DoJ says it will consider jailing executives who order corporate crimes

The doctrine under former AG Eric Holder (documented in Matt Taibbi's brilliant The Divide) was to allow executives to pay fines that were less than the profits from their crimes. Read the rest

Baltimore's police brutality is just the beginning

Matt Taibbi writes that the recent blow-up is about much more than the killing of Freddie Gray. Beyond that murder, there is a complex legal infrastructure that encourages — and covers up — police violence.
Most Americans have never experienced this kind of policing. They haven't had to stare down the barrel of a service revolver drawn for no reason at a routine stop. They haven't had their wife and kids put on an ice-cold sidewalk curb while cops ran their license plate. They haven't ever been told to get the fuck back in their car right now, been accused of having too prominent a "bulge," had their dog shot and their kids handcuffed near its body during a wrong-door raid, watched their seven-year-old dragged to jail for sitting on a dirt bike, or dealt with any of a thousand other positively crazy things nonwhite America has come to expect from an interaction with law enforcement. "It's everywhere," says Christen Brown, who as a 24-year-old city parks employee was allegedly roughed up and arrested just for filming police in a parking lot. "You can be somewhere minding your business and they will find their best way to fuck with you, point blank. It's blatant disrespect."

Photo: A demonstrator raises his arms as he faces law enforcement officers near Baltimore Police Department Western District during a protest against the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, in Baltimore April 25, 2015. Thousands of people marched peacefully through downtown Baltimore on Saturday to protest the unexplained death of the 25-year-old black man in police custody but pockets of violence erupted when a small group smashed windows and threw bottles at officers.

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David Graeber's The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy

Anarchist anthropologist David Graeber follows up his magesterial Debt: The First 5000 Years with a slim, sprightly, acerbic attack on capitalism's love affair with bureaucracy, asking why the post-Soviet world has more paperwork, phone-trees and red-tape than ever, and why the Right are the only people who seem to notice or care.

Eric Holder: creator of the "Too Big to Jail" bankster

While you contemplate Eric Holder's track record of surveilling, intimidating and indicting journalists, remember that he also invented the Too Big to Jail doctrine, the failed idea that the answer to breathtaking criminal activity by gigantic banks is big fines, not criminal prosecutions. Read the rest

Elizabeth Warren asks why criminal bankers are too big to jail

There were 800 convictions in the S&L crisis, but the DOJ hasn't prosecuted a single banker involved in the financial crisis; as Matt Taibbi points out in the brilliant, essential book The Divide, if shutting down a huge bank would impose too many costs on society, then why don't prosecutors insist that the banks be split up as a condition of not dropping the entire C-suite into the deepest dungeon in the nation? Read the rest

Blogging History: Student debt destroying a generation; Adding weight to gadgets for gravitas; Mexican cops get chipped

One year Student debt and tuition hikes: destroying the lives of America's children: Matt Taibbi takes a long, in-depth look at the scandal of student loans and tuition hikes, a two-headed parasite sucking America's working class and middle class dry as they plunge their children into a lifetime of ballooning debt in the vain hope of a better, college-educated future.

Five years Gizmo with a weight added for extra heft: The IDSA Materials and Process Selection Blog discovered a surprise inside a Pinnacle Video Transfer gadget: a weight seemingly added for the sole purpose of making the device heavier and less "cheap"-feeling.

Ten years Mexican cops get themselves chipped: The government of Mexico is RFID-tagging police in order to combat record high levels of kidnapping and disappearances. About 170 officers are said to have been subcutaneously tagged in their arms with microchips about the size of a rice grain of rice. The chip grants them access to a crime database and becomes a tracking tool in case they're kidnapped. Read the rest

Summer reading list: nonfiction

Some of my most popular nonfiction reviews from the past year, from 'Capital in the 21st Century' to 'The Divide.'

NY DA says he won't prosecute minor drug possession; NYPD officers ordered to go on arresting

The memo -- requiring Brooklyn cops to continue their racist, brutal stop-and-frisk campaign to make minor drug busts -- is required reading for beat officers.

Last year, the NYPD made over 8,000 minor marijuana possession arrests. As Matt Taibbi documents in The Divide, these arrests are part of a racist, all-out war on young people of color. Even if the DA won't prosecute the people that Brooklyn cops take into custody, the busts will continue to beef up the department's arrest statistics.

DA Thompson's order really doesn't eliminate that many possession arrests. His memo stated that those smoking in public (especially around children), 16-17-year-old offenders (who will be placed into a diversion program) and people with existing criminal records will still be prosecuted. This just leaves mainly the truly harmless: recreational users.

But the War on Drugs is every bit as essential to the NYPD as the War on Terror, and the NYPD (with new chief Bill Bratton's blessing) will continue to make meaningless arrests -- arrests made even more meaningless by DA Thompson's announcement.

If nothing else, this ensures the sort of job security that's usually only touted in sarcastic tones by the deeply cynical. According to the New York Times, arresting recreational users is full-time work for Brooklyn cops.

NYPD Tells Brooklyn Officers To Continue Making Low-Level Drug Arrests DA Has Stated He Won't Prosecute [Tim Cushing/Techdirt]

(Image: NYPD Occupy Wall Street Eviction, Nick Gulotta, CC-BY) Read the rest

Blogging History: Snowden seeks Russian asylum; Goldman Sachs, vampire squid; EFF's patent hitlist

One year ago today NSA leaker Edward Snowden asks Russia for asylum, issues statement via Wikileaks: A Russian consular official confirms Edward Snowden has asked for political asylum in Russia.

Five years ago today Taibbi on Goldman Sachs: "Planet-eating Death Star," "Vampire squid": Matt Taibbi's epic Rolling Stone piece this month, he describes the financial firm as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity"; and "the planet-eating Death Star of political influence".

Ten years ago today 10 Internet patents that are going DOWN: EFF has picked its list of ten dumb-and-bustable Internet patents after a public competition, and we're saddling up to gather invalidating prior art we can submit to the US Patent and Trademark Office to have them struck down. Read the rest

Oligopolistic America: anti-competitive, unequal, and deliberate

A brilliant, enraging op-ed in the Washington Post from analysts from the New America Foundation and the American Antitrust Institute shows how the Reagan-era policy of encouraging monopolistic corporate behavior has made America unequal and uncompetitive, creating a horror Gilded Age where the Congressional consensus is that laws cannot possibly put a check on bad corporate actors.

It's another look at the problems set out in Matt Taibbi's brilliant book The Divide, tracing the policies that created both the private prison industry and banks so big that even the most depraved criminality can't be punished lest the bank tremble and collapse on wider society.

Particularly galling and illuminating is a quote from a Goldman Sachs report that advises investors to seek out "oligopolistic market structure[s]" where there's "lower competitive intensity, greater stickiness and pricing power with customers due to reduced choice" as the ideal way to maximize your return on capital. Read the rest

American juvenile incarceration: destroying a generation to feed the prison system

Wil Wheaton writes, "Today's Fresh Air (MP3) is just heartbreaking. It's an interview about the juvenile 'justice' system in America with Nell Bernstein, author of Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison, and how prison is just destroying young lives in the name of giving prison workers jobs. No. Seriously. It's infuriating, and it dovetails perfectly with your review of Matt Taibbi's new book."

Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison

'Burning Down The House' Makes The Case Against Juvenile Incarceration (Thanks, Wil!) Read the rest

Matt Taibbi's The Divide: incandescent indictment of the American justice-gap

Matt Taibbi's The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap is a scorching, brilliant, incandescent indictment of the widening gap in how American justice treats the rich and the poor. Taibbi's spectacular financial reporting for Rolling Stone set him out as the best running commentator on the financial crisis and its crimes, and The Divide -- beautifully illustrated by Molly Crabapple -- shows that at full length, he's even better. Cory Doctorow reviews The Divide.

Interview with Matt Taibbi about "The Divide"

Matt Taibbi is touring the States with his new book, The Divide, which is on my must-read list right after I finish Capital in the 21st Century. Rick Kleffel caught up with him for his San Francisco NPR show and posted the interview, along with his notes (which includes links to his previous interviews with Taibbi).

Taibbi was, until recently, the best reason to read Rolling Stone: a finance writer for the 99%, whose incandescent and meticulous columns were terrifying and enraging by turns.

The Divide

05-12-14: A 2014 Interview with Matt Taibbi

(Thanks, Rick!) Read the rest

Matt Taibbi becomes latest badass journalist to join Omidyar's First Look Media

Rolling Stone's loss is Pierre Omidyar's gain. Matt Taibbi is joining First Look Media, the same organization where Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Laura Poitras are on the masthead at The Intercept-- but Taibbi will lead his own publication focused on financial and political corruption. The new magazine does not yet have a name or a precise launch date.

Ravi Somaiya was first with the scoop today at the NYT:

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HSBC settlement approved: no criminal charges, 5 weeks' profit in fines, deferred bonuses for laundering billions for narco-terrorists

Remember when HSBC got caught laundering billions for Mexican narco-terror cartels? Remember how they offered to pay five weeks' profits in fines and to defer their executive bonuses to escape criminal charges?

The crime-fighting legal eagles at the Department of Justice approved the settlement last week. Remember, though, if you are suspected of laundering money or selling drugs, the DoJ will take your house away and put you in jail for the rest of your life. Nice to be "too big to jail." Still, deferring multimillion-dollar bonuses has gotta hurt, huh? Read the rest

GOP declares war on itself

GOP power-brokers have raised a $50M war-chest to fight the nomination of "fools" to GOP seats in the upcoming mid-term elections. Effectively, the Republican big-business-friendly establishment has declared war on the Tea Party, in an effort to ensure donors that the slate will not be full of what Matt Taibbi calls "a bottomless pit of brainless Bachmanns and Cruzes and Santorums, all convinced our Harvard-educated president is a sleeper-cell Arab and that Satan is a literal being intent on conquering Nebraska with U.N. troops."

Taibbi is, as always, fucking incandescent on the subject. He points out the delicious irony of svengalis like Karl Rove and Dick Armey -- who put GW Bush in the White House by gleefully pandering to the ignorant and prejudiced with "faith-based initiatives" to bring in "the nuts" (as Rove calls evangelicals when he thinks he's in private) and Swift-Boating -- now having to keep those people from derailing the party and scaring off all the millionaires and billionaires.

If they're going to keep on donating to the GOP, they need to be assured that the party's elected reps understand that gay marriage and no-abortion-for-rape-victims are just distracting side-shows to win votes, and should be set aside once in office to pursue the serious business of looting the nation and spying on everyone to prevent any kind of popular uprising. Read the rest

Australian man travels to Thailand to track down his scammers

Keith Jones was scammed out of US$110,000 by a fraudulent investment firm. Not surprisingly, law enforcement initially had little interest in the case, so Mr. Jones decided to track down the criminals on his own, leading him from his home in Australia to Thailand. He made this high-quality and fascinating documentary of his sleuthing.

HSBC bank, which gave the scammers an account to rip off Mr. Jones, also refused to help him. (That's not surprising either, once you read Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone article, "Gangster Bankers: Too Big to Jail How HSBC hooked up with drug traffickers and terrorists. And got away with it.") Read the rest

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