Sunday, April 30, 2017

PNN - The Particular is the Universal



PNN NOTES: 4/30/17

1. @POTUS on getting things done in government:

"It's a very rough system. It's an archaic system...
It's really a bad thing for the country."

Donald Trump doesn’t like the whole concept of government of, by and for the people,
the idea that political power derives from the will of the people rather than
gods or kings or priests or…dare we say, political strongmen, real and imagined.
Archaic means “old-fashioned” and “obsolete” and “out of date” and, perhaps wistfully
here for would-be dictator Donald Trump, “no longer used.”
You know, because we have this whole thing about three co-equal branches of government and checks and balances that prevent the president from ruling like a king
or a Putinesque banana republican dictator.
It’s inefficient, he says. In other words, he’s frustrated that he can’t do
anything he damn well pleases without appeal to all those pesky and inconvenient laws. He can’t try to rule by fiat without somebody saying “un-Constitutional!”

Of course, Trump doesn’t want any of that, having to work with people and persuade
them with intelligible arguments (foot-stomping tantrums don’t count).
He wants people to just do what he says because he’s “kind of a smart guy”
and he’s the only guy who can fix it. Just ask him. Why does he have to bother
with all these lesser beings who just get in the way of his brilliance?
If Trump’s tears were just excuse-making it would be bad enough. Sure, he
needs to explain why he hasn’t done anything in his first hundred days
(cutting back on the golf game might seem an obvious solution) but the
real problem here is that Donald Trump honestly thinks his word should be law.
Even though it is the word of a guy who hasn’t made the slightest attempt
to learn a single thing while he’s been in office and leaves it at every
opportunity to play.
His executive orders and his reaction to judicial oversight as mandated
by the United States Constitution verifies his dictatorial leanings.
Judges are unelected, he says. What right do they have to “set policy”
in reality, of course, to question his judgment?
Trump is used to ruling like a king in the corporate world.
A government isn’t like that, outside a monarchy or a dictatorship.
Trump thinks it’s inefficient. What it is safe. It protects us
from people like, well…Donald Trump.
The Constitution was set forth to protect us from dictators and kings.
And as Trump’s frustrated and whiny rants have shown, it is a protection
we very badly need.


2. PRES DISSES

Commission’s Rule on Privacy of Customers of Broadband Services
S.J.Res. 34 – Disapproving the Federal Communications Commission’s
Rule on Privacy of Customers of Broadband Services
(Sen. Flake, R-AZ, and 24 cosponsors)
The Administration strongly supports House passage of S.J.Res. 34,
which would nullify the Federal Communications Commission’s
final rule titled "Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband
and Other Telecommunication Services," 81 Fed. Reg. 87274
(December 2, 2016). The rule applies the privacy requirements
of the Communications Act of 1934 to broadband
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other telecommunications
carriers. In particular, the rule requires ISPs to obtain
affirmative "opt-in" consent from consumers to use and
share certain information, including app usage and web browsing
history. It also allows ISPs to use and share other information,
including e-mail addresses and service tier information,
unless a customer "opts-out." In doing so, the rule departs
from the technology-neutral framework for online privacy
administered by the Federal Trade Commission. This results
in rules that apply very different regulatory regimes
based on the identity of the online actor.
If S.J.Res. 34 were presented to the President, his
advisors would recommend that he sign the bill into law.


3. ICE Data Shows Half of Immigrants Arrested in Raids Had Traffic Convictions or No Record

About half of the 675 immigrants picked up in roundups across the United States in the days after President Trump took office either had no criminal convictions or had committed traffic offenses, mostly drunken driving, as their most serious crimes, according to data obtained by The Washington Post.
Records provided by congressional aides Friday offered the most detailed look yet at the backgrounds of the individuals rounded up and targeted for deportation in early February by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents assigned to regional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and New York.
Two people had been convicted of homicide, 80 had been convicted of assault, and 57 had convictions for “dangerous drugs.” Many of the most serious criminals were given top billing in ICE news statements about the operation.
The largest single group — 163 immigrants convicted of traffic offenses — was mentioned only briefly. Over 90 percent of those cases involved drunken driving, ICE said Friday. Of those taken into custody in the raids, 177 had no criminal convictions at all, though 66 had charges pending, largely immigration or traffic offenses.
The raids were part of a nationwide immigration roundup dubbed Operation Cross Check, which accounts for a small portion of the 21,362 immigrants the Trump administration took into custody for deportation proceedings from January through mid-March.

The two-month total represents a 32 percent increase in deportation arrests over the same period last year. Most are criminals, administration officials have said. But 5,441 were not criminals, double the number of undocumented immigrants arrested for deportation a year earlier. The administration has released a detailed breakdown of the criminal records only of the raids in early February.
Trump has said that public safety threats are his top priority. Shortly after he was elected, he vowed to first deport serious criminals from the United States.
But critics say immigration agents instead have also targeted students, parents of U.S. citizens who do not have serious criminal records and minor offenders.
That makes me so angry,” said Kica Matos, a spokeswoman for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, which is organizing demonstrations Monday to protest Trump’s immigration policies. She said that many of the DUI convictions are years-old and that the data “confirms our worst fears, which is that this administration is really trying to deport as many as possible regardless of whether they have a criminal record.”
President Barack Obama also deported thousands of people who never committed crimes, but toward the end of his administration, he imposed strict new rules that prioritized the arrest of criminals.
The Trump administration has said the current president also wants to prioritize deporting criminals. But officials add that anyone in the United States illegally could be detained and deported.
As Secretary Kelly has made clear, ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” said ICE spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea, referring to Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly. “All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”
ICE arrested immigrants across the United States in February as part of Operation Cross Check, an initiative that seeks to detain immigrants that also occurred during the Obama administration.
Jessica M. Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors limits on immigration, said ICE is properly enforcing immigration laws by arresting criminals and people in the United States without papers.
Those are legitimate reasons to remove people,” she said. “ICE officers are no longer operating under the restraints imposed by the Obama administration. They’re not forced to look the other way when they encounter people who are removable.”
Congressional aides said the information from ICE follows months of frustration from lawmakers that the agency is not responding fast enough to requests for information.
After initially being supportive of Kelly, many Democrats have turned on him, believing he is being less than forthcoming about his sprawling department’s moves to implement Trump’s immigration policy.
Kelly, a retired Marine general, shot back at congressional critics last week in a speech at George Washington University.
If lawmakers do not like the laws they’ve passed and we are charged to enforce, then they should have the courage and skill to change the laws,’’ Kelly said. “Otherwise they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines.’’
That kind of approach “wasn’t a constructive way to deal with Congress,” House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said in an interview Friday. Democrats, he said, are frustrated by Trump’s immigration policies but are unable to change laws because they don’t currently control Congress.
That kind of language ought to be jettisoned,” Hoyer said.


4. THE NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY on Friday suddenly announced it is curtailing one of its major surveillance programs.


Under pressure from the secret court that oversees its practices, the NSA said its “upstream” program would no longer grab communications directly from the U.S. internet backbone “about” specific foreign targets — only communication to and from those targets.

This is a major change, essentially abandoning a bulk surveillance program that captured vast amounts of communications of innocent Americans – and turning instead to a still extensive but more targeted approach.

This change ends a practice that could result in Americans’ communications being collected without a warrant merely for mentioning a foreign target,” Senator Ron Wyden said in a statement. “For years, I’ve repeatedly raised concerns that this amounted to an end run around the Fourth Amendment. This transparency should be commended. To permanently protect Americans’ rights, I intend to introduce legislation banning this kind of collection in the future.”

The “upstream” surveillance program is one of two controversial programs authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is scheduled to expire in December unless it is reauthorized by Congress. It was among several programs whose existence was a secret until being revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Until now, upstream was examining every Internet communication that traveled on the huge telecommunication cables going in and out of the U.S., searching through every word, grabbing sometimes very big chunks of data that included even a single mention of a specific target, and then putting everything into a database for NSA analysts to look through.

Communications between people, including Americans, was being captured and examined not because they were suspected of anything, but because of what they were saying. And the program wasn’t even efficient at limiting it to that.

The NSA statement on Friday said the move came “after a comprehensive review of mission needs, current technological constraints, United States person privacy interests, and certain difficulties in implementation.”

But reading between the lines, it wasn’t voluntary.

In a companion statement, the NSA acknowledged that it had failed to follow the rules the FISA court established for “about” collection in 2011: “NSA discovered several inadvertent compliance lapses,” is how they put it.

NSA self-reported the incidents to both Congress and the FISC, as it is required to do. Following these reports, the FISC issued two extensions as NSA worked to fix the problems before the government submitted a new application for continued Section 702 certification. The FISC recently approved the changes after an extensive review.”

In other words, after giving the NSA two extensions, the court refused to reauthorize the wider program until it stopped “about” searches entirely.

That is less surprising considering that the 2011 FISC decision establishing the new rules came after a judge was shocked to learn that the 702 program wasn’t just snatching communications to and from targets, but was in fact looking through everything. Judge John Bates wrote at the time:

Based upon the government’s descriptions of the proposed collection, the Court understood that the acquisition of Internet communications under Section 702 would be limited to discrete “to/from” communications between or among individual account users and to “about” communications falling within [redacted] specific categories that had been first described to the Court in prior proceedings.

The independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board concluded in its 2014 reportthat “certain aspects of the Section 702 program push the program close to the line of constitutional reasonableness.” One of those aspects: “the use of ‘about’ collection to acquire Internet communications that are neither to nor from the target of surveillance.”

Laura K. Donahue, the director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University – and now an amicus for the FISC – wrote in a seminal 2015 law review articlethat the “about” collection “significantly expands the volume of Internet intercepts under Section 702.” She noted that “to obtain ‘about’ communications, because of how the Internet is constructed, the NSA must monitor large amounts of data” and was “not just considering envelope information (for example, messages in which the selector is sending, receiving, or copied on the communication) but the actual content of messages.”

And she said it was clearly unconstitutional. “While the targeting procedures and the interception of information to or from non-U.S. persons located outside the United States meet the Fourth Amendment’s standard of reasonableness, when looked at in relation to Section 702, the inclusion of communications ‘about’ targets or selectors and the knowing interception of entirely domestic conversations shift the program outside constitutional bounds.”

Privacy activists expressed delight over the change Friday, although they retained their mistrust of the NSA and their demand that Congress refuse to reauthorize Section 702 as is.

The NSA should never have been vacuuming up all of these communications, many of which involved Americans, without a warrant. While we welcome the voluntary stopping of this practice, it’s clear that Section 702 must be reformed so that the government cannot collect this information in the future,” said Michelle Richardson, Deputy Director of the Freedom, Security, and Technology Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, in a statement.

As a baseline, this makes a statutory ban on ‘about’ collection much more feasible. It becomes much harder for the NSA to justify the necessity of something they’re not doing,” said Jake Laperruque, senior counsel at the Constitution Project.

The change does not affect the other major program that operates under Section 702, called Prism. That program warrantlessly harvests communications to and from foreign targets from major Internet companies like Facebook and Google. But like upstream, Prism “incidentally” sweeps up innocent Americans’ communications as well. Those are then entered into a master database that a Justice Department lawyer once described as the “FBI’s ‘Google’ of its lawfully acquired information.” Critics call those “backdoor searches” of warrantless surveillance.

Wyden and other members of Congress have been trying to understand the scope of 702 surveillance for years, but the government has refused to provide even a ballpark figure.

Security fences surround the National Security Agency’s Utah data collection center in Bluffdale, Utah near Salt Lake City on April 12, 2017.


5. Civilians holding the Oligarchs accountable


Who/What/Why

Twenty-five years ago, a California jury failed to convict four cops accused of savagely beating a black man. What sounds today like an all-too-common story was anything but back then. The verdict triggered massive unrest and, within a week, parts of Los Angeles had gone up in smoke and 55 people had died. So what made this case of police brutality different? The beating of Rodney King was caught on tape.

Fast-forward to this month, when a passenger on a United Airlines flight was asked to give up his seat to make room for a crew member who had to get to Louisville. The man refused and was subsequently bloodied and dragged off the plane. This event was also caught on tape. Within hours, the video had been seen by millions and had become a PR nightmare for United. Within a few days, airlines had begun making changes to how they “bumped” passengers.

In both cases, seeing an injustice committed was much more powerful than reading about it. Without the videos, high-priced attorneys protecting the ruling class could have spun both of these events into something completely different — if they had made the news at all.

This is an important lesson to keep in mind.

There is no doubt that the lives of Americans have never been more exposed than at this very moment. Using the pretext of “national security,” the government constantly assaults and chips away at privacy protections that had been established throughout the course of US history.

In many cases, those in power don’t even bother to change the laws — which would more often than not turn out to be unconstitutional. It’s much easier to give agencies such as the NSA carte blanche.

At the same time, lawmakers are opening the doors to allow their corporate paymasters to collect unprecedented amounts of information about their customers and then use that data as they see fit.

Last week, for example, it was revealed that the NSA identified holes in Microsoft’s Windows software and then exploited these vulnerabilities instead of warning the company and its customers. Earlier in April, President Donald Trump signed legislationthat voided privacy rules preventing Internet service providers from selling the browsing history of their customers without their consent.

In fact, unless you have taken extraordinary steps, either the government or at least one corporation (and probably both) know that you are reading this article right now.

There is a bit of a silver lining. Just as new technologies have allowed those in power to invade your privacy and gobble up massive amounts of data about your life, they also give you the means to expose them. You can turn the tables by keeping an eye on the powerful.

Bad cops don’t want you to record them. A huge corporation does not want you to be there with a camera when it violates a customer in order to save a few bucks or pays hired hands to clear out protesters. Lawmakers don’t want you to ask them difficult questions while putting a microphone or camera in their faces.

And none of these people — all of whom want to exert their authority over your life in some way — wants you to put this video online and make it available to a wide audience.

So please do both these things. In the American oligarchy, it’s one of the few ways to keep the powerful accountable.



6. Nuclear Regulatory Commission from OPED News

What could you be thinking of in transporting high level radioactive waste, the most toxic substance in the universe, across many miles in many states?

What could you be thinking of in wanting to bury this high level radioactive waste in low income communities? This is not environmental justice, in fact - just the opposite. Bury it in your own yards instead of theirs.

What could you be thinking of in wanting to bury this high level radioactive waste in communities of color? This is White Supremacy. Bury it in your own yards instead of theirs.

What could you thinking of in calling this burial "temporary"? Another lie, and we've got plenty [borrowing from Holly Near] from you already.

What could you be thinking of in allowing nuclear power plants anywhere at any time since radioactive waste lasts millions of years? See the film "Containment" with people you love. Will you want your children to see this film, to know this, will you tell them?

What could you be thinking of in allowing nuclear power plants anywhere at any time, since there is no way to get rid of this high level radioactive waste? Again, see the film "Containment" with people you love. Will you want your children to see this film, to know this, will you tell them?

What could you be thinking of in allowing nuclear power plants to be built in the first place?

What could you be thinking of in relicensing old nuclear power plants?

What could you be thinking of in allowing nuclear power plants to exist - causing leukemia and other cancers not only seven generations out, but into eternity - affecting fetuses, our children, grandchildren, their children - into eternity? Will you tell your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, great grandchildren this?

What could you be thinking of in not caring that "Children are 10 to 20 times more vulnerable to the carcinogenic effects of radiation than adults?" [Dr. Helen Caldicott] Will you tell your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces nephews this?

What could you be thinking of in not caring that girls are more sensitive to radiation than boys? [Dr. Helen Caldicott] Will you tell your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews this? Read and see the film on Hulu "The Handmaid's Tale" and watch it with the women you love in your lives.

What could you be thinking of in not caring that women are more sensitive to radiation then men? [Dr. Helen Caldicott] Will you tell this to the women in your lives? Read and see the film on Hulu "The Handmaid's Tale" and watch it with the women you love in your lives. Margaret Atwood, the author, sends the least valued women in this cautionary tale - elders, other women who cannot bear children - to clean up the radioactive waste and they die there while they are cleaning.

What could you be thinking of in not caring that fetuses are thousands of times more sensitive, more prone to cancer than adults? [Dr. Helen Caldicott] Will you tell this to the women in your lives?  "The Handmaid's Tale" again is your required assignment and to watch with the women in your lives.

What could you be thinking of in allowing more nuclear power plants to be built when in 2014 Dr. Ian Fairlie warned us that "There's a very close association between increased childhood leukemias and proximity to NPP's [nuclear power plants]." Will you tell your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews this?

How are you going to answer this question when you are asked - Mommy, daddy, grandmother, nana, granny, grandpa, auntie, uncle - why did you not close all nuclear power plants when you knew how dangerous they are because people all over the country were telling you this and even some very few officials. What will you say to them?

You are on the wrong side of history and you will not be absolved.



7. Foxes in Our Henhouse

In early 2007, a group of Morgan Stanley bankers bundled a group of subprime mortgage instruments into a package they hoped to sell to investors. The only problem was, they couldn't come up with a name for the package of mortgage-backed derivatives, which they all knew were doomed.
The bankers decided to play around with potential names. In a series of emails back and forth, they suggested possibilities. "Jon is voting for 'Hitman,'" wrote one. "How about 'Nuclear Holocaust 2007-1?'" wrote another, adding a few more possible names: Shitbag, Mike Tyson's Punchout and Fludderfish.
Eventually they stopped with the comedy jokes, gave the pile of "nuclear" assets a more respectable name – "Stack" – and sold the $500 million Collateralized Debt Obligation with a straight face to the China Development Industrial Bank. Within three years, the bank was suing a series of parties, including Morgan Stanley, to recover losses from the toxic fund.
The name on the original registration document for Stack? Craig S. Phillips, then president of Morgan Stanley's ABS (Asset-Backed Securities) division. Phillips may not have written the emails in question, but he was the boss of this sordid episode, and it was his name on the comedy-free document that was presented to Chinese investors.
This is just another detail in the emerging absurd narrative that is Donald Trump naming Phillips, of all people, to head up the effort to reform the Government-Sponsored Entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
As ace investigative reporter Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times noted in a piece back on April 7th, Phillips headed a division that sold billions of dollars of mortgage-backed investments to Fannie and Freddie. Many of those investments were as bad as the ones his unit sold to the Chinese. In fact, as Morgenson noted, Phillips became a named defendant in a lawsuit filed by the Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA), which essentially charged, as the Chinese did, that Morgan Stanley knowingly sold Fannie and Freddie a pile of crap.
Morgan Stanley ended up having to pay $625 million apiece to Fannie and Freddie to settle securities fraud charges in that case.
Phillips worked in an area of investment banking that was highly lucrative and highly predatory. The basic scam in the subprime world in particular was buying up mortgages from people who couldn't possibly afford them, making those bad mortgages into securities, and then turning around and hawking those same mortgages to unsuspecting institutional dopes like the Chinese and Fannie and Freddie.
Phillips had a critical role in this activity. As Morgan Stanley's ABS chief, he was among other things responsible for liaising with fly-by-night subprime mortgage lenders like New Century, who fanned into low-income neighborhoods and handed out subprime mortgages to anyone with a pulse.
In a 2012 suit, a group of Detroit-based borrowers accused Morgan Stanley of discriminatory practices, claiming the bank helped New Century target minority areas with predatory loans. One Morgan Stanley due diligence officer, Pamela Barrow, joked in an email about how to go after borrowers.
"We should call all their mommas," Barrow wrote. "Betcha that would get some of them good old boys to pay that house bill."
Phillips was named in the suit and quoted in the complaint. He said that New Century was "extremely open to our advice and involvement in all elements of their operation."
The worst actors in the financial crisis worked in this shady world involving the creation of subprime-backed securities.
Of those bad actors, there is a subset of still-worse actors, who not only sold these toxic investments to institutional investors like pension funds and Fannie and Freddie, but helped get a generation of home borrowers – often minorities and the poor – into deadly mortgages that ended up wiping out their equity.
Phillips, who helped Fannie and Freddie into substantial losses and worked with predatory firms like New Century, belongs in this second category. As Beavis and Butthead would put it, Phillips comes from the "ass of the ass."
Donald Trump, then, has essentially picked one of the last people on earth who should be allowed to help reshape the mortgage markets. This is like putting a guy who sold thousand-dollar magazine subscriptions to your grandmother on the telephone in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or the A.A.R.P.
More foxes for more henhouses. Welcome to the Trump era. 



8. TRUMP the Snake Charmer

He read the lyrics to a 1960s song about a woman who took in a snake that which bit her after she nursed it in her bosom to explain why the United States should block immigration. It was a hit of the campaign trail, as he noted. 

"You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in!" he said, imitating the snake, his voice rising to a climax.


9.  comment from Naked Capitalism
  1. IIRC, the DNC bylaws explicitly stated that the DNC was to be neutral until a candidate won the primary. Gabbard stated this when she resigned to endorse Sanders.
    The DNC has an uphill climb to remove itself from that point as this bylaw is in writing, was used or enforced, and was clearly violated by their own admission in testimony and in their emails. Now I’m not an attorney, but on its face this is a strong case for fraud if I’ve ever seen one.


11. Net Neutrality under Attack

The term “net neutrality” was coined by Tim Wu (interviewed at NC here when he was a candidate for Lieutenant Governor of New York). In fact, Wu wrote the FAQ (which you should read in its entirety):

Network neutrality is best defined as a network design principle. The idea is that a maximally useful public information network aspires to treat all content, sites, and platforms equally. This allows the network to carry every form of information and support every kind of application.

That’s more than a little wonky, so let’s give an English translation.

From the Google:

The principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.


And if you think about how you “surf the web,” treating “all content, sites, and platforms equally” (“access to all content and applications regardless of the source “) pretty much describes how your Internet works; you can click seamlessly from a small blog like Naked Capitalism to an enormous website like Google’s search page to YouTube or Vimeo for video to satellite imagery from NASA to a Bear Cam in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Who could be against that?




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