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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 04/10/2011 - 04/17/2011
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Yes, Virginia, the banksters are really indictable crooks

when will accountability and the rule of law that we so sanctimoniously preach to the rest of the world return to our shores...?
Fiscal Scandals: Goldman Sachs May Have Misled Investors, Banks Investigated for Collusion

At this point, news of big banks engaging in illegal and unethical activities is no real shocker, but that doesn't make it any less infuriating. And today, there are not one but two gems for you to gnaw on, via Daily Beast.

First, a two-year Senate Panel inquiry into Goldman Sachs has shown the firm may have misled both Congress and investors about housing market securities. Senator Carl Levin, D-MI, wants the Justice Department and the SEC to investigate 'whether Goldman Sachs violated the law by misleading clients who bought the complex securities known as collateralized debt obligations without knowing the firm would benefit if they fell in value,' reports Bloomberg.

Last year, Sachs employees -- including CEO Lloyd Blankfein -- testified under oath that Goldman Sachs did not bet against the mortgage market for profit -- and if the probe finds otherwise, they could be indicted for perjury, as well. “In my judgment,” said Senator Levin in a press briefing, “Goldman clearly misled their clients and they misled the Congress.”

And in a separate matter, US investigators are looking into whether big banks worked together to alter interest rates during the financial crisis, reports the WSJ. The DoJ and the SEC suspect institutions such as Bank of America and Citigroup colluded to manipulate the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor), by understating their borrowing costs and keeping the global loan rate artificially low -- knowingly affecting trillions of dollars around the world and putting global finances in peril.

amazingly enough, even booz and company, the ultimate insider "global management consulting firm," per their strategy + business newsletter, is waking up...
The Comp Problem at Big Banks

This paper shines a spotlight on billions of dollars’ worth of stock trades made by the CEOs of some of the top financial institutions in the U.S. in the years leading up to the 2008 economic crisis. Highly lucrative compensation programs encouraged many of the CEOs to sell their company stock for large short-term gains, researchers found, raising the possibility that they took their eyes off the long-term needs of their shareholders and embraced excessive risk.

The researchers studied the executive compensation structures between 2000 and 2008 at the 14 largest U.S. financial institutions at that time: AIG, Bank of America, Bank of New York, Bear Stearns, Citigroup, Countrywide Financial, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Lehman Brothers, Mellon Financial, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, State Street, and Wells Fargo.

Drawing on trading data from the Thomson Financial Insider database (now called Thomson Reuters Insider) and information from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the study focused on the CEOs’ buys and sells of company stock in the eight years before the downturn. During this period, the CEOs collectively exercised stock options 470 times, purchasing a total of US$1.66 billion in shares. They made direct purchases on their own 73 times, for $36 million. But they sold their shares nearly 30 times as often — on 2,048 occasions. Overall, the sales came to $3.47 billion, netting them $1.77 billion after the cost of their options and direct purchases was subtracted. That works out to almost $16 million per year, on average, for each of the CEOs. They also received cash compensation of $891 million during these years, or another $8 million annually, on average.

and, of course, glenn has been pounding away on our completely out-of-balance justice system for some time now...
The two-tiered justice system: an illustration

Of all the topics on which I've focused, I've likely written most about America's two-tiered justice system -- the way in which political and financial elites now enjoy virtually full-scale legal immunity for even the most egregious lawbreaking, while ordinary Americans, especially the poor and racial and ethnic minorities, are subjected to exactly the opposite treatment: the world's largest prison state and most merciless justice system.


The New York Times this morning has a long article so perfectly illustrating what I mean by "two-tiered justice system" -- and the way in which it obliterates the core covenant of the American Founding: equality before the law -- that it's impossible for me not to highlight it.

The article's headline tells most of the story: "In Financial Crisis, No Prosecutions of Top Figures." It asks: "why, in the aftermath of a financial mess that generated hundreds of billions in losses, have no high-profile participants in the disaster been prosecuted?" And it recounts that not only have no high-level culprits been indicted (or even subjected to meaningful criminal investigations), but few have suffered any financial repercussions in the form of civil enforcements or other lawsuits. The evidence of rampant criminality that led to the 2008 financial crisis is overwhelming, but perhaps the clearest and most compelling such evidence comes from long-time Wall-Street-servant Alan Greenspan; even he was forced to acknowledge that much of the precipitating conduct was "certainly illegal and clearly criminal" and that "a lot of that stuff was just plain fraud."

Despite that clarity and abundance of the evidence proving pervasive criminality, it's entirely unsurprising that there have been no real criminal investigations or prosecutions. That's because the overarching "principle" of our justice system is that criminal prosecutions are only for ordinary rabble, not for those who are most politically and financially empowered. We have thus created precisely the two-tiered justice system against which the Founders most stridently warned and which contemporary legal scholars all agree is the hallmark of a lawless political culture.

as i sit and talk with my afghan friends here in kabul, they communicate an increasing realization of just how hypocritical our american system is... around the world, the u.s. preaches all this good stuff but it is blindingly clear that we don't walk our talk...

the afghans totally understand that there are those of us who are here for them and are willing to take the risk to come here and help in any way we can but they also clearly see just how much of a mess our system is capable of creating and the good that some of us are doing most often is completely offset by that mess... i just wish the average person on the street in the u.s. could see just how evident our hypocrisy is from a vantage point like this... that said, there are also plenty of u.s. people right here in afghanistan who are either unwilling or incapable of seeing it either...

cognitive dissonance of this magnitude simply can't stand the test of time... a reckoning is long overdue...

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fuck Barack Obama, his super-rich, elite clients and...

the horse he rode in on...

i rarely resort to crudity in my post headlines but i am SO-O-O-OOO sick of this shit...

robert scheer...

There is currently no shortage of corporate profits or excessive executive compensation to explain away the failure of the private sector to create jobs. On the contrary, as The New York Times reports, “In the fourth quarter, profits at American businesses were up an astounding 29.2 percent, the fastest growth in more than 60 years. Collectively, American corporations logged profits at an annual rate of $1.678 trillion.” And to add insult to injury, the top executives, who seem unable or unwilling to create jobs or adequately reward their workers, have increased their own compensation by a whopping 12 percent over the previous year, setting the median pay at $9.6 million per year for those in control of the leading 200 companies. The Times adds that “C.E.O. pay is also on the rise again at companies like Capital One and Goldman Sachs, which survived the economic storm with the help of all of those taxpayer-financed bailouts.”


[O]ur debt now looms so large because the government had to bail out many of those same corporations, quite a few of which, like General Electric and AIG, pay no taxes and have no problem paying truly obscene amounts to their top executives.


Continued tax breaks for the 1 percent of the population that controls 40 percent of the nation’s wealth will do nothing to restore the confidence of the other 99 percent of consumers who are suffering so.

This at least Obama seems to understand, but count on him to betray his own better instincts by once again following the advice of his treasury secretary and the Wall Street crowd that contributed so lavishly to his first presidential campaign and whose support he seeks once again.

meanwhile, here i sit in kabul, afghanistan, where good people are struggling every day just to survive while u.s. money leaves the country for dubai by the millions every day in the briefcases of crooks...

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The UN special rapporteur on torture, said: "I am deeply disappointed and frustrated by the prevarication of the US government"

i love diplomatic-speak...
pre·var·i·cat·ed pre·var·i·cat·ing
Definition of PREVARICATE
intransitive verb
: to deviate from the truth : equivocate
— pre·var·i·ca·tion noun
— pre·var·i·ca·tor noun

most of us would call it lying...
A senior United Nations representative on torture, Juan Mendez, issued a rare reprimand to the US government on Monday for failing to allow him to meet in private Bradley Manning, the American soldier accused of being the WikiLeaks source and held in a military prison. It is the kind of censure the UN normally reserves for authoritarian regimes around the world.

Mendez, the UN special rapporteur on torture, said: "I am deeply disappointed and frustrated by the prevarication of the US government with regard to my attempts to visit Mr Manning."

Manning's supporters claim that the US is being vindictive in its treatment of Manning, who is held at the marine base at Quantico, Virginia, in conditions they describe as inhumane.

Mendez told the Guardian: "I am acting on a complaint that the regimen of this detainee amounts to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or torture … until I have all the evidence in front of me, I cannot say whether he has been treated inhumanely."

Mendez said the vast majority of states allowed for visits to detainees without conditions. But the US department of defence would not allow him to make an "official" visit, only a "private" one. An official visit would mean he meets Manning without a guard. A private visit means with a guard. Also, anything the prisoner says could be used in a court-martial.

Mendez said his mandate was to conduct unmonitored visits. He had met representatives from the state department and the Pentagon on Friday and learned their decision over the weekend.

Although he was prepared to meet Manning with a guard present, he would continue to press for an unmonitored visit.

"I am insisting the US government lets me see him without witnesses. I am asking [the US government] to reconsider," Mendez said.

Colonel Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said: "We cannot, under Quantico brig practice, guarantee the UN special rapporteur an unmonitored visit. At Quantico, such a guarantee is only reserved for attorney-client communications. As in the federal prison system, and for security reasons, the department of defence does not guarantee unmonitored communications with confinees except for privileged communications or in other special circumstances not present here."

the level of hypocrisy is positively laughable as glenn so eloquently points out...

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"A naked attempt to redistribute yet more money to the country's rich at the expense of everyone else"

i don't recognize my own country any more... it's being run entirely by the super-rich, elites hell-bent on getting every scrap of power and money into their own greedy hands...
Government by People Who Hate You

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan put out a budget proposal last week that will leave the vast majority of future retirees without decent health care by ending Medicare as we know it. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis, most middle-income retirees would have to pay almost half of their income to purchase a Medicare equivalent insurance package by 2030. They would be paying much more than half of their income in later years.

This sort of broadside against the living standards of the middle class might have been expected to draw an outraged response in a nation that exalts the lifestyle and values of the middle class. Instead, the punditry rallied around Mr. Ryan's plan to deal with the problem of runaway entitlement spending, crediting it for being "serious" even if they did not embrace all the details.

If there is any doubt that our political system is controlled by an elite who is completely removed from the bulk of the population, this response to the Ryan plan ended it. There is nothing at all serious about the Ryan plan. It is a naked attempt to redistribute yet more money to the country's rich at the expense of everyone else.

why should we constantly be fighting off attacks on our livelihoods and the basic security of our lives that should never, ever be in question...? why are we having to fight for every micron of our dignity, our humanity, our future...? when did my country turn so terribly petty, so unconscionably mean, so totally focused on greed, power and money...? yes, i know it has always been that way to some extent - perhaps to a large extent - but now it's nothing but a bald-faced "fuck you, i've got mine" mentality...

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Hedges: Transforming a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs

which has been the plan all along...

chris hedges...

A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs.

sigh... i hate posting on the truth but better that than sticking my head in the sand...

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Killing real people from your Barcalounger

MQ9 Reaper

i've mentioned in previous posts that for the past two consecutive summers, i've parked my rv in a park right next to military folks who were either flying or commanding drone missions in afghanistan and pakistan... both were very, shall we say, strident in their support of the u.s. military mission in general and of the need to "eradicate" terrorists in particular, so in my conversations with them i had to be somewhat circumspect about revealing my true political leanings... i was mostly interested in being a good neighbor and also learning a little bit about what they did... they confirmed what i already knew, that they were basically fighter pilots operating out of the same schema and under the same command and control structure as fighter pilots... the big difference, of course, was that they could come home every day to their wives and families, order pizza, watch tv and shop at walmart, rather than do duty in a combat zone or at an air base or aircraft carrier far from home...

this morning, as i sit in my office here in kabul, afghanistan, and look out the window at a sunny, springtime scene, fresh after a day of steady drizzling rain (somewhat of a rarity in this arid climate), i can't help but sweep the skies for a glimpse of a predator drone and reflect on this la times story...

Combat by camera

Anatomy of an Afghan war tragedy

rather than extract from the article, i suggest you go read it... it will break your heart...

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