September 27, 2014 archive

Holder’s Record on Financial Crimes

The resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder was announced on Thursday afternoon by the White House. Mr. Holder was among Obama’s first nominees to the cabinet. The president-elect announced his selection on the same day he announced Hillary Clinton’s appointment as secretary of state, at a time when Guantanamo Bay closure, the torture of prisoners, and regulatory failure on Wall Street after the 2008 financial crisis was all looming in the air.

While his track record in the mainstream press today has been kind to him, painting him as the liberal voice in the Obama administration, his track record is less desirable. Mr. Holder signed off on the National Security Agency’s authority to sweep up the phone records of millions of Americans not charged with any crime. We remember him for the relentless pursuit of whistleblowers such as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden and Aaron Swartz. While these whistleblowers were upholding our constitution and the people’s right to know, he was not. He authorized the subpoena directed at journalists and approved the CIA killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen working with al-Qaeda, instead of just having him arrested and giving him his day in court.


Financial frauds had a friend in Holder

by William K. Black, Al Jazeera

September 26, 2014 6:00AM ET

Eric Holder was U.S. attorney general at a time when the world desperately needed the nation’s chief law enforcement officer to hold accountable the elite bankers who oversaw the epidemic of fraud that drove the 2008 global financial crisis and triggered the Great Recession. After nearly six years in office, Holder announced on Sept. 25 that he plans to step down, without having brought to justice even one of the executives responsible for the crisis. His tenure represents the worst strategic failure against elite white-collar crime in the history of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

In addition to the failure to prosecute the leaders of those massive frauds, Holder’s dismal record includes 1) failing to prosecute the elite bankers who led the largest (by several orders of magnitude) price-rigging cartel in history – the LIBOR scandal, in which the world’s largest banks conspired to rig the reported interest rates at which the banks were willing to lend to one another, which affected prices on over $300 trillion in transactions; 2) failing to prosecute the massive foreclosure frauds (robo-signing), in which bank employees perjured themselves by signing more than 100,000 false affidavits in order to deceive the authorities that they had a right to foreclose on homes; 3) failing to prosecute the bid-rigging cartels of bond issuances in order to raise the costs to U.S. cities, counties and states of borrowing money in order to increase banks’ illegal profits; 4) failing to prosecute money laundering by HSBC for the murderous Sinaloa and Norte del Valle drug cartels; 5)  failing to prosecute the senior bank officers of Standard Chartered who helped fund of terrorists and nations that support terrorism; and 6) failing to prosecute the controlling officers of Credit Suisse who for decades helped wealthy Americans unlawfully evade U.S. taxes and then obstructed investigations by the DOJ and Internal Revenue Service for many years.  

Holder and his defenders will respond to such charges by appealing to the size of the civil settlements the DOJ obtained from the major banks under his tenure. But his case is risible. First, the civil fines, while sounding large, would never be large enough to pose even the slightest risk that the banks’ capital would be impaired, because Holder and White House continue to embrace the too-big-to-fail doctrine, that the responsible banks are too important to the economy to allow the risk of their collapse. Such fines amount to the cost of doing business – a very lucrative one, in fact, for the controlling officers.

Second, the CEOs knew that they could trade off a slightly larger fine in return for complete immunity for themselves and other officers who might otherwise be flipped by federal prosecutors to testify against more senior officers. The fines, of course, would be paid not by the CEOs but by the banks they ran. Indeed, one of the lesser-known aspects of the crisis is that the DOJ almost never sued a banker (as opposed to a bank) and virtually never sought to claw back bankers’ fraud proceeds. It is telling that, as even Holder admitted last week, “A corporation may enter a guilty plea and still see its stock price rise the next day.”

Despite my grave misgivings, I proved too optimistic about Holder. I always thought he would prosecute at least one of the top bankers from the most infamous fraudulent lenders such as Citigroup, Countrywide, Ameriquest or Washington Mutual as a token legacy case. No, Holder refused to indict even one of them for leading any of the megabanks that engaged in fraudulent conduct that devastated the world economy. This is all well known, as I and other observers have explained repeatedly.  What is not as well known, however, is that Holder refused to indict even non-elite financial CEOs, for example, at midsize mortgage banks that specialized in making fraudulent loans. Instead, he prosecuted hundreds of bit players and spread the disgraceful double lie that mortgage fraud was largely an ethnic crime that was committed almost exclusively by primarily ethnic borrowers rather than the officers controlling the lenders. Holder’s legacy in this sphere is that he was the one chasing black, brown and Russian-American mice while white lions roamed free.

On This Day In History September 27

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 27 is the 270th day of the year (271st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 95 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1922, Jean-François Champollion deciphered the hieroglyphs of the Rosetta Stone with the help of groundwork laid by his predecessors: Athanasius Kircher, Silvestre de Sacy, Johan David Akerblad, Thomas Young, and William John Bankes. Champollion translated parts of the Rosetta Stone, showing that the Egyptian writing system was a combination of phonetic and ideographic signs.

Thomas Young was one of the first to attempt decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphs, basing his own work on the investigations of Swedish diplomat Akerblad, who built up a demotic  alphabet of 29 letters (15 turned out to be correct) and translated all personal names and other words in the Demotic part of the Rosetta Stone  in 1802. Akerblad however, wrongly believed that demotic was entirely phonetic or alphabetic. Young thought the same, and by 1814 he had completely translated the enchorial (which Champollion labeled Demotic as it is called today) text of the Rosetta Stone (he had a list with 86 demotic words). Young then studied the hieroglyphic alphabet and made some progress but failed to recognise that demotic and hieroglyphic texts were paraphrases and not simple translations. In 1823 he published an Account of the Recent Discoveries in Hieroglyphic Literature and Egyptian Antiquities. Some of Young’s conclusions appeared in the famous article Egypt he wrote for the 1818 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica.

When Champollion, in 1822, published his translation of the hieroglyphs and the key to the grammatical system, Young and all others praised this work. Young had indicated in a letter to Gurney that he wished to see Champollion acknowledge that he had made use of Young’s earlier work in assisting his eventual deciphering of hieroglyphics. Champollion was unwilling to share the credit even though initially he had not recognized that hieroglyphics were phonetic. Young corrected him on this, and Champollion attempted to have an early article withdrawn once he realized his mistake. Strongly motivated by the political tensions of that time, the British supported Young and the French Champollion. Champollion completely translated the hieroglyphic grammar based in part upon the earlier work of others including Young. However, Champollion maintained that he alone had deciphered the hieroglyphs. After 1826, he did offer Young access to demotic manuscripts in the Louvre, when he was a curator. Baron Georges Cuvier (1825) credited Champollion’s work as an important aid in dating the Dendera Zodiac.


The Breakfast Club (Dancing Fool)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgOne, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three.

It’s amazing to me (though perhaps it shouldn’t be) how many dances have signatures of three.

Ok, enough with the doggerel, it was making my head ache anyway.

But it’s true enough that an amazing amount of music written specifically for dancing is in 3/4, 3/8, or 6/8 time (not Rock of course which is relentlessly 4/4, or the Polka in 2/4).  I suppose I should take a moment and explain Time Signatures.

Signatures are a notational convention to let the musician know “how many beats are in each bar and which note value constitutes one beat.”  They look like fractions, but mean something entirely different.  The beats per bar is the first number and can really have any value, bars are a mere divisional convenience (like periods), though they do effect the accenting.  The second number, the note value, is almost uniformly 4 or 8.  This corresponds to the duration of each individual note where open notes without a staff last for 4 beats, open with staff 2, solid with staff 1, solid with staff and a flag 1/2, solid with staff and 2 flags 1/4, etc.

What makes it confusing is that solid with staff is called a quarter note because it conventionally (in 4/4 time) takes up a quarter of the bar and a whole note (open, no staff) takes up a whole bar (I think I’ll have some of Chuck Pierce’s Prestone now).

Anyway how many beats also gives you an idea of how the music is naturally accented.  Common (4/4) time is accented DAH, duh, Dah, duh with the 3rd beat slightly less prominent than the first.  Cut time (think Sousa) the same except twice as fast though it’s easy enough to transpose into a 2/4 Polka but then you lose the inherent subtlety of the 3rd beat as all the down (first) beats are accented the same.  Confused yet?  I sure am.

If the beats per bar are divisible by 3 (3/4, 6/8) each bar is accented DAH, duh, duh (or in the case of 6/8 DAH, duh, duh, Dah, duh, duh).  The 6/8 accenting really gives you a better feel for the rhythm of the music as actually played and while you can duplicate it notationally in any signature with the Triplet, if you’re going to be using it with frequency being divisible by 3 is a time saver.

Personally it’s this coincidence of quarter time and third time in the 6/8 and 12/8 signatures that make them intellectually attractive to me though I’m not a composer, have barely any theory, and as a performer am in the words of the immortal Leonard Falcone himself- “Hopeless.”

One of the defining characteristics of modern and post-modern “art” music is using creative time signatures, eccentric accents, and syncopation to distance itself from this “tyranny of the barline” and Stravinsky was one of the strongest proponents, but you can’t dance to it very well.

Back to dancing.  Wikipedia implicitly likens “classical” dancing to Square Dancing and now that I think about it I can see the parallels.  Performed in groups like a line dance, participants were expected to know the moves with a certain interchangability as opposed to individual efforts like the mosh pit mania of Rock or even the stylized but solo (well, pairs) of contemporary ballroom styles.

Excluding the Polka the 3 most popular types were the Minuet and the Scherzo (an uptempo, long format Minuet), and the Waltz all in 3/4 time.  What made the Waltz particularly scandalous was not really the music, which was actually fairly conventional, but the fact that the dance is performed in the “closed” position where you are looking at your partner and can even give them a squeeze if nobody’s watching.

So this morning I’ve decided to illustrate each of those 3 types and as a bonus I’m including Le Sacre du printemps which was so revolutionary in its noise that it nearly caused a riot.

For a Minuet I’ve chosen a piece by Jean-Baptiste Lully who introduced the trio section to the form.

Menuet pour Trompettes

For a Scherzo I’ve selected a piece by Schubert who finished much more than he left unfinished and along with Beethoven really popularized this format in “art” music.

Scherzo Presto from Symphony #6

And for the Waltz you can’t go wrong with some Johann Strauss.  This is Opus 4, Kettenbrücke-Walzer, about a suspension bridge.


Oh, Stravinski.

Those kids.  They’ll listen to any kind of cacophony.

Oblgatories, news, and blogs below.

Late Night Karaoke

Random Japan

 photo screen-shot-2014-09-25-at-2-28-03-pm_zps232a976f.png

 Japanese company creates ball-balancing cheerleader robots

   Michelle Lynn Dinh

Japan has an   infatuation with robots; after all, you don’t see beautiful cyborg women hanging out in restaurants in the US or 24-fingered hair washing bots in the UK. That’s why we weren’t surprised at all to find that Japan has just produced a gang of cheerleading robots that dance in sync while balancing on a ball.

Officially called the “Murata Cheerleaders,” these balancing robots are the fourth generation of robots to be produced by the company. The bicycle-riding Murata Boy was first to come in 1991, followed by the second version of the Murata Boy in 2005, and the Murata Girl who learned to ride a unicycle in 2008.

EEOC files first ever lawsuits against companies for discriminating against transgender employees.

R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes of Garden City, Michigan and Lakeland Eye Clinic of Lakeland, Florida have been found to have much in common by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

 photo Amiee-Stephens-x400_zps650425d2.jpgIn 2013 Aimee Stephens, an embalmer and Funeral Director told her boss at Harris that she was transitioning from male to female.  Two weeks after that the owner of the funeral home chain fired here…telling her that what she proposed to do was “unacceptable.”

In 2011 Brandi Branson was fired from her job as director of hearing services at Lakeland Eye Clinic after informing her employer that she was transitioning to female and beginning to wear makeup and women’s tailored clothing.

Branson observed that co-workers snickered, rolled their eyes and withdrew from social interactions with her.

EEOC says the companies violated federal law by discriminating based on gender stereotypes. and has filed suit against them.