Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Feds take a dive on massive fraud even as the bankers confess

So the big news is that five of the biggest banks in the world have now admitted guilt to criminal charges of manipulating the dollar-euro exchange rate (the most important exchange rate in the world) or LIBOR -- (the London InterBank Offered Rate, which is the most important interest rate in the world).

All told, the five will have to pay $5.6 billion in fines. Sounds like a lot, unless you consider that the foreign exchange market alone has a daily trading volume about 1,000 times as high ($5.3 trillion a day in 2013).

Which means, if these swindlers were able to make just one percent of one percent of one percent (0.000001) on those transactions, it would equal more than $5 million a day, or $14 billion over the seven years involved in the charges.

Or, looked at another way, these five banks reported only the first thee months of this year profits of $19.8 billion, once you add back in the "reserves" the banks set aside to pay for the cost of this and other legal problems.

So when you do the math, these guys are paying less than a third of their profits for three months --25 days by my calculation-- for 2,555 days' worth --7 years-- of criminality.

Now, despite the five banks admitting guilt, not a single one of the hundreds or thousands of people involved in these criminal schemes at the banks --not one single human being!-- has been charged or is going to be charged for racketeering, conspiracy, securities fraud, theft or even jaywalking.

Not one!!!

Further, under U.S. police-state "drug war" laws, the government can demand that property used in committing a crime be forfeited to the government unless the owner can prove to the satisfaction of a federal judge that the owner not only did not participate in the alleged illegal act, not only did not know of the alleged illegal act, but had no way of knowing or suspecting that such things were going on in relation to their property.

So if you own a rental house or an apartment building where the government imagines one of your tenants or a visitor sold or even smoked dope, your property can be seized, even if no one is declared guilty of any crime that took place on your property, and even if no one is even charged with a crime.

And mind you, the *owner* has to prove their innocence. (What happened to "innocent until proven guilty?" Well, if you believe that fairy tale, I have a really great business opportunity involving a bridge in Brooklyn that you should look at).

Under the drug war money laundering, racketeering  and criminal conspiracy statutes, those five banks could and should now be our property -- the property of "we the people." There is no question but that they were involved in criminal acts -- and not just as the passive scene of the crime, but the actual instrument of the criminal activity. They themselves have admitted as much.

One hundred percent of the ownership interest in those five banks should have been expropriated without compensation by the federal government. These are recidivist criminal enterprises that have been called on the carpet time and again for securities violations, false swearing, theft, fraud, conspiracy, racketeering and other crimes.

You say, why punish the shareholders by expropriating them? Because they are exempt for all personal liability in exchange for the corporation they have created and the leadership they have elected bearing full responsibility. The shareholders used their ownership stake in the corporation to delegate the full authority to a Board of Directors they elected. Since they cannot be held liable in any other way for their empowerment of an incompetent or even criminal board, this is the price they pay for the board they chose.

In addition, even if not indicted, why are the feds allowing those who organized, tolerated, or were just too incompetent to detect this seven-year swindle in the world's single most important financial market to continue holding their positions or have similar ones in the future?

If I am an accountant who admits guilt to tax fraud, I am never again allowed to practice as such. If I am a lawyer who admits to cheating and betraying my clients, I forfeit my license.

But despite banking and securities being heavily regulated industries, there are no civil sanctions against the *individuals* involved. There is no statement saying that because this board of directors proved unable to prevent or stop this massive fraud, its members are disqualified from ever serving on another board of directors like this one. Nor is there any such penalty against a chief executive officer, chief operating officer, chief financial officer nor any other executive or supervisor. And not even against the traders themselves, even though the five legal "persons" --these banks organized as corporations-- confessed that, while acting on the behalf of, and as authorized agents of the banks, these traders broke the law.
*  *  *
Meanwhile, in Florida, a 21-year-old waitress faces five years in prison for supposedly finagling the credit card charges for her tips. The DA claims the discrepancy totaled $1,074.15, and anything over $300 is felony "grand theft" and you not only have to pay back those you cheated but do hard time in prison.

The DA forgot to add, unless you're a bank.

From where I sit, the waitress's crime wasn't stealing, but not stealing enough. With a few more zeros to her haul, sure, not only would she have had to turn over every last penny of the spare change in her pocket, but then she would have to listen to a very severe lecture from the Attorney General.

But right after, her chauffeur would have driven her to her private jet to take her to some private island in the Caribbean.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

And then they complain about riots: cop shoots Black teen in the back -- Illinois DA says 'A-OK,' no charges

Riddle me this: what is the difference between today's "officer involved shooting" and a good, old-fashioned Dixie lynching from a century ago?

ANSWER: Less bullshit.

"CHICAGO (CBS) — Lake County prosecutors announced an investigation has determined a Zion police officer was justified when he shot and killed 17-year-old Justus Howell last month.

"Identifying the officer publicly for the first time, Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim said Officer Eric Hill fired at Howell 'in fear for his life,' after Howell ignored repeated commands to drop a handgun he was holding in his right hand.

"Nerheim said Hill would not face criminal charges for the shooting. He said at least four independent witnesses saw Howell running away from Hill with a gun in his hand, and refusing Hill’s orders to stop and drop the weapon..."

"An autopsy determined Howell was shot twice in the back, and his death was ruled a homicide...."

You be the judge and jury and decide whether the cop was "in fear of his life" or whether it was murder ... because an Illinois prosecutor decided a real jury will never see the evidence, as he can't imagine why anyone might think it wasn't self-defense.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Black suspect in white woman's death lynched. Cops: 'no foul play'

A black man who'd recently been questioned in connection with the death of a white woman was found dead hanging from a tree Monday morning in rural Greensboro, Georgia, police said. Local and state investigators said there was nothing to immediately suggest foul play. --NBC News

Another day, another killing: cops shoot 72-year-old in his own home

On the morning of Thursday, May 7, police from Gwinnett County in the Atlanta metro area shot and killed Joseph Roy, a 72 year old man undergoing chemotherapy for stage four lung cancer. Police went to his home after receiving a 911 call claiming the man was suicidal. Police say they found him "barricaded in the bathroom" when they got there,

"When they got out to the situation they made contact with the subject inside," said Corporal Michele Pihera, spokesperson for the county police. "During the course of the incident our officers discharged their firearms and the subject is now deceased."

Having been treated for cancer, albeit not in my 70s but in my 50s, I know that cancer treatments themselves really mess with your head, never mind the realization that you may well be standing in your grave. Suicidal? I can't say "been there, done that," but I certainly saw it from where I stood six years ago.

But I also know that a 72-year-old man undergoing chemotherapy is not a real threat to anyone's life if the most minimal care is taken, if you don't charge in there like Pentagon special forces going to take out Osama bin Laden. And that's so even if what the police claim --that he had armed himself with a household kitchen knife and came out of the bathroom where he had sought refuge threatening them-- were true. Which claim I don't believe, by the way. Fool me once, shame on you. Try to fool me 3,000 times: go fuck yourselves.

It is entirely legitimate to experience fear and seek to protect yourself when hyper-aggressive armed thugs break into your home, with all sorts of noise, shouting all sorts of things you may not even physically hear very well because not just age, but also chemotherapy drugs degrade your hearing. Or even if you do hear it, you may not understand what is going on or what exactly is being said, given the chaos that's just broken out. Arming yourself with a knife, an AK-47 or even an M1 Abrams tank, if you have one handy, is completely legitimate and to be expected, and cops should not be allowed to use the panic and terror they themselves provoke as a pretext for murder.

When the cops got to the man, he was "barricaded in the bathroom," according to the spokesperson for the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. What does that say? That he feared for his safety and his life, and tried to protect himself.

On the basis of their own account, the intervention by Gwinnett cops provoked a physical confrontation with a man who had tried to protect himself in his own home by locking himself in a bathroom. They provoked this confrontation despite having been called to the scene because the man was said to not be behaving rationally by threatening suicide.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations, which supposedly was going to carry out an independent and objective investigation, instead seemed to immediately go into cover-up mode.

According to news reports, GBI spokesperson Sherry Lang said shortly after arriving at the scene, "The subject opened the door, and started yelling threats at the officers and then charged the officers with a knife."

In that same press briefing, Lang and a press person for the Gwinnett police said they did not know whether someone else had been at the house at the time of the shooting, that they did not know who had called 911 claiming the man was suicidal, that they did not know whether the man's wife had been there in the morning or where the man's wife since the incident.

The one and only thing they were sure about, apparently, is that the man who was shot was guilty of attacking the cops who invaded his home, and the cops who invaded his home and shot him were just defending themselves.

So even before any real investigation had begun, the GBI, which Gwinnett County is now relying on to cover up investigate police murders officer involved shootings was already justifying the police killing of a very sick 72-year-old man on the basis that he asked for it.

But even if the cop version that he asked for it is true, what does it say about this society that we gave it to him? He may have been a very sick man physically and mentally, but our society is even sicker, politically and morally.

At any rate, cops know that their own claim to have felt threatened is an automatic "get out of jail free" card, even for murder, and murder most foul, as happened in this case. That thanks to the robed reactionaries of the ruling rich on the Supreme Court.

So even if the cops forgot to bring a gun to plant on their victim, they still escape any punishment by simply claiming that a 72-year-old-man suffering from stage four lung cancer and further weakened by chemotherapy, and who was cowering in a bathroom, seeking refuge from the sudden, violent assault on his home, that this man.threatened the police officers with a steak knife, and thus the cops had no choice but to summarily execute Joseph Roy in a confrontation that there was no need to stage at all and that I think any first-year psychology undergrad would have told them they should not have provoked.

Neither the race of the cops nor of the victim has been given by any of the news reports or police statements; however, TV coverage at the scene shortly after the shooting show only white cops. And the neighbors interviewed about what happened are Black. You do the math.

According to American journalistic style books and ethical guidelines, a person's race or ethnicity should not be mentioned if it has nothing to do with the story. How any journalist in the United States today could imagine that the race of those involved in one more police killing are not relevant is beyond me. In my mind, it only shows the complicity of the media with unjustified or just avoidable police killings.

Supposedly police had gone to the man's home after 911 received a call claiming he was threatening suicide. So the response was to send heavily armed militarized police trained to shoot to kill. Police officers who are absolved beforehand from any responsibility for their actions by the Supreme Court, provided only they claim they were scared. And now the man is no longer threatening to kill himself, thanks to the police, because they killed him.

This doesn't happen in other market-economy industrialized countries like Germany, France, Britain, Canada, Japan or Australia. Some people say, but those countries don't have America's gun culture. But they all have steak knives, the weapon the septuagenarian cancer patient supposedly attacked the police with when they finally cornered him cowering in fear in a bathroom in his home.

I firmly believe that if God or some other force summarily executed and hung from lamp posts for the moral instruction of future generations 10 or 20 cops every time something like this happened, or just blew up the police station involved during roll call the day after a killing, incidents like this would very quickly end.

And if this unending deluge of police killings does not stop, history teaches that something like that will happen. Guaranteed.

A very meaningless court victory against government spying

All over the Internet liberals, libertarians and other assorted members of the chattering classes are cheering the decision by a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals holding that the bulk collection by the NSA of data about every phone call anyone makes in the United States is illegal.

The panel's unanimous decision said Section 215 of the Patriot Act did not authorize the NSA to spy on everything that everyone in this country did all the time. The (secret) Bush and (public) Obama administration position was something like that a really tiny footnote to the ultra-fine print that Congress put in between line 92 and 93 of Section 215 did --if properly read with police-state magnifying classes-- authorize some of the people (namely, those working for the NSA) to spy on all of the people all of the time.

And actually, that was the government's fall-back position. The original position of Bush's and Obama's lawyers when these sorts of lawsuits were first being filed was that those suing had no "standing." That means no right to bring their complaints to court, because there was no proof --"none whatsoever!" thundered the government's paid legal thugs-- that this sort of hanky-panky was going on.

Now that Snowden has committed "treason" by telling you and me, and proving with documentation what "our" government was actually doing to us, even as the government's lawyers were swearing on a stack of Bibles in court that it was outrageous to suggest they were doing that, the official story has changed. Now it's, "Of course that was going on. Didn't you read the Patriot Act? Your elected representatives are the ones you should be talking to, they voted for it, don't go moaning to a judge." And so on.

Which is, in reality, what the learned judges of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals have given us, the old three co-equal branches of government song-and-dance routine, a three card monte scam that even Manhattan street hustlers would admire.

Some, like this witless scribbler for fusion, are claiming the court found NSA spying "unconstitutional." Not so. The court did not find the program unconstitutional. They found that it is not authorized by the Patriot Act.

The author says they found it "unconstitutional" and "separately" that is was "not authorized." But under American legal norms, a court does not rule on constitutional questions if the case can be decided on less sweeping grounds, which is what happened here. In this case, they said the wholesale collection of records by the NSA was illegal simply because the NSA is only supposed to do those things it is authorized to do by law. So they ought not to have done it. The judges also said there would be grave constitutional concerns had this spying been authorized, but since it wasn't, they didn't have to decide that question.

It is the same as if the NSA started marrying people. Marriages are 100% legal and constitutional, but, no, the NSA is not authorized to perform them, and, like its wholesale spying, there would be grave constitutional concerns if Congress said they could do it, in this hypothetical case, because it is the job of state governments, not the federal government, to issue marriage licenses.

There are three things about the Circuit Court's decision that make it much less than in seems.

Thing one: another federal court --the secret FISA court-- decided that the NSA did have authority to do this under Section 215. The FISA court is not directly under the Second Circuit court of appeals and thus not bound by the Circuit Court's ruling. But in the states covered by the circuit (Vermont, Connecticut and New York) this new ruling is now the law, it is binding. In other words, you have certain rights and protections --in theory-- while you're in Manhattan but they magically disappear as you're crossing the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey.

Not that it makes any difference, because ...

Thing two: the Circuit Court did not take any practical action. They did not tell the NSA "you are ordered to stop" or "you have to delete all the records." The case was "remanded" --sent back-- to the lower federal court, the District Court, which would have to issue orders for any practical action.

And that District Court is not going to take any practical action because ...

Thing three: before the District Court has a chance to carry it out, the Circuit Court decision will almost certainly become irrelevant, or "moot," as they say in the lawyering racket. Section 215 of the Patriot Act automatically expires on June 1, in three weeks, unless Congress acts to re-authorize it. If Congress were to re-authorize just as it stands, then the ruling might continue to mean something.

But if Congress shuffles a few words around, then the courts will say it is a new law and you have to start all over again ... provided, of course, you have enough money and lawyers to do so.

As Don Barzini famously remarked, there is a price to be paid. "After all, we are not communists."

So the real practical effect of the Circuit Court decision is to tell Congress that they can't simply say, "well, NSA, continue on doing whatever you've been doing" by voting for the text of Section 215 to continue in force for another few years, as they've done in the past because this court says you can't keep on doing what you used to be doing under Section  215.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals said, in effect: if you, Congress, want to tell the American people that the feds can access every phone call they make, email they send, web search they carry out, and web site they visit, without the probable cause backed by a sworn statement like the Constitution requires for a search or seizure, then you, Congress are going to have to do the heavy lifting and tell them yourselves.

The courts are not going to take the fall for you by saying that actually it was in Section 215 all along, so blame George Bush and whoever was in Congress 14 years ago when the Patriot Act was first passed right after 9/11 without anyone in Congress actually bothering to read it.

And, of course, Congress is going to say it wasn't us, it was secret executive branch programs approved by a secret court that are to blame. But still, right now Congress is "it" in  this game of  tag.

I expect the dodge on this is going to be that Congress says, no the NSA shouldn't keep records on all phone calls, but the phone companies must keep such records and in a way that the NSA can access them at any time. Whether the NSA does it or the phone companies do it for them is really a distinction without a difference, the sort of scam all experience shows we should expect from our rat-brained congresscritters.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The American police state: Woman arrested as terrorist, banned from social media for Facebook post

Once upon a time there was a country where the constitution said you have freedom of speech. In face of the continuing murder of Blacks by police, a 33-year-old Black woman expresses her anger by writing a status on her Facebook page the Monday night of the Baltimore rebellion saying that cops should be killed.

It was, obviously and transparently, an expression of rage, for she adds, "I condone black on white killings."Why? Because "they condone crimes against us."

She even pulls out the Constitution to defend her right to express her anger in such extreme terms. She says that police are "reading this ... right now" and adding "Freedom of speech, tho. So when you can absolutely show me in the 1st amendment where it explicitly says you can't say 'kill all cops' then I'll delete my status. Other than that.... NOPE."

Still, on Tuesday, the next day, she deletes the post. My guess is she thought better of how she expressed her anguish.

The fairy tale: end of story.

The reality: acting as part of a widespread multi-agency effort, cops raid the woman's home on Tuesday, April 28. They confiscate all sorts of property including three computers and a cellphone, and arrest her on some sort of terrorism charge(s).

Press reports say the agencies involved included: the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Department of Homeland Security,  the Fulton County District Attorney, the Atlanta Police, the East Point Police, the Fulton County Sheriff and the New York Police Department. (No explanation is given for the NYPD, but it is listed with the rest.)

WSB-TV channel 2 credited itself with an assist, saying the station had "reported it [the post] to Atlanta Police and our FBI contacts," according to the corporate outlet's own news story. Channel 2 is part of Cox, the dominant news operation in Atlanta, which also owns the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and six radio stations, including the main news and talk station.

According to 11 Alive, Gannet's Atlanta TV station, the woman, Ebony Dickens "was charged with dissemination of information to facilitate terroristic threats."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said she was "charged with making terroristic threats," adding that "Police said Wednesday they would try to get charges upgraded to a felony, because a gun found during a search showed she had the means to carry out the threats."

Channel 2 claims: "Dickens has been charged with disseminating information related to terrorist acts."

CNN, a national outlet based in Atlanta, agreed with Channel 2: "Dickens, 33, appeared in court Wednesday on a charge of disseminating information related to terrorist acts."

But CNN seems to think there was an aggravating factor. Their story begins, "A fake name on a Facebook post can still get you in real trouble," adding that "Ebony Dickens of East Point, Georgia, posted her Facebook rant under the name Tiffany Milan, police said."

And then there is what a judge did. Instead of apologizing to her and raking the cops and prosecutors over the coals for violating the woman's constitutional rights, the judge forced her to post a $10,000 bond and "banned her from social media" as a condition for releasing her from jail.

This was a clearly illegal, nay, despotic, order. You can't tell someone they have to shut up or remain in jail. The prosecutor who pushed for this and the judge who granted it should be fired immediately, for they are a menace to our rights and liberty.

What the judge ordered is known as a prior restraint of publication. This was precisely what the 1971 Pentagon Papers case was about. The New York Times started publishing excerpts from a secret, classified government history of the Vietnam War that showed how one administration after another lied to the public. The Nixon administration sought a court order to stop publication.

In his opinion as part of the 6-3 majority rejecting the Nixon Administration's request, Justice Hugo Black wrote:
[T]he injunction against the New York Times should have been vacated without oral argument when the cases were first presented ... . [E]very moment's continuance of the injunctions ... amounts to a flagrant, indefensible, and continuing violation of the First Amendment. ... In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. ... To find that the President has 'inherent power' to halt the publication of news ... would wipe out the First Amendment and destroy the fundamental liberty and security of the very people the Government hopes to make 'secure.'
And remember, that was the publication of classified government documents in wartime about a war that was still going on. And still the Supreme Court said you can't get an order to stop them from publishing, even if you might be able to charge and convict them of a criminal offense later for doing so. At the end of the day the Nixon administration decided it could not get away with prosecuting major newspapers, and focused instead of leaker Daniel Ellsberg.

It is unclear from the press reports whether Dickens is being charged under Georgia Code Title 16, Section 16-11-37, for "the offense of a terroristic threat" or under the following section, 16-11-37.1 "Dissemination of information relating to terroristic acts." My guess is both, and in keeping with the complete, utter incompetence of today's mainstream journalists, none of those covering the story figured it out.

At any rate, the second section, banning "information relating to terroristic acts" is clearly an unconstitutional law in violation of the First Amendment. It says: 
It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to furnish or disseminate through a computer or computer network any picture, photograph, drawing, or similar visual representation or verbal description of any information designed to encourage, solicit, or otherwise promote terroristic acts.
Why only through computers? Who knows.

The other section, on terroristic threats, applies only when there is a threat with intent to terrorize, like, for example, burning crosses on people's lawns.

Ms. Dickens's post was clearly an expression of anger and rage. But even if some twisted mind really believed that she intended to encourage people to shoot cops or do so herself, that would still be constitutionally protected speech. 

In the 1969 Brandenburg decision, the Supreme Court said: 
Freedoms of speech and press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action" (emphasis added).
In addition, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that people have a right to speak anonymously:
Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation." (McIntyre v. Ohio, 1995)
Moreover, the United States has a tradition of anonymous speech older than the country itself. Like Thomas Paine, whose January, 1776, pamphlet "Common Sense," published with no name attached, is credited with playing a central role in sparking the American revolution. One historian described it as "the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era." Or the Federalist Papers, written by Alexander Hamilton and friends 12 years later under the collective pseudonym Publius that pushed through the adoption of the Constitution.

The suggestion that there is something wrong or sinister with using a pseudonym is downright Orwellian. That is an adjective derived from the last name of the author of the novel 1984, George Orwell. His real name was Eric Blair.

It is clear that the criminals here were the cops. There was a multi-jurisdictional interstate law-enforcement conspiracy to violate Ms. Dickens's constitutionally-protected rights, not just to express herself, but to do so anonymously. 

In addition to the dismissal of all charges against her, I hope there will be a civil suit and substantial financial penalties imposed on all the police agencies involved. This is important, not just to compensate Ms. Dickens for her ordeal and vindicate her rights, but also to counter the chilling effect of this police action and to dissuade the cops from ever pulling a stunt like this in the future.