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Three Things: So Many Questions, September Edition

It’s been a little busy in my neck of the woods, trying to tackle a long accumulation of honey-dos. But questions piled up, needing answers, so much so that I had to take time out to put bits and pixels to digital paper. Let’s begin, shall we?

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PUERTO RICO POST-MARIA

Where the hell is the USNS Comfort, dispatched in 2010 to help after Haiti’s earthquake, and why isn’t it docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico, right the fuck now?

Why did we send 24,000 military personnel to help Japan after the 2011 earthquake but can’t muster them for a U.S. territory with a former navy facility and an active facility at Fort Garrison in San Juan?

Is Trump deliberately ignoring Hillary Clinton’s plea to send the USNS Comfort to PR because — well, it’s Hillary? (Yeah. Check that link. Even Fox News noted Hillary’s request.)

Has Trump deliberately ignored Puerto Rico’s urgent plight out of personal pique over the bankruptcy and losses from a Trump-branded, Trump-managed golf course located in Rio Grande, PR? He was trying to prop it up on Twitter back in 2013.

Are Trump’s tweets complaining about Puerto Rico’s debt yet more projection, since the failed golf course was built with government-issued bonds?

Why did the Senate approve as FEMA director — who only left to tour the island FIVE GODDAMNED DAYS AFTER MARIA MADE LANDFALL — the man who was the Hurricane Program Manager for FEMA under the Bush administration during Hurricane Katrina?

This, from The New York Times:

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, has received widespread praise for his handling of the federal response to Hurricane Harvey, the first major natural disaster faced by the Trump administration.

Somebody get me a concrete citation of a real accomplishment attached to some of this “widespread praise” for anything besides being “a calming presence in press briefings.” Has the bar slipped this low that calmly stringing together cogent sentences is worthy of accolades? Can the NYT stop fluffing Trump and his band of co-conspirators?

Because right now American citizens are suffering and likely dying as a result of this administration’s gross ineptitude and negligence, if not outright malignance.

Now Trump says he’s going to Puerto Rico next Tuesday. That’s TWO WEEKS after the storm. Can’t disrupt his golf game over last or the next weekend, don’t you know. What I particularly despise about Trump’s response to this crisis is that he makes this guy’s fly-by two days after Katrina look so much better.

Call your members of Congress and demand action. Yeah, that’s not a question. Suck it up; you’ve got electricity, communications, and access to clean water if you’re reading this. Millions of your fellow Americans in Puerto Rico don’t. Let’s fix this.

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GRAHAM-CASSIDY-HELLER-JOHNSON NOT-A-HEALTH-CARE BILL

Have you called your senator and asked them to vote NO on the debacle Sen. Bill Cassidy can’t explain and over which Sen. Lindsey Graham is ruining any cred as a rational human being, while disabled health care activists recover from being hauled away by capitol police yesterday before the Senate Finance Committee’s hearing on the bill?

Have you documented and shared publicly your senators’ position on Graham-Cassidy, especially if they are up for re-election in 2018?

The number is (202) 224-3121 if you don’t have it memorized already.

Need a script to make it easier? Here you go.

As wretchedly bad as this obscene joke of a bill is, I can’t help wonder if GOP members of Congress and their staff are gaming this. Have they been working on something even worse than previous attempts at ACA repeal just to game the stock market and make a few bucks on the backs of worried citizens?

[graphic: Health Insurance stock chart, via Google Finance]

For grins you should look at Aetna’s chart for last Friday and note the jump it took when Sen. McCain expressed his reluctance to support Graham-Cassidy. Price jumped about the same time capitol police arrived to arrest protesters. Easy money, that, conveniently ahead of the market’s close.

~ 1 ~
IRAN ~AND~ PUERTO RICO

What question do these two disparate places prompt?

First, Trump tweeted about an Iranian missile launch as if it had ~just~ happened, within 24 hours of a reconstituted travel in which Iran is listed. But the missile launch ~didn’t~ just happen; it took place more than six months ago but was mentioned only this week in Iranian news.

Second, Trump took his fucking sweet time ensuring FEMA went to Puerto Rico; Hurricane Maria made landfall on September 20th, visible to anyone who watched weather networks, NOAA, and NASA reporting.

Is Trump ignoring any and all U.S. intelligence and government experts on matters foreign and domestic, relying instead on some other criteria for responding to events, including cable TV? Should we believe for a second he’s simply and accidentally flooding his source of information?

In the case of Iran’s missile program, it looks more like he deliberately used stale news to defend a new travel ban while making propagandistic false statements to the public. The Supreme Court canceled hearing the travel ban after the travel ban was rejiggered — does this suggest his manipulation of perception worked, not only on the public but on the Supreme Court?

~ 0 ~
One more time: call your Senators to ask NO on Graham-Cassidy and get their position on the record. Call your members of Congress to ask for urgent response and funding for aid to Puerto Rico. The number is (202) 224-3121. Put it on speed dial.

Viajar bien, mis amigos y amigas.

Mapping Treasure: Looking Beyond the Yield of Traditional Insider Trading

Money by Kevin Dooley via Flickr

[graphic: Money by Kevin Dooley, via Flickr]

A former SAC hedge fund manager, who cooperated with law enforcement, avoided a prison sentence this week after the FBI’s investigation into insider trading found criminal activities. It’s a rather typical story in which persons unfairly benefited from information they would not otherwise have access to outside their work as traders. Six persons were ultimately convicted in connection with this case.

A fresh spin on insider trading also made news this week, when the SEC filed a lawsuit against two Capital One fraud investigators who made 1800 percent on their investment over three years, based on their use of a Capital One credit card user database.

The two investigators, Bonan Huang and Nan Huang, grew an investment of $147,300 to $2.8 million based on thousands of searches across a database comprised of credit card customer transactions. Noting the volume of use of credit cards at a particular fast food company, they bought and traded the company’s stock based on this data.

Over time they made similar stock trades based on transactional volume and other publicly available news about three different companies.

Had the database been one for sale by a company rather than their employer’s proprietary database, the Huangs would have been lauded as investment rock stars. But because the method they used “misappropriates confidential information for securities trading purposes, in breach of a duty owed to the source of the information,” the two men are being sued for insider trading.

The Huangs’ trading experience gives pause when one considers the value of metadata, and of the data breach at JP Morgan Chase this past year.

Metadata can offer a volume of transactional activity, though it will not disclose the value of a transaction. Imagine smartphones indicating they are being used at particular devices – point-of-sale devices – at any retailer, from fast food to hard lines. An uptick in overall activity at a specific retailer indicates greater volume of business, the data fresher than that reported in a 10-Q report filed publicly with the SEC. What could an investor do with this kind of data? One could imagine success not much different than the Huangs experienced, provided they also understood other publicly available information about the retailers under observation. Read more

MOTU Rules: Material Support for Terror Edition

AmericaBlog’s Chris is right. We should not look at yesterday’s sentencing of Raj Rajaratnam as the first act of justice against the banksters who killed our economy.

As I’ve said many times before, if Rajaratnam is guilty, fine, find him guilty and send him to prison. But let’s not confuse this case with the much larger problem of Wall Street triggering the recession. Rajaratnam was a swindler and used insider information to profit by tens of millions of dollars. That’s a much different story than the trillions of dollars needlessly lost by Wall Street, yet we see no legal action related to those losses.

Not only doesn’t Rajaratnam’s sentence represent a victory for the 99%, a former FBI Agent claims that he was largely convicted because of his material support for the Tamil Tigers. (h/t scribe)

Jay Kanetkar, who was [FBI Tamil Tiger infiltrator] Rudra’s main F.B.I. handler from 1999 until he left the bureau in June 2006, says that Rajaratnam’s alleged involvement with terrorism was a significant factor in why the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice went to such extraordinary lengths to nail him. “It was a conscious decision,” Kanetkar says, “to treat Raj the terrorist the way they treated Al Capone when they got him for tax evasion.”

[snip]

By 2005, Rudra’s penetration of the Tigers’ network was so deep that the F.B.I. had acquired a comprehensive picture of the group’s fund-raising capability. Raj Rajaratnam’s name came up frequently. “On the recordings, he was spoken of in a reverential way, with all the kudos he got as a financial whizz,” says Kanetkar. “At the same time, he wasn’t a commoner, which is why it was hard for Rudra to get close to him. He was reserved for the big stuff.” For example, in September 2005, two Tamil Tiger members were duped by the F.B.I. In an attempt to have the Tigers removed from the government terrorism list, they agreed to pay $1 million to two “corrupt State Department officials” (in reality, F.B.I. agents) whom Rudra had introduced them to. The Tamils went straight from that meeting to Rajaratnam’s house, apparently to arrange to get the money, according to Rudra and Kanetkar.

“Rudra told us that the L.T.T.E. had given Raj a very large sum of money for him to invest in the Galleon fund,” says Kanetkar. “It was clear that the Tigers did have that kind of money. They were raising $1 million every time they held a function, and also going door to door—extorting people to pay thousands of dollars for the next wave of operations.” Kanetkar and his counterterrorist colleagues had been aware of evidence that Rajaratnam was using illegal insider information since 2001, when wiretaps caught an executive from the Intel Corporation offering him insider tips. The F.B.I. saw the two endeavors—terrorism and insider trading—as connected, says Kanetkar: “Money from insider trading was going into his pocket, and money from his pocket was going to the L.T.T.E.”

In other words, if you believe David Rose, the reason FBI prosecuted Rajaratnam as opposed to all the other banksters who engage in insider trading is because the gains from his insider trading went to fund the Tamil Tigers.

But there’s even something funky with that story.

According to Rose’s story, the FBI was aware of Rajaratnam’s insider training starting in 2001, when they got him on tape getting a tip from an Intel. According to Rose, the FBI was collecting evidence tying Rajaratnam to the Tigers as early as November 2002 (and was reviewing money transfers going back to 2000). And while Rose doesn’t mention it, we know the government was already using SWIFT to track terrorist financing by that point. That doesn’t help you track insider trading, but it does mean any suspicion that rajnaratam was financing terrorism would make his money transfers fairly transparent.

And while I’m not surprised in the least that the Bush DOJ chose not to prosecute Rajaratnam for insider trading (indeed, the implication of the Rose story is that the Obama DOJ is still ignoring a lot of insider trading that doesn’t have a terrorism aspect), the entire story suggests that the FBI was tracking a prominent trader’s alleged financing of terrorism for 7 years and not only never pursued him for that, but didn’t indict him for it when they got around to indicting on insider trading, even though at that same point DOJ was sending non-bankster material supporters to jail for 65-year sentences.

Now, maybe the Rose story oversells Rajaratnam’s ties to the Tamils, or at least his awareness that they were terrorists. Clearly, the case against Rajaratnam, unlike (say) that against Chiquita’s top managers during the same time frame, was not so cut and dry. Perhaps DOJ believed they couldn’t convict Rajaratnam.

But the lesson seems not only to be that this is one very small conviction that doesn’t even begin to touch the much larger crimes, but that MOTUs get treated differently even for terrorism-related crimes than ordinary people.