Daily Archive: March 4, 2013

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Untouchable

Untouchability is the social-religious practice of ostracizing a minority group by segregating them from the mainstream by social custom or legal mandate. The excluded group could be one that did not accept the norms of the excluding group and historically included foreigners, house workers, nomadic tribes, law-breakers and criminals and those suffering from a contagious disease such as leprosy. This exclusion was a method of punishing law-breakers and also protected traditional societies against contagion from strangers and the infected. A member of the excluded group is known as an Untouchable.

Fallout from ‘Untouchables’ Documentary: Another Wall Street Whistleblower Gets Reamed

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

POSTED: March 4, 2:31 PM ET

A great many people around the county were rightfully shocked and horrified by the recent excellent and hard-hitting PBS documentary, The Untouchables, which looked at the problem of high-ranking Wall Street crooks going unpunished in the wake of the financial crisis. The PBS piece certainly rattled some cages, particularly in Washington, in a way that few media efforts succeed in doing.



There are people out there still willing to argue that the government somehow “forced the banks to lend” to unworthy applicants. In reality, it was unscrupulous companies like Countrywide that were cranking out loans en masse, knowing that these loans would be unloaded down the line, first to banks and then to sucker investors like pension funds and foreign trade unions, almost as soon as they were created.

Winston was a witness to all of this. Eventually, he would be asked by the firm to present false information to the Moody’s ratings agency, which was about to give Countrywide a negative rating because of some trouble the company was having in working a smooth succession from one set of company leaders to another.

When Winston refused, he was essentially stripped of his normal responsibilities and had his corporate budget slashed. When Bank of America took over the company, Winston’s job was terminated. He sued, and in one of the few positive outcomes for any white-collar whistleblower anywhere in the post-financial-crisis universe, won a $3.8 million wrongful termination suit against Bank of America last February.

Well, just weeks after the PBS documentary aired, the Court of Appeals in the state of California suddenly took an interest in Winston’s case. Normally, a court of appeals can only overturn a jury verdict in a case like this if there is a legal error. It’s not supposed to relitigate the factual evidence.

Yet this is exactly what happened: The court decided that the evidence that Winston was wrongfully terminated was insufficient, and then from there determined that the “legal error” in the original Winston suit against Bank of America and Countrywide was that the judge in the case failed to throw out the jury’s verdict.



A number of people in positions of power wanted to know just what “experts” people like Breuer had consulted with before deciding not to press charges in certain cases. Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown, specifically, sent Attorney General Eric Holder a letter asking a number of questions.

Among other things, the two Senators wanted to know if certain companies had been designated “Too Big to Jail.”



Well, at the end of last week, on February 27th, the Department of Justice sent Brown and Grassley a letter in return. The letter is, to describe it very generously, not terribly informative.



On those questions, the DOJ would say only that “it is entirely appropriate for prosecutors to hear from subject matter experts at relevant regulatory authorities”.



That is one hell of a slippery piece of language. It’s great that the Department of Justice is not paying, say, HSBC to consult with them on the question of whether or not HSBC should be prosecuted. What a relief! But that doesn’t mean they’re not paying someone else for that kind of advice.

The DOJ similarly blew off naming any individual experts and they refused absolutely to turn over information about any compensation they may have paid out to whomever it is who is whispering in their prosecutorial ears.



The Department of Justice is now saying that it misunderstood the two Senators, that it didn’t know that they were asking for the actual names of those experts. Moreover, the Department claims it is working on answers to those queries.

In the meantime, Eric Holder is appearing before the Judiciary Committee this Wednesday, and it will be interesting to see how he handles questioning from Senator Grassley. It may get ugly before the answers actually come out, but it seems that someone is finally determined to get some real information.

Justice Archie Bunker Opines Voting Rights

Adapted from Rant of the Week at The Stars Hollow Gazette

Voting is no ‘racial entitlement,’ Justice Scalia

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could mean the end of a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. At the heart of the case is the question of whether states with a long history of racial discrimination must still get permission from the Justice Department before changing their voting laws.

We’ll have to wait until summer for the Court’s decision. But we can take a pretty good guess about what one of the justices thinks about the VRA right now. In comments that drew gasps from lawyers listening in at the Court, he made no secret of his feelings about the law.

On This Day In History March 4

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

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.

March 4 is the 63rd day of the year (64th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 302 days remaining until the end of the year.

In this day in 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is inaugurated as the 32nd president of the United States. In his famous inaugural address, delivered outside the east wing of the U.S. Capitol, Roosevelt outlined his “New Deal”–an expansion of the federal government as an instrument of employment opportunity and welfare–and told Americans that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Although it was a rainy day in Washington, and gusts of rain blew over Roosevelt as he spoke, he delivered a speech that radiated optimism and competence, and a broad majority of Americans united behind their new president and his radical economic proposals to lead the nation out of the Great Depression.

The only American president elected to more than two terms, he forged a durable coalition that realigned American politics for decades. FDR defeated incumbent Republican Herbert Hoover in November 1932, at the depths of the Great Depression. FDR’s combination of optimism and activism contributed to reviving the national spirit. Working closely with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin in leading the Allies against Germany and Japan in World War II, he died just as victory was in sight.

Starting in his “first hundred days” in office, which began March 4, 1933, Roosevelt launched major legislation and a profusion of executive orders that gave form to the New Deal, a complex, interlocking set of programs designed to produce relief (especially government jobs for the unemployed), recovery (of the economy), and reform (through regulation of Wall Street, banks and transportation). The economy improved rapidly from 1933 to 1937, but then went into a deep recession. The bipartisan Conservative Coalition that formed in 1937 prevented his packing the Supreme Court or passing much new legislation; it abolished many of the relief programs when unemployment practically ended during World War II. Most of the regulations on business were ended about 1975-85, except for the regulation of Wall Street by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which still exists. Along with several smaller programs, major surviving programs include the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which was created in 1933, and Social Security, which Congress passed in 1935.

As World War II loomed after 1938, with the Japanese invasion of China and the aggressions of Nazi Germany, FDR gave strong diplomatic and financial support to China and Britain, while remaining officially neutral. His goal was to make America the “Arsenal of Democracy” which would supply munitions to the Allies. In March 1941, Roosevelt, with Congressional approval, provided Lend-Lease aid to the countries fighting against Nazi Germany with Great Britain. He secured a near-unanimous declaration of war against Japan after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, calling it a “date which will live in infamy“. He supervised the mobilization of the US economy to support the Allied war effort. Unemployment dropped to 2%, relief programs largely ended, and the industrial economy grew rapidly to new heights as millions of people moved to new jobs in war centers, and 16 million men (and 300,000 women) were drafted or volunteered for military service.

Roosevelt dominated the American political scene, not only during the twelve years of his presidency, but for decades afterward. He orchestrated the realignment of voters that created the Fifth Party System. FDR’s New Deal Coalition united labor unions, big city machines, white ethnics, African Americans and rural white Southerners. Roosevelt’s diplomatic impact also resonated on the world stage long after his death, with the United Nations and Bretton Woods as examples of his administration’s wide-ranging impact. Roosevelt is consistently rated by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.

Cartnoon

Can America Survive the Canons of Dort?

Thanks to Bill Black via ek hornbeck and Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism, I fell off my horse and saw the light after hitting my head.  

Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Jointly posted with Benzinga

We are in the midst of the blame game about the “Sequester.” I wrote last year about the fact that President Obama had twice blocked Republican efforts to remove the Sequester. President Obama went so far as to issue a veto threat to block the second effort. I found contemporaneous reportage on the President’s efforts to preserve the Sequester – and the articles were not critical of those efforts. I found no contemporaneous rebuttal by the administration of these reports.

In fairness, the Republicans did “start it” by threatening to cause the U.S. to default on its debts in 2011. Their actions were grotesquely irresponsible and anti-American. It is also true that the Republicans often supported the Sequester.

The point I was making was not who should be blamed for the insanity of the Sequester. The answer was always both political parties. I raised the President’s efforts to save the Sequester because they revealed his real preferences.

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com…

It wasn’t much like the time I was kicked off a real horse when I was about 8.  Had Eleanor, a cranky little mare who was intelligent enough to hate everything and everybody, connected a mite lower I would have been a girl instead of a boy.  Truth be told, Eleanor was aiming at my horse but her aim was as horrendous as when Bill Clinton  shot a missile at the House Judiciary Committee and hit an aspirin factory in The Sudan.  All I learned that time was that Eleanor probably was part Shetland as rumored, that I didn’t want to be a girl and to watch out for girls even though they appear smaller and weaker.

This time I saw the ancient Canons of Dort still firing from ancient times as I had known from my own childhood they still do but from an unexpected source.

You see my mother was a Lutheran like my wife.  Neither were ever good Lutherans, praise the Lord [snark], but the mark of understanding how the heretical Arminians could differ from Calvinists, even though never voiced, would never occur naturally to one raised in the faith of the Whore of Babylon (Catholics).

A man is visiting from the old country [Finland], our mother told us young ‘uns, and you should be very careful not to raise your voices or run and jump and laugh and smile.  He is a real Lutheran and thinks people must only look grim and think about their sins.

Irish Catholics spend an enormous time thinking and talking about their sins but seldom grimly.

From the handy but often inaccurate Wikipedia, here are the Five Points of Calvinism fired by the Canons of Dort:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F…

Read them if it gives you pleasure but simply stated the elite (the rich and middle classes in today’s parlance) only for whom the Redeemer died are allowed because they are instruments of the Lord while the working classes are sinners who must be forever controlled and punished.

Thus it is absolutely mandatory that Obama must leave as his legacy the path to final destruction of the primary elements of the safety net (Social Security and Medicare). Who knew Obama was a true Calvinist like the Republicans.

The sequester is a fine start and was the Obama Administration’s idea despite denials.

Best,  Terry

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