Jun 28 2014

The Breakfast Club (Goodbye To All That)

Quick, what do these things have in common besides being music related?

Karl Michael Ziehrer – Das dumme Herz

Sergei Prokofiev – Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major

Richard Strauss – Alpine Symphony

Maurice Ravel – Piano Trio in A Minor

Edward Elgar – Sospiri

Tanbûrî Cemil Bey – Nihâvend Şarkı

(Well, maybe.  Best I could do.)

Ottorino Respighi – Sinfonia Drammatica

Charles Ives – Violin Sonata No. 3

Maybe this will give you a hint-

More, including the answer and obligatories. below the fold.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgObligatories

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

I would never make fun of LaEscapee or blame PhilJD.  And I am highly organized.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)

The correct answer is that these are all pieces that elites in the salons of the capitals of the Great Powers might have been listening to as they sent their young men and unwashed masses off to die in the trenches.

Goodbye To All That, though you can already see the tensions between Romantic and Modernist music developing and traditional “Classical” except for Opera and Operettas (which we would call Musical Theater today) and to a lesser extent dances (prime examples being Polkas or Waltzes) had long since lost their popular appeal.

In a way the Great War had the same effect as the Black Death in that it reduced the population and made Labor more valuable (expensive), reducing the wealth disparity that had developed during the Gilded Age (or Feudal Period).

They are right to be worried about pitchforks and torches.

“Who dares?” he demanded hoarsely of the courtiers who stood near him — “who dares insult us with this blasphemous mockery? Seize him and unmask him — that we may know whom we have to hang at sunrise, from the battlements!”

Prince Prospero, maddening with rage and the shame of his own momentary cowardice, rushed hurriedly through the six chambers, while none followed him on account of a deadly terror that had seized upon all. He bore aloft a drawn dagger, and had approached, in rapid impetuosity, to within three or four feet of the retreating figure, when the latter, having attained the extremity of the velvet apartment, turned suddenly and confronted his pursuer. There was a sharp cry — and the dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet, upon which, instantly afterwards, fell prostrate in death the Prince Prospero. Then, summoning the wild courage of despair, a throng of the revellers at once threw themselves into the black apartment, and, seizing the mummer, whose tall figure stood erect and motionless within the shadow of the ebony clock, gasped in unutterable horror at finding the grave-cerements and corpse-like mask which they handled with so violent a rudeness, untenanted by any tangible form.

And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.


The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats


July/August 2014

You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries-from itsy-bitsy ones like the night club I started in my 20s to giant ones like Amazon.com, for which I was the first nonfamily investor.

But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all-I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?

I see pitchforks.

Taliban Mount Major Assault in Afghanistan

By AZAM AHMED and TAIMOOR SHAH, The New York Times

JUNE 27, 2014

In one of the most significant coordinated assaults on the government in years, the Taliban have attacked police outposts and government facilities across several districts in northern Helmand Province, sending police and military officials scrambling to shore up defenses and heralding a troubling new chapter as coalition forces prepare to depart.

The attacks have focused on the district of Sangin, historically an insurgent stronghold and one of the deadliest districts in the country for the American and British forces who fought for years to secure it. The Taliban have mounted simultaneous attempts to conquer territory in the neighboring districts of Now Zad, Musa Qala and Kajaki. In the past week, more than 100 members of the Afghan forces and 50 civilians have been killed or wounded in fierce fighting, according to early estimates from local officials.

With a deepening political crisis in Kabul already casting the presidential election and long-term political stability into doubt, the Taliban offensive presents a new worst-case situation for Western officials: an aggressive insurgent push that is seizing territory even before American troops have completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Ashraf Ghani claims Afghan presidential election victory

Emma Graham-Harrison, The Guardian

Friday 27 June 2014 04.13 EDT

Plans to release the first phase of results this week were put on hold after Abdullah, a former foreign minister and mujahideen doctor, said the results had been skewed by “blatant fraud” and withdrew from the vote-counting process.

On Friday he organised protests across Kabul, with thousands of demonstrators marching through the city to meet near the presidential palace. Some carried anti-fraud banners but others were shouting “Death to Ghani” and “Death to [vice-presidential candidate Abdul Rashid] Dostum.”

Abdullah’s team has accused electoral authorities of colluding with Ghani to steal the election, and released audio recordings of phone calls in which officials discuss ballot box stuffing with a very crude code, calling the containers of votes “stuffed sheep”.

Abdullah said the man caught on tape was the chief election officer, Ziaulhaq Amarkhil, and demanded his resignation or removal as a condition of returning to the formal election process. Amarkhil stepped down the day after the recordings were made public, but said they had been faked and he was only giving up his job for the sake of national unity.

Iraqi commandos and Shiite militias battling to retake Tikrit

By Mitchell Prothero, McClatchy

June 27, 2014

The assault’s stakes are high for Iraq’s Shiite prime minister, Nouri al Maliki, whose army has been in headlong retreat for nearly three weeks as ISIS and its tribal allies captured the country’s second-largest city, Mosul, besieged its largest refinery at Baiji and threatened its biggest military base at Balad. Recapturing Tikrit _ Saddam Hussein’s hometown _ would be a major boost ahead of the start of next week’s parliamentary session. Defeat would be disaster.

The initial assault on Thursday involved commandos from a unit that reports directly to Maliki. They were airlifted aboard three helicopters to Tikrit University’s stadium, where they were met with heavy fire from ISIS. At least one of the helicopters was shot down.

The commandos managed in all-night fighting to take control of tall buildings near the stadium, according to witnesses and local residents. On Friday, they were reinforced by militiamen believed to be members of the Shiite group Asiab al Haq, an Iranian-trained militia with extensive experience fighting in Iraq against the U.S.-led occupation and in Syria in support of the regime of Bashar Assad, which faces its own Sunni rebel uprising. Reports indicated the commandos and militia members were battling to expand their perimeter late Friday, with uncertain results.

The arrival of Shiite militia reinforcements at the stadium Friday was followed by air attacks on areas around Tikrit, which were shown on videos uploaded to the Internet. They showed damage from what residents said were crude barrel bombs, which generally cannot be aimed effectively at military targets and are commonly used by the government in Syria against rebel-held areas.

The video showed at least one helicopter being shot down by militant gunfire on Friday afternoon and fixed-wing aircraft dropping bombs on neighborhoods near the university. The Iraqi air force has no jet aircraft and its so-called strike capability is believed limited to a pair of single-engine Cessna aircraft capable of firing Hellfire missiles.

Dysfunction, corruption snarl US plans to arm Syria’s ‘moderate’ rebels

by Michael Pizzi, Al Jazeera

June 27, 2014 8:00PM ET

The U.S.-backed Syrian opposition unceremoniously fired its military command council over allegations of corruption only to promptly un-fire them on Friday, in a flare-up of internal politics that may throw another wrench into the Obama administration’s recently announced plans to inject $500 million into Syria’s “moderate” rebel forces.

The FSA has long been mired in widespread allegations of corruption, and it has a tense relationship with the SNC – a detached and largely ineffective opposition body with little influence on the ground in Syria – facts which could jeopardize U.S. channels for delivering the military assistance.

But the FSA has also been overshadowed in recent months by the powerful hardline factions of the Islamic Front coalition, the Al-Qaeda franchise in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – the extremist group currently surging through northern Iraq.

Critics of Obama’s plans to increase military aid to the rebels have cited the presence of ISIL and other hardline Islamist factions who have fought alongside the FSA but have also looted their weapons stores in the past. Many fear U.S. weapons could somewhere down the line be turned against American interests should Assad fall and ISIL or Jabhat al-Nusra ascend amid a power vacuum.

Those fears have been painfully underlined these past weeks, as ISIL fighters in Iraq have looted millions of dollars of American weaponry donated to the Iraqi military over the years.

NSA queried phone records of just 248 people despite massive data sweep

Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Friday 27 June 2014 14.03 EDT

The number of “selectors” NSA queried from that data trove, a term referring to an account and not necessarily an individual user, was 423 in 2013, an increase from the “less than 300 times” it searched through the data trove in 2012, according to former deputy NSA director John Inglis.

The pressure that resulted from revelations of that bulk collection has prompted the NSA and the Obama administration to divest itself of collecting US phone data in bulk, opting instead under pending legislation to take chains of connected “call data records” from the phone companies based on judicial orders. Since thousands of such records can be obtained based on a single order, civil libertarians in and outside Congress doubt that the shift ends “bulk collection” as commonly understood; the NSA disagree.

While the surveillance statistics report provides only limited detail, it reveals that under a single order in 2013 pursuant to a 2008 law permitting NSA to obtain Americans’ international calls without individually specified warrants, some 89,138 “targets” had their data collected.

But those “targets” are not necessarily 89,138 people.

For the purposes of the relevant surveillance power, known as Section 702 of the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008, a target could be “an individual person, a group or an organization composed of multiple individuals or a foreign power,” the report explained. Such targets are counted once in the report although the NSA might be able to siphon data from “multiple communications facilities” used by the target.

Nor did the NSA disclose how many times in 2013 it has warrantlessly searched those collected communications for Americans’ data, something intelligence officials have pledged to disclose to Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon.

Similarly, a new accounting of a kind of nonjudicial subpoena for records used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, known as a National Security Letter, declined to specify the number of Americans whose data was impacted. Instead, the report revealed that the FBI issued 19,212 national security letters in 2013, entailing 38,832 “requests for information.”

“The ODNI report calls itself into question by saying they’re providing numbers, but immediately saying those numbers are only true to the extent the intelligence community believes it can release them without compromising sensitive information,” said Amie Stepanovich of the digital rights group Access.

“The numbers could be much greater, and made to look smaller because of what the intelligence community calls preserving intelligence programs.

Experts say law enforcement’s use of cellphone records can be inaccurate

By Tom Jackman, Washington Post

June 27 at 6:55 PM

Cellphone records are often used as evidence, relied upon to trace which cell tower was used to make or receive a call and then determine a caller’s whereabouts. But experts say that using a single tower to precisely locate where someone was at the time of a crime has severe limitations. And while defense lawyers are gradually recognizing the problems with such evidence, the FBI continues to rely heavily on the data in its investigations. The agency wants to expand its full-time team of 32 agents dedicated to the analysis of cell-site data, and it has trained more than 5,000 state and local police investigators in the basic methodology.

The conflict between the growing awareness of cell records’ limitations and the FBI’s desire to expand their use is increasingly forcing the nation’s judges to parse the technical evidence and determine if it’s being used fairly. In recent federal cases in Portland, Ore., and Chicago, judges have ruled that the analysis of cellphone records was not scientifically valid or reliable in locating people, in part because investigators have overstated its accuracy. In the hundreds of trials where judges have allowed the evidence, some defense lawyers have persuaded juries to acquit defendants of kidnapping and murder.

At the heart of the controversy over cellphone data is a debate about how cellphone calls are routed and the range of the cell towers with which the phones connect. The FBI and local police officials maintain that they can place a suspect in a particular area because a cellphone, when making or receiving a call, usually selects the closest tower with the strongest signal and that most towers have a range of no more than two miles.

But numerous experts and telecommunications workers say the FBI analysis techniques are wrong: Cellphone signals do not always use the closest tower when in use but instead are routed by a computerized switching center to the tower that best serves the phone network based on a variety of factors. In addition, the range of cell towers varies greatly, and tower ranges overlap significantly, and the size and shape of a tower’s range shifts constantly, experts say.

(T)elecommunication experts are increasingly testifying in court about how the systems actually work. For instance, in a 2012 murder case in California, AT&T radio frequency engineer Trin Lopez testified that cellphones first connect with the mobile switching center before they are routed to a cell site and that towers in the Los Angeles area have ranges of zero to 20 miles, depending on the wattage of the tower and aim of the antennas.

“It is not possible,” Daniel said, “for anyone to reliably determine the particular coverage area of a cell-tower antenna after the fact based solely on historical cell-tower location data or call-detail records.” He said weather, time of day, types of equipment and technology, and call traffic all affect an antenna’s range.

Jeff Fischbach, a forensic expert from Los Angeles who assisted the defense in the Roberts case, said, “There are so many different factors [involved] that two cellular devices stationed next to each other making phone calls at the same moment could still get different towers. . . . I’ve seen proof that two individuals, subscribed to the same cellular provider, standing next to each other – on surveillance – can still get different towers.”

“We have never seen courtroom evidence,” Cherry said, “that authenticates an antenna’s range.”

Dark Days for the Man Who Would Save Barclays, as Equities Franchise ‘Tainted’

By Elisa Martinuzzi and Richard Partington, Bloomberg News

Jun 27, 2014 2:30 PM ET

Antony Jenkins, promoted to run Barclays Plc (BARC) after the Libor scandal, pledged to overhaul the bank’s culture, committing to values of integrity and respect. Allegations of fraud on his watch are undermining his plan.

Barclays lied to customers and masked the role of high-frequency traders as it sought to boost revenue at one of Wall Street’s largest private trading venues, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a civil complaint filed June 25. He cited a pattern of misleading and false representations that went on as recently as April.

Jenkins vowed to change the culture of a bank that paid a record 290 million-pound ($494 million) fine in 2012 after admitting it submitted false London interbank offered rates, and $44 million to settle claims that a trader tried to manipulate the price of gold the day after the Libor settlement. Barclays has set aside more than 1.6 billion pounds to compensate customers sold insurance they didn’t need or interest-rate swaps that lost them money.

The Barclays LX dark pool, part of the firm’s equities business, handles about 282 million shares weekly, making it the second-largest U.S. dark pool behind only Credit Suisse’s Crossfinder, according to data from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Each day, more than 6 billion shares change hands in the U.S. stock market, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Jenkins hired Rothschild Vice Chairman Anthony Salz to lead a review of Barclays’s culture. In April 2013, Salz found the firm paid bonuses “incapable of justification” and said some bankers “seemed to lose a sense of proportion and humility.”

Less than a year later, John Sunderland, the then-head of remuneration, said the bank’s lack of “pay competitiveness was beginning to cause demonstrable damage” to its business, especially in the U.S.

Shareholders weren’t pleased. Demands for higher pay, especially from former Lehman Brothers investment bankers, and dwindling returns at the securities unit led to investor pressure for a deeper reorganization.

Last month, after reporting a 49 percent drop in first-quarter profit, Jenkins announced a retreat from building a global bank and said he would eliminate a quarter of investment-banking staff. He said the firm would shrink its fixed-income business amid a structural decline and a “weak” investment-banking revenue outlook.

The focus on its dark pool “highlights another problem area for Barclays,” said Christopher Wheeler, an analyst at Mediobanca SpA in London. “The salient point is what this means for their equity business, as Barclays seeks to rebuild a smaller investment bank with equities at its core.”

“Barclays is a risk-taking culture that has resulted from years of putting profit before people,” Mark Williams, author of “Uncontrolled Risk,” a book on the rise and collapse of Lehman Brothers, and an executive-in-residence at Boston University, said by e-mail.

“No one CEO can correct the level of structural and cultural changes that need to occur,” Williams said. “Real change at Barclays, including a higher ethical standard, will require a combination of regulator, legal, shareholder and management action.”

US vulture fund ruling pushes Argentina towards second bankruptcy

Phillip Inman, The Guardian

Friday 27 June 2014 15.38 EDT

The court has only ruled in favour of the vulture funds, mostly hedge funds, but Argentina’s economy minister, Axel Kicillof, made it clear this week that a deal covering the other 92% of bondholders would collapse and the country forced to default again if it was directed to favour the hedge funds.

The row is the latest in a long running battle between Argentina and a group of US hedge funds that bought the country’s bonds after it defaulted on its debts in 2001. The hedge funds picked up the bonds at a fraction of their previous value and then demanded repayment in full.

Argentina had already brokered a deal with the majority of bondholders, who accepted losses – called a haircut – on their holdings.

There is no formal procedure in international law for a sovereign debt default. Argentina followed common practice by allowing the US courts to resolve how much should be repaid and when, under a bipartisan agreement between Republican and Democrat legislators.

LeCompte said the lack of agreement in the US meant a pillar of support to resolving international disputes was under threat. “I’m really worried about how this court precedent is promoting predatory behaviour and will hurt debt restructurings for poor countries,” he said.

GM recalls thousands of new pickups, SUVs, in U.S. and Canada


Fri Jun 27, 2014 8:11pm EDT

General Motors Co (GM.N) announced on Friday that it would recall 428,211 more vehicles in the United States, including new four-wheel drive pickups and SUVs with a software problem that could cause the vehicles to automatically switch to neutral and roll away while parked.

The software problem affects the four-wheel-drive versions of the 2014-2015 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra; the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban; and the 2015 GMC Yukon and Yukon XL. GM said dealers will recalibrate transfer case control module software in 392,459 full-size pickup trucks and SUVs in the United States and 53,607 in Canada.

The recalls announced on Friday affected a total of four models, including about 33,000 Chevrolet Cruze sedans. Reuters reported on Thursday that an accident that left a Georgia woman blind in one eye and a subsequent lawsuit led to GM’s recall of about 33,000 Chevrolet Cruze sedans in North America for potentially defective air bags made by Japan’s Takata Corp.

A major one.


(h/t TMC)

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