Saturday, August 25, 2012

The multiyear probe into money-laundering has resulted in settlements with Lloyd’s Banking Group Plc, ABN Amro Bank NV, Barclays Plc, Credit Suisse Group AG and ING. All hail the international banking community! Jimmy Gurule, a former undersecretary for enforcement at the U.S. Treasury, said of sanctioned-nation money laundering. “It calls for more serious sanctions than a monetary fine for an individual bank that does nothing more than harm shareholders.”

HSBC in settlement talks with U.S
over money-laundering probe

By Tiffany Kary and Greg Farrell, Published: August 24
Updated: Saturday, August 25, 1:23 AM

Aug. 25 (Bloomberg) -- HSBC Holdings Plc, which is under investigation by U.S. regulators for laundering funds of sanctioned nations including Iran and Sudan, is in talks to settle the matter, two people with knowledge of the case said.

The bank, Europe’s largest by market value, made a $700 million provision in July for any U.S. fines after a Senate Committee found it had given terrorists and drug cartels access to the U.S. financial system. That sum might increase, Chief Executive Officer Stuart Gulliver has said  (BUT, I thought, as long as they make a profit doing it, what's the problem?  As long as they enhance share\holder value?).

An HSBC settlement regulators and the Manhattan District Attorney were aiming to conclude as early as September may have been slowed when New York’s banking superintendent accused Standard Chartered of laundering $250 billion for Iran (That is about 25% of Iraq's Gross Domestic Product. Regulators had been talking with both banks about universal accords when Benjamin Lawsky on Aug. 6 threatened to revoke Standard Chartered’s license. Deals with the London-based banks next month are still possible, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the investigations are confidential.

“This is an epidemic of banks willfully, consistently violating economic sanctions (but, don't the banks presently run the country? can't they do whatever the hell they damn well please?  they are coporations and the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations can lie) ,” Jimmy Gurule, a former undersecretary for enforcement at the U.S. Treasury, said of sanctioned-nation money laundering. “It calls for more serious sanctions than a monetary fine for an individual bank that does nothing more than harm shareholders.”

Set Aside

HSBC’s $700 million set-aside, if paid, would constitute the largest U.S. settlement reached over such allegations, topping the $619 million in penalties and forfeitures paid in June by ING Groep NV, the biggest Dutch financial-services company. Standard Chartered agreed on Aug. 14 to pay $340 million to settle the New York state matter, an accord that broke a previous pattern of resolving all such U.S. probes at once in a unified agreement. 

HSBC’s credit-rating outlook was cut this week by Standard & Poor’s, which questioned whether the lender is too big to be managed effectively in the wake of money-laundering investigations. S&P reduced its outlook on HSBC’s long-term rating to negative from stable.

HSBC fell as much as 1.5 percent yesterday in London trading, closing down .4 percent to 557.00 pence. HSBC’s American depositary receipts fell 22 cents, or .5 percent, to $44.05 in New York trading. Each ADR represents five underlying shares.

HSBC, Standard Chartered and other European banks have been under investigation by U.S. regulators that include the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Federal Reserve and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

Other Banks

The multiyear probe into money-laundering has resulted in settlements with Lloyd’s Banking Group Plc, ABN Amro Bank NV, Barclays Plc, Credit Suisse Group AG and ING.

Other European banks, including Deutsche Bank AG and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, are cooperating with U.S. regulators in similar investigations, according to other people familiar with the matter. Two French banks, Credit Agricole SA and BNP Paribas SA, are working with U.S. authorities in similar probes, according to their regulatory filings.

“Here we are at bank number seven, with Standard Chartered, and no individual banker has been held criminally responsible, and that’s a shame,” said Gurule, a professor at the University of Notre Dame. “Checks and balances on banks weren’t working. Bad conduct was going on for years undetected.”

HSBC handled so-called U-turn transactions through U.S. financial institutions that involved funds from Iran to non-U.S. banks, altering its transaction records to obscure information about its clients, according to U.S. Senate testimony in July.

Iran Transactions

Around 25,000 transactions with Iran worth more than $19.4 billion were made with about 90 percent passing through the U.S., according to an audit by Deloitte LLP. Senate investigators documented similar transactions with North Korea, Cuba, Sudan and Burma, which along with Iran are subject to sanctions administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

HSBC also dealt with Al-Rajhi Bank, a Saudi Arabian client whose account the bank closed in 2005 over alleged terrorist financing before reopening it in 2007, according to the Senate testimony.

Christopher Lok, former head of global banknotes at HSBC Bank USA, testified that while Al-Rajhi was a “controversial name,” the bank’s group compliance department had reversed earlier concerns and allowed business to proceed. David Bagley, HSBC’s head of group compliance, announced July 17 at the Senate hearing that he would step down.

’Overwhelming Information’

From 2000 to 2009, HSBC also gave its lowest risk rating to Mexico despite “overwhelming information” that it posed a high risk for drug trafficking and money laundering, Senate investigators wrote in their report.

HSBC, which declined to comment on the matter, said in its 2011 annual report that it “continues to cooperate in ongoing investigations” by the Department of Justice, the Manhattan District Attorney, the Office of Foreign Asset Control, the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency “regarding historical transactions involving Iranian parties and other parties subject to OFAC economic sanctions.”

Erin Duggan, a spokeswoman for Vance, Barbara Hagenbaugh of the Federal Reserve, David Neustadt of Lawsky’s Department of Financial Services and John Sullivan of Treasury’s OFAC unit declined to comment on the investigation.

In the prior five settlements, the banks involved agreed to pay or forfeit money under so-called deferred prosecution agreements that mandate improved compliance systems. If the agreement is followed, the banks will avoid criminal prosecution.

Bank Settlements

Aside from ING’s record payment, ABN Amro paid $500 million in 2010, London-based Barclays paid $298 million in 2010, Zurich-based Credit Suisse paid $536 million in 2009, and London-based Lloyds paid $350 million in 2009.

Some investigations don’t result in such agreements because wrongdoing isn’t found, one of the people familiar with the HSBC case said.

Paris-based BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole have both disclosed probes into potential U.S. sanction violations in their annual reports since 2009, and added new disclosures in 2011 to indicate that outcomes would be difficult to predict.

BNP said in 2011 that following discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice and Vance’s office, it was reviewing operations to see if it has complied with sanction rules of the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Credit Agricole likewise said in 2011 that it was cooperating with the Manhattan District Attorney and “other American governmental authorities” who sought information about payments in U.S. dollars involving sanctioned countries.

Credit Agricole and Credit Agricole CIB, its investment banking unit, were conducting internal reviews, the company said.

“It’s time to reexamine the audit function of federal regulators,” said Gurule, speaking of U.S. regulations meant to enforce sanctions. “It’s bad and the system is not working.”

It’s so rare for presidents to be breakthrough leaders ... to study presidential leadership is to learn that leadership breakthroughs are rare and, when they do occur, are the product of far more than one person, one speech, one institution or even one era.

Why it’s so rare for presidents to be breakthrough leaders

By Vincent P. Bzdek, Published: August 23

Presidential scholar Thomas Cronin, a former White House Fellow and president emeritus of Whitman College, is the author or co-author of a dozen books on politics, government and the presidency. His latest book, Leadership Matters, was written with Michael A. Genovese, director of the Institute for Leadership Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. The book, praised by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin as “an absolute tour-de-force,” focuses on how effective leaders navigate the inherent contradictions and paradoxes of leadership. Cronin spoke with Vincent Bzdek, the Washington Post’s deputy national political editor, about leadership in the context of the presidential election.

Why do you choose to write Leadership Matters at this stage in your career? How has your perspective on leadership evolved in this book?

We wrote Leadership Matters because societal leadership and governance are the ultimate challenge for social scientists. My co-author, Michael Genovese, and I are longtime students of the American presidency, and to study presidential leadership is to learn that leadership breakthroughs are rare and, when they do occur, are the product of far more than one person, one speech, one institution or even one era.

The exercise of leadership is, moreover, full of contradictions, paradoxes and “black swan” unexpected events. We wrote to unpack many of the paradoxes of leadership.

Recent polls show that Americans have very little faith in their political leaders, and political leadership in general. What kind of concrete steps need to be taken to restore faith in our political leaders?

Well, people have always been skeptical if not cynical about political leaders. Trust may have declined in recent years because new technologies and investigative reporting techniques make it harder and harder for officials to hide when they dissemble. Modern technologies also amplify the demonizing of one’s rival in contemporary electioneering.

We can’t legislate trust any more than we can regulate or instill authenticity in candidates.

Greek playwrights delighted their audiences by satirizing their politicians—just as Jon Stewart, Maureen Dowd, Jay Leno and Rush Limbaugh do today.

We can’t love representative democracy and hate politicians. For to completely scorn politics and politicians comes very close to scorning constitutional democracy and, possibly, ourselves.

A quote from your book: “Leadership requires successive displays of contrasting characteristics.” What is the difference between that and “flip flopping,” the leadership criticism often leveled against Mitt Romney?

I think we are probably too put off by charges of flip-flopping. This year’s candidates have done their fair share of this, and the media love these ‘gotcha’ stories. But, looking back in time, we liked that Lincoln changed his mind about how to deal with slavery and deploying blacks to fight for the Union. We liked it when FDR went back on his promise to balance the budget and when Nixon changed his mind about the best way to deal with China.

LBJ became a more ardent champion of civil and voting rights when he became a national Democrat not just a Texas Democrat. So also when Obama changed to the national stage and was no longer primarily a Chicago Democrat. Not surprisingly, Romney has changed from thinking like a Boston-area Republican as he assumes the mantle of a far more conservative national Republican Party.

Let’s get real. Flip-flopping is sometimes desirable and sometimes a trade necessity. Times change. Constituencies change. People learn new things. Of course, pragmatism plays a role. We like being tough on cautious politicians who don’t speak assertively and consistently as to what should be done. But this is what Lincoln did in 1860 and FDR in 1932. They kept their options open.

President Obama has been characterized as a leader who “leads from behind.” Do you think that’s an accurate assessment of his leadership style? Can you be a successful leader leading from behind?

Yes, President Obama often “leads from behind.” This was especially said about the Libyan engagement. But leading from behind or leading from the middle is a fair characterization of his and most presidencies. Our system was designed so presidents are not allowed to get too far in advance of the people and their mutual aspirations.

That’s why presidents are invariably transactional rather than transformational leaders. We elect pragmatists like Lincoln rather than passionate, principled people like the head of the Abolitionists. We say we want visionaries but vote against people like Barry Goldwater, George McGovern, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan.

Poets, prophets and conviction philosophers try to lead from out front. Constitutional democracies are designed for something else.

Here’s a question that probably goes beyond your book—but do you have any insights, based on your research on leadership, about Campaign 2012?

A paradox is that we ask our leaders simultaneously to listen and learn from us yet teach us and lead us.

Democracies are not very good or experienced at downsizing. This is a time when we need leaders who are adept at saying no to their friends, and saying no to entrenched, well-funded interests.

John McCain won praise a few weeks ago by calling out wingnuts in his own party for mindlessly demeaning a senior State Department staffer. It would be refreshing for Romney and Ryan, in similar fashion, to specify a few weapons systems they believe are no longer needed, or to call out some big banks for practices that abuse the public trust. Meanwhile Obama and Biden might tell us more clearly how they will downsize the national debt and become even more rigorous in eliminating waste, fraud and inefficiencies across the whole scope of the governmental Leviathan.

You argue that there are no how-to prescriptions for leadership. But you also argue that leadership can be learned. How do you teach leadership if there are no rules?

Much of what is involved in leadership can be learned—skills such as strategic planning, negotiating, coalition-building and speaking. Leadership is a performing art and would-be leaders learn just as understudies or development league players do in theatre and sports.

The soul of a leader—judgment, integrity, character, courage, fearlessness, empathy and public virtue—are harder to learn, harder to get right. “Can leadership be taught?” is a less appropriate question than “Can leadership be learned?”

“Management by committee” is often viewed negatively. Yet much of your emphasis in the new book is on the leadership of teams and groups, rather than the leadership of individuals. Can “management by committee” be a good thing?

Leadership involves leaders, followers and context. It is invariably a group process rather than a single act by a lone individual.

Leaders not only need associates, colleagues and followers, their very legitimacy is granted by their followers. One of the paradoxes of leadership is that leaders, contrary to storybook narratives, often follow, and followers can point the way. Needed change regularly comes from the bottom up rather than the top down, as was the case of the Bill of Rights, Civil Rights and women’s suffrage.

You argue that political leadership has different stages and roles. It seems that Obama started out as an inspirational Act I or Act II leader, a coalition builder and raiser of hopes, and has quickly evolved into a more pragmatic, incremental Act III leader. Is that a good thing?

Well, policy progress usually comes about because a whole host of policy activists and specialists have worked on a policy idea prior to its approval by top elected officials. To borrow a metaphor from the theater, policy ideas are often “invented” or formulated in Act I. Act II people adapt these ideas to existing realities and organize groups to lobby and mobilize support. It is Act III power brokers (typically elected leaders and their associates) who eventually respond in some fashion to Act I ideas and Act II movements. They further modify and try to find ways to enact and implement policies that will be supported by majorities.

Change just doesn’t happen in any one scene or act. Important political and policy leadership is usually the result of activities that emerge over the course of a protracted multi-staged process.

Those who yearn for instant transformational leadership by some kind of National Spiderman without the requisite policy incubation and political agitation are folks who, in the words of Frederick Douglass, want “crops without plowing the ground … and want rain without the thunder and lightning.”

Facts about gunman in Empire State Building shooting

Who was Jeffrey Johnson? Facts about gunman in Empire State Building shooting

August 24The
Washington Post

Jeffrey Johnson, 58, shot and killed a former colleague Friday morning outside the Empire State Building. Johnson’s brazen attack — he shot his victim, Steven Ercolino, in broad daylight — and the chaos it sparked has various news organizations and individuals trying to find out more about him. So far, this is what we know:

• The attack stemmed from a workplace dispute: Johnson worked for Hazan Import Corp. as a designer of women’s accesories for six years, according to New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Johnson lost his job about a year ago when the company downsized, according to Kelly. Johnson’s victim was Steven Ercolino, a vice president of sales at Hazan. Citing a police report, NBC New York said that in 2011, while riding in an elevator together, Johnson told Ercolino, “I am going to kill you.”
• Johnson’s routine: Nearly every morning, Johnson would leave his apartment building on the Upper East Side and walk to the neighborhood McDonald’s before returning with a bag of food, according to a neighbor who was interviewed by the New York Times. Today, Jonson left the building like he always had, but didn’t return.

• Johnson was an artist and illustrator: According to a cached version of Johnson’s LinkedIn page, he attended the well-regarded Ringling School of Art & Design. He also owned his own T-shirt design company called St. Jolly T-Shirt Co. The T-shirt company’s Web site shows designs for iron-on transfers. The drawings are mostly centered around cars, jets and motorcycles. The drawings are signed by Johnson and some include cartoon women standing next to the vehicles.

• The gun: NBC New York: “Johnson had no criminal record. His handgun was purchased in Florida in 1991, two law enforcement sources said. He was not licensed to carry in New York City.”

Republicans, think Todd Akin is your problem? Women’s issues are

Republicans, think Todd Akin is your problem?
Women’s issues are

By Mickey Edwards, Published: August 24

Mickey Edwards is a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma and the author of The Parties Versus the People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans .

As is quite well known by now, Todd Akin, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Missouri, has suggested that such things as date rape, statutory rape and in fact anything other than rape by physical force or rape carried out at gunpoint or knife-point does not “legitimately” qualify as rape. Besides, if it actually is a “real” rape involving force, he says, not to worry because women’s bodies are cleverly designed to prevent such pregnancies. Sadly, Mr. Akin is not only a candidate for the Senate, he is already a member of the United States House of Representatives. This is too sad a thing to contemplate.

The question is, what should Republican leaders do about this?

Some of them, anyway, are going to continue applauding!

In our representative system, party leaders have no authority to order Akin out of a Senate race, so much of the leadership we’ve seen from the Republican party consists of cutting off funds and pleading for him to go away. True leadership, however, requires doing more than merely responding directly to Akin’s presence on a Republican ticket.

The real job of leadership requires seriously addressing the negative image the party now has with so many women.

Keep in mind that this is not only a Missouri issue. His views may do damage to the Republican ticket nationally and in other House and Senate races as well, potentially affecting party control of Congress. Within hours of Akin’s statement, Democratic strategists sought to tie Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and any other Republican candidate for Congress to Akin. Pictures of Akin standing next to Ryan made the nightly newscasts. Members of Congress who cosponsored a bill with Akin or spoke on the House floor in favor of a position he supported were suddenly faced with the need to defend themselves.

Romney and Ryan both did the right thing in quickly denouncing Akin and urging him to step aside. Despite the cynicism of some in the media, I believe those denunciations were serious, not just attempts at political damage control. Karl Rove and other party leaders furthered that leadership when they announced they would no longer fund Akin’s campaign.

But even if Akin quits the race, the real challenge for party leaders is to address the fact that Akin’s statements play into a broader narrative about Republicans and women. Admittedly, the narrative is largely driven by Democratic strategists, but the list of issues that Democrats have been exploiting—from attacks on Planned Parenthood (an organization that even conservative hero Barry Goldwater supported) to anti-abortion legislation that makes no exception for rape—are nonetheless legitimate items for voters to consider.

Confronting Akin the person is easy. Confronting Akin the symbol is much harder. If Akin’s remarks are allowed to be perceived as a window into the real views of Republicans, the effects will be felt long after he has been forgotten.

In a system that allows the most partisan and ideological to punish those who depart from hard-line orthodoxy, it is unlikely that a serious rewriting of the women’s narrative will come from the ranks of Republicans in Congress. Nor, with the base still lukewarm to his candidacy, can we realistically expect Mitt Romney to drive the larger conversation beyond Akin and put his own election at stake.

That leaves the actual leadership of the party itself—the national chairman and leaders of the party’s two congressional campaign organizations—to begin a serious revamping of the Republican message. This is not the same as calling for an abandonment of principle. For most prominent Republicans, opposition to abortion is an important and deeply held part of what it means to be a member of the party. But the rawness of that message must be muted, and the reasons for those positions more clearly, and more empathetically, presented.

Akin-like pseudoscience needs to be stricken from the conversation. Republicans do, in fact, care about the welfare of women. It's time to start saying so and explaining why the policies Republicans support are consistent with that concern.

“What kept us out of trouble for the last 60 years is that every time drug resistance caught up to us, the pharmaceutical companies would go back to the drawing board and develop the next generation of drugs to keep us ahead of the game. That’s the part of the equation that’s changed. Drug companies are no longer trying to get one step ahead.” Ten years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 1.7 million annual hospital-borne infections in the United States caused 99,000 deaths. In a recent survey of infectious disease specialists, 60 percent reported encountering infections resistant to every antibiotic. Let me reiterate: Health care is a matter of National Security - we need for all of our citizens to have access to top health care.

NIH superbug outbreak highlights
lack of new antibiotics

By Brian Vastag, Published: August 24

As doctors battled a deadly, drug-resistant superbug at the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center last year, they turned to an antibiotic of last resort.

But colistin, as it’s called, is not a fancy new creation of modern biotechnology. It was discovered in a beaker of fermenting bacteria in Japan — in 1949.

That doctors have resorted to such an old, dangerous drug — colistin causes kidney damage — highlights the lack of new antibiotics coming out of the pharmaceutical pipeline even in the face of a global epidemic of hospital-acquired bugs that quickly grow resistant to the toughest drugs.

It’s a case of evolution outrunning capitalism.

Doesn't this also seem like a case of where the federal government could front grant money to colleges and universities to develop the drug - for the good of the citizens?

Between 1945 and 1968, drug companies invented 13 new categories of antibiotics, said Allan Coukell, director of medical programs at the Pew Health Group.

Between 1968 and today, just two new categories of antibiotics have arrived.

In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration approved one new antibiotic, which fights one of the many bacteria, Clostridium difficile, causing deadly hospital-borne infections.

“What kept us out of trouble for the last 60 years is that every time drug resistance caught up to us, the pharmaceutical companies would go back to the drawing board and develop the next generation of drugs to keep us ahead of the game,” said Brad Spellberg, an infectious diseases physician in Los Angeles who heads a microbial resistance task force for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. “That’s the part of the equation that’s changed. Drug companies are no longer trying to get one step ahead.”

Experts point to three reasons pharmaceutical companies have pulled back from antibiotics despite two decades of screaming alarms from the public health community: There is not much money in it; inventing new antibiotics is technically challenging; and, in light of drug safety concerns, the FDA has made it difficult for companies to get new antibiotics approved.

Um, so, how about using government grants to colleges and or universities to do the research?

As a result, only four of the world’s 12 largest pharmaceutical companies are researching new antibiotics, said David Shlaes, a drug development veteran and consultant.

Last year, Pfizer, the world’s biggest drug company, closed its Connecticut antibiotics research center, laying off 1,200 workers. The company said it was moving the operation to Shanghai. But Shlaes said Pfizer is struggling to open the Chinese facility and has largely abandoned antibiotics.

While a new antibiotic may bring in a billion dollars over its lifetime, Shlaes said, a drug for heart disease may net $10 billion. Depression and erectile dysfunction drugs — typically taken daily for years, unlike antibiotics, which are used short-term — are also more profitable than antibiotics.

Well, but if enough people die from infections, that is going to cut into the profitability of the depression and erectile dysfunction drugs market!

Congress recognized the problem earlier this year, inserting a provision in an FDA authorization bill to grant an additional five years of market exclusivity — meaning no competition from generics — for companies inventing new antibiotics.

“It’s a great first step,” said Spellberg, but he added that the provision “is not strong enough to turn things around.”

Shlaes said that concerns about antibiotic safety — driven by deaths linked to the drug Ketek that came to light in 2006 — have made the FDA reluctant to approve new antibiotics. “They’ve basically made it impossible for companies to develop and market antibiotics in the U.S.,” he said.

Ed Cox, head of the FDA’s office of microbial products, said the agency is “looking at new approaches” for speeding up the approval of new antibiotics, such as requiring smaller clinical studies and allowing research with patients such as those who have multiple infections. “We’re trying hard to address the challenges” faced by the drug industry in developing antibiotics, Cox said.

Such changes are “in the discussion and planning stage,” Cox added. “But this is a critical step so that folks in industry wanting to develop [antibiotics] can do so.”

Shlaes characterized the moves at FDA as “trying to paint themselves out of a corner.”

It’s an especially tight corner that hospital physicians find themselves in. Ten years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 1.7 million annual hospital-borne infections in the United States caused 99,000 deaths. The CDC is now updating those figures.

In a recent survey of infectious disease specialists, Spellberg said, 60 percent reported encountering infections resistant to every antibiotic.

“That’s the real crisis,” said Henry Masur, chief of NIH’s Critical Care Medicine Department, who last year watched six patients die from the bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae when even colistin, that old warhorse, stopped working. “The problem here is that we’re not developing antibiotics fast enough to keep up with this.”

In the weeks and months ahead, as the nations of the Middle East remain in turmoil and Washington, Tel Aviv and various European capitals debate how they want to control the region, the need for an anti-imperialist movement will grow.

Opposing the Eagle’s Talons


And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.
- Mark Twain

When my book The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground was published in 1997, at least one of its critics challenged my use of the terms imperialism and its opposite, anti-imperialism. These terms, he wrote, were specific to a time and no longer relevant. My response was simple. These words would be irrelevant only when there were no more imperialist nations. Fifteen years and two wars and occupations later, these words are part of the general discourse and the concept of imperialism is considered by those who champion it and those who oppose it.

A book titled American Insurgents: A Brief History of American Anti-Imperialism, by Richard Seymour, is a recent and important addition to this discourse. Seymour, who also wrote The Liberal Defence of Murder wherein he discusses the currently popular humanitarian rationale for imperial intervention, provides the reader of American Insurgents with a historical survey of the antiwar and anti-imperialists efforts throughout US history. Within this discussion, Seymour includes religious and feminist opposition; leftist and conservative; and various coalitions of all of the aforementioned manifestations.

From the beginning of the book, it becomes clear how fundamental racism is to the US mission of Empire. If it weren’t for the historical fact of African slavery in the US, this would not be a cause for special consideration, since most European empires utilize racism and racial superiority as reasoning for their empire. However, the special history of men and women of African descent in the United States makes the fact of racism in the US pursuit of empire especially heinous and unusual. In addition, the internalized racism of most US whites, even in the anti-imperialist movement, often made alliances across the color line difficult. Consequently, this limited the effectiveness of these movements. According to Seymour, it wasn’t until the movement against the US war in Vietnam that white and black Americans worked together in opposing the US Empire. Even though the links between the racism of slavery and US Empire had been made earlier, it was not until the anti-Vietnam war movement acknowledged and learned from the civil rights and black liberation movements in the United States did the union of black and white make a difference.

While Seymour does discuss the libertarian and paleoconservative elements of the anti-imperialist movement in the US—even praising the role those elements have played in the past twenty years with the website and other endeavors—he focuses primarily on the left and pacifist elements. Given the predominance of groups with these sentiments in the movement throughout history, this makes sense. Although a longer discussion of the conservative side of the movement would have been useful, its absence does not detract from the book.

Addressing a discussion very familiar among those to the left of anybody in the Democratic Party, Seymour provides an ultimately tragic history of the role Democrats have played in diverting and destroying anti-imperialist sentiment. It was during the Spanish-American War that the future Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan would oppose that adventure and align with the Anti-Imperialist League most famous for the membership of Mark Twain, John Dewey, Samuel Gompers and Andrew Carnegie. In 1900, the League would hitch its star to Bryan’s candidacy. He lost to the empire-builder McKinley, rendering the League essentially moot. A remarkably similar situation exists today, except that the candidate of the liberals in the Iraq and Afghanistan antiwar movement won the election. Of course, I mean Barack Obama. As Seymour points out (and as most everyone knows), the war in Afghanistan saw an escalation soon after Obama’s inauguration and the occupation of Iraq by US continues, albeit with considerably less bloodshed. Efforts to build a movement against a possible war on Iran have failed to excite everyone but the most dedicated pacifists and anti-imperialists, while US/NATO military and intelligence operations against the regimes of Gaddafi in Libya and Assad in Syria have even been tacitly supported by some in the antiwar movement.

It is my belief that a good part of the reason for the disintegration of the movement against the war in Iraq has to do with that movement’s politics. Seymour agrees, pointing out that the millions willing to hit the streets to oppose the war when George Bush was president have not even called their Congressperson now that a Democrat is in the White House. The presence of Democratic Party allies on the coordinating committee of the largest antiwar network combined with the acquiescence of former Communist Party members to the Democrats agenda ensured this disintegration. There was never a genuine anti-imperialist politics that guided the majority of the movement. That fact explains not only the belated opposition to the Afghanistan occupation but also the seeming refusal to address the belligerent role played by Israel in the wars against Muslim and Arab nations and peoples.

Any future antiwar movement must keep the Democratic Party at an arm’s length. Organizing amongst those who vote Democrat makes sense. Taking money and leadership from donors and operatives dedicated to the party’s domination of left-leaning politics doesn’t. In fact, as Seymour makes clear in his history of US anti-imperialist movements, doing so is suicide for the movement in question. The Democrats cannot be anti-imperialist because they are essential to the very empire anti-imperialists oppose.

In the weeks and months ahead, as the nations of the Middle East remain in turmoil and Washington, Tel Aviv and various European capitals debate how they want to control the region, the need for an anti-imperialist movement will grow. If we are to avoid making mistakes already made in the past, American Insurgents becomes essential reading.

The Parable of the Shopping Mall

One From the Vault

The Parable of the Shopping Mall


In town after town across America these days one can physically see the economic mantras of an entire generation turning to boarded-up wasteland before one’s eyes. Shopping malls, which changed the American landscape within the course of a generation, are dying week by week.

Take the Bayshore Mall in my own town of Eureka, northern California — a covered, pedestrian arcade opened in the 1980s, owned by the Utah-based General Growth company. Located on the edge of Humboldt Bay, though facing the opposite direction towards Highway 101, our mall was an optimistic place in the early days. People dressed up to go there. A friend of mine who opened a coffee stall, wore a tie – purchasing it from Ralph Lauren which opened an outlet. Every pretty girl in Humboldt county wanted to work there, to see and to be seen. People drove for three hours through the Yolly Bolly Wilderness all the way from Redding in the Central Valley to savor its glories. There were stylish concerts in its ample Food Court.

Today the Bayshore Mall moulders, embodying the misfortunes of General Growth – the second largest mall owner in the U.S. – whose stock trades now for 55 cents, down from $44 last May. General Growth has now ousted its CEO, John Bucksbaum, (who is related to Ann Bucksbaum, wife of the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman, world’s wealthiest pundit. In 2006, the value of General Growth Properties was estimated at about $2.7 billion. Last October 8, Business Week headlined an article “General Growth Properties Staggers Under Debt Load” (of $27 billion).

Some major retailers, like Ralph Lauren’s Polo, have long since fled from Bayshore Mall. Walk east along one of the arcades and you come to a wall of plywood, behind which lies the desolation that was Mervyn’s, a clothing chain which has now filed for bankruptcy. The little stores nearby have a somber mien, like people compelled to live in the chill shadow of a funeral home. The food court, serviced by six or seven fast food businesses, is becoming a sanctuary for the poor who sit in the warmth with modest snacks and while away the hours.

Across the past 40 years some 200 cities built pedestrian malls. Today, only 30 remain. Drive around any town and one can see strip malls in similar decline, their parking lots nearly empty, boarded stores in the retail frontage like a mouth losing its teeth, as the lights of Circuit City go out and Linen ‘n Things, Zales, Ann Taylor and Sharper Image retrench or collapse entirely.

Out of crisis comes opportunity, one that’s been discussed for some years by movements such as the New Urbanists and crusaders for the refashioning of the American urban landscape such as James Howard Kunstler, author of The Geography of Nowhere. A mall can be razed to the ground, like the Belle Promenade, on the west bank of the Mississippi in New Orleans. Eureka’s too poor a town to do that. But a mall can be refashioned into a more congenial quartier, one blessed with easier parking.

In the same way that coastal cities like Boston finally realized the asset of nineteenth-century quaysides with their warehouses and customs depots, today’s failed or failing malls can be reconfigured, converted to mixed use, with residential housing, public spaces and constructive social uses. In the Bayshore even now I see groups of the mentally ill being brought along for an outing in a place that’s sheltered, still physically safe, and equipped with bathrooms, and plenty of space with chairs or benches where they can relax.

In many towns one can imagine that energetic councils and resourceful financing could offer the reeling mall operators terms and take the properties off their hands, reconfiguring the malls as social assets.

On the larger economic front, similar reconstructive engineering for the public good is vital, however adamantly Wall Street, Timothy Geithner, Larry Summmers and President Obama may proclaim earnestly that the architecture of “free enterprise” capitalism must be preserved. We’re at that stage that Thurman Arnold captured so wittily in his 1937 book, The Folklore of Capitalism. Arnold, from Laramie, Wyoming, was installed as head of the Justice Department’s Anti-Trust Division when FDR swerved to the left amid the slump of 1937. No greater foe of the corporate cartel than Arnold ever worked in government service in Washington.

In an early chapter, “The Folklore of 1937”, Arnold describes with vivid humor the tenacity with which supporters of untrammeled “private enterprise” held to beliefs whose operating principles had engendered the Great Depression. He likened it to the University of Paris insisting in the seventeenth century that bleeding was still the cure for malaria, even though quinine, promoted by the Jesuits in Peru, seemed to offer a more effective remedy.

But, Arnold wrote, “The medieval physician could see no profit in saving a man’s body if thereby he lost his soul. Nor did he think that any temporary physical relief could ever be worth the violation of the fundamental principles of medicine. The remedy for fever was the art of bleeding to rid the body of those noxious vapors and humors in the blood which were the root of illness. Of course, patients sickened and died in the process, but they were dying for a medical principle…”

Is there a better description for the Republicans opposing the stimulus plan on principle, or Geithner stoutly proclaiming his zeal to preserve the banking system as presently constituted?

Opportunity is there, to be seized from the jaws of capitalism’s shattering reverses. This is a chance richer than the opportunity offered and annulled in the mid-70s. Circumstances will in all likelihood push Obama’s government to the left, just as they did FDR when orthodoxy failed. The left should not be shy about pressing the challenge out of some misguided notion of preserving a polite progressive consensus.

The Secret Scheme To Sabotage Mumia’s Appeal Rights

Backdoor Hijinks by a Philadelphia Judge

The Secret Scheme To Sabotage Mumia’s Appeal Rights


Mumia Abu-Jamal, the internationally recognized American political prisoner, thwarted a Philadelphia judge’s secretive court order that could have eliminated his future appeal rights when he filed a last- minute motion on August 23rd challenging that order sentencing him to life-without-parole.

Most supporters and detractors of Abu-Jamal had been expecting the formal conversion of his controversial death sentence to life-without-parole in the wake of a federal appeals court’s second and final rejection of requests from Philadelphia prosecutors to keep Abu-Jamal on death row back in April 2011.

What was unexpected by Abu-Jamal supporters were the procedures surrounding the secretive court order, which appears to have violated a number of Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Abu-Jamal’s Pro Se Motion for Post Sentence Relief and Reconsideration of Sentence referenced Rule 720 of Pa’s Criminal Procedure which states in part that defendants shall “have the right” to make post-sentence motion but that motion must be filed “no later than 10 days after imposition of sentence.”

That secretly issued resentencing order occurred on August 13, 2012, exactly ten days before Abu-Jamal filed his motion.

If that ten-day filing period had expired, undiscovered due to secrecy-shrouded issuance of the resentencing order about which no public notice or notice to Abu-Jamal and his legal team, his legal ability to challenge his continued confinement would have been damagee, including his probable loss of future appeal rights.

Court rules and common courtesy require notice of court actions — both pending actually taken.

“This is the same backdoor stuff that’s always done to him,” Mumia attorney Rachel Wolkenstein said during an interview outside of Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center after delivering Abu-Jamal’s motion.

Wolkenstein, who has worked on Abu-Jamal’s case for over two decades, uncovered that secretly issued judicial order.

She became aware of it during a routine inspection of Philadelphia court records, where she was checking to see when a resentencing would occur.

Wolkenstein immediately informed Abu-Jamal and his legal team, all of whom were unaware of the order.

Rule 114(b)(1) of Pennsylvania’s Rules of Criminal Procedure states that a “copy of any order or court notice promptly shall be served on each party’s attorney…” –- procedures apparently not followed in this resentencing of Abu-Jamal.

Another provision of those Procedures, Rule 704, states the sentencing judge must advise a defendant “of the time within which defendant must exercise” their right to appeal and other post-sentencing matters.

“A number of death sentences have been reversed in Pennsylvania and the person’s given life sentences. As far as I know each of those persons received more formal proceeding than what happened here,” Wolkenstein said.

Rule 114(A)(2) of Pennsylvania’s Criminal Procedure states that “all orders and court notices promptly shall be placed in the criminal case file.”

Yet Wolkenstein said when she asked Philadelphia court clerks for the resentencing file days after the order’s issuance, court clerks told her there was no file containing a record of that resentencing.

Philadelphia Court Clerk officials, when contacted for comment, requested that questions be made in a written format for review by their lawyers. Those officials did not reply to the submitted questions by the time of this article’s posting.

Another factor further obscuring that resentencing order, Wolkenstein said, is that the court docket captioned under the birth name Abu-Jamal — Wesley Cook — hasn’t been used since the late 1960s.

The majority of court files and court rulings (state and federal) list the name Abu-Jamal not Cook, thus persons examining court files generally look for Abu-Jamal, and not the name Cook.

The perverse procedures swirling around that resentencing order were not unusual, given the legal improprieties and other irregularities that have dogged Abu-Jamal’s case since his December 1981 arrest for killing a Philadelphia policeman.

Philadelphia’s President Judge, Pamela P. Dembe, resentenced Abu-Jamal to life-without-parole on August 13th, according to sketchy Philadelphia court docket documents.

Those documents state that Dembe was acting in accordance with a December 2001 order from a federal district court judge who voided Abu-Jamal’s death sentence after ruling that the judge at Abu-Jamal’s 1982 murder trial had incorrectly instructed the jury on how to conduct its death penalty deliberation.

“Nothing in that federal ruling says it’s OK for no notice and no record in the resentencing,” Wolkenstein said, questioning the legality of the resentencing.

Abu-Jamal, despite having his death sentence vacated in 2001, remained in death-row isolation until December 2011 because the federal judge that eliminated his death sentence granted a punitive request from Philadelphia prosecutors to keep Abu-Jamal on death row while they appealed that judge’s ruling — a process that took years.

Philadelphia prosecutors pursued two unsuccessful appeals in federal appeals court seeking unsuccessfully to reinstate the death sentence. There were also two efforts going up to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to uphold an execution.

In early December 2011 Philadelphia prosecutors announced that they were no longer appealing those federal appellate court rulings, thus finally permanently voiding Abu-Jamal’s death sentence.

But Pennsylvania prison authorities, instead of removing Abu-Jamal totally from solitary confinement in compliance with those long-delayed federal court rulings at that point, initially simply shifted him from death row to the more draconian isolation of administrative custody.

Prison officials advanced ever-changing rationales for keeping Abu-Jamal in administrative custody, including the Kafkaesque claim that they needed legal clarification that courts had formally replaced Abu-Jamal’s death sentence with life in prison.

Prison officials, in January 2012, facing international protests, finally relented and released Abu-Jamal from isolation into general population.

Judge Dembe’s secretive resentencing is in concert with earlier improprieties that have stalked all facets of Abu-Jamal’s arrest, trial, appeals and imprisonment. Philadelphia police, for example, right from the moment of his arrest at the scene of the shootings, failed to perform the standard test to prove Abu-Jamal had even fired the pistol that police said he used to kill the officer.

One of the gravest, yet least examined improprieties, occurred on the eve of a pivotal 1995 appeal hearing when then then Governor Tom Ridge issued a death warrant on Abu-Jamal during his hearing.

That warrant was issued because lawyers in Ridge’s office had secretly and unlawfully intercepted correspondence between Abu-Jamal and his lawyers, and discovered the date they planned for the filing of their client’s appeal.

That Ridge-issued death warrant severely disrupted Abu-Jamal’s appeal proceeding, forcing Abu-Jamal’s defense team to fight the warrant while simultaneously preparing for the hearing. The execution date was also used by the appeal hearing judge — Albert Sabo, who had also been the judge Abu-Jamal’s original murder trial — as a justification for unduly speeding the hearing. That gratuitous rush to judgement further constrained defense efforts by limiting their ability to locate and bring in witnesses.

Additionally, issuance of that death warrant was improper because Abu-Jamal had a constitutional right to that 1995 appeal of his death sentence.

Federal and state courts have persistently ignored that glaringly improper intervention by Ridge, which effectively robbed Abu-Jamal’s of a key step in his appeal rights — the right to have a fact-finding review of his trial, and to introduce new evidence of innocence.

Significantly, Judge Dembe is the same jurist who earlier rejected compelling evidence that the judge in Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial had made a racist, prosecution-favoring admission on the eve of the proceeding.

A court stenographer had come foreward and announced that she had, back in 1982 during the jury selection phase of the trial, overheard that trial judge, the infamous Albert Sabo, declare to his court “tip” that he was going to help prosecutors “fry the nigger,” a clear reference to Abu-Jamal.

Racist and/or pro-prosecution bias by a judge is forbidden by Supreme Court rulings and by Pennsylvania’s Code of Judicial Conduct, not to mention basic principles of Common Law.

Yet, Dembe refused to take testimony from the stenographer to determine the veracity of allegations from that woman, who hails from a family of police officers.

Dembe, in a ruling exhibiting ridiculous reasoning, claimed Sabo’s racist, pro-prosecution rant was immaterial to Abu-Jamal’s conviction because, she opined, a jury not Sabo convicted Abu-Jamal.

Dembe’s fundamentally flawed assertion pretended that Sabo, as trial judge, did not influence the course of the trial in a series of sabotaging actions like ruling on juror seating challenges by the prosecution, stripping Abu-Jamal of his right to represent himself at trial just days before testimony began (and sending his defense into a tail-spin), withholding favorable Abu-Jamal evidence from jurors, and even selecting a juror for duty who had honestly admitted to being solidly biased against Abu-Jamal.

The injustice in Abu-Jamal’s long-running case has elicited condemnation from numerous entities as diverse as Amnesty International, the NAACP and the City Council of Munich, Germany.

The injustice evident in Abu-Jamal’s case is consistent with the injustice exhibited daily by some Philadelphia police, prosecutors and judges.

The same day Abu-Jamal filed his resentence-challenging motion, a Philadelphia judge convicted Philadelphia broadcaster Jeff Hart of disorderly conduct for a minor incident arising from Hart’s observing police brutality during the arrest of a suspect near Hart’s house.

Hart said the false disorderly conduct charge followed his asking a Philadelphia policeman to not use repeated profanity when ordering Hart from the arrest scene.

Abu-Jamal, an award-winning journalist at the time of his 1981 arrest, frequently reported on this kind of rampant police abuse in Philadelphia.

Linn Washington, Jr. is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He lives in Philadelphia.