Friday, December 11, 2015

(Sunnistan Triumphs!)  Occupation With a Human Face - Demise of Middle Class Official:  It's Not That We Don't Have the Money, It's What It's Spent On (What Hillary, Republicans - All NeoLibs - Don't Want You To Know About Glass-Steagall Reup) How Corrupted Was It? Bankster Fervor  (US Citizens Shorted - 6 Feet Under Now)  Monster Trumped?   (Rooting Out Christian Extremism Promise)  ALEC Fired or Suborned?

Destroying Syria to Create Sunnistan

So, ISIS/L/Da'esh is the perfect foe (foil)?

There is no amount of defense dollars which the Pentagon will not demand to defeat it.

And you thought that the PNAC plans went awry.

(Keep watching that charming entrepreneur Bill Kristol on all the intellectual TV shows. He's everyone's favorite smarty pants.)

Apocalypse When

So Why Did Turkey Shoot Down That Russian Plane?

Washington Wants Its Empire of Bases Expanded

We Are Out of Time... We Need to Leap

In Congress, Christmas Is a Time of Giving – and Receiving

If you're enjoying being a part of the celebratory USA! USA! USA! drone culture, you may enjoy learning about the failure responses that preceded it.

Or not.

(Oliver Stone's book and DVD set, The Untold History of the United States, deals with this same phenomena during the fighting of World War II and thereafter.)

Occupation With a Human Face

By Peter Berard

10 December 15
Counterinsurgency partisans rely on images of the benevolent occupier to mask the harsh realities of imperialism.
he Human Terrain System — a program that embedded civilian social scientists in Army and Marine units in Afghanistan and Iraq — spent the seven years of its existence in a state of controversy. Fêted as a great innovation in some quarters, the professional bodies of anthropology denounced the program, calling it unethical. Three HTS team members — young civilian social scientists — were killed in the field, and many in the military questioned its efficacy. The program was closed for good in 2014.
This year, two leaders in the program — Janice Laurence and the program’s founder, Montgomery McFate — published a collection of essays entitled Social Science Goes to War. The volume seeks to defend the program’s record and assert the continued relevance of social science research for counterinsurgency war.
SSGW holds few surprises — the conflict between McFate, a Yale anthropology PhD who works at the Naval War Center, and her colleagues in the professional bodies of anthropology is by now an old story.
Most anthropologists — aware of the profession’s checkered history of cooperation with imperialism — reacted with undisguised horror when HTS went public.

The American Anthropological Association, for instance, declared in its 2007 report:

In the context of a war that is widely recognized as a denial of human rights and based on faulty intelligence and undemocratic principles, the Executive Board sees the HTS project as a problematic application of anthropological expertise, most specifically on ethical grounds.
McFate’s response to criticism from her anthropology peers, and most of her ideas more generally, have been characterized by a blithe disregard for the realities of power. In what reads like a parody of vulgar postmodernism and cultural relativism, McFate describes the problems of the Iraq War — and the participation of social scientists in it — as problems of culture, not of politics.
If anthropologists could just understand the military’s culture, the argument goes, the two groups could cooperate. If the US military could comprehend the culture of the Iraqis or other occupied people, they could bring the war to a successful conclusion and save lives.

This attitude ignores the basic, structural conflicts between intelligence work and ethical social science research, or between occupier and occupied. Instead, like in other areas of contemporary liberalism, an assiduous focus on culture acts as a fig leaf, (insufficiently) hiding these conflicts from those who can’t or won’t admit they exist.

The remaining essays in SSGW, written by on-the-ground participants in HTS, offer a more interesting, nuanced perspective than McFate’s broad-brush cultural justifications. But each suffers from official secrecy and a tender defensiveness toward the program and its legacy.

The contributors are mostly younger social scientists and, complicity with imperialism aside, it’s not hard to see why they signed up. The motivational story McFate presented — spread cultural knowledge, potentially save lives — must have sounded good, especially when the alternative for newly minted political science or anthropology PhDs in 2008 was likely their parents’ basement.

Largely focused on the writers’ experiences in HTS, the essays particularly emphasize successful efforts — provinces and cities pacified with the help of cultural knowledge — sprinkled with wistful asides about how better things could be if these successes could be reproduced.

To be fair, some of the accounts aren’t as glowing. One blames poor cooperation with cynical British allies for helping weaken security in one Afghan province. Others mention military commanders scornful of social science. And one writer directly contradicts McFate’s claim that “cultural knowledge” could, in no way, be considered intelligence.

This is no light jab — for McFate, the claim forms the basis of her case for social scientific respectability. If HTS is an intelligence program, then it’s unethical according to contemporary social science convention and the jig is truly up. (At this point, even sympathetic reporters like Vanessa Gezari, in her book The Tender Soldier, describe the sort of cultural knowledge HTS produced as intelligence, even if it is “open source intelligence,” to use the term of art.)

When writing about the strategic, ethical, or personal implications of the program or their participation in it, most of SSGW’s contributors stringently avoid the basic political questions of the war and of counterinsurgency more broadly. They blame the program’s failings on superficial factors — bureaucratic snafus and a culture clash with the military — rather than a conflict of core interests, and tell anecdotes about good deeds done and how their HTS posting was an occasion for personal growth.

The end of the Human Terrain System coincided rather neatly with the downfall of the icon of the mid-2000s counterinsurgency vogue, David Petraeus, and the emergence of a number of prominent criticisms of counterinsurgency and nation-building within establishment defense circles. It’s an open question whether the obvious failings of counterinsurgency — e.g., the way its sectarian gamesmanship cleared the way for the current mess in Iraq and Syria — led to the doctrine’s fall from grace, or whether it was military politics and Petraeus’s decline.

Iconic figures have always been part of selling counterinsurgency to the American people, from the time of Edward Lansdale (the inspiration for Graham Greene’s The Quiet American) to the present. Though McFate was never as prominent as Petraeus — whose image as a calm, steely, intellectual soldier-statesman did so much work in pitching the strategy to the public — her role in the counterinsurgency revival is equally interesting.

The content and volume of profiles written about McFate over the last decade serve as a rough proxy for her career arc. In the mid-2000s, she was the subject of two adoring pieces in "Wired," described as a “superstar” in "Elle," written up by George Packer in a long "New Yorker" piece on her and Australian counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen, and named an official “Brave Thinker” in "The Atlantic" (right next to Steve Jobs, as it happened).

The "Elle" and "Wired" profiles in particular lingered on McFate’s personal story, significantly puffing up her status as an icon. Most of the puff pieces hit the same notes:  McFate was raised by beatniks (she jokes that her work is a rebellion against them); she grew up on a houseboat; she was active in the Bay Area punk scene in the eighties; she retains a certain countercultural whimsy about her dress and demeanor, in a way that complements rather than clashes with her new military colleagues. Typically left out was her stint surveilling environmental activists for her mother-in-law’s private espionage company.

Packer’s "New Yorker" essay contrasted McFate, Kilcullen, and their counterinsurgent colleagues with the key figures at the beginning of the war on terror:  Bush, Rumsfeld, and others whose strategic sense began with “shock and awe” and ended with Rumsfeld’s fantasy of omniscience through high tech. What the counterinsurgents — and media figures like Packer — sold to the American people (and American liberals in particular) was a vision of a smaller, smarter, culturally informed war that would defeat Islamic extremism, promote democracy and development, and keep American hands clean.

McFate stories began trailing off after 2010.

Then, earlier this year, "Pando Daily" published an especially critical piece by John Dolan. Under his own name, Dolan is a poet, novelist, and literary critic. Under the name Gary Brecher, aka “The War Nerd,” he is one of the most original, incisive, and scathing writers on military matters working. Much of his work is about exactly the sort of insurgency war with which McFate was involved.

Dolan’s article about McFate is a long, fascinating document, combining memoir, analysis of the flaws of the US counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq and Afghanistan, and polemic against both McFate’s backers and her critics in the anthropology establishment.

Even correcting for the likelihood that Dolan is bitter at an ex-lover — the two dated for a time in the 1980s, when Dolan was teaching at the University of California Berkeley — the picture of McFate that emerges is of someone who thrives by posturing. This, according to Dolan, is what brought her from a (supposedly) borderline-feral childhood on a houseboat to Yale and then to a position of considerable power, advising major military commanders.

The face McFate put on the Human Terrain System and by extension the counterinsurgency campaign — idealistic, culturally informed, a war for graduate students and "Wired" readers as much as anyone — was at least as important as any strategic contribution HTS could or did make. The cascade of puff pieces written about her, patronizing as they were, had a strategic purpose.

This deployment of imagery calculated to appeal to Americans in general and American liberals in particular is in keeping with the tradition of American counterinsurgency. Counterinsurgency is about managing two populations:  those of restive, underdeveloped regions and countries under occupation; and those of the liberal democratic states undertaking occupation campaigns.

When occupations begin to go wrong, as they invariably do, policymakers need new ideas and new images to keep the people at home from asking too many hard questions. One way is to tout the small-scale nature of most counterinsurgency activity — modest groups of American troops and aid workers becoming involved in village-level affairs, helping the locals, getting their hands dirty, outsmarting guerrillas.

This image of the benevolent occupier (who helps grow democracies even as he grows individually) has captured the imagination of a certain sort of American liberal since John Kennedy became a counterinsurgency enthusiast during his administration.

The public narrative of counterinsurgency also assuages the fears of people in advanced capitalist countries by emphasizing things like building infrastructure, promoting democracy, and liberating women. In the process this narrative helps hide the reality of counterinsurgency war:  death squads, the manipulation of sectarian and ethnic tensions, the fostering of regimes dependent upon their sponsor’s powers.

At present, though, counterinsurgency — at least in its “hearts and minds,” nation-building variant — is at a low ebb in popularity among the defense establishment. This is in part due to the sheer messiness of counterinsurgency — essentially colonial warfare in a postcolonial context — which overflowed in Iraq and could not be explained away by counterinsurgent myths.

These days Obama and his people prefer drones as a means of projecting power at a cost acceptable to the public. And so the counterinsurgents bide their time. Petraeus picks up speaking honoraria and visiting professor positions; Kilcullen runs an urban planning consultancy, a sort of Haussmann 2.0 for hire, offering to rearrange, for a price, the infrastructure of restive cities like the great post-Commune rebuilder of Paris; and McFate holds a chair at the Naval War College.

But drones won’t solve the military’s problems. The military establishment — which prefers planning for conventional wars, no matter how far tank battles or dogfights are from the sort of wars America fights today — turns to counterinsurgency because it finds itself occupying tumultuous countries (Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan) and lacks any plan for what happens next.

How long until the US military puts boots on the ground somewhere the drones can’t effectively target? At that point, the two directives of counterinsurgency — police and pacify rebellious populations and sell military action to a skeptical home public — will once again become major concerns for the foreign policy elite.

Africa looks to be one fertile ground for counterinsurgents. For AFRICOM, the US military’s newest combat commands, counterinsurgency is thought of not as an emergency response to an existing rebellion, but as a prophylactic.

Counterinsurgents have long urged their patrons to allow them to try to curb what they see as the catalysts for insurgency — which run the gamut from underdevelopment to political subversion to a lack of “modern personality types,” depending on which social scientists the counterinsurgent in question cribs from — before they can bloom into open conflict.

Given AFRICOM’s widely distributed footprint across the continent — special forces and other troops attached to the command have operated in dozens of different countries — imagine the temptation AFRICOM commanders must feel to turn some of the many chronically unstable countries in their demesne into counterinsurgency laboratories.

In fact, it appears that due to the growing importance of AFRICOM, McFate’s project might not be over, even if her direct involvement is for now. AFRICOM deploys its own special units of social scientists — Socio-Cultural Research and Advisory Teams, or SCRAT. Embedded with military units, these groups of social scientists conduct field research meant to aid AFRICOM’s core mission, most notably acting as an early warning system for large-scale conflict.

The SCRAT program avoids the name — now none too popular in military circles — of “Human Terrain” but engages in much the same work, though typically not in active war zones. The SCRAT efforts we know about focus on East Africa:  Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda.

AFRICOM has stated that this research, often village ethnographies, is going into “a database of knowledge on East Africa,” presumably for use if the United States decides to send troops into the region. We don’t know much else; for now, the SCRATs seem to be working in the mode AFRICOM prefers — quietly.

But any number of catalysts — Chinese competition, growth in jihadi movements in the Sahel, dislocations caused by climate change, social revolution — are likely to produce serious challenges to US interests in Africa. When that happens counterinsurgents will reemerge, offering solutions to everything but the basic problems of imperialism and economic oppression.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Not all of McKay’s devices work as well as Margot Robbie in that bubble bath, doing her best to explain the mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that made immense fortunes for Wall Street bankers, even as a few guys like Vennett or mid-level fund manager Mark Baum (Carell) or loner investment guru Michael Burry (Bale) began to suspect they were junk.

. . . What Burry discovered through his number-crunching was not especially difficult to understand, and should have been noticed by government regulators, ratings agencies and the banks themselves:  By the mid-2000s, mortgage defaults were creeping inexorably upward, and in 2007 and 2008 a large proportion of subprime adjustable-rate mortgages, which lenders had been handing out to anyone with a pulse, would convert to higher rates that borrowers probably could not pay. Billions of dollars of investments that had been sold with supposedly ironclad AA or AAA rating would likely be rendered worthless. In McKay’s screen version of the story, of course we end up rooting for the irascible Mark Baum and the unctuous Jared Vennett, because they are Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling and we know they’re right when everyone else is wrong. But one could easily portray those guys as shameless sleazebags:  Their “big short” rested on the premise that you and I and Aunt Tillie had been played for suckers, and that the real-estate boom that had apparently ensured the financial future of millions of American families was a collective delusion.

"The Big Short" is the latest blockbuster movie by Adam McKay, based on Michael Lewis' book of the same name, in which he addresses the origin and end result (along with every other gangster-like, self-dealing illegal financial maneuver during they could think of) of the 2008-forever exposed continued criminality on Wall Street.

. . . loaded with Hollywood stars showing off – Christian Bale playing a dysfunctional genius, Steve Carell playing a self-righteous jerk, Brad Pitt playing a Colorado hippie recluse – and calls attention to its own cleverness somewhat too often. It’s like a collaboration between Judd Apatow and Bertolt Brecht, or just a recognition that theatrical devices that used to seem confrontational or postmodern have now been completely mainstreamed. At one point Ryan Gosling, playing a contrarian Wall Street hotshot named Jared Vennett who correctly bets that the mortgage market would collapse in 2008, turns to the camera amid a heated conversation to observe that of course we don’t understand the complex financial instruments he’s talking about. That’s because we’re not supposed to, he says. “But here’s Margot Robbie in a bubble bath to explain it all.”
That sounds like bizarre pandering, and of course it is. But it works brilliantly because it cuts to the heart of Michael Lewis’ nonfiction bestseller, which McKay and co-writer Charles Randolph have adapted pretty faithfully, despite all the gamesmanship. The financial collapse and economic crisis of 2008 was a gigantic con job, enabled by politicians from both parties – most of all by the Clinton administration, frankly – and perpetrated by an elite caste of predatory criminals who looted the American people (and the people of the world) and got away with it scot-free.
. . . Not all of McKay’s devices work as well as Margot Robbie in that bubble bath, doing her best to explain the mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that made immense fortunes for Wall Street bankers, even as a few guys like Vennett or mid-level fund manager Mark Baum (Carell) or loner investment guru Michael Burry (Bale) began to suspect they were junk.
Funny how Americans love movies about criminality - especially it seems - criminality that has victimized them personally without respite or punishment for the perpetrators. I hope that the audience doesn't get so carried away with the abundance of charm and good looks from the actors that they don't forget exactly how serious the situation still is.
. . . I don’t think McKay meant to make an anti-capitalist manifesto (or that Lewis meant to write one), but to my taste such is the intriguing effect of “The Big Short.” The system is much bigger than anyone, and overwhelms all notions of individual good or evil. Its internal logic dictated that the bankers should steal from us and wreck the economy, while blaming the whole thing on injudicious decisions made by ordinary people, and then that we should bail them out and they should go unpunished. Given all that, can anyone doubt it will happen again, and sooner than we think?

Below are current and past articles on this same subject which you've probably never heard of.

Although I'll bet you wish you had.

Of Course the Stock Market is Rigged:  So Shoot the Messenger

By Pam Martens:  April 3, 2014
BusinessWeek Looks at the Rigging of Stock Research on Wall Street, May 13, 2002

Michael Lewis is getting a dose of the backlash typically reserved for Wall Street whistleblowers. To judge from the reaction to his new book, “Flash Boys,” which lays out how the stock market is rigged by high frequency traders, you’d think that his charge that the U.S. stock market has been corrupted is the fanciful musing of an unhinged mind.
Lewis underwent a prosecutorial style interview on CNBC; Tweeters charged him with assorted evils; the Wall Street Journal quickly ran an OpEd titled “High-Frequency Hyperbole” in which Clifford Asness and Michael Mendelson from hedge fund AQR Capital – the ultimate in trustworthy sources — attempted to move folks along, nothing to see here, with the emphatic proclamation that “The stock market isn’t rigged…”
The cold, hard facts backed by 80 years of copious documentation, like cancelled checks from the 1930s’ Senate hearings, where business journalists were bribed to tout stocks, and scandalous emails from the 1990s where stock analysts called the companies “crap” and “dogs” in internal emails while lavishing praise on the offerings to an unsuspecting public, is that the stock market has been rigged, in one way or another, throughout much of U.S. history.
In August 1996, the Securities and Exchange Commission brought charges against the Nasdaq stock market for conspiring to rig stock prices while its self-regulator, the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), failed to carry out even the most basic of its duties due to the influence of its Wall Street cronies who ran the NASD. The rigging dated back over a decade and potentially a lot longer.
Audio-taped calls released by the SEC at the time caught traders conspiring to manipulate prices and engaging in harassment against any traders who were reluctant to go along. The tapes also showed traders agreeing to move the price of a stock to help a competitor or create the false impression of buying interest in order to unload unwanted stock inventory off the books of a Wall Street firm.

The October 1996 cover of "Registered Rep Magazine" dealt with a decade of Price Fixing on the Nasdaq Stock Market; traders' taped calls showed a cartel that manipulated market prices to make profits for the House.
The U.S. Justice Department brought a companion civil suit which it settled against 24 securities firms who were charged with colluding to inflate their profits on Nasdaq trades. At the time, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno said:  “As a result of this conduct, American investors had to pay more to buy and sell stocks than they would have if there had been true competition. We have found substantial evidence of coercion and other misconduct in this industry.”

The Nasdaq rigging might have continued unabated had it not been for two university professors. The Justice Department’s investigation was triggered by an in-depth study by Professors William Christie of Vanderbilt University and Paul Schultz of Ohio State University that created a lot of media buzz and forced regulators to act.

On April 28, 2003, the SEC settled enforcement actions against many of the very same firms that were charged earlier with rigging Nasdaq for issuing rigged stock research in violation of securities laws.

The PBS program "Frontline" dedicated a documentary to this era of market rigging on May 8, 2003, appropriately titled “The Wall Street Fix.” Correspondent Hedrick Smith says on camera: “It’s a story of pervasive corruption here on Wall Street, how brokers and analysts shaped and hyped the telecom boom, pocketed enormous profits and then took millions of ordinary investors on a catastrophic ride, $2 trillion in losses on WorldCom and other telecom stocks.”

David Chacon, a former Salomon Smith Barney broker (then a unit of mega bank Citigroup) appears on the "Frontline" program and explains how the company was winning investment banking deals. “These [Initial Public Offering, IPO] shares would rise by, you know, 30, 40, 50, 100 percent the first day,” says Chacon. “So that, in itself, is free money. But Salomon took it to another level.

Oftentimes, they did not allocate these shares until after the stock had been trading. Salomon would be able to call these same officers and directors, saying, ‘Look, I have,’ you know, ‘20,000 shares of this company. It’s trading at $85 right now, and wanted to give you,’ you know, ‘the opportunity to invest at the IPO price.’ ”

Was this an ingenious new form of market fraud? Unfortunately not. It had been around since the corrupt Wall Street market of the late 1920s.

In the frothy 1920s bull market, the biggest Wall Street firms maintained what they called “Preferred Lists” for distributing hot IPOs.  One name on the list was William Woodin, who later became Secretary of the Treasury under President Roosevelt. On February 1, 1929, JPMorgan sent Woodin the following letter:

“My Dear Mr. Woodin:

You may have seen in the paper that we recently made a public offering of $35,000,000 Alleghany Corporation 15-year collateral trust convertible 5 per cent bonds, which went very well…We have kept for our own investment some of the common stock at a cost of $20 a share … we are asking some of our close friends if they would like some of this stock at the same price it is costing us, namely, $20 a share. I believe that the stock is selling in the market around $35 to $37 a share … We are reserving for you 1,000 shares at $20 a share, if you would like to have it.”

Senate Hearings on the Rigged Stock Market Lasted Two Years in the 1930s
After the 1929 crash and the onset of the Great Depression, the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Banking and Currency spent two solid years, 1932 to 1934, deconstructing the pervasive corruption that touched every facet of the stock exchanges and the big Wall Street banks.

Unlike today’s Senate Banking hearings where the room is typically devoid of more than two or three Senators, back then Senators were engaged and came prepared with subpoenaed evidence. The public learned through front page headlines that Wall Street CEOs were funneling money into secret trusts to pump stocks to elevated levels and then dump them on unsuspecting public investors; shorting their own bank stocks when the market started to dive; and bribing politicians to look the other way with gifts of hot IPOs that had already soared in price.
The inside flap of Michael Lewis’ Flash Boys, gives a telling summary of the contents:

Flash Boys is about a small group of Wall Street guys who figure out that the U.S. stock market has been rigged for the benefit of insiders and that, post-financial crisis, the markets have become not more free but less, and more controlled by the big Wall Street banks.”

And that’s the real shocker in all of this. These serially corrupt Wall Street banks crashed the U.S. economy to smithereens just five years ago and instead of showing remorse and making amends, they’re partying like it’s 1928, rigging everything from the interest rate benchmark Libor to foreign exchange trading to commodity and stock prices.

And while all of this is happening, there has yet to be any ongoing, comprehensive investigations by the U.S. Senate Banking Committee that looks at the overall plumbing of our deeply disfigured financial marketplace.

For some of the latest Wall Street reports, keep reading.

Regulators:  Banks Are Now Making Riskier Loans, Just Like Before the Crash

OCC Chart Showing Underwriting Trends Now and Going Into the Crash of 2008
OCC Chart Showing Underwriting Trends Now and Going Into the Crash of 2008
By Pam Martens and Russ Martens

December 10, 2015
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which regulates national banks, including the behemoth Wall Street banks that either blew themselves up or became part of shot-gun marriages during the 2008 crash to avoid outright collapse, issued a warning yesterday that credit risks are rising at banks. The rising risks are the result of a loosening of loan underwriting standards, which, says the OCC, “reflects broad trends similar to those experienced from 2005 through 2007, before the most recent financial crisis….”

The first question that comes to mind from this report is what good is increased capital at the mega banks if the banks are simultaneously increasing the riskiness of the loans on their books. The next question is why the regulators have sat back and watched this risk grow over the past tumultuous year without nipping it in the bud. And the final question is what does the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) – the coalition of all the bank and Wall Street regulators that huddle together regularly in secret – plan to do about this growing threat to financial stability.

It’s not like the 2008 crash occurred to some other generation. We’re the taxpayers that had a gun put to our collective heads to bail out the banks and balloon the national debt to $18.4 trillion to revive an economy that Wall Street blew up just seven years ago. We’re the same taxpayers that found out after the fact that the Federal Reserve had secretly pumped over $16 trillion in cumulative loans to Wall Street, domestic and foreign banks and U.S. corporations in the name of saving the financial system. We’re the citizens that have had to bear the economic brunt of an economy that can’t grow above a two percent rate because of that epic financial crash and its aftermath. And, we’re the same taxpayers that will pay for the next bailout if these same too-big-to-fail banks implode again under the weight of their own hubris and the incompetence of their regulators – an outcome that seems likelier with every passing day.

As it turns out, FSOC is well aware of the growing risks at the banks. Its ingenious plan is to take the same action regulators took going into the 2008 crisis:  to “monitor” the imprudent risk-taking rather than stopping it.

According to FSOC’s 2015 annual report, it’s well aware of the following:

“The historically low-yield environment continues to encourage greater risk-taking across the financial system … Banks, credit unions, and broker-dealers have lower net interest margins (NIMs), leading some firms to increase risk by holding longer-duration assets, easing lending standards, or engaging in other forms of increased risk-taking. For example, federal banking agencies have found serious deficiencies in underwriting standards and risk management practices for certain leveraged loans…

Given the epic 2008 collapse that resulted from liar loans and other hubris by banks, one would think that FSOC would have issued a strong mandate to banks to rein in imprudent risk-taking. Instead, this was its advice in its 2015 annual report:  “The Council recommends that supervisors, regulators, and firm management continue to closely monitor and assess the heightened risks resulting from continued search-for-yield behaviors as well as the risks from potential severe interest rate shocks.”

After the Fed had to deploy $16 trillion in secret revolving loans in the last crash; after the Fed ballooned its balance sheet from $800 billion to $4.4 trillion in quantitative easing programs; after millions of jobs were lost and millions of foreclosures resulted from doing nothing but monitoring the approaching train wreck the last time around, FSOC is giving the same advice now. Janet Yellen, the Chair of the Federal Reserve, is a voting member of FSOC.

Where does the OCC think the rising risks are concentrated? It says it’s “primarily in commercial loan products,” writing as follows in yesterday’s report:

“Thirty percent of commercial loan products reflected increased credit risk, compared with 27 percent in 2014. Over the next 12 months, examiners expect credit risk to increase in 50 percent of commercial loan products, and examiners expressed concern with this anticipated level of risk in 73 percent of the products.”

What is motivating banks to assume this increased risk at a time of market convulsions, a potential tightening by the Fed, and a doubling of defaults in junk bonds year over year? According to the OCC report, “Strong competition and ample market liquidity caused banks to reassess their risk tolerance and market strategies to remain competitive.”

And, finally, the OCC slips in this worrisome detail:  only 32 percent of the banks in its survey (which includes the largest 19 banks in the U.S.) are considered to have “conservative” underwriting standards.

Given the fact that non-conservative banking practices came close to collapsing the U.S. economy less than a decade ago, why aren’t regulators demanding that all too-big-to-fail banks use conservative underwriting standards.

This timidity on the part of the regulators simply underscores the public’s belief that the gold-plated revolving door between the regulators and Wall Street has resulted in toothless regulators simply biding their time until they can collect their big payday on Wall Street.

Notice how the famous "Conservatives" care not at all for conservative principles when protecting the public's interest?

Distrust Fuels Outrage at House Financial Services Committee

FSOC Regulators Are Grilled by House Financial Services Committee on December 8, 2015
FSOC Regulators Are Grilled by House Financial Services Committee
By Pam Martens and Russ Martens

December 9, 2015
Paranoia is rampant among Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee and was on display throughout its hearing yesterday.

Unfortunately for the nation, much of that paranoia is well founded.
Just take a look at the photo above. The panel of witnesses that testified yesterday represent just eight of the ten voting members of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC; which is pronounced F-Sock), another layer of oversight imposed by the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation of 2010 to monitor an ever sprawling octopus of a financial system that looks to most Americans as if it is still out of control, seven long years after the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression.
Behind each of the regulators on the panel (see list and testimony below), with the exception of S. Roy Woodall, the independent member of FSOC with insurance expertise, there is a regulatory agency eating up more and more taxpayers’ dollars while the financial system itself continues to exhibit dangerous and erratic behavior; books continue to be published showing the stock market is rigged and Wall Street is a parasitic wealth transfer operation; commodity prices plummet; junk bond defaults double year over year; derivative exposures remain in the dark; community banks continue to go out of business or are gobbled up; and the holdings of the mega Wall Street banks become ever more concentrated, with just six banks now controlling over 90 percent of derivatives (still housed on the books of their insured, taxpayer-backstopped commercial bank) and 40 percent of deposits.

Jeb Hensarling, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, at FSOC Hearing, December 8, 2015
Jeb Hensarling, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, at FSOC Hearing, December 8, 2015
Repeatedly yesterday, Congress members complained that FSOC members ignore their requests for documents or the documents are so redacted they make no sense, as well as condemning the secrecy in which FSOC operates. Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling opened the hearing with a brief statement of smoldering allegations that included the following statement:

“FSOC has earned bipartisan condemnation for its lack of transparency.  Two-thirds of its proceedings are conducted in private.  Minutes of those meetings are devoid of any useful substantive information on what was discussed.  Even Dennis Kelleher, the CEO of the left-leaning Better Markets, has said ‘FSOC’s proceedings make the Politburo look open by comparison. At the few open meetings they have, they snap their fingers and it’s over, and they are all scripted.  They treat their information as if it were state secrets.’ ”
In fact, their information has been officially determined to be trade secrets – which has the same opacity effect as state secrets — even when there is a critical and compelling right to know by the public.

Congressman Scott Garrett Assails FSOC Members for their Secrecy

Congressman Scott Garrett Assails FSOC Members for their Secrecy

Throughout the hearing, members complained that while it was the mega Wall Street institutions that created the financial crisis in 2008 that has left the country economically crippled, the small community banks are bearing the brunt of the regulatory juggernaut that was created under Dodd-Frank reform.

Congressman Steve Stivers from Ohio complained that field agents of the regulators are misinterpreting rules and regulations meant for the largest banks and imposing them on the small community banks and credit unions. Stivers said it’s causing the small financial institutions great harm.

Congressman Scott Garrett of New Jersey made the following opening remarks:

“You all have gotten to know each other pretty well because you meet regularly in closed door sessions, where the public is not allowed, to basically discuss to fundamentally change the U.S. economy. So I thought I’d just take this minute to introduce ourselves to you. We’re the U.S. Congress. We were created by Article One of the U.S. Constitution. We’re the ones who are actually elected representatives of the American public. And we’re the ones who send you all those pesky letters that you all routinely ignore.

“And I know you’re probably confused by this setting:  That the public is here; that there’s TV cameras here. So this is probably unusual for you. But this is what we do. We’re open to the American public…So if there is one thing you take away today and that’s the way you run your hearings, and that’s the way you conduct yourselves. You need to become more like us…”

The full hearing video can be viewed below.

Witness List at December 8, 2015 House Financial Services Committee. (Written testimony is linked.)
Two other voting members of FSOC, Jack Lew, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, and Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, declined to attend the hearing.

What Hillary Clinton Didn’t Tell You in Her New York Times OpEd

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens

December 8, 2015

President Bill Clinton Laughs It Up as He Signs the Repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, November 12, 1999

President Bill Clinton Laughs It Up as He Signs the Repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, November 12, 1999
Yesterday, the "New York Times" gave Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton a free infomercial (a/k/a OpEd) to spin her toothless plan “to rein in Wall Street.” Hillary begins by telling us this:
“Seven years ago, the financial crisis sent our economy into a tailspin. Over five million people lost their homes. Nearly nine million lost their jobs. Nearly $13 trillion in household wealth was wiped out.”
But that’s not what her husband, former President Bill Clinton told us was going to happen when he repealed the 66-year old Glass-Steagall Act on November 12, 1999. Here’s what Bill Clinton promised us from this massive deregulation of Wall Street:  (See video of his full remarks below.)
President Bill Clinton:

“You heard Senator Gramm characterize this bill as a victory for freedom and free markets. And Congressman LaFalce characterized this bill as a victory for consumer protection. And both of them are right…

“It is true that the Glass-Steagall law is no longer appropriate for the economy in which we live…And today what we are doing is modernizing the financial services industry, tearing down these antiquated laws and granting banks significant new authority. This will, first of all, save consumers billions of dollars a year through enhanced competition. It will also protect the rights of consumers. It will guarantee that our financial system will continue to meet the needs of underserved communities…

“This is a very good day for the United States. Again, I thank all of you for making sure that we have done right by the American people and that we have increased the chances of making the next century an American century … the future of our children will be very bright, indeed.”
President Bill Clinton was wrong on every single point and every single promise he made to the American people on November 12, 1999 when he signed the legislation that would once again set up the conditions of the 1929 crash, allowing deposit-taking banks to merge with securities trading firms.

And because Hillary Clinton comes from that same Wall Street mindset and echo chamber that repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, she cannot be trusted to repair the epic damage her husband and his Wall Street high roller pals have caused our nation.

Hillary attempts to bolster her detail-lite plan to rein in Wall Street with this assertion in her "Times" OpEd:

“My plan also goes beyond the biggest banks to include the whole financial sector. Some have urged the return of a Depression-era rule called Glass-Steagall, which separated traditional banking from investment banking. But many of the firms that contributed to the crash in 2008, like A.I.G. and Lehman Brothers, weren’t traditional banks, so Glass-Steagall wouldn’t have limited their reckless behavior.”

First, Glass-Steagall was not a “rule.” It was the most powerful financial legislation ever passed by the U.S. Congress in 1933 and it protected the nation from another 1929 style crash for almost seven decades.

Just nine years after its repeal, Wall Street crashed and caused the greatest economic upheaval since the Great Depression.

What Hillary isn’t telling you about AIG, the giant insurance company which blew up in 2008 from selling credit derivatives to Wall Street firms and received a massive taxpayer bailout, is that it was also Bill Clinton’s administration that allowed AIG to become a derivatives powder keg by also passing and signing into law the Commodity Futures Modernization Act in the waning days of his administration. This act removed these dangerous derivatives from regulatory oversight.

Additionally, the legislation that Bill Clinton signed into law that repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, also repealed the sections of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 that had separated commercial banking from insurance.

At the time AIG blew up in 2008, it was a global insurance company peddling billions in insurance annuities to Moms and Pops around the globe; it owned the FDIC insured AIG Federal Savings Bank. AIG also owned 71 U.S.-based insurance entities and 176 other financial services companies throughout the world, including AIG Financial Products which blew up the company. None of this could have happened without the deregulation that occurred in the Bill Clinton administration.

As for Lehman Brothers, Hillary doesn’t mention that at the time it blew up, Lehman Brothers owned two FDIC insured banks, Lehman Brothers Bank, FSB and Lehman Brothers Commercial Bank. Together, they held $17.2 billion in assets as of June 30, 2008.

Lehman Brothers Bank FSB is where Lehman handled its mortgage loan originations. When the FDIC approved the Lehman Brothers Commercial Bank application in 2005, it specifically noted that the FDIC insured bank “anticipates acting as a derivatives intermediary, engaged in matched trading of interest rate products, primarily interest rate swaps, as well as forward purchase agreements and options contracts.” None of this would have been possible without Bill Clinton’s deregulation of Wall Street.

Have Americans who are supporting Hillary’s run given any serious thought to how her administration would function with Bill Clinton, the former deregulator-in-chief of Wall Street, residing in the White House and having her ear on a daily basis.

Massive amounts of Wall Street money bought the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and that money is now gushing into Hillary’s campaign to make sure that Glass-Steagall remains gutted.

Robert Rubin, Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary who pressed for the repeal and then quickly moved to its main beneficiary, Citigroup, to collect over $126 million in compensation over the next decade, while also being on hand to watch the banking behemoth collapse into the arms of the taxpayer from toxic derivative bets, is now a player in Hillary’s bid for the White House.

According to donor records at the Federal Election Commission (FEC), Robert Rubin and 12 of his partners and colleagues at Centerview Partners, have each given the maximum for Hillary’s primary bid, i.e., $2700. Each will again be allowed to contribute another $2700 for her general election bid if she succeeds in the primary. In addition, they can each contribute up to $5,000 a year to a PAC (political action committee) that supports Federal candidates; $10,000 per calendar year to a State or local party committee; $33,400 per calendar year to a national party committee and this limit applies separately to a party’s national committee, House campaign committee and Senate campaign committee.

For example, one of Rubin’s partners at Centerview, Charles (Skip) Paul, contributed $2700 to Hillary for America on April 25, 2015 as well as $32,400 to Grassroots Victory Project 2014 (a project supporting Democrats), and over $30,000 on June 28, 2011 to the Obama Victory Fund according to FEC records. Other Centerview partners have also made donations to Democrat committees in excess of $20,000 in a lump sum.

And Centerview does not even rank among the top financial firms whose employees and/or family members are funding Hillary’s campaign. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, three major Wall Street firms (Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley) rank in Hillary’s top 20 donors. Equally noteworthy, three major Wall Street law firms also rank in the top 20:  Sullivan and Cromwell; Akin, Gump; Skadden, Arps.

We’re still in the primary season and Hillary’s campaign committee has raised $76 million from individual contributors with 81 percent of that coming from large donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

When it comes to hollow promises to rein in Wall Street, Americans have had voter’s remorse for far too long. Isn’t it time for a meaningful change?

What President Obama Didn’t Address:  Who’s Funding the Hate Campaign Against Muslims?

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens

December 7, 2015

President Obama Addresses the Nation on Terrorism Threat to the U.S., December 6, 2015

President Obama Addresses the Nation on Terrorism Threat to the U.S., December 6, 2015

Last evening, in his speech to the nation from the Oval Office, President Obama reminded Americans that “Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes — and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country.”  In his concluding remarks, the President told viewers that our nation was “founded upon a belief in human dignity — that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or what religion you practice, you are equal in the eyes of God and equal in the eyes of the law.” (See full video of the speech below.)

What the President didn’t say is that while the recent mass killing in San Bernardino, California was conducted by a married couple who were Muslim, the Muslim community itself has been under relentless assault by homegrown religious extremists since the attacks on the World Trade towers on September 11, 2001.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), mosques in 31 states in America have been the targets of firebombs, arson, acid attacks, gunfire, hate speech or other forms of religious intolerance since 2005. In Joplin, Missouri, a mosque’s sign was torched in 2008. Four years later, its roof was set on fire with the perpetrator caught on a surveillance video. One month later, in August 2012, the mosque was burned to the ground.

In 2008, Chris Rodda, reporting for the "Huffington Post," wrote about Muslim babies and children being gassed in an attack on a mosque in Dayton, Ohio during the same week that a DVD of the race-baiting, anti-Muslim documentary "Obsession:  Radical Islam’s War Against the West" was mailed to thousands of households in Ohio and inserted into newspapers around the state. Quoting an email she had received with an eyewitness report, Rodda relayed:

“She told me that the gas was sprayed into the room where the babies and children were being kept while their mothers prayed together their Ramadan prayers. Panicked mothers ran for their babies, crying for their children so they could flee from the gas that was burning their eyes and throats and lungs. She grabbed her youngest in her arms and grabbed the hand of her other daughter, moving with the others to exit the building and the irritating substance there.

“The paramedic said the young one was in shock, and gave her oxygen to help her breathe. The child couldn’t stop sobbing.

“This didn’t happen in some far away place — but right here in Dayton, and to my friends. Many of the Iraqi refugees were praying together at the Mosque Friday evening. People that I know and love.

“I am hurt and angry. I tell her this is not America. She tells me this is not Heaven or Hell — there are good and bad people everywhere.

“She tells me that her daughters slept with her last night, the little one in her arms and sobbing throughout the night. She tells me she is afraid, and will never return to the mosque, and I wonder what kind of country is this where people have to fear attending their place of worship?”

The "Obsession" DVDs were distributed seven weeks before the Presidential election of 2008 in swing voter states when rumors were being fanned that Barack Obama was a Muslim. Approximately 100 newspapers and magazines in the U.S., including the "New York Times," "Wall Street Journal," "Miami Herald," "Philadelphia Inquirer," and "St. Petersburg Times," distributed millions of these DVDs. Including the direct mail campaign, 28 million DVDs flooded households in key states.

In 2010, we became curious as to where the massive amount of money came from to finance the production of this race-baiting film and the enormous amount of funds needed to distribute 28 million DVDs. All that was known at that point was that a front group called the Clarion Fund had its name on the production. Where it got its money was a dark secret.

The Clarion Fund had only a virtual office address in New York City with no physical presence and no employees on site. The documents the Clarion Fund had submitted to the IRS to obtain its tax-exempt status showed it had its own obsession with secrecy. One requirement it enforced on its vendors read:

“At all times, whether during or after the provision of services to Clarion, Service Provider shall keep in confidence and shall not disclose or use, for his or another’s benefit, any nonpublic knowledge, data, material, document or other information of any type that is related to Clarion, or its subsidiaries, directors, members, managers, agents, employees or other affiliates or that Service Provider otherwise acquires in the course of providing services (collectively, the ‘Confidential Information.’).”
The "Obsession" film content was suspiciously slick. The first half shows serial scenes of suicide bombers and human carnage at the hands of Muslims. The second half of the film intersperses clips of Hitler, Hitler Youth, or Hitler analogies with Muslim crowds that include young children with fists in the air calling for death to westerners. While the film concedes that not all Muslims want to kill, it quantifies the number that do (without any substantiation) as 100 to 150 million Muslims, i.e., 10 to 15 percent of 1 billion Muslims.

After much painstaking research, we tracked down the money trail and reported the following:

“The 28 million DVDs were produced at a cost of $15,676,181 by Artist Direct Media which does mass manufacturing of CDs and DVDs with volume discounts. The big media buy for Sunday newspaper insertions ran up the tidy tab of $719,436 and was conducted by NSA Media, a unit of the global ad giant, Interpublic Group, parent of McCann-Erikson. That figure seems decidedly on the light side so there may be other funding sources involved that have not yet surfaced. (NSA Media is a powerful ad buyer, representing some of the biggest print buyers and consumer brands in the country, which might help explain why so few questions were asked by the largest newspapers about this unseemly project.)

The full tab, and then some, was paid by the super secretive libertarian nonprofit, Donors Capital Fund. In 2008, Clarion Fund became Donors Capital Fund’s largest grantee by a large margin, receiving $17,778,600.
That sum constituted 96 per cent of all funds received by Clarion in 2008 and 9 times its revenue in 2007.”

And who was behind Donors Capital Fund? All roads led to Charles Koch, the right wing billionaire. (Read our full report here.) While we were able to link Donors Capital to the funding of the film, we were not able to pinpoint the names of the individual(s) who gave the money to Donors Capital and earmarked it for producing and distributing the film.

David Horowitz, the anti-Muslim writer at "Frontpage Magazine" took the "Obsession" film on a college road show that dovetailed with its distribution through newspapers and direct mail.

During the fall of 2007, and continuing into 2008, Horowitz promoted an “Islamo-Fascism Awareness” program to more than 100 college campuses, with the film "Obsession" made available for viewing. The David Horowitz Freedom Center, a non profit, has received major funding from the same parties that have funded Donors Capital Fund and its sister organization, Donors Trust. Major among those donors is the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Muslims make up approximately one percent of the U.S. population and their “voting patterns generally mirror the broader American population. American Muslims are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, liberals and conservatives. There is no one political platform or agenda for those who practice the religion of Islam in the United States.”

The majority of Muslims have been living peacefully in America since the 16th century, but some well-financed campaigns by dark money are stereotyping all Muslims as terrorists while Muslims are, themselves, being terrorized at their houses of worship. Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, has now picked up the stereotyping cudgel and appears to be fomenting the hate with a pledge to close some mosques and put American Muslims on a registry if he’s elected President.

On November 23, the "Dallas Morning News" ran an editorial which carried these prophetic words after an anti-Islam group showed up at a mosque in Irving, Texas with assault rifles (it’s legal to open-carry guns in Texas):

“This is America. Free speech and the right to protest are our calling cards.

“But AR-15s at a place of worship? That is out of bounds, and it shows how very close we are to chaos.”

It takes very little for hate to turn to murder. In February of this year, a white middle-aged male in Chapel Hill, North Carolina shot and killed three Muslim students execution style. Two were set to study to become dentists. According to the "New Yorker Magazine," the killer, Craig Hicks, wrote the following on his Facebook page: “I hate Islam just as much as Christianity, but they have the right to worship in this country just as much as any others do.” According to the article, Hicks also wrote that he hoped that Jews, Christians, and Muslims might “exterminate” each other.

The President’s address last night was a deeply inadequate response to the hate fomenting in our nation and the mega amounts of dark money that want to keep it alive through the 2016 Presidential election.

60 Minutes Sanitizes Its Report on High Frequency Trading 

By Pam Martens:  April 1, 2014

Floor of the New York Stock Exchange as Featured in 60 Minutes Report on High Frequency Trading

Two of the chief culprits of aiding and abetting high frequency traders, the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq stock exchange, failed to come under scrutiny in the much heralded 60 Minutes broadcast on how the stock market is rigged.

This past Sunday night, "60 Minutes" Steve Kroft sat down with noted author Michael Lewis to discuss his upcoming book, “Flash Boys,” and its titillating revelations about how high frequency traders are fleecing the little guy.

Kroft says to Lewis:  “What’s the headline here?” Lewis responds:  “Stock market’s rigged. The United States stock market, the most iconic market in global capitalism is rigged.”

Kroft then asks Lewis to state just who it is that’s rigging the market. (This is where you need to pay close attention.) Lewis responds that it’s a “combination of these stock exchanges, the big Wall Street banks and high-frequency traders.” We never hear a word more about “the big Wall Street banks” and no hint anywhere in the program that the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq are involved.

"60 Minutes" pulls a very subtle bait and switch that most likely went unnoticed by the majority of viewers.
In something akin to its own “Flash Boys” maneuver, it flashes a photo of the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as Kroft says to the public that:

“Michael Lewis is not talking about the stock market that you see on television every day. That ceased to be the center of U.S. financial activity years ago, and exists today mostly as a photo op.”
That statement stands in stark contrast to the harsh reality that the New York Stock Exchange is one of the key facilitators of high frequency trading and making big bucks at it.

In this Google cache of a promotional piece aimed at high frequency traders, the New York Stock Exchange explains how it is offering a “fully managed co-location space next to NYSE Euronext’s US trading engines in the new state-of-the-art data center.”

Who is it for? The NYSE says it is for “High frequency and proprietary trading firms, hedge funds and others who need high-speed market access for a competitive edge.”

More eye-popping details on how the New York Stock Exchange is arming high frequency traders in Mahwah, New Jersey against the little folks who can’t afford tens of thousands of dollars a year for a “competitive edge” are provided on its web site here. (The closer a high frequency trader’s computers are located to the New York Stock Exchange’s main computers, the faster their trades are executed.)

The Securities and Exchange Commission knows full well this is going on. Just this past December 24, the SEC filed this rule change in the Federal Register, announcing that the New York Stock Exchange was changing its pricing for some of its co-location services and computer cabinets for outside users.

Like some kind of a half-off sale at Macy’s, the NYSE says it will offer:  “a one-time Cabinet Upgrade fee of $9,200 when a User requests additional power allocation for its dedicated cabinet such that the Exchange must upgrade the dedicated cabinet’s capacity. A Cabinet Upgrade would be required when power allocation demands exceed 11 kWs. However, in order to incentivize Users to upgrade their dedicated cabinets, the Exchange proposes that the Cabinet Upgrade fee would be $4,600 for a User that submits a written order for a Cabinet Upgrade by January 31, 2014…”

The Federal Register notice also shines light on some pricing comparisons between what the NYSE is offering high frequency traders versus the Nasdaq stock market, writing:

“The Exchange also believes that the Cabinet Upgrade fee is reasonable because it would function similar to the NASDAQ charges for comparable services. In particular, NASDAQ charges a premium initial installation fee of $7,000 for a ‘Super High Density Cabinet’ (between 10 kWs and 17.3 kWs) compared to $3,500 for other types of cabinets with less power.The Exchange charges only one flat rate for its initial cabinet fees ($5,000), regardless of the amount of power allocation.”
Congress is equally aware of what is going on. As far back as October 28, 2009, the U.S. Senate Banking committee took testimony from Larry Leibowitz, head of technology at the NYSE on the fact that it was offering co-location to outside trading firms.

Neither the "Flash Crash of 2010" or confidence-busting trading “glitches” since then have roused Congress and the SEC from their slumber.

Another opportunity emerges in the "60 Minutes" broadcast for Kroft to call out the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq for their practices. As Kroft explains how this young former trader from the Royal Bank of Canada, Brad Katsuyama, figured out how high frequency traders were gaming the market and made appointments with institutional investors to share his insights, Kroft says “and some of the most famous names in the American stock market heard the pitch.”

At this exact moment a photo of the exterior of the New York Stock Exchange flashes across the screen, giving the impression that the NYSE is some poor, naïve victim of a cartel of high frequency traders.

What is also preposterous about this "60 Minutes" segment is that it deals exclusively with gaming the system through miles of fiber optic cable. That is so yesterday, according to the "Futures Industry" magazine. On January 24 of last year, the publication wrote that “High frequency traders can use wireless to connect to data sources or exchanges about 1.5 times faster than through fiber optics, enabling them to quote prices at tighter bid-ask spreads than rivals or execute trades more quickly than other firms. Such are the potential competitive advantages, however, that many projects are pursued behind a veil of silence.”

The article noted that San Diego-based NexxCom Wireless was building a millimeter wave network between New York, London and Frankfurt and considering connections to Zurich and Milan with the potential to add Stockholm and Moscow.

Within less than 24 hours of the big splash made by the "60 Minutes" broadcast, the "Wall Street Journal" reported that the FBI was all over the problem and had been for a year. The question, of course, is – will anyone ever acknowledge the key role being played by the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq.

BATS in the Belfry:  Charges Fly on CNBC Over Rigged Markets

If the New York Stock Exchange is a “High-Frequency Brothel” then the SEC is its Pimp

Planned Parenthood Killer Robert Dear Admits Guilt in Court

Laura Wagner, NPR

Wagner writes:  "In one of several courtroom outbursts Wednesday, Robert Lewis Dear, who is accused of killing three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado last month, declared his guilt and said he is 'a warrior for the babies.'"

10 DECEMBER 2015
radical christians

I Volunteer to Root Out Christian Extremism

Peter Laarman:  I am offering my own time and energy along with my ideas for an effective program to combat Christian-inspired terrorism in these United States. I am ready to step up, and I am most eager to hear what you think.

It's Too Late to Turn Off Trump

Matt Taibbi:
"Some people in the news business are having second thoughts this week about their campaign strategy. They're wondering if they created a monster in Donald Trump."
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AEP Dumps ALEC to Help States Implement Clean Power Plan, Expedite Renewable Energy

Cole Mellino, EcoWatch
"It appears that nearly everybody wants to disassociate itself from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative lobbying group that fights climate change policies. Its latest departure? American Electric Power (AEP), one of the nation's largest utilities."

So, I'm guessing ALEC will soon be changing its name.

Along the line of Diebold/Premier/ES&S and all the defense companies with new and (purposely) uninteresting-sounding names.

60 Minutes Takes a Pass On Wall Street’s Secret Spy Center

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