Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: December 3, 2022 Filed under: cat art, caturday, just because | Tags: Boston, climate change research, Earthshot awards, Elon Musk, Hunter Biden, Matt Taibbi, Prince William, Princess Catherine, Trump dinner with Nazis, Twitter 16 Comments
This is going to be kind of a lightweight post, because I’m burned out on serious news at the moment.
There was a big social event in support of climate change research in Boston over the past few days. I wasn’t really paying attention, and neither was most of the national media; but it was for a good cause. Prince William and Princess Kate toured the Boston area for days, and handed out “Earthshot” awards at a ceremony featuring President Biden and some big name celebrities. This was the second Earthshot awards ceremony.
From the Earthshot Awards Website: FIVE WINNERS OF THE SECOND EVER EARTHSHOT PRIZE AWARDS UNVEILED.
Tonight, Prince William and The Earthshot Prize revealed the 2022 Earthshot Prize winners – an accomplished group of entrepreneurs and innovators spearheading ground-breaking solutions to repair and regenerate the planet.
Each winner was awarded a £1 million prize at the second-annual Earthshot Prize awards ceremony, which will be broadcast Sunday, December 4 at 17:30pm GMT on BBC and will begin streaming on Monday, December 5 at 2:00pm EST on PBS.org and the PBS app.
Inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s Moonshot challenge in the 1960s, which united millions of people around the goal of putting a person on the moon within a decade, The Earthshot Prize aims to discover and help scale innovative solutions that put the world firmly on a trajectory toward a stable climate by 2030 – a world in which communities, oceans and biodiversity can thrive in harmony.
Each year over the course of this critical decade for the planet, five winners will be chosen for their ground-breaking solutions to five of the greatest environmental challenges facing our planet. These five Earthshots are: Protect and Restore Nature; Clean our Air; Revive our Oceans; Build a Waste-free World; and Fix our Climate.
Following a rigorous selection process focused on identifying the most inspirational, impactful, and inclusive solutions, the five 2022 winners are:
Clean our Air: Mukuru Clean Stoves, Kenya – A start-up providing cleaner-burning stoves to women in Kenya to reduce unhealthy indoor pollution and provide a safer way to cook.
Protect and Restore Nature: Kheyti, India – A pioneering solution for local smallholder farmers to reduce costs, increase yields and protect livelihoods in a country on the frontlines of climate change.
Revive our Oceans: Indigenous Women of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia – An inspiring women led program that combines 60,000 years of indigenous knowledge with digital technologies to protect land and sea.
Build a Waste-free World: Notpla, United Kingdom – A circular solution creating an alternative to plastic packaging from seaweed.
Fix our Climate: 44.01, Oman – Created by childhood friends who have developed an innovative technique to turn CO2 into rock, and permanently store it underground.
Time: Prince William’s Earthshot Prize Winners Include a Seaweed-Based Plastic Startup and Cleaner Cookstoves.
There is no shortage of environmental problems that need to be solved. And today in Boston, Mass.—at a ceremony marked by celebrity appearances and calls to action from around the world—Prince William through his Earthshot Prize handed out over $6 million dollars to help accelerate five solutions to tackling issues on conservation, air quality, oceans, waste, and climate change.
The annual Earthshot Prize, an independent charity founded by Prince William and the Royal Foundation in 2020, awards $1.2 million each to winners in the five categories. The initiative aims to bring the same level of urgency and ambition to today’s environmental challenges as John F. Kennedy’s “moonshot” space-race challenge. (Marc and Lynne Benioff, TIME’s owners and co-chairs, have been among the philanthropic supporters of the effort.)
Among the panel of judges selecting this year’s high-profile awards are naturalist Sir David Attenborough, actress Cate Blanchett, musician Shakira, and Christiana Figueres, former head of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The winners were selected from a group of 15 finalists from 10 different countries, and included, among others, grassroots organizations dedicated to forest protection and biodiversity conservation, along with start-ups exploring clean battery technology and alternative leather derived from waste.
It seems I’m not the only Bostonian who was unimpressed with the royals visit to our city.
The New York Times: Bostonians’ Take on the Royals’ Whirlwind Visit? Whatevah.
Crowds had gathered at rain-swept City Hall Plaza to welcome Prince William and Princess Catherine of Wales, the photogenic royals who touched down on Wednesday for a whirlwind three-day tour.
So were patrons abuzz about the visit two miles away at Santarpio’s, a bare-bones bar and pizza joint, and East Boston institution?
“Not yet,” a bartender said dryly as he hustled crispy pizzas and plates of steaming sausage to a row of diners Wednesday night, his expression suggesting the likelihood of any buzz was quite low.
As breathless online commentary tracked the royal couple’s every movement and designer wardrobe change for a global audience of devoted palace watchers, laconic swaths of their host city remained unimpressed, if not wholly unaware of their presence.
At a Dunkin’ in the diverse Dorchester neighborhood on Thursday, a woman waiting for her order in a puffy winter coat, hood up, declined to talk to a reporter, then asked what the story was about.
Informed of the topic, she curtly shook her head.
“Don’t care,” she said.
The city’s history helps explain its deep veins of indifference, said Brooke Barbier, a historian who also offers guided tours of Boston. Because its identity is so rooted in the American Revolution and its rejection of monarchy, and because its landscape is still littered with vivid reminders of that past, “it makes sense, even centuries later, that Boston can’t care about the monarchy,” she said. “Even if, secretly, they care.”
Commuters cross the site of the Boston Massacre on their way to the subway (the place where it happened, then King Street, was later renamed); at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, actors routinely re-enact the colonists’ famous 1773 protest against British taxation.
Fans of the first-place Boston Celtics seemed to channel vestiges of that feistiness on Wednesday night, when William and Kate attended a game at TD Garden alongside city officials, and were reportedly met with scattered chants of “USA! USA!” amid the louder cheering, when their faces were shown on a giant screen.
Harpers Bazaar: Boston Is Apparently Really Angry That the Royals Are Visiting.
While some in Somerville, Massachusetts, are appreciative of the fact that the British royals will bring some positive attention to Greentown Labs, an incubator for start-ups aiming to tackle the climate crisis with tech-fueled innovation, others are annoyed about the inconveniences the Wales’s visit will cause for the city—traffic, for example.
A main concern on the social channels is how difficult it will allegedly be for residents to get to grocery store Market Basket, located on Somerville Avenue. A block of the avenue, from Dane Street to School Street, will be blocked during William and Kate’s visit to the area today, according to an email city officials sent to residents on Wednesday, The Boston Globe reported.
Both directions of travel, the sidewalks, and parking will also be closed to the public, and the MBTA’s route 87 bus will be temporarily rerouted, the city reportedly said, adding that the move was made “to accommodate security measures for the British royal visit.”
A spokesperson for Market Basket said the store will remain open, with access from the Union Square side, per the Globe. But even the Somerville city councilor is outraged at the possibility of having one entrance to the local supermarket temporarily, partially blocked for the royals’ historic visit—their first to the U.S. since 2014.
“Hey, did you know that the royal family is visiting Ward 2 tomorrow? Yeah, me neither until I read it in the press,” City Councilor Jefferson Thomas Scott wrote on Twitter yesterday upon the royals’ arrival in Boston.
“I didn’t invite these people and was unaware of this visit until you found out too,” he added. “The City is not handling the Prince and Princess of Wales’ itinerary, so the times of these transits and closures ending is unknown.”
In other news, here’s the latest on Elon Musk’s ongoing destruction of Twitter.
Remember back in the days of the 2008 financial crisis when Matt Taibbi seemed like a serious journalist to some people even though his reporting style was a weak imitation of Hunter Thompson’s gonzo journalism? I wasn’t particularly impressed even then. For a time, Taibbi pretended to be a “progressive,” supporting Bernie Sanders for president. But these days Taibbi, like Glenn Greenwald, is a right-winger and apparent Russian asset. Now he has become an Elon Musk puppet. Yesterday he posted a Twitter thread on Hunter Biden’s laptop, at Musk’s request. I couldn’t quite make sense of the thread, but here are some articles about it.
Axios: Musk’s “Twitter Files” spotlights Hunter Biden story ban.
Elon Musk’s Twitter took aim at the firm’s previous management Friday evening with a “Twitter Files” presentation intended to demonstrate “free speech suppression.“
Driving the news: Musk’s team apparently provided newsletter author Matt Taibbi with access to internal documents surrounding Twitter’s controversial decision, three weeks before the 2020 presidential election, to limit access to a New York Post article about the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop.
At the time Twitter said that it was blocking the Post story under a policy against stolen and hacked materials. Conservatives said the company was censoring the news. Within two days CEO Jack Dorsey reversed the decision and apologized.
The Post story alleged that in 2015 Hunter Biden tried to arrange a meeting between his father and an executive at a Ukrainian company Hunter Biden worked for. Biden spokespeople denied the allegations at the time.
Details: Taibbi’s “Twitter Files” unrolled Friday on Twitter, stretched out across nearly two hours of posting.
— The posts show debates inside Twitter over whether the decision to block the Post story was the right call.
— Conservative outrage at Twitter’s action was loud and public at the time, but Taibbi also reports messages from outside organizations and a Democratic politician over the move.
— A text apparently from Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) to a Twitter executive reads, “Generating huge backlash on hill re speech.”
Between the lines: Musk’s following greeted “The Twitter Files” as evidence that Twitter had operated with bias, but there was no smoking-gun evidence of a partisan conspiracy to censor.
So that’s the gist of the story. It’s also evident that Musk still doesn’t grasp the meaning of the First Amendment’s freedom of speech clause. Its purpose was to protect speech from government control and interference. A private company like Twitter is not the government and thus has the right to moderate offensive speech on its platform
Zachary Petrizzo at The Daily Beast on the right wing response: Deeply Underwhelmed’: Right-Wingers on Musk’s Overhyped ‘Twitter Files.’
Elon Musk hyped the release of bombshell revelations Friday about Twitter’s controversial decision to restrict stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop on the platform, but the leak was a resounding flop with many right-wing pundits.
“So far, I’m deeply underwhelmed,” Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump administration official turned right-wing radio host, said. His comments came after journalist Matt Taibbi released a lengthy Twitter thread detailing Musk’s touted findings, namely that Twitter executives themselves were at odds over whether to restrict the Hunter Biden reporting and that Democrats (and Republicans) filed moderation requests with the social media giant….
But the right-wing host didn’t leave it to just a single post. He continued by doubling down when pressed by MAGA diehard followers who were convinced the “Twitter files” promoted by Musk were a smoking gun.
Responding to a Truth Social user claiming the Twitter company emails were “a clear violation of the 1st Amendment,” the radio host fired back: “Err no, it’s not the DNC asking a private company to censor has nothing to do with the First Amendment.”
The back and forth ended with Truth Social users accusing Gorka of being “deep state.” (The radio host failed to address questions on the matter sent to him by The Daily Beast on Friday night.)
Likewise, New York Post columnist Miranda Devine—one of the first right-wing reporters to begin writing about the laptop—told Fox News host Tucker Carlson it wasn’t the “smoking gun we’d hoped for.”
“I feel that Elon Musk has held back some material,” she then alleged, claiming sinister forces were perhaps controlling Musk after the Twitter chief took a meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook earlier in the week. “In particular, there’s a tweet in which Matt Taibbi says he hasn’t seen any evidence that law enforcement specifically warned off Twitter from our story. But that’s just not correct.”
Tim Miller at The Bulwark: No, You Do Not Have a Constitutional Right to Post Hunter Biden’s Dick Pic on Twitter. Elon Musk and Matt Taibbi’s First Amendment follies.
While normal humans who denied Republicans their red wave were enjoying an epic sports weekend, an insular community of MAGA activists and online contrarians led by the world’s richest man (for now) were getting riled up about a cache of leaked emails revealing that the former actor James Woods and Chinese troll accounts were not allowed to post ill-gotten photos of Hunter Biden’s hog on a private company’s microblogging platform 25 months ago.
Now if you are one of the normals—someone who would never think about posting another person’s penis on your social media account; has no desire to see politicians’ kids’ penises when scrolling social media; doesn’t understand why there are other people out there who care one way or another about the moderation policies surrounding stolen penis photos; or can’t even figure out what it is that I’m talking about—then this might seem like a gratuitous matter for an article. Sadly, it is not.
Because among Republican members of Congress, leading conservative media commentators, contrarian substackers, conservative tech bros, and friends of Donald Trump, the ability to post Hunter Biden’s cock shots on Twitter is the number-one issue in America this weekend. They believe that if they are not allowed to post porno, our constitutional republic may be in jeopardy.
I truly, truly wish I were joking.
Miller’s take on what it was all about:
Here’s a synopsis for the blessedly uninitiated:
On Friday, Elon Musk promised to reveal “what really happened with the Hunter Biden story suppression by Twitter.” It turns out that he had provided a trove of internal corporate documents to the Tulsi Gabbard of Substack, Matt Taibbi, who said they amounted to a “unique and explosive story”—revealing the juicy details inside Twitter’s decision to suppress the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story, which had previously been rejected by such liberal outlets as Fox News and the Wall Street Journal due to its suspicious provenance. Taibbi agreed to divulge these private emails on Twitter itself rather than via his Substack as part of a “few conditions,” which he does not detail, that were imposed on him, presumably by Musk or a Musk factotum.
The documents Taibbi tweeted on Friday were titillating in the way that reading private correspondence revealing what people were really saying around a controversial subject always is, but nothing new was learned about the contours of the story. The leak mostly relitigates two facts that have already received much ink across the media: 1) How Twitter throttled the New York Post’s initial story about Hunter’s laptop based on what we now know was an incorrect assessment of its source; and 2) How political campaigns and government agencies have worked with social media companies—in this case Twitter—to flag troubling content.
Read more at the Bulwark link if you’re interested.
I’ll wrap up this gossipy post with some HuffPost reporting by Matt Shuham on Trump’s dinner with Nazis: The Mysterious Fourth Man At The Trump-Ye Dinner Tells His Story.
When former President Donald Trump held a now-infamous dinner last month with Ye, the antisemitic rapper formerly known as Kanye West, and a prominent white nationalist, an unnamed additional guest sat alongside the powerful men.
NBC News reported only that the other person in Ye’s group was the parent of a student at Donda Academy, the rapper’s private school in California. But while speaking about the dinner this week, Ye briefly referred to a man named Jamar Montgomery during a livestream with far-right influencer Tim Pool. Ye identified him as a “Boeing engineer.”
HuffPost tracked Montgomery down and spoke with him Thursday night. He is indeed a Boeing employee, though he did not confirm any connection with Donda Academy. Montgomery told a wild tale about how an invitation from Ye, whom he says he barely knew, quickly led to a dinner with the former leader of the free world. Montgomery shared some details from the evening, including some insight into why a mysterious phone call suddenly darkened Trump’s mood, after which he began treating Ye with open hostility.
Montgomery says he didn’t know about Ye’s anti-Semitism and positive views of Hitler when he accepted the invitation.
Montgomery said Ye initially reached out to him about two weeks ago to talk about education, given Montgomery’s experience as an educator and tutor.
Montgomery confirmed he worked for Boeing, but said, “the work that’s most important to me is the work that I do for the people.” He cited his efforts to teach his community about financial literacy, cryptocurrency and political science. A Boeing spokesperson confirmed to HuffPost that someone of the same name works for the company. The spokesperson declined to describe Montgomery’s work, citing privacy reasons, and said “we did not have an employee there representing Boeing in any official capacity.”
Montgomery ran for U.S. Senate in Louisiana in 2020 as a no-party-affiliation candidate, ultimately earning 5,804 votes, and he currently goes by the moniker “The Crypto Politician.”
And as for the dinner? “I was there as a spectator. I was just along for the ride.”
Those are my offerings for Caturday. Feel free to discuss serious issues in the comment thread.
Sunday Reads: Tweety Gotta GoPosted: December 17, 2017 Filed under: Feminists, Main Stream Media, morning reads, open thread, The Media SUCKS | Tags: Chris Matthews, Matt Taibbi 27 Comments
Last night, around 10:30, I saw a tweet about Tweety (Check out reply number 28)…it was tweeted that:
NBC paid out severance to staffer who accused Chris Matthews of sexual harassment | TheHill
A former MSNBC employee who accused host Chris Matthews of sexual harassment in 1999 was given a separation payment by the network, according to a Daily Caller report.
Two sources told the Caller that a woman who was then an assistant producer on Matthews’ show “Hardball” accused the longtime MSNBC host of making inappropriate sexual comments about her while in the company of others. The sources say the company settled with the woman for $40,000.
However, MSNBC disputed the sources’ claims. The network confirmed to the Daily Caller that while they paid the woman, the money was given as part of a severance package and the amount paid was “significantly less” than $40,000.
A spokesman for MSNBC told the Caller that they “thoroughly reviewed” the situation and “formally reprimanded” Matthews, who has hosted “Hardball” on the network since 1997. He also hosted “The Chris Matthews Show” on the network after the settlement from 2002 to 2013.
NBC is blowing it off as having been dealt with officially at the time, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews was reprimanded over comments about woman in 1999 – NBC News
“In 1999 this matter was thoroughly reviewed and dealt with. At that time Matthews received a formal reprimand,” the MSNBC spokesperson said in an email Saturday.
The spokesperson said the woman complained to CNBC executives that Matthews made inappropriate jokes and comments about her in front of others, that the matter was reviewed and it was determined that the comments were inappropriate and in made in poor taste but were never meant as propositions. The show was on CNBC before it was on MSNBC.
Those of us who have seen Matthews in action, with his misogynistic treatment of women guest who appear on his show, and his disdain for strong women in politics or in any other position of power…this news of a settlement is really no surprise.
I know many will remember this comment Matthews made about Hillary:
That was just one of the sentiments he spilled on the air…and hey, let’s take it further a few minutes…Matthews wasn’t the only misogynist with harassment claims to have been responsible for the media “coverage” of Hillary during her campaign for president in 2016.
I posted the author’s twitter feed in case you want to follow her…
Taibbi is not alone obviously…let’s not forget Glenn Greenwald, or as Mona Eltahawy points out it this tread, Scahill and Blumenthal:
You should read the entire thread…
I thought this was interesting:
By the way:
Ending this with a horse’s ass:
What is going on with y’all? This is an open thread…
Thursday Reads: Molly Ivins, Governor Goodhair, Corporate Crime, and HeroesPosted: August 18, 2011 Filed under: 2012 presidential campaign, Corporate Crime, George W. Bush, morning reads, Republican presidential politics, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: Antonio Diaz Chacon, Bill Clinton, Bush-Perry feud, Citi, corporate crime, George W. Bush, Governor Goodhair, heroes, Howard Dean, Indonesia, Jesus Lara, Karl Rove, Matt Taibbi, Mexican border, Molly Ivins, murder, Predator drones, Republican presidential wannabes, Rick Perry, SEC, Texas 45 Comments
Good Morning!! I’m going to be leaving for a two-day drive to Indiana either today or tomorrow, so I’m a bit meshugge this morning. Please be patient with me. Let’s see what’s in the news.
From what I can see, it’s mostly Rick Perry. And I must say, I find “Governor Goodhair” endlessly fascinating. He’s more of a gaffe-machine than Joe Biden–and that’s really saying something. Molly Ivins gave Perry that nickname. I miss her so much. So I was thrilled when I cam across this article in the Sacramento Bee:
Molly can’t say that about Rick Perry, can she? It’s a collection of quotes on Perry from Ivins. Here’s one:
June 24, 2001
First, we Texans would like to salute the only governor we’ve got, Rick “Goodhair” Perry, the Ken Doll, for vetoing the bill to outlaw executing the mentally retarded.
We are Texas Proud.
Such a brilliant decision – not only is Texas now globally recognized for barbaric cruelty, but a strong majority of Texans themselves (73 percent) would prefer not to off the retarded.
Gov. Goodhair’s decision – in the face of popular opinion, the Supreme Court and George W. Bush’s recent conversion on this subject – is a testament to his strength of character.
His Perryness announced, anent the veto, that Texas does not execute the retarded. I beg your pardon, Governor. Johnny Paul Penry, now on Death Row for a heart-breaking murder and the subject of two Supreme Court decisions, has an IQ between 51 and 60, believes in Santa Claus and likes coloring books.
We will never have another political writer like Molly.
Yesterday Perry “challenged” Obama on border security.
Perry, who was on his second trip to New Hampshire as a presidential candidate, criticized President Obama for his assertion during a speech in El Paso, Tex. in May that his administration had “strengthened border security beyond what many believed was possible.”
“Six weeks ago the President went to El Paso and said the border is safer than it’s ever been,” Perry said. “I have no idea, maybe he was talking about the Canadian border.”
Perry thinks we should use Predator Drones to deal with illegal immigration.
“I mean, we know that there are Predator drones being flown for practice every day because we’re seeing them, we’re preparing these young people to fly missions in these war zones that we have. But some of those, they have all the equipment, they’re obviously unarmed, they’ve got the downward-looking radar, they’ve got the ability to do night work and through clouds. Why not be flying those missions and using (that) real-time information to help our law-enforcement? Becuase if we will commit to that, I will suggest to you that we will be able to drive the drug cartels away from our border.”
Apparently the Governor of Texas did not know that the Department of Homeland Security has already been using Drones to patrol the Mexican border for years.
I’m not that up on Texas politics, but I’m beginning to get the idea that the Bush crowd doesn’t care much for Rick Perry. According to Elspeth Reeve at The Atlantic, Bush’s Crew Is Gunning for Rick Perry
Is Rick Perry “another George W. Bush”? In reality, Bush was more of a fake Perry, the Texas version of a studio gangster, clearing brush in his cowboy boots despite his prep school background. It helps explain why Bush’s allies and Perry’s allies don’t like each other very much: the Bush-loving Republican establishment sees Perry as “the low-rent country cousin,” the Los Angeles Times reports. And it explains why Karl Rove (who once worked for Perry, before helping Bush become president) went on Fox News to criticize Perry for calling the Federal Reserve treasonous — and to wish for more candidates to enter the 2012 race.
You’ll need to go to the link to read all about the Bush-Perry feud. In addition, Howard Dean told The Hill that the “Bush camp will take Perry out.”
Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean predicted that prominent political supporters of former President George W. Bush will deal a critical blow to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) presidential campaign.
“The Bush people don’t fool around, as you know,” Dean said Tuesday night on MSNBC. “You can say a lot of things about Bush’s presidency and his failures as president, but one thing nobody should say [anything] bad about [is] his political team. They know what they’re doing, and they are ruthless, and they are going to take Perry out.”
Here’s Bill Clinton’s opinion on Rick Perry’s presidential ambitions:
Do you have a Citi credit card? Better watch out
TANGERANG, Indonesia — Irzen Octa, a down-on-his-luck Indonesian businessman, suffered a torment familiar to millions of Americans struggling with debts racked up in better times: He feared losing his home.
In the end, he managed to keep the ramshackle two-story house where he and his wife raised their two now-teenage daughters. Instead, Octa, pursued by Citibank over a $5,700 debt on his platinum credit card, lost his life.
The 50-year-old businessman, invited to a Citibank office in Jakarta in late March, collapsed in a tiny room set aside by the U.S. bank for questioning of deadbeat debtors. He died shortly afterward — a casualty of a “harsh interrogation,” said Jakarta police spokesman Baharudin Djafar.
Noting that Indonesian debt collectors have a reputation for sometimes aggressive persistence, Johansyah, the central bank official, said: “The best thing to do is just pay.”
Octa’s widow said she first discovered that her husband had money problems when five men showed up uninvited at their Tangerang home one night in October and said they had come to get money. Unable to collect, they slept on a terrace outside the front door.
In the following months, debt collectors kept calling — and Octa’s debts kept rising because of hefty interest.
Sounds like a Mafia movie! Will that start happening here after the Republicans remove all regulations?
Matt Taibbi has a new article at Rolling Stone: Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes?
Imagine a world in which a man who is repeatedly investigated for a string of serious crimes, but never prosecuted, has his slate wiped clean every time the cops fail to make a case. No more Lifetime channel specials where the murderer is unveiled after police stumble upon past intrigues in some old file – “Hey, chief, didja know this guy had two wives die falling down the stairs?” No more burglary sprees cracked when some sharp cop sees the same name pop up in one too many witness statements. This is a different world, one far friendlier to lawbreakers, where even the suspicion of wrongdoing gets wiped from the record.
That, it now appears, is exactly how the Securities and Exchange Commission has been treating the Wall Street criminals who cratered the global economy a few years back. For the past two decades, according to a whistle-blower at the SEC who recently came forward to Congress, the agency has been systematically destroying records of its preliminary investigations once they are closed. By whitewashing the files of some of the nation’s worst financial criminals, the SEC has kept an entire generation of federal investigators in the dark about past inquiries into insider trading, fraud and market manipulation against companies like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and AIG. With a few strokes of the keyboard, the evidence gathered during thousands of investigations – “18,000 … including Madoff,” as one high-ranking SEC official put it during a panicked meeting about the destruction – has apparently disappeared forever into the wormhole of history.
Under a deal the SEC worked out with the National Archives and Records Administration, all of the agency’s records – “including case files relating to preliminary investigations” – are supposed to be maintained for at least 25 years. But the SEC, using history-altering practices that for once actually deserve the overused and usually hysterical term “Orwellian,” devised an elaborate and possibly illegal system under which staffers were directed to dispose of the documents from any preliminary inquiry that did not receive approval from senior staff to become a full-blown, formal investigation. Amazingly, the wholesale destruction of the cases – known as MUIs, or “Matters Under Inquiry” – was not something done on the sly, in secret. The enforcement division of the SEC even spelled out the procedure in writing, on the commission’s internal website. “After you have closed a MUI that has not become an investigation,” the site advised staffers, “you should dispose of any documents obtained in connection with the MUI.”
I haven’t finished the article yet, but it sounds like an important story.
I’m going to end with a couple of feel-good stories.
Father of 2 becomes hero in abducted girl’s rescue
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The timing was just right for saving the life of a 6-year-old girl and for turning a 24-year-old mechanic and father of two young daughters into a hero.
It was coincidence that Antonio Diaz Chacon had come home from work early to spend time with his family Monday afternoon. It was also a coincidence that the family’s washing machine had just gone out, forcing them to do laundry a block down the road at a relative’s home.
Had it not been for that, Diaz Chacon wouldn’t have been there to see the girl thrown into a van as another neighbor yelled for the would-be kidnapper to let the child go.
Diaz Chacon is credited with saving the girl after chasing the van through a maze of neighborhoods to the edge of where Albuquerque’s sprawling housing developments meet the desert. It was there where the van crashed into a pole, the suspect fled and Diaz Chacon was able to rescue the girl and take her home.
Go read the whole thing. It’s good to know there are still brave and generous people out there who act selflessly just because someone needs help. And here’s another story about a heroic rescue–by an 8-year-old boy.
Just 8 years old and a novice swimmer, Jesus [Lara] reacted quickly last weekend to save a drowning infant from the bottom of a pool. On Thursday morning, the Plano Fire Department recognized his life-saving actions and explained how grateful they were for his quick reaction.
Jesus has only been swimming for two months. His father Henry began teaching him to swim in the pool at the Estancia Apartments where they live. Henry said after a long day of work Friday, Aug. 5, he kept his promise to take his son to the pool that night.
While Jesus was swimming, he noticed some bubbles coming from an object under the water.
The bubbles were coming from a 21-month-old toddler who had stumbled into the water.
“I grabbed a quick breath, and I dove under,” he said.
Jesus resurfaced holding a 21-month-old boy and arms outstretched, he yelled for his father to help.
“It was what he said that spoke volumes to me,” Henry said, remembering the boy’s words, “I found him at the bottom of the pool.”
Jesus’ father knew CPR and was able to resuscitate the child, who is now “doing fine.”
Those are my recommended reads for today. What are you reading and blogging about?
Tuesday Reads: Victims of LI Serial Killer Were More Than Just “Hookers”Posted: April 19, 2011 Filed under: Crime, morning reads, Violence against women | Tags: Amber Lynn Costello, Green River killer, Long Island serial killer, Matt Taibbi, Maureen Brainard Barnes, Megan Waterman, Melissa Barthelemy, misogyny, prostitutes, sex trade, Shannon Gilbert 46 Comments
Good morning, everyone. I’m going to do something a little different today. I’m want to focus on the unfolding story of the presumed serial killer on Long Island and take a look at the lives of the murdered and missing women who have been identified.
A couple of days ago, I decided to try reading Matt Taibbi’s latest screed in Rolling Stone. I commend Taibbi for his research and his efforts to explain in plain English what the Wall Street criminals are up to, but I simply couldn’t make it past the first paragraph of his piece. Here is the portion that stopped me in my tracks:
According to popular legend, we’re broke and in so much debt that 40 years from now our granddaughters will still be hooking on weekends to pay the medical bills of this year’s retirees from the IRS, the SEC and the Department of Energy.
Really. Is that the only job Taibbi can imagine for our struggling grandaughters? And what will “our grandsons” be doing? I’ve got a really low tolerance for misogyny these days, and Taibbi long ago showed himself to be a woman-hater. The idea that this man thinks his offhand remark about “hooking” is humorous just turned my stomach.
Thanks, but no thanks, Matt. I’ve just about had it with your pathetic attempts to imitate Hunter S. Thompson. He was pretty crude, but he also managed to be funny. I think I’ll just stick with reading Dakinikat’s writing on economics. She actually knows what she’s talking about too.
I was especially sensitive to the rude remark about young women prostituting themselves for money, because I’ve been following the story of the latest vicious murderer of women–the Long Island serial killer, who murdered women who advertised their sexual services on Craigslist and other on-line sites.
Serial murderers often target women who work in the sex trade because they see these women as throwaways who probably won’t be missed right away. They are also easy to pick up, because their jobs involve interactions with strange men. From Salon
A report was released last month finding that 70 percent of known victims of serial killers are women (consider that only 22 percent of homicide victims in general are female); and it turns out sex workers are 18 times more likely than “normal” women to be murdered. Why might this be? Well, in the words of the Green River Killer, who targeted prostitutes:
I picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up without being noticed. I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing. I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.
Since they’re doing illegal work, sex workers have to be secretive and discreet. They often work in isolated and industrial areas. They get in cars with strangers. There are rarely detailed records of transactions. Many are drug addicts and estranged from their families, so they are less likely to be reported missing. Anyone who knows anything about a girl’s whereabouts is likely involved in the trade themselves, so they aren’t super eager to speak with police. What’s more, as we saw with the Robert Pickton case in Vancouver, police sometimes discount tips from working girls (all the more reason to not risk talking to them in the first place).
From what I’ve read about sexual serial killers, they tend have a lot of rage and hatred against women, often because of their relationships with their mothers or some other powerful woman in their lives. They may have difficulties connecting with “normal” women, and so they seek out women they can get easy access to and make them pay for their own inadequacies.
But women who work as prostitutes are human beings, and they have families just like everyone else. When they disappear or die, someone usually cares and grieves at the loss.
I’m going to summarize what is known about the four victims who were discovered back in December 2010. They all appear to have been murdered by the same perpetrator. The women were strangled and their bodies were found in burlap bags.
So far ten bodies have been recovered by police on Long Island beaches, and six are still unidentified. It isn’t yet clear if all of these bodies are connected to the four identified victims, but they were all disposed of in the same general location. Shannon Gilbert, a woman whose disappearance sparked the search that led the police to locate the bodies, is still missing.
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Tuesday ReadsPosted: December 14, 2010 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Credit Derivatives, DADT, Derivatives Dealers club, Henry Kissinger, Keith Olbermann, Matt Taibbi, Obama McConnell Tax giveaway, Richard Holbrooke, START, the Mona Lisa 37 Comments
By now, you probably have heard that diplomat Richard Holbrooke has died at the age of 69 from an aorta tear. His obits are chock-full of some amazing accomplishments. Here’s one example from CNN.
Holbrooke was best known for being “the chief architect of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement” that ended the Bosnian war — the deadly ethnic conflict in the 1990s that erupted during the breakup of Yugoslavia.
Serving President Bill Clinton as assistant secretary of state for Europe from 1994 to 1996, Americans got a taste of Holbrooke’s drive and intellect, as typified in this remark from “To End a War” — his memoir of the Dayton negotiations.
“The negotiations were simultaneously cerebral and physical, abstract and personal, something like a combination of chess and mountain climbing,” he wrote.
After President Obama took office in 2008, Holbrooke took one of the toughest diplomatic assignments — U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the region Obama regards as center of the war on terrorism.
He rated a great one at the Grey Lady.
More recently, Mr. Holbrooke wrestled with the stunning complexity of Afghanistan and Pakistan: how to bring stability to the region while fighting a resurgent Taliban and coping with corrupt governments, rigged elections, fragile economies, a rampant narcotics trade, nuclear weapons in Pakistan and the presence of Al Qaeda, and presumably Osama bin Laden, in the wild tribal borderlands.
One of his main tasks was to press President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan to take responsibility for security in his country and to confront the corruption that imperils the American mission there. At times, Mr. Karzai refused to see him, but Mr. Holbrooke was undeterred.
“He’s an enormously tough customer,” Mr. Holbrooke said during one of the periodic breakfasts he had with reporters who covered his diplomatic exploits. “As you’ve heard,” he added with a smile, “so am I.”
He helped his boss, Mrs. Clinton, whom he had supported in her presidential bid, to persuade Mr. Obama to send more troops to Afghanistan, while pressing for more aid and development projects to improve the United States’ image there. But he died before anyone knew if the experiment would succeed.
A brilliant, sometimes abrasive infighter, he used a formidable arsenal of facts, bluffs, whispers, implied threats and, when necessary, pyrotechnic fits of anger to press his positions. President Obama, who praised Mr. Holbrooke on Monday afternoon at the State Department as “simply one of the giants of American foreign policy,” was sometimes driven to distraction by his lectures.
As we posted yesterday, a huge Senate Majority voted to advance the Obama-McConnell Tax deal. Only 15 senators voted to stop Cloture. The up or down vote will be scheduled for either today or tomorrow. Stay tuned. We’ll follow the details here.
Fifteen lawmakers voted against it, including five Republicans: Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.), Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), John Ensign (Nev.) and George Voinovich (Ohio).
Nine Democrats and one independent voted against the bill: Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Russ Feingold (Wis.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Pat Leahy (Vt.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Mark Udall (Colo.) and Sanders.
“It makes no sense to me to provide huge tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires while we drive up the national debt that our children and grandchildren will have to pay,” Sanders said in a statement after the vote.
Obama applauded the Senate’s action to move his tax cut compromise with Republicans and urged the House to do the same quickly.
In a statement in the White House briefing room, Obama hailed the Senate’s “strong bipartisan support” for the package and declared “this proves that both parties can in fact work together.”
BostonBoomer brought this my attention so I thought I’d post it. Is there a Real-Life Da Vinci code in the Mona Lisa? Cue the Twilight Zone Music.
Intrigue is usually focused on her enigmatic smile.
But the Mona Lisa was at the centre of a new mystery yesterday after art detectives took a fresh look at the masterpiece – and noticed something in her eyes.
Hidden in the dark paint of her pupils are tiny letters and numbers, placed there by the artist Leonardo da Vinci and revealed only now thanks to high-magnification techniques.
Speaking of secrets, I’ve been looking into the status of Credit Derivatives since Frank-Dodd passed and the NY Times had an article up on Sunday on secret meetings of a secret Derivatives Dealers Club of 9 on Sunday. FiscalLiberal and I have been trying to figure out if all the news actually actually reveals anything. The Financial Times did an update on the area that is an interesting read but doesn’t really say anything’s been solved or changed.
Yet like one of those teenaged vampires on television, the CDS market keeps coming back to life. For example, activity in sovereign CDS is up by a third this year, as speculators and hedgers bet they know more than their counterparties about the probability or timing of Greek or Irish defaults. And no, the sovereign CDS tail is not wagging the sovereign bond dog. For example, there are about $25bn of outstanding CDS on Italy, compared with some $2,000bn of actual Italian bonds.The essential point to remember is that credit derivatives don’t matter very much in determining the state of the real world. The industry, worldwide, almost certainly doesn’t employ more than 10,000 people. It is intended to be a zero-sum business.
The original, modest, purpose of CDS was to provide a low-transaction-cost means of distributing illiquid credit risks around European banks, so as to reduce their risk concentration. Then, the justification became the ease and low cost of hedging credit by buying protection through CDS, rather than going through the expense and uncertainty of maintaining short positions in bonds.
We would all be better off if there were laws to make the majority of these things exchange-traded but it won’t happen unless governments write the laws. BostonBoomer knew I’ve been trying to write about this and pointed me to the KO show last night and an interview with Matt Taibbi. You may want to watch the video at the link. They talk about the nine dealers from the NY Times link above. These guys have been blocking the formation of exchanges and lobby hard to keep these things opaque. You may have read me talk about how information asymmetry relieve messes up a market. This is a prime example. This KO-Taibbi conversation is easily understood. I was pretty impressed by what it covered. KO also throws a gratuitous slam at Obama and Orzag so you might want to watch that just to see how the worm has turned. Hopefully, I’ll figure out a way to explain this thing simply and have the complete post later. I’m still trying to get more details. In my doctoral program, every one saves their one C for the Derivatives Theory course. Pricing is based on a really complex mathematical model and the language of the deal is written by lawyers. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of! The math proofs even makes the guys with masters in physics quake. It’s not an easy thing to explain, teach, study or figure out. I think they like it that way. Like I said, information asymmetry. Also, KO brings up some nasty stuff about Senator Scott Brown and donations too. Go check it out.
Speaking of nasty stuff, here’s a blast from the past from Slate and Christopher Hitchens. The title alone titillates: ‘How Can Anyone Defend Kissinger Now? The Nixon tapes remind us what a vile creature Henry Kissinger is’.
Chatting eagerly with his famously racist and foul-mouthed boss in March 1973, following an appeal from Golda Meir to press Moscow to allow the emigration of Soviet Jewry, Kissinger is heard on the tapes to say:
The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.
(One has to love that uneasy afterthought …)
In the past, Kissinger has defended his role as enabler to Nixon’s psychopathic bigotry, saying that he acted as a restraining influence on his boss by playing along and making soothing remarks. This can now go straight into the lavatory pan, along with his other hysterical lies. Obsessed as he was with the Jews, Nixon never came close to saying that he’d be indifferent to a replay of Auschwitz. For this, Kissinger deserves sole recognition.
It’s hard to know how to classify this observation in the taxonomy of obscenity. Should it be counted as tactical Holocaust pre-denial? That would be too mild. It’s actually a bit more like advance permission for another Holocaust. Which is why I wonder how long the official spokesmen of American Jewry are going to keep so quiet. Nothing remotely as revolting as this was ever uttered by Jesse Jackson or even Mel Gibson, to name only two famous targets of the wrath of the Anti-Defamation League. Where is the outrage? Is Kissinger—normally beseeched for comments on subjects about which he knows little or nothing—going to be able to sit out requests from the media that he clarify this statement? Does he get to keep his op-ed perch in reputable newspapers with nothing said? Will the publishers of his mendacious and purloined memoirs continue to give him expensive lunches as if nothing has happened?
Just a suggestion from me. Drink your coffee before you go read that one. You may feel the need to spit at the screen.
One last depressing thing from the Wonk Room for advocates of GLBT rights.
This afternoon, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs refused to say that President Obama would call on the Senate to stay in session until it brought up the stand-alone measure to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. In a series of passive replies to the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson and the Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld, Gibbs didn’t directly urge the Senate to consider the measure, but said, “our hope is that the Senate will take this up again and we’ll see this done by the time the year ends.” “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and DREAM, along with government funding, are all in a basket of issues that are likely to come after” START, he argued earlier in the press briefing.
Asked by Eleveld why Obama has pledged to stay in DC until the Senate passed START but not DADT, Gibbs replied that the President would wait for the Senate to adjourn before leaving. Gibbs also refused to say if the administration was considering alternatives to legislative repeal …
Guess there’s more important things to do, like say, pass the Paris Hilton Inheritance Windfall Tax Breaks.