Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Domestic Surveillance as an American Way of Life

The US government has established "fusion centers" to join various federal and local police agencies. The ACLU argues that these centers have been used to systematically spy on citizens who do not commit crimes but who oppose war and the Death Penalty.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Socializing Kids for Combat

Michael Reagan of Truthout (July 23, 2008) writes of the US Army's shameless attempts to recruit children through its video game and website. According to Reagan, the game simulates training and combat, minus the moral dilemmas of killing other humans and the horror and nightmares experienced by soldiers and civilians who experience war first hand.

Hey DOD, how about a PTSD video game?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae: More Corporate Welfare Over the Weekend

The Federal Reserve, not surprisingly, has bailed out Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae by allowing the two corporations to borrow money from its "discount window" (Dawn Kopecki, Bloomberg, 7-14-08). The Treasury Department was also involved in getting "assurances" that Freddie Mac's short-term debt offerings "would go off without a hitch" (Stephen Laboton, NY Times, 7-14-08).

Both moves occurred before the US stock market opened on Monday.

A more telling understanding of the situation can be found from the readers of the NY Times article.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

IndyMac Bank Failure Misses News Cycle

Immediately after the stock market closed for the weekend (7-12-2008), the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) reported the federal takeover of IndyMac. The seizure came after a run on the California-based bank. According to the FDIC this was the third largest bank takeover in US history. At least 3800 employees will be sacked.

IndyMac was a spinoff of Countrywide Financial (Angelo Mozilo and David Loeb) and was heavily invested in high-risk mortgages.

The event came in light of news that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the largest US mortgage-based security firms, were faltering. Julie Creswell (NY Times 7-13-08) reported that both institutions hired high level politicos for years and bought off activist groups by donating to their charities.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Understanding US Inequality and Economics is a fine source for statistics on US economic conditions, with an emphasis on inequality. The website includes charts on wages, income mobility, wealth, CEO wealth, and personal savings.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

White Collar Crime Narrative

Samuel Israel III, fugitive from justice and hedge fund swindler, surrendered to law enforcement today. Israel was sentenced to 20 years in prison for defrauding clients of $309,000,000 between 1998 and 2005. He then faked his death in order to escape imprisonment. Israel went as far as co-creating a bogus accounting firm to certify false financial statements.

There is little or no mention of the immediate victims, who were other rich investors. The ultimate victims, however, are the people.

Israel's lawyer's sentencing letter to the judge is a window into the white collar criminal mind. The letter (URL below) even states that Israel is "the victim" rather than the predator (p.28). Note that, in a way, this white collar criminal is even less honorable than the typical street thug, preferring to blame his crimies rather than accepting the punishment. The letter makes no mention of Israel's great grandfather, Leon Israel, who was also a white-collar criminal (NY Times, April 29,1920).

Note also the unpublished paper, titled "the Subjective Experience of Punishment" beginning on page 70. In it, Professor Adam Kolber, claims that "sensitive" (e.g. rich people) should be given breaks in sentencing over "insensitive" people (e.g. the lesser classes).

Kolber has also written on the ethics of "therapeutic forgetting," which would be used on soldiers to forget the atrocities of war.

The sentencing paper, forthcoming in the Columbia Law Review, was sponsored by the Orwellian Princeton Center for Human Values. Of note, the Center for Human Values, funded by the Mellons and Rockefellers, has also promoted pre-emptive war.