Archive for the ‘Obama administration’ Category
Very interesting post by Pam Martens and Russ Martens at Wall Street on Parade:
Two weeks ago, Paul Krugman used some expensive media real estate to write a propaganda piece on the unsupportable proposition that the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation passed in 2010 is “a success story” and that its bank wind-down program known as Ordinary Liquidation Authority has put an end to “bailing out the bankers.”
Wall Street On Parade took Krugman to taskover this fanciful ode to accomplishments by the President the day after his piece ran in the New York Times’ opinion pages and suggested he do proper research on this subject before opining in the future. That was the morning of August 5.
By late in the afternoon of August 5, Krugman had a reality smack-down on his Dodd-Frank success fairy tale by two Federal regulators. Every major media outlet was running with the news that eleven of the biggest banks in the country, including the mega Wall Street banks, had just had their wind-down plans (known as living wills) rejected by the Federal Reserve and FDIC for not being credible or rational. The eleven banks are: Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, Barclays, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, State Street and UBS.
Yesterday, Krugman’s Dodd-Frank fantasy lost further credibility when Senator Elizabeth Warren released a letter that she and eleven of her Congressional colleagues had sent to the Federal Reserve, warning that one of its Dodd-Frank proposed rules “invites the same sort of backdoor bailout we witnessed five years ago.”
To refresh any forgetful minds at the Fed over its unprecedented hubris in connecting a giant feeding tube to Wall Street during the last financial crisis, the Senators and Congressional Reps wrote:
During the financial crisis, the Board invoked its emergency lending authority for the first time in 75 years. The scope of the Board’s program was staggering. Between 2007 and 2009, the Board’s emergency lending facilities provided over $23 trillion in loans to large domestic and foreign financial institutions.
These loans were another bailout in all but name. Of the nearly $9 trillion the Board provided through its largest facility – the Primary Dealer Credit Facility – over two-thirds went to just three institutions: Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley. Those institutions and others had access to the Board’s credit facilities for an average of 22 months. And the interest rates the Board offered were typically very low – in many cases, under 1%.
Think about this for a moment. Citigroup was insolvent during the crisis – as Federal insiders have now acknowledged in books and media interviews. In an efficient market system, Citigroup would not have been able to borrow at all, much less at a rate for a AAA-borrower of less than 1 percent. The Federal Reserve is forbidden from making loans to insolvent institutions – but it did it anyway.
Contrast the Fed’s largess to serial miscreants like Citigroup against homeowners at the time whose credit was flawed but they had a job and were still paying their bills.
From a report by David Carr in the NY Times.For context, read the story to which this is a parenthesis:
(In one bit of irony in the aftermath of the events on Wednesday, President Obama said, “Here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their job and report to the American people what they see on the ground.” This from an administration that has aggressively sought to block reporting and in some instances criminalize it.)
And you can see here how Twitter exploded.
And do read the story at that first link. It’s an important account of events that show how we’re headed.
Kimberly Kindy writes in the Washingon Post:
The explosion of new food additives coupled with an easing of oversight requirements is allowing manufacturers to avoid the scrutiny of the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of chemicals streaming into the food supply.
And in hundreds of cases, the FDA doesn’t even know of the existence of new additives, which can include chemical preservatives, flavorings and thickening agents, records and interviews show.
“We simply do not have the information to vouch for the safety of many of these chemicals,” said Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for food.
The FDA has received thousands of consumer complaints about additives in recent years, saying certain substances seem to trigger asthmatic attacks, serious bouts of vomiting, intestinal-tract disorders and other health problems.
At a pace far faster than in previous years, companies are adding secret ingredients to everything from energy drinks to granola bars. But the more widespread concern among food-safety advocates and some federal regulators is the quickening trend of companies opting for an expedited certification process to a degree never intended when it was established 17 years ago to, in part, help businesses.
A voluntary certification system has nearly replaced one that relied on a more formal, time-consuming review — where the FDA, rather than companies, made the final determination on what is safe. The result is that consumers have little way of being certain that the food products they buy won’t harm them.
“We aren’t saying we have a public health crisis,” Taylor said. “But we do have questions about whether we can do what people expect of us.”
In the five decades since Congress gave the FDA responsibility for ensuring the safety of additives in the food supply, . . .
We all know exactly how well voluntary guidelines work for corporations: they simply do not work. Profit is more important. The reasons corporations like voluntary guidelines instead of laws that exactly match the guidelines, is that if it is a law, they will have to observe the guidelines, something none of them intend to do, so they all object to the law.
The importance of the safety of our food should be obvious to everyone, but obviously it is not. It’s as if we’re in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Take a look at what the recently removed head of Internal Affairs at the US Border Patrol has to say in this article by Andrew Becker at the Center for Investigative Reporting:
More than two dozen people have died in violent clashes with U.S. Customs and Border Protection since 2010. Despite public outrage over some of the killings, no agent or officer has faced criminal charges – or public reprimand – to date.
Yet at least a quarter of the 28 deaths were “highly suspect,” said James F. Tomsheck, the agency’s recently removed head of internal affairs. In a sweeping and unauthorized interview with The Center for Investigative Reporting, he said the deaths raised serious questions about whether the use of lethal force was appropriate.
Instead, Tomsheck said, Border Patrol officials have consistently tried to change or distort facts to make fatal shootings by agents appear to be “a good shoot” and cover up any wrongdoing.
“In nearly every instance, there was an effort by Border Patrol leadership to make a case to justify the shooting versus doing a genuine, appropriate review of the information and the facts at hand,” he said.
Those comments and others represent the most scathing public criticism ever lodged against Customs and Border Protection from a high-ranking official at the nation’s largest law enforcement agency. Although Tomsheck was removed from the internal affairs office, he is assigned to the Border Patrol as its executive director for national programs.
Tomsheck said border politics, internal policy and the Border Patrol’s warped view of itself hampered his efforts to investigate shootings while he was head of internal affairs.
He said the Border Patrol suffers from “institutional narcissism,” a view that it is the premier federal law enforcement agency. It’s part of a broader culture of impunity at its parent agency, Customs and Border Protection, which sees itself as above reproach and “constitutional constraints” and aims to shield agents’ misconduct and a massive corruption problem from outside scrutiny, he said.
“It has been suggested by Border Patrol leadership that they are the Marine Corps of the U.S. law enforcement community,” Tomsheck said. “The Border Patrol has a self-identity of a paramilitary border security force and not that of a law enforcement organization.”
Tomsheck, who was reassigned June 9 after serving eight years as the assistant commissioner for internal affairs, has given closed-door briefings to Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and House Oversight and Government Reform committee leaders. Committee representatives declined to comment on the nature of those briefings.
Tomsheck recently filed a whistleblower retaliation complaint with the federal Office of Special Counsel, which is under review. A spokesman for the special counsel had no comment.
A former U.S. Secret Service agent for 23 years, Tomsheck said he believed that between 5 and 10 percent of border agents and officers are actively corrupt or were at some point in their career. Those crimes include stealing government property, leaking sensitive information and taking bribes to look the other way when smugglers bring drugs or people into the country.
“To a large degree, it (corruption) was an undetected problem and far more severe than the actual number of arrests,” he said.
Other high-ranking officials have backed up Tomsheck’s accusations.
In briefings to the FBI in fall 2012, senior Customs and Border Protection leaders outside of internal affairs had pegged the corruption rate among employees at one time or another in their career as high as 20 percent or more. Shocked by that “integrity gap,” the FBI adjusted its priorities to focus its anti-corruption efforts on federal employees, with an emphasis on border agents and officers, said Ronald Hosko, a retired FBI assistant director for the criminal investigative division who attended the briefings. . . .
Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more.
You recall those grip-and-grin photos of Donald Rumsfeld with Saddam Hussein when the US really liked Saddam Hussein a lot (and got a lot of our support) before he turned into Hitler. So we threw him out, and George W. Bush installed Maliki, a really good leader, only now we don’t like him (though he’s not yet at the Hitler level of rhetoric) and we’re back to bombing Iraq.
Does it strike anyone else that the US doesn’t seem to have a clue about what it’s doing? We pretty much ruined Iraq, and now it’s totally coming apart. But of course the US always has a ready answer: “Bomb them!” That apparently seems like a good solution in DC.
Amy Goodman has a program worth watching—and there’s a transcript at the link. The blurb:
As a U.S. bombing campaign in northern Iraq enters its fifth day, Baghdad is in a state of political crisis. Eight years ago, Nouri al-Maliki rose to prime minister with the help of the United States. Now the United States has helped pick his replacement. But al-Maliki is refusing to go — deploying his forces around Baghdad and accusing critics of staging a coup. The political crisis is worsening as U.S. airstrikes continue on Islamic State militants in the north. President Obama authorized the strikes last week in what he called an effort to halt the militants’ advance on Erbil, where the U.S. has a consulate and military personnel, as well as to prevent a massacre of the Yazidi minority. U.S. officials have confirmed the CIA is also secretly sending arms and ammunition directly to Kurdish forces known as the Peshmerga. We are joined by Spencer Ackerman, national security editor at The Guardian.
Modern journalists tend to be a credulous bunch, particularly those at NPR. Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman report:
On August 1, NPR’s Morning Edition broadcast a story by NPR national security reporter Dina Temple-Raston touting explosive claims from what she called “a tech firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.” That firm, Recorded Future, worked together with “a cyber expert, Mario Vuksan, the CEO of ReversingLabs,” to produce a new report that purported to vindicate the repeated accusation from U.S. officials that “revelations from former NSA contract worker Edward Snowden harmed national security and allowed terrorists to develop their own countermeasures.”
The “big data firm,” reported NPR, says that it now “has tangible evidence” proving the government’s accusations. Temple-Raston’s four-minute, 11-second story devoted the first 3 minutes and 20 seconds to uncritically repeating the report’s key conclusion that ”just months after the Snowden documents were released, al-Qaeda dramatically changed the way its operatives interacted online” and, post-Snowden, “al-Qaeda didn’t just tinker at the edges of its seven-year-old encryption software; it overhauled it.” The only skepticism in the NPR report was relegated to 44 seconds at the end when she quoted security expert Bruce Schneier, who questioned the causal relationship between the Snowden disclosures and the new terrorist encryption programs, as well as the efficacy of the new encryption.
With this report, Temple-Raston seriously misled NPR’s millions of listeners. To begin with, Recorded Future, the outfit that produced the government-affirming report, is anything but independent. To the contrary, it is funded by the CIA and U.S. intelligence community with millions of dollars. Back in 2010, it also filed forms to become a vendor for the NSA. (In response to questions from The Intercept, the company’s vice president Jason Hines refused to say whether it works for the NSA, telling us that we should go FOIA that information if we want to know. But according to public reports, Recorded Future “earns most of its revenue from selling to Wall Street quants and intelligence agencies.”)
The connection between Recorded Future and the U.S. intelligence community is long known. Back in July, 2010, Wired‘s Noah Shachtman revealed that the company is backed by both “the investment arms of the CIA and Google.”
Indeed, In-Q-Tel—the deep-pocket investment arm of both the CIA and other intelligence agencies (including the NSA)—has seats on Recorded Future’s board of directors and, on its website, lists Recorded Future as one of the companies in its “portfolio.” In stark contrast to NPR, The New York Times noted these connections when reporting on the firm in 2011: “Recorded Future is financed with $8 million from the likes of Google’s venture arm and In-Q-Tel, which makes investments to benefit the United States intelligence community, and its clients have included government agencies and banks.”
Worse, Temple-Raston knows all of this. Back in 2012, NPR’s Morning Edition broadcast her profile of Recorded Future and its claimed ability to predict the future by gathering internet data. At the end of her report, she noted that the firm has “at least two very important financial backers: the CIA’s investment arm, called In-Q-Tel, and Google Ventures. They have reportedly poured millions into the company.”
That is the company she’s now featuring as some sort of independent source that can credibly vindicate the claims of U.S. officials about how Snowden reporting helps terrorists.
Beyond all that, . . .
This is bad-faith reporting. The reporter concealed information that she knew so that the story would be more dramatic, seemingly unconcerned that she was misleading her readers.
Lisa Rein writes in the Washington Post:
Prompted by multiple whistleblower complaints, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office began an internal investigation two years ago of an award-winning program that’s been praised in and outside government: Employees are allowed to work from home.
What the inquiry uncovered was alarming.
Some of the 8,300 patent examiners, about half of whom work from home full time, repeatedly lied about the hours they were putting in, and many were receiving bonuses for work they didn’t do. And when supervisors had evidence of fraud and asked to have the employee’s computer records pulled, they were rebuffed by top agency officials, ensuring that few cheaters were disciplined, investigators found.
Oversight of the telework program — and of examiners based at the Alexandria headquarters — was “completely ineffective,” investigators concluded.
But when it came time last summer for the patent office to turn over the findings to its outside watchdog, the most damaging revelations had disappeared. The report sent to Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser concluded that it was impossible to know if the whistleblowers’ allegations of systemic abuses were true.
“What we hoped to see was an unfiltered response,” Zinser said.“That’s not what this was. It’s a lot less sensational. The true extent of the problem was not being conveyed to us.”
The original findings, by contrast, raise “fundamental issues” with the business model of the patent office, which oversees an essential function of U.S. commerce, said Zinser, who was provided a copy of the original by a patent official.
The patent office, while relatively obscure, plays a crucial role in supporting the nation’s commerce and economic development. But the agency’s army of examiners and other officials has been falling behind, with a backlog of patent applications swelling to more than 600,000 and estimated waiting times of more than five years.
The Washington Post obtained copies of the internal report and the version provided to the inspector general, which at 16 pages is half the length of the original.
Both reports conclude . . .