Tags: Huffington Post

HSBC Receives Slap on the Wrist for Helping to Finance Terrorists

The “Too Big Too Jail” nonsense that surrounds large U.S. banks and their above the law employees has been glaringly obvious and thoroughly documented for quite some time now. Yet what represents an even larger slap in the face to millions of hard-working, law-abiding citizens, is how relentlessly the “justice” system goes after small time criminals, while merely fining oligarch thieves for far worse crimes. I first covered this theme earlier this year in my piece Some Money Launderers are “More Equal” than Others, which discussed how HSBC was caught laundering billions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels.

Well HSBC is back in the news. This time it relates to their transferring funds on the behalf of financiers for the militant group Hezbollah. If transactions such as these had even the slightest link to Bitcoin, there would be endless uproar, calls for countless Congressional hearings and demands to stop the currency at all costs. But when HSBC is caught doing it, what happens? A $32,400 settlement.

More from The Huffington Post:

A major U.S. bank has agreed to a settlement for transferring funds on the behalf of financiers for the militant group Hezbollah, the Treasury Department announced on Tuesday.

Concluding that HSBC’s actions “were not the result of willful or reckless conduct,” Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control accepted a $32,400 settlement from the bank. Treasury noted, as did HSBC in a statement to HuffPost, that the violations were voluntarily reported.

Everett Stern, a former HSBC compliance officer who complained to his supervisors about the Hezbollah-linked transactions, told HuffPost he was “ecstatic and depressed at the same time.”

“Those are my transactions, I reported them,” he said, satisfied that the government was taking action. But, he added, “Where I am upset was those were a handful of transactions, and I saw hundreds of millions of dollars” being transferred.

Stern said he hopes the government’s enforcement actions against HSBC have not come to an end with the latest settlement. “They admit to financing terrorism and they get fined $32,000. Where if I were to do that, I would go to jail for life,” he said.

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The United States has More People in Jail than High School Teachers and Engineers

America has become a gigantic gulag over the past few decades and most of its citizens don’t know, or just don’t care. One of the primary causes of the over incarceration in the U.S. is the absurd, tragic failure that is the “war on drugs”, and indeed nearly half of the folks in prison are there for drug related offenses. Making matters worse is a rapidly growing private prison system, which adds a profit motive to the equation. Recently, I wrote an extensive rant against the private prison system and provided details on how it works in:  A Deep Look into the Shady World of the Private Prison Industry.

Now here are some of the sad facts. There are 1.57 million people in federal and state prison (does not even include county and local jail) according to the Department of Justice. That’s above the nation’s 1.53 million engineers and 1.05 million high school teachers.

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 9.25.20 AM

More from the Huffington Post:

If sitting in a prison cell was a job, it would be one of the most common jobs in the United States. In 2012, there were some1,570,000 inmates in state and federal prisons in the U.S., according to data from the Justice Department.

By contrast, there were about 1,530,000 engineers in America last year, 815,000 construction workers, and 1 million high school teachers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There were also 750,000 car technicians.

Yep, you know it. USA! USA!

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Mike

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Why I Will Never, Ever, Go Back to the United States by Niels Gerson Lohman

I have been cursed at a Chinese border. In Dubai, my passport was studied by three veiled women for over an hour and my suitcase completely dismembered. In the Philippines I had to bribe someone in order to get my visa extended for a few days. Borders, they can be tough, especially in countries known for corruption.

But never, ever, will I return to the United States of America.

- Excerpt from a must read article by Niels Gerson Lohman

Recently, one of my best friends from college had a horrific experience at the Canadian border. He told me he would write about his experience and allow me to post it on this site, so I hope to have that up in the near future. In the meantime, please take the time to read the story of Niels Gerson Lohman, a Dutch writer, designer and musician who had such a horrific experience at the border he has vowed to never return to these United States. This is an utter embarrassment and reminds me a lot of one of the more popular posts ever on this site:  Why I’m Leaving America by Michael Fielding.

From the Huffington Post:

After a year of traveling, I had planned a last, short trip. I was going to take the train from Montreal to New Orleans. The travels I had been undertaking earlier this year had brought me to places that were meant to form the background of my second novel.

This trip, however, was for my dad. He, a trumpet player, loved New Orleans and had died a year ago. It felt like the first sensible trip I undertook this year. I had been searching for ways to forget about the last hours at his deathbed. He had been ill for 15 years and his body just would not give up. It was a violent sight. I had decided the trip to New Orleans would put an end to those memories.

The customs officer walked by and asked everybody on the train a few questions. Where they were from, where they were heading. The usual stuff. Everybody who was not a U.S. or Canadian citizen was to head for the dining car to fill in an additional green form.

I had not finished my novel yet, but my passport was complete. It was filled with pretty stamps. He did not like the stamps.

First, he saw my Sri Lankan stamp. The customs officer raised his eyebrows.

“Sri Lanka, what were you doing over there?”

“Surfing. Traveling. My best friend lives there. He is an architect.”

The officer flipped on, seemingly satisfied. Secondly, he found my stamps from Singapore and Malaysia.

“What were you doing over there? Singapore and Malaysia? Aren’t those countries Islamic?”

Looking over my shoulder, his eyes searched for his colleague’s confirmation.

“Malaysia, I think so, yeah. But not Singapore. It’s a melting pot. A very futuristic city. Airconditioned to the ceiling. To Singapore I went mostly for the food, to be honest.”

“Sure.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Nothing. And how about Malaysia?”

Read the Full Article »

How the Washington D.C. Money Machine Stopped a Documentary on Hilary Clinton

Wow, I thought, this guy [Bill Clinton] is a really good actor. And I also saw one reason why Hillary Clinton might not be thrilled about my movie. I discovered others. In Arkansas, she joined the boards of Walmart and Tyson Foods. One of the largest donors to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation is the government of Saudi Arabia. The Clintons’ personal net worth now probably exceeds $200 million, and while earned legally, both the money’s sources and the Clintons’ public statements indicate a strong aversion to rocking boats or making powerful enemies.

- Charles Furguson in today’s Huffington Post

In case you weren’t aware, Charles Furguson, the director and producer of the financial crisis documentary Inside Job, which won the 2010 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, was set to make a film on Hilary Clinton. That project, unfortunately, will not be happening.

While the bipartisan sociopaths running amok in that cesspool we know as Washington D.C. aren’t good at much, what they are really good at is protecting their turf of privilege and power from anyone who might pose a threat. The town is essentially one gigantic bipartisan mafia that spends all its time and energy parasitically sucking the wealth from the U.S. citizenry using insider deals, bribes, blackmail and threats. They create nothing, yet take everything (recall that 70% of the Wealthiest Counties in America are in the Washington D.C. Area).  It is the D.C. way, and they are very protective of their racket.

While Mr. Furguson tried his best to move forward with his Hilary documentary despite numerous obstacles, it ultimately became impossible to proceed. He wrote about it today in the Huffington Post in an article titled:  Why I Am Cancelling My Documentary on Hillary Clinton. Below are some excerpts:

In late 2012, CNN Films approached me about directing a documentary. We discussed a number of potential subjects, and eventually settled on Hillary Rodham Clinton. The film would be ambitious, controversial, and highly visible. But I felt that it was important, that I was qualified to do it, and that I could be fair. CNN gave me complete control (“final cut”) over the theatrical version, and a generous budget.

And then the fun began. The day after the contract was signed, I received a message from Nick Merrill, Hillary Clinton’s press secretary. He already knew about the film, and clearly had a source within CNN. He interrogated me; at first I answered, but eventually I stopped. When I requested an off-the-record, private conversation with Mrs. Clinton, Merrill replied that she was busy writing her book, and not speaking to the media.

Next came Phillipe Reines, Hillary Clinton’s media fixer, who contacted various people at CNN, interrogated them, and expressed concern about alleged conflicts of interest generated because my film was a for-profit endeavor (as nearly all documentaries and news organizations are). When I contacted him, he declined to speak with me. He then repeated his allegations to Politico, which published them.

CNN and I decided to publicly confirm the film project to clear the air. Immediately afterwards, the chairman of the Republican National Committee announced that the Republicans would boycott CNN with regard to the Republican presidential primary debates in 2016. Shortly afterwards, the entire RNC voted to endorse this position. This did not surprise me. What did surprise me was that, quietly and privately, prominent Democrats made it known both to CNN and to me that they weren’t delighted with the film, either.

In June, I attended a dinner for Bill Clinton, which was educational. Clinton spoke passionately about his foundation, about African wildlife, inequality, childhood obesity, and much else with enormous factual command, emotion, and rhetorical power. But he and I also spoke privately. I asked him about the financial crisis. He paused and then became even more soulful, thoughtful, passionate, and articulate. And then he proceeded to tell me the most amazing lies I’ve heard in quite a while.

For example, Mr. Clinton sorrowfully lamented his inability to stop the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which banned all regulation of private (OTC) derivatives trading, and thereby greatly worsened the crisis. Mr. Clinton said that he and Larry Summers had argued with Alan Greenspan, but couldn’t budge him, and then Congress passed the law by a veto-proof supermajority, tying his hands. Well, actually, the reason that the law passed by that overwhelming margin was because of the Clinton Administration’s strong advocacy, including Congressional testimony by Larry Summers and harsh public and private attacks on advocates of regulation by Summers and Robert Rubin.

Read the Full Article »

Journalism’s Revolving Door: Washington Post’s National Security Editor Joins the State Department

The revolving door. It’s as American as apple pie, warfare, naked body scanners and the NSA. This seemingly never-ending reshuffling of thieving crooks from crony capitalistic “private” enterprises into public “service” and back defines the U.S. economy more than anything else these days. Thought it was merely concentrated in high finance, healthcare and defense contractors? Well think again! It is alive and well and extremely cancerous in our beloved mainstream media as much as anywhere else. From the Huffington Post:

NEW YORK — Veteran journalist Douglas Frantz is joining the State Department as assistant secretary of state for public affairs, according to a source familiar with the move. An official announcement is expected Tuesday.

This will be Frantz’s second time working under Secretary of State John Kerry. In 2009, Frantz was hired as an investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by then-Sen. Kerry (D-Mass.)

Frantz, who had previously spent more than three decades at publications such as The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, returned to journalism in May 2012 as The Washington Post’s national security editor.

He won’t be the only journalist on the State Department payroll, either. Former Boston Globe politics editor Glen Johnson joined a senior adviser to Kerry earlier this year.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Mike

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New Survey: Federal Reserve Employees are “Demoralized,” “Distrustful” and “Afraid to Speak Out”

“We’re supposed to oversee a sprawling and complicated financial system and huge banks — all the while making sure we don’t implement policy that hurts the economy — and we can’t even properly manage ourselves,” said one Fed official who helps develop regulatory policy. “How can we be trusted to supervise the system when the Fed can barely supervise its own staff?”

- From the Huffington Post article: Federal Reserve Employees Afraid To Speak Put Financial System At Risk

My readers know that not only do I not trust the Federal Reserve, but I think it is one of the most dangerous and immoral institutions operating in America today. It’s not about particular individuals that I think need to be replaced (although Larry Summers will be an absolute nightmare), it is that I do not think any institution should ever have the power to credit unlimited currency and credit and distribute it at will to whoever they want with very little oversight. While I don’t write about the Fed as much as I used to, I suggest you go back and reread my 2011 article:  Why Fiat Money is Immoral.

The Huffington Post article highlighted here is full of disturbing survey results, which without question demonstrate that the most powerful institution in the U.S. is completely dysfunctional. There are some other hidden nuggets in there as well. Such as this:

The Fed refused to make public a broader set of survey results that would allow for a comparison between the policy unit and other sections inside the banking supervision and regulation division.

Stier, whose group doesn’t have access to the Fed’s survey results because the law that calls for government employee surveys doesn’t apply to the Fed, said he was disappointed in the survey results. He praised the Fed for conducting the survey. “You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” he said.

Wait a minute. Why does the law the applies to government employee surveys not apply to the Fed? It is because the Federal Reserve is not a government agency but rather a private bank? You’d think the Huff Post would’ve dug into that bizarre angle a little deeper. Kind of important.

Or what about this:

Several top regulators at the Fed’s headquarters in Washington who helped combat the financial crisis have since left, many for lucrative positions either at leading banks or at consultancies that work for banks. Current regulators fear experienced staffers will continue to leave the Fed for the financial services industry, depriving the regulator of key experience as it finalizes several post-crisis measures and sets about gauging banks’ compliance with new rules.

Hey guys, thanks for all the bailouts, now come work for us. Shameless, disgusting, unacceptable.

More from the Huffington Post:

WASHINGTON — Regulators overseeing the nation’s largest financial institutions are distrustful of their bosses, afraid to speak out, and feeling isolated, according to a confidential survey this year of Federal Reserve employees.

The findings from the April survey of roughly 400 employees, presented to Fed staff during multiple meetings in June and July and obtained by The Huffington Post, show a workforce that is demoralized, and an institution where teamwork is nonexistent, innovation and creativity are discouraged and employees feel underutilized.

An overwhelming majority of Fed regulators are proud to work at the central bank and believe in its mission of supervising the financial system and ensuring stability. They also trust and have good relationships with their immediate supervisors. But most say that top leaders are failing the organization, in part by not communicating honestly, and that employees are in the wrong jobs, or are poorly managed.

About a third of workers surveyed in the policy unit agreed that it was “safe to speak up and constructively challenge things around here,” documents show.

“That tells me you don’t have the culture of debate and engagement that you need so that questions are asked,” said Angelides.

About a third of workers surveyed in the policy unit agreed that it was “safe to speak up and constructively challenge things around here,” documents show.

“That tells me you don’t have the culture of debate and engagement that you need so that questions are asked,” said Angelides.

Just about half, or 51 percent, of policy employees agreed with the statement: “I trust the senior leaders of this organization.” Fifty-six percent of the entire banking supervision and regulation division felt the same way.

Less than half of workers in the Fed policy unit agreed that the unit’s senior leaders “act in alignment with our organization’s core values or guiding principles.” Fewer than 40 percent said they are encouraged to be creative and innovative.

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Texas SWAT Team Raids Organic Farm for No Reason

The increasing use of SWAT teams across these United States is completely and totally incompatible with a free and civilized society. As I mentioned in my recent article about how there are now 50,000 SWAT raids in America annually, many of these military-styled operations target nonviolent offenders, and are often merely money making rackets for local police departments.

It appears the trend is getting even worse. Just like cops will pull you over on the highway and claim to “smell marijuana” as an excuse to violate your 4th Amendment rights, this claim of drugs being present is now being used to SWAT raid organic farms. Or perhaps it’s just because your neighbor thinks your yard is untidy. The story below is nothing short of a complete and total disgrace and we should not stand for this sort of behavior any longer. From the Huffington Post:

A small organic farm in Arlington, Texas, was the target of a massive police action last week that included aerial surveillance, a SWAT raid and a 10-hour search.

Members of the local police raiding party had a search warrant for marijuana plants, which they failed to find at the Garden of Eden farm. But farm owners and residents who live on the property told a Dallas-Ft. Worth NBC station that the real reason for the law enforcement exercise appears to have been code enforcement. The police seized “17 blackberry bushes, 15 okra plants, 14 tomatillo plants … native grasses and sunflowers,” after holding residents inside at gunpoint for at least a half-hour, property owner Shellie Smith said in a statement. The raid lasted about 10 hours, she said.

Local authorities had cited the Garden of Eden in recent weeks for code violations, including “grass that was too tall, bushes growing too close to the street, a couch and piano in the yard, chopped wood that was not properly stacked, a piece of siding that was missing from the side of the house, and generally unclean premises,” Smith’s statement said. She said the police didn’t produce a warrant until two hours after the raid began, and officers shielded their name tags so they couldn’t be identified.

The city of Arlington said in a statement that the code citations were issued to the farm following complaints by neighbors, who were “concerned that the conditions” at the farm “interfere with the useful enjoyment of their properties and are detrimental to property values and community appearance.” The police SWAT raid came after “the Arlington Police Department received a number of complaints that the same property owner was cultivating marijuana plants on the premises,” the city’s statement said. “No cultivated marijuana plants were located on the premises,” the statement acknowledged.

It’s difficult for me to express how reprehensible I find all of the above. One thing is for sure, we need to reverse this trend and fast. The first thing we should do is institute punishment for any police officer that claims to “smell marijuana” and then finds none. In a civilized society, power hungry maniacs in costumes who are supposed to “protect and serve” cannot and should not be permitted to grossly violate citizens rights at will.

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Mike

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3 Ridiculous Things that Make You a “High Threat” According to the Pentagon

You’ve gotta love the U.S. government. According to a training test developed by the Pentagon, there are three main things to be aware of when confronting a potential terrorist. 1) Overseas travel. 2) Financial difficulties. 3) Criticism of U.S. foreign policy.

I wish I was making this up. Specifically, this information comes from training slides created by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), and further demonstrates the complete panic and paranoia rampant at the highest levels of the hopelessly crony and corrupt U.S. government. Unfortunately for us all, several million federal employees have been already subject to this preposterous training in order to identify “insider threats.”

This is what one of the slides looks like.  What a bunch of idiots.

InsiderThreat

From the Huffington Post:

A security training test created by a Defense Department agency warns federal workers that they should consider the hypothetical Indian-American woman a “high threat” because she frequently visits family abroad, has money troubles and “speaks openly of unhappiness with U.S. foreign policy.”

That slide, from the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), is a startling demonstration of the Obama administration’s obsession with leakers and other “insider threats.”

Both Hema’s travel abroad and her political dissatisfaction are treated as threat “indicators.” Versions of the training for Defense Department and other federal employees are unclassified and available for anyone to play online.

Read the Full Article »

How Does America’s Middle Class Rank Globally? #27

We are number 1 right? USA! USA! No one can beat our wealth creation machine, our economic dynamism, our level playing field and our bastions of higher education. We have a middle class that is the envy of the world, right?

Well, like so much of the “American dream” we have been force fed for a generation or more, this perception is not based in reality whatsoever. Sure it may have been the case for a couple of decades immediately after World War 2. Before the military-industrial-Wall Street complex fully took over the political process, but it certainly isn’t true any longer. Myths die hard and this one is particularly pernicious because it prevents people from changing things. As James Baldwin said:

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

From the Huffington Post:

America is the richest country on Earth. We have the most millionaires, the most billionaires and our wealthiest citizens have garnered more of the planet’s riches than any other group in the world. We even have hedge fund managers who make in one hour as much as the average family makes in 21 years!

This opulence is supposed to trickle down to the rest of us, improving the lives of everyday Americans. At least that’s what free-market cheerleaders repeatedly promise us.

Unfortunately, it’s a lie, one of the biggest ever perpetrated on the American people.

Our middle class is falling further and further behind in comparison to the rest of the world. We keep hearing that America is number one. Well, when it comes to middle-class wealth, we’re number 27.

The most telling comparative measurement is median wealth (per adult). It describes the amount of wealth accumulated by the person precisely in the middle of the wealth distribution — fifty percent of the adult population has more wealth, while fifty percent has less. You can’t get more middle than that.

American Middle Class

* Side note: May want to cross Cyprus off the above list…

The Huffington Post also provides a list as to why this is the case. While I don’t agree with all of them, I agree with most. Here are a few:

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University of Denver Plans to Give George W. Bush the “‘Improving Human Condition” Award

One of the more bizarre trends that I have covered this year has been the distribution of phony awards to high level crony political oligarchs either for PR purposes or for money.  I thought I had seen it all a couple of weeks ago when I read that Jeb Bush was set to present the “Liberty Medal” to Hillary Clinton.

Apparently the University of Denver was not to be outdone, as they planned to give the “Improving Human Condition” award to none other than George W. Bush! Thankfully, considerable outrage has led the University to rethink its choice, but it is inexcusable to begin with.  It is not only an embarrassment to the University of Denver, but also to the entire state of Colorado, my adopted home. From the Huffington Post:

Hundreds of students, staffers and alumni are protesting the University of Denver’s decision to honor former President George W. Bush with an award traditionally recognizing recipients for their work on behalf of humanity.

“It’s been mostly just a lot of surprise,” Seth Masket, associate professor of Political Science said of the award to be bestowed by the University’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

The school hosts the Korbel Dinner to present the award each year. In June, the Sept. 9 dinner was announced and invitations circulated both by mail and on the school’s website, pictured below, saying the 43rd president would be welcomed and honored as the 2013 recipient of the “Improving the Human Condition Award.”

On June 25, award protestor Taylor Gibson signed the petition and beseeched Korbel Dean Christopher Hill, “Don’t make a mockery of my degree.” The next day, Kiela Parks, an alumna and former employee at the University’s Office of Alumni and External Relations employee who worked at the 2011 and 2012 Korbel dinners, signed onto the movement.

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