Archive for the ‘Obama administration’ Category
The NY Fed seems to be as shot through with corruption as the SEC, and that’s saying something. Jake Bernstein reports at ProPublica:
As the Federal Reserve Bank of New York moved to beef up its oversight of Wall Street two years ago, the team charged with supervising the nation’s largest bank, JPMorgan Chase, was in turmoil.
New York Fed examiners embedded at JPMorgan complained about being blocked from doing their jobs. In frustration, some requested transfers. Top New York Fed managers knew about the problems, according to interviews and secret recordings of internal meetings obtained by ProPublica. Similar frustrations had surfaced among examiners at other banks as well.
“You’re not the only one experiencing difficulties at an institution,” one New York Fed manager told Carmen Segarra, an examiner stationed at Goldman Sachs who made the surreptitious recordings. “You’ve heard about all the issues at JPMorgan.”
[In the article at the link, you can hear one of the recordings at this point - LG]
In meetings in early 2012, the manager, Johnathan Kim, described how bosses in the JPMorgan team had stymied examiners by blocking access to bank information and constraining independent inquiries in ways that “grinds everything to a halt.”
The revelations of internal strife add new details to the summary of an investigation by the Federal Reserve Board’s inspector general into the New York Fed’s supervision of JPMorgan before the “London Whale” trading scandal. The disastrous series of trades, which became public in April 2012, cost JPMorgan $7 billion in losses, settlements and fines and forced it to admit to securities law violations.
In the summary of its two-year investigation, which was released last month, the IG stopped short of saying the New York Fed could have detected the trading risk before it blew up. Still, it chastised the bank, saying it had identified risky activities in JPMorgan’s investment office years earlier but didn’t follow up or tell the bank’s primary regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), as procedures demanded.
The IG’s office has withheld its full investigation report, saying it contained information that was “confidential” and “privileged.” A spokesman declined to provide even a page count.
The New York Fed declined to respond to detailed questions. JPMorgan also declined to comment.
The IG’s summary offered only a glimpse into the job performance of what is arguably the most important U.S. financial regulator. The New York Fed’s primary responsibility is to protect the safety and soundness of the financial system. After the 2008 financial crisis, Congress gave the Federal Reserve System the task of supervising the biggest and most complex financial institutions whose failure could disrupt the economy. Because of its location, the New York Fed has direct responsibility for many of Wall Street’s biggest players. Yet its supervisory culture has been slow to adapt, as ProPublica and This American Life recently reported. . .
Note how much is kept from the public. I suspect the whole truth would be horrifying, given what we’ve already learned.
Do read the whole thing. It’s clear that this has been FUBAR.
Good column by Krugman:
The great American Ebola freakout of 2014 seems to be over. The disease is still ravaging Africa, and as with any epidemic, there’s always a risk of a renewed outbreak. But there haven’t been any new U.S. cases for a while, and popular anxiety is fading fast.
Before we move on, however, let’s try to learn something from the panic.
When the freakout was at its peak, Ebola wasn’t just a disease — it was a political metaphor. It was, specifically, held up by America’s right wing as a symbol of government failure. The usual suspects claimed that the Obama administration was falling down on the job, but more than that, they insisted that conventional policy was incapable of dealing with the situation. Leading Republicans suggested ignoring everything we know about disease control and resorting to extreme measures like travel bans, while mocking claims that health officials knew what they were doing.
Guess what: Those officials actually did know what they were doing. The real lesson of the Ebola story is that sometimes public policy is succeeding even while partisans are screaming about failure. And it’s not the only recent story along those lines.
Here’s another: Remember Solyndra? It was a renewable-energy firm that borrowed money using Department of Energy guarantees, then went bust, costing the Treasury $528 million. And conservatives have pounded on that loss relentlessly, turning it into a symbol of what they claim is rampant crony capitalism and a huge waste of taxpayer money.
Defenders of the energy program tried in vain to point out that anyone who makes a lot of investments, whether it’s the government or a private venture capitalist, is going to see some of those investments go bad. For example, Warren Buffett is an investing legend, with good reason — but even he has had his share of lemons, like the $873 million loss he announced earlier this year on his investment in a Texas energy company. Yes, that’s half again as big as the federal loss on Solyndra.
The question is not whether the Department of Energy has made some bad loans — if it hasn’t, it’s not taking enough risks. It’s whether it has a pattern of bad loans. And the answer, it turns out, is no. Last week the department revealed that the program that included Solyndra is, in fact, on track to return profits of $5 billion or more.
Then there’s health reform. As usual, much of the national dialogue over the Affordable Care Act is being dominated by fake scandals drummed up by the enemies of reform. But if you look at the actual results so far, they’re remarkably good. The number of Americans without health insurance hasdropped sharply, with around 10 million of the previously uninsured now covered; the program’s costs remain below expectations, with averagepremium rises for next year well below historical rates of increase; and a new Gallup survey finds that the newly insured are very satisfied with their coverage. By any normal standards, this is a dramatic example of policy success, verging on policy triumph.
One last item: Remember all the mockery of Obama administration assertions that budget deficits, which soared during the financial crisis, would come down as the economy recovered? Surely the exploding costs of Obamacare, combined with a stimulus program that would become a perpetual boondoggle, would lead to vast amounts of red ink, right? Well, no — the deficit has indeed come down rapidly, and as a share of G.D.P. it’s back down to pre-crisis levels.
The moral of these stories is . . .
Also worth reading, a brief blog post by Krugman: Contractionary Policies Are Contractionary
Are psychologists more open to learning that leads to behavioral change? Because they’re looking at their participation in torture.
Interesting (if belated) step, reported in The Intercept by Cora Currier:
The top professional organization for psychologists is launching an independent investigation over how it may have sanctioned the brutal interrogation methods used against terror suspects by the Bush administration. The American Psychological Association announced this week that it has tapped an unaffiliated lawyer, David Hoffman, to lead the review. [Good: Not self-policing, which never, ever works. - LG]
In 2002, the American Psychological Association (APA) revised its code of ethics to allow practitioners to follow the “governing legal authority” in situations that seemed at odds with their duties as health professionals. Many argue that the revision, as well as a task force report in 2005 that affirmed that the code allowed psychologists to participate in national security interrogations, gave the Bush administration critical legal cover for torture.
The APA has since removed the just-following-orders excuse from their code, disavowed the 2005 report, and gone to lengths to distance themselves from the controversy.
But it reopened last month, when New York Times reporter James Risen’s book “Pay Any Price” revealed e-mails from the files of a deceased CIA contractor, Scott Gerwehr, showing close contact between the intelligence establishment and leadership at the APA. The emails centered particularly on the 2005 report and suggested that members of the Bush Administration were involved in its conception and drafting.
Nathaniel Raymond, a human rights researcher who also had access to Gerwehr’s emails, told The Intercept in October that he had submitted the emails to the FBI as evidence of criminal racketeering. A law enforcement official confirmed to The Intercept that the FBI in Washington had reviewed Raymond’s materials, but “did not find any criminal violations.” Raymond, who previously directed the Campaign Against Torture at Physicians for Human Rights, called the review a “positive first step” and said that he would share his complaint and any other information with Hoffman. . .
I think it’s pretty obvious that any investigations that were done by the Executive Branch regarding the various US programs of torture were conducted to cover-up the truth, not reveal it. Obama signaled this at the start of his first term with his declaration that he would not investigate any allegations regarding the previous administration, and indeed he has done all he can to prevent the truth from coming out.
But this story in The Guardian from Spencer Ackerman is still of interest:
As the US government prepares to defend its record on torture before a United Nations panel, five Libyan men once held without charge by the CIA say the main criminal investigation into allegations of detainee abuse never even interviewed them.
The Libyans’ accusation reopens controversy over the 2012 pre-election decision by the prosecutor in the case not to bring charges against anyone involved in CIA abuse – an episode the US State Department has held up as an example of its diligence in complying with international torture obligations.
On Wednesday, a United Nations committee in Geneva is scheduled to hear a US delegation outline recent measures Washington has taken to combat torture. It will be the first update the US has provided to the committee since 2006, when the CIA still operated its off-the-books “black site” prisons. Human rights campaigners who have seen the Obama administration repeatedly decline to deliver justice for US torture victims consider it a belated chance at ending what they consider to be impunity.
Among the committee’s requested submissions, issued in 2010, is a description of steps the US has taken to ensure torture claims against it are “promptly, impartially and thoroughly investigated”. The committee specifically asked for a status update about the Justice Department’s since-concluded torture inquiry.
That high-profile inquiry, conducted by assistant US attorney John Durham, wrapped in 2012 without bringing criminal charges against anyone involved in the deaths of two detainees in CIA custody. That decision, heralding the end of federal investigations for post-9/11 detainee abuse, was preceded by Durham’s 2011 announcement that he would not proceed past a “preliminary review” for 99 out of 101 cases of suspected CIA torture.
The State Department, in a 2013 written submission to the UN committee, referred to Durham’s team as “experienced professionals” that found the “admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”
But the Libyans say that neither Durham nor his staff “ever sought or requested our testimony”.
The five – Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed al-Shoroeiya, Khalid al-Sharif, Majid Mokhtar Sasy al-Maghrebi, Saleh Hadiyah Abu Abdullah Di’iki and Mustafa Jawda al-Mehdi – wrote to committee secretary Patrice Gillibert in a 9 November letter urging Gillibert press the US delegation on the investigative omission.
All members of the now-defunct Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an anti-Gaddafi terrorist group with murky ties to al-Qaida, the five spent between eight months and two years in CIA custody before being rendered back to Muammar Gaddafi’s prisons. One of them, Shoroeiya, alleges that the CIA waterboarded him in Afghanistan, although he is not one of the three people on whom the CIA has acknowledged using the controversial mock-drowning technique. . .
Later in the story:
Durham’s apparent lack of interest in interviewing them “raises serious questions about the thoroughness and adequacy of the Durham investigation, whether other important witnesses were also not interviewed for that inquiry, and whether the US has complied with obligations under article 12” of the UN convention against torture, they wrote.
Through a representative at the US attorney’s office for Connecticut, Durham declined to comment to the Guardian. It is unknown if Durham interviewed any victims of CIA torture at all, but a lawyer for one of the alleged 9/11 co-conspirators held at Guantanamo Bay said Durham never interviewed his client.
“It’s an omission from their point of view,” said James Connell, attorney for Ammar al-Baluchi, who added that he was unaware of Dunham interviewing any of al-Baluchi’s co-defendants.
Update: And another: No, The New Climate Deal With China Won’t Hurt The Economy — It May Actually Help
If that isn’t upbeat, I don’t know what is.
initial reaction to President Obama’s call, on Monday, for the Federal Communications Commission to categorize Internet service providers (I.S.P.s) as public utilities, akin to suppliers of power and water, was that it can’t be all bad. Maybe I’m biased, but any proposal that is immediately criticized in the strongest terms by Ted Cruz, the junior Republican senator from Texas, and by Michael Powell, Colin’s son and the F.C.C.’s chairman from 2001 to 2005, who now serves as the top lobbyist for the cable-television industry, is very likely to have something going for it.
And so it has.
In a post on this site, Tim Wu, the Columbia University law professor who came up with the phrase “net neutrality,” noted that President Obama came into office pledging to appoint an F.C.C. chairman who supported strict rules preventing I.S.P.s from blocking certain Web sites, or from creating slow lanes and fast lanes so that some sites load faster than others. Six years, two F.C.C. chairmen, and several hostile court rulings later, we are still no nearer to seeing such policies enacted. Indeed, we are a good deal further away from them. Big content companies like Netflix are busy cutting deals, or preparing to cut deals, with big I.S.P.s—the likes of Comcast, A.T. & T., and Verizon—to insure that their data gets preferential delivery.
Rather than outlawing this practice—which is what the vast majority of Web sites and content creators want, and which is also the preferred option of most of the 3.7 million people and organizations who offered their opinions on the subject during a five-month commenting window held by the F.C.C. earlier this year—Obama’s latest appointee to head the regulatory body, Tom Wheeler, is still trying to reach a compromise that will give broadband providers some wiggle room. (It may not be entirely incidental that Wheeler used to run the biggest cable lobbying group in the country, but we won’t get into that here.) Rather than endorsing such a compromise, Obama called on the F.C.C. to “answer the call of almost four million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality.”
In refusing to settle for half-measures that would end up having little impact, the President did the right thing. Once the I.S.P.s were granted the right to impose different prices on different content providers, even under some restrictions, they would inevitably find a way to expand the practice—just as the railroads did in the late nineteenth century, when, according to many accounts, they discriminated against famers and other small businesses. In calling on the F.C.C. to enforce a policy of not allowing the blocking, throttling (meaning deliberately slowing down certain sites), or paid prioritization of content, the White House was seeking to uphold the nondiscriminatory principles that were enshrined in the architecture of the Internet and the World Wide Web by the people who created it. (“It’s all predicated on a neutral network,” Tim Berners-Lee, the Englishman who wrote the Web’s original protocols, told the Times last month.)
In order to foster innovation and preserve diversity, . . .
You can use the “Read Inside” feature to read the first part of the introduction, and I have to say it is stunning. Take a look. (Link fixed.)