Daily Archive: 12/29/2011

Dec 29 2011

Mellon Heads

Well, what would you expect from a bank named after a tax cheating idiot plutocrat?

Internal BNY Mellon Documents Show Panic

By JEAN EAGLESHAM And MICHAEL SICONOLFI, The Wall Street Journal

DECEMBER 28, 2011

Five states, including Florida, and the Manhattan U.S. attorney have filed civil lawsuits over the past several months against BNY Mellon, seeking a total of more than $2 billion in damages. The suits allege the bank defrauded pension funds and other clients by systematically overcharging them on currency transactions.



At issue in the suits filed against BNY Mellon is its “standing-instruction” service. That is when pension funds and other clients allow the bank unilaterally to handle their foreign-exchange, or FX, transactions. Clients could instead negotiate their own foreign-exchange trades, but that would require staff and technology.

In the documents, Mr. Wilson described how a “transaction desk” collected currency trades for BNY Mellon’s “standing-instruction” clients and then later in the day set the price at which the bank would record those transactions. The prices often were at or near the day’s least-favorable exchange rates, state attorneys general and prosecutors allege, with the bank profiting from the difference.

And you may ask yourself ‘where have I heard about BNY Mellon recently?’  Why, they are the bank colluding with Bank of America to pay off Countrywide’s securities fraud at pennies on the dollar.

But this is a totally different scam for stealing from their customers.

Dec 29 2011

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”.

Glenn Greenwald: Vote Obama – if you want a centrist Republican for US president

Because Barack Obama has adopted so many core Republican beliefs, the US opposition race is a shambles

American presidential elections are increasingly indistinguishable from the reality TV competitions drowning the nation’s airwaves. Both are vapid, personality-driven and painfully protracted affairs, with the winners crowned by virtue of their ability to appear slightly more tolerable than the cast of annoying rejects whom the public eliminates one by one. When, earlier this year, America’s tawdriest (and one of its most-watched) reality TV show hosts, Donald Trump, inserted himself into the campaign circus as a threatened contestant, he fitted right in, immediately catapulting to the top of audience polls before announcing he would not join the show.

Gail Collins: Feel Free to Ignore Iowa

Only days until the Iowa caucuses! Can you believe it? Less than 8,000 minutes to go!

Perhaps this would be a good time to point out that the Iowa caucuses are really ridiculous.

Not Iowa itself, which is a lovely place despite being the only state besides Mississippi to never have elected a woman as governor or a member of Congress. (See if you can get to work on that, Iowa.) It has many things to recommend, including the Iowa State Fair, which, in my opinion, really sets the planetary pace when it comes to butter sculptures.

And Iowans are extremely nice people. I still have fond memories of the hot dog salesman at an aluminum-siding factory in Grinnell who rescued me from the Steve Forbes for President bus during a snowstorm.

Dean Baker: Obama’s stimulus failure

The president could have rescued the economy by pushing for more stimulus. Not doing so was an error of epic proportions

If President Obama had been doing his job, he would have immediately begun pushing for more stimulus the day after the first one passed. He should have been straightforward with the American people and said that the stimulus approved by Congress was an important first step, but that the severity of the downturn was so great we would likely need more.

Instead of being honest with America, he started talking about the “green shoots of recovery” and said he was going to focus on the budget deficit. This was an error of unbelievable proportions. By raising the budget deficit front and centre, he backed himself into a corner from which it is almost impossible to now escape.

New York Times Editorial: Justice and Prosecutorial Misconduct

A Texas case in which a man was exonerated after serving nearly 25 years in prison demands accountability after a district attorney withheld evidence.

Michael Morton was exonerated by DNA evidence this month after being wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife and serving nearly 25 years in prison in Texas. In seeking to prove Mr. Morton’s innocence, his lawyers found in recently unsealed court records evidence that the prosecutor in the original trial, Ken Anderson, had withheld critical evidence that may have helped Mr. Morton.

The judge reviewing the case allowed Mr. Morton’s lawyers, including those from the Innocence Project, which represents prisoners seeking exoneration through DNA evidence, to gather facts about the prosecutor’s conduct. The Innocence Project’s report makes a compelling case that Mr. Anderson, now a state judge, disobeyed “a direct order from the trial court to produce the exculpatory police reports from the lead investigator” in the case.

Jamelle Bouie: Ben Nelson’s Christmas Gift to America

The Senate might hail itself as the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” but like all democratic institutions, it has had an incredibly mixed history, with moments of genuine achievement-the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for instance-tarnished by moments of cowardice and moral failure, like the Iraq War. If you can say anything about the tenure of Nebraska senator Ben Nelson-who announced his retirement this afternoon-it’s that he strove to embody the worst of the Senate during his two terms in office.

During the Bush presidency, in addition to his support for the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, Nelson voted to restrict marriage rights for gay couples and to make reproductive healthcare more difficult for women. He voted against legislation to raise the minimum wage, against attempts to increase Pell Grants and for the 2005 bill to make bankrupcy proceedings more difficult for ordinary Americans.. He voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act, and voted in support of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and its draconian attacks on civil liberties for detainees (and everyone else). He voted against President Bush’s bill for comprehensive immigration reform, and voted in support of a bill to establish English as the official language of the United States.

Robert Sheer: Marginalizing Ron Paul

Paul is being denigrated as a presidential contender even though on the vital issues of the economy, war and peace, and civil liberties, he has made the most sense of the Republican candidates. And by what standard of logic is it “claptrap” for Paul to attempt to hold the Fed accountable for its destructive policies? That’s the giveaway reference to the raw nerve that his favorable prospects in the Iowa caucuses have exposed. Too much anti-Wall Street populism in the heartland can be a truly scary thing to the intellectual parasites residing in the belly of the beast that controls American capitalism.

It is hypocritical that Paul is now depicted as the archenemy of non-white minorities when it was his nemesis, the Federal Reserve, that enabled the banking swindle that wiped out 53 percent of the median wealth of African-Americans and 66 percent for Latinos, according to the Pew Research Center.

E. J. Dionne: Romney and the Art of Unpredictable Predictability

MANCHESTER, N.H.-No matter what happens in Iowa, Mitt Romney has a safety net in New Hampshire.

And that could rank as the year’s most perilous sentence. Why shouldn’t Romney be surprised in the state that temporarily derailed Barack Obama’s supposedly rapid march toward nomination four years ago? Hillary Clinton humbled many a pundit here in 2008, reason enough to challenge the rapidly jelling conventional wisdom about the Republican presidential campaign.

John Nichols: Gingrich’s Iowa Crash Has GOP Base Hunting for Next Anti-Romney

Decorah, IO-Newt Gingrich has chartered a bus to carry the former House Speaker and third wife Callista across Iowa in a final push for first-in-the-nation caucus votes.

But his campaign is not going anywhere. The new Public Policy Polling survey shows Congressman Ron Paul, the maverick libertarian from Texas whose disciplined campaign is the polar opposite of Gingrich’s, extending his lead, with 24 percent support. The Republican Republicans love to hate, Mitt Romney, is at 20 percent. Gingrich, formerly the leader in the race, has collapsed to 13 percent. Gingrich is just two points ahead of Congressman Michele Bachmann, who is at 11; and just three points ahead of former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Texas Governor Rick Perry, both of whom are at 10. The prospects that Santorum, Bachmann or Perry will finish ahead of Gingrich are real-and rising.

Dec 29 2011

On this Day In History December 29

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.

December 29 is the 363rd day of the year (364th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are two days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1890, the Wounded Knee Massacre took place near Wounded Knee Creek (Lakota: Cankpe Opi Wakpala) on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

In the years prior to the Massacre, the U.S. Government continued to coerce the Lakota into signing away more of their lands. The large bison herds, as well as other staple species of the Sioux diet, had been driven nearly to extinction. Congress failed to keep its treaty promises to feed, house, clothe and protect reservation lands from encroachment by settlers and gold miners; as well as failing to properly oversee the Indian Agents. As a result there was unrest on the reservations.

On December 28, the day before the massacre, , a detachment of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment commanded by Major Samuel M. Whitside intercepted Spotted Elk’s (Big Foot) band of Miniconjou Lakota and 38 Hunkpapa Lakota near Porcupine Butte and escorted them 5 miles westward (8 km) to Wounded Knee Creek where they made camp.

The rest of the 7th Cavalry Regiment arrived led by Colonel James Forsyth and surrounded the encampment supported by four Hotchkiss guns.

On the morning of December 29, the troops went into the camp to disarm the Lakota. One version of events claims that during the process of disarming the Lakota, a deaf tribesman named Black Coyote was reluctant to give up his rifle claiming he had paid a lot for it. A scuffle over Black Coyote’s rifle escalated and a shot was fired which resulted in the 7th Cavalry opening firing indiscriminately from all sides, killing men, women, and children, as well as some of their own fellow troopers. Those few Lakota warriors who still had weapons began shooting back at the attacking troopers, who quickly suppressed the Lakota fire. The surviving Lakota fled, but U.S. cavalrymen pursued and killed many who were unarmed.

By the time it was over, at least 150 men, women, and children of the Lakota Sioux had been killed and 51 wounded (4 men, 47 women and children, some of whom died later); some estimates placed the number of dead at 300. Twenty-five troopers also died, and thirty-nine were wounded (6 of the wounded would also die). It is believed that many were the victims of friendly fire, as the shooting took place at close range in chaotic conditions.

More than 80 years after the massacre, beginning on February 27, 1973, Wounded Knee was the site of the Wounded Knee incident, a 71-day standoff between federal authorities and militants of the American Indian Movement.

The site has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

Dec 29 2011

Montanans Move To Recall Congressional Delegation

Montana residents William Crain, an artist and Stewart Rhodes, an attorney, have launched a petition to recall the state’s congressional delegation, Sen. Max Baucus (D), Sen. Jonathan Tester (D) and Rep. Denny Reberg (R) over their vote for the National Defense Authorization Act that explicitly authorized the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects, including American citizens. Montana is one of nine states that has provisions to recall its elected federal officials. Under the Montana Recall Act all state officials in Montana are subject to recall for physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of the oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of a felony offense. The Montana petitions (there is one for each of the three), states the following “reason for recall”:

   1. “The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees all U.S citizens: “a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed…”

   2.  The National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 (NDAA 2011) permanently abolishes the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, “for the duration of hostilities” in the War on Terror, which was defined by President George W. Bush as “task which does not end” to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001.

   3.  Those who voted Aye on December 15th, 2011, Bill of Rights Day, for NDAA 2011 have attempted to grant powers which cannot be granted, which violate both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

   4.  The Montana Recall Act stipulates that officials including US senators can only be recalled for physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of the oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of a felony offense.

   5. Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act reads in substance: “Congress affirms that the authority of the President to detain …A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda…or associated forces…including any person who has…directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces…The disposition of a person…may include…Detention…without trial until the end of the hostilities…”

   6. “Substantial support” of an “associated force” may imply citizens engaged in innocuous, First Amendment activities.  Direct support of such hostilities in aid of enemy forces may be construed as free speech opposition to U.S. government policies, aid to civilians, or acts of civil disobedience.

   7. Section 1021 reads: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law.”  But “existing law” may be construed to refer to Padilla v. Rumsfeld in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the government’s claim of authority to hold Americans arrested on American soil indefinitely.

   8. Thus Senators Bacus, Tester, and Congressman Rehberg who voted Aye on December 15th, 2011, Bill of Rights Day, for NDAA 2011 have violated his Oath of Office to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution which guarantees all citizens the right to a jury trial “In all criminal prosecutions.”

According to the press release, Mr. Rhodes stated:

These politicians from both parties betrayed our trust, and violated the oath they took to defend the Constitution. It’s not about the left or right, it’s about our Bill of Rights. Without the Bill of Rights, there is no America. It is the Crown Jewel of our Constitution, and the high-water mark of Western Civilization. [..]

Two time Medal of Honor winner Marine General Smedley Butler once said “There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights.” Time to fight.

It’s not clear if the courts will allow states to recall their federal politicians. It hasn’t gotten very far in the past. In 1967, a recall campaign was waged against Sen Frank Church by Ron Rankin, a Republican county commissioner in Kootenai County in northern Idaho. The U.S. District Court for Idaho ruled that the state’s recall laws did not apply to U.S. senators and that such a recall would violate the U.S. Constitution. Since Idaho’s State Attorney General Alan Shephard decided to accept the court’s ruling, writing that “It must be pointed out that a United States senator is not a state officer but a federal officer whose position is created by Article I, Section I of the United States Constitution. There seems to be no provision for canvassing the votes of a recall election of a United States senator.”

However, it can be argued that since there is no provision provided in the Constitution to recall members of congress, that right is preserved for the states under the 10th Amendment which states:  

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Leaving Mr. Rhodes’ affiliation with The Oath Keepers, a group that has been criticized in the past for adopting extremist views and language, and for their supposed ties to white supremacist and militia groups, the petition drive does have some merits. If successful, it could lead to other states passing laws to provide for the recall of elected federal officers who think that the Constitution is quaint. Good luck to them and perhaps good riddance to Baucus, Tester and Reberg.

Dec 29 2011

My Little Town 20111228: Telephone Calls

Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a redneck sort of place, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

One of the things that has really changed from when I was little is how telephone calls are made.  When I was little, the Bell System (AT&T) virtually controlled all telephone traffic.  It DID control all long distance traffic, and many local exchanges.  Where it did not care to run lines, AT&T would contract with local or regional carriers.

Some of the local exchanges were part of the Bell System, owned by AT&T, whilst others were independent and operated under contract.  The one in Hackett was a Bell System one, but in some even more rural locations independents ruled, and they often chose not to provide service to isolated areas because of the expense of running lines and maintaining them.  Remember, back in those days modern multiplex calls on a single line were just getting started, and in those analogue days were not all that good.