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Home country: USA
Current location: nice place
Member since: Thu May 15, 2008, 04:37 PM
Number of posts: 19,863
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May 5, 2012
Bill Black: Despite a government accountability office investigation uncovering new evidence of illegal robo-signing, authorities still striking deals instead of locking up wrongdoers
snip* SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries in Baltimore.
This is our segment with Bill Black. Bill Black is an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He's a white-collar criminologist and former financial regulator. He's the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One. And he's a regular contributor at The Real News Network.
Thanks for joining us, Bill.
BILL BLACK, ASSOC. PROF. ECONOMICS AND LAW, UMKC: Thank you.
PERIES: Bill, I understand you have two strategies to report on today, one that throws the homeowners under the bus, and another one: how the federal government plans on protecting bankers once again.
BLACK: So the one about the homeowners has to do with a GAO study that just came out. And the GAO looked at one of these programs in which the banks agreed with the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which is supposed to regulate the largest national banks, to review their loan files and find out where they had screwed up in foreclosures or failing to give relief and to provide substantial payments to homeowners who were the victims of this practice, except that it all went disastrously wrong. So they started this review of the banks' records, and it turned out that the records were in such terrible shape that the people doing the review, who were consultants chosen by the banks, concluded that they couldn't complete the review unless they spent many years and billions of dollars doing it, because the loan files were in such bad shape.
Now, that should have caused everyone to reexamine how often they were engaged in fraud, the so-called robo-signing in which they lied in their affidavits that they had established a basis to foreclose on people's homes. But, of course, it didn't lead to that. Instead, it led to a deal in which the OCC and the Fed released the banks from the requirement to do the file reviews. And the GAO says, because of this, homeowners will get a billion and a half fewer dollars. And, of course, there was no completed review to find the facts and to determine who actually was the victims of all of that. So that's the first atrocity.
in full: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=11816
Posted by Jefferson23 | Tue May 6, 2014, 09:06 AM (23 replies)
May 2, 2014
I have been attempting the vain act of trying to embarrass the New York Times’ Deal Book feature into dropping its ethics-free reportage of elite financial crimes. I have had so little success that today’s James Stewart column reached the pinnacle of unintentional self-parody of Deal Book’s zealous efforts to remove any concept of ethics from its reportage of elite white-collar crime. The substance of piece is reporting that Steve Jobs “was a walking antitrust violation.” Stewart focuses on the cartel Jobs formed with other giant firms to fix (and suppress) employees’ salaries.
But the title of the piece takes the fact that Jobs was a serial felon who caused great harm to employees and preforms a remarkable transformation in which he is praised as “Steve Jobs, a Genius at Pushing Boundaries.” “Pushing boundaries” is Deal Book’s euphemism for Jobs’ crimes that he committed in order to make the already spectacularly wealthy CEO even wealthier – at the direct expense of his employees. And, this being Deal Book, and James Stewart being what Stewart has descended to, we have the inevitable claim that Jobs was a “genius” at crime. But it turns out that if you consider the facts reported; he wasn’t a genius. His violations of anti-trust law were obvious crimes. Instead, his key characteristic was the one we always emphasize is critical about the most fraudulent CEOs – audacity. Jobs had gotten away with committing so many crimes that he came to believe he was immune from prosecution.
At this stage in the story, Stewart obviously had to explore at least four ethical issues to explain to readers the significance of Jobs’ crimes. The first issue was the unique danger created by the fact that greed is insatiable. It did not matter how much a plutocrat Jobs became – he always wanted more and was happy to engage in brazen crimes to make him wealthier. The second issue is that he was willing to commit crimes that made him wealthier at the direct expense of his employees. Third, CEOs set the ethical “tone at the top” and when the CEO is a crook he sets a corrupt tone at the top that encourages the employees to commit other crimes and unethical acts that would boost their pay. Fourth, the CEOs of Apples’ top rivals agreed to commit the same cartel felonies as Jobs. This created a “Gresham’s” dynamic that helps other ethical firms (or potential entrants) out of the markets.
As you knew, because it was Deal Book and because of the title of Stewart’s column, the column exemplifies the Deal Book’s deliberate policy of excluding discussions of the ethical and business implications of elite fraud committed with impunity. This is particularly awkward, if logical consistency were a trait Deal Book embraced, given the first sentence of Stewart’s column. “If Steve Jobs were alive today, should he be in jail?” Answering the question “should” inherently requires a discussion of ethics. Stewart, however, is simply being coy – his article never discusses or answers the question he describes as “the provocative question being debated in antitrust circles….” Nor does Stewart ask why that question is being debated “in antitrust circles” rather than in the high tech industry.
Posted by Jefferson23 | Sun May 4, 2014, 11:01 AM (0 replies)
B'Tselem was founded as an information center, out of a perhaps naïve belief in the power of information. If people knew what was happening a few miles away, where the Israeli military maintained its occupation of the Palestinian population, the problems of violence and oppression would be solved – or so we hoped. Monitoring, reporting and fact-finding (MRF) were the primary tasks of the organization: taking testimonies from victims and eye-witnesses to human rights violations, cross-checking this information with other sources and producing comprehensive reports that place these violations in their broader legal context.
That was 25 years ago. Fairly quickly we came to understand that ignorance regarding the human rights violations is not the primary problem. Even when presented with clear evidence regarding human rights violations, people found ways to explain, and deny and justify – a phenomenon studied by criminologist Stanly Cohen, one of B'Tselem's founders, in his book States of Denial.1 More and more documentation of the violations themselves was not going to overcome these mechanisms of rationalization.
Over the years, we developed new strategies to advance human rights: conducting domestic and international advocacy, promoting criminal accountability, and using new media tools to mobilize the public. Yet MRF remains the backbone of B'Tselem's work – it is the necessary first step of any strategy to make change.
There are probably more journalists in Israel-Palestine than in any other conflict zone on earth. With the development of the internet, we all have access to more information than ever before. But an abundance of information is not necessarily helpful, if that information is unreliable. In fact, much of the information regarding human rights produced in our context is manipulated to advance the agenda of one side or the other. For this reason, B'Tselem relies solely on its own documentation or the work of trusted sources.
in full: http://phap.org/thematic-notes/2014/april/realizing-change-through-mrf-b%E2%80%99tselem%E2%80%99s-work-regarding-operation-cast-lead
Posted by Jefferson23 | Tue Apr 29, 2014, 08:36 AM (0 replies)
World View: The former prime minister's intervention on radical Islam was aimed at all the wrong targets
April 27, 2014
Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of the core group of al-Qa'ida, may well chortle in disbelief if he reads a translation of Tony Blair's latest speech on the Middle East delivered last week. If Blair's thoughts are used as a guide to action, then the main beneficiaries will be al-Qa'ida-type jihadist movements. Overall, his speech is so bizarre in its assertions that it should forever rule him out as a serious commentator on the Middle East. Reading it, I was reminded of a diplomat in Joseph Conrad's Secret Agent called Mr Vladimir who fancies himself an expert on revolutionaries: "He confounded causes with effects; the most distinguished propagandists with impulsive bomb throwers; assumed organisation where in the nature of things it could not exist."
The speech, entitled "Why the Middle East matters", is about the threat from radical Islam, what it consists of and how it should be countered. Mr Blair says that "there is a titanic struggle going on within the region between those who want the region to embrace the modern world and those who, instead, want to create a politics of religious difference and exclusivity." On one side stand those who want "pluralistic societies and open economies", on the other those who want to impose an exclusive Islamic ideology.
Here the reader might suppose that Blair is building up towards some sharp criticism of Saudi Arabia and its fundamentalist Wahhabi creed. What could be more opposed to pluralism in politics and religion than a theocratic absolute monarchy such as Saudi Arabia which is so notoriously intolerant of other versions of Islam, such as Shi'ism, as well as Christianity and Judaism, and is, moreover, the only place in the world where women are not allowed to drive? Here is the home country of 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers and of the then leader of al-Qa'ida, Osama bin Laden, whose religious views are rooted in mainstream Wahhabism.
Blair denounces those who espouse an Islamist ideology in which the ultimate goal "is not a society which someone else can change after winning an election". Surely he should be thinking here about King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, his namesake in Jordan and the Gulf royals who inherited their thrones. But Blair goes on to make the astonishing claim that the guilty party in fostering extreme jihadist Islam is none other than the Muslim Brotherhood which stood for and won an election in Egypt before it was overthrown by the military.
in full: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/demented-tony-blair-recites-the-saudis-creed-in-his-latest-speech-9292292.html
Posted by Jefferson23 | Mon Apr 28, 2014, 05:40 PM (4 replies)
A wave of suicide bombings carried out by foreign volunteers entering Iraq from Syria is killing some 1,000 civilians a month, bringing the country back to the brink of civil war. Many of the bombers are likely to have entered Syria across the 500-mile border with Turkey in the expectation that they would be giving their lives to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government.
The foreign jihadists are brought to Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), which in recent weeks has started to publicise on its Twitter feed the national origins of the bombers. According to a study by Bill Roggio, of the Long War Journal website, of 26 Isis bombers in one much-fought over Iraqi province, Diyala, north-east of Baghdad, no less than 24 were foreigners whose noms de guerre indicate that the majority came from North Africa, with 10 from Tunisia, five from Saudi Arabia, two each from Libya and Egypt, and one each from Denmark, Chechnya, Iran and Tajikistan.
Isis, which is seeking to establish an Islamic state in Iraq and Syria, does not recognise the border between the two countries. The bombers carried out their missions between September 2012 and today, but there has been a sharp escalation in bombings, usually aimed at killing as many Shia as possible, over the past year, with 9,571 civilians killed in 2013 and 3,630 killed so far in 2014.
The Iraqi government has for the first time become more open about which foreign states it holds responsible for supporting foreign jihadists fighting on its territory. In an interview last month with France 24 television, the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, directly accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of being “ primarily responsible for the sectarian, terrorist and security crisis in Iraq”. He said allegations that his government was marginalising the Sunni Arab community were made by “sectarians with ties to foreign agendas, with Saudi and Qatari incitement”.
in full: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/foreign-suicide-bombers-kill-thousands-and-bring-iraq-to-the-brink-of-civil-war-9272391.html
Posted by Jefferson23 | Thu Apr 24, 2014, 09:08 AM (0 replies)
Al-Shabaka is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and foster public debate on Palestinian human rights and self-determination within the framework of international law.
This policy brief is authored by Khalil Nakhleh, a Palestinian anthropologist and the author of Globalized Palestine: The National Sell-out of a Homeland.
This is not an assessment of the impact of the Oslo Accords that began to be signed in 1993. It was never the kind of "process" that could lend itself to a balance sheet type of analysis that would show the positives and negatives of what transpired. The accords were destructive from the start.
As the late Edward Said brilliantly put it, "The fashion-show vulgarities of the White House ceremony … only temporarily obscure the truly astonishing proportions of the Palestinian capitulation. So … let us call the agreement by its real name: an instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles."
Posted by Jefferson23 | Thu Apr 24, 2014, 08:33 AM (0 replies)
APRIL 21, 2014
A federal appeals panel in Manhattan ordered the release on Monday of key portions of a classified Justice Department memorandum that provided the legal justification for the targeted killing of a United States citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who intelligence officials contend had joined Al Qaeda and died in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen.
The unanimous three-judge panel, reversing a lower court decision, said the government had waived its right to keep the analysis secret in light of numerous public statements by administration officials and the Justice Department’s release of a “white paper” offering a detailed analysis of why targeted killings were legal.
“Whatever protection the legal analysis might once have had,” Judge Jon O. Newman wrote for the panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, “has been lost by virtue of public statements of public officials at the highest levels and official disclosure of the D.O.J. White Paper.”
The ruling stemmed from lawsuits filed under the Freedom of Information Act by The New York Times and two of its reporters, Charlie Savage and Scott Shane, and by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Posted by Jefferson23 | Tue Apr 22, 2014, 05:38 PM (0 replies)
Children with no parents. Combat war veterans still suffering from the effects of war. Elderly people who have lost insurance or have medical bills that are too high. Families who live out of a van. Women fleeing from abusive relationships. These are just some of the stories that make up the homeless population in America.
Yet when we think of homelessness we only see one face. And while these most visible of homelessness deserve our help and attention as well, they are only a fraction of the overall homeless population. The Invisible Class tells the story of the entire homeless population, which is something that has never been done before in film.
We answer several questions. Where did homelessness come from? Why do we spend billions a year, but seem to have very little progress? What’s being done that actually works? Is there a way to solve this problem?
The Invisible Class will forever change your perception of what you know about homelessness in America.
Posted by Jefferson23 | Tue Apr 22, 2014, 07:42 AM (2 replies)
Sunni Islamists, Shi'ite Muslims, liberal reformers, atheists and human rights advocates have all been targeted through a series of arrests and new laws.
By Reuters | Apr. 17, 2014
Saudi Arabia, rattled by regional turmoil that has destabilized the Middle East, is intensifying a crackdown on domestic dissent, raising fears that a more open space for public debate that emerged in recent years is under threat.
Sunni Islamists, Shi'ite Muslims, liberal reformers, atheists and human rights advocates have all been targeted through a series of arrests and new laws in what one activist has described as an "undeclared state of emergency."
Social media, and what analysts describe as King Abdullah's efforts to foster a more open atmosphere since the turn of the century, have given Saudis greater scope than ever before to criticize the authorities and discuss topics once seen as taboo.
However, since the 2011 Arab uprisings, the world's No. 1 oil exporter, has taken a far harsher line against many forms of dissent, jailing liberal reformers and religious critics on charges ranging from sedition to jeopardizing state security.
Posted by Jefferson23 | Fri Apr 18, 2014, 08:50 AM (0 replies)
For the first time, one of the five founders of the Tamarod, the movement that led the protests that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood last year, admits his movement was taking orders from the army. “We were naive, we were not responsible.”
April 15, 2014 at 2:23pm EDT
CAIRO — On the night of July 3, 2013, Moheb Doss stood looking at his television set in disbelief as a statement was read in his name on national television.
The words coming out of the presenter’s mouth bore no resemblance to the carefully drafted statement that Doss, one of the five co-founders of the Tamarod, or Rebel, movement had helped draft hours earlier. It was a statement to mark the moment of Tamarod’s victory, as the protests the group launched on June 30 led to the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government just five days later. It was a statement, Doss said, that the group hoped would have a stabilizing effect on the Egyptian public, as it called for a peaceful transition toward a democratic path.
Instead, the presenter quoted Tamarod as calling for the army to step in and protect the people from “brute aggression” by terrorists during potentially turbulent days. The statement supported the army’s forcible removal and arrest of Brotherhood leader and then-President Mohamed Morsi, and dismissed charges that what was happening was a coup.
“What we drafted was a revolutionary statement. It was about peace, and going forward on a democratic path,” Doss told BuzzFeed. “What was read was a statement that could have been written by the army.”
For five days, millions of Egyptians had taken to the streets and demanded an end to the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. Their numbers surpassed even the wildest expectations of Tamarod, a then-largely unknown group that organized the protests. The five founders became instant celebrities, and on the night of July 3, the moment it appeared their victory was imminent, all of Egypt’s television stations had turned to them for a statement on what would happen next.
Posted by Jefferson23 | Thu Apr 17, 2014, 10:10 AM (2 replies)