February 20, 2015 archive

Going Down?

Loretta Lynch confirmation as attorney general dogged by HSBC scandal

Dan Roberts, The Guardian

Friday 20 February 2015 13.58 EST

Opposition to Barack Obama’s nominee for US attorney general over her handling of the [HSBC ] scandal is growing in Congress after she admitted deciding not to prosecute the bank for money laundering offences without hearing from key regulators or a separate investigation into tax secrecy.

A Senate vote to confirm Loretta Lynch, who as US attorney in the case instead agreed a $1.9bn financial settlement, has already been postponed until next Thursday amid concern she was insufficiently aggressive in pursuing Wall Street criminal allegations.



But new responses to questions on HSBC put to Lynch by Senate judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley reveal just how isolated her decision was from other allegations swirling around the giant bank and has now prompted another member of the committee, Senator David Vitter, to demand further disclosures.

“These decisions by the [Department of Justice] and Ms Lynch’s office raise troubling questions about whether pertinent information of public concern regarding HSBC was ‘swept under the rug’, if justice was served, and why HSBC was given special treatment that allowed it to walk away from such serious offences unscathed,” Vitter writes in a letter to current attorney general Eric Holder. “This case is increasingly relevant and pressing now that Ms Lynch has been nominated as the next attorney general.”

Lynch has confirmed she was not aware of the damning tax allegations against the bank when negotiating a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) over it facilitating money laundering by Mexican drug cartels and helping clients evade US sanctions.

This was despite a separate investigation into documents from whistleblower Hervé Falciani showing HSBC’s role in colluding with Swiss bank clients to hide their assets from tax authorities, which were passed to the US government by French authorities.

“To my knowledge, my office did not have access to the Falciani documents prior to execution of the DPA,” said Lynch in responses published on Thursday. “I am not aware of whether or how the information was conveyed to the department, nor do I have information about why my office did not have access to it.”

The admission has angered campaigners who say the crucial Facliona documents were “lost in the haystack of information” at the DoJ but their public existence could have been easily verified.

“She could have looked it up on Wikipedia,” said Bart Naylor, an expert at Public Citizen. “She oversees 340 attorneys; at least somebody should have been thinking about this and put it on Google alerts,” he added. “At the time of December 2012 when she signs this deal she should have said to somebody, can I have a fuller account of this?”



“From a policy perspective, that’s the most troubling aspect of this: that people not expert in this made an otherwise momentous policy that this bank was too big to jail.”

The ‘too big to jail’ argument was subsequently undermined by successful prosecutions of Credit Suisse and BNP Paribas, who entered guilty pleas in similar cases without triggering a banking meltdown.

Exceptional!

This is why they hate us: Fox News, drones, “American Sniper” and the gross face we show the world

Marcy Wheeler, Salon

Friday, Feb 20, 2015 08:30 AM EST

Imagine if the United States had waged its Cold War ideological struggle with the Soviet Union on the same three-year cycle consumer goods companies currently use for branding?



Instead, you might have the shoddy branding campaign the U.S. is fighting ISIL with right now, conceived largely in terms of unique impressions on Twitter rather than whether we can change larger narratives about America and the West.

“We’re getting beaten on volume, so the only way to compete is by aggregating, curating and amplifying existing content,” Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Richard A. Stengel said for a recent New York Times story.



Another persistent misconception lies in where ISIL’s own propaganda has been effective. Both British and – less officially – American officials have called on Twitter to police speech, rightly pointing out the influence of ISIL propaganda posted there. Yet such views utterly ignore the powerful boost Fox and (until it came to a Jordanian pilot burned alive on video) CNN have given the very same propaganda by airing it for hours and days. ISIL propaganda on U.S. cable channels “radicalizes” different groups of people in ways that are every bit as dangerous as a young Muslim kid watching ISIL videos online, ways that feed a clash of civilization narrative rather than that of America’s Middle Eastern allies combating murderous thugs trying to take and hold territory in a region of strategic importance.

That also seems to breed a lack of awareness of the degree to which our own actions serve as propaganda serving ISIL’s goals. Yes, the U.S. flies drones because they are viewed as a safer (for our service members, as well as civilians on the ground) alternative to airstrikes. But the drones also persist as an audible and visual presence that permeates the consciousness of those who might otherwise oppose Islamists. “I see them every day and we are scared of them,” Mohammed Tuaiman, a 13-year-old killed, as an alleged al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula member, in an American drone strike last month, said to the Guardian in an interview laws year. “We even dream of them in our sleep.” And yet people in the U.S. rarely weigh those dreams against the nightmares we see over and over on Fox and CNN. It’s not enough to say we don’t behead people (though our close allies in Saudi Arabia do) or burn them alive in cages if our omnipresent weapons permeate people’s consciousness like an ISIL video being replayed on Fox.

But a very big part of the problem, it seems to me, is that the U.S. is thinking only in terms of “countering” an enemy. “We’ve got to discredit these ideologies,” President Obama said at today’s CVE summit. In part this means their American narratives end up scolding ISIL’s narrative, rather than presenting another more resonant one. More generally, however, it doesn’t even try to offer up America as the kind of promise to others it represented during the Cold War. The U.S. will not win this ideological war by attempting to do no more than drown out ISIL’s message in Twitter hits.

What does America think it is offering the world, beyond submission under the weight of an unrivaled military?  Why would people choose that over an ideology that promises – falsely – principle and morals? With the austerity America’s bankers demand, the U.S. isn’t even offering financial stability.



And the president who has presided over six years of impunity for the bankers who crashed the global economy promised to combat corruption. “We’ll keep leading a global effort against corruption, because the culture of the bribe has to be replaced by good governance that doesn’t favor certain groups over others.”

“The essential ingredient to real and lasting stability and progress … is institutions that uphold the rule of law and apply justice equally,” said the president to a community often deprived of just that.

So to the extent we’re promising something, we’re not delivering on it.

Then there’s the larger picture. Consider what we’ve sold in two of our greatest export industries in recent years. Hollywood continues to sell its product around the world (with illegal knockoffs extending its reach). Yet it has been selling – with the explicit assistance of the administration – the torture of “Zero Dark Thirty” or the blind targeting of “American Sniper” rather than America as a beacon of freedom.

America’s tech giants had been a vehicle for communication and even for mobilization in recent years, until we learned the degree to which the NSA had prioritized a futile bid of omniscience online over the viability of those brands and what they stood for, both from a commercial and ideological perspective. More recently, we’ve learned American hardware, too, may have been hijacked as another tool of spying.

I’m not a fan of intelligence agencies buying out cultural institutions, as they did during the Cold War.

But if you’re going to wage an ideological war, do so competently. You’re not trying to sell a consumer an overpriced box of cereal or watery beer.

Yup, our elites folks.  The best and the brightest.

Cartnoon

The Breakfast Club (The Writing on the Walls)

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.

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This Day in History

Astronaut John Glenn becomes the first American in orbit; the Rhode Island nightclub fire; Actor Sydney Poitier born; Tara Lipinski becomes the youngest gold medalist in the Winter Olympics.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

The Utopia Of My Childhood

I just don’t get this belief that the everything was safe in the good old days but now everything is dangerous. Not actually true.

Atrios

On This Day In History February 20

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.

February 20 is the 51st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 314 days remaining until the end of the year (315 in leap years).

On this day in 1792, President George Washington signs legislation renewing the United States Post Office as a cabinet department led by the postmaster general, guaranteeing inexpensive delivery of all newspapers, stipulating the right to privacy and granting Congress the ability to expand postal service to new areas of the nation.

History

William Goddard, a Patriot printer frustrated that the royal postal service was unable to reliably deliver his Pennsylvania Chronicle to its readers or deliver critical news for the paper to Goddard, laid out a plan for the “Constitutional Post” before the Continental Congress on October 5, 1774. Congress waited to act on the plan until after the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Benjamin Franklin promoted Goddard’s plan and served as the first postmaster general under the Continental Congress beginning on July 26, 1775, nearly one year before the Congress declared independence from the British Crown. Franklin’s son-in-law, Richard Bache, took over the position on November 7, 1776, when Franklin became an American emissary to France.

Franklin had already made a significant contribution to the postal service in the colonies while serving as the postmaster of Philadelphia from 1737 and as joint postmaster general of the colonies from 1753 to 1774, when he was fired for opening and publishing Massachusetts Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson‘s correspondence. While postmaster, Franklin streamlined postal delivery with properly surveyed and marked routes from Maine to Florida (the origins of Route 1), instituted overnight postal travel between the critical cities of New York and Philadelphia and created a standardized rate chart based upon weight and distance. [3]

Samuel Osgood held the postmaster general’s position in New York City from 1789, when the U.S. Constitution came into effect, until the government moved to Philadelphia in 1791. Timothy Pickering took over and, about a year later, the Postal Service Act gave his post greater legislative legitimacy and more effective organization. Pickering continued in the position until 1795, when he briefly served as secretary of war, before becoming the third U.S. secretary of state. The postmaster general’s position was considered a plum patronage post for political allies of the president until the Postal Service was transformed into a corporation run by a board of governors in 1971 following passage of the Postal Reorganization Act.

Late Night Karaoke

Jump Shift?

Star Womb photo egg21.gifFrom late January of 2008, I bring another of the conjunctive pieces I shall include in my book.  It was originally published at Docudharma.

This graphic is named Star Womb

Phase in.  Phase out.  Out of Phase.

Phase shift.  

Some people shift paradigms.  I shift points of view.  Sometimes I have felt forced to do so.  Sometimes I choose to do so intentionally.  Sometimes I have taken a chance at shifting willingly.

I’ve come to the fork in the road, so to speak.  (Insert Slauson Cutoff joke here)  Do I step on the transporter or not?  Do I scatter my atoms across the universe?

Mitosis?  Cytokinesis?  Meiosis?  

Will these metaphors never cease?