Wednesday 30 April 2014

THE WALL STREET ETIQUETTE GUIDE TO HELPING ONESELF TO OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY

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By Pam Martens
March 18, 2014
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In case you haven’t figured it out yet, there is a right way and a wrong way to help yourself to other people’s money on Wall Street. The right way propels you into the one percent replete with mansions and yachts, your name memorialized on buildings, a golden parachute, an office and car for life fronted by defrauded shareholders and regular invitations to appear on CNBC and lecture others on how to structure the financial system.
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Then there’s the wrong way ~ as Gary Foster found out the hard way in June 2012 when he was sentenced to eight years in the slammer for embezzling more than $22 million from Citigroup and compounding his lack of etiquette in the most unforgiveable fashion ~ he wired the funds to Citigroup’s arch rival, JPMorgan Chase.
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Foster broke multiple etiquette rules for stealing money on Wall Street. First, his crime was too simple. He made it just too easy for prosecutors to explain to a jury how he wired funds from various corporate accounts at Citigroup, using fake contract numbers, to his personal accounts at JPMorgan. A man lacking so little criminal creativity is eschewed on Wall Street; he clearly has no future there so he might as well go to jail.
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Foster broke another etiquette rule when he had the audacity to buy a luxury home in Tenafly, New Jersey rather than Greenwich, Connecticut. You’re just not going to build an adequate Rolodex of connections to get you out of jail in Tenafly.
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Consider Foster’s simple plan with the bold and wickedly creative plan hatched by Sanford (Sandy) Weill to extract money from Citigroup. Weill’s plan became colloquially known on Wall Street as the Count Dracula stock option plan ~ you simply could not kill it; not even with a silver bullet. You couldn’t prosecute it because Citigroup’s well-paid Board of Directors was rubber-stamping it.
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ED Noor: Sandy or Sanford Weill ~ Sounds more Anglo than Jewish but the man is of the Tribe.
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Weill’s stock option plan worked like this: every time he exercised one set of stock options, he got a reload of approximately the same amount of options. Now, stock option grants are supposed to be based on outstanding performance benefitting the shareholders. But even in years when Citigroup was getting dragged through the press for facilitating frauds at WorldCom and Enron and issuing fraudulent research to the public, Weill was reloading the hell out of his stock options.
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Graef “Bud” Crystal, the corporate compensation expert, is the man who coined the Dracula analogy for Weill’s stock options. Writing for Bloomberg News, Crystal explained that between 1988 and 2002, Weill “received 96 different option grants” on an aggregate of $3 billion of stock. Crystal says “It’s a wonder that Weill had time to run the business, what with all his option grants and exercises. In the years 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2000, Weill exercised, and then received new option grants, a total of, respectively, 14, 20, 13 and 19 times.”
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When Weill stepped down as CEO in 2003, he had amassed over $1 billion in compensation, the bulk of it coming from his reloading stock options. (He remained as Chairman of Citigroup until 2006.) Weill wasted no time in cashing in some of his chips. One day after stepping down as CEO, the Citigroup Board of Directors made an exception and allowed Weill to sell back to the corporation 5.6 million shares of his stock for $264 million.
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Weill did not have to concern himself with driving down the price of his shares when that quantity of shares flooded into the market. His Board kindly negotiated the price at $47.14 for all of the shares. Two years after Weill stepped down as Chairman, Citigroup was insolvent and its shares were trading at 99 cents. Regulators discovered that the company had hid subprime debt off its balance sheet and was drowning in toxic debt. The company became one of the largest recipients of taxpayer bailouts and below-market-rate loans from the Federal Reserve.
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The economic prospects of the United States, the newly poor, the unemployed whose benefits have run out, are all paying the price for Sandy Weill’s wickedly creative compensation schemes. The hodgepodge of companies that Weill had assembled prior to his convincing John Reed of Citicorp to merge that huge bank with Weill’s Travelers Group, required the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act ~ the depression era investor protection legislation that barred FDIC insured banks from merging with their casino cousins, investment banks and brokerage firms.
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Weill sold this idea to regulators and the media and Congress on the basis that it would make the U.S. more competitive; that one-stop financial supermarkets would be good for the consumer. But according to John Reed in an interview with Bill Moyers, Weill’s real motivation was about getting rich. (See excerpt below.)
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Weill’s “creativity” has been very good for him. He owns multiple estates; his name and that of his wife appears on multiple buildings around the country; and Weill is permitted to opine on CNBC about the need to break up the banks ~ now that all the damage is already done.
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Weill may be able to delude himself about his role in the financial collapse and the long-term impact to our country, but the facts speak for themselves. In February of last year, the General Accountability Office (GAO) released a devastating appraisal of the financial toll the 2007 to 2009 Wall Street financial crisis has had on the U.S. economy and workers. According to the GAO, cumulative output losses alone could exceed $13 trillion. A key concern expressed throughout the study is whether the U.S. economy and many older workers can ever recover from the crisis. According to the report:
“Some studies describe reasons why financial crises could be associated with permanent output losses. For example, sharp declines in investment during and following the crisis could result in lower capital accumulation in the long-term. In addition, persistent high unemployment could substantially erode the skills of many U.S. workers and reduce the productive capacity of the U.S…CBO [Congressional Budget Office] reported that recessions following financial crises, like the most recent crisis, tend to reduce not only output below what it otherwise would have been but also the economy’s potential to produce output, even after all resources are productively employed…”
The other thing you need to know about the Etiquette Guide on Wall Street is that getting rich at a bank like Citigroup that is serially charged with wrongdoing will be no impediment to going on to high office in the U.S. government. As Senator Elizabeth Warren remarked to Fed Nominee and former Citigroup International President Stanley Fischer last week in his confirmation hearing:
“Many big banks are well represented in Washington but the connection between Citigroup and Democratic administrations really sticks out. Three of the last four Democratic Treasury Secretaries have Citigroup ties; the fourth was offered but turned down the CEO position at Citigroup. Former Directors of the National Economic Council and the Office of Management and Budget at the White House and our current U.S. Trade Representative also have Citigroup ties. You once served as President of Citigroup International and are now in line to be number two at the Federal Reserve…”
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March 16, 2012: Bill Moyers Interview on PBS With John Reed, former Co-CEO of Citigroup.
JOHN REED: [Speaking about the repeal of Glass-Steagall.] “No one that I’m aware of saw it clearly. You point out to some Senators and Congressmen who did, but somehow we described them as being peripheral. And I simply said, ‘They’re wrong.’ Turned out they weren’t…
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“Sandy Weill. I mean, his whole life was to accumulate money. And he said, ‘John, we could be so rich.’ Being rich never crossed my mind as an objective value. I almost was embarrassed that somebody would say that out loud. It might be happening but you wouldn’t want to say it.
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“But you know, the biggest bonus I had ever received when I was at Citi was three million dollars. The first year I worked with Sandy it was 15 [million]. I said to the board, ‘I’m the same guy doing the same job, same company. There are two of us. The company’s bigger but there are two of us. What’s going on?’ ‘Oh, you don’t understand.’ And it was just a totally different culture. And see, Wall Street developed that culture.”

Monday 28 April 2014

TARGETED KILLING COULD BECOME A GAME FOR ALL ~ IF WE FAIL TO NAIL THE WARMONGERS

‘ASSASSINATION BUREAU’ REVISITED

By Stuart Littlewood
April 26, 2014
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Secret mafia-like cabals are systematically wrecking our planet to feed their greed. They do so with impunity and without regard to human misery. An enormous backlog of war criminals still strut the international stage while we seethe with impotent rage.
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Pushed into a corner like this, and denied normal ways and means of eradicating the evil that stalks our precious world, we begin to fantasize ~ to think the unthinkable ~ as I did six years ago when I wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece about the rising popularity of assassination as practised by the “great and good”.
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The article harked back to the 1969 film ‘The Assassination Bureau’, based on Jack London’s unfinished novel. The setting of this romp is the turn of the century a hundred years ago, a time for regime change and the purging of corrupt monarchs and cruel tyrants. The Bureau’s hit team is for hire provided that founder and mastermind Ivan Dragomiloff deems the targeted killings “socially justifiable” and there’s proof of the candidates’ misdeeds.
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Eventually, however, the moral rectitude of the enterprise is overtaken by financial greed, and the day comes when the Bureau accepts a mission to eradicate an unnamed but prominent public figure. The huge fee is paid in advance, proof supplied, job accepted ~ then the target is revealed. It is Dragomiloff himself. Dragomiloff, far from alarmed, is actually flattered by the challenge of pitting himself against the very killing machine he has perfected and the prospect of purging the more corrupt elements within it.
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When London died in 1916 the book was left unfinished. He’d said he couldn’t think of a logical ending.
Assassination, as we all know, is the targeted killing of persons usually for political or ideological (and often insane) motives.  This is OK, but not OK.
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In 1976, US President Ford issued an Executive Order after revelations that the CIA had made several attempts on the life of Cuba’s Fidel Castro. Henceforward targeted political killings were outlawed:
“No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.” 
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Every US president since then has upheld Ford’s prohibition… or got round it somehow.
Carter and Reagan reaffirmed the ban, although it didn’t stop the US bombing Gaddafi’s home in 1986 in the hope of rubbing him out, or the Clinton administration firing cruise missiles at suspected guerrilla camps in Afghanistan in 1998, or Bush instructing the CIA to engage in “lethal covert operations” (based on an intelligence ‘finding’) to destroy Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organisation.
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NICE AND LEGAL
White House and CIA lawyers were at pains to explain that intelligence ‘findings’ make all the difference because the ban on political assassinations doesn’t apply in wartime. The right sort of ‘finding’ can put everything on a war footing. They also said that the prohibition wouldn’t prevent the US taking action against terrorists. And in the wake of 9-11 it wouldn’t stop the United States acting in self-defence.
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So… all the US has to do is invent or manufacture a ‘finding’, brand the folk who stand in their way “terrorists”, and claim their extermination is actually an act of self-defence in a war situation.
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Furthermore, reports suggested the Bush administration got together with Israel to establish the legal framework for a new American targeted-assassination policy. The Israelis, of course, are world experts.
Annoying pockets of resistance to their land-grabs, ethnic cleansing, abductions, illegal settlements and other war crimes in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip are dealt with by wholesale imposition of specially concocted warfare laws for the benefit of Israel’s ‘self-defence’.
Never mind that they trample on everyone else’s rights. This suited Bush admirably as he pressed ahead with his war-without-end on terror.
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Israel’s liking for assassination goes back to pre-State days when it was practised on a regular basis against Arab and British targets by the Irgun, a thoroughly unpleasant organisation that believed political violence and terrorism were legitimate tools for removing obstacles to the Zionist cause and for driving the Arabs from their homeland. Assassination became official Israeli policy in 1999 when their military planned ‘initiated attacks’ to stop Yasser Arafat’s militia, the Tanzim, from firing on illegal Israeli squatters in the West Bank and Gaza.
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The Israelis demonstrated great ingenuity in bumping off bomb maker Yahya Ayyesh. In 1996 this master-technician in the business of suicide bombing had been on Israel’s most-wanted list for 3 years. Shabak (Israel’s secret service) finally tricked a friend into giving Ayyash a booby-trapped cell phone. When Ayyash made a call, Shabak detonated it.
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In 2008 they excelled themselves again by terminating Hezbollah’s Imad Mughniyeh, ‘The Fox’, with an exploding headrest in his Mitsubishi. Remember, Hezbollah became a force to be reckoned with in response to Israel’s 1978 and 1982 invasions of Lebanon and wholesale slaughter of Shias living in south Lebanon.
Israel’s preferred method of assassination however is the airstrike, and increasingly the drone-strike, which is lazy, lacking in finesse and often messy. In 2002 Israeli F-16 warplanes bombed the house of Sheikh Salah Shehadeh, the military commander of Hamas, in Gaza City killing not just him but at least 11 other Palestinians, including seven children, and wounding 120 others.
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In 2004, at the second attempt, Hamas’s spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, wheelchair-bound since the age of 12, and nine innocent bystanders were obliterated in a helicopter gunship attack. Yassin had survived an F-16 bomb blast the previous year. Israel’s then prime minister Ariel Sharon characterised Yassin as “the mastermind of Palestinian terror” and a “mass murderer”, which was rich coming from a war criminal who ran Israel’s death squad, Unit 101, and was found indirectly responsible for the massacres in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps.
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When Arafat claimed the Israeli cabinet had approved a plan to kill a large number of leading Palestinians, Sharon denied it but defended assassinations as a “defensive counter-terrorism measure”. He said he had sent the Palestinians a list of 100 terrorists the Palestinian Authority must arrest, otherwise Israel would “exercise our right of self-defence.”
Oh, and snipers ~ another Israeli favourite.
According to the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem 270 Palestinians have been assassinated by Israel since the second intifada in 2000. “The use of state assassinations by Israel against Palestinian suspects is undermining the rule of law and fuelling the cycle of violence in the region” warned Amnesty International.
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But systematic extra-judicial extermination is regarded as “legal and legitimate” by Israel’s attorney-general.
“If anyone has committed or is planning to carry out terrorist attacks, he has to be hit. It is effective, precise, and just,”
said Israeli minister Ephraim Sneh in 2001, oblivious to the frequent lack of precision, the collateral casualties and the possibility that his information is wrong.
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The US State Department describes its own hits on Al-Qaeda as “legal and necessary.” But pre-emptive strikes are not America’s only tool. There’s the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, the product of a truly sick mind where hundreds of prisoners of ‘war’, from 13 years old upwards, have been held long-term under inhuman conditions, without ‘due process’ and in flagrant breach of Geneva Conventions. Over 150 are still there. It’s a living death, a quite different form of assassination. All very reminiscent of Israel’s abduction, ‘administrative’ detention and torture practices.
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ISRAELI DEATH SQUADS HERE IN THE UK?
We’re told Israeli advisers were training US Special Forces in aggressive counter-insurgency methods in Iraq, including the use of assassination squads against guerrilla leaders. Urban warfare specialists shared the skills they had honed against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in order to help the US set up its own hunter-killer teams.
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Even more worrying were reports in 2008 that Israeli death squads had been authorised to enter “friendly” countries and kill those suspected of being a threat to the Jewish state wherever they were hiding. Until then targeted killings had been pretty much restricted to Occupied Palestine but the appointment of a new Mossad director, Meir Dagan, in 2002 changed that.
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Sharon was said to have given his old buddy Dagan a mandate to revive the traditional methods of Mossad, including assassinations abroad, even at the risk to Israel’s bilateral relations. Given the British government’s fawning subservience to Israel’s interests, and its willingness to shield Israeli war criminals from arrest, it is not difficult to imagine Mossad hoodlums prowling the streets of London, Bradford, Glasgow and Manchester snuffing out plotters against their rotten racist regime.
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A SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ‘GOOD RIDDANCE’ SERVICE AT OUR FINGERTIPS?
Warmongers are to be found in every nook and cranny of our Establishment, and there is no more serious act than taking one’s country into an unjust war. Here in the UK 412 MPs voted for the infamous war in Iraq. That’s about two-thirds of our elected representatives who lacked the commonsense decency and diligence to check the truth of what Prime Minister Blair was feeding them, especially when so many people outside Parliament knew it to be a pack of lies. They took us to war and killed hundreds of thousands purely to further the interests of US neocons and Israel, and to feed the vanity of Britain’s political √©lite.
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Then, in August last year, 272 British MPs voted for military action against Syria after allowing their heads to be filled with nonsense by Agents Hague and Cameron. Many were the same idiots who voted for the Iraq war 10 years earlier and still hadn’t learned their lesson. For such contemptible behaviour there should be dire consequences.
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Fortunately 285 MPs were sensible enough to stop them. 
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A narrow squeak indeed.
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And today our beautiful planet is infested by genocidal tyrants, corrupt leaders, bloodthirsty heads of state and power-crazed conglomerates, hankering for global domination, robbing us of our freedoms and wishing to keep the world in turmoil for their own grotesque purposes. How can ordinary people end the evil at the top when the wheels of justice are in the hands of the very people on our wanted lists?
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We can only pray that some of the ‘wanted’ will meet their end at the hands of their own hunter-killers, as almost happened to Dragomiloff. 
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Alternatively, what if a real Dragomiloff appeared with a real assassination bureau ~ or several of them? Think of it:
a socially-responsible international service
activated by ordinary citizens or civil society groups
to rid us of the world’s tormentors.
All riddance requests would have to be accompanied by “intelligence findings”, of course. Thus the work of the assassination bureau would be perfectly “legal”, “legitimate” and “necessary”, in accordance with the standards set by Israel and America.
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If Jack London had lived, and seen what we see today, I wonder if he would still be stuck for a good ending to his ripping yarn.

ESCOBAR ON RT: US FEARS OPPOSING VIEWS ARE GAINING STRENGTH


 In response to:

‘Propaganda bullhorn’: John Kerry attacks RT during Ukraine address

Saturday 26 April 2014

ALTERNATIVE SATURDAY CARTOONS: APRIL 26, 2014



Possibly the best ever from Juice ~ and daring considering the subject matter and the fact that they operate in occupied territory ~ Australia.





 Time to vomit. Officially.








A lot of this going on in the banking world. Almost 40 dead bankers now. All suspicious... and no one is suspicious? A few years ago being a scientist was almost a death wish but now, banking is cleaning up its messes, and not in any way we might wish.

 Sheldon Adelson? Is that you?




"The Dinosaur and Mastodon became extinct not because of evolutionary changes, but because they were too big to be got onto Noah's Ark."  ~ Founder and President of World's Christian Fundamentals Association, in debate in Los Angeles.

 




 From a German sex manual for toddlers.


"It is a superb version of America, all right, but I can't remember which candidate projected it. "


Although the topic is water in Africa, I tinted it blue to remind us all of the water situation in Palestine for the Non Jewish population. Summer has not begun and the ever worsening situation has only begun for this coming season.




This is an old feminist cartoon. Looking at it today, the material applies across the board ~ not a gender specific problem in this decade.













 Remember LBJ announcing the Vietnam War?

Remember coming home  from school and scarfing down a banana or washing down a hastily tossed together PBJ with a long gulp of milk? The above are all are pretty well sub Continental fast foods from India back in the day.

 "IF" .... ?!






 Amen!