The Daily Pulse, 03.16.05

Israel formally hands Jericho to Palestinians – Reuters header

PALESTINE! IS! JERICHO!!!

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Okay, I don’t have time to do anything regarding Destination X due to the fact that I overslept a little. I don’t know if I will. After all, I’ve got The Incredibles waiting for me on DVD in my living room and Robots sitting on my hard drive. Actually, it’s not that bad missing it for a while. The spoilers for the Lockdown matches have been announced by 1bullshit Junior, and considering the fact that the main event consists of three members of the Clique, an overbearing egotist, a guy in his fifties who still thinks he’s a twenty-year-old, and Monty Brown inside a steel cage…oy.

Actually, I’m concentrating on my cut-proof undergloves right now. My Lord and Master doesn’t like the fact that they aren’t exactly a shade of white that he agrees with (more like eggshell, in fact), so I had to lug them home last night in order to do something with them, specifically four days soaking in a mixture of laundry detergent, Oxi-Clean, and enough bleach to make my apartment smell like a swimming pool. That, of course, necessitated a midnight trip to Wal-Mart in order to get bleach. I try to avoid using bleach in order not to rot my clothing, but now that it’s necessary, well, I’ll do my whites this weekend to see if I can do something about my socks, which get permeated with blood every day.

Yeah, like you wanted to know about that. Well, tough shit, I’m telling it to you. What I’m more worried about is oil prices hitting all-time highs when I have a drive to Chicago to think about next month, and the Damn Vaninator is not exactly the best when it comes to gas mileage.

I think I’ll just include a couple of news items and move on my merry way, but only after this…

THE PIMP SECTION

PK gets Morse back, but only for a Hot Seat Guest Appearance. Let me still remind everyone that I still haven’t been invited into the Hot Seat.

Andy Mac seems to contradict himself about the value of Steve Corino.

Goldberg has your entire first-round breakdown of the NCAAs. Plus dominatrixes.

As per usual, Stevens has the DC beat, while Maillaro and Trabold keep you up to speed on Marvel.

THE WOLFOWITZ AT THE DOOR

From CNN:

President Bush said Wednesday that Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is his choice to be president of the World Bank.

Wolfowitz was one of the main advocates for the war in Iraq.

President Bush outlined the reasons he chose Wolfowitz in a news conference Wednesday, calling him “a man of good experience.”

“He helped manage a large organization,” said Bush “He’s a skilled diplomat. Worked at the State Department in high positions — ambassador to Indonesia, where he did a very good job representing our country.”

Wolfowitz’s name was mentioned as a possible World Bank pick a few weeks ago, but the administration attempted to distance itself from that after reports of grumblings from the Europeans.

In addition to Wolfowitz’s strong support for the Iraq war, Steve Radelet, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and a former undersecretary at the Treasury, said last week the Europeans were nervous that Wolfowitz would prove similar to former World Bank head and Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

Radelet said McNamara was accused of channeling aid to nations based not on need but on their support of U.S. policy.

And the comparisons are a telling sign. So are the grumblings. The Euros have veto power over this position, and there are a lot of leaders in Europe who are still unconvinced about the whole Iraq situation, despite Dubbaya’s recent shuttle diplomacy. Telling a prominent member of the Junta to go piss up a rope may be their way of expressing their discontent over the continuing quagmire, which needs more and more distractions from becoming more apparent in the minds of Americans in order to convince the 51% of the idiots out there who voted that they didn’t make a mistake in November. First it’s the hoopla over the Iraq assembly, now it’s the ever-ongoing Social Security debate. Stay focused, people!

Actually, this is yet another way that the Junta is weaselling its way into every nook and cranny of world power. First the military force, now getting its fingers very deeply into development aid for other countries. Will there be a litmus test? “Support Iraq or no cash for you”? The Junta has proven that it can play hardball with the best of them. Now they’re ready to impose their world view in a manner of extortion that Mafia dons could only dream about. The real loser here is the World Bank. They cleaned up their act really well in the past ten years or so, and now they’re about to be pushed back into being an economic arbiter of a repugnant foreign policy by the biggest group of criminals to occupy the White House in three decades.

Let’s hope that the Euros veto this one. I’d love to see who Dubbaya pulls out of his hat then.

ANOTHER BLACK EYE

Also from CNN:

Police in 12 European and Latin American countries were arresting about 500 people to break up an Internet pedophile ring discovered in a Spanish village, officials said.

By midday Wednesday, 19 people had been arrested in Spain, according to a spokesman for the Spanish Civil Guard.

Arrests also were under way in France, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Panama, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

A citizen complaint tipped off the Civil Guard, and the investigation began on January 19 in the northwestern Spanish village of Caldas de Rei in Pontevedra province, officials said.

The Spaniard who who filed the complaint reported seeing graphic pornography involving very young children in a chat room, The Associated Press reported.

Police started monitoring the chat room to determine who offered material for it, and in just 15 days identified more than 900 addresses from which people logged onto the site, AP said.

The Civil Guard, a paramilitary police force, contacted European and Latin American law enforcement authorities as the investigation picked up steam.

The investigation has led to some 20,000 items found on an Internet network, including videos and photos. The people arrested were involved in manufacturing and distributing the items.

And the trend of international cooperation involving Internet “crimes” continues apace. Okay, I agree with this one; pedophiles are sick people. But a comparison has to be drawn with the way international police forces are bringing down piracy sites. Switzerland takes down important ed2k sites (including the Big Daddy of them, ShareReactor), but Austria is saying that their similar action, prompted by the Germans, may have been a violation of Austrian law and are about to do an about-face. Bahnhof, Sweden’s largest ISP, gets raided by the Swedish cops with prompting from Americans and Japanese; in response, hackers broke into the Swedish Antipiracy Association’s servers and stole the e-mail regarding the whole event and published it, including the fact that the Swedes were paying informers up to US$25000 for tips.

It’s becoming a pretty harsh world out there. It used to be believed that due to its international and interpersonal nature, the Net was not able to be governed by traditional law. Yet there are many people out there who believe that it is, and they’re getting together on a transnational basis to make sure that their view of the world forces the Net to align with it. And the Swedish case proved that they’re not above using paid narcs to make sure of it. Dear God, people, keep pirating, but, please, watch your step and cover your asses. And don’t download kiddie porn.

DIVERSIFIED PORTFOLIO

From Reuters:

Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet used an intricate web of more than 100 U.S. bank accounts, including 63 with Citigroup, to hide and launder at least $15 million, a U.S. Senate report due out on Wednesday shows.

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found Pinochet’s use of the U.S. financial system to cloak his financial dealings extended far beyond his accounts at Riggs Bank, which has admitted to failing to report suspicious transactions and paid a criminal fine.

The Chilean strongman’s activities also involved accounts at Banco de Chile and Espirito Santo Bank, the Senate subcommittee said.

Related accounts and transactions were also found in at least five other banks, including Bank of America, it said.

None of the banks immediately returned calls for comment.

Most of the Pinochet accounts at Citigroup, the world’s largest financial services company, were handled by Citibank Private Bank, the report said.

“New information shows that the web of Pinochet accounts in the U.S. was far more extensive, went on far longer, and involved more banks than was previously disclosed,” said Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, the panel’s top Democrat.

“Some banks actively helped him hide his funds, others failed to comply with U.S. regulations requiring banks to know their customers,” he said on Tuesday.

The report shows Pinochet had the longest and closest link with Riggs, an involvement more extensive than once thought.

Instead of the nine accounts first reported, it involved 28 and spanned 25 years, not eight. Riggs, a unit of Riggs National Corp., also opened accounts for Chilean military officers that were used to funnel $1.7 million to Pinochet-linked accounts, the Senate subcommittee said.

The first related accounts at Citigroup were opened in 1981 and the company has identified 63 U.S. accounts and certificates of deposit opened for Pinochet and his family in New York and Miami between then and 2004, the Senate subcommittee said.
Of those, 15 were opened for Pinochet personally over 14 years with another 19 in the name of his family members.

Citigroup also helped family members arrange international wire transfers and establish offshore entities. The bank issued credit cards and made loans to several family members, the Senate investigation found.

While Levin called Riggs’ efforts to help Pinochet in a class of their own, he said Citigroup failed to conduct enough due diligence to determine the true identity of its customers and the sources of funds.

“We don’t want to compare Citibank with Riggs,” Levin said. “On the other hand, there was sloppiness and failure to know your customer, which they were supposed to do … and we can’t let them off the hook.”

“We believe (Citibank’s) failure to know their customer violated internal policies and general requirements of the regulators, but no specific regulations,” Levin said.

Didn’t the Clash say something about “Yankee dollar talk to the dictators of the world”?

Okay, let’s just go back a little. In 1970, on his fourth try, Salvador Allende was elected President of Chile in a free and fair election. Allende, though, was a Marxist, which the US couldn’t stand. So in 1973, the CIA pulled off a right-wing coup led by Pinochet to get rid of Allende, and succeeded. By the late 70s, news was leaking out that people who didn’t exactly agree with the way Pinochet and his military men were running the country were sort of…well, disappearing without a trace. This was before Citibank and Riggs started to do business with the Chileans. So they were consciously doing business with a right-wing illegal military government in violation of their own internal rules and helping them to, let’s face it, steal money from Chile’s government and launder it.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to me at all. This isn’t the first time that’s happened. Haiti is a case study in this. The Phillipines was even worse in dimensions; Marcos stole billions and laundered it through US and international banks. However, neither the Duvaliers or Marcos carried on a systematic crackdown of their people and violated basic human rights like Pinochet did. He and his men were able to do this with the connivance of not only the US government, which put him into power in the first place, but with US-based banking organizations which helped him salt away the ill-gotten gains. That’s pretty damn repulsive, even for American banks.

Now some of you might be asking me why I’m mad about this and not mad about what Swiss bankers did in re the Nazis and putting roadblocks up against the few Jewish survivors of the Holocaust trying to get their family assets out of Swiss banks. It’s mainly due to a couple of things. I’m an American, first of all. It hits harder when it’s your own doing the nasty. Another thing is that the Swiss didn’t help put the Nazis in power, stayed neutral during the war, and were following their own very strict bank secrecy laws of the time. They didn’t ask where the money was coming from or where it was going to when it came to German deposits. Those same secrecy laws prevented them from handing over the money to the survivors. They’re very, very strict when it comes to that type of stuff. The amount of documentation necessary is tremendous, and when you don’t even have a death certificate from someone who was killed in the camps…well, they should have been more lenient, but they were at least being consistent. I’ll give them credit for that, but a big black mark for bad PR.

But, let’s face it, we’re going to be writing this off in a few weeks as business as usual, and then it’ll disappear into the memory hole until the next time it comes out that something like this has happened (my bet is Pakistan). And then we’ll be outraged again, and the process will repeat itself. As long as American banks just keep getting the money in, no matter if it comes from dictators who make their own people “disappear” or from the drug pushers that keep poisoning American streets, they just won’t care.

And
you just won’t care that this column’s done, just so you can move on to other stuff on the site. This week, I’ll definitely have a Short Form to carry the week away and try to build up my strength for the orgy of Wrestlemania. That is, if I survive it. Another night like Tuesday night at work (which was so f*cked up I can’t even begin to describe it) and I might not be alive to do the Short Form. If I am, then I’ll see you then.

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