May 22, 2015 archive
May 22 2015
May 22 2015
Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when
we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.
This Day in History
Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy sign the ‘Pact of Steel’; Richard Nixon is the first U.S. president to visit the Soviet Union; Actor Laurence Olivier born; Johnny Carson hosts his last ‘Tonight Show.’
Something to Think about over
Now all of us can talk to the NSA – just by dialing any number.
May 22 2015
This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
May 22 is the 142nd day of the year (143rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 223 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1843, the Great Emigration departs for Oregon
A massive wagon train, made up of 1,000 settlers and 1,000 head of cattle, sets off down the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri. Known as the “Great Emigration,” the expedition came two years after the first modest party of settlers made the long, overland journey to Oregon.
In what was dubbed “The Great Migration of 1843” or the “Wagon Train of 1843”, an estimated 700 to 1,000 emigrants left for Oregon. They were led initially by John Gantt, a former U.S. Army Captain and fur trader who was contracted to guide the train to Fort Hall for $1 per person. The winter before, Marcus Whitman had made a brutal mid-winter trip from Oregon to St. Louis to appeal a decision by his Mission backers to abandon several of the Oregon missions. He joined the wagon train at the Platte River for the return trip. When the pioneers were told at Fort Hall by agents from the Hudson’s Bay Company that they should abandon their wagons there and use pack animals the rest of the way, Whitman disagreed and volunteered to lead the wagons to Oregon. He believed the wagon trains were large enough that they could build whatever road improvements they needed to make the trip with their wagons. The biggest obstacle they faced was in the Blue Mountains of Oregon where they had to cut and clear a trail through heavy timber. The wagons were stopped at The Dalles, Oregon by the lack of a road around Mount Hood. The wagons had to be disassembled and floated down the treacherous Columbia River and the animals herded over the rough Lolo trail to get by Mt. Hood. Nearly all of the settlers in the 1843 wagon trains arrived in the Willamette Valley by early October. A passable wagon trail now existed from the Missouri River to The Dalles. In 1846, the Barlow Road was completed around Mount Hood, providing a rough but completely passable wagon trail from the Missouri river to the Willamette Valley-about 2,000 miles.
May 22 2015
This started out as a brief introduction to the documentary, but there are a lot of pieces moving in the fight against the Stasi Surveillance State. It deals specifically with the activities of MI6 in England and at that tangentially with rampant disregard for the privacy rights of citizens, but since it’s from the BBC you may not have seen it and it’s worth the watch. The stories below are about recent court rulings against bulk collection of personal information and the new reports of abuse exceeding even the Unconstitutional Section 215 by the FBI.
‘Trust us’ mantra undermined by GCHQ tribunal judgment
by Alan Travis, The Guardian
Friday 6 February 2015 10.06 EST
For more than 18 months the response from the security services to the disclosure by Edward Snowden of the mass harvesting of personal data of British citizens has been to say: “Trust us, nothing we are doing is unlawful.”
But for the first time in its 15-year history the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT) – the only British court that can hold GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 to account – has put a question mark against that assurance.
The 12-page tribunal judgment in the case brought by Liberty and Privacy International does not rule that the British GCHQ bulk interception programmes were unlawful. But it has ruled that the secret intelligence sharing arrangements between Britain and the US, known as Prism and Upstream, did not comply with human rights laws for seven years because the internal rules and safeguards supposed to guarantee our privacy have themselves been kept secret.
It was only public disclosure of those rules for the first time as part of the first of two IPT rulings in December that brought the intelligence-sharing regime into compliance with human rights law in general, and article 8 of the European convention on human rights on the right to privacy in particular.
The declaration by the tribunal judges is quite clear that until that public disclosure was made on 5 December, the Prism and Upstream programmes under which the private personal data of people living in the UK was obtained by the American authorities contravened human rights laws.
N.S.A. Collection of Bulk Call Data Is Ruled Illegal
By CHARLIE SAVAGE and JONATHAN WEISMAN, The New York Times
MAY 7, 2015
The court, in a unanimous ruling written by Judge Gerard E. Lynch, held that Section 215 “cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program.” It declared the program illegal, saying, “We do so comfortably in the full understanding that if Congress chooses to authorize such a far-reaching and unprecedented program, it has every opportunity to do so, and to do so unambiguously.”
(T)he appeals court ruling raises the question of whether Section 215, extended or not, has ever legitimately authorized the program. The statute on its face permits only the collection of records deemed “relevant” to a national security case. The government secretly decided, with the FISA court’s secret approval, that this could be interpreted to mean collection of all records, so long as only those that later turn out to be relevant are scrutinized by analysts.
However, Judge Lynch wrote: “Such expansive development of government repositories of formerly private records would be an unprecedented contraction of the privacy expectations of all Americans. Perhaps such a contraction is required by national security needs in the face of the dangers of contemporary domestic and international terrorism. But we would expect such a momentous decision to be preceded by substantial debate, and expressed in unmistakable language.”
FBI used Patriot Act to obtain ‘large collections’ of Americans’ data, DoJ finds
by Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian
Thursday 21 May 2015 15.30 EDT
Section 215 of the Patriot Act permits the FBI to collect business records, such as medical, educational and tax information or other “tangible things” relevant to an ongoing counter-terrorism or espionage investigation. Since 2006, the NSA had also secretly used it to collect US phone data in bulk.
After Edward Snowden’s leaks allowed the Guardian to reveal the phone-records bulk collection in June 2013, deep political opposition coalesced around the bulk program – eclipsing the FBI’s acquisition of other data, which has long been an issue only for civil libertarians.
But a Justice Department inspector general’s report finally released on Thursday covering the FBI’s use of Section 215 from 2007 to 2009 found that the bureau is using the business-records authority “to obtain large collections of metadata”, such as “electronic communication transactional information”.
The specifics of that collection – which civil libertarians have called “bulky”, to signal that it is not bulk collection but not far off – are not provided in the redacted report. Yet electronic communication transactional information is likely to refer to records of emails, instant messages, texts and perhaps Internet Protocol addresses. Sections of the report refer to the FBI asking for “material related to internet activity” and mention “IP addresses and to/from entries in emails”.
While the FBI director, James Comey, stated on Wednesday that losing the Section 215 authority would be a “big problem“, the inspector general cast doubt on the overall security impact of the loss.
“#&91;T#&93;he agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders, but told us that the material produced pursuant to Section 215 orders was valuable in that it was used to support other investigative requests, develop investigative leads, and corroborate other information,” the DoJ report found.
“This report adds to the mounting evidence that Section 215 has done little to protect Americans and should be put to rest. As Congress debates whether to rein in the NSA, this investigation underscores how sweeping the government’s surveillance programs are and how essential systemic reform is right now,” said Alex Abdo, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.
Daniel Schuman of Demand Progress urged Congress to let the provision “fade into the sunset”, and warned that the administration-backed USA Freedom Act, which ends bulk collection while preserving the rest of Section 215, was a pathway to future abuse.
May 22 2015
The new Attorney General Loretta Lynch proves why she should not have been confirmed, as she rubber stamps the same weak polices of her predecessor Eric Holder regarding the prosecution of the “Too Big to Jail” bankers.
By Ben Protess and Ben Corkery, The New York Times
Adding another entry to Wall Street’s growing rap sheet, five big banks have agreed to pay about $5.6 billion and plead guilty to multiple crimes related to manipulating foreign currencies and interest rates, federal and state authorities announced on Wednesday.
The Justice Department forced four of the banks – Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland – to plead guilty to antitrust violations in the foreign exchange market as part of a scheme that padded the banks’ profits and enriched the traders who carried out the plot. The traders were supposed to be competitors, but much like companies that rigged the price of vitamins and automotive parts, they colluded to manipulate the largest and yet least regulated market in the financial world, where some $5 trillion changes hands every day, prosecutors said. [..]
A fifth bank, UBS, will also plead guilty on Wednesday to manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, a benchmark rate that underpins the cost of trillions of dollars in credit cards and other loans. Federal prosecutors had previously agreed not to prosecute the Swiss bank over the Libor scheme. But in a rare stand against corporate recidivism, the Justice Department voided that non-prosecution agreement after learning that UBS was also taking part in the effort to manipulate currency prices.
The guilty pleas, which the banks are expected to enter in federal court in Connecticut on Wednesday, represent a first in a financial industry that has been dogged by numerous scandals and investigations since the 2008 financial crisis. Until now, banks have either had their biggest banking units or small subsidiaries plead guilty. But with the four banks charged with currency violations, the guilty pleas will come from their parent companies. [..]
For the banks, though, life as a felon is likely to carry more symbolic shame than practical problems. Although they could be technically barred by American regulators from managing mutual funds or corporate pension plans or perform certain other securities activities, the banks have obtained waivers from the Securities and Exchange Commission that will allow them to conduct business as usual. In fact, the cases were not announced until after the S.E.C. had time to act.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Wall Street watchdog group Better Markets weighed in on the lack of any criminal prosecutions:
Better Markets called it a “slap on the wrist” and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in an e-mail: “That’s not accountability for Wall Street. It’s business as usual, and it stinks.” [..]
Dennis Kelleher, president of Better Markets, a non-profit group, said that the Justice Department had not done enough, saying “it talks tough, but winks at Wall Street’s too-big-to-fail banks’ criminal conduct, structuring sweetheart deals to minimize the impact on the criminals.”
Kelleher said the fines alone wouldn’t deter future criminal acts and that the Justice Department should punish bank executives and their supervisors for bad behavior. “Banks don’t commit crimes, bankers do,” he said.
Warren said “the big banks have been caught red-handed conspiring to manipulate financial markets, and several have even admitted in court that they’re felons – but not a single trader is being held individually accountable, and regulators are stumbling over themselves to exempt the banks from the legally required consequences of their criminal behavior.”
At Esquire Politics, Charles Pierce is not impressed by Ms. Lynch:
What a fake. What a fraud. What an insult to any stick-up kid doing five-to-fifteen for robbing a bodega. The banks don’t even have to look between the cushions on the sofa for the loose change they’ll use to pay the fines. They get to use their stockholders’ money to pay the fine. [..]
This is altogether remarkable. Here we have a staggering series of crimes that did very real damage to thousands of people all over the world. Here we have a staggering series of crimes, but not a single identifiable criminal. Who rigged the markets? The bank buildings? A shadowy cabal of ledgers? Motorcycle gangs made up of quarterly reports? This is the only area of criminal justice where law-enforcement actively avoids identifying anyone as a criminal.
Let us face facts. Within these institutions, there have to be hundreds of people who were involved in some way with a scam this large. There were people who supervised those hundreds of people, and people who supervised them. Somewhere, in that mass of criminal activity, I’m willing to bet something substantial that a human being committed an actual crime.
But, no. “The banks” get fined. This is just too freaking hilarious.
After all this evidence and investigation, not one person has been arrested. Sure some were fired at insistence of some regulators, but never criminally charged. So, the crooks are still getting away with breaking the law. Fines are a joke. Most of these banks will recoup those fines in less than a day and, at the end of the year, deduct them as business losses, so the tax payer once again foots the bill. I would hardly call that a victory. It’s a joke.
May 22 2015
There are those of who knew that the Bush administration was lying about the intelligence that led up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. As Rolling Stones‘s Matt Taibbi put it, the invasion was as much a joke then as it is now and he calls out the media for their hypocritical “hounding of Jeb Bush” over his really stupid answers about his brother’s war. They seem to have forgotten their own complicity in the banging of the war drums.
So presidential hopeful Jeb Bush is taking a pounding for face-planting a question about his brother’s invasion of Iraq. Apparently, our national media priests want accountability from leaders on this issue. [..]
We can call this the “None of us pundits would have been wrong about Iraq if it wasn’t for Judith Miller” line of questioning. This rhetoric goes something like this: since we invaded, the war has gone epically FUBAR, so it’s obvious now that it was a mistake, and so we can mock you for not admitting as much.
But because of Judith Miller, it wasn’t obvious even to all of us geniuses back then, which is why virtually every media outlet to the right of Democracy Now! (MSNBC included, as old friend Alex Pareene wittily pointed out) got it wrong for years on end, back when this issue actually mattered.
Go back up a few paragraphs and look at that list of media outlets. All of them – the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times obviously, the Chicago Tribune – they were all card-carrying Iraq war cheerleaders.
I get that many of the individual writers involved in bashing Jeb this week were not the same writers who whored for the Bush administration back in the day. [..]
But the individuals aren’t the issue. It’s the general notion that the Iraq War issue was some kind of tough intellectual call that we all needed hindsight to sort out. It wasn’t, and we didn’t.
It was obvious even back then, to anyone who made the faintest effort to look at the situation honestly, that the invasion was doomed, wrong, and a joke. [..]
The Iraq invasion was always an insane exercise in brainless jingoism that could only be intellectually justified after accepting a series of ludicrous suppositions. [..]
That’s why the lambasting of Jeb Bush by all of these media voices grinds a little. At least plenty of Republicans sincerely thought the war was a good idea. But I know a lot of my colleagues in the media saw through the war from day one.
The bulk of them hid behind the morons in our business, people like Tom Friedman and David Brooks and Jeffrey “I trusted the Germans” Goldberg, frontline pundits who were pushed forward to do the dirty work, the hardcore pom-pom stuff.
Many others, particularly the editors, quietly sat by and let lie after lie spill onto their papers’ pages, telling themselves that this wasn’t wrong or a mistake until years later, when we found out for sure the WMD thing was a canard.
Hundred of thousands of people have died because none of these people in the media had the courage to stand up to the Bush administration’s lies. Thousands are still dying and will continue to die at the hands of the militants the Iraq war unleashed and at the hands of the Obama and future US administrations under the guise of another lie, the Global War on Terror. The MSM continues to justify the invasion and this slaughter with the parade of pundits, both neo-con and neo-liberal, who refuse to mention their own complicity.
Up Date: 5/22/2015 19:30 EDT In an exclusive web interview with Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman and Nareem Shaikh, Matt Taibbi discussed his article and the complicity of journalists and the mainstream media in the run up to the Iraq war.
Transcript can be read here