Daily Archive: 05/27/2015

May 27 2015

DOJ Soccer Corruption Arrests. Why Not the Bankers?

On Wednesday in the early morning hours in Zurich, Switzerland, at a five star hotel, there were six phone calls made by the concierge to six rooms telling the occupants: “Sir,” the concierge said in English, “I’m just calling you to say that we’re going to need you to come to your door and open it for us or we’re going to have to kick it in.” How polite.

The hotel, which overlooks Lake Zurich, provided an unlikely setting for the apprehension of six global soccer executives who were arrested on corruption charges and now face extradition to the United States. The operation took less than two hours and was strikingly peaceful – no handcuffs, no guns drawn. It also involved an unusual use of a bedsheet.

Raids in the United States are typically led by armed SWAT team members wearing bulletproof vests and helmets, but the Swiss took a more subtle approach. Rather than storming into the executives’ rooms and hauling them out in their pajamas, the officers waited for the men to come to the door and then gave them a chance to get dressed and pack their bags.

The officers appeared to lead the officials out one by one, through several exits, including a side door, the hotel’s garage and, in one case, the main entrance.

Thus started the arrests of six global soccer executives on corruption charges. The indictments were brought by the US Justice Department stemming from an FBI and IRS investigation into the business practices of FIFA, the world governing body of the world’s most popular sport. soccer.

The Justice Department, F.B.I. and I.R.S. described soccer’s governing body in terms normally reserved for Mafia families and drug cartels, saying that top officials treated FIFA business decisions as chits to be traded for personal wealth. One soccer official took in more than $10 million in bribes, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said.

The schemes involving the fraud included the selection of South Africa as the host of the 2010 World Cup; the 2011 FIFA presidential elections; and several sports-marketing deals. [..]

The Department of Justice indictment names 14 people on charges including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. In addition to senior soccer officials, the indictment also named sports-marketing executives from the United States and South America who are accused of paying more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for media deals associated with major soccer tournaments. [..]

The promise that the investigation would continue raised the specter of more arrests, but officials would not comment on whether they were investigating Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president and the man widely regarded as the most powerful person in sports. One federal law enforcement official said Mr. Blatter’s fate would “depend on where the investigation goes from here.” [..]

United States law gives the Justice Department wide authority to bring cases against foreign nationals living abroad, an authority that prosecutors have used repeatedly in international terrorism cases. Those cases can hinge on the slightest connection to the United States, like the use of an American bank or Internet service provider.

Switzerland’s treaty with the United States is unusual in that it gives Swiss authorities the power to refuse extradition for tax crimes, but on matters of general criminal law, the Swiss have agreed to turn people over for prosecution in American courts.

What Esquire’s Charlie Pierce said:

Here and overseas, the entire corporate universe is shot through with metastatic corruption and crime. It is an essential part of the business model almost everywhere, from Wall Street offices to the pitch at Wembley. FIFA’s corruption is more than an endemic phenomenon. FIFA was simply one corrupt enterprise working with and through hundreds of other corrupt enterprises. There are governments, and there are communications empires, and there are all manner of companies advertising their wares — the “corporate partners” of a claque of brigands. If you did business with the crooks of FIFA, you’re a crook, too. There’s no way to avoid it. All of them are guilty. All of them are responsible. All of them are complicit in the corruption in the spotlight today, and in the death of anonymous workers in Qatar whose names they don’t even know. The whole goddamn corporate universe is begging for a gigantice RICO indictment.

It seems the Justice Department is capable of investigating and obtaining indictments against officials of an organization whose business practices have been described as “byzantine and impenetrable,” why can’t the DOJ do the same for the bankers of JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, Citibank, Bank of America, et al? It apparently is not that hard, Loretta.

May 27 2015

A Question of Justice in Cleveland

In the wake of the acquittal, in a non-jury trial, of white Cleveland police officer of Michael Brelo in the murder of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, Cleveland once again has come under the scrutiny of the Department of Justice.

Federal officials will review the trial testimony and evidence, and a city panel is investigating Mr. Brelo’s actions and police conduct in the episode. Five supervisors face misdemeanor charges for their oversight of the case.

There are also two ongoing investigations of police shootings in November. One is looking into the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy who was holding a replica gun when a white Cleveland police officer shot him. That shooting, captured on video, has also garnered national attention and resulted in protests.

In the other, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office is investigating the death of Tanisha Anderson. Ms. Anderson, a 37-year-old black woman whose family said she suffered from bipolar disorder, lost consciousness and died in police custody after being placed face down on the pavement. The medical examiner ruled her death a homicide

In an attempt to ease the tensions, the Cleveland Police Department reached a settlement with the Justice Department accepting tougher standards and oversight to insure that the rules are followed.

The agreement is part of a settlement with the Justice Department over what federal officials have called a pattern of unconstitutional policing and abuse in Cleveland. The department found in a review released late last year that police officers here used stun guns inappropriately, punched and kicked unarmed people, and shot at people who posed no threat. The episodes often went unreported and uninvestigated, investigators found.

The new rules in Cleveland prohibit officers from using force against people for talking back or as punishment for running away. Pistol whipping is prohibited, and so is firing warning shots, the agreement says. The city has agreed to allow an independent monitor to track its progress. If the city does not put into effect the changes specified in the settlement, a federal judge has the authority to demand them.

Cleveland also agreed to hire a civilian to lead its internal affairs unit and to appoint an inspector general to investigate police misconduct and analyze policies and trends. The federal authorities believe that those changes, along with an internal panel assigned to review use-of-force cases, will ensure that police keep accurate records and conduct genuine investigations. The city will also form a civilian advisory panel to review policies and advocate better community relations.


This is a good start but there is a lot more within these cities that needs to be done.

More prosecutions of the police who are abusing their powers would go a long way to ease the distrust in cities like Cleveland, Ferguson and New York City. It would would be better if those cities did it themselves rather than the Justice Department. Aside from Baltimore, however, it appears quite unlikely. It’s in your court, AG Lynch.

May 27 2015

Changing Minds on Edward Snowden

Former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs in the Jimmy Carter administration Hodding Carter III has changed his mind about Edward Snowden whose leaks of NSA programs to the public has sparked the debate a the renewal of the Patriot Act. In an article in Salon, he explains  his change of heart and offered an apology to The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald.

Glenn Greenwald, I’m sorry: Why I changed my mind on Edward Snowden

What follows is based on sixty years of experience in public life and journalism. It arises from deepening concern about the people’s limited appreciation of the First Amendment and disgust with media waffling behind timidity’s breastworks. It also arises from urgent unease about government overreach in the name of “homeland security,” an overreach based on post-9/11 fear, political opportunism and an all but explicit assertion that a free people do not need to know and should not demand to know how they are being protected. There is no pretense here of carefully allocated balance, that briefly treasured convention of American journalism. Instead, this is an attempt to explain the evolution of today’s media-government confrontations and to suggest answers to the hard questions that currently face the press when national security clashes with the Bill of Rights.

Unless informed consent is to be treated as a dangerous relic of more tranquil times, these questions should be answered on behalf of the American people as often as they arise. That means applying general principles to specific cases. Knowing the evolution of press freedom can be useful. Having an accurate picture of the chaotic realities of the murky present is crucial. Hard cases are inevitable; hard-and-fast rules are rarely available and too often inapplicable to current conditions. In the end, as always, it is up to each journalist and news organization to be willing to stand alone, to ask, and to answer individually:

“Whose side are you on?”

Mr. Carter and Glenn Greenwald appeared on MSNBC’s “The Last Word” to discuss the surveillance and the firght over the renewal of the Patriot Act.

Whose side are you on?

May 27 2015

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Hold Bankers Accountable for Their Crimes

Last week, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced that five major banks were pleading guilty to criminal charges for what she described as a “brazen display of collusion” to manipulate the currency markets. The banks – Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, UBS, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland Group – were hit with $5.6 billion in fines and penalties.

Sensibly, the banks were forced to plead guilty, not simply pay fines in settlements where they neither admitted nor denied the changes. But the charges still were brought against banks, not bankers. No banker was held accountable. The personal fortunes of the bankers who profited were not touched. Shareholders, not bankers, will pay the fines. The Justice Department would have us believe that criminal banks ran profitable criminal conspiracies without involving any bankers.

The unwillingness to hold bankers accountable for their frauds and crimes is a great and continuing failure of our justice system, one that poses a clear danger to this country in the years ahead.

Susan Soederberg: The Student Loan Crisis and the Debtfare State

Educational debt has become a ticking time bomb. With over $1 trillion in outstanding loan balances, the student loan industry has a lot in common with the sub-prime mortgage industry, which went into a devastating crisis in 2007-8. Both rely on a financial innovation called “asset-backed securitization” (see sidebar in original) to raise capital and to hedge risk-in other words, to raise money for loans and to reduce the likelihood that investors will lose their money. Student loans asset-backed securitization-or SLABS-means student loan agencies package student debts and sell them to investors who expect to get their money back, plus interest, as students pay back their loans. In theory, selling off nicely bundled packages of debt to investors allows these institutions to turn around more quickly and make new loans. For this reason, SLABS is touted as the main channel through which the lending industry moves funds from investors to students-and so is supposed to be of mutual benefit to students, lenders, and institutional investors such as hedge funds and pension funds.

Like the sub-prime housing industry, however, SLABS ultimately depends on the ability of borrowers to meet their debt obligations. Herein lies the rub. Since as far back as the recession of 2001, the majority of student debtors have not been able to get decent paying jobs upon leaving college.

Rafia Zacaria: The militarization of development aid

How war makes USAID a dirty word

On April 30, 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Gayle Smith, a senior director of the National Security Council, as the new head of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Critics saw her nomination as yet another example of the deepening of links between U.S. military interventions and development aid.

Most of the initial criticism focused on Smith’s close relationships with various African despots and her belief that aid is the vehicle for obtaining foreign policy concessions. If confirmed, Smith will no doubt solidify the idea that development is subservient to American security interests. Over the last decade, USAID has emerged as Washington’s key instrument within which it couches counterterrorism efforts and military interventions. Her national security background ensures that she will continue this legacy.

The American public should be concerned about this mixing of war strategy with development aid, not least because U.S. misadventures are funded by taxpayer dollars. The cover of aid hampers the public from critically evaluating the wars waged in its name. As those on the receiving end, the intertwining of military intervention and development assistance has meant a de-legitimization of the premises of development. Education and healthcare are universal rights that should not depend on U.S. national security interests.

Sarah Krasley: Climbing down from our mountain of e-waste

Smart electronics should be adaptable, collaborative, rentable and easier to repair

Nowadays, electronic devices are doing more than just sensing and displaying data. They also listen, speak, measure, illuminate and collaborate with other electronics, making up a class of products called the Internet of Things, connected devices or sometimes wearables.

Connected devices show huge potential for resource efficiency and better quality of life. A smart window-shade and air-conditioning system in communication with each other can heat and cool a building using less energy while increasing the comfort of its occupants. But this new frontier has a big consequence: The more everyday products contain electronics, the more e-waste will be produced.

E-waste refers to electronic devices that have reached the end of their useful lives. With more of our products becoming e-waste, we must rethink the life cycles of our smart electronics and the materials we use to build them.

Maira Sutton: The Senate Has Passed the TPP Fast Track Bill-We Now Take Our Fight to the House

The Senate passed a bill Friday night to put the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on the Fast Track to approval. Its passage followed a series of stops and starts-an indication that this legislation was nearly too rife with controversy to pass. But after a series of deals and calls from corporate executives, senators ultimately swallowed their criticism and accepted the measure. If this bill ends up passing both chambers of Congress, that means the White House can rush the TPP through to congressional ratification, with lawmakers unable to fully debate or even amend agreements that have been negotiated entirely in secret. On the plus side, all of these delays in the Senate has led other TPP partners to delay any further negotiations on the trade agreement until Fast Track is approved by Congress.

So the fight now starts in the House, where proponents of secret trade deals still lack the votes to pass the bill. But the White House and other TPP proponents are fiercely determined to garner enough support among representatives to pass the bill, in order to give themselves almost unilateral power to enact extreme digital regulations in secret. We cannot let that happen.

Michelle Chen: Why the Philippines’ Deadly Factory Fire Will Not Be the Last

The deaths of 72 workers at a sandals factory in the Philippines earlier this month is sadly not shocking news; risk of mass death is practically considered a regular cost of doing business in the regional factories. But the blaze coincides with two grim anniversaries for Global South labor: the death of more than 1,100 workers in the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, and the subsequent launch of a landmark safety program for Bangladesh factories. Today, it all adds up to a tragically uneven record of reform in Asia’s low-wage, high fashion manufacturing system. [..]

This crisis is playing out in export industries throughout the Asia Pacific region, despite growing public pressure in the West to promote more ethical production processes. The Bangladesh Accord-a voluntary safety program established by international brands and unions in the wake of Rana Plaza, recently issued its second-anniversary progress report, showing hundreds of factories have undergone inspection. But out of some 54,432 safety hazards identified, only 2,579 issues had been fully corrected. The grassroots advocacy that pushed through the Accord was seemingly eclipsed by countervailing market forces: global retail fashion sales are nearing $2 trillion annually.

The Philippines, where factory worker wages are typically more than double those of Bangladesh, supposedly represents a higher standard of “development.” But the pressures of the market nevertheless led to the deaths of dozens of workers, trapped behind barred windows.

May 27 2015

The Breakfast Club (Desperado)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo 807561379_e6771a7c8e_zps7668d00e.jpg

This Day in History

Golden Gate Bridge opens to the public; U.N. Tribunal indicts Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic; the British Navy sinks Nazi Germany’s battleship Bismarck; Actor Christopher Reeve is paralyzed.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

“If I was to really get at the burr in my saddle, it’s not politics – and this is, I think, probably a horrible analogy – but I look at politicians as, they are doing what inherently they need to do to retain power. Their job is to consolidate power. When you go to the zoo and you see a monkey throwing poop, you go, ‘That’s what monkeys do, what are you gonna do?’ But what I wish the media would do more frequently is say, ‘Bad monkey.'”

Jon Stewart

May 27 2015

On This Day In History May 27

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on image to enlarge

May 27 is the 147th day of the year (148th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 218 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1813, former President Thomas Jefferson writes former President John Adams to let him know that their mutual friend, Dr. Benjamin Rush, has died.

Rush’s passing caused Jefferson to meditate upon the departure of the Revolutionary generation. He wrote, We too must go; and that ere long. I believe we are under half a dozen at present; I mean the signers of the Declaration.

A Rift

Despite their close friendship, Jefferson wrote that he and Adams were often separated by “different conclusions we had drawn from our political reading.” The two maintained their friendship despite their political differences until 1801, the year that Jefferson became president. As Jefferson wrote Mrs. Adams: “I can say with truth that one act of Mr. Adams’s life, and one only, ever gave me a moment’s personal displeasure.” By this, Jefferson was referring to last-minute political appointments made by Adams just before Jefferson succeeded him as president. Jefferson wrote that the appointments “were [selected] from among my most ardent political enemies” who could be counted on to work against his executive authority. Jefferson admitted to “brooding over it for some little time,” and during this period, they ceased writing one another.

A Reconciliation

When Jefferson retired from the presidency in 1809, Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration that Adams and Jefferson worked to create, took it upon himself to renew their suspended friendship. He had no success until 1811, when one of Jefferson’s neighbors visited Adams in Massachusetts. The neighbor returned to Virginia with the report that he had heard Adams say, “I always loved Jefferson, and still love him.” In response to these words, Jefferson wrote Dr. Rush: “This is enough for me. I only needed this knowledge to revive towards him all of the affections of the most cordial moments of our lives.” He asked Rush to persuade Adams to renew their correspondence. A letter from Adams was forthcoming, and they continued to write until their deaths.

This reconciliation began a rich correspondence that touched on myriad topics, from reminiscences about their contributions to the young nation’s history, to opinions on current political issues, to matters of philosophy and religion, to issues of aging. Their letters were also lighthearted and filled with affection. Jefferson wrote, “I have compared notes with Mr. Adams on the score of progeny, and find I am ahead of him, and think I am in a fair way to keep so. I have 10 1/2 grandchildren, and 2 3/4 great-grand-children; and these fractions will ere long become units.”

A Lasting Legacy

After fifteen years of resumed friendship, on July 4, 1826, Jefferson and Adams died within hours of each other. Their deaths occurred — perhaps appropriately — on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Unaware that his friend had died hours earlier, Adams’ last spoken words were “Jefferson still survives.”

May 27 2015

The Daily/Nightly Show (Crucial Delay)

Mad Men

Who knows what the topic is but on the panel are- Felonius Munk, Mike Yard, and Rashida Jones.

Continuity

Godwin!

This week’s guests-

Rand Paul should be on just long enough to hit what Charlie Pierce calls the Sanity Limit.  You listen to Rand for about 5 minutes and nod your head and say, ‘that makes sense.’

And then he says something totally insane.

Rand is the epitome of a mixed bag of nuts, but he did something really valuable recently that many people dismissed at the time and still don’t understand or give him credit for, and that is of course his 10 and a half hour mini-filibuster against the USA Free-dumb Act and straight up extension of the Patriot Act.

These people are down on him because his filibuster was short and didn’t look at all like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith (which is in some ways about Jimmy’s psychological disintegration).  What they don’t realize is that it was exactly long enough to delay the business of the Senate so that when it did come up the choice was between the House proposal and nothing.

Fortunately we ended up with nothing since the House Bill is terrible and Obama (who has not sought a last gasp further 90 day authorization as far as we know) and the NSA have been forced to start shutting down the mass spying program.

So yay Rand!  Credit where due.  Now, about the market disciplining bigots.

Rebel Wilson’s web exclusive extended interview and the real news below.