Just a week after Obama held a press conference announcing that he sent a stern warning to Vladamir Putin regarding his alleged “election hacking” efforts (see “Obama Told Putin To “Cut It Out” On Hacking“), the Washington Post is reporting that the Obama administration is close to announcing a series of economic sanctions and other measures to punish Russia for its “interference” in the 2016 presidential election. Quoting “U.S. officials,” WaPo said that an announcement from the Obama administration could come as early as this week and would likely include “covert cyber operations.”
According to WaPo’s “sources”, the delay in sanctions against Russia have come from Obama’s inability to take unilateral actions under current laws. While Obama previously signed an executive order that would allow him to freeze the assets in the United States of people overseas who have engaged in cyber acts, it only applies to actions that have threatened U.S. national security or financial stability. Further, per a “senior administration official,” use of the existing law would require (1) actual election infrastructure to be designated as ‘critical infrastructure’ and (2) the administration to prove that such infrastructure was actually “harmed,” conditions which the National Security Council say have not been met.
The White House is still finalizing the details of the sanctions package. Holding up the announcement is an internal debate over how best to adapt a 2015 executive order that gave the president the authority to levy sanctions against foreign actors who carry out cyberattacks against the United States.
The order was used as the “stick” in negotiations over a highly-publicized 2015 agreement with China that neither nation would hack the other for economic gain.
But officials concluded this fall that the order does not cover the kind of covert influence operation that the Intelligence Community believes Russia carried out during the election — hacking political organizations and leaking stolen emails with the goal of influencing the outcome.
The April 2015 order allows the Treasury Department to freeze the assets of individuals or entities who used digital means to damage U.S. critical infrastructure or engage in economic espionage.
The National Security Council concluded that it would not be able to use the authority against Russian hackers because their malicious activity did not clearly fit under its terms, which require harm to critical infrastructure or the theft of commercial secrets.
“You would (a) have to be able to say that the actual electoral infrastructure, such as state databases, was critical infrastructure, and (b) that what the Russians did actually harmed it,” a senior administration official told The Post. “Those are two high bars.”
Of course, laws are merely suggestions for an Obama administration that has grown quite comfortable legislating through executive action from the White House. As Zachary Goldman, a sanctions and national security expert at New York University School of Law, points out the current laws simply require the Obama administration to “engage in some legal acrobatics to fit the DNC hack into an existing authority, or they need to write a new authority.”
“Fundamentally, it was a low-tech, high-impact event,” said Zachary Goldman, a sanctions and national security expert at New York University School of Law. And the 2015 executive order was not crafted to target hackers who steal emails and dump them on WikiLeaks or seek to disrupt an election. “It was an authority published at a particular time to address a particular set of problems,” he said.
So officials “need to engage in some legal acrobatics to fit the DNC hack into an existing authority, or they need to write a new authority,” Goldman said.
Administration officials would like Obama to use the power before leaving office to demonstrate its utility.
And, not surprisingly, another administration official points out that “part of the goal here is to make sure that we have as much of the record public or communicated to Congress in a form that would be difficult to simply walk back.” Yes, that is the problem with legislating through executive action rather than acknowledging the will of the American people and trying to work with Congress.
And while Obama and Democrats continue their crusade to deligitamize the Trump administration, we would point out once again that, despite all the rhetoric, not a single person has gone on the record and/or presented a single shred of tangible evidence to confirm Russian involvement in the DNC and/or John Podesta email hacks.
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Morocco has lauded the adoption of what it believes to be “historic resolution” by the UN Security Council, which calls on Israel to halt all settlements operation in the occupied Palestinian territories, Moroccan Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. According to Anadolu Agency, in Tuesday statement, the ministry expressed its satisfaction with the consensus of the international community on the non-legitimacy of the Israeli settlement policy. “Following the adoption by the UN Security Council on Friday December 23rd of Resolution No. 2334 calling on the Israeli authorities to stop all settlement operations in the Palestinian territories, occupied since 1967, the Kingdom of Morocco welcomes this historic decision and expresses its satisfaction with the unanimity of the international community […]
Whether or not you’ve had time yet to plow your way through David Collum’s excellent 2016 Year in Review, our annual podcast with Dave always brings additional color to light — and this year’s is no exception.
Any model based on an assumed 7.5% return is doomed. As you get low returns, our pensions get in trouble. And whenever the returns shoot above the norm they say “Well, this is excess.” And they scoop it up. So every time they are above water they scoop it up. How? They stop contributing. They start using the money for other stuff. Think of a sine wave oscillating about the mean — even if you guessed the mean correctly, if every time it is on the high side you skim it you’ll never get the mean; and that’s what the pension managers have done. And companies just stop contributing to pension plans and started calling the retained funds “profits”, which causes equities to go up and makes the thing get out of whack.
We’ve got a recession coming, one of the full-blown kind. And I don’t know what will happen. My prediction is that it is going to be a bad one. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that is when things start unwinding, counter party risk kicks in and faulty business models start showing up as bad and they start collapsing. All the accounting problems that built up behind the scenes so that the people cook the books to get their bonuses up and they made these crazy assumptions — under the protective cloak of a recession, CEOs can get away with announcing anything because they say Hey, don’t look at me. It’s a recession. So they write down huge blocks of cost. This actually exacerbates the downswing because people are dumping all their cooked books and getting all the fraud off their books so they don’t have to fess up to the fact that they cooked them. In actuality, they’re getting ready to then start building up their stock options again from some bottom somewhere.
This is going to unwind. It has to unwind. This is like a person who weighs 850 pounds — they’re not going to make it into their 90s, right?
Click the play button below to listen to Chris’ interview with David Collum (49m:26s).
The Jerusalem municipality is due to act on Wednesday on requests to construct hundreds of new homes for Israelis in areas that Israel captured in 1967 and annexed to the city, drawing fresh criticism from the United States that settlement activity puts Middle East peace-making at risk. Israel is still fuming over the resolution approved last Friday by the United Nations Security Council that demands an end to settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said he was aware of press reports about plans for more settlement building. “We would hope that the UN Security Council resolution would serve as a wake-up call, a call to action, an attempt to alert […]
Republican control of all three branches of government in Washington DC has the nation’s second largest labor union worried about what a Trump administration might mean for their already declining membership and corresponding union dues. In response, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) which represents nearly 2 million government, health care, and building-services workers and wields an annual budget of $300 million, has taken steps to slash its budget by 30% in an effort to hoard cash “to fight-back against” Trump’s “extremist-run government”. Per an internal memo from SEIU President Mary Kay Henry reviewed by Bloomberg:
“Because the far right will control all three branches of the federal government, we will face serious threats to the ability of working people to join together in unions,” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry wrote in an internal memo dated December 14. “These threats require us to make tough decisions that allow us to resist these attacks and to fight forward despite dramatically reduced resources.” After citing the need to “dramatically re-think” how to implement the union’s strategy, Henry’s all-staff letter announces SEIU “must plan for a 30% reduction” in the international union’s budget by January 1, 2018, including a 10 percent cut effective at the start of 2017.
Asked about what the memo could mean for its current campaigns, SEIU didn’t offer specifics. “As we prepare to fight-back against the forthcoming attacks on working people and our communities under an extremist-run government, we know we must realign our resources and streamline our investments to buttress and broaden our movement to restore economic and democratic opportunity for all families,” said spokeswoman Sahar Wali. “As part of this process, we are currently looking at possible ways to improve our budgets.”
Of course, the SEIU is likely most worried about so-called “Right to Work” laws which allow workers the choice to decline paying fees to the unions that represent them. But if unions are providing such a great service for their membership then shouldn’t workers to happy to pay their dues?
In Michigan, for example, Republicans in 2012 passed a private sector “Right to Work” law that let workers decline to fund the unions representing them, a public sector law doing the same for government employees, and a third law stripping University of Michigan graduate student researchers and home-health aides of their collective-bargaining rights. Afterwards, SEIU’s Michigan healthcare local lost most of its membership.
With Republican dominance in Washington, the threats to SEIU will get more grave—everything from slashing health-care spending to passing a federal law extending “Right to Work” to all private-sector employees could be on the table. One of the most widely expected scenarios is that a Trump appointee will provide the decisive fifth vote on the Supreme Court’s labor cases. The court already ruled in 2014 that making government-funded home health aides pay union fees violated the First Amendment, and a future case could apply the same logic to all government employees, effectively making the whole public sector “Right to Work.” SEIU was bracing for such a ruling earlier this year, in a case called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, but got an unexpected reprieve when Scalia’s death left the court tied four to four. With several similar cases brought by union opponents already making their way through lower courts, it may not last for long.
In the past few years, the SEIU has been most vocal about it’s “Fight for $15” campaign which has drawn support from the likes of Bernie Sanders. Of course, the effort seemingly ignores the cost of living differences between the Midwest and large metropolitan areas like San Francisco and New York City in arguing that a $15 minimum wage is somehow perfect for the entire country.
According to the “Fight For $15” website, the organization started with just a few hundred fast food workers in New York City and has since spread to over 300 cities and a variety of industries. Meanwhile, the organization also claims to have “won” mandates for a $15 per hour minimum wage in multiple jurisdiction across the U.S. including New York and California.
The Fight for $15 started with just a few hundred fast food workers in New York City, striking for $15 an hour and union rights.
Today, we’re an international movement in over 300 cities on six continents of fast-food workers, home health aides, child care teachers, airport workers, adjunct professors, retail employees – and underpaid workers everywhere.
For too long, McDonald’s and low-wage employers have made billions of dollars in profit and pushed off costs onto taxpayers, while leaving people like us – the people who do the real work – to struggle to survive.
That’s why we strike.
When we first took the streets, the skeptics called us dreamers – said a $15 wage was “unwinnable.”
We won $15 an hour across New York State and California.
We won $15 in Seattle, and huge raises in cities from Portland to Chicago.
We won $15 for Pennsylvania nursing home workers and all hospital employees at UPMC – Pennsylvania’s largest private employer.
And we won’t stop fighting until we turn every McJob into a REAL job.
As we’ve pointed out before, sometimes defining a “victory” can be difficult…this doesn’t look like a “win” to us:
And neither does this:
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An Egyptian Foreign Ministry official called on Addis Ababa to stop what Cairo believes to be the provocation of crises between the two countries against the backdrop of Ethiopian accusations in October that Cairo supports the anti-government Oromo ethnic group. The two countries have been at loggerheads since Ethiopia started to construct the Grand Ethipian Renaissance Ethiopian Dam, which Egypt fears could reduce its share of Nile water. “Addis Ababa knows well that Egypt has nothing to do with internal events in Ethiopia, but its attempts to involve Egypt’s name in the internal events it is going through will not be of use,” the Egyptian official told the UAE-based media outlet “24”. “[Egyptian] relations with Ethiopia – no matter how […]