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Heh

Glenn Greenwald eviscerates the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus:

Marcus — last seen in this space three years ago demanding that Bush officials be fully shielded from all accountability for their crimes (the ultimate expression of “respect for authority”) — wants everyone to learn and be guided by extreme deference to political officials and to humbly apologize when they offend those officials with harsh criticism. In other words, Marcus wants all young citizens to be trained to be employees of The Washington Post.

UPDATE: Charles Pierce has more.

Matt Taibbi smacked down the SEC regarding its slap-on-the-wrist penalty against Citigroup, but so-called objective reporters seem to think the SEC is a victim! More here.

Family practice

They told me at the ER that I had to get a family doctor, something I’ve been putting off because it’s expensive and there’s a lot of paperwork to deal with. So this morning I went to see a guy who pretty much nodded his head and said, “I understand” no matter what I said (I don’t believe he did – understand, I mean) and wrote me a gazillion scripts I have no intention of filling.

I already told him that. I said I wasn’t interested in taking statins or anything for high blood pressure — blood pressure that’s spiked by the ER visits and lack of sleep. Once I lost weight, my blood pressure reverted to its normal low status. It’s high right now from being sick and the lack of sleep.

As to statins: Well, I’m not impressed as to their safety and effectiveness in women.(And the last thing I need is a drug that increases memory loss. Hello?)

There were a couple of other things, too. But basically, I wasn’t thrilled. It’s nice when you have a doctor you can trust, but this guy doesn’t strike me as one of those. The big plus in his favor? He’s right down the street.

Whistleblower death

It’s not unheard of that people facing incarceration sometimes kill themselves. But there’s no question that Tracy Lawrence was a huge threat to some powerful interests:

A notary public who signed tens of thousands of false documents in a massive foreclosure scam before blowing the whistle on the scandal has been found dead in her Las Vegas home.

NBC station KSNV of Las Vegas reported that the woman, Tracy Lawrence, 43, was scheduled to be sentenced Monday morning after she pleaded guilty this month to notarizing the signature of an individual not in her presence. She failed to show up for her hearing, and police found her body at her home later in the day.

It could not immediately be determined whether Lawrence, who faced up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000, died of suicide or of natural causes, KSNV reported. Detectives said they had ruled out homicide.

Lawrence came forward earlier this month and blew the whistle on the operation, in which title officers Gary Trafford, 49, of Irvine, Calif., and Geraldine Sheppard, 62, of Santa Ana, Calif. — who worked for a Florida processing company used by most major banks to process repossessions — allegedly forged signatures on tens of thousands of default notices from 2005 to 2008.

Trafford and Sheppard were charged two weeks ago with 606 counts of offering false instruments for recording, false certification on certain instruments and notarization of the signature of a person not in the presence of a notary public. You can read a .pdf version of their indictment here.

Police said at the time that the alleged scam had thrown into question the legality of most Las Vegas home foreclosures in the past few years, leaving many people living in foreclosed-upon homes that they unknowingly don’t actually own.

‘Rotten fruit of Obamaism’

John Heilmann has a really good piece in New York magazine about parallels between 1968 and 2012 re: the Occupy movement. It’s long, but worth reading the whole thing:

What Obama may not understand so well is the degree of frustration inspired by him specifically among the protesters and their prime movers. Or the extent to which OWS and its energy is, as one liberal strategist puts it, is “the rotten fruit of Obamaism”—an army of young people, many of them inspired and mobilized by his campaign in 2008, who feel betrayed by his performance since he has, er, occupied the Oval Office.

“He cheated,” says Husain, who volunteered for the campaign on the belief that Obama could be a transformative president. “He ran on a platform he never intended to push. He made promises he never intended to keep. I was just amazed in his inaugural speech how little transformative there was. And then Tim Geithner—what the hell was that? And then the bailouts. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out what was going on. It was a continuation of the same bullshit.”

Then there are others who never put any faith in Obama in the first place. “The new boss is ever the same as the old boss,” says Sandy Nurse. “I think if either political party or politician thinks they have any credibility to come down here and tap into this energy, they’re gravely misinformed.”

The last point is one I heard again and again from OWSers about Team Obama’s talk of channeling the movement. “They don’t have a fucking clue what they are talking about,” says Berger. “These [protesters] aren’t out here because they’re offended that they haven’t been spoken to nicely. They’re out here because they owe shitloads of money in student-loan debt and can’t find a job. Or they can’t afford their mortgage. And if Obama thinks that they’re gonna be able to divert this energy by talking about doing something, he’s got another think coming.”

[…] Fourth and finally, OWS will need to navigate the fork in the road between radicalism and reformism. “I don’t think it’s an either-or,” says Marom. “People who only want reforms are probably just handicapped by cynicism. And if you don’t want reforms as a revolutionary, then you’re not a revolutionary, because people need the foundations on top of which to survive. And people need to win things, to feel like it’s possible to win.”
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Judge Rakoff’s SEC ruling

Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone really gets to the heart of Rakoff’s ruling in the Citigroup settlement:

This issue of whether or not the SEC must consider the public interest in granting these cozy settlements gets to the heart of the Occupy Movement’s central complaint, that there are two different sets of rules for two different Americas. The SEC in this case incredibly argued – out loud, on paper – that it could make regulatory decisions without considering the public interest. In particular, it argued that it didn’t need to consider the public interest when granting “injunctive relief,” i.e. an injunction barring future behaviors, as opposed to the stiffer and more immediate punishment of fines or criminal charges.

The SEC argued to Judge Rakoff that “the public interest … is not part of [the] applicable standard of judicial review.”

Translating: “When we decide to let a thieving megabank off with just a promise to never do it again, we don’t have to consider whether or not this is in the public interest.”

If you stand back and really think about what this argument means, it’ll make your head spin. What the SEC is saying here is that according to the incestuous values of the small community of high-priced revolving-door lawyers who both head the SEC enforcement office and run the defense teams of banks like Citi, a $95 million fine with no admission of wrongdoing for a $700 million fraud is, in fact, “fair” and “reasonable.”

The settlement only becomes problematic, the SEC implies, if you ask them to square their judgment with “the public interest.”

The SEC, in other words, is admitting that they have a standard for “reasonableness” and “fairness” that somehow does not coincide with the public interest. This surreal formulation translates as, “We’re doing the right thing – we’re just not doing it for the public.”

Rakoff’s response to this lunacy:

A large part of what the S.E.C. requests, in this and most other such consent judgments, is injunctive relief… The Supreme Court has repeatedly made clear, however, that a court cannot grant the extraordinary remedy of injunctive relief without considering the public interest.

The Rakoff ruling shines a light on the way these crappy settlements have evolved into a kind of cheap payoff system, in which crimes may be committed over and over again, and the SEC’s only role is to take a bribe each time the offenders slip up and get caught.

If you never have to worry about serious punishments, or court findings of criminal guilt (which would leave you exposed to crippling lawsuits), then there’s simply no incentive to stop committing fraud. These SEC settlements simply become part of the cost of doing business, as Rakoff notes:

As for common experience, a consent judgment that does not involve any admissions and that results in only very modest penalties is just as frequently viewed, particularly in the business community, as a cost of doing business imposed by having to maintain a working relationship with a regulatory agency, rather than as any indication of where the real truth lies. This, indeed, is Citigroup’s position in this very case.

That line, “a cost of doing business imposed by having to maintain a working relationship with a regulatory agency,” is one of the more brutally damning things you’ll ever see a judge write. Rakoff is saying that these fines are payoffs to keep the SEC off the banks’ backs. They’re like the pad that numbers-runners or drug dealers pay to urban precinct-houses every month to keep cops from making real arrests. That’s what he means when he refers to “maintaning a working relationship.” It’s heavy stuff.

On the other hand, both the SEC and Citigroup insist that this secretive payoff system is defensible and must continue. They clearly believe, sincerely, that none of this stuff is really the public’s business.

This is an extraordinarily condescending attitude and shows exactly how little they think of the public at large. One wonders if decisions like Rakoff’s will at least help to wake the government up.

Deep thought

Constitutional rights belong to anyone who can afford to buy them.

State employees

What group of PA state employees not only don’t have to worry about wage cuts, they got a three percent increase this year? You guessed it: state legislators.

Occupy Philly evicted last night

It’s really overkill that they used mounted police to push people out. Those horses are pretty intimidating, and bystanders are frequently hurt. I don’t really know what’s happening to the encampment, whether they’re relocating. I know I saw some of the homeless people displaced earlier this week camping under the I-95 overpass in Port Richmond.

And isn’t it interested that it happened at the exact same time Occupy L.A. was evicted? “I like to think they were following our lead,” Police Commissioner Ramsey said.

Bailout

Alan Grayson was right!

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