Wall Street: Never Give a Sucker an Even Break

The Wall Street Code

VPRO (2013)

Film Review

While the rest of us are busting our ass to earn an honest living, Wall Street traders are running around thinking up new ways to rip us off. And laughing all the way to the bank. I love the way they refer to ordinary investors with pension funds or retirement accounts as “dumb money.”

The Wall Street Code is all about whistleblower Haim Bodek and his discovery of a secret algorithm used by high frequency traders to rip off mutual and pension funds (aka “dumb money”).

As of 2013, when this documentary was made, 70% of Wall street trading was automated and 50% occurred within milliseconds. When large volume trades are made, they always drive the share price up. This means there’s a distinct advantage in getting your order in before a large volume trade by a pension or mutual fund.

Badek discovered a secret algorithm that alerted unscrupulous traders to large volume trades before they were made public and help them jump to the front of the queue (and purchase stocks before the share price started to rise).

Michael Lewis writes about a similar scam in his 2015 book Flash Boys. The book concerns whistleblower Brad Katsuyama’s discovery that high frequency traders were secretly exploiting minute differences in the speed of electronic transmissions (see Wall Street More Deeply Corrupt than We Thought).

Bodek believes that Lewis seriously underestimates the serious amount of fraud occurring on Wall Street. Bodek’s persistence has resulted in the prosecution of the New York Stock Exchange by the Security and Exchange Commission – resulting in unprecedented fines being imposed.

See http://blog.themistrading.com/2018/03/the-return-of-haim-bodek/

Trump Instructs Top Advisors to Review Joining TPPA

Trade For People and Planet

Popular Resistance

Donald Trump has instructed United States Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, and National Economic Advisor, Larry Kudlow, to review re-joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) according to declarations given by Senator Ben Sasse to reporters after leaving a meeting on trade that Trump had with lawmakers and governors from farming states just a few hours ago.

“[Trump] said that he was going to deputize, again, Larry Kudlow and Ambassador Lighthizer with reentering the TPP negotiations,” Senator Sasse said. “The president multiple times reaffirmed in general to all of us and looked right at Larry Kudlow and said, ‘Larry, go get it done.’

We must show that the people are watching their every move! Help us make the hashtag #NeverTPP viral! Click on any of the tweets below to tweet now or create your own tweet and mention us at @FlushTheTPP.

BREAKING: Trump orders review of #TPP. We never trusted @realDonaldTrump to be the end of the #TPP. We defeated the deal under Obama & will again under #Trump if need be. Say NO to reviewing joining the TPP! #NeverTPP @FlushTheTPP

BREAKING: Trump tells @USTradeRep to review joining #TPP. @realDonaldTrump forgot that this deal is POLITICALLY TOXIC. Join us in saying #NeverTPP ! @FlushTheTPP 

.@FlushTheTPP on Trump’s reconsideration of TPP: It was the people who defeated the TPP, not Trump, and we will do it again. See more at –> https://bit.ly/2qqkKFe #NeverTPP pic.twitter.com/v8KyOLEHww

BREAKING: Trump tells @larry_kudlow to review joining #TPP. This deal is the ultimate power grab and will be opposed by the people across the political spectrum. Say NO to rejoining the TPP. #NeverTPP @FlushTheTPP

BREAKING: Trump instructs top trade aides to review joining the TPP. Fair trade is the exact opposite of the TPP. We will resist! #NeverTPP @FlushTheTPP

NZ Govt Shuts Down Offshore Oil Exploration, Onshore Exploration Outside Taranaki

According to Taranaki Daily News, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced an end to offshore oil exploration, with no new onshore permits outside Taranaki.

Ardern said the Government was “taking an important step to address climate change and create a clean, green and sustainable future for New Zealand”

As well as an immediate end to new offshore permits, some onshore will be offered to the industry for the next three years in onshore Taranaki, none of which will be on conservation land.

“This is a responsible step which provides certainty for businesses and communities that rely on fossil fuels. We’re striking the right balance for New Zealand – we’re protecting existing industry, and protecting future generations from climate change,” Ardern said.

The decision to continue to offer onshore permits was partly a concession to Labour’s coalition partners, New Zealand First, which expressly supports extractive sectors. The move is also designed to head off the risk of judicial review.

“All three of the parties in this Government are agreed that we must take this step as part of our package of measures to tackle climate change. I’m grateful for the support of New Zealand First in ensuring the transition away from fossil fuels protects jobs and helps regions equip themselves for the future. I also thank the Green Party for their continued advocacy for action on climate change.

An oil rig between Stratford and Midhurst, in Taranaki. Ardern will announce no more offshore exploration permits, and ...

ANDY JACKSON/STUFF – Oil rig between Stratford and Midhurst, in Taranaki.

Less than a month ago, Ardern created huge expectation among environmental activists by declaring the Government was “actively considering” a call to end exploration.

Since taking office, Ardern has said the Government will move towards having 100 per cent of electricity generation coming from renewable sources by 2035, while the economy will be carbon neutral by 2050.

Greenpeace said announcement was an “historic moment, and a huge win for our climate and people power”. . .

Read more: Ardern to End Offshore Oil Exploration

This is an important win in a long, difficult battle. It’s disappointing to see that Taranaki (where I live) is still treated as a sacrifice zone. Taranaki Energy Watch has an ongoing case in Environment Court to stop fracking next to our homes and schools. See Fracking: When Fossil Fuel Companies Turn Your Community into a Sacrifice Zone

The Trump Movement: How it All Began

Trumpland: Kill All the Normies

Fusion (2018)

Film Review

This documentary, featuring Kill All the Normies* author Angela Nagle, examines the origin of the political movement that elected an openly racist, misogynist and xenophobe to the US presidency. Nagle believes that Trump initially gathered most of his support from the “dark” sections of the Internet, namely 4Chan and a variety of its spinoff sites. 4Chan is a roughly 20-year-old site where anonymous geeks – mainly teenagers – try to outdo each other with the most repulsive and/or obscene posts they can think of.

According to Nagle, 4Chan and similar sites made an ideal platform for insecure white males to anonymously scapegoat specific social groups (women, Blacks, Mexicans, Muslims) that they blame for their unhappiness. These sites came to be collectively known as the “manosphere community,” a multitude of social media sites hosted by PUA (pickup artists) and other members of the InCel (Involuntarily Celibate) known for their open hatred and degradation of women. The primary themes promoted by these sites are that women aren’t to be trusted, that they must be tricked into having sex by dwelling on their insecurities and that they should only deserve enough education to have children.

Eventually this “manosphere” would “weaponize” Twitter, by using it for toxic harassment of feminists and other publicly prominent women, with insults and threats to kill and/or rape them.

Trumps’ closest political advisor Steve Bannon, who tracked all these right wing sites, assisted Trump in mainstreaming the discontent he found there. Trump’s willingness to publicly give voice to these views provided him with an immediate fan base. Trump is the ultimate troll, drawing attention to himself by insulting people and generating outrage – a trait supporters fed up with “political correctness” particularly adore about him.

For me the most interesting segment criticizes Obama for setting the stage for the Trump movement by abandoning marginalized white workers, focusing instead on identity politics (mainly gay and gender rights) to maintain his liberal credentials.

One commentator blames backlash against against the “gender fluidity” movement, an extreme manifestation of identity politics (mainly concerned with gay and transgender rights) for the rise of the Trump phenomenon. This movement also weaponizes social media to attack views they deem to be “politically incorrect.”


*A “Normie” is Alt-Right speak for “mainstream.”

Fracking: When Fossil Fuel Companies Turn Your Community into a Sacrifice Zone

Sacrifice Zone: The Story of a Real Australian Gas Crisis

Directed by David Lowe and Eve Jeffery (2018)

Film Review

Sacrifice Zone is a full length documentary about a vibrant resistance movement dedicated to shutting down fracking (for Coal Seam Gas) in a pristine rural area of New South Wales (Australia). My chief interest in the film stems from striking parallels in Taranaki, a comparable region in rural New Zealand. Here in Taranaki, which is also frequently described as a sacrifice zone, residents are also engaged in a similar battle against fracking for shale gas and oil.

Because NSW farmers have learned from the bitter experience of Queensland farmers (who have been fighting fracking for more than ten years), there has been much stronger opposition in NSW.

The other immediate parallels are the lies farmers were told by Santos (the oil/gas mining company), eg that fracking would create local jobs (the vast majority of workers are flown in from someplace else), that there would be no water or air contamination and that there would be no adverse health effects. As in Taranaki, Santos also deliberately misled farmers about the number of wells they planned to drill (one or two wells quickly turns into eight or more). I also strongly identified with the stress of living 200 meters from constant flaring and drilling and traffic noise, the absence of any fire safety planning and the reckless disposal of contaminated fracking waste into unlined pits and streams used for drinking water. The latter has led to the total decimation of formerly pristine Queensland forest land.

Like Taranaki farmers, NSW and Queensland farmers are unable to sell or insure their land once a fossil fuel company sinks a fracking well on or near their property.

For the most part, Australian farmers seem primarily concerned about the potential contamination of the Great Artesian Basin (GAB), an underground lake that supplies water to the majority of Australia’s agricultural land. The GAB is fed by a complex system of aquifers that interface with the coal deposits Santos is fracking (fracturing) for gas. Environmentalists and indigenous Australians are mainly concerned that fracking will destroy the Pilliga Forest, which sacred land and contains numerous endangered species. In light of the horrendous wildfires Australia has experienced over the last several years (and the extremely flammability of the methane gas they are extracting), I find it mind blogging the NSW government is allowing open flaring at Pilliga Forest well sites.

Overall I found it extremely gratifying to see conservative Aussie farmers (who have never protested against anything) uniting with environmentalists and indigenous activists.

Taranaki activists have played a similar role to Queensland activists in persuading other New Zealand communities not to open their pristine agricultural land to foreign oil and gas companies. At present Taranaki Energy Watch is battling local government and the petroleum industry in Environment Court to keep new fracking rigs away from our homes and schools. You can find out more about our case (and donate if you feel so inclined) at our Givealittle page:Taranaki Energy Watch

How the War on Drugs Increases Drug Use and Destroys Communities

The House I Live In: The War on Drugs in the United States

Directed by Eugene Jerecki (2012)

Film Review

Last night Maori TV showed The House I Live In, which maintains the US War on Drugs is far more destructive than drugs themselves. Instead of reducing illicit drug use, the War on Drugs has vastly increased it – in part because it has shifted funding from treatment to enforcement.

The documentary traces how drugs enforcement has always been targeted, not against drugs, but against ethnic minorities (and removing them from the workforce). In the white community, drug addiction has always been viewed as a public health problem. Yet in the 19th century, the first opium laws were targeted against Chinese workers imported to work on the railroads; in the early 1900s cocaine enforcement was targeted against African Americans migrating from the South to northern cities; and in the 1920s and 1930s, the first marijuana laws were directed against Hispanics coming to the US seeking work.

Although the War on Drugs was initially launched to win votes for politicians (by promising to increase incarceration rates), there seem to be other factors that are perpetuating it. According to the filmmakers, the main three are mandatory minimum sentences (which force judges to hand out 20-30 year sentences for relatively minor nonviolent drug offenses, incentives that reward cops to pursue easy drug busts* rather than more dangerous crimes like murder and rape, and the job-creating potential of the profitable prison-industrial complex.

For me the most surprising part of the film concerned the increase in amphetamine-related arrests (occurring mainly in white men) since the 2008 global economic crash. After losing their jobs, many blue collar whites have turned to amphetamine manufacture and distribution to support their families. Thus a growing number of poor whites are facing the ridiculously long mandatory sentences African and Hispanic communities have been struggling with since the 1990s.


*These incentives also cause police to focus enforcement efforts on the ghetto. This results in much higher arrest rates from African Americans, even though they use illicit drugs at roughly the same rates as whites and other ethnicities.

French Prosecutors Charge Apple Under Planned Obsolescence Law

Prosecutors in France have charged Apple with deliberately slowing down older iphones when new models come on the market. The strategy, they claim, is to pressure users to upgrade to a new version. In France, it’s illegal for a manufacturer to deliberately decrease the lifespan of a product.

Apple admits to slowing down older iphones “to protect battery life.” They claim the problem can be solved if the user shells out another $30 for a new battery. Consumer advocates the new batteries should be free, as buyers weren’t advised of this additional cost at the time of purchase.

French iphone users are extremely angry. It would seem French consumers are quicker than those of us in the English-speaking world to recognize when they’re being ripped off.

This new scandal comes on the heels of a $13 billion fine the EU has slapped on Apple for tax evasion: Paradise Papers Expose Tax Cheats

And growing evidence about the health dangers of wireless technology The Dark Side of Wireless Technology

Al Jazeera examines the controversy on their current affairs program* Inside Story


*For younger readers, “current affairs” refers to a type of mainstream media in the late 20th century in which government issues affecting people’s daily lives were objectively examined and critiqued.