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Afghan War Lost?, AJE: My Report From the UN, FBI Catalogues Financial Crimes.

March 16th, 2012 - by:

Tune it Today: News Dissector Radio 1-2 PM on PRN.fm

Saturday: I will be on a panel on Media ethics at 3PM at the Left Forum at Pace University


Eyewitness Report for The News Dissector: More Occupy Arrests at Bank Of America Protest by Occupier Cat Watters

A couple of hundred showed up at the “pumphouse” on the waterfront to participate in OWS’ fight against BofA,, You know Bank of America?

The protesters marched north on the West Side Hwy then West and stopped by the Red balloon looking statue next to the WTC site in front of the Moody’s Building. Protesters chanted “Downgrade B of A”, then facts about B of A and their predatory practices were “Mic Checked” to a very passionate crowd. Then. on to a locale B of A bank just north a block or 2. Protesters brought furniture, couches, rugs, coffee table, and a TV and set up a Living room in front of the B of A to “Move In”.

I heard the plan was to move Into the bank, on the inside but, I think the NYPD was ready for that so they just opted to set the stage out front.

Protesters “Mic Checked” off Facts about B of A and the $$ they rack up while throwing people out on the street. Stories were read of elderly people who were victims of B of A. When I saw an officer step into the “Living room” I knew it was coming. Thank Goodness he gave us a warning. We were “Blocking pedestrian traffic”. … People were chanting, “Bank of America is the Criminal!”

This is the beginning of what will surely be a most interesting and Lively season ahead! OWS never left and will not leave until the system crashes and transforms or every last protester is arrested. Then only more will show up because more and more victims of Corporate crime will appear.”

Here’s one YouTube video and another.

•Related Report on Arrests from The Gothamist

• Fluent: ‘LulzSec-linked hacker who threatened to burn White House appears in court’

Who Lost Afghanistan?

That question is certain to surface in this year’s political race as the US braces for a major defeat in Afghanistan. Let’s recognize: This was is a loser on the cusp of being lost.

Our “ally” and client Hamid Kazai is demanding that US soldiers leave the villages. The Taliban has called off negotiations with the US. Another Vietnam disaster threatens.

The Guardian calls this “a double blow.”

Tarek Barawi writes about Defeat and Denial on Al Jazeera.

“We are dealing here with peoples whose historical trajectory has dealt out repeated defeats to the world’s greatest empires. You cannot make war successfully in such places as an afterthought to the crises of economy and democracy in the West.

The conflict in Afghanistan is at a decisive juncture, and the West is facing defeat on a scale not seen since Vietnam. Few want to face facts, and the result is a gap between rhetoric and reality of a kind that only wars gone badly wrong produce.

Lost in the rolling crisis that began with the Quran burning is an important upcoming date. At the end of this month, the Karzai regime will see through its threat to force out the private security companies who guard the contractors that carry out development projects across Afghanistan.

Humanitarian NGOs that operate without security will be unaffected. But the contractors who carry out projects funded by Western governments face the prospect of operating under the protection of a hastily raised “Afghan Public Protection Force”.

•Pedro Escobar, Asia Times: “The level of the mistrust between Americans and Afghans is cosmic.”

•Independent journalist Michael Yon sees a very rocky road. “The sad fact is that this is very
unlikely to turn out well, and that Afghanistan is moving toward civil war”.. He relays a very bitter letter of resentment from a former US soldier there. Everyone seems to agree that it will get bloodier before its over.

“Got this message from former Marine Tim Lynch, in Afghanistan. Tim’s not always polite, but he’s a former infantry officer and I listen to him very closely:

“The Taliban killed 13 women and children today with an IED in Uruzgan and I think they got 8 yesterday – but that’s all cool here because their the Taliban and we’re the big fat retarded kid on the block who gets bullied everyday but still shows up to fork over even more lunch money.”

•Jim Cason, Friends Committee on National Legislation: “Every vote in the House over the past two years on planning for a withdrawal has gained more support than the last. Eighty-eight representatives and 24 senators recently wrote President Barack Obama to urge an expedited withdrawal of U.S. military troops.

•Trailer: The Forgotten Victims of the Afghan Wars

Killing Said To Be Stress Related: “He Just Snapped.”

LBN: The American staff sergeant suspected of killing 16 Afghan villagers had been drinking alcohol a violation of military rules in combat zones and suffering from the stress related to his fourth combat tour and tensions with his wife about the deployments on the night of the massacre, a senior American official said Thursday.

When it all comes out, it will be a combination of stress, alcohol and domestic issues he just snapped, said the official, who has been briefed on the investigation and who spoke on condition of anonymity because the soldier has not yet been formally charged.

As new details emerged about possible reasons behind the shootings, the American official said the military was preparing to move the sergeant to a prison in the United States as early as Friday, most likely to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., just a day after he was flown to a detention site in Kuwait from Afghanistan.

This decision infuriates Afghans who believe he should be tried in Afghanistan for the crime committed there.

Update: Global Financial Crisis and Human Rights

My Latest Article On AlJazeera: Reporting on My Speech In Geneva

Geneva, Switzerland – It’s been more than 20 years since I first came to the UN Headquarters here to report on a human rights issue. Then, it was about the cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa.

A few years later, South Africans would win their freedom.

Now, I am back in the maze of conference rooms, hoping to be covered. My topic these days is the financial crisis as a human rights issue and I was invited by an international NGO to bring it to the sessions alongside the Human Rights Council composed of 47 member states.

As a journalist, I am uncomfortable being an advocate in such a ritualistic politicised process that every year witnesses scores of oppressed peoples seeking relief or visibility for causes that seldom get any attention outside of the UN basement.

That’s where these issues often end up being heard before being filed away in archives that few media outlets ever consult.

It’s even unclear if this body of governments has the clout or the inclination to take on a vast corporatocracy with more power than the political establishment.

Social movements

I am here because Occupy Wall Street has put the issue of economic inequality on the agenda, although I am certainly not representing OWS, even if I did write a book about its activities.

In fact, OWS activists caution against bringing demands before bodies that really don’t have the power to satisfy them. The recent edition of Occupy’s theoretical journal, Tidal (as in “tidal wave”), carries an essay warning that by floating specific demands, you lose control over how the public perceives issues that are interconnected. This can also, they fear, validate institutions that lack legitimacy.

For more, visit AlJazeera.com

•Also in Geneva: NAACP to Call on UN to Investigate Voter Disfranchisement in US

Guardian: Delegation to travel to Geneva to tell human rights council that attempt is being made to restrict black and Latino right to vote

Letters

I was intrigued to see your recent post on AJE on the global economic crisis as a HRs crisis. My org. and I have been doing quite a bit of work on this lately, our most recent work doubling-down on Ireland’s response to the crisis. We work closely with Radhika and James, and use the UN bodies where helpful.. congrats on the much-needed analysis on the crisis and as a generational HRs abuse!

Nicholas Lusiani
Senior Researcher
Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR)

Laura Purcell writes. Can anyone help me respond to her?

I read your article on Al Jazeera online today. You made some terrific points, regarding the role of the UN.

Unfortunately I am incredibily tired so I will just use a quick quote from your story, and then ask my question.

You said “that’s where these issues often end up being heard before being filed away in archives that few media outlets ever consult”.

Being a little bit of a news addict, and a lover of research and writing, I was wondering if you were referring to real archives or hypothetical ones- and if so, is there any way the public (ie myself) can attain access to them?

Thanks, I know it’s a tedious way to ask a question, please forgive me!

Richard Greenell lets me have it:

“This is a piece of liberal, far left political activism. It fools no one. This isn’t even close to journalism. Quoting graydon carter, talking so affectionately about the UN, bashing wall street and capitalism and celebrating the OWS movement is laughable journalism.” Hahaha.

The FBI reports on Investigating Financial Crimes.

Charles Bonaparte was clearly onto something, wWhen he created a “special agent force” in 1908—the forerunner of the FBI—the progressive attorney general made sure that a dozen of his first 34 investigators were bank examiners specializing in financial crimes. No doubt to the satisfaction of the muckrakers of the day and his own trust-busting boss, President Teddy Roosevelt.

These experienced financial agents hit the ground running, investigating antitrust activities (now part of our public corruption program) in the meat processing and sardine canning industries. They also tackled a variety of financial frauds—from bankruptcy scams to accounting frauds in federal prisons and courts. The Bureau was also responsible for investigating several national banking law violations.

Over our first six or seven decades, the financial crimes we investigated were fairly small potatoes by today’s standards…

Financial crimes became a pressing priority in the mid-1970s, when Director Clarence Kelley made white-collar crime—which in the fallout of Watergate included public corruption—a top focus of the FBI. By 1976, Director Kelley noted that 15 percent of our agents were working white-collar crime cases, and the next decade saw the beginning of a wave of agent-intensive, high-dollar, and high-impact financial fraud investigations with our partners that continues to this day. A few examples:

The savings and loan crisis that arose in the early 1980s became our first massive national financial fraud probe. By the end of the decade, hundreds of FBI agents were investigating more than 530 banks to determine if fraud or embezzlement were involved in their failures.

Health care fraud exploded in the early 1990s, leading to more than 100 arrests in our first major case—Operation Gold Pill—in 1992.

Telemarketing fraud also took off in the 1990s, resulting in significant cases like Operation Disconnect and Operation Senior Sentinel.

Insider trading scandals made national news in the 1980s with the probes of Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken. The FBI joined its first major investigation of a Wall Street executive soon after, helping to convict powerful municipal finance banker Mark Ferber in 1996.

The collapse of Enron in 2001 and the ensuing investigation led to a series of major corporate fraud investigations in the following decade.

The threat remains…and our work goes on. As evidenced in our latest Financial Crimes Report—buttressed by last week’s conviction of Robert Allen Stanford, who misappropriated $7 billion from his own company—we continue to address the threat of financial fraud…everything from insider trading to insurance fraud, from mortgage fraud to bank failures, from mass marketing scams to health care and corporate fraud.

Going After Goldman: Part of What Ex-GS exec Greg Smith Said

‘To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.

Response To Remarks by the Goldman Sachs “defector”

Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism: Earth to Greg: the old days were not quite as rosy as you suggest, but it is true that Goldman once cared about the value of its franchise, and that constrained its behavior. So it was “long term greedy,” eager to grab any profit opportunity but concerned about its reputation. I knew someone who was senior in what Goldman called human capital management, and even though, in classic old Goldman style, he was loath to say anything bad about anyone, he was clearly disgusted of Lloyd Blankfein and the crew that took over leadership after Hank Paulson, John Thain and John Thornton departed. Before the firm before had gone to some lengths to preserve its culture and was thoughtful about how to operate the firm. One head of a well respected investment bank told me in the mid 1990s: “It isn’t that Goldman has better people. All the top firms have good people. It’s that they make the effort to manage themselves better than anyone else.” That apparently went out the window when Blankfein came in. My contact said all his cohort cared about was how much money they could make in the current year.

Robert Scheer, ICH: At Last, Some Decency on Wall Street

By the time you read this, the PR hacks of Goldman Sachs will be vigorously pressing their efforts to destroy the reputation of whistle-blower Greg Smith.

Daily Bell: Goldman Roiled by Op-Ed Loses $2.2 Billion … Smith Resignation Costs Goldman Shareholders $2.2B … Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) saw $2.15 billion of its market value wiped out after an employee assailed Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein’s management and the firm’s treatment of clients, sparking debate across Wall Street. The shares dropped 3.4 percent in New York trading yesterday, the third-biggest decline in the 81-company Standard & Poor’s 500 Financials Index, after London-based Greg Smith made the accusations in a New York Times op-ed piece. Smith, who also wrote that he was quitting after 12 years at the company, blamed Blankfein, 57, and President Gary D. Cohn, 51, for a “decline in the firm’s moral fiber.” They responded in a memo to current and former employees, saying that Smith’s assertions don’t reflect the firm’s values, culture or “how the vast majority of people at Goldman Sachs think about the firm and the work it does on behalf of our clients.” – New York Times

Their questions: Is it a deliberate hit job of sorts? Certainly it is compelling. People hate the system so much that even the alternative news media goes along when it comes to Goldman Sachs.

It never seems to occur to anyone, even the brightest of the alternative media minds, that this is the way the power elite works. Do they ever set up a dialectic they don’t control? “They” OWN Goldman Sachs it seems to us. Goldman works for “them” … and “they” are offering up this top firm like a sacrificial lamb.

•Leo Haviland, a former Goldman employee himself, and an experienced Wall Street veteran and with over three decades experience in the trading environment, is the author of a new book, Words on the Street: Language and the American Dream on Wall Street, offering a revealing look at how language derived from familiar and fascinating arenas can change people’s viewpoints and actions, including how they perceive marketplace risks.
Among the terms:

Games: The language of games enables Wall Street evangelists to preach persuasive sermons that Wall Street is a fine place to take risks and wager money to win American Dream prizes of financial security and wealth.
Love: Wall Street’s love rhetoric reminds audiences that it’s good to love money and that its stock, debt, currency, and commodities marketplaces represent money and are avenues to wealth and finical security.
War: Wall Street’s ardent rhetoric enlists familiar words from war, battle, and violence to attract, capture, inflame and sustain attention. These metaphors make the turmoil and confusion in the marketplaces understandable.

Religion: The bewitching religious talk of Wall Street ‘prophets of profit’ and their apostles build trust that Wall Street is marvelous temple in which to seek and perhaps find the hallowed American Dream.

Natural Physical Science: Wall Street worships and banks on the persuasiveness of natural physical science, so it applies natural physical science words in comprehensive fashion to Wall Street participants, viewpoints, strategies, locations, and outcomes.”

•Related: Iran’s banks to be blocked from global banking system’

•Related: I’m reading about ‘Court: SEC, Citi have strong settlement case’ on Fluent News.

Another One Bites The Dust

The Hill: Rep. Gary Ackerman will not seek reelection

Rep. Gary Ackerman will not run for reelection to the House in 2012, his office announced Thursday. The New York Democrat will retire after 15 terms in Congress.

Institute for Public Accuracy: Jeff Sachs For President?

For the first time in the World Bank’s history, a candidate is openly campaigning for presidency of the institution. Traditionally, the U.S. government has hand-selected the World Bank president, but economist and health expert Jeffrey Sachs has shaken up the process this time by publicly proclaiming his interest in succeeding Robert Zoellick as World Bank president, saying that to date World Bank presidents have been political appointees or bankers — not development experts.

Members of Congress are expected Friday to deliver a letter to President Obama urging him to nominate Sachs, now the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University to be the next World Bank president. A letter initiated by Rep. John Conyers and signed by over 25 members of Congress states: “Professor Sachs is widely considered to be the world’s leading expert on economic development and the fight against poverty. For over 25 years, he has advised dozens of governments throughout the developing world on economic development, environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation, debt cancellation, and globalization. He has twice been named among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential world leaders.” http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/1168

Kony Video Inflames, Intrigues

•EJC/Pew/MSNBC: “Those ages 18-29 were much more likely than older adults to have heard a lot about the ‘Kony 2012′ video and to have learned about it through social media than traditional news sources. Indeed, a special analysis of posts in Twitter showed that it was by far the top story on the platform.” On Thursday, the 30-minute video, made by the group Invisible Children and released just 10 days ago, was closing in on 80 million YouTube views, and had been played more than 17 million times on Vimeo, “making it one of the most viewed videos of all time on those sites,” Pew said. “The Internet was more than three times more important as a news-learning platform for young adults than traditional media such as television, newspapers, and radio.” Only 10 percent of young adults first learned about “Kony 2012″ via “traditional media platforms.” (Msnbc.com)

•ICH: Mail & Guardian: Appalled Ugandans Riot at Kony 2012 Screening

“People were very angry about the film,” said Victor Ochen, director of a local charity, the African Youth Initiative Network (Ayinet), which arranged the screening. “They were all saying, ‘This is not about us, it does not reflect our lives’.”

•Pambamzuka: THE DOWNSIDE OF THE KONY 2012 VIDEO

Mahmood Mamdani: A 30-minute documentary about Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony has been watched by tens of millions online. But will this mobilization of millions be subverted into yet another weapon in the hands of those who want to militarize
the region further?

Its iPad Release Day: Protests Expected at Apple Stores

Consumers to gather at Apple stores in Washington, DC, New York City, and San Francisco, asking Apple for a new product release plan that stops worker abuse

Washington, DC– Apple users who have supported the explosive campaign on Change.org asking the company to stop worker abuse in their factories will demonstrate outside Apple’s Georgetown location this Friday.

Demonstrators will demand Apple create a worker protection strategy to prevent workplace abuse, injury, and death, including how to keep workers safe during labor-intensive releases of new products like the iPad 3.

When: Friday, March 16, 8:00am EST

Where: Apple Georgetown, 1229 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20007

Finally from the Daily Beast: A “History Lesson”

President Obama better hope the Rutherford Hayes family isn’t still active in Ohio politics. In a speech on Thursday aimed at reforming energy policy, Obama said the 19th president’s refusal to use the telephone is “why he’s not on Mount Rushmore”—and Obama said he doesn’t plan on making the same mistake. “One of my predecessors, President Rutherford B. Hayes, reportedly said about the telephone ‘it’s a great invention, but who would ever want to use one?’” Obama said. “He’s looking backwards, not looking forward. He’s explaining why we can’t do something instead of why we can do something. The point is there will always be cynics and naysayers.” Obama pointed to “unnamed” Republicans running for a “certain office” that are opposed to finding alternative energy.

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