Bernie Sanders: Trump didn't win the election, the Democrats lost it

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“I look at this election not as a victory for Mr. Trump, who wins the election as the most unpopular candidate in perhaps the history of our country, but as a loss for the Democratic Party." -Senator Bernie Sanders, speaking to a sold-out crowd in San Rafael, CA. Read the rest

Donald Trump's 100 day plan: the good, the bad, and the terrifying

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On Naked Capitalism, Gaius Publius parses through Donald Trump's "100-day action plan" (just the public parts, not the parts leaked by the bumbler Trump wants to put in charge of the DHS), and calls out the few bright spots (killing TPP, improving NAFTA) and the terrifying remainder (accelerating climate change, deploying a national campaign of stop-and-frisk, all but destroying public education). Read the rest

Tax Inspectors Without Borders: poor countries send each other ninja tax collectors to nail looting multinationals

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This week on the Tax Justice Network's podcast (previously), they profile (at 20:40) the OECD's Tax Inspectors Without Borders, through which poor countries loan each other their most effective tax collectors to help catch the tax-dodging multinational corporations who drain the countries' economies -- and the organization transfers tax enforcement expertise in the process. Read the rest

Dick Van Dyke, 90: Bernie Sanders is the best candidate for seniors

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Dick Van Dyke, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, has written an op-ed in the Hollywood Reporter endorsing Bernie Sanders as the best candidate for senior citizens. Read the rest

British Royals' celebrations with narration from North Korean patriotic parade

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This is a genius piece of media criticism: mapping the BBC's own slavishly patriotic broadcast of the British royals' 2015 "celebrations" onto its breathless voice-over for a North Korean patriotic demonstration in celebration of a Kim birthday. (via Kottke) Read the rest

Bernie Sanders on small money donations vs sucking up to billionaires

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Bernie Sanders, who smashed Obama's record for small-money donors in December and blew through his own fundraising goals, writes about the difference between raising lots of small sums from individual Americans and chasing huge donations from America's oligarchs. Read the rest

Potato-chip surveillance: once you start, you just can't stop

The ongoing revelations about UK domestic spying on political activists, continued in some case for decades, and which included an incident in which an undercover police officer fathered a child with the woman he was spying on, illustrate an important point: once you decide someone is suspicious enough to follow around, there's no evidence that you can gather to dispel that suspicion. Read the rest

Best-paid CEOs perform the worst

In Performance for Pay? The Relation Between CEO Incentive Compensation and Future Stock Price Performance , a paper from U of Utah business-school professors, the relationship between executive performance and executive pay is intensively investigated. The authors carefully document that the highest-paid executives in the 1,500 companies with the biggest market cops from 1994-2013 perform the worst, and that the higher a CEO's pay, the more likely it is that he'll perform worse than his low-paid colleagues. The effect was most pronounced in the 150 highest-paid CEOs.

The authors propose that sky-high pay leads CEOs to be overconfident -- after all, if they're getting $37M for a year's work, they must be pretty damned smart, so anyone who disagrees with them is clearly an idiot, after all, look at how little that critic is paid! The longer a CEO is in office, the worse his performance becomes, because he is able to pack the board with friendly cronies who keep hiking his pay and overlooking his underperformance. And CEOs suck at figuring out when to exercise their stock options, generally getting less money than they would by following conventional financial advice. Read the rest

$1B/year climate denial network exposed

In Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations, a scholarly article published in the current Climatic Change , Drexel University's Robert J. Brulle documents a billion-dollar-per-year climate-change denial network, underwritten by conservative billionaires operating through obfuscating networks of companies aimed at obscuring the origin of the funds.

Among the recipients of the funds are several charitable groups that are supposedly neutral on climate change, including the American Enterprise Institute (the top recipient of the funds) and the Heritage Foundation. Brulle was unable to uncover the origin of 75 percent of the funds, much of which were routed through Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund. Read the rest

How the Koch Brothers laundered illegal campaign contributions

A California lawsuit brought by elections watchdog the Fair Political Practices Commission has unraveled a network of nonprofits that the Koch Brothers used to launder millions in illegal campaign contributions. These were made to campaigns over two ballot measures: one that would have raised taxes on the wealthiest Californians; the other crippled unions' fundraising. The Kochs funneled $15m into these campaigns, using a series of front-organizations that were also apparently employed by other billionaires including Charles Schwab, Gene Haas, Bob Fisher, and Eli Broad. Read the rest

Statue of Stalin to be reinstated in Gori, Georgia

A statue of Josef Stalin in his hometown of Gori, Georgia, pulled down in 2010, will be re-erected, thanks to prime-minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, a billionaire who is friendly to Russia. Read the rest

UK Serious Crimes Agency buried evidence of massive criminality by major corporations, rich people -- wouldn't even tell the cops

Back in June, the Independent broke a huge story about a scandal whereby the UK Serious Organised Crime Agency sat on evidence of widespread use of phone-hacking and other dirty tricks by rich people, top-flight law-firms, telecoms companies and blue-chip firms.

Today, they've published an update: the list of companies that routinely engaged in criminal behavior is longer than earlier thought -- including pharma companies and many others -- and what's more, SOCA hid this information from the Metropolitan Police force, effectively insulating these top firms and toffs from any consequence for their criminality. Read the rest

If you're suspected of drug involvement, America takes your house; HSBC admits to laundering cartel billions, loses five weeks' income and execs have to partially defer bonuses

Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi is brilliantly incandescent in his column about the HSBC drug-money-laundering settlement with the US government. HSBC was an active, knowing participant in laundering billions in drug money, and was fined a small percentage of its net worth (five weeks' income). Meanwhile, private individuals who are suspected of being incidentally involved in the drug trade routinely have all of their property confiscated, down to their houses and cars, under America's insane forfeiture laws. Then they often go to jail.

It doesn't take a genius to see that the reasoning here is beyond flawed. When you decide not to prosecute bankers for billion-dollar crimes connected to drug-dealing and terrorism (some of HSBC's Saudi and Bangladeshi clients had terrorist ties, according to a Senate investigation), it doesn't protect the banking system, it does exactly the opposite. It terrifies investors and depositors everywhere, leaving them with the clear impression that even the most "reputable" banks may in fact be captured institutions whose senior executives are in the employ of (this can't be repeated often enough) murderers and terrorists. Even more shocking, the Justice Department's response to learning about all of this was to do exactly the same thing that the HSBC executives did in the first place to get themselves in trouble – they took money to look the other way...

... So the executives who spent a decade laundering billions of dollars will have to partially defer their bonuses during the five-year deferred prosecution agreement? Are you fucking kidding me?

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Donald Trump calls for revolutionary overthrow of American government

He deleted it, but Wil Wheaton saved it for posterity. Read the rest

Major American firms pay more in CEO compensation than they do in fed tax

26 major American companies paid more to their CEOs than they paid in taxes in 2011, including Citigroup, Abbott Labs, and AT&T. This from a study published by the Institute for Policy Studies entitled Executive Excess 2012: The CEO Hands in Uncle Sam's Pocket. They note that this figure has climbed since last year. Reuters's Nanette Byrnes reports:

Among companies topping the institute's list:

* Citigroup, the financial services giant, with a tax refund of $144 million based on prior losses, paid CEO Vikram Pandit $14.9 million in 2011, despite an advisory vote against it by 55 percent of shareholders.

* Telecoms group AT&T paid CEO Randall Stephenson $18.7 million, but was entitled to a $420 million tax refund thanks to billions in tax savings from recent rules accelerating depreciation of assets.

* Drugmaker Abbott Laboratories paid CEO Miles White $19 million, while garnering a $586 million refund. Abbott has 64 subsidiaries in 16 countries considered by authorities to be tax havens, the institute said.

Companies paid CEOs more than they paid in taxes Read the rest

$21 trillion has been stashed in tax havens by 0.001% of the world's population

The Tax Justice Network's Estimating the Price of Offshore Revisted report says that over $21 trillion has been squirrelled away in offshore tax-havens by 90,000 super-rich tax-cheats (0.001% of the world's population). The crime was abetted by a network of "enablers" from banks like UBS, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs.

Much of the money has been looted from the world's poorest countries, whose populations live in conditions of crushing poverty exacerbated by even more crushing international debt. The report estimates that if those countries' oligarchs and crime bosses were to pay their fair share of taxes that these debts could be settled. For example, Nigeria has lost £196b to tax havens -- while the country's national debt was about $37b as of 2011.

Heather Stewart has more in The Observer:

James Henry, former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, has compiled the most detailed estimates yet of the size of the offshore economy in a new report, The Price of Offshore Revisited, released exclusively to the Observer. He shows that at least £13tn – perhaps up to £20tn – has leaked out of scores of countries into secretive jurisdictions such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands with the help of private banks, which vie to attract the assets of so-called high net-worth individuals. Their wealth is, as Henry puts it, "protected by a highly paid, industrious bevy of professional enablers in the private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries taking advantage of the increasingly borderless, frictionless global economy".

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Smart people are especially prone to stupid mistakes

Jonah Lehrer takes to The New Yorker to discuss Thinking, Fast and Slow, the latest book from Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist who's won the Nobel prize in economics. Lehrer discusses Kahneman's contention that smart people are no less prone to cognitive bias than anyone else, but are prone to believing that they are immune to error. Kahneman himself admits that he makes systematic cognitive errors all the time, even though he's devoted his career to studying them.

This has particularly grim implications for a society that thinks it is a meritocracy but is really an oligarchy, because the competitively educated people at the top believe (incorrectly) that they don't need to have their intuitions reviewed by lesser mortals.

And here’s the upsetting punch line: intelligence seems to make things worse. The scientists gave the students four measures of “cognitive sophistication.” As they report in the paper, all four of the measures showed positive correlations, “indicating that more cognitively sophisticated participants showed larger bias blind spots.” This trend held for many of the specific biases, indicating that smarter people (at least as measured by S.A.T. scores) and those more likely to engage in deliberation were slightly more vulnerable to common mental mistakes. Education also isn’t a savior; as Kahneman and Shane Frederick first noted many years ago, more than fifty per cent of students at Harvard, Princeton, and M.I.T. gave the incorrect answer to the bat-and-ball question.

What explains this result? One provocative hypothesis is that the bias blind spot arises because of a mismatch between how we evaluate others and how we evaluate ourselves.

Read the rest

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