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Archive for the ‘governance’ Category

In the City of God St. Augustine narrates an anecdote,( which in all probability was drawn from Cicero-de republica)), where Alexander the Great confronts a pirate. When that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, ‘What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.’ Augustine’s argument is that, in fact, the existence of justice is the only qualitative difference between legitimate and illegitimate coercive power: “Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies?”

Isn’t this anecdote relevant even these days?

Have you noticed how law is weighted in favor of majority than small in numbers? Let me give an example: the President of a nation with his superior numbers may invade a country and in the ensuing war the casualties mount. Is he hauled before the law of the land and tried as a warmonger? On the other hand a man gets into a brawl after drinking one too many and kills one. Do you think he shall escape the law because of he was drunk? The President whose rhetorics led to a war situation and after so many provocations ratcheting between the two states, shall become all the more laudable despite the deaths of some 20, 000 deaths. He may even win a second term for the many advantages of war being added to the Treasury of the State. He may retire with the aura of a statesman. Not so with the individual who killed another one in a drunken stupor. Certainly he shall be squeezed dry in the rigmarole of legalities that face him and its trauma haunt him for the rest of his life.

Now we see similar situation in the world of finance. One of the few things not in dispute in the criminal case against Abacus Federal Savings Bank is that it began with a mortgage closing on Friday, Dec. 11, 2009, for a two-family home in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn.

On May 31 of 2012, the Manhattan district attorney’s office announced criminal charges against the bank and 19 former employees, some facing up to 25 years in prison. “Mortgage fraud became institutionalized at Abacus Bank,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said at a news conference. Abacus, like many banks, had sold its loans to Fannie Mae (FNMA), taking the proceeds and lending them back out to earn more interest. The huge government-backed company in turn bundled those mortgages into securities it sold to investors. Abacus lied about applicants, Vance charged, because otherwise its loans wouldn’t have met Fannie Mae’s income requirements, and the bank depended on Fannie’s money for a significant chunk of its profit.(bloomberg businessweek of Jan 31,2013/drake bennet)

But why was that bank prosecuted and why was Goldman Sachs or Chase not prosecuted? Legal authorities consider it not feasible to go after companies of a certain size, while Abacus is a small fry and easier to succeed if they threw the book at them. While it may be more satisfying to go after the bigger companies, to quote a SEC commissioner who talked about “shot selection,” like in basketball, bureaucracies go for the baskets with the greatest chance of scoring.

It’s not just about poor people. The agencies hesitate before they decide to proceed against a well-heeled, well-defended company [against which] they’re going to have to fight for years and years and years just to get the case in court.

This situation isn’t anything new. It goes back to the Clinton years: Clinton signs on to welfare reform, Clinton and the Democrats begin to court the financial services sector and begin to adopt deregulatory policies.

So now you have political consensus in both parties on both issues; both have the same approach to poverty, to people at the bottom, and they have the same approach to enforcement. And so what begins as deregulation of Wall Street concludes, ultimately, in potentially non-enforcement of crime; and what begins as being “tougher” on welfare cheats in the ’90s, and being tougher on the whole process of giving out benefits, devolves into something pretty close to the criminalization of poverty itself … And that’s just something that happens naturally when you have a political consensus, which is what we have now.

Holder, as deputy attorney general in the Clinton years, outlined what was actually sort of a “get tough on crime” document. He gave prosecutors all these tools to go after big corporations. But, at the bottom [of the memo], he outlined this policy called “collateral consequences,” which was — all it really said was, if you’re a prosecutor and you’re going after a big corporation that employs a lot of people, and you’re worried about innocent victims, you can seek other remedies. Instead of criminally prosecuting, you can do a deferred prosecution agreement, a non-prosecution agreement or, especially, you can levy fines.

When he wrote that, it was nearly a decade before the too-big-to-fail era, but when he came back to office [as Obama’s attorney general], this idea, which initially had been completely ignored becomes the law of the land now, insofar as these systemically important institutions are concerned.

Consequently the agencies think about collateral consequences before they go against companies like HSBC and UBS because they’re worried about what the impact might be on the world economy.

What’s interesting about it is that this idea suddenly matches this thing that happened with our economy where we have the collapse of the economy in 2008, [and] instead of breaking up these bad companies, we merged them together and made them bigger and more dangerous. Now they’re even more unprosecutable than before, now this collateral consequences idea is even more applicable. And that’s the reality we live in now; it’s just this world where if you can commit an offense within the auspices of a company like that, the resolution won’t be a criminal resolution, it will be something else.(‘It’s total moral surrender’/Matt Talibbi from his book The Divide/interview with Salon/Elias Isquith)

benny

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I grew up in the shadow of a war and seen dictators tumble and the new come in their wake. I have seen Stalin exercising absolute power and the politburo treated like toilet roll. There were many even after the Soviet bloc collapsed officially imitating the great psychopath. I also see those who have no ideology but power. Every one of them sitting on the throne and growing old. They are touted as fathers to their people. They cannot really see straight for the sake of people or for themselves. Why are they then allowed to sleep on their jobs? Obviously the people have let them. People have been thus made fools of for some millennia.
Not any more. I have been seeing in the Middle- East people reclaiming their right to topple their heads of state who have ceased to lead. These heads of state have had not a single idea by which they could benefit. So they became poorer when a few close to the figurehead have fattened. It is clear that no one becomes rich out of thin air. Those who became poorer became poorer only because they let others rob them, their rights,opportunities and lives. The back-room boys,cabal, cliques and party bosses owe to none but to their own power. This power as with millions stolen from the public they can peddle to make their power secure. Power-play is the name of the game. People do not know if they have power because they never knew they alienated power to hungry jackals who prosper at their cost. It happened in Tunisia, Egypt and the whole Middle- East need to know their power does not come from external sources but from themselves.
The people allowed Mubark and others to think for them. The same problem shall surely arise if they were to allow some vested parties think for them in future. Religion has made frauds come with the deceiving words to lead the people. Instead of Mubarak some shall make a grab for their power using religion. Or it may be that some cursed ungodly ideology that has no meaning or relevance to them and if they succeed use them as a test case. Ayatollahs and Mullahs ought to sit where they belong. They are not licensed to deprive the people of their right to choose what is best for their families. They may guide them in their spiritual quest but not twist their physical lives to show their power to their advantage. Kings, Ayatollahs or any privileged group who think they want to have power without responsibility are frauds.
Destiny of every Middle Eastern country depends on their people. Definitely it does not rest with some one who would rather use suicide bombers than do his duty. Duty of an Egyptian is to think for himself in which direction he wants his children to grow up. Either prosper or go up in smoke with their bits of flesh and pieces of bones scattered from the Golden Horn to the strait of Hormuz?
If people do not exercise their responsibility they shall be certainly run over by every fraud whose religion is suspect, whose promises are written in the wind.
benny

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Is constructing an Islamic Center with a mosque near Ground Zero a controversial point?
As an outsider and one interested in what goes on about me my views are my own. Freedom of worship is an article of faith for whoever places premium on good sense than obscurantist principles that religion always espouses. Christian churches, no matter what their persuasion or creed, shall not accept a church that support gay community. Take a recent bombing of a Sufi mosque in Pakistan where the bomber waited for the prayer time to cause maximum damage will be an eye opener for any one that imagines religion is as innocuous as what it preaches. Religion is the opium of the masses and it takes away all the nuances of good breeding, sweetness of civil society,- and Islam has from the time it became an established religion proved the implacable hostility of a believer for any dissent, and this religion is a heady potion for the Semitic race. Just like Hebrews this children of Ishamael cannot see beyond black and white on the point of faith. For a Moslem there is nothing in between. It may be ironic that as far as liberties of individuals under Moslems and Christian rulers in the past they have been far more tolerant to let Christians, Jews and other sect practice their religion in their own quarters as long as they did it quietly and without endangering the public order and peace. Only one go through the atrocities the so called crusaders perpetrated in order to deliver Jerusalem from the ‘infidels’. Catholic Church has shown in comparison far more perfidious in this respect.
For the rise in fundamentalism and terror as a political tool Islam has only taken a leaf out of the policies of the West. An average Moslem on the street equates the west for Christianity and the manner the west has double dealt with the political fortunes the Middle east is now etched in his consciousness. Thus if some fundamentalist Imam in Malaysia says any Christian who utters the world ‘Allah’ has profaned it what is the result? Several churches are torched forthwith.
Now we see a good will ambassador sent by Cordoba Initiative making a pitch for harmony and religious good-will. This is all well and commendable.
Given the past examples one cannot induce goodwill by some fatuous gestures and speeches.
Coming to the controversy of Islamic Center near Ground Zero I remember the government of Yahoos allowing a bar near the kindergarten school. The one who got license to open the bar said he stood guarantee for the quality of spirits he sold over the counter. ‘There shall be no loose, ungodly curses, four letter words around here,’ he was certain. The drinks were meant to be consumed by grown ups and responsible citizens.
What he did not guarantee was the customers under the influence of liquor.
We have a situation similar where the right to practice religion is guaranteed.
benny

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