Manning-gate (Beyond Firebaggerdome)

The Very Serious People at the NTimes and the Washington Post haven’t mentioned Bradley Manning since reporting last week that his lawyer was protesting the increasingly punitive conditions of his incarceration. So I have to agree with Glenn “Too Many Words” Greenwald:

The real purpose of this Quantico episode seems clearly to be to deny Manning his only real visitor, thus making his already hellish solitary confinement that much more unbearable, in turn increasing the likelihood that it will crack him and thus induce the anti-WikiLeaks testimony from him that they need. But it’s also critical to note that the last time House went to visit Manning was in December, and afterward, he went on MSNBC to describe the deterioration of Manning’s physical and mental condition; now he’s been banned, at least for today, from seeing Manning again:
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Greenwald further linked to Juan Cole’s “Bradley Manning and Mohamed Bouazizi” (do click over, it’s worth reading in full):

… Manning’s treatment as though he were a terrorist contrasts to the lionization of other kinds of dissident. If it is true that Manning turned State Department documents over to Wikileaks, then he played a small role in the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution, which overthrew the brutal and grasping dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, whom the US government had been coddling and the French government actively supporting. Ben Ali’s cruelty to political prisoners is now emerging, as they are being released and telling their story.
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Desperation at the policies of the Tunisian government had driven college graduate turned vegetable peddler Mohammad Bouazizi to set himself on fire in protest. The government had supplied him no job, then had confiscated his vegetable cart, then slapped and humiliated him when he protested. Bouazizi was driven to desperation, knowing that the Tunisian system was closed so tight that it offered him no recourse, no hope for reform. His only means of protest was to start a fire and sacrifice his own life. His protest set off public disturbances throughout the country. In the midst of this “Jasmine Revolution,” a leaked US embassy cable about the corruption of President Ben Ali came to the attention of the Tunisian public, lending legitimacy and urgency to their efforts to unseat him. It may have been leaked by Manning.

And as probably the oldest front-pager here, may I add that I find the cheap cynicism of “what do you expect from someone like Hamsher” and “yes, but the authorities were totally within their rights technically” a disgrace to (at the very least) the civics training of the rising generations.

“America — arguably no worse than the average soviet kleptocracy or banana republic!” is not the kind of patriotic rallying cry I have been taught to respect for the last fifty years.








Two Thousand Angry MOTUs…

… and counting. Brought to you by the Guardian and Rudolf Elmer:

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, today pledged to make public the confidential tax details of 2,000 wealthy and prominent individuals, after being passed the data by a Swiss banker who claims the information potentially reveals instances of money-laundering and large-scale illegal tax evasion.
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In a carefully choreographed handover in central London, Rudolf Elmer, formerly a senior executive at the Swiss bank Julius Baer, based in the Cayman islands, said he was handing the data to WikiLeaks as part of an attempt “to educate society” about the amount of potential tax revenues lost thanks to offshore schemes and money-laundering…
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Elmer will appear in a Swiss court on Wednesday charged with breaking Swiss banking secrecy laws, forging documents and sending threatening messages to two officials at his former employer.
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He denies the charges.
[…]
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Assange… said he would pass the information to the Serious Fraud Office(SFO), examine it to ensure sources were protected, and then release it on the WikiLeaks site, potentially within “a couple of weeks”.
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“Once we look at the data, yes, there will be full disclosure,” he said.
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He would not be drawn on questions relating to the extradition case, which will be heard at Belmarsh magistrates court on 7 February, or on other leaks the site has promised are forthcoming, including information involving a “big US bank”, which many believe to be Bank of America.

More details and video at the link. Don’t know if such a public display is going to protect Mr. Elmer from being mysteriously renditioned, but any negative attention to the “global financial elite” stripmining their various nations can only be considered a win for the rest of us.








Banks to Customers: GFY

With a rusty spike:

Bank of America Corp., pressured by U.S. regulations limiting debit-card and overdraft fees, is set to give its retail customers a choice: do more financial transactions through the company, or pay a monthly fee.

The biggest U.S. lender by assets is introducing four new accounts where users pay fees unless they keep minimum balances, make regular deposits, use credit cards or take advantage of online services, said Joe Price, head of the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company’s consumer-banking operations.

I’m not much of a boycotter, but the one thing that I’ve done recently that I encourage all of you to do is to move your money out of a major bank. USAA, credit unions and community banks aren’t out whining and crying about their inability to make money now that a few long-cherished ways to fuck customers have been taken off the table. Perhaps that’s because, unlike BoA,, their business doesn’t depend on their ability to stick their pus-encrusted, syphilitic peni straight into the asses of the unsuspecting, ever-gullible American consumer.

My guess is that BoA is just talking smack, and that any customer a major bank wants to keep won’t see higher fees. They’re probably just trying to justify fucking over low margin (i.e., poor) customers by adding fees and other bullshit. But why wait and find out whether you’re an undesirable? Get the fuck out now.








Guerillaz

This is fucked up (via Atrios):

Managers at Kaplan–the highly profitable educational arm of the Washington Post Co.– have for years pressured academic advisors to use this method to boost enrollment numbers, the former employees said, offering accounts consistent with dozens of complaints filed by former students with the Florida Attorney General’s Office and reviewed by The Huffington Post.

Guerilla registration has been part of a concerted effort by the university to keep students enrolled as long as possible in order to harvest more of the federal financial aid dollars that make up nearly all of the company’s higher education revenues, according to former Kaplan academic advisor Sheldon Cobbler, who described the practice in detail.

Most advisors had access to a company database that allowed them to view students’ e-mail correspondence without their knowledge, said Cobbler, who worked at Kaplan’s Fort Lauderdale, Fla., corporate office from 2007 through July of this year. The advisors routinely searched through students’ e-mails to look up their user names and passwords for Kaplan’s enrollment system, and then they used that information to sign in using multiple student identities, enrolling them in classes they never intended to join, he said.

It gets worse: they then hit the kids up for cash to pay tuition fees for the courses they were forcibly enrolled in. This sounds an awful lot like something people would go to jail for in a functioning democracy.








Twenty years of boredom

I haven’t finished beating the Peter Orszag Citibank thing into the ground yet, so here’s some more. Ezra Klein thinks the money wasn’t so important to Orszag, that Orszag would be bored by academic research, think tank work, writing NYT columns etc. and that he needs the excitement of trying to become president of Citibank. Maybe the idea here is that his inner activist can try to change the system from within, but Klein seems to think that an Orszag-led Citibank would be a good thing in and of itself.

Moe Tkacik reminds us that:

When Orszag’s old mentor Rubin quit his Treasury post he asked AIG’s Hank Greenberg for a job, but Greenberg says he was unimpressed with his offer “to make eight million dollars a year just to travel the world”; Citi was more than happy to pay him more than $100 million over the years for such a gig. Citi is also the venerable institution that tried to recruit Tim Geithner to be its CEO as the subprime Ponzi scheme first began spiraling out of control, and it is the bank from which Geithner poached Orszag’s replacement as budget director Jack Lew.

This always weirded me out, that Citi gave Rubin a $100 million pay-out and tried to recruit Geithner as its CEO. It makes it very difficult for me to believe any of these people are interested in serving anyone other than our Galtian overlords.

On the other hand, reading the New Yorker profile of Orszag (which Tkacik accurately describes as “exceedingly dull”), it seems that Orszag was at least, serious about paying for things in a way his Republican counterparts never are, and rightly obsessed with bending the cost curve of health care. We should also note that in a few months, David Brooks et al. will be pushing a much less competent, honest former OMB head, Mitch Daniels, for the White House.

So there you have it, I guess: Democrats are corporate whores too but they are more serious about governing than Republicans.