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Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Why Isn't Wall Street In Jail"

A very good article in Rolling Stone, March 3rd issue, about how only one person (Bernie Madoff) is serving any jail time after the Wall Street meltdown fueled by the greed and deception of so many huge firms. For the most part, the very wealthy execs at Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, WAMU, and JP Morgan Chase, got off scott-free, though a few fines were levied. For example two execs at Goldman Sachs were fined a total of $180K, a small fraction of their bonuses for even one year. The article documents the cozy, ongoing relationship between regulators and Wall Street.

Here's a quote from the piece by Matt Taibbi:
"In the past few years the administration has allocated massive amounts of federal resources to catching wrongdoers - of a certain type. Last year, the government deported 393,000 people.......So there you have it. Illegal immigrants: 393,000...Bankers: zero. The math makes sense only because the politics are so obvious. You want to win elections, you bang on the jailable class. You build prisons and fill them with people for selling dime bags and stealing CD players. But for stealing a billion dollars? For fraud that puts a million people into foreclosure? Pass. It's not a crime....let's just give them a piece of paper with a government stamp on it, officially clearing them of the need to apologize, and make them pay a fine instead. But don't make them pay it out of their own pockets, and don't ask them to give back the money they stole. In fact, let them profit from their collective crimes to the tune of a record $135 billion in pay and benefits last year."

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Egypt; Secret Ingredient for Mass Uprising

photo by Floris Van Cauwelaert

What is the magic elixir that transforms a whole nation of people into social activists, risking life and limb to oust a government? How does it work that in one week's time a whole country can fundamentally change itself after decades of seeming complacency? All eyes are on what's happening in Egypt right now, but we've seen it happen just before in Tunisia and years ago throughout Eastern Europe, and in the Phillipines. It almost succeeded in Thailand recently, and in Iran.

I'm sure that in all these places, for many years, there were opposition parties that spoke out as they could, recruited members, held demonstrations, published writings, and had some leaders imprisoned or even killed. But why did they have so little impact and how can it all happen in an instant like a match to gasoline? As though it were waiting to explode. As though everyone was a government watchdog all along. But what is the spark that sets everything in motion? Is there any connection at all between the years of opposition activities or speeches and writings and the sudden mass uprisings we are witnessing today in Egypt and in the aforementioned countries?

Did these massive protests in Egypt and Tunisia - literally spark from the young, unemployed Tunisian who immolated himself? Were there not other publicized tragedies before? Certainly the conditions of widespread poverty and the unfair divisions between rich and poor, the corrupt government officials - were there for years. Is the spark from a rash of sudden price increases or government subsidy pullbacks? What is it?

I'm sure there are thousands of dissidents and activists fighting for change and justice, in many corners of the globe, scratching their heads and wondering what the secret ingredient is in Egypt this week, that is usually missing from civic recipes for decades at a time.