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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 65,085

Journal Archives

Quelle Surprise! US and UK to File Criminal Charges Against Small Fry for Barclay’s Libor Abuses

from Naked Capitalism:

Quelle Surprise! US and UK to File Criminal Charges Against Small Fry for Barclay’s Libor Abuses

Now before anyone gets excited about the specter of bankers doing a perp walk, the early word in a Wall Street Journal story on criminal charges being readied against former Barclays bankers says that the prosecutions will target “midlevel traders.” This exercise thus continues the established pattern of small fry serving as human shields for managers and executives.

As anyone in finance knows, just going after the little guys, while better than nothing, is hardly adequate. Senior executives get paid on the profits (or more accurately, the apparent profits) of the activities in their purview. And as we’ve also discussed (long form in ECONNED, but also often here on this blog) risk management and other control functions are too often politically weak by design. Even if the staff in those areas are making an honest effort at doing their job, their real function is often to serve as a fig leaf for management (“look, we had all the box checking stuff required by the law in place. It’s not our fault if some rogue employees were savvy enough to game our systems”). And on top of that, the incentives for the staffers in these units is frequently to curry favor with the producers. For instance, risk managers have technical skills but make less money than traders and often the folks who do trading analytics. So they have every reason to try to impress trading managers in the hopes of getting plucked out of risk management rather than riding herd on those producers.

Similarly, at Standard, the order by New York State’s Benjamin Lawsky revealed that the bank’s legal department was working aggressively to circumvent money laundering rules rather than enforce them, even when outside counsel told them they needed to clean up their act.

Things have gotten so topsy-turvy that a colleague has joined a major financial firm in a compliance role working for the head of a major product area. His job is to tell his boss what he can and can’t do and be firm about it. And based on his experience so far (more than a year) his boss seems to be tough about compliance. Why would a producer type be so concerned? Normally, you’d expect a guy like him to be fighting with firm-wide compliance. Apparently this top manager is concerned that if anything bad happened in his unit, he’d be thrown under the bus by top management. So while this is something of an improvement on the old status quo (of anything goes if you can blame low level staff), it still shows that top level management aren’t doing their jobs at these firm, of having serious controls in place, because they know they won’t be the ones who suffer much if a scandal arises. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/06/quelle-surprise-us-and-uk-to-file-criminal-charges-against-small-fry-for-barclays-libor-abuses.html

Washington D.C.: Riders try out Metro’s new stainless steel fare gates

(WaPo) Select groups of Metro riders got their first glimpse this week of the next generation of subway fare gates.

A total of about 60 riders were invited to various sessions to test nine different machines in the basement of Metro’s headquarters as the transit agency prepares to replace the current fare gates and revamp the way passengers pay.

The machines had been shrouded in white tarps for weeks. On Wednesday night, about a dozen members of the transit agency’s riders advisory group got to try out the gates.

“This is about looking at the design, the ease of use and the experience of using it,” Alison Simon, Metro’s director of customer research, told a group of riders before taking them through the new fare gates. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/riders-try-out-metros-new-stainless-steel-fare-gates/2013/06/06/06a43e6e-ceb9-11e2-9f1a-1a7cdee20287_story.html

Civil Liberties Are Not Something You Trade

from Esquire:

Civil Liberties Are Not Something You Trade
By Charles P. Pierce

The blog doesn't like to get all civics class on your ass that often, but there's one trope zipping around out there at the moment in connection with the current storm over phone records and data mining that makes me a little bit crazy -- and that is the discussion of whether or not the American people will "trade off" civil liberties for what is really merely a sense of security. (You know what, folks? Don't tell me about all the terror plots you've foiled if you're not going to give me details. There is no reason to believe you. Either don't mention them at all, or convince me. There's no third alternative.) The terms of the transaction are obviously incorrect. The American people are not being asked to "trade" their civil liberties. They are being asked to surrender them, for all practical purposes, permanently.

Civil liberties are not something you get to "trade," not least because they don't all belong to you. They belong to me, too, and to the woman at the next table here at the Commonwealth Avenue Starbucks -- Oh, c'mon, you knew where I was anyway, NSA guys. -- and to the four people who just walked down the street past the big plate-glass window. You give yours away, you're giving mine away, too, whether I want you to do so or not. Therefore, we all surrender those civil liberties. We do not trade them because we don't get anything back. And it's not like we can cut another deal later to get them back.

We at least should be honest about this. We aren't making a square deal with an equal partner here. We are committing ourselves to be less free. We did it with drugs, when people got us frightened of shadows on the wall, and then we did it with terrorism, when real events occurred. We did it with Communists way back in the 1920's and the 1950's, and with the French during the administration of John Fking Adams, for god's sake. We decide to be less free. And I say "we," because, frankly, outside of the usual Obama-bashers and a handful of people like me who were yelling about this stuff way back in the day, I'm not seeing a political groundswell to take action to remedy the situation. (Are you going to vote for a presidential candidate next time around who campaigns on the platform that he will weaken the office? Good luck with that.) There is going to be a lot of noise for a while and then, maybe, in 2016, we'll elect a Republican and hardly anyone will care any more. We are a less free people. We are a people who have decided, en masse, and through our choice of leaders, to be a less free people. We should at least own that, and not talk about "trading" things that were not ours to give away.


Bulk of U.S. Payroll Gain in Jobs Paying Less-Than-Average Wages

(Bloomberg) Occupations paying below-average wages accounted for more than half of last month’s U.S. payroll increase, a dynamic that may restrain consumer spending and the economic recovery.

Retailers, the hospitality industry and temporary-help agencies accounted for 96,300, or 55 percent, of 175,000 jobs added in May, figures from the Labor Department showed today in Washington.

“It’s not just jobs, it’s the kinds of jobs we’re creating,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Chicago-based Mesirow Financial Inc. “We need to see more broad-based and even growth in the economy to see better jobs return. We’re still relying too much on the part-time and contingent workforce.”

The composition of the employment gain caused hourly earnings for all employees to stagnate at $23.89 on average last month, up a cent from April. They rose 2 percent over the past 12 months, compared with year-to-year increases averaging 3.5 percent in the 10 months leading up to the recession that began in December 2007. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-07/bulk-of-u-s-payroll-gain-in-jobs-paying-less-than-average-wages.html

NSA surveillance (cartoon)

One day, we'll recognize the debt we owe to the likes of Amy Goodman and Bill Moyers.....

....... I'm watching Democracy Now!, covering the NSA story, talking to whistleblowers and scholars you'll never hear from on MSM.
In an era where 'news' often amounts to dictation from government or corporate spokespeople, they are beacons in the dense fog.

The new chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission is fresh off Wall Street

from In These Times:

Obama’s SEC Cop-Out
The new chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission is fresh off Wall Street.

BY Joel Bleifuss

Mary Jo White, confirmed April 8 as President Barack Obama’s choice for chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), has a wealth of experience—and a pile of wealth. From 2002 to 2013, White was the head of litigation at Debevoise & Plimpton, where her clients included the likes of UBS, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley. Servicing the legal needs of bankers has been good to White and her husband John, also a partner of an industry-friendly firm. Bloomberg reports the Whites’ financial disclosure forms show they own “assets valued between $9.9 million and $41 million.”

In March, White’s nomination sailed through the Senate Banking Committee 21 to one. Lone dissenter Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) voiced concern about “Washington’s long-held bias toward Wall Street and its inability to find watchdogs outside of the very industry that they are meant to police.”

When nominating White, Obama promised that she will be a “cop on the beat.” Yeah, but who on her beat will she “serve and protect”?

Ka-ching! Now we know.

On May 1, in her first SEC vote, White shepherded through a proposal that would allow foreign branches of American banks to ignore DoddFrank financial reform regulations that control the $700 trillion derivatives market. Instead, U.S. banks would be free to trade derivatives under the rules of host countries where regulations are weak or nonexistent. ............................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/15108/mary_jo_white_sec_cop_out/

David Sirota: Rethinking American Exceptionalism

Rethinking American Exceptionalism
America is certainly exceptional, but that isn’t necessarily something to be proud of.

BY David Sirota

“American exceptionalism” is perhaps the most misunderstood phrase in politics. If, like the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, we define “exceptionalism” as “the condition of being different from the norm” - then it's certainly true that America is exceptional. But we rarely stop to ask: Should we always want to be exceptional?

The assumption in our culture is yes - but it's not always so clear-cut when you consider the key ways we are exceptional in comparison to other industrialized countries.

America, for instance, has an exceptional economy. GDP-wise, it is the largest in the world, making it the planet's most powerful engine of technological innovation and wealth creation. At the same time, the economy is exceptional for creating the industrialized world's most financially unequal society; producing one of the industrialized world's highest rates of childhood poverty; and mandating the industrialized world's least amount of off time (paid sick days, maternity leave, etc.).

In terms of health care, we have an exceptional system that stands out for spending more than any other nation's. According to the Cato Institute's Michael Tanner, that gets us a system that “is at the top of the charts when it comes to surviving cancer (and) drives much of the innovation and research on health care worldwide.” ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/15121/rethinking_american_exceptionalism/

Eugene Robinson: The End of the Right of Privacy?

from truthdig:

The End of the Right of Privacy?

Posted on Jun 6, 2013
By Eugene Robinson

Someday, a young girl will look up into her father’s eyes and ask, “Daddy, what was privacy?”

The father probably won’t recall. I fear we’ve already forgotten that there was a time when a U.S. citizen’s telephone calls were nobody else’s business. A time when people would have been shocked and angered to learn that the government is compiling a detailed log of ostensibly private calls made and received by millions of Americans.

The Guardian newspaper of Britain reported Thursday night that the U.S. government is collecting such information about customers of Verizon Business Network Services, one of the nation’s biggest providers of phone and Internet services to corporations. The ho-hum reaction from officials who are in the know suggests that the government may be compiling similar information about Americans who use other phone service providers as well.

The Guardian got its scoop by obtaining a secret order signed by U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Since we know so little about this shadowy court’s proceedings and rulings, it’s hard to put the Verizon order in context. The instructions to Verizon about what information it must provide take up just one paragraph, with almost no detail or elaboration. The tone suggests a communication between parties who both know the drill. .............................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_end_of_the_right_of_privacy_20130606/

NSA Spying: Whistleblowers Claim Vindication On Surveillance State Warnings

For years, four former National Security Agency analysts warned that the government was conducting widespread surveillance on domestic communications. Their warnings were largely ignored.

But on Thursday, after The Guardian newspaper reported that Verizon was turning over customer phone records to the intelligence agency as part of a secret court order, Kirk Wiebe had a “feeling of great gratification.”

“What we've been saying all along has proven to be so," the 68-year-old whistleblower told The Huffington Post. "Our worst fears are being realized.”

While at the NSA, Wiebe, along with Ed Loomis and Bill Binney, created a computer program that could isolate large amounts of information collected by the NSA while protecting Americans’ privacy. But the NSA ignored their program, saying “it was too invasive,” Loomis said. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/06/nsa-spying-whistleblowers_n_3399258.html?ncid=txtlnkushpmg00000037&ir=Politics

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