Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Stunning Admission From Deutsche Bank Why A Shock Is Needed To Collapse The Market, And Force A Real Panic


In what may be some of the best, and most lucid, writing on everyone's favorite topic, namely "what happens next" in the evolution of the financial system, Deutsche Bank's Dominic Konstam, takes a look at the current dead-end monetary situation, and concludes that in order for the system to transition from the current state of financial repression, which has made a mockery of all asset values due to central bank intervention, to a semi-credible system driven by fiscal stimulus, there will have to be a crash, one which jolts policymakers out of their stupor that all is well simply because stocks are at all time highs.

And since a legitimate fiscal stimulus is what is needed to re-ignite the economy, US and global GDP will continue declining, even as stocks keep rising to new all time highs, not on fundamentals (which are all pointing in the opposite direction), but due to even more central bank intervention and financial repression, thus a Catch 22, which ultimately - according to DB - ends in the only possible way: with a major crash. 

As Konstam puts it, "the status quo could continue for several years yet – if nothing “breaks” in the system" but "without an external economic shock it is hard to see policymakers being prepared to take dramatic, fiscal action to jumpstart the global economy and bounce it out of a financial repression defined by low and falling real yields to one that at least initially is defined by rising nominal yields through higher inflation expectations."

As for the conclusion, or why a financial shock is long overdue, KOnstam says that "ironically the shock that is needed would require a collapse in risk assets for policymakers to then really panic and attempt dramatic fiscal stimulus. "

This is critical - and inevitable - as only a shock can lead to an "unwind of the falling yield/rising equity market where all financial assets trade badly."

In other words the end of financial repression will see price levels fall so that yields once again look attractive, or said otherwise, there will be a demand for Treasuries, even without the perpetual implicit backstop of central bank purchases.

For such a move to be sustainable itself requires the economic fundamentals to shift – inflation needs to be more secure against an underlying backdrop of robust real growth. Most people now understand that this is not a job for monetary policy alone. Yet the current reach for yield simply prolongs the status quo for policy disappointment.

Which brings us full circle: recall that over the past few months virtually every prominent investment bank, from JPMorgan to Goldman Sachs have warned clients that a selloff is coming. Now, Deutsche Bank has taken it to a whole new level, explaining why a financial crash has to happen to purge the system from the toxic aftereffects of 7 years of financial repression, and to kickstart a fiscal stimulus that will not happen unless markets tumble in the first place.

And while Konstam's line of reasoning is absolutely correct, we doubt just how his employer would look upon a market plunge that wipes out 30%, 40%, or even 50% of global equity values: would Deutsche Bank even survive such a crash? As such we doubt that the strategist's analysis and forecast, correct as it may be, will be endorsed by his employer, even if by now it is clear to all that only a major crash, i.e. a global reset, can kick start the world out of its zombie-like, centrally-planned existence, into the long overdue phase of whatever it is that comes next.

* * *

Below is Konstam's full must read analysis:

Stocks must fall for yields to rise – but unlikely to happen anytime soon

It is pretty much understood that we are in full on financial repression mode, as witnessed by super benign core yields lead by lower real yields with more recently the further downward drift in euro peripheral yields, including the UK. The new high in equities is consistent with our view of financial repression that necessarily has yield returns on all assets being incrementally replaced by price returns – stretched relative valuations follow already increasingly stretched absolute valuations. The last round of economic data does little to suggest any change in this dynamic. As we highlighted last week the conundrum for the US is how an overly strong labor market without meaningful wage inflation resolves itself against markedly weak productivity data with a GDP cake that if anything seems to be stagnating.

With the current status quo, it is clear to us that US yields if anything are still too high – we think they are near the upper bound of a range that pivots closer to 1.25 percent with real yields in particular too high. This probably still reflects a reluctance of investors to get meaningfully long the market although much of the short base has been covered and this in turn reflects a still fairly strong consensus on the economics front that the labor market strength can still resolve itself through higher wages and a virtuous circle of rising demand and productivity – a scenario we would not rule out but not our central view.

More importantly however are what prospects there may be to jolt us out of this financial repression and to what extent regardless of proactive policy, is there a natural end to financial repression – at some point does something have to break in the system. On the former the most likely candidate is obviously some form of global fiscal stimulus. Despite optimism around this in early July we have not exactly had the green light on either helicopter money in Japan or Italian bank bailout. It is still too early to call the US election and stimulus prospects here but the general sense is that it is still difficult to sense the urgency when equities make new highs. Policymakers aren’t used to dealing with financial repression and that unfortunately is one of the defining characteristics of stagnation.

We suspect the fall will be defined by markets looking for dramatic policy news that somehow “responds” to super low bond yields and underwrites rising risk asset prices but only to be disappointed precisely because policymakers don’t bide the urgency. The result is that yields can fall still further even with risk assets still trading well – hanging onto their relative valuation rationale.

The failure of a policy response allows for more financial repression. We are anyway already beyond the point of preemptive policy since preemption is supposed to recognize and avoid looming problems beforehand. It is clear that the nature of those problems are already material including squeezed interest margins for banks, insurance solvency issues etc. But to be fair, the lack of a fiscal response itself bears witness to the perceived fiscal stress during the 2008 crisis and the need to insulate taxpayers. Additional fiscal burdens can be thought of as a variant of financial repression where future inflation and negative real rates do the redistribution as opposed to the structure of the fiscal regime. Helicopter money fuses financial repression from the money side with the fiscal response in a potentially dramatic way whereby the would be spenders get to spend a lot more directly at the expense of the ongoing savers. And while it may have its own political hurdles that ultimately are insurmountable, it offers a perfectly reasonable alternative equilibrium option where the goal is to raise the price level as well as improve the real growth outlook by overcoming excess savings. The fusion of fiscal with monetary policy can also be appreciated in the context of the fiscal theory of price where monetary policy can offer infinite paths for money growth and potential nominal growth but fiscal policy effectively selects which path is realized based on an equilibrium condition that the NPV of all future budget deficits needs to sum to zero.

* * *

The status quo could continue for several years yet – if nothing “breaks” in the system. There are ways of course for either avoiding breaks or at least patching them – mitigating the impact of negative rates on banks is now in vogue with subsidized bank loans for on lending. And we may yet see soft forms of bank bailout still being allowed. This is similar to the use of alternative yield curves for discounting insurance liabilities.

The conclusion is that without an external economic shock it is hard to see policymakers being prepared to take dramatic, fiscal action to jumpstart the global economy and bounce it out of a financial repression defined by low and falling real yields to one that at least initially is defined by rising nominal yields through higher inflation expectations. Ironically the shock that is needed would require a collapse in risk assets for policymakers to then really panic and attempt dramatic fiscal stimulus.

The logic would also fit with the same correlation structure for financial assets - an unwind of the falling yield/rising equity market where all financial assets trade badly. In other words the end of financial repression will see price levels fall so that yields once again look attractive. For such a move to be sustainable itself requires the economic fundamentals to shift – inflation needs to be more secure against an underlying backdrop of robust real growth. Most people now understand that this is not a job for monetary policy alone. Yet the current reach for yield simply prolongs the status quo for policy disappointment.


Friday, August 12, 2016

"Russian" Hacker Guccifer 2.0 Publishes Complete Personal Information Of 200 Congressional Democrats


According to so-called experts, the Romanian (as he described himself) hacker Guccifer 2.0 is really a Russian (even though there is still not a shred of evidence to confirm this) who several weeks ago provided a trove of 20,000 emails to Wikileaks, which exposed the corruption at the Democratic National Committee as it rigged the primary election on behalf of Hillary, further revealing just how deeply in bed the DNC and the "independent" media were.

As of this afternoon,  the "Russian" has made it possible for millions of American to contact their Democratic representative instantly, after he released an excel spreadsheet on his blog - obtained from hacking the DNCC - which includes the personal cell phone number, physical and email address as well as full personal information for some 200 congressional Democrats.

On his Wordpress blog, Guccifer 2.0 says the following:

Hi all!
It’s time for new revelations now. All of you may have heard about the DCCC hack. As you see I wasn’t wasting my time! It was even easier than in the case of the DNC breach.


As you see the U.S. presidential elections are becoming a farce, a big political performance where the voters are far from playing the leading role. Everything is being settled behind the scenes as it was with Bernie Sanders.


I wonder what happened to the true democracy, to the equal opportunities, the things we love the United States for. The big money bags are fighting for power today. They are lying constantly and don’t keep their word. The MSM are producing tons of propaganda  hiding the real stuff behind it. But I do believe that people have right to know what’s going on inside the election process in fact.

In retrospect, what hs says is not far off from the truth; In any case, he leaves readers with the following message:

To make a long story short, here are some DCCC docs from their server. Make use of them.

In addition to the Excel file, the alleged Russian hacker also uploaded documents that include the account names and passwords for an assortment of subscription services used by the DCCC, from Lexis-Nexis to Glenn Beck’s web site (password: nutbag).

While "Guccifer 2.0" has claimed to be a foe of "all the illuminati and rich clans which try to rule the governments," cyber investigators are busy trying to convince the American public that he is just serving as the media liaison for the Russian government hacking teams suspected of breaching the Democratic Party's computer systems.

If that were indeed the case, this would be the first case ever of a government-sponsored spy (or liaison) using a Wordpress platform to leak highly confidential and sensitive information. In fact, that would make him an idiot since authorities can find within minutes the physical location of any given individual who logs into Wordpress. Which is also why biggest joke here is that the Russian government is behind the hack.

However, the facts don't matter when propaganda is on the line, and as the WSJ reported citing Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, “this is sensitive information and it could be used in a very detrimental way by a foreign government."  Because, supposedly, the same foreign government that hacked the DNCC would be otherwise unable to figure out what Steny's cell phone number is.

Hoyer's response: war.

"Mr. Hoyer said Congress, the White House and U.S. intelligence agencies should consider using “offensive measures” in response to the breach."

Considering the overarching stupiidty of the American political class, he may very well get his wish.


Thank God Nobody Died from This Texas Woman’s Illegal Tamales


tamalesHomemade tamales sold on street corners or directly from people's houses are about as common as lemonade stands in communities across the Southwest United States and probably elsewhere. (Actually, I believe I've encountered more tamales than lemonade stands in Southern California.)

It's an avenue for people without a lot of resources to make some scratch on the side. And they're very popular around the holidays in the Latino community. Of course, this is all totally illegal. They don't have business permits. They don't have professional kitchens. There's all sorts of rules and regulations to follow, but attempting to do so would be so costly that it would likely turn it into a money-losing venture.

So because of government fears about food safety, there's a black market for tamales. In Carrollton, Texas, a suburb north of Dallas, Dennise Cruz found out the hard way not to do anything that could draw attention from government meddlers. Cruz decided to sell tamales from her home, advertised as such on a community social-media site called Nextdoor, and then the city cracked down hard on her, sending her a $700 fine for selling food without a permit. They didn't send her a warning or come and shut her down. They when straight to threatening her with arrest unless she forked over a ton of money. The local CBS affiliate in Dallas covered the horrific crime:

A director said a fine was issued and not a warning because tamales are considered "potentially hazardous food" due to the cooked corn and meat being used.

"What if somebody got sick from them? What if somebody could have died from them? And I completely understand those concerns," said Cruz.

But she feels the city's actions are a little extreme.

"I've seen so many people doing it. And unfortunately it's me who's having to deal with it," said Cruz. "I'd just rather stay away from that at the moment, making tamales."

Apparently somebody who saw her ad on Nextdoor squealed on her to the city. She wondered why this person didn't come talk to her. My suspicion, looking at Nextdoor, which is a specialized neighborhood-oriented social app, is that city employees have probably joined and keep track of what's going on in the community.

The absurd irony here is that this kind of tactic means that people who are open and likely more careful (and safe) about what they're doing are the ones to be punished, but people are still going to be out there selling tamales without a permit, quietly and secretly outside the city's control. And those folks might not be as careful and as safe as Cruz. As with any black market, government intervention doesn't stop it from happening at all, it just makes it all the more dangerous for those who participate in it.

The good news for Cruz is that she started a GoFundMe page to raise money to fight Carrolton and has already earned more than enough to cover the fine. Sadly, not every citizen who attempts to engage in street vending or home-based businesses doesn't get such media attention and assistance when regulators come after them.


Collapse Fatigue


By Mr. and Mrs. Cognitive Dissonance


(This article did not start out as a collaborative effort by Mrs. Cog and I, but it most certainly ended that way. For well over a year now we have both wanted to write on this topic, but were unable to do so for a variety of reasons. Funny how things work out when like minds work together. For those of you who have read both Mrs. Cog and I, the mixing of our voices takes on a tone different than either of us brings to the table individually. Enjoy! - Cognitive Dissonance)


When we initially awaken and realize life is not what we were taught, inner alarms scream for our attention. Even though we can sense a danger we didn’t previously perceive, we cannot judge how close it is. There is no scale to measure proximity, only the palpable fear of a real and present danger.

Naturally, most of us will desperately grasp for answers. How can this be? What does this mean? What do I do now? And who is to blame?

We need answers! Or at least we think we do.

As we search for answers, we find there is no shortage of players who are more than willing to supply us with all the answers to our now life changing questions. Most of these people speak with a voice of absolute authority, stating factoids and tidbits with complete certainty and conviction. Naturally they insist their truth must be your truth, for only a fool and still asleep sheep would reject self evident 'truth'.

Scared and desperate for answers, we eagerly listen to those who are brimming with explanations. We quickly discover the alternative media, where much of this information is promoted, is populated by a whole herd of people who arrived long before us, thereby seemingly affirming this new stream of stories and explanations as correct. Many of us find ourselves quickly, even gratefully, moving from our old herd to the new one.

Similar in structure to the world we are now rejecting, the alternative herd has many factions, some quite cohesive, others more fractured and splintered. There are survivalists, preppers, the woo-woo crowd, the intellectuals, the political activists, the militants and so on. There appear to be an unlimited number of cubbyholes where all sorts of kooks, geeks, homesteaders, healers and revolutionaries hang out. Just when you think you've seen it all, you see another.

Within these groups there are many opposing approaches and opinions. Often, the same silliness and unnecessary drama we all experienced in junior high school, the office or perhaps within uncomfortable family situations, exists in these new venues where we find ourselves seeking answers.

The same propaganda techniques originally used to keep us in the dark about life are also employed in the alternative media. Scare tactics, faulty reasoning, ad hominem attacks and the always popular “science has proved…” or “history has shown…” neatly sum up tidy arguments for why you should now view life a particular way.....their way.

We tell ourselves we're looking for truth. However, “the” truth is singular. The alternative media arrogantly claims a monopoly on truth in no uncertain terms. No chance they could be wrong, intentionally infiltrated with misinformation. Right? There are few along the way who will tell you there may be many truths, or that the truth for you may different than for me.

Eventually we find some perspective, even if it's not the warm and fuzzy narrative the mainstream media often provides, then swallow hard and carry on. We create a new narrative to tell ourselves in order to try to make sense of all this new information. We begin to change some of our behaviors. Some of us change everything. Or at least we think we do.

As many of our readers know, after considering ex-patting (moving to another country) we chose a drastic lifestyle change and moved to our small mountain homestead here in Southwestern Virginia. By way of blogging about our experiences, we have talked to dozens of individuals and families who have either physically relocated or introduced at times radical changes into their lifestyle as a result of what they learned.

After several years of conversation a very interesting pattern has slowly emerged.

We prepare and ready ourselves for (  fill in the blank  ). And we wait. It feels similar to a long wait at the oncologist’s office, a place we most certainly don’t wish to be. We dash to our appointment to see the doctor, then wait and wait in the reception area. We hurry to complete additional tests, then we wait and wait for the lab results. We rush to infuse the toxic drug cocktail, then we wait and and wait for the terrible side effects, all while praying for remission. It's always hurry up and wait.

None of us actually want what we are waiting for. But if it must happen, hurry up and bring it on so we can rip the band-aid off and move on.

Not long now

Collapse feels so close, and yet so far. How long can it remain upright?


The socioeconomic collapse, the disintegration of social and individual morals, the unraveling of the (perceived) American Dream, the fall of the American Empire, the foreseeable and potentially catastrophic interruption of goods and services, fossil fuel shortages, even the complete domination by the military/industrial/financial/big pharma complex has all turned into one big ball of hurry up and wait.

While we wait, each of us reassesses the costs and benefits of many of our previous decisions, then quietly adjust our inner narrative to align with our new findings. Lots of wiggle room can be found here to be used and abused.

Whether or not we are well adjusted to our new routine and altered mentality, we begin a fierce bargaining process with ourselves. This can often be heavily influenced by friends and family not being on board with the extreme changes we have made to our lives. Little or no personal affirmation can be garnered anymore from our formerly dependable emotional allies. Suddenly we are alone.

When we were an accepted member of the “normal people” herd, and in particular our own personal pod, we could get a quick pat on the back and the needed approval simply for wearing the right outfit, gossiping well at the water cooler or rooting for the right sports team. We could extract glowing admiration and unlimited confirmation endorphins if our display of wealth through luxury cars, fancy houses and high end accessories showed we excelled over others. Even the lowly trailer park has its own version of this tawdry behavior.

But then we woke up a bit and nothing looked as it once did. Worse, no matter how badly we want to be reinserted back into the matrix, we cannot un-know what we now know. Even if we pretend to ignore it, we can't put the toothpaste back into the tube.

So we trudge forward. And we continue to hurry up and wait. And wait. And wait some more.

Now, collapse is a funny thing. Ultimately it is very personal, even though we tend to see it more as a process or societal event. For those who have already lost their job, their home or the secure structure that once defined their life, the collapse is already here. And those slowly bleeding out clearly see the collapse just around the corner.

This demoralizing 'reality' contrasts with those who still live within an insulated environment, often those who still receive massive infusions of government sourced money. For them, there has been no dramatic change in their reality. "What collapse?" they say. "I see nothing of the sort."

We find them living within the ever expanding Washington DC suburbs, the closest you can physically get to the government cash register. Or the many college towns still bursting with economic activity paid for mostly with government backed student loans. And at hundreds of hospitals, along with the cluster of doctors and specialists offices huddled around them, all fed by direct infusion of health insurance, welfare, Obamacare and Big Pharma payments. There are many other examples, but you get the picture.

People who claim some awareness of things not being right will point their finger at the so-called sheep who trudge along day after day unthinkingly supporting the slowly decaying systems. And most of us who point fingers are quick to declare we are not them. We understand the evils now. We know it is unsustainable. We have taken action to address what we see happening. Whether this is actually true is beside the point. We believe it to be true, therefore it is 'truth'....for us.

So we continue to hurry up and wait. And wait. And wait some more.

At first, the extended waiting is a blessing in disguise. We have time to maneuver. We can make preparatory purchases and adjust our behavior. All of those answers we embodied to create our version of the truth can be acted upon. It’s all a grand bargaining with, and within, ourselves.

As part of the bargaining we might tell ourselves if we grow food and preserve it, we will not go hungry if (  fill in the blank  ) happens. You know, so we can sleep a little better at night. Or if we grow those herbs and stock up on these teas, essential oils and some colloidal silver, we can treat or prevent many illnesses, thereby reducing our need for hospitals and doctors. Perhaps we purchase a quality axe and various other manual tools to back up the chain saw and other gas dependent conveniences we all take for granted. We should be sleeping even better now.

So we continue to bargain with ourselves in order to move forward. But ultimately, we are still waiting. And waiting. And waiting some more.

For many, the waiting becomes exhausting. And with exhaustion comes fatigue. We refer to this as collapse fatigue.


Collapse Fatigue

Believe it or not, this feeling is entirely voluntary. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best and ALWAYS move forward.


We have found many who had previously relocated have chosen to return to the cities or burbs where they can once again experience easy access to modern conveniences and social networks. There they find the affirmation they long for, which often comes from attending social events, shopping and getting together with friends and family for fun activities. By returning, perhaps they can get back to a more 'normal' existence since the crash/collapse/interruption of systems never seems to arrive.

Others who never relocated, but did make major changes to their way of life, grow weary, a bit embarrassed even, and are throwing in the towel and returning to more comfortable and convenient ways. Turning the back yard into a garden was a great deal of work compared to popping down to the local Stop & Shop for a store roasted chicken and a 'fresh' salad in a bag. Don't forget the false facade called dressing.

Besides, the neighbors were always making rude comments and no one was supportive. Worse, because zoning laws prevent or severally limit raising livestock, solar panels on the roof and rain collection systems, how self-sufficient could they have become anyway? At least that's what they tell themselves.

And then there are those who adjust well to their new life. They show few signs of fatigue or regret for turning their lives upside-down. We think the difference is that at some point, either before or during their self transformation, they began moving towards the concept of a more physically rewarding and emotionally healthy future, rather than running away from perceived dangers, real or otherwise. Geographic cures rarely work, while personal transformation often does.

By moving toward an embodied vision of what it means to live well, to be safe and secure, life stops depending upon specific events to occur, or other people waking to join our new herd, for us to be happy, healthy and well adjusted to our new surroundings. When we begin to create our own reality because we want to, rather than because we feel we need to, only then can we free ourselves from the need for constant confirmation that anchored us to the self destructive world we once lived within.

Once we free our mind from the ties that bind us to our chains, we can more easily walk away from the need to be constantly confirmed in an old way of life that is neither natural nor healthy. The reason we desperately seek affirmation is because we all know deep down within our inner being that the old ways are addictive and self destructive. This truth is self evident, regardless how strong our denial may be.

The common thread for those who awaken, yet do not suffer from collapse fatigue, seems to be finding some degree of inner peace. The way forward is always rough, full of roadblocks and potholes, with two steps forward and one (or two) back. It can be a lengthy and frustrating process if we are reluctant participants.

The biggest stumbling block appears to be pangs of loneliness and isolation, the feeling no one really sees life as we do. Most of us find it very hard to function without the affirmation of the herd to assure us we are on the right track. We are programmed from birth to crave verification, especially when what we wish verified is contrary to our very nature.

We all feel it

This pretty much sums up how most feel nowadays.


But at the end of the day, just before we fall asleep, ultimately we are alone in our head. Upon awakening, it remains the same. When facing decisions throughout our day, no matter who else is in our life, we are the only one inside our mind thinking and reasoning through the choices. Once we accept we are indeed ultimately alone, we come to realize we, all of us, are united together in our aloneness. It is then we cease to be lonely. It turns out to find the others we must look within.

By doing so we free ourselves to think critically and outside the conditioned confines of the box, regardless of whether we think others will approve or not. Our point of view no longer needs to be validated solely by the crashing of the system we still quasi operate within and depend upon. The urgency to hurry fades as we are no longer on an endless treadmill to beat the coming (   fill in the blank   ). This is the result of heading here and not away from there. Since there is no waiting, there is no collapse fatigue.

If we can perceive our awakening as the gift it truly is, then begin the self work needed to achieve some degree of inner peace, this new state of mind, body and soul enables each of us to get back to the business of living life rather than just gaming ways to survive it. For some of us, it feels as if we are living life for the very first time. Free to question everything without being required to accept anything, we can begin to create a new reality regardless of our geographic location.

After experiencing the initial blossoming of true inner peace, it becomes contagious and feeds upon itself. We give ourselves permission to reject stories and narratives we are told without the pressing need for an alternative 'truth' to fill the resulting vacuum. Suddenly the carnival barkers who permeate the alternative media lose much of their luster and credibility.

We no longer posses a critical need to know exactly what happened, or is presently happening, only that what we were and are told is not truthful. This point of view holds true for much of what we learned in history class, about 'our' government, modern medicine and even spirituality. We can free ourselves, bit by bit, to accept we may never know the 'truth' about many important things. By doing so, we now travel the previously unseen path of genuine awareness and discovery. This in turn opens up sweeping panoramas and a greater understanding of a  world once again new to us.

Perhaps the ancients are correct. It never really was about the destination, but rather the journey to live, learn and grow.



Mr. and Mrs. Cognitive Dissonance


The Way Forward

The way forward. No unicorns, just glorious reality in all its splendor.


The Obama Administration’s Deadly Playbook Released

America’s Lethal Drone Strike Policies & the Normalization of Killing with Robots

On August 6, 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, announced the long sought release of a redacted version of the Presidential Policy Guide, or PPG, for drone strikes outside of areas of “actual hostilities” as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the ACLU.  The ACLU published the document, which has been referred to as “the Playbook,” on their website along with three other related documents that were released.

ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer was quoted in the announcement as saying, “the PPG provides crucial information about policies that have resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, including hundreds of non-combatants, and about the bureaucracy that the Obama administration has constructed to oversee and implement those policies.  The PPG should have been released three years ago, but its release now will inform an ongoing debate about the lawfulness and wisdom of the government’s counterterrorism policies.  The release of the PPG and related documents is also a timely reminder of the breadth of powers that will soon be in the hands of another president.”

The PPG itself states that it “establishes the standard operating procedures for when the United States takes direct action, which refers to lethal and non-lethal uses of force, including capture operations, against terrorist targets outside the United States and areas of active hostilities.”  It goes on to say that the primary goal is to capture, not kill, any targeted individuals, that “lethal action should be taken in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks against U.S. persons only when capture of an individual is not feasible and no other reasonable alternatives exist to effectively address the threat.”  The PPG adds that lethal action should not be punitive or a “substitute for prosecuting a terrorist suspect.”

The truth is, the PPG has a lot of vague language that allows for an awful lot of leeway that the administration has already demonstrated a willingness to take in the use of drones to target individuals.  It talks of “near certainty that the individual being targeted is in fact the lawful target and located at the place where the action will occur,” and that there is “near certainty” that no non-combatants will be harmed in the attacks.

Considering what we already know from The Drone Papers and numerous whistleblowers about how targets are identified, located, and attacked, the pronouncement of any near certainty involved in drone strikes would be laughable if the consequences weren’t so deadly and horrible.  Just as the administration’s definition of an “imminent threat” is rather loose, with the Pentagon and CIA having 60 days to strike a target after approval, the definition of near certainty appears to be wide open.

Andrew Walker points out another disturbing truth in his August 10, 2016 article about the PPG when he writes, “if anyone other than the targeted individual is ultimately engaged with kinetic action (which happens all the time) than the procedures are meaningless.  Where is the interagency and legal review for those individuals, even if they are classified as combatants?  It doesn’t exist.  Consequently, by authorizing kinetic action against certain individuals, the Obama Administration almost guarantees that people that have not been reviewed will end up dead—and many of them turn out to be innocent civilians.”

I wrote several months ago that “it is not a question of whether the entire program of targeted killing through drone strikes is moral, humane, effective, or even truly supported by national and international law.  It is a question of whether the laws can be explained in such a way as to make drone strikes legal.  To make state-sponsored assassination legal, at least as long as it is called ‘targeted killing’ and is not utilized by enemies of the west.

After all, it is clear that the US and UK have no qualms about violating international law by inventing justifications to invade a sovereign nation. Neither did the US hesitate to create documentation that justified its use of torture.”

The policies are crafted simply to justify and normalize counterterrorism strategies that have already been utilized and embraced by the administration and the military for years.  The media announces the release of the policies, giving the administration a pat on the back for transparency.  But little time is spent discussing the reality behind these policies, the devastating effects these strategies have on the lives of countless people around the world.  Additionally, it moves us further down the road of desensitization to the idea of drone strikes on US soil.

In spite of the PPG’s statement that it sets procedures for strikes outside of the US, CNN casually slid this comment into their August 6, 2016 article about the PPG release:  “if the target is a US citizen or someone living in the will be submitted to the President for a decision.” [Emphasis added].  As if to inject the idea of drone strikes on US soil into the national conscience, to make the idea as easily accepted as the idea of US police killing a man with a robot-mounted bomb.

In a July 23, 2016 blog post, Laurie Calhoun, author of the book We Kill Because We Can, writes the following about the Dallas Police Department’s use of a robot with a bomb mounted on it to kill Micah Johnson.  “US citizens have grown accustomed to their government killing people abroad, but the decision to kill by remote control in the homeland was extraordinary in that no attempt was made to incapacitate the suspect instead.”  She goes on to state, “the precedent set by this action would seem to be yet another step down an ever-more lethal continuum rendered considerably more so by the current US president, Barack Obama, whose policy it is to kill rather than capture suspected terrorists located abroad.”

It seems only a matter of time, with the increasingly alarmist rhetoric about domestic terrorists and self-radicalized lone-wolves, that drone strikes will come home to US soil.  Americans have largely ignored the growing reliance on targeted killing with drones in countries far away (along with all the death and destruction caused by them), and we barely blinked when an American was blown up by a robot-delivered bomb in Dallas.  Will we remain so apathetic and silent when drone strikes happen here?  Will we just accept that it is all part of “the most important policy objective” of protecting American lives, as stated in the PPG?  When we see the death firsthand, will we allow these policies, crafted solely by those who seek to justify their illegal strategies, to stand as humane and ethical operating procedure?

# # # #

Katie Aguilera, Newsbud-BFP Columnist, is an independent researcher, author, and activist who resides in Bend, Oregon. She studied Outdoor Recreation Leadership and spent many years working in the field of wilderness therapy and as a river guide. She writes at the blog Seeking Redress.


BREAKING: Julian Assange Suggests MURDERED DNC STAFFER Seth Rich Was Wikileaks Source: “We Have To Understand How High The Stakes Are In the United States”



rich-assangePictured: Murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich (left) and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange

On July 12, 2016  DNC staffer Seth Rich was murdered while reportedly walking home at 4am. Though robbery was initially suspected, Rich still had his wallet and watch when police arrived. The murder – one of five tied to the Clintons in the last six weeks – came in the midst of a massive email leak scandal involving Wikileaks, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.

Within hours of the event alternative media reporters began to suspect something was amiss, as police had no witnesses, no suspects and no motive. This led to theories that Rich, who was in charge of voter expansion data at the DNC, may have been killed to cover something up. Subsequent reports even suggested Rich may have been on his way to speak with special agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding an “ongoing court case.”

Though the reports were initially dismissed as conspiracy theory, perhaps the one person who could confirm that Rich was in fact a whistle blower may have just done so. None other than Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, in an interview with Nieuwsurr, said that his organization is investigating the death of Seth Rich and, somewhat cryptically, tied Rich to Wikileaks. And though Assange wouldn’t directly admit Rich was the source, perhaps because he himself didn’t know the true identify of his source until material stopped flowing or contact was lost, he implies that Seth Rich’s murder may have been a politically-motivated assassination:

Assange: Whistleblowers go to significant efforts to get us material and often significant risks. There was a 27-year old that works for the DNC who was shot in the back… murdered.. for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in Washington.

Host: That was just a robbery wasn’t it?

Assange: No. There’s no finding.

Host: What are you suggesting?

Assange: I am suggesting that our sources take risks and they become concerned to see things occurring like that.

Host: But was he one of your sources, then?

Assange: We don’t comment on who our sources are.

Host: But why make the suggestion?

Assange: Because we have to understand how high the stakes are in the United States and that our sources face serious risks… that’s why they come to us so we can protect their anonymity.

Host: But it’s quite something to suggest a murder… that’s basically what you’re doing.

Watch the entire exchange:

(Watch At Youtube)

Also See:

Shock Claim: Hackers Set To Release PRIVATE VIDEOS OF CLINTON: “The World Will See The Real Hillary”

Must Watch: The Truth About Hillary’s Bizarre Behavior: “Does She Have Actual Brain Damage?”

No One Can Stop Her… And She Knows It: “This Election Won’t Be Fair”

Video: Hillary Clinton Is a Threat to All Humanity — World War III “On the Table” — Her Candidacy Must Be Opposed

As Hillary Steals the White House, Five More Added to “Clinton Body Count”


How Far a 'Freedom Friendly' City Has Strayed


The presidential race has become an all-consuming affair on social media, as Americans debate which candidate will do less harm to the republic and our freedoms. I remain more concerned about state and municipal governments. Local regulations are far more likely to have an effect on your life than, say, an executive order from the president.

City officials are afflicted by the same regulatory disease as those at other levels of government, whose victims crave the power to tax and regulate. There are some exceptions, places inoculated from the regulatory disease. Sandy Springs, Georgia, has privatized most city services. Voters in Talkeetna, Alaska, have elected Stubbs the Cat mayor since 1997, although some say that funny story is just a fable.

A decade ago, Anaheim was gaining national headlines for its freedom-friendly approach to government. The idea—deregulating, loosening land-use restrictions and slashing fees—was championed by then-Mayor Curt Pringle. It was the idea of then-councilman and current Mayor Tom Tait. I called it an "enormous success" in a column in the Wall Street Journal, given how these freedom policies helped spark a renaissance.

Anaheim has done well over the years for various reasons, but it's sad the city has recently followed the same command, control and subsidize approach found elsewhere. The best (or worst?) example involves Anaheim's approach toward homesharing web platforms such as Airbnb and HomeAway, which match up vacationers with homeowners who rent out their homes for short periods of time.

The city had allowed a number of short-term rentals, but required property owners to receive a city permit and pay taxes. Following complaints from neighbors, the City Council in late June voted to ban new ones in residential neighborhoods and to force existing operations to close down in 18 months. The city also passed tough new rules on those that will stay in business over the next year and a half. Sadly, Mayor Tait led the charge for draconian restrictions. (The city plans to come up with rules to allow some room sharing.)

In recent weeks, Airbnb filed suit against the city, echoing many of the complaints the company made against San Francisco's new regulations. HomeAway also filed a lawsuit against Anaheim. The legal actions raise some of the "freedom" issues that now get short shrift from the City Council.

The main complaint centers on Anaheim's requirement that these web-based companies police their own sites, which the short-term rental (STR) companies say is a violation of the federal Communications Decency Act. That 1996 law created a foundation of internet freedom because it protects internet platforms from being responsible for content submitted by users. Imagine if, say, Facebook were liable for what your friends posted on your wall!

"The ordinance is invalid under the First and Fourteenth amendments because it purports to impose strict criminal and civil liability on websites for publishing speech," according to the HomeAway lawsuit. For its part, Airbnb claims the ordinance "also violates Airbnb's First Amendment rights because it is a content-based restriction on speech... To justify this content-based restriction on speech, the city bears the burden of showing that the ordinance is narrowly tailored to further a substantial government interest. The city cannot carry this burden because, instead of targeting speech, the city instead could simply enforce its short-term rental laws directly against hosts who violate them—as the city acknowledges it already does successfully."

There's also a possible "taking" involved in requiring property owners to stop operating these businesses. That's the kind of anti-property-rights action I would have expected Tait to have opposed in those freedom-friendly days. I also would have expected the city to understand how the free market is fixing a once-vexing problem. In those days, officials complained about blight in older neighborhoods. These days, STR critics complain they are driving up prices in neighborhoods.

The federal court will decide the constitutional issues, of course. But the ordinance is an assault on the concept that people should be free to live their lives and run their businesses as they choose, provided they don't harm others. Neighbors have a right to complain—and expect the city to respond—when visitors violate noise and other ordinances. But they shouldn't have a right to pre-emptively stop certain activities just because other people don't like them.

Yes, we should all be worried about what the presidential election means in terms of our freedom. But our time might be better spent focusing on the myriad ways local officials are stifling innovative new businesses and ideas.


Not all memories really happened: What experts wish you knew about false memories


Headphones, Brain Scans

(Credit: bowie15 via iStock/beccarra via Shutterstock/Salon)

This article was originally published by Scientific American.

Scientific American Every memory you have ever had is chock-full of errors. I would even go as far as saying that memory is largely an illusion.

This is because our perception of the world is deeply imperfect, our brains only bother to remember a tiny piece of what we actually experience, and every time we remember something we have the potential to change the memory we are accessing.

I often write about the ways in which our memory leads us astray, with a particular focus on “false memories.” False memories are recollections that feel real but are not based on actual experience.

For this particular article I invited a few top memory researchers to comment on what they wish everyone knew about their field.

First up, we have Elizabeth Loftus from the University of California, Irvine, who is one of the founders of the area of false memory research, and is considered one of the most “eminent psychologists of the 20th century.

Elizabeth Loftus says you need independent evidence to corroborate your memories.

According to Loftus: “The one take home message that I have tried to convey in my writings, and classes, and in my TED talk is this: Just because someone tells you something with a lot of confidence and detail and emotion, it doesn’t mean it actually happened. You need independent corroboration to know whether you’re dealing with an authentic memory or something that is a product of some other process.”

Next up, we have memory scientist Annelies Vredeveldt from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, who has done fascinating work on how well we remember when we recall things with other people.

Annelies Vredeveldt says to be careful how you ask questions about a memory.

According to Vredeveldt: “What I’d like everyone to know is how (not) to probe for a memory of an event.

When you are trying to get a story out of someone, be it about a witnessed crime or a wild night out, it seems natural to ask them lots of questions about it. However, asking closed questions, such as “what was the color of his hair?” or worse, leading questions, such as “he was a redhead, wasn’t he?” often leads to incorrect answers.

It is much better to let the person tell the story of their own accord, without interrupting and without asking questions afterwards. At most, you might want to ask the person if they can tell you a bit more about something they mentioned, but limit yourself to an open and general prompt such as “can you tell me more about that?”

Research shows that stories told in response to free-recall prompts are much more accurate than stories told in response to a series of closed questions. So if you really want to get to the bottom of something, restrain yourself and don’t ask too many questions!”

Finally, we have Chris French from Goldsmiths, University of London, who has done decades of research on anomalous and paranormal memories, and believes that some of these may be the result of false memories.

Chris French wants you to stop believing common memory myths.

“My top 5 take-home messages on memory:

1. Memory does not work like a video camera, accurately recording all of the details of witnessed events. Instead, memory (like perception) is a constructive process. We typically remember the gist of an event rather than the exact details.

2. When we construct a memory, errors can occur. We will typically fill in gaps in our memories with what we think we must have experienced, not necessarily what we actually did experience. We may also include misinformation we encountered after the event. We will not even be consciously aware that this has happened.

3. We not only distort memories for events that we have witnessed, we may have completely false memories for events that never occurred at all. Such false memories are particularly likely to arise in certain contexts, such as (unintentionally) through the use of certain dubious psychotherapeutic techniques or (intentionally) in psychology experiments.

4. There is no convincing evidence to support the existence of the psychoanalytic concept of repression, despite it being a widely accepted concept.

5. There is currently no way to distinguish, in the absence of independent evidence, whether a particular memory is true or false. Even memories which are detailed and vivid and held with 100 percent conviction can be completely false.”

The take home message remains: Your memory is incredibly malleable. Because you often cannot spot a false memory once it has taken hold, the only way to prevent false memories is to know that they exist and to avoid things that facilitate them.

Want to learn more about the science of false memory? Learn about the work of Loftus, Vredeveldt, French and hundreds of other fascinating memory scientists in my new book “The Memory Illusion.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Trump: Obama 'Is the Founder of ISIS'


Donald Trump made a startling accusation against President Barack Obama during a Florida rally Wednesday night, telling supporters that the commander in chief is the "founder of ISIS."

"ISIS is honoring president Obama," the Republican presidential nominee said during a rally at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. "He is the founder of ISIS. He founded ISIS. And, I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton.

Trump's declaration was met with chants of "Lock her up!" from rally-goers.

In addressing Obama, Trump included the president's middle name, calling him Barack Hussein Obama -- a move that's typically been employed by those who claim Obama is secretly a Muslim.

"Radical Islamic terrorism," Trump said. "And people don’t like saying that. Our president refuses to use the term. Every time another event happens, I keep saying, I wonder if he’s gonna say it this time. And he doesn’t say it."

He also took aim at Clinton, for her refusal to use the term. "And Hillary won’t say it either," he said. "She doesn’t wanna say it, cause she doesn’t wanna offend the president, because then bad things could happen to her if she offends the president. Bad things could happen to her. So she’s afraid to say it. Hillary’s afraid to say it. She did say that she would say it because of me, but she’s afraid to say it. But, we have a real problem with radical Islamic terror. It's’ what it is. It’s terror."


Italy proposal to jail vegans who impose diet on children

A Scandal A Day: Emails Reveal State Department “Favors” To Clinton Foundation & Donors

Hillary Clinton Liar

(ZHEIn the latest installment over Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch released 296 pages of new emails from Hillary’s personal server, most of which were not handed over as part of the 30,000 emails originally provided to the FBI.  The emails were provided to Judicial Watch pursuant to a FOIA request.  These new emails, among other things, demonstrate how the Clinton Foundation and it’s top donors sought favors from the State Department within 3 months of Hillary taking the Secretary of State position. 

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal:

“That the Clinton Foundation was calling in favors barely 3 months into Hillary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department is deeply troubling, and it is yet another reminder of the conflicts of interest and unethical wheeling and dealing she’d bring to the White House,” said Michael Short, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, in a statement Tuesday.

The first request for a “favor” came in April 2009, just 3 months after Hillary was confirmed as Secretary of State on January 21, 2009.  The request came from Doug Band, a long-time adviser to Bill Clinton who helped him setup the Clinton Foundation after his Presidency.  Per the email exchange, Mr. Band reached out the State Department to ask a “favor” on behalf of a person who the Clinton Foundation had recently setup with a trip to Haiti which he found “eye-opening” (the name of the person seeking the favor was redacted from the email exchange).  Yes, well trading taxpayer dollars intended for earthquake relief in exchange for lucrative gold mining contracts from the Haitian government can be quite “eye-opening” indeed (see our post “Clinton Cash: “Devastating” Documentary Reveals How Clintons Went From “Dead Broke” To Mega Wealthy“).

In an exchange from April 2009, a longtime aide to Mr. Clinton told three of Mrs. Clinton’s top advisers that it was “important to take care of” a particular person, whose name has been redacted from the document. That person had written the aide, Doug Band, under the subject line “A favor…” to thank him for the “opportunity to go on the Haiti trip,” which the person called “eye-opening.” Mr. Band was a chief adviser in helping Mr. Clinton launch the Clinton Foundation after leaving the White House.

Another request came from Gilbert Chagoury, a long-time associate of the Clintons with a checkered past.  Chagoury is known for his ties to Nigeria’s military dictator, Sani Abacha, who was instrumental in helping him secure some lucrative construction contracts in the mid-90s.  In 2003, Chagoury helped organize a trip to the Caribbean where former President Bill Clinton was “paid” $100,000 for a speech.  Chagoury has also made bribes contributions to the Clinton Foundation of between $1-$5 million.  Per the Wall Street Journal:

“We need Gilbert Chagoury to speak to the substance person re Lebanon,” Mr. Band wrote in April 2009. “As you know, he’s key guy there and to us and is loved in Lebanon. Very imp.”

Mr. Chagoury, a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire, has donated between $1 million and $5 million to the foundation, according to its disclosures.

Ms. Abedin responded with the name of the State Department official, Jeff Feltman, who had served as a U.S. ambassador to Lebanon before becoming U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs. “I’m sure he knows him,” she wrote. “I’ll talk to Jeff.”

Fifteen minutes later, Mr. Band shot back: “Better if you call him. Now preferable. This is very important.”

In yet another email, Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills wrote to Hillary to inform her that the NSA was working on a modified blackberry that could be used for personal emails while working in restricted State Department offices.  Even though Clinton thought this was “good news” she continued to just use her personal server anyway.  Per the AP:

In another email, Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, informed her that National Security Agency and State Department officials discussed an attempt to develop a modified blackberry for Clinton that might be used when she worked in a restricted State Department office that did not allow private phones.

So why were these emails not included in the original disclosure to the FBI?  Could it be possible that Hillary believes that using her position as Secretary of State to setup meetings between former U.S. Ambassadors and shady international businessmen is somehow “personal” in nature?  Makes you wonder what else was excluded from the FBI disclosures that was purely “personal.”  Guess we’ll just have to elect her to find out if we can trust her.

The emails obtained by Judicial Watch can be reviewed in their entirety below:

Judicial Watch by zerohedge on Scribd

This article (A Scandal A Day: Emails Reveal State Department “Favors” To Clinton Foundation & Donors) by Tyler Durden originally appeared on and was used with permission. Tune in! Anti-Media Radio airs Monday through Friday @ 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. Help us fix our typos:


New Emails Show Scheme Between Clinton Foundation And State Department



Emails revealed during a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch show a corrupt relationship between the Clinton Foundation and the Hillary Clinton-led US State Department.

The 44 emails disclosed by the lawsuit were not among the 55,000 pages of emails former Secretary Clinton had turned over to the State Department from her private email server.

Donors to the Clinton Foundation received special favors from the State Department, and in some cases, the emails even used the word “favor” to describe the conduct. The go-between was often Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, who relayed messages and instructions between former Secretary Clinton and executives at the Clinton Foundation.

In one case, Abedin and Clinton aide Cheryl Mills helped a billionaire donor to the Clinton Foundation, Gilbert Chagoury, get a meeting with the US Ambassador to Lebanon:

In April 2009, Douglas J. Band, who led the foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative, emailed Ms. Abedin and Cheryl D. Mills, another top adviser to Mrs. Clinton, for help with a donor.

Mr. Band wrote that he needed to connect Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire who was one of the foundation’s top donors, with someone at the State Department to talk about his interests in Lebanon.

“It’s jeff feltman,” Ms. Abedin answered, referring to Jeffrey Feltman, who was the American ambassador to Lebanon at the time. “I’m sure he knows him. I’ll talk to jeff.” Mr. Band asked her to call Mr. Chagoury immediately if possible. “This is very important,” he wrote.

Band also lobbied for a Clinton Foundation associate (whose name was redacted in the documents) to get a job at the State Department, noting that it was “important to take care of.” Abedin emailed back, “We all have him on our radar. Personnel has been sending him options.”

So much for meritocracy. If anything, the guiding principle at the Clinton State Department seems to be pay-to-play.

During his congressional testimony about Hillary Clinton’s other email improprieties, FBI Director James Comey dodged questions about whether there was an open investigation into the Clinton Foundation. The FBI is, in all likelihood, currently investigating the Clinton Foundation, but is not expected to complete the investigation until well after the presidential election.

The conduct described in the emails fits a historical pattern, in which Hillary Clinton and her staff peddling influence in exchange for money. If Clinton is elected president, expect more of the same.

The post New Emails Show Scheme Between Clinton Foundation And State Department appeared first on Shadowproof.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

How You Got Screwed - A User's Guide To A Rigged System


Does this describe you?

  • You’re carrying huge amounts of college debt.
  • You’re an adult still living with your parents because you can’t afford to move out.
  • You’re not able to find a job that pays a livable amount of money.
  • You want to get married, but you can’t afford it.
  • Prices keep going up, but your income doesn’t follow.
  • You’ve got health insurance but can’t afford medical care due to the high deductibles.
  • You joined some movement like Operation Wall Street or the Tea Party, or followed a revolutionary politician like Ron Paul or Bernie Sanders, and didn’t see anything change.
  • You feel that something’s not right, even though the government and the media keep telling you how great everything is.

Then this book - "How You Got SCREWED - A guide to a rigged system" - is for you...

"When I was younger, maybe 10 or 11, I remember playing a game of Monopoly with a friend. I was doing well, but I was still losing – and that’s when I realized that my friend, who was acting as the bank, was cheating by secretly moving money from the bank over to his own pile. Once I figured this out, I quit the game. Why play a game when it’s impossible to win?


In a nutshell, that’s what’s happening to you in today’s America. Throughout your entire childhood, you were told about the American Dream, and how if you worked hard and did the right things, you could build a good life for yourself. If you’re reading this, then you’ve figured out that something went wrong: Either someone’s cheating, or they changed the rules without telling you.


I’m here to tell you that this is exactly what happened.


The generations before you actually did have a real shot at achieving their dreams, but over time, so many people cheated, looking for shortcuts to achieving their own dreams, that they ended up changing the game. They rigged the game, and now that it’s your turn to play, they’ve made it almost impossible for you to win.




In reality, I’m a typical middle-aged guy. I’ve achieved my own American Dream, with a wife, two kids, two dogs and a house with a white picket fence in the suburbs (seriously).


I’ve pretty much got it made – but over time, as I learned about how the game is rigged, how the odds are stacked against the next generation, I’ve come to realize that my kids are going to face huge hurdles in achieving their dreams – hurdles I didn’t have to face. And it’s not just my kids: I realized that a lot of people in my generation, and the majority of people younger than me, are in the same boat.


Not only are most of them destined for a life of frustration and unfilled dreams, but the system that’s holding them down is the same system that’s choking the life out of this country. And it’s all because some of the people who came before us decided to rewrite the rules of the game, benefiting them and hurting the rest of us."

As Crimson Avenger sums up:

After years of observing the many corrupted systems that affect our lives, I compiled my thoughts into this book – “How You Got Screwed.” If you’d like a copy, just download the book in PDF form by clicking here .


There is no cost for the book, and you’re free to use it and share it as you see fit. I wrote it to help people understand what’s truly happening in this country, and the more people you share it with, and the more ways you think to use it, the happier I’ll be.

Full book below...

How You Got Screwed 1.0


Sorry you lost your home: Americans deserve more than an apology for the foreclosure fraud epidemic


Foreclosed Home

(Credit: Reuters/John Gress)

“I lost my home of 30 years to fraudclosure.”

“I have been fighting this bank for over five years now. I am finally losing everything to their fraud.”

“We feel captive in our own home.”

This is a sampling of what I have awakened to practically every day for the past few months, since my book “Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street’s Great Foreclosure Fraud” came out. Hundreds of people have emailed me, sent me letters, attended my public events, to relate their personal horror stories of foreclosure and dispossession. They come from across America, from different social and economic backgrounds. Some lost everything, and some haven’t given up.

They contact me, a non-lawyer who has only written about and not participated in their struggle, because they have been abandoned, by a government that chose sides against them after the crash of 2008. They seek answers that I mostly don’t have and support I mostly cannot provide. Outside of referring them to legal aid, I cannot solve their foreclosure problems. I cannot convince a judge disinclined to rule in their favor, or a bank disinclined to see them as anything but a financial asset to be plucked, to change their minds. I can only note in sorrow that the massive netting of fraud laid by the mortgage industry over a decade ago continues to capture people like them.

But despite my lack of assistance, they typically express to me their gratitude, for one simple reason: just by giving voice to similar nightmares, I have instilled in them hope that they aren’t utterly alone in their misery, that they haven’t been singled out by a vengeful nation, that somewhere out there they have an ally and a confidant.

I wrote my book for them, for everyone who suffered as a result of the largest consumer fraud in American history and the greatest economic collapse in nearly a century. They shouldn’t be forgotten. In fact, somebody should apologize to them for having to bear the weight of the financial collapse on their shoulders, even while that suffering was exacted through outright fraud. It might as well be me.

In “Chain of Title”, I detailed how three foreclosure victims uncovered an unparalleled pattern of deceit: mortgage companies systematically using false evidence in courtrooms and county offices to take people’s homes away. This routine document fabrication covered up the unspeakable crime of breaking the chain of title on millions of home mortgages, confusing the underlying ownership and damaging 350 years of functioning property records law.

It was a work of history, depicting events mainly in 2009 and 2010. But that history lives on in my email inbox, to this very day.

Julian Soncco of Phoenix, Arizona, told me how his bank, GMAC Mortgage, broke into his home and changed the locks while he was supposed to be under bankruptcy protection. He received a favorable judgment on two occasions but has still never recovered his home. “In this country,” Soncco wrote, “no such person, no matter how much power they hold, should have the right to take or rob a family from their home without any just reason.”

Michael Powell of Albuquerque, New Mexico, said he survived two foreclosure cases over the past five years, with a third attempt possible. “People would look at me like I was crazy when I’d talk of bogus documents and robo-signing,” he wrote. Diane Bauman of Baldwin, New York, described a foreclosure case against her by JPMorgan Chase going on six years, where affidavits suddenly turned up in the last month, purporting to fix defective documents.

Kim Bolin of St. Louis, Missouri, was told to stop making payments while she negotiated a modification, and then was put into foreclosure simultaneously. The lender submitted as proof of ownership an assignment dated 2013 from the original lender Intervale Mortgage, which went out of business in 2008. Kim, her husband and her three kids expect to be out on the street in the next two weeks. “The feeling of failing your kids is unbelievable,” Bolin wrote. “I now have a heart condition that is causing rapid breathing and a rapid heart rate – the only reason they can find is the huge amount of stress I’m living with every day.”

It’s impossible to expend the time and resources necessary to verify these and the hundreds of other stories I get daily. I can’t even get through all the names of these victims. But I can paint a picture of the type of people who write them, which is nothing like the one the industry frames, a tale of deadbeats and losers who miss mortgage payments and try to scam banks into acquiring a free house.

These people are meticulous. They’ve kept every scrap of paper related to their cases, probably to preserve their own sanity. They know how the law works. Their perseverance, even while recognizing the odds against them, is remarkable.

Andy Williams drove four hours from Chicago to St. Louis to see me speak last month. His foreclosure case began eleven years ago, and he’s compiled a half-dozen law firms to help borrowers in foreclosure in the Chicago area. His lonely battle for consumer rights occurred in parallel with the subjects of my book, thousands of miles away in Florida. There was no wide-ranging community to bring all these voices together, nobody to tell them they weren’t alone.

Which I guess made me the conduit. So I hear all these stories, knowing that years after the foreclosure crisis began, judges and lawyers and prosecutors and politicians don’t want to hear them anymore. Any drive to protect the public, if it was ever there, has withered. Having exhausted other options, foreclosure victims have to approach a writer as a last line of defense. It powerfully illustrates the dislocation people feel, of being stuck in a Kafka-esque trauma without resolution.

Political analysts still manage to wonder why people are angry in a time of economic recovery, without ever even hinting recognition of the scarring impact of the foreclosure disaster. More than 9.3 million American families gave up their home between 2006 and 2014, either in a foreclosure or a short sale or some other transaction. That translates to about 14 million people, all of whom have family and friends and colleagues who at least know of the pain caused by the foreclosure crisis. There have been more since then.

It didn’t have to turn out that way. All of the losses didn’t have to be placed upon homeowners. Somebody could have been held responsible. We could have enforced the simple rule that you can’t take a person’s home with false evidence. This bare minimum would have engendered some faith that the system works, that justice still burns somewhere in America.

So to those who have reached out to me, and those who haven’t, to everyone still feeling the pain of foreclosure, I have just one thing to say. Your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. And when in your desperation you turned to me, I failed you. Because I wish I had something better to express than an apology.

POSTSCRIPT: This is my last column for Salon as a contributing writer. I am tremendously thankful to everyone I worked with here for their encouragement and support, and I exit with the best wishes that this incredible operation will thrive in the future. Thanks.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Democrats’ Tactic of Accusing Critics of Kremlin Allegiance Has Long, Ugly History in U.S.


A frequent weapon for Democrats in the 2016 election is to publicly malign those they regard as critics and adversaries as Russia sympathizers, Putin stooges, or outright agents of the Kremlin. To put it mildly, this is not a new tactic in U.S. political discourse, and it’s worth placing it in historical context. That’s particularly true given how many people have now been targeted with this attack.

Strongly insinuating that the GOP nominee, Donald Trump, has nefarious, possibly treasonous allegiances to Moscow has migrated from Clinton-loyal pundits into the principal theme of the Clinton campaign itself. “The depth of Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin is revealing itself by the day,” her website announced yesterday, and vital “questions” must be answered “about Trump’s cozy relationship with Russia.” The Clinton campaign this weekend released a 1-minute video that, over and over, insinuates Trump’s disloyalty in the form of “questions” – complete with menacing pictures of Red Square. Democrats cheered wildly, and really have not stopped cheering, ever since the ex-Acting CIA Director (who, undisclosed by the NYT, now works for a Clinton operative) went to The New York Times to claim “that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”

But this smear tactic extends far beyond Trump. It is now used to vilify anyone perceived to be an impediment to Clinton’s victory. When WikiLeaks published thousands of DNC emails shortly before the Democratic Convention, which ultimately forced the resignation of four top officials, it was instantly asserted that it was The Russians who gave them those emails (even though The Washington Post cited an intelligence official as saying that “the intelligence community . . . has not reached a conclusion about who passed the emails to WikiLeaks” and “We have not drawn any evidentiary connection to any Russian intelligence service and WikiLeaks — none”). Democrats not only treated this evidence-free conspiracy theory as Truth, but – following the Clinton campaign – proceeded to smear WikiLeaks as a Kremlin operation:

Tomorrow on #AMJoy we'll explore the unprecedented affinity between an American presidential candidate – Trump – Russia and Wilileaks.

— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) July 24, 2016


After converting Trump and WikiLeaks into arms of the Kremlin, Democrats turned their smear campaign to media outlets and journalists who simply reported on the contents of the leaked DNC emails: beginning with The Intercept, the first to report on it. That The Intercept and its journalists and editors proved themselves to be witting or unwitting Kremlin weapons and guilty of being Russia apologists and sympathizers was pronounced by MSNBC’s most enthusiastic neo-McCarthyite host, a Clinton-revering Boston Globe columnist, the Communications Director of California Democratic Congressman John Garamendi (including the outright lie below), and one of the growing legion of Hillary’s neocon supporters.

When Bernie Sanders looked earlier this year to be the one who was standing in Clinton’s way, slimy suggestions began emerging of his dark connections to Russia. In January, Clinton’s Senate ally Claire McCaskill went to The New York Times to warn of ads “with a hammer and sickle” if Democrats nominate Sanders (smearing opponents by pretending to be concerned about how they’ll be attacked by the GOP is a Clinton speciality: it’s how her 2008 campaign justified inflaming the Obama-is-a-Muslim falsehood by being the first to circulate the now-infamous picture of Obama in Muslim garb while in Indonesia).

McCaskill WIELDS A KNIFE: GOP is nice to Bernie because "they can’t wait to run an ad with a hammer and sickle"

— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) January 20, 2016

Meanwhile, Clinton operative David Brock said “Sanders is a socialist” and “has got a 30 year history of affiliation with a lot of whackadoodle ideas and parties,” and pro-Clinton pundits linked Sanders to Communists through his 1980s praise of Castro and the Sandinistas. All of that culminated in Republicans like Lindsey Graham and National Review citing Sanders’ honeymoon in the Soviet Union as proof of his suspicious loyalties:

.@LindseyGrahamSC on socialist @BernieSanders #CNBCGOPDebate #GOPDebate

— The Weekly Standard (@weeklystandard) October 29, 2015

Bloomberg‘s Leonid Bershidsky noted that “Sanders’s long-ago ‘honeymoon’ in the Soviet Union is held up by his opponents as evidence of dubious judgment, and even Communist sympathies or anti-American tendencies.” During a CNN debate, Anderson Cooper began a question to him this way: “You honeymooned in the Soviet Union.”

On Saturday, it was Jill Stein’s turn in the Kremlin seat. As the Green Party candidate rises in the polls, it was only a matter of time before Democrats turned their Russia-smearing eyes toward her. One of the most widely-shared tweets of the weekend was this one from Andrew Weiss of the Carnegie Endowment: a total fabrication that was nonetheless heralded by dozens of Clinton-support journalists because it did the job of smearing a Hillary dissenter as a Russian tool:

Creepy @DrJillStein video from Moscow gushing over Russian support for human rights, dinner w Putin, RT anniv party

— Andrew S. Weiss (@andrewsweiss) August 6, 2016

This tweet is, to state it plainly, a lie. Stein simply did not “gush over Russian support for human rights.” To the contrary, in this very video, she criticized Russia for diverting scarce resources into military spending while its people suffered, and merely praised her fellow participants from around the world who attended an RT-sponsored conference. But no matter: Democratic operatives and journalists widely hailed it as proof that she, too, is some sort of Russia dupe or worse.

One Clinton-supporting blog – while also lying by claiming that “she only criticized the US” – attacked Stein for criticizing the U.S. while standing on dirty foreign soil (“with Red Square as her backdrop”), a long-standing trope used by the Far Right to attack liberals and Democrats for being unpatriotic by virtue of criticizing the U.S. while outside its borders. Commenting on that post, numerous Clinton supporters predictably denounced Stein as a traitor, saying “I don’t think it goes too far to suggest these are acts of sedition and possibly treason,” while the blogger himself dismissed objections over his “red-baiting” by saying “Putin is former KGB!” Journalists from major media outlets used all this to announce that Putin now has not one but (at least) two presidential candidates he controls:

So just like that, literally overnight, Clinton-supporting journalists and Democratic operatives converted Jill Stein into an agent of the Kremlin – all because she went to Russia and attended an event where Putin spoke.

So that’s the Democratic Party’s approach to the 2016 election. Those who question, criticize or are perceived to impede Hillary Clinton’s smooth, entitled path to the White House are vilified as stooges, sympathizers and/or agents of Russia: Trump, WikiLeaks, Sanders, The Intercept, Jill Stein. Other than loyal Clinton supporters, is there anyone left who is not covertly controlled by or in service to The Ruskies?

There are so many levels of irony to the Democrats’ reliance on this ugly tactic. To begin with, one presidential candidate who actually has significant, questionable ties to Russia is named . . . Hillary Clinton.

As The New York Times detailed in 2015, Hillary and her husband Bill were at the center of a deal that “gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States.” Those responsible for engineering that deal gave millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation, which “were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors.” Hillary herself approved the deal as Secretary of State, while Bill personally “received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.”

Those are ties far more substantial than either Sanders or Stein have ever been shown to have to Russia. It’s hardly a surprise, then, that The Washington Post recently reported that at least some Moscow factions may prefer Clinton to Trump.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, meets U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on her arrival at the APEC summit in Vladivostok, Russia, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel,Pool)

Photo: Mikhail Metzel/AP

Then there’s the policy basis for insinuating that people like Stein and Trump have misplaced allegiances to Russia rather than the United States of America. Both have been vilified for advocating ways to reduce US/Russian tensions. Trump in particular has been attacked by Democrats for his opposition to arming Ukraine in order to deter Russian aggression, his desire to cooperate with Putin in Syria, and his questioning of the ongoing financial and security value of NATO. All this, we’re told, would benefit Putin, making anyone who advocates it in “alignment” with the Russians deliberately or otherwise.

But there’s another politicians who advocates many of these exact same policies. His name is . . . Barack Obama. Last year, even as bipartisan demands mounted for him to arm anti-Russian elements in Ukraine, Obama adamantly refused, “fearing that it would only escalate the bloodshed.” One of Obama’s key arguments, as he expressed to The Atlantic earlier this year: “Ukraine is a core Russian interest but not an American one, so Russia will always be able to maintain escalatory dominance there.”

Obama’s views on Syria are similar: he wants to work in cooperation with, not in opposition to, Russia, and has proposed a partnership to achieve that. And, of course, Obama famously mocked Mitt Romney in their 2012 debate when the GOP nominee pronounced Russia as the “biggest geopolitical threat” facing the U.S.; said the President: “the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.”

In sum, Obama has continually downplayed the threat posed by Russia, and has repeatedly advocated and implemented policies that are in accord with Russia’s interests, with the goal of avoiding conflict with them rather than seeking it.

Because of all this, Obama has repeatedly been attacked by the militaristic Right for being “soft on Russia” and an “enabler of Putin.” For Democrats to now adopt this warped template, and try to equate efforts to reduce tensions with Russia with some sort of disloyalty, is nothing short of mad. As my colleague Lee Fang pointed out, Obama’s refusal to capitulate to anti-Russia hysteria and seek conflict with Moscow – something Democrats are now depicting as servitude to Putin – is one of his most important accomplishments:

After forging peace with Iran, Obama's second & far less recognized foreign policy accomplishment was refusing to turn Ukraine into Syria

— Lee Fang (@lhfang) August 7, 2016

Obama steadfastly refused to provide lethal aid to Ukraine, knowing it would lead to endless escalation and bloodshed.

— Lee Fang (@lhfang) August 7, 2016

If all this Russia fear mongering leads to a proxy war during the Clinton presidency, plz send the pundits to fight on the front lines.

— Lee Fang (@lhfang) August 7, 2016

This Democratic campaign theme not only stigmatizes any efforts to reduce tensions with Russia as wrong-headed – just observe how Stein’s pro-peace message was converted into subversive Kremlin propaganda – but explicitly equates such efforts with evidence of disloyalty and love for Putin. Given Obama’s own record, that tactic is as self-destructive as it is stupid, manipulative and dangerous.

But by far the greatest irony in all of this is that Democrats have now explicitly adopted the exact smears that were used by the Far Right for decades to demonize liberals and the left as disloyal Kremlin stooges. For the entire second half of the 20th Century, any Americans who opposed U.S. proxy wars with Russia, or advocated arms control deals with them, or generally desired less conflict, were branded as Useful Idiots of the Kremlin, loyal to Moscow, controlled by Russian leaders. Democrats have taken this script – one of the most shameful and destructive in American history – and have made it the centerpiece of their 2016 presidential campaign.

The examples are too numerous to cite, but let’s start with the most ironic one. When Bill Clinton ran for President in 1992 against the Republican incumbent George H.W. Bush, one of the primary attacks on him was that he harbored sympathy for Russia or even disloyalty to the U.S. as evidenced by, among other things, his anti-war activism regarding Vietnam and his “unexplained” trip to Moscow as a college student. An October 9, 1992 Guardian article referred to how “the strange case of Mr Clinton’s trip to Moscow” to explain that “the Republicans are scratching away at those doubts about Mr Clinton ‘s character.” The Christian Science Monitor on October 15 of that year described “the Bush camp’s new effort to turn Bill Clinton’s bit part in the anti-war movement that swept the country 25 years ago, plus a student trip to Moscow, into something akin to treason.”

President Bush himself invoked these smears to bolster dark insinuations about Clinton’s loyalty to the Kremlin:

Mr Clinton should “level with the American people on the draft, on whether he went to Moscow, how many demonstrations he led against his own country from foreign soil,” Mr Bush declared on the Larry King television show.

“I don’t have the facts, but to go to Moscow one year after Russia crushed Czechoslovakia, and not remember who you saw – I think the answer is, level with the American people,” Mr Bush repeated.

The prospect of disloyalty became a systematic theme against Bill. As the Los Angeles Times reported on October 9, 1992, “some Republican defenders of Bush suggested that the Clinton trip was, indeed, unusual and deserved close scrutiny. Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), who was secretary of the Navy at the time of the trip, said Thursday: ‘As far as I know, travel to Moscow in those days was primarily official business.'” That Clinton harbored KGB and Kremlin connections became a staple of far-right attacks on him for years.

That Ted Kennedy harbored secret Russian connections and loyalties was also a favorite right-wing smear for decades. In 2006, a new book led the right-wing press to claim that Kennedy had been secretly collaborating with Kremlin leaders to undermine U.S. policy on Russia. They also accused the Massachusetts Democrat of inducing the Russians to interfere in the 1984 election in order to help Democrats defeat Ronald Reagan.

Claims that the Russians were trying to interfere in U.S. elections to help the Democratic candidate beat the Republican was a constant theme of the Far Right for as long as one can remember:

Even Ronald Reagan – who declared the Soviets to be an “Evil Empire” – was not immune from this smear. When Reagan sought to finalize an arms control treaty with the Russians in the 1980s, Howard Phillips, head of the Conservative Caucus, denounced him as Russia’s “Useful Idiot” – now a favorite Democratic Party slur – while another key right-wing activist, Richard Viguerie, declared: “He has quit the fight and left the field of battle.”

This slur – “Useful Idiot” – is now a favorite Democratic insult. If you’re a Hillary critic, or someone who advocates a reduction of tension with Russia, you will literally be called it every day. What’s so amazing about that is that this was the favorite right-wing insult for years, aimed at liberals, Democrats, the left – anyone who opposed U.S. militarism or advocated peace treaties. As The New York Times‘ William Safire wrote in a 1987 column about “useful idiots,” the term “is being used by anti-Communists against the ideological grandchildren of those liberals, or against anybody insufficiently anti-Communist in the view of the phrase’s user.” Indeed:

National Review has published far too many articles to count accusing Democrats of being the Kremlin’s “Useful Idiots,” while right-wing columnist Mona Charen wrote a 2004 book with that title, arguing: “Meet the ‘Useful Idiots’ Al Gore, Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson, Madeleine Albright, Katie Couric, Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, and all the other liberals who were — and are — always willing to blame America first and defend its enemies as simply ‘misunderstood.'”

A 2010 book by right-wing historian Paul Kengor was called “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.” It argues that “from the Bolshevik Revolution through the Cold War and right up to the present, many progressives have unwittingly aided some of America’s most dangerous opponents.” Specifically:

And then, of course, there’s the great pioneer of all of this himself: Senator Joseph McCarthy, who rose to fame, and then infamy, by running around accusing all sorts of domestic adversaries of being secretly loyal to, if not controlled by, their masters in Moscow. My favorite image of the Wisconsin Senator is from this YouTube clip, where he voices an accusation that one literally sees from Democrats on a daily basis:

This – at times verbatim – is the ugly, disgraceful, destructive far-right-wing script which Democrats have now fully and enthusiastically adopted in 2016 to smear their adversaries and critics. Notwithstanding the fall of Communism, it works because of the decades of training Americans have received to regard Russians as Evil Enemies, the fact that Putin himself was a former KGB official, that Americans always want and need a Super-Villain Enemy, and the massive benefits received by all sorts of influential factions from maintaining US/Russian tensions as high as possible.

But whatever else is true, there is no doubt that the methods, rhetoric, and tactics Democrats are now using are identical to the ones used by America’s Right for decades to smear liberals and the left. As The Los Angeles Times recently put it, “for decades, Republicans were the fiercest of Cold Warriors . . . winning elections by painting Democrats as the party of the frail and feckless. . . But in one of the most startling turnabouts in a campaign filled with role reversals, it is now the Democrats brandishing fear of Moscow as a club.” Some of them seem quite proud of this role reversal, notwithstanding the fact that they are mimicking and echoing many of the most shameful people and tactics of the 20th Century.

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