Issuu on Google+

the

POLICY

IS SU III E

THE POLICY OF THE WORLD MARCH 2011 http://www.diginow.net

HER E COMES R AIN AGAIN


March 2011

Coalition Powers 25 in general

2

United States France Britain Canada Italy

The POLICY

“To protect Libyan civilians!” The same protection was offered to the millions of Bosnians, Somalians, Koreans, Vietnamese, Afghans and Iraqis who have been killed by their ‘protectors’ over the last seventy years.


www.diginow.net

3 info@diginow.net

JAPON ARMY ATTENDS COALITION POWERS TO HIT LIBYA ALTHOUGH HUGE DEVESTATION IN THEIR COUNTRY BY RECENT EARTHQUAKE !


4

The POLICY March 2011


5

info@diginow.net

www.diginow.net


Will banksters get away with it? Wall Street crime goes deeper: The system means prosecutors fail to jail corporate criminals. Danny Schechter Hats off to Matt Taibbi for staying on the Wall Street

First, many of those who might be charged with fi-

Third, the industry promulgated economic theories

crime beat, asking in his most recent report in Roll-

nancial crimes and fraud invested in lobbying and

and ideologies that won the backing of the econom-

ing Stone: “Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?”

political donations to insure that tough regulations

ics profession which largely did not see the crisis

and enforcement were neutered before the housing

coming, making those who favored a crackdown

bubble they promoted took off.

on fraud appear unfashionable and out of date.

After hundreds of bankers were jailed in the wake

As economist James Galbraith testified to Con-

of the Savings and Loan crisis, financial fraudsters

gress: “…the study of financial fraud received little

True enough, but that’s only part of the story. The

pushed for weakened regulations, guaranteeing

attention. Practically no research institutes exist;

Daily Kos called his investigation a “depressing

that their colleagues wouldn’t be jailed in when the

collaboration between economists and criminolo-

read” perhaps because it suggests that the Obama

next crisis hit.

gists is rare; in the leading departments there are

“Financial crooks,” he argues, “brought down the world’s economy — but the feds are doing more to protect them than to prosecute them.”

few specialists and very few students. Economists

Administration is not doing what it should to reign in financial crime. Many of the lawyers he calls on

In effect, their deregulation strategy also deliber-

have soft-pedaled the role of fraud in every crisis

to act come from big corporate law firms and buy

ately “decriminalised” the environment to make

they examined, including the Savings & Loan deba-

into their worldview.

sure that practices that led to high profits and low

cle, the Russian transition, the Asian meltdown and

accountability would be permissible and permitted.

the dot.com bubble. They continue to do so now.”

March 2011

Kos should be more depressed by the failure of the

6

What was once illegal soon became “legal”. Fourth, prominent members of the financial ser-

progressive community to focus on these issues, and not pressing the government to do the right

No enforcement

vices industry were appointed to top positions in the government agencies that should have cracked

thing.

The POLICY

The cops and watchdogs were taken off the beat.

down on financial crime, but instead looked the

There is much more to this story. It’s also more

Anticipating and then dissolving restraints, they

other way. The foxes were indeed guarding the

about institutions than individuals, more about a

engineered a low-risk crime scene in the way the

chicken coop guiding institutions that tolerated if

captured system that enables and covers up crime

Pentagon systematically prepares its battlefields.

not enabled an environment of criminality.

and, then, deflects attention away from the deeper

This permitted illicit practices, to be encouraged by

problem.

CEOs in a variety of control frauds to keep profits

Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke were repeat-

up so that the executives could extract more rev-

edly warned by underlings at the Federal Reserve

Ten problems

enue.

Bank about pervasive predatory practices in the

You could see that when television host Bill Mahrer

Today’s proposed Republican cutbacks of the fund-

to do nothing. Now Greenspan acknowledges per-

pressed Taibbi to name the biggest Wall Street

ing of regulatory bodies aims to undercut recently

vasive fraud but decries the lack of enforcement

crooks, on his weekly political comedy show,

passed financial reforms. One Commissioner of the

while Bernanke wants to run a Consumer Protec-

he didn’t fully understand what we are really up

Commodity Futures Trading Commission said if the

tion Agency after ignoring consumer complaints for

against.

budget is slashed, “there would essentially be no

years. Even as the FBI denounced “an epidemic of

cop on the beat...we could once again risk another

mortgage fraud” in 2004, their white-collar crime

Here are ten of well-planned but flawed factors that

calamitous disintegration.” He added, according to

units were downsized.

help explain the procrastination and rationalisation

a New York Times report, “the process will mean

for inaction. The government is not just to blame

nothing, squat, diddley … if we get cut we’re going

Fifth, the media has been complicit, seduced,

either. Several industries working together, through

to be in a world of hurt.”

bought off and compromised. The housing bubble

mortgage and Subprime markets and they chose

mushroomed in the very period that the media was

their firms associations, and well-paid operatives, collaborated over years to financialise the economy

Second, the industry invented, advertised and ra-

forced to downsize. Dodgy lenders and credit card

to their own benefit.

tionalised exotic financial instruments as forward

companies pumped billions into advertising in ra-

looking “innovation” and “modernisation” to dis-

dio, television and the internet almost insuring that

Personalising bad guys makes for good TV without

guise their intent while enhancing their field to ma-

there would no undue media investigations.

offering a real explanation.

neuver.

When financial institutions and services became

This was part of creating a shadow banking system

selves in the culture and narrative of Wall Street

the dominant economic sector, they, effectively,

operating below the radar of effective monitoring

by hyping stocks and CEOs. The “guests” routinely

took over the political system to fortify their power.

and regulation. Where is the focus on controlling

chosen by media outlets to explain the crisis were

It was a done incrementally, over years, with savvy,

the out of control power of the leverage-hungry

often part of it.

foresight and malice.

gamblers at unregulated hedge funds?

Financial journalists increasingly embedded them-

Foxes guarding the chicken coop


“Many of the ‘experts’ whom I read or see on TV

calculated these crimes and their cover-ups are.

ignore criminality as a key factor and possible focus

seem clueless, [and] full of hot air. Many of their

“Our laws—innocent until proven guilty, the codes

for an organizing effort.

predictions turn out wrong even when they seem

of ethics that journalists like you abide by limit your

so self-assured and well-informed in making them,”

behavior and give the white-collar criminal freedom

They treat the crisis as if they are at a financial

writes Jim Hightower,

to commit their crimes, and also to cover up their

seminar at Harvard, focusing on the complexities

crimes,” he said.

of derivatives, credit default swaps and structured financial products in language that ordinary people

His advice: “Don’t be deterred by the finance industry’s jargon (which is intended to numb your brain

“We have no respect for the laws. We consider

rarely can penetrate. They argue that banks should

and keep regular folks from even trying to figure out

your codes of ethics, and your laws, weaknesses

not be too big to fail, but rarely they are not too

what’s going on).”

to be exploited in the execution of our crimes. So

big to jail.

Sixth, politicians and corporate lawyers fashioned

honest if they’re playing by the set of the rules;

Few progressive activist groups stress the immo-

settlements of abuses that were exposed rather

they’re hampered by the illegal constraints. The

rality of these practices, much less their criminality

than prosecutions. The government benefited by

white-collar criminal has no legal constraints. You

after all these years! There is little active solidarity

getting large fines while businessmen avoided jail.

subpoena documents, we destroy documents;

even in the progressive community with the newly

you subpoena witnesses, we lie. So you are at a

homeless or jobless.

Financial executives were often rewarded with bo-

disadvantage when it comes to the white-collared

nuses and huge compensation for practices that

criminal. In effect, we’re economic predators. We’re

Where is the active empathy, compassion and the

skirted or crossed the line of criminality.

serial economic predators; we impose a collective

caring for the victims of the financial crimes?

harm on society, time is always on our side, not on, Intentional violations of the spirit and letter of laws

not on the side of justice, unfortunately.”

A populist response to the crisis has been muted. There is little pressure from below on the Admin-

were justified because “everyone does it” by high priced legal firms that often doubled as lobby-

Eighth, even as the economy globalises, and US fi-

istration and Justice Department—which has now

ists. Conflicts of interest were sneered at. Judges,

nancial firms spread their footprint worldwide, there

created a financial crimes task force—to take real

dependent on industry donations for reelection

was little internationalisation of financial rules and

action. It is as if this crime crisis within the financial

looked the other way.

regulations.

crisis does not exist.

Seventh, as the economy changed and industries

Today, even as the French and the Germans pro-

Curiously, as they refuse to discuss the pervasive

that were once separated began working togeth-

pose such rules, Washington still opposes a tough

fraud that did occur, the Obama administration is

er, laws were not updates. Financial institutions

global regime of codes of conduct.

considering a “global settlement” of all housing

estate firms. Yet law enforcement did not recog-

Overseas, in Greece and England, and other

nised this new reality.

parts of Europe, there has been an indictment of

ing a $20bn dollar deal to bury the problem.

American corporate predators, especially Goldman

By all means, workers should rally to protect their

Financial crime was still seen almost entirely under

Sachs. They are being denounced as “financial

jobs and pensions as they have in Wisconsin, but

the framework of securities laws that are designed

terrorists” and discussed in terms of their links to

they should realise that it is the banks who are ulti-

to protect investors, not workers or homeowners

various elite business formations like the Bilderberg

mately to blame for the financial pressures behind

who suffered far more in the collapse. Cases are

Group.

the attack on them. Pension funds have lost billions because of Wall Street scams. State governments

framed against individuals with a high standard of proving intent, not under other kinds of laws used

Ninth, With the exception of softball inquiries by a

to prosecute organised crime and conspiracies.

financial crisis inquiry commission, there has been

By defining crimes narrowly, prosecutions became

have taken a big hit.

no intensive investigations in the United States

Why have the unions and leftist groups been mostly

even like the tepid 9/11 Commission.

silent on these issues?

few and far between. While Senator Carl Levin of Michigan did spend a

Even after the markets melted down, even after Wall

“Cases against Wall Street executives can be dif-

day aggressively grilling Goldman Sachs on one

Street bonus scandals and bailout disgraces, Wall

ficult to prove to the satisfaction of a jury because of

deceptive practice, their defense was more telling

Street has hardly been humbled. It is still spending

the mind-numbing volume of emails, prospectuses,

about the real nature of the problem: “everyone did

a fortune on PR and political gun slinging with 25

and memos involved in documenting a case,” Re-

it”.

lobbyists shadowing every member of Congress to scuttle real reform.

uters news agency reported. The case for criminality has still not achieved critical Criminal minds Convicted financial criminal Sam Antar who ap-

mass as an issue to become a dominant explana-

Its arrogance is evident in an email the Financial

tion for why the economy collapsed. In fact, it is still

Times reported was “pinging around” trading

being sneered at or ignored.

desks. It reads in part: “We are Wall Street: It’s our job to make money.

pears in my film Plunder is contemptuous of how government tends to proceed in these cases, in

Finally, tenth, a big problem in my countdown, are

Whether it’s a commodity, stock, bond, or some

part because they don’t seem to understand how

the progressive critics of the crisis who also largely

hypothetical piece of fake paper, it doesn’t mat-

7 info@diginow.net

fraud to get the issue off the table. They a propos-

worked closely with Insurance companies and real

www.diginow.net

the prosecutors, hopefully most prosecutors, are


against.

to be in a world of hurt.”

you’re only going to hurt yourselves. What’s going

Here are ten of well-planned but flawed factors that

Second, the industry invented, advertised and ra-

to happen when we can’t find jobs on the Street

help explain the procrastination and rationalisation

tionalised exotic financial instruments as forward

anymore? Guess what: We’re going to take yours...

for inaction. The government is not just to blame

looking “innovation” and “modernisation” to dis-

We aren’t dinosaurs. We are smarter and more vi-

either. Several industries working together, through

guise their intent while enhancing their field to ma-

cious than that, and we are going to survive.”

their firms associations, and well-paid operatives,

neuver.

ter. We would trade baseball cards if it were profitable… Go ahead and continue to take us down, but

collaborated over years to financialise the economy Perhaps it’s not surprising, that in an act of preemp-

to their own benefit.

This was part of creating a shadow banking system operating below the radar of effective monitoring

tive anticipation, some years ago, Wall Street firms began financing the construction and administra-

Personalising bad guys makes for good TV without

and regulation. Where is the focus on controlling

tion of privatised jails. They know how to profit from

offering a real explanation.

the out of control power of the leverage-hungry gamblers at unregulated hedge funds?

incarceration too. When financial institutions and services became When will we call a crime a crime? When will we

the dominant economic sector, they, effectively,

Third, the industry promulgated economic theories

demand a jail-out, not just more bail-outs. Unless

took over the political system to fortify their power.

and ideologies that won the backing of the econom-

we do, and until we do, the people who created the

It was a done incrementally, over years, with savvy,

ics profession which largely did not see the crisis

worst crisis in our time will, in effect, get away with

foresight and malice.

coming, making those who favored a crackdown on fraud appear unfashionable and out of date.

the biggest rip-off in history.

March 2011

First, many of those who might be charged with fi-

8

News Dissector Danny Schechter made the film

nancial crimes and fraud invested in lobbying and

As economist James Galbraith testified to Con-

Plunder The Crime of our Time. Parts of this essay

political donations to insure that tough regulations

gress: “…the study of financial fraud received little

appear in his companion book The Crime of Our

and enforcement were neutered before the housing

attention. Practically no research institutes exist;

Time (Disinfo Books).

bubble they promoted took off.

collaboration between economists and criminologists is rare; in the leading departments there are

Hats off to Matt Taibbi for staying on the Wall Street crime beat, asking in his most recent report in Roll-

After hundreds of bankers were jailed in the wake

few specialists and very few students. Economists

ing Stone: “Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?”

of the Savings and Loan crisis, financial fraudsters

have soft-pedaled the role of fraud in every crisis

pushed for weakened regulations, guaranteeing

they examined, including the Savings & Loan deba-

“Financial crooks,” he argues, “brought down the

that their colleagues wouldn’t be jailed in when the

cle, the Russian transition, the Asian meltdown and

world’s economy — but the feds are doing more to

next crisis hit.

the dot.com bubble. They continue to do so now.”

The POLICY

protect them than to prosecute them.” In effect, their deregulation strategy also deliber-

Fourth, prominent members of the financial ser-

True enough, but that’s only part of the story. The

ately “decriminalised” the environment to make

vices industry were appointed to top positions in

Daily Kos called his investigation a “depressing

sure that practices that led to high profits and low

the government agencies that should have cracked

read” perhaps because it suggests that the Obama

accountability would be permissible and permitted.

down on financial crime, but instead looked the

Administration is not doing what it should to reign

What was once illegal soon became “legal”.

other way. The foxes were indeed guarding the chicken coop guiding institutions that tolerated if

in financial crime. Many of the lawyers he calls on to act come from big corporate law firms and buy

No enforcement

not enabled an environment of criminality.

into their worldview. The cops and watchdogs were taken off the beat.

Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke were repeat-

Kos should be more depressed by the failure of the

Anticipating and then dissolving restraints, they

edly warned by underlings at the Federal Reserve

progressive community to focus on these issues,

engineered a low-risk crime scene in the way the

Bank about pervasive predatory practices in the

and not pressing the government to do the right

Pentagon systematically prepares its battlefields.

mortgage and Subprime markets and they chose

thing.

This permitted illicit practices, to be encouraged by

to do nothing. Now Greenspan acknowledges per-

CEOs in a variety of control frauds to keep profits

vasive fraud but decries the lack of enforcement

There is much more to this story. It’s also more

up so that the executives could extract more rev-

while Bernanke wants to run a Consumer Protec-

about institutions than individuals, more about a

enue.

tion Agency after ignoring consumer complaints for years. Even as the FBI denounced “an epidemic of

captured system that enables and covers up crime and, then, deflects attention away from the deeper

Today’s proposed Republican cutbacks of the fund-

mortgage fraud” in 2004, their white-collar crime

problem.

ing of regulatory bodies aims to undercut recently

units were downsized.

passed financial reforms. One Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said if the

Fifth, the media has been complicit, seduced,

budget is slashed, “there would essentially be no

bought off and compromised. The housing bubble

You could see that when television host Bill Mahrer

cop on the beat...we could once again risk another

mushroomed in the very period that the media was

pressed Taibbi to name the biggest Wall Street

calamitous disintegration.” He added, according to

forced to downsize. Dodgy lenders and credit card

crooks, on his weekly political comedy show,

a New York Times report, “the process will mean

companies pumped billions into advertising in ra-

he didn’t fully understand what we are really up

nothing, squat, diddley … if we get cut we’re going

dio, television and the internet almost insuring that

Ten problems


there would no undue media investigations. Financial journalists increasingly embedded them-

the mind-numbing volume of emails, prospectuses,

about the real nature of the problem: “everyone did

and memos involved in documenting a case,” Re-

it”.

uters news agency reported. The case for criminality has still not achieved critical

selves in the culture and narrative of Wall Street by hyping stocks and CEOs. The “guests” routinely

Criminal minds

often part of it.

mass as an issue to become a dominant explanation for why the economy collapsed. In fact, it is still

chosen by media outlets to explain the crisis were Convicted financial criminal Sam Antar who ap-

being sneered at or ignored.

pears in my film Plunder is contemptuous of how government tends to proceed in these cases, in

Finally, tenth, a big problem in my countdown, are

part because they don’t seem to understand how

the progressive critics of the crisis who also largely

“Many of the ‘experts’ whom I read or see on TV

calculated these crimes and their cover-ups are.

ignore criminality as a key factor and possible focus

seem clueless, [and] full of hot air. Many of their

“Our laws—innocent until proven guilty, the codes

for an organizing effort.

predictions turn out wrong even when they seem

of ethics that journalists like you abide by limit your

so self-assured and well-informed in making them,”

behavior and give the white-collar criminal freedom

They treat the crisis as if they are at a financial

writes Jim Hightower,

to commit their crimes, and also to cover up their

seminar at Harvard, focusing on the complexities

crimes,” he said.

of derivatives, credit default swaps and structured financial products in language that ordinary people

His advice: “Don’t be deterred by the finance industry’s jargon (which is intended to numb your brain

“We have no respect for the laws. We consider

rarely can penetrate. They argue that banks should

and keep regular folks from even trying to figure out

your codes of ethics, and your laws, weaknesses

not be too big to fail, but rarely they are not too

what’s going on).”

to be exploited in the execution of our crimes. So

big to jail.

the prosecutors, hopefully most prosecutors, are Sixth, politicians and corporate lawyers fashioned

honest if they’re playing by the set of the rules;

Few progressive activist groups stress the immo-

settlements of abuses that were exposed rather

they’re hampered by the illegal constraints. The

rality of these practices, much less their criminality

than prosecutions. The government benefited by

white-collar criminal has no legal constraints. You

after all these years! There is little active solidarity

getting large fines while businessmen avoided jail.

subpoena documents, we destroy documents;

even in the progressive community with the newly

you subpoena witnesses, we lie. So you are at a

homeless or jobless.

Financial executives were often rewarded with bo-

disadvantage when it comes to the white-collared

nuses and huge compensation for practices that

criminal. In effect, we’re economic predators. We’re

Where is the active empathy, compassion and the

skirted or crossed the line of criminality.

serial economic predators; we impose a collective

caring for the victims of the financial crimes?

harm on society, time is always on our side, not on, not on the side of justice, unfortunately.”

A populist response to the crisis has been muted. There is little pressure from below on the Admin-

were justified because “everyone does it” by high priced legal firms that often doubled as lobby-

Eighth, even as the economy globalises, and US fi-

istration and Justice Department—which has now

ists. Conflicts of interest were sneered at. Judges,

nancial firms spread their footprint worldwide, there

created a financial crimes task force—to take real

dependent on industry donations for reelection

was little internationalisation of financial rules and

action. It is as if this crime crisis within the financial

looked the other way.

regulations.

crisis does not exist.

Seventh, as the economy changed and industries

Today, even as the French and the Germans pro-

Curiously, as they refuse to discuss the pervasive

that were once separated began working togeth-

pose such rules, Washington still opposes a tough

fraud that did occur, the Obama administration is

er, laws were not updates. Financial institutions

global regime of codes of conduct.

considering a “global settlement” of all housing fraud to get the issue off the table. They a propos-

worked closely with Insurance companies and real estate firms. Yet law enforcement did not recog-

Overseas, in Greece and England, and other

nised this new reality.

parts of Europe, there has been an indictment of

ing a $20bn dollar deal to bury the problem.

American corporate predators, especially Goldman

By all means, workers should rally to protect their

Financial crime was still seen almost entirely under

Sachs. They are being denounced as “financial

jobs and pensions as they have in Wisconsin, but

the framework of securities laws that are designed

terrorists” and discussed in terms of their links to

they should realise that it is the banks who are ulti-

to protect investors, not workers or homeowners

various elite business formations like the Bilderberg

mately to blame for the financial pressures behind

who suffered far more in the collapse. Cases are

Group.

the attack on them. Pension funds have lost billions because of Wall Street scams. State governments

framed against individuals with a high standard of proving intent, not under other kinds of laws used

Ninth, With the exception of softball inquiries by a

to prosecute organised crime and conspiracies.

financial crisis inquiry commission, there has been

By defining crimes narrowly, prosecutions became

have taken a big hit.

no intensive investigations in the United States

Why have the unions and leftist groups been mostly

even like the tepid 9/11 Commission.

silent on these issues?

few and far between. While Senator Carl Levin of Michigan did spend a

Even after the markets melted down, even after Wall

“Cases against Wall Street executives can be dif-

day aggressively grilling Goldman Sachs on one

Street bonus scandals and bailout disgraces, Wall

ficult to prove to the satisfaction of a jury because of

deceptive practice, their defense was more telling

Street has hardly been humbled. It is still spending

9 info@diginow.net

Intentional violations of the spirit and letter of laws

www.diginow.net

Foxes guarding the chicken coop


a fortune on PR and political gun slinging with 25 lobbyists shadowing every member of Congress to scuttle real reform. Its arrogance is evident in an email the Financial Times reported was “pinging around” trading desks. It reads in part: “We are Wall Street: It’s our job to make money. Whether it’s a commodity, stock, bond, or some hypothetical piece of fake paper, it doesn’t matter. We would trade baseball cards if it were profitable… Go ahead and continue to take us down, but you’re only going to hurt yourselves. What’s going to happen when we can’t find jobs on the Street anymore? Guess what: We’re going to take yours... We aren’t dinosaurs. We are smarter and more vicious than that, and we are going to survive.” Perhaps it’s not surprising, that in an act of preemptive anticipation, some years ago, Wall Street firms began financing the construction and administra-

March 2011

tion of privatised jails. They know how to profit from incarceration too. When will we call a crime a crime? When will we demand a jail-out, not just more bail-outs. Unless we do, and until we do, the people who created the worst crisis in our time will, in effect, get away with

10

the biggest rip-off in history.

The POLICY

News Dissector Danny Schechter made the film Plunder The Crime of our Time. Parts of this essay appear in his companion book The Crime of Our Time (Disinfo Books).

While Bernie Madoff languishes in jail, bankers continue to profit as the poor lose their homes and hope.


www.diginow.net

T

11 info@diginow.net

hank you, Bernie, for breaking your us more information on the details of his silence - even if you are still clinging dirty deals. to that cover-up mode you adopted since you took the entirety of the blame for your Do not believe all you read crimes. Even The New York Times interview is beWhat is clear is that ripping off the rich is ing disputed, reports the New York Post: punished far more severely than ripping “The trustee representing thousands of off the poor. The lengthy sentence you were Bernard Madoff’s victims disputed a report given spared countless other greedsters that he personally grilled the Ponzi monand goniffs from facing the music - what ster in prison.” music there is. “There has been no direct communicaIn an interview - with a reporter from The tion between them,” said David Sheehan, New York Times who is writing a book to the chief counsel for the court-appointed cash in on a man who has already cashed trustee, Irving Picard, after The New York out - we learn, in the vaguest terms, that Times reported that Picard and Madoff had Mr M believes the banks he did his crooked met over the summer. business with “should have known” his figures did not figure. Keeping with the deceit “The Times later changed a quote from that has served him well over the years, he Madoff and altered some text online that had implied Picard personally visited Bernames no names. nie in the Butner, NC, lockup where he is That said, how right he may be. There serving a 150-year sentence. Picard did were many who should have known and not dispute that his legal team met with done something about it. The Securities Madoff.” and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other regulators for one. Perhaps The New Madoff is also still not coming clean about York Times for another. Remember, it was the web of alliances he had internationally, Madoff’s confession to his sons that started as well as in New York. We live in a global him on his way to his new 12’ x 12’ home economy after all. We now know of Swiss from home - in a federal correctional in- and Austrian connections - but what about stitute, where he may dream of his seized Israel, where this ingratiating handler was penthouse, homes and yachts - rather than well known for his connections with Jewish philanthropists and institutions? So far, any press expose. that story has yet to be told. For years, he went undetected by business journalists, who knew - or should have At the same time, the people investigating known - what he was up to. There are even Madoff are making a small fortune. Accordquestions about the speed with which he ing to the Financial Times: “The army of was sentenced, preventing him from being lawyers and consultants helping to recover tried - a process which, through diligent funds from Bernard Madoff’s $19.6bn fraud cross-examination, would have brought stand to earn more than $1.3bn in fees, ac-


cording to new figures that detail the cost ing something wrong, we don’t want to know.”’” of liquidating the huge Ponzi scheme.”

March 2011

The comments of readers to The Times appear to be more insightful than the paper’s own reports. Here is one from Texas: “I actually, sort of, feel sorry for this man. He was just doing what many investment firms were doing at the same time. He has been imprisoned as a scapegoat - yet many people since then - and to this day - are doing the same thing. Where are the indictments against the thousands of other people who did the same thing - and knowingly led this country into financial disaster?”

12

Banks close ranks

Yves Smith of NakedCapitalism.com quips: “This sounds credible - but it also seems more than a tad self-serving.” Andrew Leonard asks in Salon: “Should we trust him? After all, if there is one thing we know about Bernie Madoff, it is that he is one hell of a liar. But as evidence emerges that bank executives were exchanging emails wondering about Madoff’s amazing investment record, the possibility that the banks were purposefully looking the other way is not inconceivable.”

The POLICY

The truth is that many of us still do not reThe best reporting on this subject is not in ally want to know - because, if we did, we the mainstream press but in a music maga- would have to do something about it. zine, Rolling Stone, where Matt Taibbi investigates why the whole of Wall Street is By their actions, both Democrats and Renot in jail: “Financial crooks brought down publicans clearly appear to prefer the most the world’s economy - but the feds are do- simplistic understandings - or misundering more to protect them than to prosecute standings. them,” he charges. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Madoff also believes the banks who ser- (FCIC), like the 9/11 and Warren Comviced him did not want to know about missions before it, avoided key issues. The his Ponzi scheme which, unfortunately, is FCIC inquiry did not call for a criminal probably true - and an attitude coming not indictment of wrongdoers. While informative, its report was ultimately a dud - telling just from the banks. us mostly what we knew, although there The Times report added: “He spoke with were some disclosures that our tepid press great intensity and fluency about his deal- still missed. ings with various banks and hedge funds, pointing to their ‘willful blindness’ and Now the Republicans want to water down their failure to examine discrepancies be- the regulations on derivatives in the Doddtween his regulatory filings and other in- Frank financial ‘reform’ legislation, claiming they will lead to a loss of jobs. This is formation available to them. predictable: Every effort to defend big busi“’They had to know,’ Mr Madoff said. ‘But ness is always couched in terms of helping the attitude was sort of: “If you’re do- the public.


There was no response from his colleagues.

ternet to organise and mobilise for change. In the US, the internet seems to function more as an escape valve, consuming hours of our time and giving us another way to talk to each other - and ventilate against the government. Social media here seems to be more for socialising.

13 info@diginow.net

The government supports internet freedom So who will do anything about abroad - but restricts it and spies on it at it? home. Obama has already supported a law allowing him to shut it down here in a naThe political right prefers to change the tional emergency. subject, while the left does not seem to have the time or energy to make economic The passivity of the public is one result of justice its principal concern - even as polls the inundation by middle-of-the-road meshow the economy is the number one prob- dia and effective information deprivation. lem for most in the US. As Noam Chomsky puts it: “The populaProgressives should hang their heads in tion in the United States is angry, frustratshame at the minimal amount of activism ed and full of fear and irrational hatreds. taking place against the banks and the es- And the folks not far from you on Wall calating numbers of foreclosures. Homes Street are just doing fine. They’re the ones and hope are being stolen from people for who created the current crisis. They’re the whom the term “depression” now has a ones who were called upon to deal with personal, as well as economic, meaning. it. They’re coming out stronger and richer than ever. But everything’s fine - as long as The other day, economist Jeff Sachs - who the population is passive.” has a lot of atoning to do for his own misguided, destructive economic advice to That is our problem, Bernie. Even if the Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union - people want to know, it is not that easy to warned that little is being done about eco- find out. Let us thank the media and our nomic inequity and the growing ranks of government for that. the poor in the US. He asks if people who run things in the US want “another Egypt”. News dissector Danny Schechter edits MeHe is a policy wonk, not an activist - and diachannel.org. His new film, Plunder: The likely fears the idea. Crime of Our Time, tells the story of the financial crisis as a criminal tale. Many activists say they want to emulate the Egyptians, but who will organise anything as effective - even in a land that used to be known for people’s movements - to raise He can be reached at: dissector@mediachannel.org hell? In Egypt, young people used the in-

www.diginow.net

The New York Times reported: “Representative Stephen Lynch, Democrat of Massachusetts, warned: ‘You think regulation is costly? How about the $7trillion we just lost from not regulating the derivatives markets?’”


March 2011

WHO CONT 14 The POLICY


www.diginow.net

TROLS YOU?

15

info@diginow.net


March 2011

16

US Supreme Court controversy

The POLICY

P

erhaps you’re familiar with Clarence Thomas, the LongDong-Silver-loving US Supreme Court Justice. With a new term beginning on The Court, he has just passed the five-year mark for not only saying nothing of value while hearing cases, but nothing at all. Yes, you read that correctly— while no US Supreme Court Justice in over two centuries has gone even a single term without speaking from the bench during arguments, Thomas has managed to do it for five in a row. To quote Stephen Colbert, “the man is a rock…in that he could be replaced by a rock and I’m not sure anyone would notice.” Sadly, it shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise that if someone were going to set this record, it would be Justice Thomas. He

certainly never even approached being “the most qualified” person in the land to sit on the Supreme Court, as President George H.W. Bush, who nominated him to the High Court, said after offering his name.

a terrible precedent in a democracy. And at least in theory, the judiciary is supposed to be impartial, and therefore above politics.

Yet, in only the past few weeks, a number of embarrassing episodes have not only turned the Legal I’m quite sure that Bush didn’t Tracheotomy into a punch line for even believe that himself, unless late night comics, but have quite he was limiting the field of com- honestly raised questions about petition to Thomas, then-vice whether any fully-functioning president Dan Quayle, and his democracy would allow him to namesake offspring. But if he was continue rendering judgments so clearly unworthy then—and he important in deciding not only was—he is now about as appropri- the law, but values of our society. ate a judge as Newt Gingrich is a marriage counselor. First, there was the fact that Thomas, whose wife has earned almost $700,000 for—as far as I can tell— being his wife, finds government disclosure forms to difficult to While he doesn’t seem to even fill out that he accidentally put $0 want to participate in his day job, where $700,000 was supposed to Thomas certainly does engage in be under “spousal income”. the kind of partisan politicking that is not only unseemly, but sets That’s right, for a guy who is sup-

Politicised justice


of the supposedly power-to-thepeople Tea Party movement. While according the The New York Times, “a court spokeswoman said Justice Thomas had made a ‘brief drop-by’ at the event in Palm Springs, California, in January 2008 and had given a talk,” in that darn financial disclosure report that keeps getting him in trouble, Thomas reported that he was reimbursed by the right-wing Federalist Society for having spent “four days” at this very same event.

But wait, there’s more! As reported over the past week, the goodgovernment group Common Four days, or a few hours? You Cause has caught ole Clarence in say tomato. I say tomahto. what those in the legal profession might call a “lie”.

Convention in Florida, shortly after Thomas was nominated to the High Court. Saperstein walked into a reception late, and was called over by a group of the top defense lawyers in the country, whom he had befriended, even though they represented opposite sides in court. These men stood to benefit greatly if Thomas was sworn in, as they represented the kind of big business interests to which Thomas had sworn fealty.

Monied interests

Past performance

17 info@diginow.net

When they asked Saperstein what he thought of the nomination, he replied that he thought, “it was an insult to every competent lawyer in America.” He expected this notion to be met with an argument, but instead, every This is all on top of all the rea- single member of this group sons he never should have made agreed. Not only that, but to a Thomas attended a meeting of it to the Supreme Court in the man, they offered (in public no wealthy corporate barons on the first place, such as sexually ha- less) that not one of them would West Coast, not long before join- rassing Anita Hill and appar- hire him to join their firms, so ing his fellow deluded, activist ently other young women who’ve little did they think of his mind conservative judges in overturn- come forward in the years since. and abilities as a lawyer. ing roughly 100 years of settled law to claim that corporations Along these lines, a couple of in- Then Senate Judiciary Chairman should be able to buy and sell de- teresting anecdotes were recently and current Vice President Joe mocracy on the free market, like shared with me by famed attor- Biden, as well as other Democrats equities or an Emmy. ney Guy Saperstein, who started who allowed this man to become the largest plaintiffs civil rights a member of the Supreme Court And as such, these corporate law firm in America and success- should be supremely embar“people” can spend pretty much fully prosecuted the largest race, rassed to this day (as should evwhatever they want on election- sex and age discrimination class ery Republican, but I won’t hold eering, a wonderful little valen- actions in American history. my breath on that). tine to a republic that is supposed to be defined by “one person, one Saperstein was co-counsel with Yet, how about addressing this vote”. Thomas for a race discrimina- mistake. Thomas has shown no tion case against State Farm moral compass, judicial ethics, The problem, of course, is those back in the 1980s, when he was intellectual rigor and underwealthy conservatives with representing private plaintiffs standing of his duties. For this, whom Thomas ate pigs-in-a- and Thomas was doing the same Supreme Court Justice Clarence blanket and likely fantasised for the Equal Employment Op- Thomas should be impeached. about replacing the social safety portunity Commission (EEOC). net with breakaway glass stood While Saperstein, as was com- Cliff Schecter is the president of to directly benefit from these mon practice, wanted to ask the Libertas, LLC, a progressive pubchanges to our law, contained judge for a hiring order, which lic relations firm, the author of in the infamous Citizens United would solve the problem in the the 2008 bestseller The Real Mccase. future, Thomas did not. Ideolo- Cain, and a regular contributor gy, then as now, trumped sound to The Huffington Post. So Thomas went ahead and lied judgment. about how much time he spent at that retreat held by the infamous Saperstein also recalls attending Cliff Schecter On Twitter: Koch Brothers, the sugar daddies the American Bar Association @Cliffschecter

www.diginow.net

posed to decide how to interpret our Constitution, apparently reporting the bounty his wife pulled in through the right-wing welfare system of think tank stipends and Tea Party activism is somewhat more difficult than making jokes about body hair and coca cola to co-workers of a female persuasion. As this is a family news outlet, you’re just going to have to go look up the rest yourself.


18

The POLICY March 2011


www.diginow.net

WHO SAVES YOU?

19 info@diginow.net


Seventy-five people confirmed a day after a 6.3 magnitude tre

The death toll from a devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New ous total of 65. The city’s mayor Bob Parker said almost 300 people collapsed buildings was not known. However, 15 survivors who had were rescued on Wednesday morning.

March 2011

22 February 2011

20 The POLICY


d dead and almost 300 missing, emor rocked Christchurch

www.diginow.net

Zealand’s second biggest city, has risen to 75, up from the previe were listed as missing but cautioned that the number trapped in d been trapped in a six-storey office building since Tuesday’s quake

21 info@diginow.net


March 2011

22 The POLICY

The Other Side Of The WORLD


T

he death toll from a devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand’s second biggest city, has risen to 75, up from the pre vious total of 65. The city’s mayor Bob Parker said almost 300

people were listed as missing but cautioned that the number trapped in collapsed buildings was not known. However, 15 survivors who had been trapped in a six-storey office building since Tuesday’s quake were

www.diginow.net

rescued on Wednesday morning.

23 info@diginow.net


T

he death toll from a devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand’s second biggest city, has risen to 75, up from the previous total of 65. The city’s mayor Bob Parker said almost 300 people were listed

as missing but cautioned that the number trapped in collapsed buildings was not known. However, 15 survivors who had been trapped in a six-storey

March 2011

office building since Tuesday’s quake were rescued on Wednesday morning.

24 The POLICY


www.diginow.net

The Other Side Of The WORLD

25 info@diginow.net


March 2011

26 The POLICY

The Other Side Of The WORLD


T

he death toll from a devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand’s second biggest city, has risen to 75, up from the previous total of 65. The city’s mayor Bob Parker said

almost 300 people were listed as missing but cautioned that the number trapped in collapsed buildings was not known. However, 15 survivors who had been trapped in a six-storey office building

www.diginow.net

since Tuesday’s quake were rescued on Wednesday morning.

27 info@diginow.net


March 2011

AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE IN NEWZEALAND

28 The POLICY


29

info@diginow.net

www.diginow.net


History’s shifting sands The revolutions sweeping the Arab world indicate a tectonic shift in the global bal-

March 2011

ance of people power.

30

For decades, even centuries, the peoples of the Arab world have been told by Europeans and, later, Americans that their societies were stagnant and backward. According to Lord Cromer, author of the 1908 pseudo-history Modern Egypt, their progress was “arrested” by the very fact of their being Muslim, by virtue of which their minds were as “strange” to that of a modern Western man “as would be the mind of an inhabitant of Saturn”.

The POLICY

The only hope of reshaping their minds towards a more earthly disposition was to accept Western tutelage, supervision, and even rule “until such time as they [we]re able to stand alone,” in the words of the League of Nations’ Mandate. Whether it was Napoleon claiming fraternité with Egyptians in fin-de-18e-siècle Cairo or George W. Bush claiming similar amity with Iraqis two centuries later, the message, and the means of delivering it, have been consistent. Ever since Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti, the great Egyptian chronicler of the French invasion of Egypt, brilliantly dissected Napoleon’s epistle to Egyptians, the peoples of the Middle East have seen through the Western protestations of benevolence and altruism to the naked self-interest that has always laid at the heart of great power politics. But the hypocrisy behind Western policies never stopped millions of people across the region from admiring and fighting for the ideals of freedom, progress and democracy they promised. Even with the rise of a swaggeringly belligerent American foreign policy after September 11 on the one hand, and of China as a viable economic alternative to US global dominance on the other, the US’ melting pot democracy and seemingly endless potential for renewal and growth offered a model for the future. Trading places But something has changed. An epochal shift of historical momentum has occurred whose implications have yet to be imagined, nev-

er mind assessed. In the space of a month, the intellectual, political and ideological centre of gravity in the world has shifted from the far West (America) and far East (China, whose unchecked growth and continued political oppression are clearly not a model for the region) back to the Middle - to Egypt, the mother of all civilization, and other young societies across the Middle East and North Africa. Standing amidst hundreds of thousands of Egyptians in Tahrir Square seizing control of their destiny it suddenly seemed that our own leaders have become, if not quite pharaohs, then mamluks, more concerned with satisfying their greed for wealth and power than with bringing their countries together to achieve a measure of progress and modernity in the new century. Nor does China, which has offered its model of state-led authoritarian capitalist development coupled with social liberalisation as an alternative to the developing world, seem like a desirable option to the people risking death for democracy in the streets of capitals across the Arab world and Iran. Instead, Egyptians, Tunisians and other peoples of the region fighting for revolutionary political and economic change have, without warning, leapfrogged over the US and China and grabbed history’s reins. Suddenly, it is the young activists of Tahrir who are the example for the world, while the great powers seem mired in old thinking and outdated systems. From the perspective of “independence”


When they raise their voices loud and clear and struggle against exploitation.” Aren’t such lines supposed to be uttered by American presidents instead of Egyptian union activists? Similarly, in Morocco activists made a video before their own ‘day of rage’ where they explained why they were taking to the streets. Among the reasons, “because I want a free and equal morocco for all citizens,” “so that all Moroccans will be equal,” so that education and health care “will be accessible to everyone, not only the rich,” in order that “labour rights will be respected and exploitation put to an end,” and to “hold accountable those who ruined this country”.

“Stand firm and don’t waiver .... Victory always belongs to the people who stand firm and demand their just rights,” Kamal Abbas urged Americans. When did they forget this basic fact of history? From top to bottom The problem clearly starts from the top and continues to the grass roots. Barack Obama campaigned for the presidency on the slogan “Yes we can!” But whether caving in to Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, on settlements, or standing by as Republicans wage a jihad on the working people of Wisconsin, the president has refused to stand up for principles that were once the bedrock of American democracy and foreign policy.

Foundations sinking into the sands? Although she likely did not intend it, when Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, warned Arab leaders in early January that they must “reform” lest their systems “sink in the sand” her words were as relevant in Washington as they were in Tunis, Tripoli, Cairo or Sanaa. But Americans - the people as much as their leaders - are so busy dismantling the social, political and economic foundations of their former greatness that they are unable to see how much they have become like the stereotype of the traditional Middle Eastern society that for so long was used to justify, alternately (and sometimes simultaneously) supporting authoritarian leaders or imposing foreign rule. A well known Egyptian labour organiser, Kamal Abbas, made a video telling Americans from Tahrir that “we and all the people of the world stand on your side and give you our full support”. It is a good thing, because it is clear Americans need all the support they can get. “I want you to know,” he continued, “that no power can challenge the will of the people when they believe in their rights.

The American people are equally to blame, as increasingly, those without healthcare, job security or pensions seem intent on dragging down the lucky few unionised workers who still have them rather than engage in the hard work of demanding the same rights for themselves. The top one per cent of Americans, who now earn more than the bottom 50 per cent of the country combined, could not have scripted it any better if they had tried. They have achieved a feat that Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak and their fellow cleptocrats could only envy (the poorest 20 per cent of the population in Tunisia and Egypt actually earn a larger share of national income than does their counterpart in the US). The situation is so desperate that a well known singer and activist contacted me in Cairo to ask organisers of Tahrir to send words of support for union workers in Wisconsin. Yet “Madison is the new Tahrir” remains a dream with little hope of becoming reality, even as Cairenes take time out from their own revolution proudly to order pizza for their fellow protesters in Wisconsin. The power of youth and workers In Egypt, workers continue to strike, risking the ire of the military junta that has yet to release political prisoners or get rid of the emergency law. It was their efforts, more than perhaps anyone else,

31 info@diginow.net

squares across the region, the US looks ideologically stagnant and even backwards, filled with irrational people and political and economic elites incapable of conceiving of changes that are so obvious to the rest of the world.

www.diginow.net

Can one even imagine millions of Americans taking to the streets in a day of rage to demand such rights?


that pushed the revolution over the top at the moment when people feared the Mubarak regime could ride out the protests. For their part, Americans have all but forgotten that the “golden years” of the 1950s and 1960s were only golden to so many people because unions were strong and ensured that the majority of the country’s wealth remained in the hands of the middle class or was spent on programmes to improve public infrastructure across the board.

March 2011

The youth of the Arab world, until yesterday considered a “demographic bomb” waiting to explode in religious militancy and Islamofascism, is suddenly revealed to be a demographic gift, providing precisely the vigour and imagination that for generations the people of the region have been told they lacked. They have wired - or more precisely today, unwired - themselves for democracy, creating virtual and real public spheres were people from across the political, economic and social spectrum are coming together in common purpose. Meanwhile, in the US it seems young people are chained to their iPods, iPhones and social media, which has anesthetised and depoliticised them in inverse proportion to its liberating effect on their cohorts across the ocean.

32

Indeed, the majority of young people today are so focused on satisfying their immediate economic needs and interests that they are largely incapable of thinking or acting collectively or proactively. Like frogs being slowly boiled alive, they are adjusting to each new setback - a tuition increase, here, lower job prospects there - desperately hoping to get a competitive edge in a system that is increasingly stacked against them. Will Ibn Khaldun be proved right?

The POLICY

It now seems clear that hoping for the Obama administration to support real democracy in the Middle East is probably too much to ask, since it cannot even support full democracy and economic and social rights for the majority of people at home. More and more, the US feels not just increasingly “irrelevant” on the world stage, as many commentators have described its waning position in the Middle East, but like a giant ship heading for an iceberg while the passengers and crew argue about how to arrange the deck chairs. Luckily, inspiration has arrived, albeit from what to a ‘Western’ eye seems like the unlikeliest of sources. The question is: Can the US have a Tahrir moment, or as the great Arab historian Ibn Khaldun would have predicted, has it entered the irreversible downward spiral that is the fate of all great civilizations once they lose the social purpose and solidarity that helped make them great in the first place? It is still too early to say for sure, but as of today it seems that the reins of history have surely passed out of America’s hands. Mark LeVine is a professor of history at UC Irvine and senior visiting researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden. He has authored several books including Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv and the Struggle for Palestine (University of California Press, 2005) and An Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Books, 2009).


33

info@diginow.net

www.diginow.net


34

The POLICY March 2011


35

info@diginow.net

www.diginow.net


The

POLICY o f t h e Wo r l d


Policy III