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Matt Taibbi
Matt Taibbi
Amy Goodman interviewed Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi on the news that the five banks—Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS—which pleaded guilty to rigging the price of foreign currencies and interest rates were fined more than $5 billion. Here's an excerpt:
AMY GOODMAN: But when it comes to this, what did they do?

MATT TAIBBI: They were monkeying around with the prices of every currency on Earth. So, if you can imagine that anybody who has money, which basically includes anybody who’s breathing on the planet, all of those people were affected by this activity. So if you have dollars in your pocket, they were monkeying around with the prices of dollars versus euros, so you might have had more or less money fractionally, depending on all of this manipulation, every single day. And again, Attorney General Lynch went out of her way to say that this activity went on basically every single day for the last five years or so. So every single day, that $5 in your pocket was worth a little bit more or a little bit less, based on what these people were doing. And if you spread that out to everybody on Earth, it turns into a financial crime that’s on a scale that, you know, you would normally only think of in Bond movies or something like that.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, the Justice Department says traders used online chat rooms and coded language to manipulate currency exchange rates. One high-ranking Barclays trader chatted, quote, "If you ain’t cheating you ain’t trying." And another responded, quote, "Yes, the less competition the better." So, could you comment on that, Matt? And also explain why, in this particular case, the companies pleaded guilty.

MATT TAIBBI: Well, I think part of it is because they had this very graphic online record of these people chatting and admitting to essentially a criminal conspiracy in writing. That’s one of the things that’s really interesting about this entire era of financial crime, is that you have so much of this very graphic, detailed documentary evidence just lying around. The problem is the government has either been too overwhelmed or too disinclined to go and get it and do anything with it. In this case, you have people openly calling themselves the cartel or the mafia, and then openly talking about monkeying around or manipulating, you know, the price of this or that.

The CFTC, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, actually released chats from a different case involving interest rate swaps yesterday, where they—where one guy was bragging about how he was holding up the price of interest rate swaps like he was bench-pressing at. They were bragging about this, you know, in these chat rooms. So these—what you have to understand about a lot of these people, they’re very testosterone-laden, souped-up young people who think that they’re indestructible. They’re very arrogant. And they’re doing all this in chat rooms, thinking they’re never going to get caught. And they got caught.

AMY GOODMAN: On Wednesday, Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat said, quote, "The behavior that resulted in the settlements we announced today is an embarrassment to our firm, and stands in stark contrast to Citi’s values," unquote. Meanwhile, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon called the investigation findings, quote, "a great disappointment to us." He went on to say, quote, "The lesson here is that the conduct of a small group of employees, or of even a single employee, can reflect badly on all of us, and have significant ramifications for the entire firm," said the CEO, Jamie Dimon.

MATT TAIBBI: Well, what’s humorous about this is that virtually all of these so-called too-big-to-fail banks now have been embroiled in scandals of varying degrees of extreme seriousness since 2008. So for them to say, "Oh, it’s just a few bad apples in this one instance," is increasingly absurd. They have been dinged for everything from bribery to money laundering, to rigging Libor, to mass fraud in the subprime mortgage markets and now the forex markets. It’s one mass crime over—you know, after another, and there’s no consequence.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, aren’t these banks competitors?

MATT TAIBBI: Well, sort of. But that’s the main problem in this case, is what’s happening is that they’re colluding, which is a far more dangerous kind of corruption than what we saw, for instance, in 2008, when you saw a lot of banks, in house, committing fraud against their own clients and against the markets. This behavior, where you have a series of major banks colluding to fix the price of a currency, that is extremely dangerous. And if that behavior is allowed to go unchecked, the negative possibilities that could stem from that are virtually limitless.  [...]

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2007Blank Check on its Way:

Caught between the rock that is George Bush and the hard place of troops on the ground in Iraq, the Dems are apparently going to blink:

WASHINGTON - In grudging concessions to President Bush, Democrats intend to draft an Iraq war-funding bill without a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and shorn of billions of dollars in spending on domestic programs, officials said Monday.

The legislation would include the first federal minimum wage increase in more than a decade, a top priority for the Democrats who took control of Congress in January, the officials added.... Democratic officials stressed the legislation was subject to change. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss provisions before a planned presentation to members of the party's rank and file later in the day.

All of the details haven't been released yet, pending meetings in the Dem caucus in the House to discuss the bill, so changes could still be made. Will those changes include real timelines? Seems pretty unlikely, since the leadership says they want a bill that won't be vetoed.

So the fight is shunted off down the road a few months, to when we're supposed to be seeing that mythical September when all the Republicans decide to jump ship. On this, I'm in complete agreement with Atrios: we won't see a movement among Republicans for withdrawal, they're in it too deep. They won't back down.

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How long did it take Noah to collect the 900,000 different kinds of known living insects, plus all the ones scientists have yet to discover?

On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin rounds Rand's non-filibuster, Huck's pass on the IA straw poll, Fox says who'll debate, media's still mad at Hillary, and how the media failed Luis Lang. How bored docs pass the time: ICD codes. The sketchy practice of crashing at the Capitol. NSA's trap door into your smartphone. One biker went from lobbying for looser gun laws, to busted at Waco. Banning local bans. Scotland Yard once thought Star Trek fans were a national security threat. Florida bar owner shows us the worst thing wrong with "Stand Your Ground" laws. Guess what? Conservatives are taking a 54th crack at developing their own Move On.

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A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held crisis talks with leaders of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region on Tuesday urging them to stand with Baghdad in the face of a Sunni insurgent onslaught that threatens to dismember the country. Picture taken June 23, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer (IRAQ - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR3VIB1
A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul.
Just one week after a 19 year-old college student rightly informed Jeb Bush that "your brother created ISIS," the 2016 GOP White House hopeful apparently decided one historical beat down wasn't enough. At a gathering in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Wednesday, Dubya's brother doubled down and declared:
"ISIS didn't exist when my brother was president.  Al Qaeda in Iraq was wiped out when my brother was President."
As Jeopardy's Alex Trebek would say, "Oh, no. I'm so sorry."

Head below the fold for all the reasons why.

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Senator John Cornyn (R), Senator Ted Cruz (C) and Congressman Roger Williams (L) talks to reporters about an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas April 19, 2013. Investigators searched for clues on Friday to the cause of an explosion and inferno
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, right, with Sen. Ted Cruz
In his home state, nine people were just slaughtered in a bloodbath. Over 1,000 weapons were recovered. Families were endangered, and it was the biggest single incident of murder in Waco since the Branch Davidian compound burned down.

Texas' own U.S. senator, John Cornyn, though, hasn't mentioned anything about the Waco incident on his Twitter stream. He's tweeted about Hillary Clinton's fundraising, but he has been radio silent on the massacre in his own state.

What makes this doubly troubling is that he had the nerve, the unmitigated gall, on May 8, to tweet to the world that he blamed the unrest in Baltimore on absentee fathers.

He tweeted:

Liberals, admit it: Baltimore riots are part of a story of absent fathers.
More below.
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The statue of a scout stands in the entrance to Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Irving, Texas, February 5, 2013. Boy Scouts of America board members are holding a three-day meeting in which they will consider ending a controversial national ban on gay membership, sparking a flurry of lobbying from groups both for and against the change.  REUTERS/Tim Sharp (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTR3DDWY
The Boy Scouts may well earn that equality badge yet.
Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates says the time has come:
The president of the Boy Scouts of America on Thursday called for an end to the group’s blanket ban on gay adult leaders, warning Scout executives that “we must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be,” and that “any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement.”
The remarks came after he spoke of shrinking membership and financial struggles. More from his prepared statement:
However, events during the past year have confronted us with the urgent challenges I did not foresee and which we cannot ignore. We cannot ignore growing internal challenges to our current membership policy, from some councils – like the greater New York council, the Denver area council, and others – in open defiance of the policy, to more and more councils taking a position in their mission statements and public documents contrary to national policy.

Nor can we ignore the social, political and juridicial changes taking place in our country – changes taking place over the past year no one anticipated. I remind you of the recent debates we have seen in places like Indiana and Arkansas over discrimination based on sexual orientation, not to mention the impending U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer on gay marriage.

I am not asking the national board for any action to change our current policy at this meeting. But I must speak as plainly and bluntly to you as I spoke to presidents when I was the Director of the CIA and Secretary of Defense. We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be. The status quo in our movement's membership standards cannot be sustained.

A definite step in the right direction. Robert Gates and Scout leadership may earn that equality badge yet.
Captain Daniel Johnson being arrested for sexual assault
Captain Daniel Johnson has been arrested after being formally charged with sexually assaulting at least nine different women while he was chief of security for the Emanuel State Prison for Women in Georgia. Most of the women were from the metro Atlanta area.

Speaking to Daily Kos, attorney Walter Madison stated, "This man regularly threatened and manipulated these women. He would tell them he'd never let them see their kids again or convince them that he'd get their charges reduced. If they still refused him, he would tell them nobody was going to believe them if they reported it since he was in charge."

In some ways, it appears that was true. In a video interview below, it was revealed that one alleged victim of Captain Johnson had previously reported that he sexually assaulted her and the accusation was disregarded.

It has now been reopened.

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Reposted from Daily Kos Labor by Laura Clawson
McDonald's worker with a sign made to look like a paycheck to an
McDonald's workers are once again rallying ahead of the company's shareholder meeting, boosting their call for $15 an hour pay and the right to join a union. There was no ignoring the protest Wednesday:
McDonald's shut down a restaurant near its headquarters Wednesday after the area was swamped by hundreds of protesters calling for pay of $15 an hour and a union.

The restaurant was closed because of traffic concerns, said Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem, a spokeswoman for McDonald's. The company also told employees in a building targeted by protesters they should work from home, she said.

McDonald's has only made a weak token gesture toward raising worker pay, saying it would raise wages in the small percentage of stores operated directly by the company, then using that to boost its case that McDonald's is not responsible for wages and working conditions in stores operated by franchisees. But the low-wage worker movement for $15 pay has had a big national impact, with the Los Angeles city council having voted this week to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. Los Angeles follows Seattle and San Francisco in passing such a law, while other cities like Chicago and Oakland have raised their minimum wages above the levels passed by any state government to this point.
Republican congressional candidate for New Hampshire's first district Frank Guinta gestures before speaking at the New Hampshire Republican Party State Convention in Concord, New Hampshire September 25, 2010. Guinta is challenging Democrat incumbent Rep.
Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH)
Rep. Frank Guinta's trouble with the Federal Election Commission shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone. The $355,000 the New Hampshire Republican loaned his own campaign in 2010 was clearly shady from the beginning, since there was no way he had $355,000 to lend himself. But obvious shadiness didn't stop Guinta from being elected in the Republican wave years of 2010 and 2014, and, since New Hampshire is an early primary state, it didn't stop some Republican presidential candidates from sucking up to him:
Among presidential contenders, Bush has been most generous by far. He donated $5,200 through his super PAC, Right to Rise, in February. [...] Bush also headlined a fundraiser for Guinta during a whirlwind tour of New Hampshire in March.

Bush also personally donated $1,000 to Guinta's campaign last October. Filings with the Federal Elections Commission show that Bush listed himself as a "self-employed" giver from Coral Gables, Fla. when he made the donation on Oct. 14.

Donald Trump and Rick Perry's PAC both gave Guinta money, while Carly Fiorina campaigned for him last fall.

Let's be clear: Even if these actual and potential candidates join other Republicans in backing away from Guinta—Bush has issued a statement saying he "does not believe Congressman Guinta's actions were appropriate"—they cozied up to him despite knowing that he'd engaged in extremely questionable campaign finance activities. This was not some murky, unknown story, it was just an issue the FEC hadn't finished investigating. Bush in particular aggressively courted Guinta either knowing about this issue or not having bothered to do the most basic due diligence on someone he was giving thousands of dollars. Backing away a few steps once Guinta is facing widespread calls to resign isn't exactly a strong stand for campaign ethics.

A member of the media conducts an interview while holding images of potential Republican Presidential candidates during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor in Maryland February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED ST
GOP 2016 hopefuls have decided it's all about the base on immigration. Alan Rappeport reviews their stances and finds most of them are saying, border security first, report to deport, and no path to citizenship. Which is not at all what they were saying before.
On Monday, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey told Megyn Kelly that a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants was an “extreme way to go” and explained why he has changed his view on the issue.

“I think I have learned over time about this issue and done a lot more work on it,” Mr. Christie said. “I think everyone has to do what you need to do to be able to get educated on these issues and learn.”

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin also defended his new and harder line on immigration to Fox’s Bret Baier.

In 2013, Mr. Walker said that a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants “makes sense” and that he wants people from anywhere in the world to come to America and work hard.

However, on Tuesday night he said that he was against amnesty and that illegal immigrants who live in the United States must go back to their countries of origin and apply for citizenship if they want legal status.

Oh, yes, they've all learned so much and now they see the error of their ways and, most importantly, the warm glow of the base's embrace on the horizon.

But the grandest flip-flopper of them all on immigration is Sen. Marco Rubio, as we've noted before.

“If we want to move forward on immigration, the first thing we’re going to have to do is prove to the American people that future illegal immigration is under control,” he said.
Just FYI guys, Obama "got tough" on enforcement and deported at a record pace (far higher rates than George W. Bush). Guess what, immigration reform still failed in 2013 and we still have roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
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(L-R) U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) lock arms and sing
The little-known Export-Import Bank is in peril as the GOP crazy caucus sharpens the knives to cut its funding entirely (or not reauthorize it, to be more precise). The government bank loans money to American companies like Boeing and General Motors that export products overseas. Its supporters say the bank's responsible for thousands of jobs and losing those jobs is something House Speaker John Boehner would like to avoid, putting him in a pickle yet again with his right flank. Lauren French has the details:
Democrats want to reauthorize the bank and say it would pass if the speaker allowed a vote, but that would mean defying the wishes of a majority of the GOP conference.

[Texas Rep. Jeb] Hensarling, along with Republican Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Raúl Labrador of Idaho and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, said enough of the 245-member Republican delegation are opposed to preserving the bank that House Republican leaders should let the agency die on June 30.

Still, there are deep divisions within the GOP over the bank. Boehner has said letting the bank’s authorization expire could kill thousands of jobs, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups are pushing aggressively to extend its charter.

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (along with every GOP 2016 hopeful) also favors killing the bank, which really puts the screws to Boehner. But the bank's Senate supporters, both Republican and Democratic, hope to reauthorize funding through an amendment to the trade legislation McConnell is pushing to finish by week's end. If they succeed, Boehner will really be in the hot seat.
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) talks to reporters during a series of votes in Washington December 17, 2011. The U.S. Senate voted on Saturday to extend a payroll tax cut for two months in legislation that also attempts to force President Barack Obama to appro
Thursday morning, the Senate voted to advance Trade Promotion Authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but getting to cloture was a challenge. Ultimately, the price for some Democratic lawmakers to give their support was a promise from Republican leadership that they would forward an extension of the Export-Import Bank, the federally backed bank that provides assistance to U.S. corporations selling their goods abroad. They got that assurance, including from House Speaker John Boehner.
Speaker John Boehner said if the Senate passes an extension of the Export-Import Bank he would allow the bill to come to the House floor under an "open amendment process."

The plan, which Boehner said he laid out for House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas, would test support for the government-backed institution. There are sure to be amendments to end, wind down and reform the bank, which guarantees loans for companies doing business overseas.

Meanwhile, the Club for Growth is stepping up with attack ads against House Republicans who support the extension of the Ex-Im Bank.
The ads will begin Friday in the home districts of Reps. David McKinley of West Virginia, Rob Bishop and Chris Stewart of Utah, and Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, a spokesman for the group said Wednesday.

The spots, which will air on both broadcast and cable networks, are part of $1 million campaign from the Club timed to coincide with Congress's debate over reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank. (The bank is better described as a government credit agency that backs loans to foreign entities as incentive to sign deals with U.S. companies. The Club sees this as corporate welfare.) […]

In the TV spots, the lawmakers are criticized for supporting a "petri dish of corruption and graft." In Bishop and Stewart's case, they are compared unfavorably to fellow Republican colleagues Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch. In West Virginia, the Club said McKinley supported a program backed by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

That last bit is pretty funny, the comparison with Orrin Hatch. Because the TPA bill is being managed in the Senate by Hatch, who had to have agreed with having this Ex-Im Bank vote to move TPA forward. Nonetheless, tea party Republicans in the House will probably tank the Ex-Im Bank extension, making this demand from Democrats to support TPA look pretty pointless.
U.S. former Secretary of State, and now a Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, attends a Georgetown University luncheon to deliver remarks and present awards for the Advancement of Women in Peace and Security in Washington April 22,
Public Policy Polling has some new numbers from Washington State that suggest two things: 1) the Republican field is a total wild card; 2) Hillary Clinton is a far more competitive candidate than any of her Democratic rivals, at least at this stage of race.

Here's a glimpse of the first phenomenon:

Clinton leads the GOP hopefuls by anywhere from 10 to 15 points. Ben Carson and Marco Rubio come the closest, each trailing by 10 at 49/39. Jeb Bush and Scott Walker are each down by 11 at 48/37 and 49/38 respectively. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul face 12 point deficits at 50/38. Mike Huckabee and Rick Perry lag by 13 points at 50/37. And Chris Christie does the worst of the Republican field with a 15 point deficit at 49/34.
Ben Carson—this Ben Carson, and this Ben Carson—leads the GOP pack! Along with Marco Rubio. If that's the "deep bench" Republicans have been all abuzz about, bring it!

PPP points out that while Clinton's showing doesn't quite match the 15- to 17-point margins Barack Obama won Washington by in 2008/2012, it far exceeds the 5- to 7-point margins that Al Gore and John Kerry bested their GOP rivals by in 2000 and 2004.

The firm also matched up Scott "Shifty" Walker against Clinton's (potential) Democratic rivals in the deep blue state and found that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders did the best, but he still only tied old Shifty.

Bernie Sanders achieves a tie at 35, and the rest of the Democrats trail him--Jim Webb by 1 point at 33/32, Martin O'Malley by 3 points at 34/31, and Lincoln Chafee by 6 points at 35/29. The weak performances of the alternate Democrats are a byproduct of their being so little known that they get only 54-61% of their own party's vote but nevertheless they show how much more formidable Clinton is than anyone else on her side.
Mugshots of the Baltimore Police officers who killed Freddie Gray
Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby has announced that a grand jury has returned indictments for six police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray. The officers are Lt. Brian W. Rice, Officer Edward M. Nero, Officer Garrett E. Miller, Sgt. Alicia D. White, Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., and Officer William G. Porter.

All face charges ranging from assault and involuntary manslaughter to, in the case of Goodson, "Second degree depraved heart murder." The officers are to be arraigned on July 2nd.

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