Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Rich Steal With Impunity, The Poor Go To Jail; Plus Wolves Of Another Sort

In This Edition:

- Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail?

- Wolf News


When I began to read the following article about Wall Street crimes, I was taken back, once again, to my memory of a black teenager being hauled off in a police car from a Von's (now Safeway) parking lot in San Diego County, some 20 or 30 years ago. She had stolen a bottle of wine, having been put up to it by an older male who was still sitting in his car in the parking lot. I thought of the poor and sometimes desperate folks in Baker City who are hauled off to jail on a daily basis for various, sometimes minor, crimes. I thought of Phil Ochs' words sung by Joan Baez in the song "There but for fortune."

In the in-depth article that follows, Matt Taibbi, one of the best investigative reporters in our world, vividly elucidates the crimes that have been committed by the Wall Street scamsters, and the stark differences between our treatment of the crimes of rich and poor. God it is long! But perhaps that is the price of understanding.

He describes how Wall Street scamsters brought our country to its knees while raking in millions of dollars--Crimes that went unpunished by a complicit government.

Here are the final paragraphs (but please read the entire article if you get some time):

Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail?
Financial crooks brought down the world's economy — but the feds are doing more to protect them than to prosecute them

By Matt Taibbi
FEBRUARY 16, 2011 9:00 AM ET
. . . .
". . . .the system is skewed by the irrepressible pull of riches and power. If talent rises in the SEC or the Justice Department, it sooner or later jumps ship for those fat NBA contracts [big money on Wall Street, or as consultants or whatever]. Or, conversely, graduates of the big corporate firms take sabbaticals from their rich lifestyles to slum it in government service for a year or two. Many of those appointments are inevitably hand-picked by lifelong stooges for Wall Street like Chuck Schumer, who has accepted $14.6 million in campaign contributions from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and other major players in the finance industry, along with their corporate lawyers.

As for President Obama, what is there to be said? Goldman Sachs was his number-one private campaign contributor. He put a Citigroup executive in charge of his economic transition team, and he just named an executive of JP Morgan Chase, the proud owner of $7.7 million in Chase stock, his new chief of staff. "The betrayal that this represents by Obama to everybody is just — we're not ready to believe it," says Budde, a classmate of the president from their Columbia days. "He's really fucking us over like that? Really? That's really a JP Morgan guy, really?"

Which is not to say that the Obama era has meant an end to law enforcement. On the contrary: In the past few years, the administration has allocated massive amounts of federal resources to catching wrongdoers — of a certain type. Last year, the government deported 393,000 people, at a cost of $5 billion. Since 2007, felony immigration prosecutions along the Mexican border have surged 77 percent; nonfelony prosecutions by 259 percent. In Ohio last month, a single mother was caught lying about where she lived to put her kids into a better school district; the judge in the case tried to sentence her to 10 days in jail for fraud, declaring that letting her go free would "demean the seriousness" of the offenses. [My preference would be to seriously fine those that hire illegals.]

So there you have it. Illegal immigrants: 393,000. Lying moms: one. Bankers: zero. The math makes sense only because the politics are so obvious. You want to win elections, you bang on the jailable class. You build prisons and fill them with people for selling dime bags and stealing CD players. But for stealing a billion dollars? For fraud that puts a million people into foreclosure? Pass. It's not a crime. Prison is too harsh. Get them to say they're sorry, and move on. Oh, wait — let's not even make them say they're sorry. That's too mean; let's just give them a piece of paper with a government stamp on it, officially clearing them of the need to apologize, and make them pay a fine instead. But don't make them pay it out of their own pockets, and don't ask them to give back the money they stole. In fact, let them profit from their collective crimes, to the tune of a record $135 billion in pay and benefits last year. What's next? Taxpayer-funded massages for every Wall Street executive guilty of fraud?

The mental stumbling block, for most Americans, is that financial crimes don't feel real; you don't see the culprits waving guns in liquor stores or dragging coeds into bushes. But these frauds are worse than common robberies. They're crimes of intellectual choice, made by people who are already rich and who have every conceivable social advantage, acting on a simple, cynical calculation: Let's steal whatever we can, then dare the victims to find the juice to reclaim their money through a captive bureaucracy. They're attacking the very definition of property — which, after all, depends in part on a legal system that defends everyone's claims of ownership equally. When that definition becomes tenuous or conditional — when the state simply gives up on the notion of justice — this whole American Dream thing recedes even further from reality."
[Emphasis added, not that it was needed]

Wolf News

This first one is slightly dated, but adds a little context.

Do ranchers have a right to predator free landscape?
By George Wuerthner, 11-22-10
. . . .
One of the unquestioned and unspoken assumptions heard across the West is that ranchers have a right to a predator free environment. Even environmental groups like Defenders of Wildlife more or less legitimize this perspective by supporting unqualified compensation for livestock losses to bears and wolves.  And many state agency wolf management plans specifically call for compensation to livestock producers—but without any requirements that livestock husbandry practices be in place to reduce or eliminate predation opportunity.

In a sense, ranchers have externalized one of their costs of business, namely practicing animal husbandry that eliminates or significantly reduces predator losses. Most of these proven techniques involve more time and expense than ranchers have traditionally had to pay, in part, because they have been successful in making the rest of us believe it was a public responsibility to eliminate predators and not a private business cost.
. . . .
See link above for rest

The Information Below is from Wally Sykes of Northeast Oregon Ecosystems:

[The first story may or may not be true. Wolf hysteria is easily whipped up by sloppy confirmations of wolf kills by federal investigators and then reported by news outlets, only to be overturned by more thorough ODFW investigations. ODFW has not been involved in these investigations, and while they could be true, there is plenty of room for skepticism.

The billboard, below, featured on previous blogs, was taken down yesterday due to objections from the landowner. It will hopefully be reposted in an alternative location before long. Doesn't the fact that the property owner felt compelled to remove the message speak for itself?]

Wolves kill two cows in Wallowa County
Wallowa County Chieftain
February 16, 2011

Also covered on OPB blog:

Washington Livestock group files suit over wolves
February 16, 2011
Group sues USFWS to force a review of federal wolf protections

Wolf Awareness Week Poster Image Entries Wanted
Ashland Current
February 16, 2011
The theme for the 2011 posters is “Why Wolves? Wolves’ Role in a Healthy Ecosystem.”

Wolf de-listing bill on fast track in DC
February 15, 2011
Spokesman Review

From Ralph Maughan:
Cuts to Wildlife Services proposed by Obama. His budget will not become law due to the giant faceoff between Rs and Ds, but many of the specific cuts could survive.

Elsewhere in the West:

Dangerous Threats:
New York Times
February 15, 2011
NYT Editorial blasts Representative Rehberg’s veiled threat against a federal judge as well as his effort to undermine that judges decisions.

AP News Break – Montana won’t wait to kill wolves
Idaho Statesman
February 16, 2011
Defying federal authority over gray wolves, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Wednesday encouraged ranchers to kill wolves that prey on their livestock - even in areas where that is not currently allowed - and said the state will start shooting packs that hurt elk herds.

The Story in:
USA Today
Helena Independent Record
GOP Bill Would Lift Wolf Protections
Associated Press
February 16, 2011

Idaho wolves in lawmakers’ sights
Idaho Mountain Express
February 16, 2011
Idaho wolves are in the crosshairs as efforts to control and delist the predators escalate on the federal and state levels. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was the first to take aim last week, publishing a draft environmental impact statement on Thursday that proposed allowing Idaho to reduce the Lolo wolf population—in north-central Idaho—by more than half.

Styler on Wolves
February16, 2011
Salt Lake Tribune
2 LTE responses to DNR Director's outrageous wolf claims

Elsewhere in the country

Study of wolf population underway in Michigan
Suite 101
February 15, 2011
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment needs help in the northern portion of Lower Michigan to find signs the gray wolf has returned.

Cry Wolf
Express Milwaukee
February 16, 2011
Someone very close to me worries a lot about wolves. She doesn’t worry about being attacked by packs of wolves. Nor is she afraid that when she goes through the woods to grandmother’s house, a wolf will be in granny’s bed wearing a frilly bonnet. She worries that Wisconsin can hardly wait to wipe out all the wolves again.

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