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Nederlog

July 16, 201
Crisis: Criminal Banks, Greece *2, Tory Attack, Torture & Psychology, Cold War
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton















Prev- crisis -Next

 Sections

            Introduction
1. Obama Administration Finds New Way to Let Criminal
     Banks Avoid Consequences

2. 
EU ministers begin drive to deliver bailout as Greece
     gives bitter consent

3. This Tory attack on unions should remind us how much
     we need them

4. Torture, Impunity and the American Psychological
     Association

5. A Nation Torn: Greece Grapples With 'Humiliating'
     Austerity Deal
6. The Cold War Documentary


This is a Nederlog of Thursday July 16, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 6 items with 7 dotted links: Item 1 is about (yet) another trick the Obama administation used to guarantee that criminal banks and criminal bankmanagers are helped as much as possible; item 2 is about the Greek vote in parliament on the bailout; item 3 is about how Tory policies more and more dehumanize the poor and the ill; item 4 is about the American Psychological
Association's deep relations to torture (which it has supported, till very recently); item 5 is again about Greece; while item 6 is relevant to the crisis, in a general way: I saw a series about the cold war that I liked, which shows that there is really not much new in the present crisis (except that there is no more Soviet Union, and that the bank managers have won in the U.S. and now also control most of the U.S. government).

1. Obama Administration Finds New Way to Let Criminal Banks Avoid Consequences
The first article today is by David Dayen on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

Three top Democrats are accusing the Department of Housing and Urban Development of quietly removing a key clause in its requirements for taxpayer-guaranteed mortgage insurance in order to spare two banks recently convicted of federal crimes from being frozen out of the lucrative market.

HUD’s action is the latest in a series of steps by federal agencies to eliminate real-world consequences for serial financial felons, even as the Obama administration has touted its efforts to hold banks accountable.

In this sense, the guilty plea has become as meaningless to banks as their other ways of resolving criminal charges: out-of-court settlements, or deferred prosecution agreements. “Too Big to Fail” has morphed into “Too Big to Jail” — and then again, into “Bank Lives Matter.”

Sens. Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Maxine Waters fired off a letter to HUD on Tuesday, saying they believe that the timing of the change was designed to clear the way for two banks recently convicted of federal crimes — JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup — to continue to make Federal Housing Administration-insured loans.
I quite agree that "the Obama administration"'s "efforts to hold banks account- able", which that same administration "touts", seem to me to be negligible. Indeed, what the administration did in fact amounted to protection of the banks and the bankmanagers' crimes:
“Too Big to Fail” has morphed into “Too Big to Jail” — and then again, into “Bank Lives Matter.”
None of that would have been possible without deep and long corruption in Holder's Department of Justice, that went all the way to the top.

And here is what happened in the present case, that the three senators protested against:

On the current HUD-92900-A form, lenders must certify that their firm and its principals “have not, within a three-year period … been convicted of or had a civil judgment rendered against them” for a variety of crimes, including “commission of fraud … violation of Federal or State antitrust statutes or commission of embezzlement, theft, forgery, bribery, falsification or destruction of records, making false statements or receiving stolen property.”

JPMorgan and Citi’s guilty plea would fall under the antitrust statute, and according to Brown, Warren and Waters’ reading of the certification, that would make them ineligible to obtain FHA insurance on their loans.

On the updated form, this language has been excised. The notice in the Federal Register did not even mention the removal, making it impossible to discover without comparing the old form and the proposed form side by side.
There is considerably more in the article.

I agree with the senators, but this is in fact a relatively minor matter, and what needs to happen (but very probably will not happen, with a Republican Congress) is a complete reversion of the treatment of the banks and the banks'  managers.

But I agree that is a pipe dream under the present government and Congress. Even so, it is necessary to return to a modicum of economic sanity and fairness.

2. EU ministers begin drive to deliver bailout as Greece gives bitter consent

The next article today is by too many authors [1] on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Eurozone finance ministers are to begin discussions on delivering Greece’s bailout after MPs in Athens adopted the contentious package amid angry scenes in parliament and violent clashes on the streets.

The Eurogroup of ministers from the currency union would discuss the latest developments in Greece on Thursday morning, said the group head, Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

Dijsselbloem scheduled the teleconference of eurozone ministers as street violence erupted in Athens on Wednesday while Greek lawmakers voted on harsh reforms demanded by their European partners in order to qualify for a third bailout of up to €86bn.

Officials in Brussels now must scramble to assemble a short-term financing package – expected to be worth about €7bn – to keep Greece afloat until the new bailout can be finalised.

Even with the deal accepted by Alexis Tsipras’s Greek government and the parliament, MPs in euro states are yet to give the green light. Germany’s Bundestag is set to vote on the plan on Friday and tough talks to finalise the bailout, expected to take much of the summer, can only begin after that.

There is also this on the Greek parliamentary vote:
Tsipras faced a revolt over the reforms from his radical-left ruling Syriza party, which came to power in January on anti-austerity promises. But the Athens parliament eventually carried the bill on Wednesday night by 229 lawmakers in favour, 64 against and six abstentions.
And there is considerably more in the article, and also in item 5, below.

3.
This Tory attack on unions should remind us how much we need them

The next article today is by Zoe Williams on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Sajid Javid’s announcement on new rules for trade unions – described by the Daily Mail as the “biggest crackdown on union militants in 30 years” – carries with it a strange atmosphere: somewhere between nostalgia and a time warp, like legislating against the IRA, or house music.

The original plan was to make strike action illegal, unless the turnout was over 50% and 40% voted in favour. It escaped no one’s notice that many MPs would struggle to demonstrate their legitimacy, subject to rules like these.

But the proposals as they’ve been unveiled today go much further: picketing will be criminalised, employers will be allowed to hire agency staff to replace striking workers and the financial links between unions and the labour party are to be eroded, with members being asked to opt-in to a party political allegiance.

I say. And as Zoe Williams also explains: The situation these days is quite different from the days Norman Tebbitt did the same 30 years ago, for there
have been far fewer strikes.

Also, these measures are clearly meant to destroy the unions, and to destroy the rights of ordinary workers, but then that is what one would expect from David Cameron's government for and by the British millionaires (also covered by the majority of Labour).

There is more:

The workforce received between 58% and 64% of output all the way from the end of the second world war until the late 70s, since which time it has gone down to its current 51%: but that includes in “pay” the wages of the chief executive, which are often immense and should, realistically, be classed as profits. A £5m salary can’t really be taken as an index of how hard a CEO worked. There aren’t enough hours in the day. His wage can only really be understood as a cut of the profit, a spur for him to prioritise shareholders over employees.

I am sorry but people who claim millions as managers are greedy, immoral degenerates: To appraise your own labor as worthy of millions in salary marks you as a stinking thief who has thoroughly insane values about your own excellencies. [2]

Indeed, work itself is no longer a process of production, of which one can be proud, but is instead something precarious, for which one should be extremely grateful. With that has come the additional surveillance culture where employers search your bags when you leave and count your paces to make sure you’re moving fast enough, or time your toilet breaks.

Again I am sorry, but I know these practices only from totalitarian socialism, fascism and nazism. They are sick, they are inhuman, they are sadistic, and
they are anti-democratic and authoritarian.

But I have no doubt this is what Cameron, Osborne and Javid deeply desire
these treatments of the poor, and will continue as long as they are in power.

4. Torture, Impunity and the American Psychological Association

The next article today is by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan:

This starts as follows:

It has been almost a year since President Barack Obama admitted, “in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. ... we tortured some folks.” The administration of Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush, carefully crafted a legal rationale enabling what it called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which is no more than a euphemism for torture. From the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay to the dungeons of Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Bagram air base in Afghanistan, countless hundreds, if not thousands, of people were subjected to torture, all in the name of the “Global War on Terror.” With the exception of a few low-level soldiers at Abu Ghraib, not one person has been held accountable. The only high-level person sent to prison over torture was John Kiriakou—not for conducting torture, but for exposing it, as a whistleblower.

Note this mentions "countless hundreds, if not thousands, of people were subjected to torture, all in the name of the “Global War on Terror”" - and I
leave the addition of the last part standing, because of its bitter irony.

And Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan are quite right that the "only high-level person who was sent to prison over torture" was a whistleblower on torture.

Next, there is this:

This month, the APA released a stunning independent report that confirms what whistleblowers and dissident psychologists have maintained for close to a decade, that the APA actively colluded with the U.S. Department of Defense and the CIA, manipulating the APA’s policies, meetings and members in order to get the APA’s endorsement of the Pentagon’s torture program. The association’s board of directors last year commissioned an independent review by former Assistant U.S. Attorney David Hoffman. The 542-page report, dubbed “The Hoffman Report,” undermines the APA’s repeated denials that some of its 130,000 members were complicit in torture.

There is considerably more that is well explained in the article. I will leave that to your interests, but I close with the last statement of the article, because is is quite revealing about the APA's "ethics" and about who supported that "ethics":

Stephen Benke, the ousted APA ethics head, meanwhile, has hired as his legal counsel the former head of the FBI, Louis Freeh. 

5. A Nation Torn: Greece Grapples With 'Humiliating' Austerity Deal

The next article today is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows (with an update):

Update (5 PM EDT):

"The scene in Athens is explosive," King's College London professor and Syriza central committee member Stathis Kouvelakis wrote for Jacobin
Wednesday afternoon.

Both in and outside of Greek Parliament, tensions are running high.

A largely peaceful anti-austerity rally was disrupted at one point by an hour-long clash between anti-austerity protesters and police, leading to about 50 arrests.

There are pictures in the article. Under the update, there is this:
Earlier...

With even the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—one-third of the so-called Troika—saying that Greece needs debt relief "far beyond" what European creditors have been willing to consider, and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras struggling to win the confidence of his anti-austerity Syriza party, the €86 billion bailout deal struck with eurozone leaders earlier this week faces a vote in Athens on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile the voting was done: 229 in favor, 64 against, 6 abstained - which is about a 3/4th majority. I don't think anyone voting in favor was for it, but - I take it - most did choose for what they regard as the least of two big evils.

If so, I think they are right, but the situation remains very difficult, and the best the Greeks can hope for is a deal with the IMF. This is from a later article by Deirdre Fulton:

Meanwhile, an IMF report leaked Tuesday shows that "Greece will need debt relief far beyond what eurozone partners have been prepared to consider due to the devastation of its economy and banks in the last two weeks," according to a Reuters exclusive.

Reuters reports that the IMF's updated debt sustainability analysis—which states that European countries would have to give Greece a 30-year grace period on servicing all its European debt, including new loans, and a very dramatic maturity extension, or else make explicit annual fiscal transfers to the Greek budget or accept "deep upfront haircuts" on their loans to Athens—was sent to eurozone governments late on Monday, after the bailout deal was struck.

But this is also uncertain. More tomorrow, no doubt.

6. The Cold War Documentary

The final item for today is not an article but a video or rather: a series of videos. Here is a link to the first part:

On July 5 I briefly reviewed another series, The World At War. I have since seen all of it, and indeed liked that series a bit better than other series I saw about WW II, which were more offiicalese (and had even more sequences of firing guns).

The present series about the cold war had the same producer, Jeremy Isaacs, and was made a little over 25 years later (TWAW is from 1973, CW from 1998) but in part with the same people as cooperated on the first series.

Indeed, there also is a good item on Wikipedia about it, with decent summaries of each part in the series:

And I now also saw all of the series The Cold War and I liked it:

It is a decent filmed documentary about the cold war, that reigned from 1949- 1992 (the end of the Soviet Union), and that took an enormous amount of money, nearly exploded into an atomic war several times (most notably so during the Cuban Missile Crisis), but also seems to have kept either side from going to - all out - war, for the fairly simple reason that this would lead to "Mutually Assured Destruction" ("MAD", also the acronym of an official policy) as a virtual certainty.

Instead, there were lots of skirmishes, fights and smaller wars, that also cost a lot of deaths, some of which are being retold in parts of the series. I liked the series (mostly: there will be boring parts in almost any long series, and there were in this one), and this has to do with three things:

First, like the earlier series, it was not "officialese", and indeed this series was less so than the previous one, I suppose in part because there is less written history about it, and it covers considerably more time. There is also some material in it that was "a first" in the series.

Second, a personal reason to like it is that I lived through virtually the whole Cold War (simply by having been born in 1950), and indeed there were quite a few things I remembered. Thus, I recall the Cuba crisis, the Vietnam war, the murders of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and a whole lot more quite well, and that will make a difference.

Third, another reason I liked it is that I appreciated - what seemed to have been - the viewpoint of the series, which may be described as "faintly liberal and faintly progressive". Also, I mean no criticism by "faintly": it merely indicates a tendency (which also helped, to some extent, in getting the Soviet position).

Also, this doesn't mean I agree with all of it, but it does mean that, in so far as this is possible in a filmed documentary that charts over 40 years of world history within less than 20 hours of film, it seems a fair attempt to survey the cold war.

In case you want to understand the world's history since around 1950 (which I think sensible rational people should try to do) this series gives a good back- ground, although I still think books are better than films. Also, it makes it fairly
clear that world history since 1998 (when the series was released) mostly continues world history until 1998.

I do not know how many will be interested enough to view 18 hours of docu- mentary, but for those who are interested in the cold war or in the general background for the present political events, I'd say this series is recommended.

---------------------------------------
Notes

[1] Namely seven, in all. You can find them above and below the article.

[2] I am sorry, but that is how I see it. Also, I don't see why I should sit and silently listen to the degenerate justifications of these complete assholes and thiefs, who dare to blame the poor and the ill for being poor or ill. (Also, once again I say one simple measure would overturn this and many other evil things: Not to allow anyone to earn more than 15 times what those who get the least receive. But the rich don't like that, and so it will not happen, even though everyone but the rich would be much helped, also without any other changes in the economy.)


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