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Hometown: Connecticut
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Member since: Thu May 15, 2008, 04:37 PM
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Journal Archives

Egyptians for Democracy - UK slams EU stance on Egypt's presidential elections

June 7, 2014

Egyptians for Democracy - UK has described the EU's stance on Egypt's presidential elections as particularly objectionable given that Field Marshall Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi has committed what Human Rights Watch described as the 'worst human rights atrocity in modern Egyptian history'. The group deplored the EU's decision to congratulate Al-Sisi one year after his regime carried out the massacre of peaceful protestors in Cairo.

The statement added that Egyptians for Democracy-UK were extremely disappointed that the EU had not vetted the veracity of the government's claim of a 46% turnout.

Dr Maha Azzam, chair of Egyptians for Democracy-UK and a founding member of the Brussels Initiative said "It is particularly disappointing that the EU is endorsing a political leader who came to power on the back of a mass night rally, negating the democratic process by offering the prospect of a 'strong leader', murdering thousands of peaceful protestors and imprisoning tens of thousands of political dissidents."

"I would like to point out to the EU that it is poignant that their statement of support for this xenophobic military regime came out one day before we commemorated the 70th anniversary of D Day. I would have hoped that the lessons of history were not so quickly forgotten by Europe's democracies", she added.


In the war on terrorism, only al-Qa'ida thrives

World View: Exhaustion could end Syria's bloody civil conflict, so long as foreign backers really want it

June 8, 2014

It has been a good week for those who like their hypocrisy neat and straight from the bottle. There was US Secretary of State John Kerry condemning the Syrian presidential election in which Bashar al-Assad was re-elected for a third time against nominal opposition as "a great big zero". But at the same time, the US and Britain said they were officially looking forward to working with president-elect Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt who is turning out to be a somewhat comical figure who cannot even fix an election properly. Despite an official holiday, free transport, massive media support, religious encouragement and the threat of $70 fines for non-voters, polling booths remained stubbornly empty or underused.

Of course, the hypocrisy does not end there. For all his triumphalism over the turnout in Syria, Assad's way of dealing with parts of Syria not under his control is to shell them and drop barrel bombs on them. Nor is the opposition much better when it comes to targeting civilians, except that its means of destruction are much less than that of the state. In Aleppo, the government pounds rebel-held districts in the east of the city, with a population of 300,000, with barrel bombs dropped from helicopters. These attacks have become even more lethal since the helicopters started operating at night when civilians cannot see them in time to take cover.

A reporter in Aleppo, who writes under the name of Edward Dark for the online magazine al-Monitor, mentions a case that "clearly illustrates the ludicrous nature of this inhumane conflict that happened to the Sheikh Maksud neighbourhood in Aleppo". He relates how, when this district was held by Assad's forces, it was regularly shelled by the rebels who said it was full of pro-government militiamen. When the rebels stormed and captured Sheikh Maksud in March 2013, it was the Syrian army that blazed away indiscriminately into the civilian houses that were still standing.

Almost any development in Syria these days should be regarded with some cynicism. For instance, when a ceasefire is declared in a suburb of Damascus and the rebel fighters switch sides, it is often with the assurance that in future they will be allowed to man checkpoints in their districts and have 50 per cent of the takings extorted from passing vehicles. I was in Nabq on the Damascus-Homs main road earlier this year, where government forces had arranged a public celebration of their success in driving out the rebels. Local people angrily pointed out that all that had happened was that rebel fighters, having previously sworn to fight to the last bullet against Assad, had simply joined the pro-government National Defence Force militia and were happily taking part in celebrations of their own defeat and expulsion from Nabq.


Senate Debates Constitutional Amendment to Rein In Outside Cash

Though Democrats and Republicans are split down party lines on whether to add a constitutional amendment to limit campaign spending, both parties ignore 50 percent of Americans in favor of public financing

June 6, 14

Transcript: JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: The Senate Judiciary Committee met Tuesday to discuss a proposed constitutional amendment which would grant Congress the authority to regulate the campaign financing system.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid said the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, which ruled that corporate campaign contributions are a form of free speech, opened up the floodgates for unlimited and untraceable campaign cash.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): The decisions of the Supreme Court have the American people with a status quo in which one side's billionaires are pitted against the other side's billionaires. So we sit here today with a simple choice. We can keep the status quo and argue all day and all night, weekends, forever, about whose billionaires are right and whose billionaires are wrong. Or we can work together to change the system to get this shady money out of our democracy and restore the basic principles of one American, one vote.

DESVARIEUX: In April, the Supreme Court loosened campaign finance regulations even further in its ruling on the FEC v. McCutcheon case. It did away with aggregate limits on contributions to candidates, political parties, and political action committees. The previous limit was $123,000 during a two-year period. As with the Citizens United case, the Supreme Court ruled that campaign contributions are a form of free speech. Republican senator from iowa Chuck Grassley agrees.


Thousands of Area C Residents Face Expulsion ( B'Tselem )

Civil Administration demolishes nearly half the homes in community of Id’eis, the Jordan Valley

On 21 May 2014, Civil Administration and army forces demolished approximately half of the homes and livestock pens in the community of Id’eis in the Jordan Valley, leaving 53 persons homeless. This joins other extensive efforts by Israeli authorities to expel thousands of Palestinians from their homes throughout Area C, despite the prohibition on forced transfer in international law. B’Tselem calls on authorities to allow the Id’eis community continue its agricultural lifestyle undisturbed, as it has done for the last thirty years.

Ne’meh Id’eis, 56, a resident of the community and mother of four, described the demolition in her testimony to B’Tselem field researcher ‘Atef Abu a-Rub:

Many soldiers, big tractors, police and cars blocked off the lands around us. They ordered us to get our belongings out of our homes, and in less than half an hour they demolished everything. They left nothing. The little children and the lambs stood in the sun or under trees. All our personal belongings were outside, and the tractors scraped through and destroyed all our structures. They left no stone unturned. They left us no roof to shelter under. We were left outside with nothing. They even destroyed the stone oven I use to bake bread for the children. I asked them to leave it for us so we could eat, but it was like talking to a wall.

In just a few hours, the place was in ruins, I swear, like a war zone. The army and tractors left, and then the journalists came and everyone wanted to get pictures of the place.


WSJ Suggests Hollande May Redefine Chutzpah by Complaining to Obama about BNP Paribas on 70th D Day

Posted on June 1, 2014

By William K. Black

I am not a French hater – and there is no “but” to that clause. The Wall Street Journal, however, frequently engages in French bashing. The WSJ has also, unintentionally and unknowingly, suggested that the French may act in a manner that would provide a new humorous answer to the old joke that begins: “What is chutzpah?” The context is that the U.S. and New York state authorities are negotiating with BNP Paribas (a very large French bank) to settle a series of felonies involving primarily sanction-busting – and covering up those crimes.

A political movement has arisen in France opposing any U.S. criminal actions against Paribas. Americans will have no difficulty understanding this political dynamic, particularly because our Department of Justice (DOJ) continues to give a total pass to the U.S. officers who led the accounting control frauds that drove the crisis and prosecutes only foreign financial operations. What is remarkable is the WSJ’s suggestion of how the French Prime Minister Hollande might bring French objections personally to the attention of President Obama.

“ny hefty penalty imposed on BNP Paribas could revive trans-Atlantic tensions….”

“Mr. Hollande will meet with President Barack Obama next week during ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day….”

So, let me see whether I have this right. The French goal is to avoid “reviv trans-Atlantic tensions” and the means of doing so would be for Hollande to complain to Obama about Paribas – on “the 70th anniversary of D-Day.” I’m a strong critic of Hollande, but I don’t think he would display the chutzpah of using the anniversary of the death and grievous wounding of thousands of Americans who stormed the beaches of France to liberate that Nation from Nazi occupation as the time to complain about holding Paribas (mildly) accountable for the crimes of its officers.


The OCC Carefully Studies How to Fail

Posted on May 29, 2014 by William Black

The reason we have recurrent, intensifying financial crises is because we learn the wrong lessons from our prior crises and actively make things worse. The consistent explanation for our making things worse is that dogmas lead to “doubling down” on failed faith-based policies. The dominant ideologues in the U.S. and Europe on financial policies are theoclassical economists and their fellow choir members – neoclassical economists. A small article in the Wall Street Journal provides a classic example of the continuing destruction driven by these dogmas.

The WSJ article, of course, sees none of this. It fails to distinguish between two very different concepts. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is supposed to regulate “national banks” – the largest banks. The first concept is where examiners’ offices are located. The OCC uses “resident” examiners in the largest banks. This means that hundreds of OCC (and Fed) examiners have offices in the huge banks. Resident examiners are a terrible idea because they invariably “marry the natives.” When the Fed “marries the natives” it constitutes incest because the NY Fed (which examines many of the largest bank holding companies) has traditionally been one branch of the inbred Wall Street family. The OCC, under Presidents Clinton and Bush, was nearly as bad because it was engaged in a “race to the bottom” with the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) to see which could “triumph” as the worst federal banking regulator.

If the OCC proposal was to cut back dramatically on resident examiners in order to beef up normal examination frequency and scope that would a very good thing that we could applaud. That would be the obvious fix that any effective supervisor would have implemented as soon as he or she was appointed. This is the second concept that the OCC could have meant by its proposal. It does not appear that the second concept is what the OCC’s leadership has in mind. Their system has increasingly deemphasized examination in favor of off-site monitoring (analysts in government office buildings looking at their computers). The OCC has not announced that it adopting an increase in examination frequency or the scope of examinations as a result of its decision to reduce the number of resident examiners.

We Know How to Make Examination and Supervision Succeed

In a normal examination the examiners’ offices are located in a federal building but the examination takes place in the bank’s offices. These examinations are our paramount function as banking regulators. In a well-functioning regulatory agency everyone adds value, but none of us can succeed if the examiners fail. During the S&L debacle, the reason we were able to reregulate successfully, to bring thousands of successful enforcement actions, and hundreds of civil actions, and to make it possible for the Department of Justice to obtain over 1,000 felony convictions in cases it designated as “major” was the examiners’ success. George Akerlof and Paul Romer recognized this point.

in full: http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2014/05/occ-carefully-studies-fail.html

Credit Suisse’s Guilty Plea: The WSJ Uses the Right Adjective to Modify the Wrong Noun

May 21, 2014

The Wall Street Journal has editorialized about Credit Suisse’s guilty plea in a piece entitled “If Credit Suisse really is a criminal, why protect it from regulators?” More precisely, and confusingly, the full title is:

“Holder Convicts Switzerland

If Credit Suisse really is a criminal, why protect it from regulators?”

The U.S. Saved Switzerland and Its Banks

I’ll begin by responding to the WSJ’s weird claims about Switzerland. Far from “convict Switzerland,” the U.S. Fed bailed out the Swiss Central Bank at the acute phase of the crisis (by making large unsecured loans to it in dollars) so that it in turn could provide dollars to its two massive, insolvent, and fraudulent banks (UBS and Credit Suisse). The Treasury, with the support of Secretaries Paulson and Geithner, used AIG to secretly bail out not only Goldman Sachs but also UBS (to the tune of $5 billion). The unconscionable deal was so toxic that the heads of each of the three U.S. financial regulatory agencies involved (Treasury, the Fed, and the NY Fed) deny that they had any involvement in the decision – it’s the Virgin Bailout.

UBS was contemporaneously negotiating a deal with the U.S. to pay a fine of $780 million to settle its criminal liability for aiding and abetting tax fraud by wealthy U.S. tax cheats – so we, in economic substance, paid their entire fine and added a bonus of $4.22 billion that rewarded the frauds. As always, the fine was assessed solely on UBS, not the controlling officers who grew wealthy through UBS’ frauds, so the senior officers got even wealthier through the massive tax fraud and the secret AIG bailout and they overwhelmingly got to keep their jobs and bonuses that their frauds and our bailouts maximized. (The secret U.S. bailout of UBS is considerably larger than the fines assessed to UBS and now Credit Suisse – combined – so the claim of U.S. hostility to Switzerland that the WSJ is pushing on their editorial pages is refuted by the facts.)

That secret Treasury bailout via AIG was in addition to the Fed bailout that kept UBS and Credit Suisse from collapsing in 2008. Herr Dr. Hummler, the head of Switzerland’s oldest private bank – the man who propagated the claim throughout Europe that the financial crisis was caused by making home loans to black Americans – bragged in my presence at a conference in Switzerland that the only reason his bank existed was to aid tax evasion by wealthy U.S. citizens. His bank, being small and unprotected by “too big to prosecute” was eliminated by U.S. criminal sanctions. He was up front about the fact that Switzerland’s fundamental strategy was to encourage and aid and abet the wealthiest people in the world evading their nations’ tax laws.

in full: http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2014/05/credit-suisses-guilty-plea-wsj-uses-right-adjective-modify-wrong-noun.html

The New Joke Defining the Supercharged Version of Chutzpah ( William K. Black )

Posted on May 16, 2014

By William K. Black

The old joke about how to answer the question: “what does chutzpah mean?” – has been rendered woefully inadequate by events. The old answer was: “Chutzpah is when a son kills his mother and father and asks the court at sentencing to show him mercy because he is an orphan.” The two variants of the new answer to the question of what chutzpah means are:

“Chutzpah is when a foreign corporation that commits tens of thousands of criminal acts that sicken and kill humans and animals and pollute the environment demands that a Kangaroo (faux) court order the government of the nation whose citizens were ravaged by those crimes issue an unconstitutional order to its courts ordering them not to hear the victims’ lawsuits seeking compensation for those crimes and demands that fines for billions of dollars be issues against the Nation (i.e., the victims) for refusing to implement that unconstitutional and unconscionable demand of the Kangaroos.”

“Chutzpah is when a foreign corporation selling cigarettes to the citizens of another nation – for the banal and grotesque purpose of becoming wealthy through the sale of a product it knows to be lethal and addictive – demands that the Kangaroos fine the Nation for the high crime of trying to protect the life and health of its citizens by discoursing smoking.”

snip* Reality-based Insanity

Here’s the kicker: the two new definitions are based on reality. The corporations are alleged to have committed vastly worse crimes and tortious acts than the fictional son. They committed their crimes and torts for far worse reasons than the (most likely) motivations of the fictional son. They made a vastly more absurd and outrageous demand – not for a reduced sentence but total immunity for their crimes and torts. And then they transcended the old joke’s concept of chutzpah by orders of magnitude by demanding that a government (and in economic substance that means the victims) pay an enormous fine for a bizarrely invented “wrong.” The Nation is accused of refusing to violate its constitution and any concept of justice by issuing an illegal order to its courts. The unconstitutional order that the Nation was ordered to commit would have forbidden the victims from raising their legal claims against the foreign corporation. This would immunize the foreign corporation for any crimes and torts that it committed. The new definitions of chutzpah involve alleged acts that are vastly worse in terms of the harm and motive, and demands by the alleged criminal that are vastly more absurd and vastly more outrageous than the old definition.

in full: http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2014/05/new-joke-defining-supercharged-version-chutzpah.html#more-8222

Geithner’s Other Ad Hominem Attacks on Barofsky

Posted on May 12, 2014 by William Black | 7 Comments

By William K. Black

In my first article on Timothy Geithner’s book entitled “Stress Test” I exposed the revealing and disgusting nature of his bizarre ad hominem attack on Neil Barofsky, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (SIGTARP) for the great sin of providing his law enforcement officers (LEOs) with side arms and protective vests – an action any responsible leader of SIGTARP would make a priority. In this second article I discuss very briefly his other two ad hominem attacks on Barofsky and his staff.

Geithner Damns Barofsky for Lack of Expertise

This attack constitutes further proof of our family rule that it is impossible to compete with unintentional self-parody. Geithner complains:

“Barofsky’s desire to prevent perfidy was untainted by financial knowledge or experience.”


The Commander in Chief at the Lowest Ebb – Framing the Problem, Doctrine, and Original Understanding

Nomination to First Circuit: David J. Barron

On September 24, 2013, President Obama nominated Barron to serve as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, to the seat vacated by Judge Michael Boudin, who took senior status on June 1, 2013. On January 16, 2014 his nomination was reported out of committee and is now pending before the full U.S. Senate

Barron is known for coauthoring (with Martin S. Lederman) a Harvard Law Review article titled "The Commander in Chief at the Lowest Ebb - Framing the Problem, Doctrine and Original Understanding," Harvard Law Review, Vol. 121, Pg. 689, January 2008, which was an attack of the advice given by the Office of Legal Counsel to President George W. Bush justifying Bush's use of executive power during the War on Terror.

The Commander in Chief at the Lowest Ebb – Framing the Problem, Doctrine, and Original Understanding

Article by David J. Barron & Martin S. Lederman

Jan 1, 2008

121 Harv. L. Rev. 689

Over the past half-century, discussions of constitutional war powers have focused on the scope of the President’s “inherent”ť power as Commander in Chief to act in the absence of congressional authorization. In this Article, Professors Barron and Lederman argue that attention should now shift to the fundamental question of whether and when the President may exercise Article II war powers in contravention of congressional limitations, when the President’s authority as Commander in Chief is at its “lowest ebb.”ť Contrary to the traditional assumption that Congress has ceded the field to the President when it comes to war, the Commander in Chief often operates in a legal environment instinct with legislatively imposed limitations. In the present context, the Bush Administration has been faced with a number of statutes that clearly conflict with its preferred means of prosecuting military conflicts. The Administration’s response, based on an assertion of preclusive executive war powers, has been to claim the constitutional authority to disregard many of these congressional commands.

This Article is the first of a two-part effort to determine how the constitutional argument concerning such preclusive executive war powers is best conceived. Professors Barron and Lederman demonstrate that, notwithstanding recent attempts to yoke the defense of executive defiance in wartime to original understandings, there is surprisingly little historical evidence supporting the notion that the conduct of military campaigns is beyond legislative control. Thus stripped of its assumed roots in a supposedly longstanding tradition, and considered in light of the long pattern of executive acceptance of constraining statutes, the Administration’s recent assertion of preclusive war powers is revealed as a radical attempt to remake the constitutional law of war powers.

remainder: http://harvardlawreview.org/2008/01/the-commander-in-chief-at-the-lowest-ebb-ae-framing-the-problem-doctrine-and-original-understanding/
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