Monday, April 29, 2013

Of rigged games and realizations thereof

A couple of Monday-appropriate links:

I've never been a big fan of Rolling Stone magazine, but I keep stumbling on gems by Matt Taibbi, who seems to be covering a lot of the nation's financial shenanigans far more clearly than anyone in more 'respectable' circles.  His latest recap should be mandatory reading...
All of these stories collectively pointed to the same thing: These banks, which already possess enormous power just by virtue of their financial holdings – in the United States, the top six banks, many of them the same names you see on the Libor and ISDAfix panels, own assets equivalent to 60 percent of the nation's GDP – are beginning to realize the awesome possibilities for increased profit and political might that would come with colluding instead of competing. Moreover, it's increasingly clear that both the criminal justice system and the civil courts may be impotent to stop them, even when they do get caught working together to game the system...

...Yet despite so many instances of at least attempted manipulation, the banks mostly skated. Barclays got off with a relatively minor fine in the $450 million range, UBS was stuck with $1.5 billion in penalties, and RBS was forced to give up $615 million. Apart from a few low-level flunkies overseas, no individual involved in this scam that impacted nearly everyone in the industrialized world was even threatened with criminal prosecution.
Two of America's top law-enforcement officials, Attorney General Eric Holder and former Justice Department Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer, confessed that it's dangerous to prosecute offending banks because they are simply too big. Making arrests, they say, might lead to "collateral consequences" in the economy.
The relatively small sums of money extracted in these settlements did not go toward reparations for the cities, towns and other victims who lost money due to Libor manipulation. Instead, it flowed mindlessly into government coffers. 

In other words, it was one part of the corrupt corporatocracy paying off the other part, yet again...

Meanwhile, it was interesting to see the Economist, of all publications, saying it's time for governments to become color-blind at last, and scrap the 'affirmative action' pitting of one group against another:
Awarding university places to black students with lower test scores than whites sounds reasonable, given the legacy of segregation. But a study found that at some American universities, black applicants who scored 450 points (out of 1,600) worse than Asians on entrance tests were equally likely to win a place. That is neither fair on Asians, nor an incentive to blacks to study in high school. 

A significant component of the discontent today is the conscious or unconscious realization that the rules we've been taught to play by are not only flaunted by those in power--they're perverted to their advantage.  Like casinos, rigged societies can only go on as long as people agree to play.  It's time to stop waiting for the referee's intervention... he's on the other side.

Abjure the realm.  Don't feed the banks by taking on debt.  Work directly with others who simply want to be left alone to enjoy the fruits of their labors.  We don't need these "too big to fail" institutions... they need us. 

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