Links, 8/17/11

I guess it takes a lot of smart kids from other countries to show us what assholes Hershey is–and to teach us about solidarity.

I assume you’ve already read the Matt Taibbi piece revealing that the SEC has been destroying records of its preliminary investigations, effectively giving serial problem corporations an apparent clean bill of health. If you haven’t read it, go do so. But you should also read Felix Salmon on Taibbi’s piece; he points out that while the traditional media is discussing Chuck Grassley’s response to the story, most are not pointing back to Taibbi’s own article describing what it’s all about.

I’ve seen predictions the student loan bubble was going to crash for some time–even before it became clear that recent graduates aren’t getting jobs. That crash is getting much closer, as delinquencies rise.

After the Knights of Columbus got bullied to accept the $8.5 billion settlement with Bank of America, the trustee, Bank of NY Mellon blew them off. So now the KoC have expanded their suit challenging the settlement, including breach of fiduciary duty, based on claims BNY Mellon botched the foreclosures.

Blackwater: still spying in Afghanistan.

This is actually a sweet story. A Chinese-American businessman named ZhaoHui Tang saw Gary Locke in the Seattle Airport on his way to his new job as Ambassador to China. Locke was carrying his own knapsack, buying his own Starbucks coffee. So Tang took a picture and posted it to a Chinese social media site, where it was a big hit because it showed Locke in such a down-to-earth light.

A few weeks back, Joe Klein reported that Obama was reading Nixonland. At the time, I saw Rick Perlstein tweet that he hoped Obama took the right message from the book. Here’s Rick explaining what that message should be (the answer? emphasizing how Democrats have helped real people).

Lee Fang reports that the Darrell Issa staffer who probably wrote a letter complaining about margin requirements for derivatives used to work for Goldman Sachs.

Rortybomb has the best post on the “Texas miracle” I’ve seen. Short version: it didn’t have a housing bubble and therefore hasn’t deleveraged like similar states. I still think you have to add in the oil industry (not least to distinguish TX’s success from OH, MI, and PA’s woes in that very first graphic.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

23 replies
  1. DWBartoo says:

    Glad you caught the Hershey exploitation story, EW, I’d just seen it at DDay’s and wondered if you had seen the sweet little tale as well.

    Bravo! To the students. Perhaps this nation might learn a lesson here. Or several. This is a fine addition to your earlier “Consensus” post.

    DW

  2. joberly says:

    EW–I’m interested in matters Hungarian and Transylvanian, so the Simonyi-Haller story (Issa’s staffer) caught my eye. I’m going to dig through some Hungarian-language sources about Mr. Haller’s grandfather during WW II. It’s a fascinating history of double-dealing between the Horthy regime, the Third Reich, and Great Britain. As best as I can figure out from Haller’s response to TPM, his grandfather, one-time Hungarian ambassador to Britain, was killed after Horthy fell from power and the Nazis installed the fascist Nyilaskeresztes (Arrow Cross) front. Interesting, also, that the grandfather named the daughter (the Goldman guy’s mother) after the 18th century Habsburg queen, Maria Theresa. Not common among the Hungarians of Transylvania nor the Saxon (German) Lutherans of that province, either.

  3. emptywheel says:

    @joberly: NOte how they’re depicting it, as if he chose Haller (an Americanized name) over Simonyi (a non-Americanized Transylvania name).

    Incidentally, I went to college with (and traveled around Europe with during junior year) the grand-niece (IIRC) of Pal Teleki.

  4. rosalind says:

    not sure what to make of this yet: “60 arrested in bust of Iraqi, Mexican organized crime rings”

    “Sixty people were arrested on suspicion of drug and weapons charges after an undercover investigation centered on an Iraqi social club in suburban El Cajon, law enforcement officials announced Thursday.

    The investigation uncovered connections between the club and elements of the Sinaloa drug syndicate, Mexican mafia and an Iraqi organized crime organization in Detroit, according to officials of the El Cajon Police Department and the San Diego branch of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.”

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/08/60-arrested-bust-iraqi-mexican-crime-rings.html

  5. sojourner says:

    I just have to comment on the Rortybomb story…I live in Texas. First, yes, there is a lot of money in Texas. That has likely been much of the reason for the jobs in Texas. The old buddy system — they lure each other in. But, the middle class (of which I am a member) is at the mercy of the elites just like everywhere else. I am in a 25 year old house that I cannot sell for what is owed.

    The grand State of Texas has made a joke out of maintaining or expanding its highway system. As a result, there are way too many cars on the highways, and it is going to take 10-15 years to expand what exists (and foreign toll companies will do it for us, despite that fact that we have paid taxes to pay for the highways.)

    I honestly cannot think of a single good idea that Rick Perry has had to offer in the last 10 years. Most of the things he has offered up have been shot down (look up the Trans Texas Corridor). Coupled with the recent release of his grades from Texas A & M, I am a little concerned about his candidacy (particularly with the ‘D’ he made in Economics).

    Things are not so grand in Texas… and Rick Perry is an idea beyond its time.

  6. joberly says:

    @emptywheel:
    One other note on the Haller family. Note the lengthy family name includes “gr” which is the abbreviation for “graf” the German word for “Count.” I wonder if the Hallers were of the Transylvanian landed gentry?

    Speaking of counts, how interesting about your connection to Count Pal Teleki’s grand-niece. He was the diplomat-geographer who represented Hungary at the Versailles (Trianon) peace conference with the Allies in 1919. He presented a map of Transylvania showing almost no Romanians living there; he was surprised, to say the least, when the Allies awarded the whole province to Romania, ethnic Hungarians and all. He came to a tragic end in 1941 after the Hungarians collaborated with Hitler in the invasion of Yugoslavia. In fact, as prime minister of the country, he shot himself out of shame for Hungary breaking its peace pact with Yugoslavia.

  7. bmaz says:

    @rosalind:

    Whoa. This is pretty important stuff here. Middle easterners hooked up with the Sinaloa Cowboys? That is either something the government wants us to believe in order to crank up the terrorism angle as to drug gangs in border states and in Mexico…OR…it is really true. Both are troubling, and very significant.

  8. GulfCoastPirate says:

    That Taibi story is unbelievable. Then Obama puts the same crowd in charge. No wonder he’s going down.

    Hey, I’ve got my Internet back. It only took Verizon 10 days. Pretty impressive for a monopoly.

    • bmaz says:

      Agreed. But the striking thing is the hooking up with the Cowboys. The Sinaloans have always done their own gig, and are a nasty ass ruthless lot. I still question how close they really are, that is a link up that I see more as the government wanting to pitch than maybe really being that deep of a relationship. But like I said, this is significant either way because we are hearing about it.

  9. prostratedragon says:

    @GulfCoastPirate:

    Here’s how Taibbi’s SEC story is getting played at NPR, the masters: They run it with another story, so that there are consecutive, fairly complex ones about about bankster malfeasance.

    The first story discusses the absolute lack of regulatory or prosecutorial investigation or enforcement of any of the blatant headlines to which we’ve been treated over the last few years. Amazingly enough, they feature William Black as the feature commenter, who lays it all out —the lack of regulatory committment in the present regime compared to the earlier S&L regime of which he was a part, the long-uncompensated redirection of FBI and other investigatory power into the anti-terrorism forces after 2001, the huge effort that would be needed for even one of the many Enron-sized cases out there, the whole nine yards. He puts out a few suggestions how a willing agency might proceed, or have proceeded, even having to operate short-handed, so as at least to make clear to one and all that laws will be enforced and no one allowed to defraud the public with impunity.

    He does all this within about 3 minutes, maybe a bit less. It is a bravura performance, as one would expect if one has been reading his articles and interviews for the past several years.

    If one has not, one’s eyeballs are spinning in mirror-opposed orbits.

    So what better time to bring up another complex financial story for the very first time? Especially when the point of your version of the story is to be that those darn whining hippies —what is it, emoprogs? I’m too old to need to pretend to be that hip— anyway, when the point of your story is to be that there is nothing to see here, these were piles of old newspaper clippings, or somebody once called in a rumor, yadayadayada, the investigation never led anywhere anyway, and so on.

    No mention of the possibility that the SEC might have been bound by something between a regulation or consensual agreement and an actual law as to not only the retention of the documents, but there disposal not by themselves, but by an altogether different agency.

    People whose heads are already spinning will “fuckin’ vaguely” hear that garbage and turn off from the story for the next year. And it would be so like what they have become to give someone like Black who needs to be heard widely one of the few flashes of daylight he gets on their damn media as part of a strategy to hide something else that they might more immediately have to answer for.

  10. GulfCoastPirate says:

    @sojourner:

    I’ve been on the road some lately. It’s one thing to see the effect of the drought along the highways but to see the complete neglect of something we could once all be proud of is enough to make an old timer like me cry.

    Then there is the school system …………. where would one start.

  11. GulfCoastPirate says:

    Rortybomb is certainly on the right track when it comes to Texas. Someone can correct me if I am wrong but I think the regulation is you can only cash out up to 80% of the value of the home so we never were able to generate huge piles of cash for consumption as were many in other states. If I’m not mistaken the value is based on the appraised value of the home for taxing purposes and not any value by private appraisers. I think we get reappraised once every five years but that may differ in differing counties (I’m in Galveston County) so it would be hard to borrow to consume off any bubble unless you specifically asked the counties to reappraise your property.

    Perry had nothing to do with any of this. Those rules/regulations were in place long before he came along.

  12. bmaz says:

    @GulfCoastPirate:

    Well, maybe. The good news is that people listening to Bill Black on NPR actually have a pretty decent probability of processing it all appropriately.

    The bad news is most people are watching Entertainment Tonight and the Kardashians.

  13. rosalind says:

    @bmaz: yup. my first cynical thought was “here come the drone wars”. but like you say, either scenario is not good.

  14. bmaz says:

    @rosalind: Well, okay, that sounds a little more innocuous. You know the scary brown terrorists commingling with Mexican drug gangs is the coming new cool though for the counter-terrorism folks.

  15. emptywheel says:

    @rosalind: My first response when I heard it was that it was probably Chaldeans.

    Our (well, Detroit’s) Iraqi community for years was very heavily Christian. I suspect taht changed after Bush’s war. But not enough to establish an organized crime network among the Chaldeans and other Christian Arabs in the area (lots of Lebanese Christians as well).

  16. Rpm says:

    “Has Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) turned the House Oversight Committee into a bank lobbying firm with the power to subpoena and pressure government regulators? ThinkProgress has found that a Goldman Sachs vice president changed his name, then later went to work for Issa to coordinate his effort to thwart regulations that affect Goldman Sachs’ bottom line.

    In July, Issa sent a letter to top government regulators demanding that they back off and provide more justification for new margin requirements for financial firms dealing in derivatives. A standard practice on Capitol Hill is to end a letter to a government agency with contact information for the congressional staffer responsible for working on the issue for the committee. In most cases, the contact staffer is the one who actually writes such letters. With this in mind, it is important to note that the Issa letter ended with contact information for Peter Haller, a staffer hired this year to work for Issa on the Oversight Committee.”

  17. harpie says:

    What is described in this video seems to be very much like indentured servitude. The students pay to take part in the program.

    According to the video, this is a Department of State Program called “J-1 Visa” program.

    Here’s a link to the DoS page about it:
    http://j1visa.state.gov/

    From the “Common Questions” page:
    http://j1visa.state.gov/sponsors/common-questions/

    Who are the State Department-designated Exchange Visitor Program sponsors?
    Exchange Visitor Program sponsors are comprised of U.S. government, academic, research, and private sector organizations designated as Exchange Visitor Program sponsors by the State Department’s Office of Private Sector Exchange in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

    http://exchanges.state.gov/jexchanges/index.html
    [There’s an “e-mail us” link there.]

    Rick Ruth is Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Private Sector Exchange.

    Contact Us at:

    Private Sector Exchanges (Jexchanges)
    [email protected]; (202) 632-2805

    More from the “Common Questions” page:

    Does the State Department recommend any of its Exchange Visitor Program designated sponsors?
    The State Department does not recommend or “rate” any of the designated sponsors. Designation by the State Department indicates sponsors have complied with all applicable regulations for obtaining designation and are in good standing.

    In light of this student action and the video, maybe Hershey’s designation as a sponsor should be re-evaluated.

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