NOT MY PRESIDENT MONDAYS and protests around the world continue


“Not My President’s Day”: Thousands Rally Against Trump

HEADLINESFEB 21, 2017

H01 not my pres

Not My President’s Day: That was the rallying cry nationwide as thousands took to the streets of major U.S. cities Monday for another mass day of action against President Trump. In Los Angeles, thousands gathered at City Hall to protest Trump’s policies on immigration, trade and climate change. In Portland, Oregon, police in riot gear fired pepper spray and arrested 13 people at a protest outside a federal building. Thousands more took to the streets of Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, Denver, Austin, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. In New York, protesters filled several blocks along Central Park outside Trump Tower, where thousands called for an end to Trump’s crackdown on immigrants.

Blanca: “My name is Blanca, and I’m here for all immigrants, because I am the daughter of a wonderful Mexican immigrant, who worked really hard with my father to raise my brother and I and make us the great Americans that we are. And I feel that this country is made up of all immigrants, and it belongs to all immigrants. And why they want them out now is beyond me. I just don’t understand it. And obviously our president does not understand that either.”

Monday’s “Not My President’s Day” protests cap off a week of mass actions against Trump and his policies, which also included nationwide protests by fast-food workers against former labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder last Monday, a 20,000-person rally in Milwaukee in support of immigrants and refugees on Tuesday, more than a dozen “Day Without Immigrants” protests nationwide Thursday, the February 17 General Strike Friday and widespread protests against Trump in major U.S. cities over the weekend.

Brits Protest Against Trump as Lawmakers Debate Canceling His State Visit

HEADLINESFEB 21, 2017

H02 london protest trump

In Britain, thousands of people filled Parliament Square Monday to voice their opposition to President Trump, as lawmakers debated whether to cancel his state visit. This is Parliament member Paula Sherriff.

Paula Sherriff: “Does he agree that to use the expression ‘Grab ’em by the pussy’ describes a sexual assault, and therefore suggests that he shouldn’t be afforded a visit to our queen?”

Paul Flynn: “Entirely agree. I mean, his manner, his behavior throughout the election period of one that’s greatly worrying.”

And that’s British Parliament member Paul Flynn, agreeing that Trump’s comments captured in a 2005 NBC “Access Hollywood” video constitute him bragging about sexual assault. Nearly 2 million Brits have signed a petition calling on President Trump’s official state visit to be canceled, arguing it would cause embarrassment to the queen. We’ll go to London later in the broadcast.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Another Indigenous leader, José Santos Sevilla Assassinated in Honduras


Honduras: Indigenous Leader José Santos Sevilla Assassinated

HEADLINESFEB 21, 2017

H06 jose santos sevilla

In Honduras, indigenous leader José Santos Sevilla has been assassinated by armed gunmen in his home in Montaña de la Flor, north of the capital. Santos Sevilla was the leader of the indigenous Tolupan people, who are fighting to protect their ancestral lands from industrial mining and logging projects. In 2015, the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples warned of rampant violence against Tolupan organizers, including assassinations, as well as state impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes. Santos Sevilla’s assassination comes only weeks before the anniversary of the assassination of Honduran indigenous environmental organizer Berta Cáceres, who was killed by armed gunmen in her home on March 2, as she was leading a struggle against hydroelectric dams threatening the ancestral land of the Lenca people.

TOPICS:

Indigenous Rights in El Salvador | ReVista

revista.drclas.harvard.edu/book/indigenous-rights-el-salvador

My grandmother came from the Lenca people, a pre-Columbian group of allied tribes in … rose up demanding the rights of access to their ancestral tribal lands.

Honduras: Justice for Berta and the Lenca People! | Manifesta

Honduras: Justice for Berta and the Lenca People! … of the Gualcarque River, given its location within the sacred and ancestral lands of the Lenca people.

Lenca people – Wikipedia

The Lenca are an indigenous people of southwestern Honduras and eastern El Salvador. … Many Lencacommunities still have their communal land.

Lenca – Honduras | InterReligious Task Force on Central America

http://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/lenca-honduras

The Lenca people are the largest indigenous population in Honduras today with … The continued violence and disregard for Lenca culture and ancestral land …

Report: The situation of indigenous peoples in Honduras

unsr.vtaulicorpuz.org/site/index.php/documents/country…/148-report-honduras

Of the indigenous population, 80 per cent live on their traditional lands and …… However, the lands were part of the ancestral territory of Lenca communities in …

Refworld | World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples …

Feb 10, 2017 – Lenca men engage in agriculture including coffee cultivation. … acquired titles to theirland and six had ‘guarantees of ancestral possession’.

[PDF]Read more about what’s causing these attacks here … – Global Witness

https://www.globalwitness.org/documents/…/Defenders_Honduras_whats_driving_atta…

in favour of their rights to their ancestral lands. And yet ….. Julia Francisco Martínez’s husband was killed for defending the ancestral lands of the Lenca people.

[PDF]HOW MANY MORE? – Global Witness

https://www.globalwitness.org/documents/17882/how_many_more_pages.pdf

Apr 24, 2015 – We define environmental and land defenders as people who take …… corn on ancestral Lenca land wanted by the dam company, disap-.

Land Grabbing Is Killing Honduras’ Indigenous Peoples – Truthout

http://www.truth-out.org/…/35572-land-grabbing-is-killing-honduras-indigenous-peoples

Apr 10, 2016 – The world-renowned Lenca leader, assassinated last month in Honduras …. their right to control their ancestral lands through land occupations.

HRH. Chief Chevez views on the Identity of the Indigenous Lenca Youth

A southern portion of this land is Lenca-Xinka6 ancestral territory, which in the …. First Stage The first stage of the evolution of identity in the Lenca people started …

Another Indigenous Leader Assassinated in Honduras | News …

http://www.telesurtv.net/…/Another-IndigenousLeaderAssassinated-in-Honduras-2017021…

4 days ago – Jose de Los Santos Sevilla was a leader of the Tolupan Indigenous community and a teacher in the coastal city of La Ceiba.

Honduras: Indigenous Leader Assassinated – Prensa Latina

http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?o=rn…hondurasindigenousleaderassassinated

4 days ago – Honduras: Indigenous Leader Assassinated … Tolupán indigenous ethnia leader José de los Santos Sevilla, official sources said here Friday.

Flash – Indigenous leader killed by gunmen in Honduras – France 24

http://www.france24.com/en/20170217-indigenousleaderkilled-gunmen-honduras

5 days ago – An indigenous leader in Honduras was killed Friday by five armed men who … The murderof Jose Santos Sevilla, a professor and one of the …

Honduras: Indigenous Leader José Santos Sevilla Assassinated

un.trendolizer.com/…/hondurasindigenousleaderjosesantossevillaassassinated.htm…

9 hours ago – In Honduras, indigenous leader José Santos Sevilla has been assassinated by armed gunmen in his home in Montaña de la Flor, north of the …

Indigenous leader killed by gunmen in Honduras

https://sg.news.yahoo.com/indigenousleaderkilled-gunmen-honduras-201615582.ht…

5 days ago – The murder of Jose Santos Sevilla, a professor and one of the heads of HondurasnativeTolupan people, recalled the slaying last year of Berta …

Democracy Now! | Facebook

In Honduras, indigenous leader José Santos Sevilla has been assassinated by armed gunmen in his home in Montaña de la Flor. Santos Sevilla was the leader …

Indigenous leader killed by gunmen in Honduras | Latin America …

http://www.worldbulletin.net/news/…/indigenousleaderkilled-by-gunmen-in-honduras

4 days ago – The murder of Jose Santos Sevilla, a professor and one of the heads of HondurasnativeTolupan people, recalled the slaying last year of Berta …

Another Indigenous Leader Assassinated in Honduras | TSON News

threesonorans.com/2017/02/17/another-indigenousleaderassassinated-in-honduras/

4 days ago – Another Indigenous Leader Assassinated in HondurasJose de Los Santos Sevilla was aleader of the Tolupan Indigenous community and a …

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

UNICEF Warns 1.4 Million Children in 4 Countries at Risk of Famine


https://www.democracynow.org/2017/2/21/headline

HEADLINES FEB 21, 2017

H08 unicef food drop

The United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, is warning as many as 1.4 million children could die this year from famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. On Monday, famine was declared across parts of South Sudan amid an ongoing civil war that has led to a near collapse of the economy. In Somalia, the U.N. says drought has put 185,000 children at risk of famine. In Yemen, the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led airstrikes and blockade have led to widespread food and water shortages. In Nigeria, the U.N. says more than 200,000 children are severely malnourished.

TOPICS:
 

UNICEF warns that 1.4 million children could die from famine in four …

http://www.dw.com/…/unicefwarnsmillionchildrenfaminefourcountries/a-37643854

1 day ago – UNICEF warns that 1.4 million children could die from famine in four countries. Almost 1.4 million children suffering from severe malnutrition could die this year from famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, the UN children’s agency has warned. Famine has been declared in South Sudan.

Famine could kill 1.4 million children in 2017, warns UNICEF – Sky News

news.sky.com/…/famine-could-kill-14-millionchildren-in-2017-warnsunicef-10776…

17 hours ago – Famine could kill 1.4 million children in 2017, warns UNICEF … Children says more than one million children in the country are at risk of starving. In Yemen, where war has been raging foralmost two years, 462,000 children …

Nearly 1.4 million children at imminent risk of death as famine … – Unicef

https://www.unicef.org/media/media_94893.html

1 day ago – Nearly 1.4 million children at imminent risk of death as famine looms in … “Time is running out for more than a million children,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. … Fews Net, thefamine early warning system that monitors food … In South Sudan, a country reeling from conflict, poverty and …

PressTV-‘1.4 million kids face famine in 4 countries’

http://www.presstv.ir › Africa › More

17 hours ago – 1.4mn kids from four countries risk death from famine: UNICEF … Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that some 1.4 million children suffering …

1.4 million children ‘at imminent risk of death’ as famine looms in 4 …

indiatoday.intoday.in › World

1 day ago – 1.4 million children ‘at imminent risk of death’ as famine looms in 4 African … UNICEF haswarned that 1.4 children across four African nations …

Unicef: 1.4 million children at ‘imminent risk of death’ in four countries …

http://www.itv.com/…/unicef-1-4millionchildren-at-imminent-risk-of-death-in-fourcount

18 hours ago – The United Nations children’s charity has warned almost 1.4 million children are at “imminent risk of death” due to famine across South Sudan, …

UN warns 1.4 million children face ‘imminent death’ from famine in Africa

nypost.com/…/un-warns-1-4millionchildren-face-imminent-death-from-famine-in-a…

17 hours ago – UNICEF for months has warned about severe malnutrition in … A mother and her children at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan Reuters … that almost 1.4 million children are at “imminent risk of death” as famine …

Nigeria: 1.4 Million Children At Risk of Death As Famine Looms …

allafrica.com/stories/201702210543.html

20 hours ago – The United Nations Children’s Fund says some 1.4 million children are at … Nigeria: 1.4 Million Children At Risk of Death As Famine Looms Across 4 Countries … “Time is running out for more than a million children,” said UNICEF … The warning came after an official declaration of famine in South Sudan.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Historian and Antiwar Activist Marilyn Young Dies at 79: She wrote that it is her work as a historian “to speak and write so that a time of war not be mistaken for peacetime, nor waging war for making peace.”


https://www.democracynow.org/2017/2/21/headlines

HEADLINESFEB 21, 2017

H13 marilyn young

And the historian and activist Marilyn Young has died at the age of 79. She taught at New York University for 35 years and was a pioneering historian of U.S. foreign relations. She was the author of “The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990,” one of the most important books on the Vietnam War. She was also the editor of countless other books on U.S. militarism, war and human rights. Young was also a lifelong antiwar activist and a founding member of the Society of Concerned Asia Scholars. In one of her last essays, she wrote that it is her work as a historian “to speak and write so that a time of war not be mistaken for peacetime, nor waging war for making peace.” Young appeared on Democracy Now! over the years, including in 2009, when we asked her about the legacy of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, who served under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and played a critical role in escalating the U.S. war in Vietnam.

Marilyn Young: “He almost comes to terms, and then he runs away from coming to terms. And he does the same thing, I think, in ‘Fog of War.’ And he did that same thing for the whole of the rest of his life: an approach to what he had really been responsible for, and then a bouncing off it, too awful to face. And it happens over and over again.”

TOPICS:
The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Historian and Antiwar Activist Marilyn Young Dies at 79 | Democracy …

16 hours ago – And the historian and activist Marilyn Young has died at the age of 79. … and a founding member of the Society of Concerned Asia Scholars.

In Memoriam: Marilyn B. Young | The Society for Historians of …

1 day ago – It is with great sadness that I share the news of the death of Marilyn B. Young … influentialscholar of US-Asian relations, and a powerful critic of war. … Marilyn Young will be remembered at the SHAFR annual meeting in June.

Marilyn Young | H-PRC | H-Net

2 days ago – She died on February 19th at home in New York, surrounded by family … She devoted herscholarly life to holding US power to account and …

Historian and Antiwar Activist Marilyn Young Dies at 79 – History News …

historynewsnetwork.org/article/165260

5 hours ago – [T]he historian and activist Marilyn Young has died at the age of 79. … and a founding member of the Society of Concerned Asia Scholars.

Marilyn Young (1927-2013) | Obituaries | wcfcourier.com

wcfcourier.com/…/marilyn-young/article_c5d31b12-8386-11e2-8a62-0019bb2963f4…

Mar 3, 2013 – WATERLOO — Marilyn R. Young, 85, of Waterloo, died Monday, Feb. … Marilyn Young. prev …. Rhodes scholars for Class of 2017 announced.

[PDF]They Set About Revenging Themselves on the Population

cmsw.mit.edu/mit2/Abstracts/ScottLaderman.pdf

according to a leading Western scholar of the episode, a “complete fabrication. … civilians who died in Hue, according to the photojournalist Philip Jones Griffith, were in …. As the diplomatic historian Marilyn Young observed, “The way the.

Jeff Wasserstrom (@jwassers) | Twitter

Thanks @marydudziak 4 tweets (& retweets) relating 2 Marilyn Young’s …. of the death of Marilyn Young, #SHAFR past-president & powerful scholar of war.

Scholarship and Christian Faith: Enlarging the Conversation

Douglas Gordon Jacobsen, ‎Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen – 2004 – ‎Social Science

… who died in the World Trade Center attacks— again, most of them civilians. … historian Marilyn Young, was probably read as follows: “There was a Good War: …

[BOOK]The Vietnam War in Context

HG Summers, MB Young, J Pilger, P Schweitzer… – 2003 – archive.teachfind.com
Publications. Programme Title: Teaching the VietnamWar : How do they do it Vietnam? Publication
1: Title: The Vietnam War in Context. Author: Harry G Summers. Publisher, Year: Lighting Source
Inc. 2002. ISBN: 1410204197. Publication 2: Title: The VietnamWar : A History in documents.

[BOOK]Iraq and the lessons of Vietnam: Or, how not to learn from the past

LC Gardner, MB Young – 2008 – books.google.com
From the launch of the” Shock and Awe” invasion in March 2003 through President George
W. Bush’s declaration of” Mission Accomplished” two months later, the war in Iraq was meant
to demonstrate definitively that the United States had learned the lessons of Vietnam. This

[BOOK]A companion to the Vietnam War

MB Young, R Buzzanco – 2008 – books.google.com
A Companion to the Vietnam War contains twenty-four definitive essays on America’s
longest and most divisive foreign conflict. It represents the best current scholarship on this
controversial and influential episode in modern American history. Highlights issues of

[BOOK]Making sense of the Vietnam Wars: local, national, and transnational perspectives

MP Bradley, MB Young – 2008 – books.google.com
Making sense of the wars for Vietnam has had a long history. The question” why Vietnam?”
dominated American and Vietnamese political life for much of the length of the wars and has
continued to be asked in the decades since they ended. This volume brings together the

Now Playing: Vietnam

MB Young – OAH Magazine of History, 2004 – maghis.oxfordjournals.org
—Lt. Colonel Nathan Sassaman, Abu Hishma, Iraq, December 7, 2003 that is not how they
were viewed by young men on their way to the battlefield. At a Marine Corps base in the
Mojave Desert in 1990, waiting to be sent to war in Iraq, Swofford’s platoon drank beer and

In the combat zone

MB Young – Radical History Review, 2003 – muse.jhu.edu
In the aftermath of the US victory in the Gulf War, the first president George Bush was
optimistic that the country had “kicked the Vietnam syndrome.” But the syndrome continued
to manifest itself in the popular imagination of war. The Rambo series had tried to reverse
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Brits Protest Against Trump as Lawmakers Debate Canceling His State Visit


https://www.democracynow.org/2017/2/21/headlines

HEADLINES FEB 21, 2017

H02 london protest trump

In Britain, thousands of people filled Parliament Square Monday to voice their opposition to President Trump, as lawmakers debated whether to cancel his state visit. This is Parliament member Paula Sherriff.

Paula Sherriff: “Does he agree that to use the expression ‘Grab ’em by the pussy’ describes a sexual assault, and therefore suggests that he shouldn’t be afforded a visit to our queen?”

Paul Flynn: “Entirely agree. I mean, his manner, his behavior throughout the election period of one that’s greatly worrying.”

And that’s British Parliament member Paul Flynn, agreeing that Trump’s comments captured in a 2005 NBC “Access Hollywood” video constitute him bragging about sexual assault. Nearly 2 million Brits have signed a petition calling on President Trump’s official state visit to be canceled, arguing it would cause embarrassment to the queen. We’ll go to London later in the broadcast.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

UK wouldn’t let Hitler in, either


Nearly 2 million Brits have signed a petition calling on President Trump’s official state visit to be canceled. On Monday, thousands of protesters gathered outside Parliament in London as British lawmakers debated whether to deny Trump a formal state visit. We speak to Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth International. He spoke at the protest in London yesterday.


TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, nearly 2 million Brits have signed a petition calling on President Trump’s official state visit to be canceled. On Monday, thousands of protesters gathered outside Parliament in London as British lawmakers debated whether to deny Trump a formal state visit. Inside Parliament, MPs debated for three hours. This is Labour MP Naz Shah.

NASEEM SHAH: In the last 31 days, what we have seen has, in many ways, been chilling. The executive orders that have dominated Donald Trump’s first weeks in the White House have been frightening. And the question many of us are asking: Where does this slippery slope really lead? If we take only one of the groups of people he has sought to divide, those of the Muslim faith, not necessarily distinct to one country or another, his rhetoric has been so broad that even I, personally, as a Muslim, feel attacked and misrepresented. And no doubt, many of my constituents, who make wonderful contributions to this country on a daily basis, feel the same way. We have to take every opportunity to show that his negativity and divisive messages are not going to divide us. And just as importantly, we cannot let them define us.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Meanwhile, Tory MP Julian Lewis said he supported the state visit and hopes the United Kingdom can influence Trump, who he referred to as a, quote, “inexperienced individual.” This is Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, followed by Labour Party’s—the Labour Party’s Paul Flynn.

JACOB REESMOGG: What complaint did the honorable gentleman make when Emperor Hirohito came here, who was responsible for the Rape of Nanking?

PAUL FLYNN: Certainly, we can’t try to imitate the errors of the past. We should set an example by making sure that we don’t make those mistakes again.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re going to London, where we’re joined by Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth International, who spoke at the protest outside Parliament yesterday.

Asad, thanks so much for being with us again. We usually speak to you at the U.N. climate summit, wherever it’s happening in the world. Talk about what’s happening right now and what you think is going to happen with the state visit of President Trump.

ASAD REHMAN: Well, since the—both President Trump’s various executive orders targeting the Muslim—with the Muslim ban and, of course, his outrageous comments, or against women and migrant communities, the normalizing of a really—of hatred, bigotry and xenophobia, a large number of British people, and I think right across the political spectrum, find it absolutely abhorrent that this government should roll out a red carpet for President Trump. And the state visit is an honor that is bestowed by the U.K. government. It’s not something that happens automatically. And nearly 2 million people signed a petition asking the government to withdraw its offer of a state visit. Hundreds of thousands of people have now been mobilizing on the streets. In fact, yesterday, there was the fourth big mobilization that there’s been to send a message to this government that they should listen to British people.

And there has been already a commitment that if Donald Trump steps inside this country, and when he does, that there will be a huge mobilization. We intend to put millions of people on the street, not only to oppose Donald Trump and his agenda, but also to hold up a mirror about what’s happening both in the U.K. and across Europe, and, listening to your previous guest talking about the normalization of racism and attacks on migrants and refugees, talking about how we are slowly moving into a space where the far right and extreme right-wing parties are dominating our political space, and how we have to be able to oppose that, and we have to actively oppose that.

And to do that, we need to build a movement, a movement that is much more inclusive and brings together a different spectrum of views and organizations. And that’s why Friends of the Earth, we’re one of the organizers of the Stop Trump Coalition. And we, together with trade unions, Muslim organizations, migrant organizations, have been organizing these huge protests that have been taking place, because we think that the struggle for climate justice, for climate refugees, is a struggle for justice. And it’s the same struggle against—whether we’re talking against sexism, sexist violence, racism or bigotry.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Asad, I wanted to ask you about Theresa May, the prime minister, who has obviously extending her hand to Trump, and her relationship, her reaction to what’s happened here. And, of course, famously, when she did visit Washington, Trump tried to grab her hand as they were walking in the White House, and she pulled back.

ASAD REHMAN: Well, that image, I think, will live on in most people’s minds, and it sort of sums up the picture of that relationship. I mean, many people felt, you know, that, of course, we have—we’re in a post-Brexit world. And the U.K. has voted in the referendum last year to leave the European Union. There’s a great deal of uncertainty as to what that actually means. Many people are arguing for a hard Brexit, which could lead to real crisis in terms of our economy and jobs. And, of course, the issue of migration is being played very much by some forces to justify a vote to leave the European Union.

Now, all of those things means that this government is basically willing to accept anything from the U.S. administration. And that’s part of what I think has angered so many people, that what the U.K. is hoping, that by cozying up to Donald Trump, by accepting the kind of views that he’s espousing, that somehow we will manage to get a trade deal. Unfortunately, we know what kind of trade deal that will be. The trade deal will be that we will have given up our rights. We would have given up decency. We would have accepted this agenda of hatred. And in return, we would have had a trade deal of deregulation, of weakening labor laws, environment protection. We would had to give up in terms of our controls around our food, our health. And all of those things are just—

AMY GOODMAN: Asad, we—

ASAD REHMAN: —I think, unacceptable. And all of that is part of the agenda of actually making Theresa May say—take a step back and think again about rolling out this red carpet.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to go back to Monday’s parliamentary debate on whether the state visit of Donald Trump should be canceled. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said Trump’s climate change denials alone should disqualify him from being invited.

CAROLINE LUCAS: Many of them have raised not only Trump’s misogyny and racism, but also his contempt for basic climate science. Would the honorable member agree that to have a state visit for someone who has shown such effrontery to basic climate science is another reason to say that he should not be coming here?

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was inside Parliament, as thousands were outside. What’s coming of this vote? And what actually will happen?

ASAD REHMAN: Well, the vote is not a binding vote. But I think it was very clear from the speakers who spoke in Parliament yesterday, the number of people who contacted their members of Parliament, that the overwhelming majority of members of Parliament also oppose that this government—the state visit of Donald Trump. We’ve heard, unprecedented, that the speaker of the House, one of the most powerful positions in the House of Commons, has himself said he thinks it’s absolutely inappropriate that if Donald Trump comes on a state visit, that he should be allowed the honor of speaking in Parliament to our Parliament, both the House of Commons and House of Lords. This is an incredible rejection of Donald Trump and his agenda. And we heard it last night, and we heard it from right across the political spectrum. And it’s really now up to the government to listen to those voices, because we have been here in the past, where, of course, we have had a prime minister who has been willing to accept an American agenda, and that led us into a really disastrous war. Two million people marched on the street. And, of course, that prime minister’s reputation is in tatters now. And I think there’s a stark warning to Theresa May that cozying up to Donald Trump could end up with her and her reputation being in similar tatters.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you for being with us, Asad Rehman, spokesperson for Friends of the Earth International.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.
Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Swede Speaks candidly of historically multicultural country


A Message to Trump from a Swede: My Real Concern is Rise of Militant Anti-Muslim Neo-Nazis, Fascists

STORYFEBRUARY 21, 2017

Watch iconWATCH FULL SHOW


GUESTS
Mattias Gardell

professor of comparative religion and leads the Centre for Multidisciplinary Studies on Racism at Uppsala University in Sweden.

President Trump is doubling down on his false claim that Sweden is struggling with immigration-related security problems, after he faced widespread criticism and ridicule for appearing to invent a terrorist attack in Sweden. Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt responded to Trump’s claim by tweeting, “Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound.” There has been one recent terror attack in Sweden: Three neo-Nazis attacked a Gothenburg asylum center in January with a homemade bomb. One person was seriously injured. According to The Independent, the suspects were members of the Nordic Resistance Movement, which opposes non-white immigration to Sweden. We speak to Mattias Gardell, professor of comparative religion and head of the Centre for Multidisciplinary Studies on Racism at Uppsala University in Sweden.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: President Trump is doubling down on his false claim that Sweden is struggling with immigration-related security problems, after he faced widespread criticism and ridicule for appearing to invent a terrorist attack in Sweden while speaking at a campaign rally in Melbourne, Florida, on Saturday.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Here’s the bottom line: We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening. We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt responded to Trump’s claim by tweeting, quote, “Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound,” unquote. Trump later said his comment was in response to a Fox News story he had watched the night before about alleged refugee-related crime. Sweden’s crime rate has fallen over the last decade, even as it has accepted hundreds of thousands of refugees, including from Syria.

AMY GOODMAN: On Monday, President Trump tweeted, “Give the public a break–The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!” exclamation point. Well, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven responded to Trump’s claims to highlighting many things in Sweden are, in fact, working “very well.”

PRIME MINISTER STEFAN LÖFVEN: It’s up to the president to decide what he wants to say. I can only say the World Economic Forum states that—written, “Why Sweden beats other countries at just about everything.” OECD reports that we have a very strong economic development in terms of, for example, GDP per capita. The European Commission states that Sweden is Europe’s most innovative country. The Global Innovation Index says Sweden is number two when it comes to innovative countries. So, we have some very strong facts that shows that Sweden is also handling the situation. But as I said, yes, we have challenges, like all other countries. There’s no doubt. We have a situation in the world where 65 million people had to flee their country’s last year, or the year before that—65 million. So that’s a worry for us together.

AMY GOODMAN: There has been one recent terror attack in Sweden: Three neo-Nazis attacked the Gothenburg asylum center in January with a homemade bomb. One person was seriously injured. According to The Independent, the suspects were members of the Nordic Resistance Movement, which opposes non-white immigration to Sweden.

Well, for more, we’re going to Stockholm, where we’re joined by Mattias Gardell, professor of comparative religion and head of the Centre for Multidisciplinary Studies on Racism at Uppsala University in Sweden.

We welcome you, Professor, to Democracy Now! So, talk about what you started to hear on Saturday night, when President Trump, at his campaign rally for 2020, talked about what happened in Sweden, quote, “last night.”

MATTIAS GARDELL: Well, to us, it’s absolutely amazing that a president could be that detached from empirical reality as Mr. Trump. And had it not had such dire consequences for the U.S. population, possibly the world, it would have been entertaining. Last night, it actually did happen, a suspected terrorist attack. It was a Muslim Association house that was burned down, and possibly by people connected to the anti-Muslim neofascist scene here, you know, similar to the ones you cited before with the bombing attacks made by—suspected to be made by people from the national—Nordic Resistance Movement. And they are all jubilant, because they see Mr. Trump as their man. And Sweden is a place where, you know, it doesn’t really happen that much. It’s quite quiet. But terrorism has skyrocketed in 2015 and 2016. Last year alone, it was 92 suspected attacks. But they were all against asylum seekers, home for refugees, and probably made by the same political milieu that supports Trump.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what about the overall crime situation in the country? The critics of Sweden’s asylum policy say that crime has been rising as a result of its welcoming so many foreign asylum seekers and refugees into the country.

MATTIAS GARDELL: That’s another illustration of alternative facts. In fact, for a decade or more, crime rates, especially violent crime rates, have been going down. And if you judge by or compare by capita, United State has five—United States has five times as much murders as has Sweden. So, it’s not true.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you respond to President—well, let me ask you this. I want to turn to an interview from Fox News’s Tucker Carlson Tonight that might have precipitated Donald Trump’s comments in some odd, twisted way. Carlson interviewed the right-wing filmmaker Ami Horowitz about his documentary on refugee violence in Sweden. Carlson asked Horowitz about the long-term effects of Sweden’s open-door policy toward asylum seekers.

AMI HOROWITZ: We don’t have to actually prognosticate on what the long game is. You can look at France and Belgium and—because they’ve been doing it for that period of time, for longer. And you can see the social unrest that’s going on there, the terrorism that’s happening there. Sweden, this is a relatively new policy phenomenon for them. And by the way, Sweden had its first terrorist Islamic attack not that long ago. So they’re now getting a taste of what we’ve been seeing across Europe already.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was the conversation that took place Friday night. Saturday night, Donald Trump talked about that a—talked about terrorist attacks and then referred to Sweden. He said, “We all know what happened last night.” And when there was a great deal of outcry and when the Swedish Embassy asked for clarification in Washington, he said he had watched television the night before. I guess that’s “what happened last night.” But the response to that, and also the uptick in hate crimes and terror attacks in Sweden that are actually being committed—and I don’t think this is what Donald Trump was referring to—by neo-Nazis?

MATTIAS GARDELL: That is true. I mean, it was so many mistakes in that right-wing, anti-Muslim filmmaker’s—his so-called documentary, what was all a fabrication of alternative facts. Sweden does not, in fact, have an open-door policy. One of the problem is that we have sealed our borders, and preventing people seeking to—refuge and seeking asylum from coming into the country. And we all know what consequence that has in human life—drown in the Mediterranean.

And when it comes to the rise of the very militant anti-Muslim, neo-Nazi or protofascist movement, that’s a subject of great concern to us here in Sweden. And we have a protofascist party elected into Parliament, that now, according to surveys, is the second-largest party. And this has not happened before in Swedish history. And behind them is this whole industry of social media that also informs President Trump. So it’s of grave concern to us now. And you can see that fascism is returning with a vengeance to Europe, maybe dressed in a way that we don’t necessarily recognize it as fascism, because we have had this Hollywood stereotyping of national socialism and fascism, that we expect fascism to be the only ideology that doesn’t really change. We don’t recognize people as fascist if they don’t come dressed as in the Second World War II mediatized by Hollywood. And that’s of great concern. And this is not what’s happening only in Sweden; it’s across all over Europe. And maybe we will have a new axis forming, with these strong, populist, ultranationalist white men—you know, Trump, Putin, Orbán in Hungary, Zeman in the Czech Republic. Let’s see what’s going to happen in France. The same kind of movement is also gaining strength in Sweden, and it’s quite deadly.

And it comes also at the—in a very precarious time in Sweden, because we now live 25 years into the experiment of neoliberalism, that really undermined the so-called Swedish model and transformed Sweden into a society that has the greatest levels of segregation, for instance, and also differences between the classes in the whole OECD region. And lots of people in Sweden are concerned now about their future and the future of their kids. And fascism, as we know, is not a right-wing extremism as much as it is an extremism of the center. It comes from the people who claim that we belong to those who built this country, and now we cannot afford to accept more people. And they’re all built on contrafactual news or facts, because we all know that, in terms of GNP, Sweden has actually benefited from accepting more people coming in. It’s simple economy. If the country grows larger, more people live here, the economy will also get a boost. But fascism is not only spreading its agenda with references to empirical facts, but it also has a very strong affective dimension. And this sort of affective dimension today, formulated by the ultranationalists, this sort of fascist vision—and you see the same phenomenon in the U.S. So, they are all really interconnected. And this causes us great concern at the moment.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Professor Gardell, in terms of—you mentioned the economic problems that have created the basis for the rise of fascism. What about the issue of race? As Sweden, like many other European countries, has become more multiracial than it was in the past, how has that affected the rise of fascist tendencies within the country?

MATTIAS GARDELL: Could you please repeat the question? I couldn’t hear you.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I said, what about the issue of race in the rise of—racism in terms of the rise of fascism in Sweden, as the country, like many other European countries, has become more multiracial than it was in the past?

MATTIAS GARDELL: That’s true, but it’s also true that Sweden has never been a homogeneous nation. We have had national minorities, such as the Roma people, here for half a millennium. And so, the image of a homogeneous Sweden doesn’t really exist. But it’s true now that racism has risen and become normalized. If you look at structural racism, for example, it’s very easy to see from research that if you have a Muslim name, you will have—much harder to try to get a job according to your qualifications in competition with people with non-Muslim or Swedish names. So, structural racism is strong. And also, these movements now, that has gained from the global spread of anti-Muslim rhetoric, that started actually already at the fall of the wall and gained, you know, a breakthrough with 9/11, has just continued to gain momentum, and very much so due to this industry of alternative facts.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Gardell, we want to thank you for being with us. Professor Mattias Gardell is a professor of comparative religion and leads the Center for Multidisciplinary Studies on Racism at Uppsala University in Sweden.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we head to London, where massive protests have been taking place. More than—close to 2 million people online have called for the state visit of President Trump to be canceled. Stay with us.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Next story from this daily show

#StopTrump: Protests Erupt Across Britain as Lawmakers Debate Canceling Trump’s State Visit

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wall Street’s Biggest Insider Trading Story in History–Black Edge & Trump’s Supporters & Advisors


Black Edge: New Yorker’s Sheelah Kolhatkar on Wall Street’s Biggest Insider Trading Story in History

STORYFEBRUARY 21, 2017

Watch iconWATCH FULL SHOW

TOPICS

GUESTS
Sheelah Kolhatkar

staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street.

According to a Bloomberg investigation, the general counsel for Steven Cohen’s infamous investment firm oversaw some of the Trump transition team’s staff picks for the Justice Department in November. Cohen’s firm, SAC Capital, was the subject of one of the biggest insider trading investigations in Wall Street’s history. This fascinating history is chronicled in New Yorker staff writer Sheelah Kolhatkar’s book “Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street.”


AMY GOODMAN: We’ll be going to Stockholm in a moment, but first we’re continuing with Sheelah Kolhatkar, staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of “Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street.” Explain the term “black edge,” Sheelah.

SHEELAH KOLHATKAR: So, it’s important to understand that hedge funds are driven by information. And if you’re trading in the stock market each day on a kind of a short-term, speculative basis, the better the information is that you have, the more money you’re going to make. That’s the general philosophy. So, everyone is out there trying to get good, usable information. Inside the hedge fund that I write about a lot in this book, SAC Capital, you know, they had different categories of information. There was white edge, which is publicly available information that anyone can get, like information that is in an SEC filing that a company makes—not very useful to a trader, because everyone already has that. There is grey edge, which is in the grey zone. It might be something that an executive at the company told you, but it wasn’t entirely clear what they meant. You’re not quite sure. You’re sort of—you might have to talk to your legal counsel before you can trade on that information. And then there’s black edge, which is clearly material, nonpublic information, inside information—for example, access to confidential drug trial results before they are released. And a person could make a lot of money trading on that kind of information.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, one of the fascinating things about your book, aside from the fact it’s great storytelling, is the way you describe the evolution of the hedge fund world from basically a strategy of investment to, in essence, totally unregulated gambling, sort of like a dark world of Wall Street, in general, where anything goes and where illegal insider information became such a valuable commodity in that world.

SHEELAH KOLHATKAR: Well, so, there are thousands of hedge funds now, and, of course, they all do different things. And some of them are fine, and some of them are not so fine. But, really, the whole idea of a hedge fund began decades ago. The idea was that you could create an investment fund where you could hedge your investments. So, if you went long certain stocks, you could also short other stocks, which means you were betting that the price would go down, and that would kind of offset your losses if the market went down. You know, so you were kind of hedging your bets. And this was attractive to wealthy investors. And the regulators decided that if only wealthy investors were using these funds, they would give them more latitude to take risk in the market. So they could borrow more money. They could do this shorting. And it started off as this little niche thing. But it was so successful, and many of the people running these funds became so wealthy—I mean, billions of dollars at early ages.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, as you say, Steven Cohen was reporting 30 percent returns every year, wasn’t he?

SHEELAH KOLHATKAR: Yeah, he was, year after year. His hedge fund, SAC Capital, posted 30, 50, 70 percent in its early days, 100 percent. And investors were fighting to get in. And by the time the events that I write about in this book really come to a head, you know, he had only had one down year, which was 2008, financial crisis year.

AMY GOODMAN: So, we don’t have much time, and you spent hundreds of pages, that were hard not to read, to say the least, telling us the story of SAC Capital and Steven Cohen. Tell us what happened.

SHEELAH KOLHATKAR: Well, ultimately, the FBI decided they were going to try and crack down on the hedge fund industry, and they kept hearing the name SAC all over the place, from different informants, on wiretaps, so they started to look into it. And over a period of several years, they used the same techniques they had used to investigate the Mob. They ended up charging a handful of people who worked at SAC. And there was a lot of—

AMY GOODMAN: SAC, Steven A. Cohen.

SHEELAH KOLHATKAR: Well, it stands for Steven A. Cohen. Those are his initials, so Steven A. Cohen’s hedge fund, SAC Capital. It was a $15 billion fund at its peak, very powerful force on the market. And ultimately, the government had to make a decision about whether they were going to charge Cohen himself. And this is where he becomes, I think, sort of the man of our time, because there was this huge debate, the press was watching, a lot of anticipation: Is this huge Wall Street titan going to possibly face jail time?

AMY GOODMAN: Like the guy on the corner who steals $10.

SHEELAH KOLHATKAR: Exactly, unlike the—unlike the low-level drug dealer who’s definitely going to jail. I mean, there was a huge debate about this. Everybody was waiting to see. And the government ultimately decided they did not have the evidence they needed to definitively prove that Steve Cohen knew this illegal activity was taking place. And that is true. They did not have a witness. They did not have a wiretap. They did not have anything that definitively showed that Steve Cohen knew this was going on, even though the circumstantial evidence looked quite bad. So they ended up charging the company instead, SAC Capital, and Mr. Cohen ended up paying almost $2 billion in fines, and the hedge fund was shut down. But he can return to the industry in 2018. And I would argue that this story is important for everyone, because we all have money in the stock market now. I mean, Americans have largely been pushed to put their retirement savings in the stock market. And what you see, through this story, is that there are two markets. There’s one—

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: So, is the moral of the story, then, that unlike a previous era, when Milken and others were convicted, that the biggest of these Wall Street giants now have figured out a way to be able to get around the law?

SHEELAH KOLHATKAR: Well, after the financial crisis, the same thing happened. We did not see any senior-level bankers even facing the possibility of going to jail. And they largely resolved the criminal activity from that scandal through fines. So, I think this has caused a lot of frustration for the American public, who—

AMY GOODMAN: Well, clearly, Steven Cohen’s lawyers were very good.

SHEELAH KOLHATKAR: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Kevin O’Connor, it was reported by Bloomberg in November, the general counsel for Steven Cohen’s investment firm, oversaw the staff picks for the Justice Department as a member of President Donald Trump’s transition team, according to a chart [obtained] by Bloomberg.

SHEELAH KOLHATKAR: I thought that was just about the perfect ending to the story, based on the way things are going. But I believe—I mean, that was reported, and it seemed to be only for a brief time. But yes, it does appear that people from Cohen’s world and his industry have now moved into Washington, and they are directing economic policy and regulatory policy. And this is something we all need to be concerned about. And I don’t think it’s going to resolve the frustrations of the voters who put Trump in that position.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Donald Trump will ever release his tax returns?

SHEELAH KOLHATKAR: It doesn’t look like it. But, I mean, I think it’s a scandal. I can’t believe he hasn’t had to do it. But look where he’s gotten without releasing them. So, I don’t see any incentive for him to do so now, frankly.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And his claim that the American people don’t care about this?

SHEELAH KOLHATKAR: Well, obviously, it depends on who you ask. A lot of people do care. And that kind of transparency is really important. I mean, it’s a problem when we do not know, as a people, who our president is financially beholden to. And ultimately, most stories, I think, in Washington come down to money. So, we do not know where the money trail goes, and we should have that information. And it’s very upsetting that we don’t.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I hear there are plans for an April 15th Trump Taxes March on Washington, so we’ll see what happens. Sheelah Kolhatkar, I want to thank you for being with us.

SHEELAH KOLHATKAR: Thanks.

AMY GOODMAN: Staff writer at The New Yorker, author of the new book Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Next story from this daily show

A Message to Trump from a Swede: My Real Concern is Rise of Militant Anti-Muslim Neo-Nazis, Fascists

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Champion of the People or Wall Street? Trump Pushes to End Dodd-Frank & Consumer Protection Agency


Wall Street Wins Again as Trump Picks Bankers, Billionaires …

Nov 30, 2016 – Wall Street Wins Again as Trump Picks Bankers, Billionaires … ‘I think Donald Trumpconned them,’ says hedge fund manager … Inc. executive Steven Mnuchin to be his Treasury secretary and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross to … So the fact that he’s appointing people from within the system is a good thing.

Hedge Funds “Gleeful” That Trump “Conned His Supporters” and …

truthstreammedia.com/…/hedgefunds-gleeful-trump-conned-supportersappointed-w…

Dec 1, 2016 – Hedge Funds “Gleeful” That Trump “Conned His Supporters” and Appointed … now that he’s surrounding himself with bankers and billionaires. … So the fact that he’s appointing people from within the system is a good thing.”.

A Champion of the People or Wall Street? Trump Pushes to End Dodd-Frank & Consumer Protection Agency

STORY FEBRUARY 21, 2017

Watch iconWATCH FULL SHOW

TOPICS

GUESTS
Sheelah Kolhatkar

staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street.

As the Trump administration enters its second month, Republican lawmakers have begun a legislative attack on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created in response to the economic crisis a decade ago. The bureau was created under the Dodd-Frank legislation, which is also coming under attack by Republican lawmakers and the White House. Last week, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to repeal a Dodd-Frank anti-corruption measure requiring oil and mining companies to disclose payments to governments. He has also vowed to chip away at other parts of the legislation. We speak to Sheelah Kolhatkar, a former hedge fund analyst who is now a staff writer at The New Yorker. She is the author of the new book “Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street.”


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: As the Trump administration enters its second month, Republican lawmakers have begun a legislative attack on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created in response to the economic crisis nearly a decade ago. The bureau was created under the Dodd-Frank legislation, which is also coming under attack by Republican lawmakers and the White House. Last week, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to repeal a Dodd-Frank anti-corruption measure requiring oil and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments. He has also vowed to chip away at other parts of the legislation. Earlier in the month, Trump said JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon was giving him advice on what to do with Dodd-Frank.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have some of the bankers here. There’s nobody better to tell me about Dodd-Frank than Jamie, so you’re going to tell me about it. But we expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank, because, frankly, I have so many people, friends of mine, that had nice businesses. They can’t borrow money. They just can’t get any money because the banks just won’t let them borrow, because of the rules and regulations in Dodd-Frank.

AMY GOODMAN: One of President Trump’s fiercest critics has been Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who’s spoken out against Trump’s efforts to dismantle Dodd-Frank.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: The 2008 financial crisis cost millions of people their jobs, their homes and their savings. And in response, Congress passed the bipartisan Dodd-Frank Act, which aimed to prevent big banks from blowing up the economy again. Now, President Trump has called Dodd-Frank a, quote, “disaster,” and he has vowed to, quote, “dismantle” it. He started down that road two weeks ago when he issued an executive order on financial regulation. And he’s put two men—Steve Mnuchin and Gary Cohn—who have spent a combined—combined 42 years at Goldman Sachs, in charge of rewriting the rules to help big banks, like Goldman.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about what a rollback of Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would mean for consumers, we are joined by Sheelah Kolhatkar, a former hedge fund analyst who’s now a staff writer at The New Yorker. She’s also author of the new book Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street, which we will also talk about.

Sheelah, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us.

SHEELAH KOLHATKAR: Thanks for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s talk about Dodd-Frank, the people, the bankers that President Trump is surrounding himself by, which might surprise many of his supporters, because he had decried Goldman Sachs and the very banks that he is now deeply involved with. Can you talk about first Dodd-Frank?

SHEELAH KOLHATKAR: Sure. Well, Dodd-Frank, obviously, was the major legislation passed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. It is over a thousand pages long. It has many critics. There are flaws with it. However, many people, including Elizabeth Warren, who we just saw, agree that it has made the system safer. It has required banks to keep more capital on hand, meaning they have a larger cushion in case they encounter some kind of problem. This was a big issue in 2008.

It has pushed the banks to stop doing proprietary trading, which is basically a form of gambling—depending on who you ask—with their own money. And these are taxpayer-backstopped banks, so many people believe that banks should be focused on their stated purpose. Their purpose in the economy is to take capital that people have to invest, and channel it to businesses through loans, through IPOs. I mean, they are the engine of the economy, and businesses can’t grow without, you know, access to capital, which banks are supposed to provide. And what we’ve increasingly seen is that banks have become more focused on speculative trading to make money. And this has been a very profitable strategy, although, of course, when it doesn’t work out well, it can completely blow up the economy, as we saw. But, you know, really, this legislation is intended to reorient them towards their purpose in our economy, which is helping companies grow and helping the economy grow, not speculation in the market.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But one of the big complaints of banks, as I understand it, has been, one, the requirements now that they not be as leveraged, that they have more assets on hand in case their loans go bad, and also the impact of the financial protection agency that was developed in terms of the limitations on how they can abuse consumers. And I’m wondering now how you’re seeing the Trump administration moving in these areas?

SHEELAH KOLHATKAR: Well, of course, the banks and the financial lobby have been screaming and protesting these new rules all the way along. And as we saw, the implementation of Dodd-Frank happened over a period of years; there was intense, drawn-out fighting over every little thing. And now we have this sort of stunning reversal with the new administration in Washington. I mean, as you mentioned, President Trump campaigned—it certainly sounded like he was campaigning against Wall Street. He complained and screamed about bankers all the time and the system being rigged. He criticized Hillary Clinton for giving speeches to Goldman Sachs.

But now, I mean, there’s a lot of confusion, because, of course, there are so many mixed messages coming out of his administration, and we’re still trying to figure out what his plans are. But he has basically installed a handful of not quite the same wealthy Wall Street financiers we’ve seen before, but people, incredibly well-off Wall Street experts, who have spent their entire careers in hedge funds, in private equity, at big investment banks. They are the ones advising him on what to do. And it’s really hard to believe that those people are going to be reflecting the interests of many of the voters who put Trump into this position in the first place.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this month, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer described the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as an unconstitutional agency.

PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER: The Dodd-Frank Act is a disastrous policy that’s hindering our markets, reducing the availability of credit and crippling our economy’s ability to grow and create jobs. It imposed hundreds of new regulations in financial—on financial institutions, while establishing unaccountable and unconstitutional—a new agency that does not adequately protect consumers.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Sean Spicer. Your response, Sheelah?

SHEELAH KOLHATKAR: Well, I would mention one recent example of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau doing its job: the Wells Fargo scandal. So, that was a case where the enormous bank, Wells Fargo, was found to have been pushing its employees and not monitoring them, to the point where they were opening up accounts for customers that those customers had not asked for. And this caused widespread damage. It damaged people’s credit ratings. People were charged fees. I mean, it was a total scandal. And the CFPB is the one that brought that to light.

So, I guess my question would be: It’s fine to criticize it, but what is your alternative option? Because Republicans have been fighting and trying to water down the powers of this agency since it came into being. It’s one thing to say that you want to get rid of it, but, I mean, I would really like to hear what their alternative plan is, because we need to know those details, you know?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I want to go back to Senator Elizabeth Warren speaking last week.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: On any issue, but especially on something as important as the rules in place to stop another financial crisis, we need to start with facts—real facts, not those alternative facts that the administration has become known for. And the facts show that Donald Trump is wrong and his chief economic adviser is wrong about every major reason that they’ve given to tear up Dodd-Frank. Commercial and consumer lending is robust. Bank profits are at record levels. And our banks are blowing away their global competitors.

So, why go after banking regulations? The president and the team of Goldman Sachs bankers that he has put in charge of the economy want to scrap the rules so they can go back to the good old days, when bankers could take huge risks and get huge bonuses if they got lucky, knowing that they could get taxpayer bailouts if their bets didn’t pay off. We did this kind of regulation before, and it resulted in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. We cannot afford to go down this road again.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Senator Elizabeth Warren last week. And what about this issue of why the banks so badly want to get rid of these regulations? And also, the tie to the subject of your book, which is hedge funds, and the involvement of banks even with hedge funds? Yes?

SHEELAH KOLHATKAR: Well, so, the period that I really describe in this book is sort—it was like a flowering of insider trading in the hedge fund world that the government kind of investigated and cracked down on. But a lot of that took root during the—from the mid-2000s to 2008, ’09, ’10, when they really started to crack down on it. And I think it’s really important to put it in context. I mean, a lot of this crime that I write about happened during the same period of time when the mortgage fraud housing bubble inflated, that literally blew up and led to the financial crisis, and this coincided with a period of serious deregulation in Washington. And, in fact, during many of those key years, the head of the SEC, which is responsible for policing the market and making sure it’s fair for everyone, he did not believe in regulation. The chairman, Christopher Cox, essentially said markets can regulate themselves. He discouraged SEC attorneys from bringing enforcement actions against people on Wall Street. They did not—they were discouraged from even interviewing prominent financiers. I mean, they were supposed to kind of take a hands-off approach. And look what happened at the end of it. We had this huge blow-up of crime and fraud. And, you know, I would argue that we are still paying the price for that. And the dynamic that was created at that moment led to widening income inequality, and I think that has contributed directly to the situation we’re in now.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to talk more about your book, Sheelah, after this break. Sheelah Kolhatkar is a staff writer at The New Yorker. Her book is quite remarkable, very hard to put down, Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street. After that, we’re going to Stockholm to see what did happen in Sweden last night, and, finally, to England, where almost 2 million people have signed a petition to stop the state visit of President Trump. Stay with us.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.
Related image

Next story from this daily show

Black Edge: New Yorker’s Sheelah Kolhatkar on Wall Street’s Biggest Insider Trading Story in History

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Don’t let Trump be Controlled by Hedge Funds Selling Fantasy (Banks and Investment firms need more watching and control–not less)


Along the panoply of much-hyped hedge fund terms, “machine learning”  stands out. The predominantly PhD-driven sales pitch makes stunning claims about a computer’s ability to “learn,” assign value to information, connect dots and adjust strategy sounds tempting. But new voices point to the reality, which is very different from the much-hyped promise.

Machine learning
ronymichaud / Pixabay

“Machine learning” is a topic few question

When a pension fund, foundation or family office has meetings for quantitative “black-box” strategies, there is a troubling commonality noted. The meeting with a PhD-led team with lettered credentials following their title so long that an allocator not dare question their brilliance is what perhaps most poignantly underscores the strategy description.

Seldom are investors asked to use critical thinking. Amy Elefante Bedi, Director of Hedged Strategies at Washington University Investment Management Company in St. Louis, is different. She publicly complains about hour long meetings where the fund manager talks but nothing is said.

In large part, “machine learning” fits into this investment category. Institutional allocators are expected not to question the PhD elite, for their minds operate at a more sophisticated mathematical level than mere mortals. It isn’t until using core performance driver analysis techniques that the truth is revealed and those not wearing bathing suits in the ocean are exposed at low tide.

Machine learning systems do reveal positive insights into markets, but the little-discussed secret is that it is the human mind that is required to put the strategy together.

Machine learning is based on the concept the computer independently identifies, assimilates and assigns value to information

“Machine learning” and artificial intelligence that independently assesses information, assigns it a value and then makes trading / investing decisions is all the buzz. A recent Wired Magazine article touted Numerai, an SEC-registered hedge fund “that makes trades using machine learning models.” They are joined by the likes of Sentient Technologies, an investment firm that boasts to Bloomberg that it works by filtering “billions of pieces of data, spot trends, adapt as it learns and make money trading stocks.”

Focus on the last part of that sentence. The computer automatically “adapts as it learns” while “making money trading stocks.”

Such is the almost manic buzz and along with investor interest. But is the promise of “machine learning” more fad than fact?

While there is not a universally approved definition for machine “learning” in a hedge fund set, according to two quantitative development experts the definition looks something like this:

Machine learning concept is about a computer examining information – analyzing often vast amounts of data – and then the computer assigns allegedly meaning, relevance to that information without human assistance or background knowledge.  Then the machine learning system makes investment decisions. It is this end to end “investment robot,” if you will.

Joey Krug, a Thiel Scholar who is developing prediction markets and currently sits on the board of advisors at Numerai, as well as Quantopian’s Dan Dunn, both agreed to this general definition.

Machine learning falls down based on three precepts

There are three premises upon which to question machine “learning.”

First, the “learning” concept exceeds the core limitations of if-then Boolean logic, upon which all computer systems and mathematical formulas are based.

Second, for an algorithmic system to be durable, it must be driven by economic or market rationale, which is noticeably absent from the quant-led discussion.

Third, while the PhD ability to speak for nearly one hour in a presentation and not say anything of substance is impressive, the actual audited performance has been anything but spectacular. This could be because machine learning systems violate the core rules of algorithmic trading / investing formula development.

If-then Boolean logic is not as expansive as the human mind

It is difficult to discern where, exactly, algorithmic investment methods developed from. It is documented, however, that the managed futures CTA hedge fund segment was first using and touting the benefits of a systematic, mathematical approach to the markets back in the 1980s.

After the turn of the century, with electronic markets picking up steam, it is documented that derivatives exchanges such as the CMEGroup pioneered the and advanced the concept of electronic market places and there was a loosely created school of thought on how markets should operate and derivatives regulated.

What isn’t documented or taught in PhD quantitative classes is the methods upon which algorithmic trading strategies were developed because it was considered proprietary knowledge. This school of thought, one of many, outlines core principles of how an algorithm should be developed and many of today’s Silicon Valley algorithm developers are ignoring these core precepts – and it shows in their audited performance.

Humans learn through if-then as well as non-linear logic

The first rule of algorithmic development is to understand the math-based limits of algorithmic thinking. One hole in the machine learning concept is that the limits of mathematical logic make it difficult for a computer to assess non-linear information. Humans often learn – and develop investment thesis – by connecting non-linear dots. A computer’s rigid method of “learning” isn’t really learning and can only lead to limited knowledge assessment, a critique which Krug says “is not invalid criticism.”

All algorithms are based on math. All math features definitive Boolean if-then statements. If 2 is subtracted from 5 it results in 3, for example. All formulas are if-then statements.

When considering investing, however, there are a significant number of non-linear thinking that goes into discovering insight. Two examples were provided: Brexit is an example where algorithmic analysis of the news media and most research would have led the investor to the wrong conclusion on the vote outcome and more importantly the resulting market reaction. Another example is the analysis that took place in 2015 before the August stock market crash. Balyasny Asset Management was in touch with ValueWalk leading up to the crash, discussing strategy probability paths. They made the determination that markets would be negatively impacted by the initial withdrawal of center al bank stimulus, which was not much discussed in the general media or public domain at the time. They were correct and avoided losses in the algorithmically predicted August flash crash. In both cases, an algorithm could not “learn” the real meaning of information based on public data much less assign value and then adjust trading strategy.

There is too much emphasis on “learning” in machine learning

Understanding how investment thesis is developed, Dunn says there is too much emphasis on the word “learn” in “machine learning.”

The first part is about the useful word “learn.” It feels like you are having a semantic argument with what “learning” actually means. In the machine learning sense, they are not talking about “learning” in the sense it is something that has passed the Turing test (a measure of a computer’s ability to mimic humankind) regarding gaining knowledge. They are talking about building up a base of past behavior knowledge for future predictions. The word “learn” may be overloaded in the term “machine learning.”

Most people would not disagree with you about your definition of “learn.” When algorithmic developers use the word “learn” in “machine learning” it “means something less robust,” according to Dunn.

For an algorithm to be sustainable, it must have a fundamental economic or market justification or it is luck to a large degree

The word “learn” has a different definition when used in the context of “machine learning” than it does in most human settings. While a significant degree of if-then decision processes are involved in human learning, it is the often difficult to connect often obfuscated economic dots in an investment thesis that differentiates an approach.

The second core algorithmic rule development violation machine learning hedge funds seem to perpetrate is that their formulas are seldom, if ever, explained based on an economic rationale or markets-driven supply and demand logic.

“Most people using machine learning are not going to necessarily have an economic logic or they don’t explain it from this standpoint,” Krug said. “Many quants do not understand the economic rationale.”

The problem can be located in two types of formula development strategies: strategies driven by nothing but past performance statistics and market trends that occur as a result of a repeatable economic rationale or a somewhat consistent market-based truism. If a formula is not backed by a fundamental underpinning, it can be considered luck-based to various degrees.

Dunn notes that finding the economic or market understanding for why an algorithm works “is a very tricky issue.” Quantopian, for instance, looks to see if the quantitative logic can be supported by economic or market rationale before investing, calling it “a more challenging requirement.”

Audited performance speaks louder than a PhD degree and a superior attitude

The third reason to question machine learning hedge funds is the lack of audited, public success.

One can assume that when core precepts of algorithmic formula development are broken, performance becomes more challenging to attain.

With machine learning, while there have been proclamations made in the media that the systems “learn” and are “making money trading stocks,” there has yet to be any audited, public performance to substantiate that claim.

While Dunn “cannot point to specific audited performance” to support machine learning hedge funds, performance of one of the rare funds to publish performance is the CTA KLA Capital. According to CTA Intelligence, the fund lost 28% in 2016 after dropping 12.4% in 2015. (CTA hedge fund performance is required to be reported on a consistent basis and is subject to performance audits by the National Futures Association.)

While Sentient Technologies makes the claim that ““The AI system evolves autonomously as it gains more experiences…” the firm does not disclose audited performance to the public. The same is true of another hedge fund proclaiming the virtues of machine learning, Numerai.

Machine learning is adding value to investment research, but the “machine” is just not doing much “learning”

While the promise of machine learning at present does not meet up with the reality, it is critical to note that the work being done in the area is yielding positive results. The little-discussed fact, however, is that it takes a human mind to connect the dots and do the real “learning,” value assignment and interpretation of data to then create an if-then statement.

Dunn notes that many quantitative investment insights are being developed through machine learning techniques. He says the common perception that a machine can “learn,” assign a value to information and then connect dots to make a trading decision might be a little far-fetched… at this point, anyway.

Two Sigma, a leading quantitative hedge fund, does not publicly discuss its performance. But the registered investment firm’s published thoughts on the topic indicates value in machine learning research techniques is being found. Machine learning has value.

Machine learning has value. The idea that a computer is an investing genius without humans behind the project for non-linear interpretation, however, might be a little more than far-fetched.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment