Daily Archive: 03/15/2013

Mar 15 2013

Court Rules for ACLU Against the CIA

Apparently a federal court of appeals didn’t think that the Department of Justice’s argument that the CIA had no “intelligence interest” in drone strikes carried out by the United States government and the refusal to even admit in court that the program exists, was either believable or plausable. That nonsense ended today. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled today in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union request for information about the CIA’s drone program.

CIA Drone Strikes Case: Court Finds It Not ‘Plausible’ That Agency Has No Role

by Ryan J. Reilly, Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court has reversed a lower court’s decision (pdf) that dismissed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the CIA, ruling on Friday that it was neither “logical nor plausible” for the government to contend the agency had no interest in drone strikes.

“It is hard to see how the CIA Director could have made his Agency’s knowledge of — and therefore ‘interest’ in — drone strikes any clearer,” the ruling states. “And given these statements by the Director, the President, and the President’s counterterrorism advisor, the Agency’s declaration that ‘no authorized CIA or Executive Branch official has disclosed whether or not the CIA … has an interest in drone strikes,’ … is at this point neither logical nor plausible.”

Court Rejects CIA’s Drone Secrecy Arguments Because Obama, Brennan & Panetta Made Statements

by  Kevin Gosztola, FDL The Dissenter

Judge Merrick B. Garland wrote in the decision the question before the court was whether it was “logical or plausible” for the “CIA to contend that it would reveal something not already officially acknowledged to say that the Agency ‘at least has an intelligence interest’ in” drone strikes.

“Given the extent of the official statements on the subject, we conclude that the answer to that question is no.”

A statement by President Barack Obama, made during a Google+ Hangout in January 2012, statements from then-counterterrorism adviser John Brennan during a speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center on April 30, 2012, and remarks made by then-CIA director Leon Panetta at the Pacific Council on International Policy in 2009 were all cited as “official acknowledgments that the United States has participated in drone strikes.” The acknowledgments made it implausible and illogical for the CIA to maintain “that it would reveal anything not already in the public domain to say that the Agency ‘at least has an intelligence interest’ in such strikes.”

“The defendant is, after all, the Central Intelligence Agency,” wrote Garland.

As the judge noted, Obama has “publicly acknowledged that the United States uses drone strikes against al Qaeda.” Brennan made statements that left no doubt that “some agency” operates drones. “It strains credulity to suggest that an agency charged with gathering intelligence affecting the national security does not have an ‘intelligence interest’ in drone strikes, even if that agency does not operate the drones itself.”

This is the press release from the ACLU:

DC Appeals Court Rejects CIA’s Secrecy Claims in ACLU’s Targeted Killing FOIA Lawsuit

Court Rules that CIA Cannot Deny “Interest” in Drone Program



March 15, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court ruled today that the Central Intelligence Agency cannot deny its “intelligence interest” in the targeted killing program and refuse to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests about the program while officials continue to make public statements about it.

“This is an important victory. It requires the government to retire the absurd claim that the CIA’s interest in the targeted killing program is a secret, and it will make it more difficult for the government to deflect questions about the program’s scope and legal basis,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer, who argued the case before a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Appeals Court in September. “It also means that the CIA will have to explain what records it is withholding, and on what grounds it is withholding them.”

The ACLU’s FOIA request, filed in January 2010, seeks to learn when, where, and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and how and whether the U.S. ensures compliance with international law restricting extrajudicial killings. In September 2011, the district court granted the government’s request to dismiss the case, accepting the CIA’s argument that it could not release any documents because even acknowledging the existence of the program would harm national security. The ACLU filed its appeal brief in the case exactly one year ago, and today the appeals court reversed the lower court’s ruling in a 3-0 vote.

“We hope that this ruling will encourage the Obama administration to fundamentally reconsider the secrecy surrounding the targeted killing program,” Jaffer said. “The program has already been responsible for the deaths of more than 4,000 people in an unknown number of countries. The public surely has a right to know who the government is killing, and why, and in which countries, and on whose orders. The Obama administration, which has repeatedly acknowledged the importance of government transparency, should give the public the information it needs in order to fully evaluate the wisdom and lawfulness of the government’s policies.”

Today’s ruling is at: aclu.org/national-security/drone-foia-appeals-court-ruling

Mar 15 2013

What’s Cooking for St. Patrick’s Day

Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day but Saturday is the big parade in NYC. The tradition on the day is corned beef and cabbage with potatoes, so what to eat on parade day. The easy answer is go traditional with a stew. This beef stew made with Guiness Stout and topped with a Stilton laced pastry crust takes a little work but it is well worth the work.

Beef and Stout Pie with Stilton Crust

Ingredients:

   * 7 Tbs. olive oil

   * 1 lb. white button mushrooms, quartered

   * 2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed

   * Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

   * 3 1/2 lb. beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes

   * 1 cup all-purpose flour

   * 3 garlic cloves, minced

   * 2 Tbs. tomato paste

   * 2 1/2 cups Irish stout

   * 1 cup beef broth

   * 1 lb. carrots, cut into chunks

   * 1 lb. red potatoes, cut into chunks

   * 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh thyme

   * One 16-inch round Stilton pastry (recipe below)

   * 1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water

Directions:

In a 5 1/2-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the mushrooms, onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Season the beef with salt and pepper. Dredge the beef in the flour, shaking off the excess. In the Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add one-third of the beef and brown on all sides, about 7 minutes total. Transfer to a separate bowl. Add 1/2 cup water to the pot, stirring to scrape up the browned bits. Pour the liquid into a separate bowl. Repeat the process 2 more times, using 2 Tbs. oil to brown each batch of beef and deglazing the pot with 1/2 cup water after each batch.

Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add the beef, stout, broth and reserved liquid, stirring to scrape up the browned bits. Add the mushrooms, onions, carrots, potatoes and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beef and vegetables are tender, about 3 hours.

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

Stilton Pastry

Ingredients:

   * 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

   * 2 tsp. salt

   * 1 Tbs. sugar

   * 16 Tbs. (2 sticks/250g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

   * 1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water

   * 4 oz. Stilton cheese, crumbled

Directions:

In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar and pulse until blended, about 5 pulses. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 pulses. Add 1/3 cup of the ice water and pulse 2 or 3 times. The dough should hold together when squeezed with your fingers but should not be sticky. If it is crumbly, add more water 1 Tbs. at a time, pulsing twice after each addition. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour, place on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper and roll out into a 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Sprinkle the cheese over half of the dough, then fold the other half over the cheese. Roll out the dough into a 16 1/2-inch square. Using a paring knife, trim the dough into a 16-inch round.

Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 10 minutes, then lay the dough on top of the beef and stout pie and bake as directed in that recipe. Makes enough dough for a 16-inch round.

Brush the rim of the pot with water. Lay the pastry round on top, allowing it to droop onto the filling. Trim the dough, leaving a 1-inch overhang, and crimp to seal. Brush the pastry with the egg mixture, then cut 4 slits in the top of the dough. Bake for 30 minutes. Let the potpie rest for 15 minutes before serving. Serves 8 to 10.

Erin Go Bragh!

Mar 15 2013

Whale Fail

I’m sure you will be reading and watching with great interest today the testimony of Ina Drew in front of the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations.

(Annoying auto starting video now below the fold- ek)

The Fail Whale trade is a bit complicated in it’s details, but basically JPMorgan Chase was selling insurance against a basket of corporate bonds that made up a fairly regularly (as these things go) traded index (like the Dow, but not the same companies and not common stock) and was supposedly hedging these bets with actual positions in the underlying assets and making money off the spread between the price for the insurance and the cost of the bonds.

Esoteric but perfectly sound and legal (under today’s laws).

The problem was that in order to manipulate the much smaller market for the insurance and increase the spread by simulating demand (sockpuppets), JPMorgan Chase ended up in a position where it was net bearish on the bonds (i.e. betting there would be a default so it could collect the insurance from itself) thereby increasing its need to obtain bonds in the regular market that it did not totally control in order to offset potential losses should the bonds in fact do better than expected and rise in price.

And then the wolves came in.

You can’t throw large chunks of money around a small casino without somebody noticing and a lot of regular players saw the increase in demand for bonds and started buying them up, raising the price even more and making JPMorgan Chase’s insurance nearly worthless.

Now on the money losing end of the trade JPMorgan Chase tried unwinding it, selling their sockpuppet positions in the insurance for pennies on the dollar and liquidating their hedge assets at what they thought was the top of the underlying market.

Only the wolves were there first and valuations dropped like a stone to their normal equilibrium and JPMorgan Chase ended up with an approximately $6.5 BILLION loss.

Yay for our side.  Way to stick it to the man.

But wait, there’s more.

The funds JPMorgan Chase used were taxpayer insured depositor’s accounts, which is illegal.  Manipulating markets using sockpuppets is illegal.

AND to cover up these crimes JPMorgan Chase started issuing fraudulent statements to Government Regulators, which is illegal; AND TO ITS VERY OWN STOCKHOLDERS AND INVESTORS, which is illegal.

And Jamie Dimon knew all about it and lied to Congress, which is illegal.

Will anyone go to jail?  Who’s naive now Kay?

Senate investigation finds JP Morgan hid mistakes as trade losses grew

Heidi Moore, The Guardian

Friday 15 March 2013 04.38 EDT

JP Morgan’s $6.2bn London Whale trading debacle was born out of secretive trades and creative bookkeeping as the bank attempted to limit losses using a practice that one regulator called “make believe voodoo magic”, a Senate investigation has concluded.

The report by the Senate subcommittee on investigations, published on Thursday, detailed a series of failures in which accounts were hidden and trades were valued incorrectly to minimize losses. It also alleged that regulators were kept in the dark, a head trader’s concerns went unheeded and a $51bn trading portfolio ballooned to $157bn in three months.



The report also concludes that JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, whose bonus was cut in half to $11.5m last year, knew about the sustained trading losses when he dismissed the incident as a “tempest in a teapot” in April 2012.



The investigation paints a picture of a growing debacle that started with the bank’s attempt to reduce the risk of its trades so that it would have a stronger capital cushion and look powerful to regulators. It started with the overconfidence of traders after a lucky bet made about $400m on the bankruptcy of American Airlines. Drew applauded the traders.

They suffered from that overconfidence when they bet incorrectly on the bankruptcy of Eastman Kodak in January 2012. That kicked off nine straight days of trading losses that cost the bank at least around $50 million. One trader in the CIO told the Senate committee that “they were told not to let an Eastman Kodak-type loss happen again.” As the traders scrambled to keep the trades – which were designed to benefit if there was a financial crisis – they found that the improving bond market worked against them. Between January and March 2012, it didn’t have one profitable day in its CIO portfolio, according to the report.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is accused of hiding information about big losses

By Danielle Douglas, Washington Post

Mar 15, 2013 12:59 AM EDT

Washington dealt a double blow Thursday to JPMorgan Chase as a Senate report accused its iconic chief executive of hiding information about a massive loss from regulators while the Federal Reserve unexpectedly said it had found a “weakness” in the bank’s capital plans.

The twin announcements, both unveiled in the late afternoon, escalates the problems for JPMorgan, the nation’s largest bank and arguably its most prestigious. Once viewed as the strongest bank to emerge from the 2008 financial crisis, the firm on Thursday watched its weaker rivals, Bank of America and Citigroup, sail through the Fed’s examination.



The Senate report is the first to suggest that JPMorgan’s chief executive Jamie Dimon was less than forthright with regulators as he learned of the mounting losses. To date, Dimon has acknowledged that the bank failed to manage its risks, which allowed the bad trades to persist.

The report takes the bank to task for hiding losses for three months last year, overstating the value of its trading positions and ignoring red flags. When regulators grew concerned, JPMorgan withheld information about the nature of the portfolio, Senate investigators say.

JPMorgan Report Piles Pressure on Dimon in Too-Big Debate

By Dawn Kopecki, Clea Benson & Hugh Son, Bloomberg News

Mar 15, 2013 10:05 AM ET

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM)’s efforts to hide trading losses, outlined in a Senate report yesterday, probably will ignite debate over whether the largest U.S. bank is too big to manage and ratchet up pressure on Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon to surrender his role as chairman.

Dimon misled investors and dodged regulators as losses escalated on a “monstrous” derivatives bet, according to a 301-page report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The bank “mischaracterized high-risk trading as hedging,” and withheld key information from its primary regulator, sometimes at Dimon’s behest, investigators found. Managers manipulated risk models and pressured traders to overvalue their positions in an effort to hide growing losses.



The Senate report cited Bloomberg stories published last year disclosing that Dimon, 57, had transformed the CIO in the past five years from a conservative investment operation into a much larger, high-risk trading profit center, and that he exempted the office from rigorous scrutiny.



JPMorgan’s credit portfolio more than tripled from a net notional size of $51 billion in late 2011 to $157 billion by the time trading was shut down in late March of last year, the report says. Iksil acquired more than $80 billion, or about 50 percent, of a thinly traded credit index, which made it difficult to find buyers, according to the subcommittee.



Iksil’s book breached all five of the CIO’s internal risk measures, and with increasing frequency from January through April, totaling more than 330 violations, the report said. Instead of investigating the cause or reducing its danger, traders, risk managers and executives criticized the metrics as inaccurate and “pushed for model changes that would portray credit derivative trading activities as less risky,” the report said.

On Jan. 30, 2012, the bank began using a new formula for so-called value at risk that cut Iksil’s estimated possible losses by about half. He had breached the limit under the prior model.

“The new VaR model not only ended the SCP’s breach, but also freed the CIO traders to add tens of billions of dollars in new credit derivatives to the SCP which, despite the supposedly lowered risk, led to additional massive losses,” the report said, referring to the synthetic credit portfolio. That model was later scrapped.



JPMorgan misled the public by hiding losses, mismarking trades, withholding information from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and “lying to investigators by saying that JPMorgan was fully transparent to regulators regarding the mounting losses when it was not,” (Senator John) McCain told reporters at a press briefing.



“None of those statements made on April 13 to the public, to investors, to analysts were true,” (Senator Carl) Levin said. “The bank also neglected to disclose on that day that the portfolio had massive positions that were hard to exit, that they were violating in massive numbers key risk limits.”



Statements and regulatory filings by the bank “raise questions about the timeliness, completeness and accuracy of information” given to investors, the committee said in a section on securities laws and their requirements about disclosing information. The Securities and Exchange Commission has been conducting its own investigation of the bank’s losses.

The evidence suggests the bank “initially mischaracterized or omitted mention” of the portfolio’s problems partly because it “likely understood the market would move against it if even more of those facts were known,” the report says.

(h/t Susie Madrak @ Crooks & Liars)

Live-Blogging Senate Hearing Tomorrow, When J.P. Morgan Chase Will Be Torn a New One

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

POSTED: March 14, 5:00 PM ET

Why should we care if a private bank, or more to the point a private banker like Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, loses a few billion here and there? What business is it of ours? And why did we have to have congressional hearings about it last year?



What the report describes is an epic breakdown in the supervision of so-called “Too Big to Fail” banks.



If the information in the report is correct, Chase followed the behavioral model of every corrupt/failing hedge fund this side of Bernie Madoff and Sam Israel, only it did it on a much more enormous scale and did it with federally-insured deposits. The fund used (in part) federally-insured money to create, in essence, a kind of super high-risk hedge fund that gambled on credit derivatives, and just like Sam Israel did with his Bayou fund, when it got in trouble, it resorted to fudging its numbers in order to disguise the fact that it was losing money hand over fist.

Chase for years hid the very existence of this operation from banking regulators and lied about the purpose of the fund (saying it was purely a hedging operation when it stopped being a hedge and instead became a wild directional gamble), and it also changed the way it calculated the fund’s value once it started to lose hundreds of millions of dollars. Even worse, the bank’s own internal auditors signed off on the phoney-baloney accounting of this Synthetic Credit Portfolio (SCP), at one point allowing it to claim $719 million in losses when the real number was closer to $1.2 billion.

How did they do this? In the years leading up to January of 2012, Chase used a standard, plain-vanilla method to price the derivative instruments in its portfolio. The method was known as “mid-market pricing”: if on any given day you had a range of offers for a certain instrument – the “bid-ask” range – “mid-market pricing” just meant splitting the difference and calling the value the numerical middle in that range.

But in the beginning of 2012, Chase started to lose lots of money on the derivatives in its SCP, and just decided to change its valuations, that they weren’t in the business of doing “mids” anymore.



If you can fight through the jargon, what this basically means is that Chase decided to go into the fiction business and invent a new way to value its crazy-ass derivative bets, using, among other things, a computerized model the company designed itself called “P&L predict” which subjectively calculated the value of the entire fund toward the end of every business day.

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same story we’ve heard over and over again in the financial-scandal era, from Enron to WorldCom to Lehman Brothers – when the going gets tough, and huge companies start to lose money, they change their own accounting methodologies to hide their screw-ups, passing the buck over and over again until the mess explodes into the public’s lap.

Mar 15 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Kristen Breitweiser: Dear Mr Obama: You’re Just Like Dick

Mr. President, what a high bar you have set for yourself in assuring us that you are no Dick Cheney when it comes to drones. [..]

But actually Mr. President, you are probably worse than Dick Cheney.

Because with Cheney, the Democrats screamed and yelled (ok, more like ineffectively grumbled and mumbled) about Cheney’s unconstitutional power grabs. Yes, with Cheney at least there was a modicum of pushback, a scintilla of oversight — even if it was only due to partisan politics.

With you Mr. Obama, indeed, the halls of Congress, the media, and the provocateurs of the prattle-sphere are mostly silent. And that’s what’s so dangerous.

Because who could believe that the first African-American President — a former Con-law professor, no less! — could so thoughtlessly, recklessly throw our Constitution under the bus?

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Seven Million Jobs, Two Budgets – And One Very Strange Tribe

Last night I returned from a nearly month-long trip to Africa. It’s profoundly unsettling to suddenly find oneself immersed in a primitive and superstitious culture – a culture dominated by taboos and rituals, a culture whose primitive beliefs could lead to its downfall, a culture whose members inhabit a flickering and illusory world of light and shadows.

I’m speaking, of course, about my return to the States.

I’d been tracking the budget debate and other events from the other side of the world but, aside from one or two YouTube clips, I hadn’t seen any television for nearly four weeks.  As I caught up on my viewing, it was downright jarring to be confronted by so many people so deeply disconnected from reality.

Sarah Anderson: Inequality and the Social Security Debate

In the richest country in the world, it’s downright insane to even consider cutting back on benefits necessary to provide a dignified retirement for hard-working Americans.

Rhonda Straw is one of millions of Americans who do important work every day but still have a hard time saving for retirement. As a home health aide, Straw administers medication, changes bandages, and performs other vital services to the elderly and disabled. With an hourly wage of only $9, Straw, 51, expects to rely almost entirely on Social Security when she retires.

Unfortunately, workers like Straw aren’t big players in the Social Security debate. The Business Roundtable, the club for America’s most powerful corporate CEOs, is using its muscle to push for an increase in the retirement age to 70 and to recalculate inflation in a way that would further reduce benefits. Fix the Debt is another CEO-driven outfit that’s throwing around tens of millions of dollars in a campaign to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Robert Borosage: A Tale of Two Futures: Ryan Against the Congressional Progressive Caucus

Budgets are pure EGO — eyes glaze over. But this week revealed two budgets — Rep. Paul Ryan’s Republican “Path to Prosperity” 2014 budget and the Congressional Progressive Caucus “Back to Work Budget” — that in stark terms lay out two visions and two futures for America. Next week the Congress will vote on each one of them. Neither will become law, but Ryan’s budget is expected to pass with the support of virtually the entire Republican majority. The CPC budget will struggle to win a majority of the Democratic caucus. For those who take a look, the contrast will open your eyes.

Both parties agree that we suffer from mass unemployment, declining wages, and growing inequality. Both agree that rising future deficits should be addressed. But they offer completely different responses to these realities.

Les Leopold: Paul Ryan’s Budget, Ayn Rand’s Dream

The inspiration for Paul Ryan’s budget comes directly from Ayn Rand. In fact, far too much of the current budget debate is shaped by her philosophy that so viciously divides the world into “creators” against the “moochers” — the “makers” against the “takers.” How else it is possible to propose a budget that so favors the wealthy and so cruelly punishes the less fortunate? How else to explain why both parties are engaged in a foolish deficit reduction dance that will undermine social programs and exacerbate the real problem — the lack of decent, sustainable employment?

Ryan wants to cut taxes on the rich by 14 percent, wipe out Obamacare, trim the Food Stamp program, and turn Medicare into a voucher system — all the name of fiscal responsibility, economic growth and balancing the budget. But any references by Ryan and other Randian acolytes to protecting and enhancing the common good are nothing but spin. Unlike Ayn Rand, they are fearful to say what they really mean. Instead, they hide their belief in utter selfishness by trying to sound like they care about society as a whole. In reality, their Randian philosophy maintains that that the rich should be rewarded and the poor should fend for themselves.

Ralph Nader: Walmart Bosses: Time for a Decision

Last weekend on a bright, sunny day a dozen of us demonstrated at shopping malls where Walmart has three of its giant stores, supplied heavily by products from China and other serf-wage countries. But outsourcing the jobs of its American suppliers to China was not the focus last Saturday. We were drawing attention to the plight of one million Walmart workers who are making far less than what Walmart workers made in 1968 when the minimum wage was the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $10.50 an hour today. [..]

The clenched-jawed CEO opposition to catching the minimum wage up with 1968 for their workers continues to manifest itself today. CEOs seem to have little concern for the budget-squeezed daily lives of their employees.

Mar 15 2013

The Golden Age of Bipartisanship

Transcript

The Drug Scandal That’s Finally Hitting The Big Time

By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire

March 11, 2013 at 1:45PM

(B)ack during the Golden Age Of Bipartisanship, wherein everybody made nicey-nice to each other, and deals were cut that sold out gay people (DOMA), poor people (welfare reform), and all the while the Republicans tried to give the boot to the president with whom they were cutting all the deals, and most of the Democrats, looking to suck up that sweet corporate cash that was sluicing into the party through the DLC floodgates, went along for the ride. (Joe Scarborough, the Machiavelli of the live bait industry, cited this period just the other day as being altogether remarkable. Republicans were working with a president they were trying to impeach! Mirabile dictu!) Now, here’s another masterpiece of bipartisan achievement. (The Supreme Court mucked around with it, too, gutting what remained of the FDA’s power to regulate the compounders in 2001.) They waited until Kessler was gone before passing the bill. In signing the bill, President Bill Clinton attached a presidential signing statement to it that strikes with a cruel irony today.



Trust them. They’ve got this.

But the principle obtained – make a deal to make a deal, and the devil take the details. Now, almost 50 people are dead because Everyone Agrees that The Market will always be more efficient at doing things like picking up deadly fungal infections than the dead hand of government regulation will. Some day, we are going to have to count up the cost of The Third Way of the 1990’s, and it is not going to be pretty.

Mar 15 2013

On This Day In History March 15

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

March 15 is the 74th day of the year (75th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 291 days remaining until the end of the year.

In the Roman calendar, March 15 was known as the Ides of March.

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress to urge the passage of legislation guaranteeing voting rights for all.

Using the phrase “we shall overcome,” borrowed from African-American leaders struggling for equal rights, Johnson declared that “every American citizen must have an equal right to vote.” Johnson reminded the nation that the Fifteenth Amendment, which was passed after the Civil War, gave all citizens the right to vote regardless of race or color. But states had defied the Constitution and erected barriers. Discrimination had taken the form of literacy, knowledge or character tests administered solely to African-Americans to keep them from registering to vote.

“Their cause must be our cause too,” Johnson said. “Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”

The speech was delivered eight days after racial violence erupted in Selma, Alabama. Civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King and over 500 supporters were attacked while planning a march to Montgomery to register African-Americans to vote. The police violence that erupted resulted in the death of a King supporter, a white Unitarian Minister from Boston named James J. Reeb. Television news coverage of the event galvanized voting rights supporters in Congress.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. §§ 1973 – 1973aa-6 is a landmark piece of national legislation in the United States that outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the U.S.

Echoing the language of the 15th Amendment, the Act prohibits states from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” Specifically, Congress intended the Act to outlaw the practice of requiring otherwise qualified voters to pass literacy tests in order to register to vote, a principal means by which Southern states had prevented African-Americans from exercising the franchise The Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, who had earlier signed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.

The Act established extensive federal oversight of elections administration, providing that states with a history of discriminatory voting practices (so-called “covered jurisdictions”) could not implement any change affecting voting without first obtaining the approval of the Department of Justice, a process known as preclearance. These enforcement provisions applied to states and political subdivisions (mostly in the South) that had used a “device” to limit voting and in which less than 50 percent of the population was registered to vote in 1964. The Act has been renewed and amended by Congress four times, the most recent being a 25-year extension signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006.

The Act is widely considered a landmark in civil-rights legislation, though some of its provisions have sparked political controversy. During the debate over the 2006 extension, some Republican members of Congress objected to renewing the preclearance requirement (the Act’s primary enforcement provision), arguing that it represents an overreach of federal power and places unwarranted bureaucratic demands on Southern states that have long since abandoned the discriminatory practices the Act was meant to eradicate. Conservative legislators also opposed requiring states with large Spanish-speaking populations to provide bilingual ballots. Congress nonetheless voted to extend the Act for twenty-five years with its original enforcement provisions left intact.