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Nederlog

August 5, 2015
Crisis: Republican Deregulators, CISA Spying, Bankmanagers, Greek Shares

"They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton















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Sections
Introduction

1.
Republican Rank-and-File Line Up Against Financial
     Regulation

2. Fight Against 'Big Brother' Heats Up as CISA Bill
     Advances in Senate

3. Despite Epic Crash of World Economy, White Collar
     Prosecutions at 20-Year Low

4.
Greek shares nosedive as manufacturing data reveals
     economy in shock



This is a Nederlog of Wednesday August 5, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article (derived from a video that I didn't see) on The Real News with Bill Black, who explains virtually every Republican wishes to end all financial regulation; item 2 is about a new law that is proposed in the Senate that allows even more liberal spying on everything anyone does with a computer; item 3 is about how Holder's policy - that Holder already stated in 1999 - that he will not prosecute big banks or their managers, was a major step toward very large white collar crimes (still unpunished, still not prosecuted); and item 4 is a first estimate on the damages done to Greece in July, when the Greek banks were closed: Even more than was calculated.

1. Republican Rank-and-File Line Up Against Financial Regulation

The first article of today is by Jaisal Noor and Bill Black (<- Wikipedia) on The Real News:

This is an interesting article (I didn't see the video) on the insanity (of if you prefer: the Randian based egoistic greed of the rich) that seems to have grabbed American politics, indeed for 35 years now, but still growing worse.

I skip the bits about the Grahams (two eager profiteers, making tens of millions) and start with the Dodd-Frank law (<- Wikipedia):

NOOR: So Bill, talk about more of his comments. We understand that this was an effort to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act.

BLACK: Yeah. It's part of a general assault. It's interesting given the Republican primaries as well, that they're making it so absolutely frontal that they want to A, destroy Dodd-Frank and free up bankers, the exploited class in America. But this is not just the Dodd-Frank repeal. The House is also passing bills that effectively would destroy pretty much all regulation, not just financial regulation. And so it's an incredibly broad assault on the entire concept, really, that there should be regulation. That instead that we should go to almost complete laissez-faire system and let bankers and CEOs do pretty much whatever they please without even the pretense of regulation, which is of course what we have now.

Incidentally, and though I skipped it: Yes, Phil Graham - who seems to have earned at least $ 150 million dollars - bitterly complained about the extremely
sad
fate of bankers like him, who form "the exploited class" in America. According to Graham.

And yes, what most of the Republicans are trying to get is a system of "almost complete laissez-faire", which - thanks to e.g. Eric Holder - they can practice already without any impunity, but they also want all the laws repealed that could bind them.

Then there is this on presidential wanna-be Trump:

NOOR: (...) But talk about what would happen if a Republican such as frontrunner Donald Trump would take over when President Obama's term expires.

BLACK: Oh, well I think enough of us would probably leave the country that that would be the real problem for the United States. But you don't need a Trump. And that's really the point. This is getting, these votes that I'm talking about to destroy Dodd-Frank and to pretty much destroy financial regulation are getting 95 percent support or more among rank and file Republicans in the House and the Senate. So if they had the White House, these things would already be law. And of course on the margins they are chipping away at Dodd-Frank. President Obama agreed to a quote-unquote compromise that already delayed significant important sections of Dodd-Frank, and the Republicans are making it clear that they're going to use every vote possible on things like the debt ceiling, on things like the transportation bill to demand further weakening of regulation, particularly financial regulation in the United States. So this isn't just an issue if the Republicans get control of all three branches of government. It's a very live issue now.

Yes, indeed. As to Trump's becoming the president of the USA: I still think it
is very unlikely, but indeed I would flee from the USA if he wins, simply because he is completely unpredictable and capable of anything.

Here is the last quote I will give from this article: Bill Black on Bill Clinton, who was one of the main deregulators:

BLACK: (...) these so-called modernization acts that President Clinton was also heavily supportive of. One got rid of Glass-Steagall, violating the rule that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. So Glass-Steagall had worked brilliantly for nearly 50 years before the regulators, particularly Alan Greenspan, turned it into swiss cheese by regulatory exceptions, but that wasn't good enough for Graham and Clinton. They decided to virtually eliminate the act. The second one was of course to destroy Brooksley Born law. That's Commodities Future Modernization Act, which is an oxymoron, that was designed to essentially make it impossible to regulate broad classes of financial derivatives. And that too ended in disaster.
In brief: You can hardly trust anyone in politics - they nearly all lie and deceive to favor those who pay them, who are always the richest.

And yes, I think that is true, and not only in the USA. Effectively, the bankers run politics, and they do it through corrupting the politicians with money, which now also has been made legal in the USA ("Citizens United
" (<- Wikipedia)).

2. Fight Against 'Big Brother' Heats Up as CISA Bill Advances in Senate

The next article is by Sarah Lazare on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is pressing for the swift passage of a controversial pro-surveillance bill known as the the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), raising the ire of civil liberties campaigners who are vowing to escalate their efforts to defeat the measure.

Speaking from the Senate floor on Tuesday, McConnell declared: "With cooperation, we can pass the bipartisan bill this week." The statement came shortly after he filed cloture on the motion to advance CISA, which was previously stalled. McConnell's move means that a debate could come as early as Wednesday, and a vote as soon as Thursday.

Described in the Guardian as "the latest in a series of failed attempts to reform cybersecurity," CISA is framed by its backers as a tool to prevent cybersecurity crimes. But critics warn that the legislation, which has been called Patriot Act 2.0, would expand government and corporate cooperation on surveillance while dramatically diminishing online privacy. A long list of civil society organizations and scholars have expressed profound concerns about the legislation.

Incidentally, I have no idea why The Guardian described this as ""the latest in a series of failed attempts to reform cybersecurity", since it seems to me that ordinary users have no cybersecurity whatsoever: Their private data are stolen everywhere, both by the NSA and the GCHQ, and by data-scammers like Facebook, Google, Experian etc.

And the last link - to: CISA-2015-Sign-On-Letter.pdf - is interesting, for it outlines the basic objections against CISA, and does so briefly and clearly.

Here is an explanation by ACLU legislative assistant Nathaniel Turner that is in the article:

CISA's vague language and expansive definitions will give the government new ways to collect and use the personal information and communications of innocent Americans, all without a warrant or any review by an independent court or overseer. CISA would allow companies to share information with the government relating to a “cybersecurity threat,” a term defined so broadly in the bill that it could include huge swaths of emails and text messages.  The handover of user information under CISA would be permitted even if otherwise prohibited by existing data privacy laws, like the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The law would also give companies broad legal protections even if they improperly share consumer data.

And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the information shared by companies would automatically be forwarded to numerous intelligence, military, and law enforcement agencies, including the NSA and FBI.

Yes. And here is a comment from March this year, on Common Dreams:

You see how this works. They want to watch YOU but you can not watch them. They want to monitor you but you can not monitor them. They want to hold you to account and control your behaviour through mass surveillance but do not want to be held to account themselves.

YOU will get to vote once every four years but who you vote for will be monitored and adjusted accordingly in the interests of national security.

And you will live in a police-state, where everything you say and write is known to anonymous officials of the government, who can arrest you and disappear you forever if they don't like your opinions. (Legally so, since the 2001 Patriot Act!)

We aren't there quite yet, but it is coming closer and closer.

3. Despite Epic Crash of World Economy, White Collar Prosecutions at 20-Year Low

The next article is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Despite lofty rhetoric from politicians who vowed in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis to hold Wall Street accountable, U.S. Justice Department statistics show a "long-term collapse" of federal white collar crime prosecutions, which are down to their lowest level in 20 years, according to a new report from Syracuse University.

The analysis of thousands of records by the university's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) shows a more than 36 percent decline in such prosecutions since the middle of the Clinton administration, when the decline first began. While there was an uptick early in Barack Obama's presidency, current projections indicate that by the end of the 2015 fiscal year, such prosecutions will be at their lowest level since 1995.

But that doesn't mean white collar crime itself—which involves a wide range of activities such as health care fraud and the violation of tax, securities, antitrust, federal procurement, and other laws—is on the wane.

For it merely means that prosecutions of white collar crimes are on the wane, mostly thanks to Eric Holder (<- Wikipedia), who prosecuted no corrupt manager of any corrupt bank, and who may have been chosen by Obama because he wrote already in 1999 that he would not prosecute big banks or their managers.

This is from the Wikipedia-article on Holder (minus note numbers):

Holder has financial ties to at least one law firm benefiting from de facto immunity to prosecution. Prosecution rates against crimes by large financial institutions are at 20-year lows. Holder has also endorsed the notion that prosecutors, when deciding to pursue white-collar crimes, should give special consideration to "collateral consequences" of bringing charges against large corporate institutions, as outlined in a 1999 memorandum by Holder. Nearly a decade later Holder, as head of the Department of Justice, put this into practice and has demonstrated the weight "collateral consequences" has by repeatedly sought and reached deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements and settlements with large financial institutions such as J.P. Morgan Chase, HSBC, Countrywide Mortgage, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and others where the institution pays a fine or penalty but faces no criminal charges and admits no wrongdoing.

And here is Glenn Greenwald on the theme (quoted in the article):

The harms from this refusal to hold Wall Street accountable are the same generated by the general legal immunity the US political culture has vested in its elites. Just as was true for the protection of torturers and illegal eavesdroppers, it ensures that there are no incentives to avoid similar crimes in the future. It is an injustice in its own right to allow those with power and wealth to commit destructive crimes with impunity. It subverts democracy and warps the justice system when a person's treatment under the law is determined not by their acts but by their power, position, and prestige. And it exposes just how shameful is the American penal state by contrasting the immunity given to the nation's most powerful with the merciless and brutal punishment meted out to its most marginalized.

Yes, precisely.

4. Greek shares nosedive as manufacturing data reveals economy in shock

The last article of today is by Larry Elliott on The Guardian:

This starts as follows, and is about the economical damage the Greeks suffered in July of 2015:

The full extent of the damage caused by the Greek crisis was laid bare when the first day of stock market trading after five weeks of economic paralysis saw shares lose a sixth of their value.

Bank stocks bore the brunt of a wave of pent-up selling that eclipsed anything seen in the past three decades on the Athens stock market, with three of the leading Greek financial institutions losing the maximum 30% permitted in a single day’s trading.

The plunge in the stock market came as the first snapshot of the economy during the period when Greece teetered on the brink of leaving the single currency showed the manufacturing sector coming to a virtual halt last month.

The reason that the Greek "manufacturing sector" came "to a virtual halt last month" is lack of money: If you can't loan much or anything, you can't buy much or anything, as a manufacturer.

Here is a brief summary of what happened:

The Athens stock market was closed in late June as part of the capital controls introduced by the Syriza-led coalition government to prevent a run on the banks and the flight of money overseas. The main stock market index was 23% down when business resumed on Monday morning as traders weighed up the damage caused to the economy and the possibility that there may be problems in implementing a bailout deal in which Greece has been forced to accept a fresh batch of tough austerity measures in exchange for financial help.

And this is how the damages that were done were assessed by a non-Greek economist:

Jonathan Loynes, chief European economist at consultancy Capital Economics, said the scale of the damage to the economy caused by the crisis and the imposition of capital controls “looks set to be worse than most forecasters, including ourselves, had envisaged”.
I cannot say I am amazed. And indeed I think the Greeks are being punished, and made an example of.

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