save 150,000 lives over 15 years, while a national 10 percent soda tax could save 30,000 lives.

Similarly, a government-led initiative to reduce salt in packaged foods by about three grams per day could prevent tens of thousands of cardiovascular deaths each year, while saving between $10 to $24 billion in health care costs annually.

Companies across the country have been rethinking their approach to employee health, providing a range of financial and other benefits for healthier lifestyles. Life insurance has also realized the return on the investment, rewarding clients for healthier living with fitness tracking devices, lower premiums and healthy food benefits which pay back up to $600 each year for nutritious grocery purchases. Every dollar spent on wellness programs generates about $3.27 in lower medical costs and $2.73 in less absenteeism.

Similar technology-based incentive platforms could be offered to Americans on Medicare, Medicaid and SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps) – together reaching one in three adults nationally. In 2012, Ohio Senator Rob Portman proposed a Medicare “Better Health Rewards” program to reward seniors for not smoking and for achieving lower weight, blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol. This program should be reintroduced, with updated technology platforms and financial incentives for healthier eating and physical activity.

Several other key strategies should be added, together forming a core for modern healthcare reform. Incorporating such sensible initiatives for better eating will actually improve well-being while lowering costs, allowing expanded coverage for all.

By any measure, fixing our nation’s nutrition crisis should be a nonpartisan priority. Policy leaders should learn from past successes such as tobacco reduction and car safety. Through modest steps, we can achieve real reform that makes healthier eating the new normal, improves health and actually reduces costs.

The ‘War On Terrorism’ Isn’t Working


 Of course it is not working.  Mainly because it is not a war so much as a popularity contest.  Make been a Jihadi profoundly unpopular and the whole problem evaporates into the Desert sun.

It is a confrontation between  a medieval way of life and the shock of modernism.  Of course the losers get bent out of shape and strike out.  Tactically we need to confront with our power and merely ask for focus and change.  That should include a proper education in the Koran isolating those components that Jesus would never support. 

Then we put a price on non compliance and that needs to be summary castration for recalcitrant mullahs and caught jihadist.  This is easily administered and applied even if you no longer spend time there.  The beauty of this approach is that all those so treated can return alive to help feed their families., 

No 70 virgins for them.

The ‘War On Terrorism’ Isn’t Working

If insanity is doing the same thing over and over in the expectation of a different result, then our foreign policy surely qualifies as madness.

Since 2001, in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, the United States has been in a state of constant warfare: the Afghan conflict has been ongoing since that time, the longest sustained combat in our history.

From Iraq to Syria to Somalia and beyond, US forces and their proxies are engaged in a “war on terrorism” that shows no signs of slowing down, only expanding.

In Afghanistan, more than half the country is under the control of the Taliban, the radical Islamist group that sheltered Osama bin Laden – and they are now joined by ISIS, which has extended its tentacles into that country.

In Iraq, after our war of “liberation,” a civil war pitting Shi’ites against Sunnis is raging, and terrorist attacks are the norm. The Iranians have extended their sphere of influence into the country, and US troops are still fighting there, despite the much-heralded “withdrawal.”

The focus of US military action in the Middle East has now shifted to Syria, where a multi-sided civil war has been raging ever since the so-called Arab Spring.

There we have managed to destabilize the regime of Bashar al-Assad by supporting alleged “moderate” Islamists, while we simultaneously fight ISIS – which is tacitly supported by our “moderate” proxies. The result has been a disaster of epic proportions: hundreds of thousands dead, as refugees pour out of the country and into Europe.

Far from winding down, the “war on terrorism” is constantly expanding. The latest front is in Yemen – arguably the poorest country on earth – where our Saudi allies, aided by the US, are slaughtering civilians, bombing funeral processions, and setting off a famine that will kill many thousands more.

And while al-Qaeda does indeed have an active franchise in Yemen, the Saudis aren’t targeting them – they’re going after the Houthis, a religious sect that is neither Sunni nor Shi’ite, whose adherents are fighting both the Saudis and al-Qaeda.

The Houthi-Saudi war started because Saudi missionaries were spreading Sunni fundamentalism in their historic homeland: in short, the Houthis are resisting the very extremism that provides terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS with their base of support. Yet we are aiding Saudi Arabia – the epicenter of global terrorism – in their merciless war of aggression.

All this frenzied military action – the bombs, the proxy armies, the “surges” – has led to precisely the opposite of its intended result. If our “war on terrorism” was supposed to end or even reduce the incidents of terrorism in the West, it must be judged an absolute failure.

All across Europe, terrorists are swarming like termites after a rain. We saw what happened yesterday [Monday] in Manchester: the biggest attack in Britain since 2005, and the culmination of a series of prior incidents. In France and Germany it’s the same story.

And in the United States, the trail of post-9/11 terror follows the same pattern: far from diminishing, the number of terrorist incidents is on the upswing. Sixteen years after the twin towers fells, we are less safe – and less free.

Draconian security measures are now taken for granted, and that includes not only cumbersome rules and restrictions around airline flights but also universal surveillance. Engulfed in a quagmire of perpetual war, we are fast approaching the condition of a police state – with not even the benefit of increased security.

Most ominously, the ranks of the terrorist armies are swelling, as hatred of America and the West is incorporated into the religious tenets of Islam.

Some argue that Islam was always antithetical to Western values and norms, but this debate is now rendered irrelevant as the cycle of violence and repression makes this proposition a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The roots of this disaster are in the presidency of George W. Bush: he and his neoconservative advisors launched a war that was supposed to transform the Middle East into a laboratory of “democracy” – exported by force of arms.

The idea, as expressed by neoconservative ideologues, was to “drain the swamp” of the Middle East, so altering the environment in which the “mosquitoes” of terrorism lived and flourished that they would be unable to produce a second generation.

Yet we are now into the third generation – and they are more numerous than ever, buzzing around Europe and even the US, stinging at will.

So what’s the solution?

Let’s start by acknowledging that what we’re doing isn’t working.

That’s half the battle right there.

The other half involves winding down the multiple conflicts we’re presently engaged in. Afghanistan is a hopelessly Sisyphean conflict that can never be “won” – it’s long past time to get out. If the Iraqi government we put in place is incapable of defending itself, then let them fall – we can no more prevent that than King Canute could stop the tide from coming in.

Syria is a catastrophe made in Washington: our “regime change” policy doomed that country to perdition. We should have the decency to recognize that, and stay out of their internal affairs: let Assad and the Russians take care of their terrorist problem.

We here at have been saying the same thing, consistently, since 2001.

Since 1995, has been the premier voice of dissent when it comes to our interventionist foreign policy. We said the Afghan war would become a quagmire unless we took care of business and got out as quickly as we went in – and so it came to pass.

We warned that the Iraq war would be very far from a “cakewalk,” as some of the neocons assured us, and that it would spread throughout the region – and we were right about that, too. We said funding “moderate” Islamists in Syria was not only a mistake, but also a crime – a crime, I might add, that is ongoing, despite the campaign rhetoric of President Trump.

 And while it would be in poor taste to say “I told you so!” – well, we did warn that the “war on terrorism” would result in more terrorism, not less. Now we are living in that reality.

Yet still the voice of the War Party dominates our national discourse.  The same neocons who authored this catastrophe are all over our national media, and are being listened to – at least, by those in a position to make policy.

That’s why we need your help.

The War Party is supported by big corporations that profit from our foreign policy of constant conflict: and the “mainstream” media is their biggest ally, the indispensable megaphone that allows them to broadcast their message far and wide.

For over twenty years, has provided the essential counterpoint to their barrage of lies, half-truths, and government-approved propaganda – but we can’t continue to do it without your support.

We have managed to raise $32,000 in matching funds in the course of our current fundraising drive – but we don’t get a penny of that money until and unless we get the equivalent in smaller individual donations.

Now is the time for you, our readers and supporters, to come through with the funding we need to keep going. The American people are waking up: they are wondering why they’re less safe despite the assurances of our leaders that we’re “winning” the war on terror.

They’re beginning to question the wisdom of our interventionist foreign policy, but they don’t know how to answer the constant barrage of war propaganda funneled by the “mainstream” media.

We have those answers – they’re in every edition of this web site – but we need to bring them to a much larger audience. You can help us do that by making your tax-deductible donation today.

By Justin Raimondo, Guest author