The financial criminals benefit from you choosing to not understand what is happening.

I love Matt Taibbi. For those of you who never heard of him, he’s a political writer for Rolling Stone and he’s been focusing mostly on the financial sector for the past few years (wall street, mortgage crisis, crooked bankers, etc). I like him cause he really seems to be the kind of person that doesn’t care what people think when he writes. He is pissed and it shows in his incredibly researched and detailed articles.

Yes, for the most part the public is of the belief that financial news is boring but he writes about it anyway. Somebody needs to and he does it quite well.

No article he has ever written does it better than the one in the current issue of RS (1160). The article is called “The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia” and I urge you to give it 30 minutes of your time. It is an amazing read about something that is esoteric and yet totally accessible. It’s about bond interest rates.

Before you complain, let me explain. This article talks about a specific case where the feds went after and won a case against 3 traders who were caught participating in a fraud to fix interest rates on big municipal bond deals. The technicalities are not important here. What is important is how these guys were ripping off cities around the country and then using their profits to go on trips to Las Vegas and such. These kinds of guys are those douchie rich guys in the bar that you hate and you wonder : What makes them so special that they deserve to be so rich? Well guess what? It’s not due to skill or brains, it’s due to a willingness to rip people off.

As I read this I was just so mad at these fuckers. And these are just the 3 that the government went after. There are hundreds more and there are many more even bigger executives that are part of this fraud as well. It’s sickening. There is even a connection to Bill Richardson who I thought was a good guy when he was running for president:

Even more startling was the way that a notorious incident involving former New Mexico governor and presidential candidate Bill Richardson resurfaced during the trial. Barack Obama, you may recall, had nominated Richardson to be commerce secretary – only to have the move blow up in his face when tales of Richardson accepting bribes began to make the rounds. Federal prosecutors never brought a case against Richardson: In 2009, an inside source told the AP that the investigation had been “killed in Washington.” Obama himself, after Richardson bowed out, praised the former governor as an “outstanding public servant.”

Now, in the Carollo trial, defense counsel got Doug Goldberg, the CDR broker, to admit that his boss, Stewart Wolmark, had handed him an envelope containing a check for $25,000. The check was payable to none other than Moving America Forward – Bill Richardson’s political action committee. Goldberg then went to a Richardson fundraiser and handed the politician the envelope. Richardson, pleased, told Goldberg, “Tell the big guy I’m going to hire you guys.”

Goldberg admitted on the stand that he understood “the big guy” to mean Wolmark. After that came this amazing testimony:

Q: Soon after that, New Mexico hired CDR as its swap and GIC adviser on a $400 million deal, right?
A: Yes.
Q: You learned later that that check in that envelope was a check for $25,000, right?
A: Yes. I learned it later.
Q: You also learned later that CDR gave another $75,000 to Gov. Richardson, right?
A: Yes.
Q: CDR ended up making about a million dollars on this deal for those two checks?
A: Yes.
Q: In fact, New Mexico not only hired CDR, they hired another firm to do the actual work that they needed done?
A: For the fixed-income stuff, yes.

What we get from this is that CDR paid Bill Richardson $100,000 in contributions and got $1.5 million in public money in return. And not just $1.5 million, but $1.5 million for work they didn’t even do – the state still had to hire another firm to do the actual job. Nice non-work, if you can get it.

In case you are still skeptical about the complex subject, I will explain it to you here : Cities borrow money to build bridges and hospitals and rec centers. When they make the loan they usually get the whole amount at once (say $25M) and they pay construction guys and other vendors out of that account as they go on with the project. What this means is that for the duration of the project, the majority of that $25M is sitting in some bank so to make some money with it, the cities can lend it out to borrowers and charge a fair interest rate for it. This is where these guys ripped off the cities. There is supposed to be a public bid from borrowers on that rate (say a fair rate is 5.00%) but these guys fixed the auction to maybe only give 4.95%. That .05% on $25M is real money. Multiply that by 100s of deals a year and you have a motive to keep ripping off the cities.

This is a great read and it is representative of what is really going on in this country. The sad part is that this isn’t capitalism. The heart of capitalism is the free market. Without that, we have nothing and colluding on a price at auction is exactly what we don’t want but yet it is everywhere.

Sorry Barack. I will not be voting for you in 2012

“I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters.

The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.”

Barack Oabma

The fact that he hasn’t said something about what’s going on in our own country : see UC Davis for the most recent example, is the last straw and why I will NOT vote for him in 2012. Sorry bud.

do something!

It’s interesting that the last post I wrote was about how I thought the NYPD was doing a great job with OWS and now today I’m writing because that same police force just kicked the protestors out of their home base last night. But my point is the same: I think they went about it in a very civil and fair way. This wasn’t Oakland with tear gas and rubber bullets. This was slow and methodical and restrained. And lets be clear, the police weren’t acting on their own here. This was all due to orders from the mayor. If you’re going to be mad at anyone it should be him.

But this post really isn’t about the New York situation. It’s more about my feelings about this entire situation including the Occupy Philly group (who I see every day and who is heading towards their own confrontation with authority). It’s about my anger at the local media who do their best not to cover the movement or when they do, they cover it with a bias. It’s about my utter despair with the fact that almost nobody I know even cares about what is going on, as if we aren’t at a historic moment right now. As if the Declaration of Independence was being drafted and other than the people at Independence Hall, nobody gave a shit.

I don’t know if the Occupiers are doing the right thing. I’ve complained a lot about their strategy and tactics over the past few months. I’ve debated with myself a lot about what I could do to participate and what we all should do and I haven’t come up with a good answer. But what I have figured out is that at the least, the Occupy Movement could be a catalyst, a starting point for change in America. We all agree that things are messed up. Everyone I talk to has some complaint about something wrong in America (and the world) but everyone always just accepts that things are fucked up and we can’t fix them. And that’s what’s bothering me the most lately. We do have a way to fix things but yet for the most part we don’t even try.

It starts with paying attention. If you woke up today and didn’t find some real news to ingest then you’ve failed yourself and your country. I was watching someone on the bus today reading the Daily News and do you know what story they were reading on page 3? It was a full page story on how Chelsea Clinton got a job at NBC. That, my friends, is not news. It’s not important. It’s filler, its soma, its bullshit to keep you distracted from what’s really going on. Every day you should be seeking out real news from around the world. Watch documentaries, follow blogs, find the most non-biased mainstream media you can. Pay attention to what is really going on and shun bullshit.

The next step (if you want to actually do something to change the world) is to share your news and maybe comment on it. Post an interesting story on facebook or twitter, share what you are learning. Talk about real things from time to time with your friends or co-workers. Teach and educate each other. We have all these tools now to communicate and yet we don’t. This makes me insane some mornings. Sure it’s cool and fun and even fulfilling to post about what’s going on in your life, but use your social stream to educate a little bit too.

Then you move to support. Support movements and groups that are doing things you agree with. You don’t need to use money, in fact, oftentimes it’s better you go out and volunteer your time instead. Or better yet, do both! Change only happens when people demand it. These occupiers are doing it and we’re essentially laughing at them. Can’t you see how wrong that is?

I really urge you all to take a minute to participate in making our world a better place. And most of you aren’t doing that. By simply living your life, and riding the roller coaster, you’re just being a sheep. You don’t need to be a great leader or anything, just be aware of what’s going on and try to be part of the solution.

I’m really impressed with the NYPD so far

When I was up in NYC I visited the Occupy Wall Street crew and was amazed at the time to see a super involved police presence there. Of course I expected to see cops, but the sheer number of them and the amount of barriers and mobile command centers at the time seemed a bit excessive. I had feared something bad would happen and escalate into a brutal battle between the cops and occupiers.

But instead so far, what I’ve seen is the exact opposite. The cops have been acting as I (and I would assume you) would like them to act. They have been respectful and have used force appropriately when they have needed to. Lets face it, they do have a job to do and full anarchy isn’t something that any of us want in our cities. But from what I’ve seen they have shown a lot of restraint and allowed protests to occur.

This video is a good example of what I am talking about. It happened a couple of days ago and the few times you see cops using force, it appears to me that they are simply breaking up isolated fights amid incredible chaos.

This, of course is the exact opposite to what we’ve seen in California. What we all need to understand is that this is America and not China. This is a place where we not only accept protest but we encourage it. We welcome debate and our citizens all would fight to the death to protect peoples freedom to speak and gather in mass.