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Spain chickens out

You knew this wasn’t going to happen. Obviously, the U.S. “motivated” them not to pursue it:

New York and Madrid, April 14, 2011 – Yesterday a Spanish judge chose to dismiss a politically charged case against six former Bush administration officials for their part in creating a legal framework that permitted the torture of detainees held in U.S. custody. Judge Eloy Velasco made his decision claiming the U.S. would conduct its own investigation, freeing Spain from the obligation of investigating under its universal jurisdiction law. He based this on a mere seven-page submission by the U.S. despite its clear statement that “the Department of Justice has concluded that it is not appropriate to bring criminal cases with respect to any other executive branch officials, including those named in the complaint, who acted in reliance on [Office of Legal Counsel] memoranda during the course of their involvement with the policies and procedures for detention and interrogation.”

In a statement, the Center for Constitutional Rights said, “This decision is a cowardly political act by a judge afraid to pursue justice under his country’s own laws. He is hiding behind the fig leaf of the U.S.’s scant seven-page response, but the submission made clear the U.S. has no intention of investigating these crimes or holding higher-level officials accountable for torture. As we saw from the WikiLeaks cables, the U.S. has been pressuring Spain to drop the case and interfering with the independence of judges. A second U.S. torture case remains open in Spain after a higher court ruled it should continue on February 25. Judge Velasco asked for opposing views but then issued his decision without even looking at our detailed submission refuting the U.S. claims. We will fight this decision and continue to demand accountability for torture.”

[...] The named defendants in the case are torture memo authors Jay Bybee and John Yoo, and David Addington, Douglas Feith, William Haynes and Alberto Gonzales.

Shocked

Is it just me, or are you shocked, too, when courts now rule in favor of our civil rights? This is England, of course, but still. It’s encouraging:

The high court has ruled that the Metropolitan police broke the law in the way they “kettled” protesters at the G20 demonstrations in 2009.

In a landmark judgment on Thursday, high court judges found for protesters who had claimed police treated them unfairly. It also criticised the use of force by officers.

In the case, the court heard that officers used punches to the face, slaps and shields against demonstrators who police chiefs accept had nothing to do with violence. The judgment does not strike down the police tactic of kettling or mass detention, but it will be seen as a rebuff to the Met.

The judgment places limits on the use of kettling. It says: “The police may only take such preventive action as a last resort catering for situations about to descend into violence.”

The case concerned the G20 protests in London on 1 April 2009, during which Ian Tomlinson, a bystander, died after being struck by an officer. Police in charge of the protest ordered a Climate Camp to be kettled and then cleared, but officers were left to decide how much force they should use.

Video shot on the day showed demonstrators trying to avoid being beaten by raising their hands in the air and chanting “this is not a riot” at police clad in helmets and riot gear. Officers on the videos are seen to strike demonstrators, who cannot be seen to be engaged in violence.

Will we ever see these crooks go to jail?


Sen. Levin grills Goldman Sachs execs during the long investigation into financial crash.

Is this the time, finally, when we see some of these bastards go to jail for crashing the economy to feed their own greed? Finally? I wouldn’t hold my breath:

WASHINGTON — Goldman Sachs executives deceived clients in order to profit off the brewing financial crisis and then misled Congress when asked to explain their actions, concluded a top lawmaker who led a two-year investigation into Wall Street’s role in the meltdown.

Carl Levin, chair of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, will recommend that Goldman executives who testified before his panel, including chairman and chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, be referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution, the Michigan Democrat announced Wednesday. Members of the subcommittee will now deliberate Levin’s proposal.

A Goldman spokesman said its executives were truthful in their testimony, adding that the firm disagreed with many of the panel’s conclusions.

Two and a half years after a historic crisis that has yielded not a single criminal conviction of anyone who played a leading role in causing it, the prosecution of such a high-profile Wall Street executive may satisfy the public’s desire to see culprits brought to justice. Last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission settled a lawsuit it had brought against Goldman.

But the firm was just one target of a sweeping, 639-page report by the Senate panel into the causes of the crisis. Hardly a fluke occurrence, the meltdown was the product of a deeply corrupt financial system, one fueled by profit-hungry banks that deceived their clients, and overseen by lax regulators who were complicit in the firms’ chronic abuse of the most fundamental rules of the game, the report concludes.

The investigation found a “financial snake pit rife with greed, conflicts of interest, and wrongdoing,” Levin said.

More than any other government report produced in the wake of the crisis, this account names names, blaming specific people and institutions: Goldman Sachs, Washington Mutual, Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s, the Office of Thrift Supervision and others. It targets four types of institutions, all of which it says played key roles in causing the crisis: mortgage lenders that offered prospective homeowners booby-trapped loans; regulators that were paid by the institutions they were regulating and cooperated in widespread deception; rating agencies that gave seals of approval to products they knew to be especially risky, all in the pursuit of market share; and Wall Street banks that duped investors into buying securities that only the insiders knew were destined to go bad.

“Blame for this mess lies everywhere from federal regulators who cast a blind eye, Wall Street bankers who let greed run wild, and members of Congress who failed to provide oversight,” said the panel’s ranking member, Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican.

The bully boy

I wonder if people realize how wealthy Chris Christie is. How the hell does Mr. Wall Street have the balls to criticize an elderly legislator for working PART-TIME while collecting a pension? Yet he looks the other way when one of his buddies is double-dipping:

Christie’s latest foray into bullying rhetoric came yesterday, where he asked a group of reporters to “take the bat out” on a 76-year old female legislator Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D) because she has the temerity to collect a pension in addition to her part-time salary as a legislator:

Governor Christie told reporters Wednesday to “take the bat” to 76-year-old Sen. Loretta Weinberg for collecting a taxpayer-funded pension while making $49,000 a year as a legislator. [...]

“I mean, can you guys please take the bat out on her for once?”Christie said to a crowd of reporters at a State House news conference. “Here’s a woman who knows she did it, yet she comes to you and is pining … ‘Oh! My goodness! How awful this is! What a double standard!’ But she’s the queen of double standard.”

Asked about Christie’s comment, Weinberg replied, “The guy’s a little over the line. I’ll continue criticizing him on the issues I think I should criticize him on.”

NorthJersey.com notes that Weinberg, a widow, lost much of her savings in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, which is why she applied for retirement benefits to supplement her part-time legislator’s income. The site also notes that on “Tuesday, an Eagleton Institute of Politics poll showed 53 percent of Democrats and 16 percent of Republicans found Christie to be a ‘bully.’ In an August survey, 35 percent of Democrats and 10 percent of Republicans had described the governor as such.”

The thing that’s most ironic? When Christie was a statehouse lobbyist for the Wall Street trade association, he worked for … one Bernie Madoff.

The Madoff family gained unusual access to Washington’s lawmakers and regulators through the industry’s top trade group. The Madoff family has long-standing, high-level ties to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), the primary securities industry organization.

Bernard Madoff sat on the Board of Directors of the Securities Industry Association, which merged with the Bond Market Association in 2006 to form SIFMA. Madoff’s brother Peter then served two terms as a member of SIFMA’s Board of Directors.

Peter’s resignation as the scandal broke in December 2008 came amid growing criticism of the Madoff firm’s links to Washington, and how those relationships may have contributed to the Madoff fraud. Over the years 2000–08, the two Madoff brothers gave $56,000 to SIFMA, and tens of thousands of dollars more to sponsor SIFMA industry meetings.

In addition, Bernard Madoff’s niece Shana Madoff was active on the Executive Committee of SIFMA’s Compliance & Legal Division, but resigned her SIFMA position shortly after her uncle’s arrest. She married an SEC compliance official, Eric Swanson, after an SEC investigation concluded in 2005. A spokesman for Swanson, who has left the SEC, said he “did not participate in any inquiry of Bernard Madoff Securities or its affiliates while involved in a relationship” with Shana Madoff.

Slap on the hand?

And too little, too late? Sounds like it:

WASHINGTON – The federal government on Wednesday ordered 16 of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders and servicers to reimburse homeowners who were improperly foreclosed upon.

Government regulators also directed the financial firms to hire auditors to determine how many homeowners could have avoided foreclosure in 2009 and 2010.

Citibank, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, the nation’s four largest banks, were among the financial firms cited in the joint report by the Federal Reserve, Office of Thrift Supervision and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

The Fed said it believed financial penalties were “appropriate” and that it planned to levy fines in the future. All three regulators said they would review the foreclosure audits. Under the agreements reached, the lenders and servicers have 45 days to hire an auditor and will “remediate all financial injury to borrowers caused by any errors, misrepresentations, or other deficiencies.” There is no minimum or maximum dollar amount identified.

In the four years since the housing bust, about 5 million homes have been foreclosed upon. About 2.4 million primary mortgages were in foreclosure at the end of last year. Another 2 million were 90 days or more past due, putting them at serious risk of foreclosure.

Critics, including Democratic lawmakers in Congress, say the order is too lenient on the lenders. House Democrats introduced legislation Wednesday that would require lenders to perform a series of steps, including an appeals process, before starting foreclosures.

“I want to know what abuses (the government agencies) identified, which banks committed them and how their proposed consent agreement is going to fix these problems,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member of the House Government and Oversight Committee. “Based on what I have read … I am not encouraged at all.”

Yep

(Editorial cartoon by Tom Toles and published in the Washington Post April 7, 2011. Via Cab Drollery.)

Nuclear power plants

I try not to think of the three that ring Philadelphia.

Debt ceiling

The game explained by Dave Weigel.

What they’re not telling us

About radioactive milk.

Rock ‘n’ roll suicide

Bowie live:

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