Archive for the Uncategorized Category

The Elephant . . .

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on June 2, 2015 by Bola C. King-Rushing

Rigging of Foreign Exchange Market Makes Felons of Big Banks,” reads a recent New York Times headline. Recently, four large, international banks pled guilty to charges related to the illegal manipulation of international currency markets. They will pay record-sized fines. Again. 

Actually, the part of this scandal I’m interested in this time around is what’s in the headline. Specifically, I’d like to ask: can a bank even be a felon? And if so, what does that mean?

Let’s think about this. An individual who commits a felonious crime and then pleads guilty will probably receive some sort of punishment and then have a conviction on his or her record. That individual, thanks to the criminal record, will lose certain rights and privileges, depending on the jurisdiction, such as the inability to hold some sensitive jobs or the revocation of the right to vote. And heaven help you if you’re in a three-strikes jurisdiction; repeat offenders run the risk of life imprisonment. 

The banks pay fines. Even if they are repeat offenders. 

If a crime involves more than one individual, sometimes even if that involvement is just tangential or incidental, a host of additional charges and penalties can be imposed, from aiding and abetting to racketeering to conspiracy. 

The banks, after admitting to colluding with each other (and not for the first time) to defraud other market participants, pay fines. 

The elephant in this room, of course, is the fact that banks can’t go to jail, because they aren’t people (this nonsense notwithstanding). In fact, the major purpose for the invention of “corporations” is to provide as many benefits for its members as possible while exposing those members to as little liability as possible. In plainer English, the company’s job is to get the most profit with the least responsibility. 

If you look at what just happened, you can see how good they have become at it. I mean, they just got caught cheating again and managed to get little more than a fine and a warning. Imagine: the express delivery companies get together to hack traffic systems and bribe local cops so they can speed dangerously and deliver packages faster, then they get caught and plead guilty–and all they get is a few speeding tickets. That’s kind of what this is like. 

But even that’s not quite on target, because–as the Times article points out, no one of any significance is going to jail or even paying individual fines. The companies are facing punishment. Basically, a group of people can get together as a corporation, a legally recognized entity, and get away with all kinds of illegal activity without facing real consequences. In theory, that’s the whole point of a corporation, as I mentioned above. 

Does anyone else think it’s stupid that that’s how things are supposed to work?

It’s individual people who make the decisions to cheat. If they don’t face consequences directly, they have no reason to play fair. Ever. Which, of course, is why we see repeat offenders among the “banks.” By which we should always think “bankers.”

Of course, this isn’t just about banks; it’s a problem with the relationship between corporations and the law. Specifically, Mitt Romney was literally correct if you look at the letter of the law: corporations are indeed recognized as people, which allows legal responsibility for misconduct to be redirected from the humans who broke the law to the company designed specifically to protect them from said responsibility–or liability. “LLC” (a common way to organize a company) stands for “Limited Liability Corporation”; think about what that really means. 

What’s interesting is that the legal recognition is constantly reinforced in the law. I mean, have you read any recent legislation? Take a look at H.R. 1907, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, which is right now making its way through Congress. In brief, it’s a bill to help protect American interests, both corporate and public, when we get involved in international trade. There’s lots of good stuff in there, if you ask me. There’s also some not-so-great stuff. Then there’s Title VI (Miscellaneous Provisions), Section 608 (United States-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement), Subsection g (Definitions). In this section, we get to see several definitions of a “person.” There’s a “foreign person” (608(g)(2)), which is both any “natural person” (a human) who is not at least a permanent resident and “any foreign corporation, business association, partnership, trust, society or any other entity or group that is not incorporated or organized to do business in the United States, as well as any international organization, foreign government and any agency or subdivision of foreign government, including a diplomatic mission.”

That’s a mouthful, but the point is that section 608(g)(2) of this law specifically defines “foreign person” in a way that includes corporations. Oh, and 608(g)(4) does the same thing with the definition of “United States person.” And 608(g)(3) ges a step further by doing the same for just plain old “person,” except that it specifically excludes governments and government entities that do not operate as business enterprises.

So corporations are people, after all. 

Which brings me back in my question: what does it mean for a corporation to be convicted of a felony? The Times article notes that the public may lose faith in the banks; given the way things have gone in the last thirty years, I’d say that’s a meaninglessly low standard. And it’s definitely not enough to make them stop breaking the rules. 

People need to go to jail. And by “people,” I’m not referring to legally recognized group entities. Because even though a CEO might get fired, he or she isn’t going to get a conviction on their record; they won’t forfeit any of their ill-gotten gains; they’ll probably just go consult for a hedge fund or become a lobbyist. 

At some point we have to look up from the law books, take a step back, and just say this is wrong. Let’s start from there. 

AIDS Walk is Saturday!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on October 20, 2011 by Bola C. King-Rushing

So the Ventura County AIDS Walk for Life is this Saturday the 22nd, at Plaza Park in Ventura (that’s at the corner of Chestnut & Thompson), from 9-1. Aside from the walk, there will be a rally and generally good times with great people. Be there!

If you haven’t given your support to anyone yet, you can make a donation to our team – Never Walk Alone – by going online to http://vcaidspartnership.givezooks.com/grassroots_fundraisers/ventura-county-aids-walk-for-life-team-never-walk-alone – Keri has set up the team’s fundraising site there.

You can also go to VCAP’s blog to post a comment about why you’re walking, or why you would if you could, or just to share your story or some thoughts or some love.

  Song of the Moment: "Celebration," Kool & the Gang END OF LINE

On The Dark Knight

Posted in General, Uncategorized with tags , on August 11, 2008 by Bola C. King-Rushing

Well, I couldn’t miss it, so (even though it took me a while) I finally got around to seeing The Dark Knight.

Let me first say that I really didn’t like Batman Begins. As I’ve already mentioned to some people, I think Christian Bale was only OK as Batman/Bruce Wayne, the story wasn’t all that fun, and the only image that I really appreciated was the picture of Gotham glittering in daylight. Plus the Batmobile was an atrocious-looking monstrosity of a vehicle that didn’t even have the brutish beauty of terrifying power.

So (spoiler alert!) I’m glad they finally blew it up. That little motorcycle-type thing wasn’t much better, though.

In any case, The Dark Knight is a far superior movie. Yes, I enjoyed it. While the story was really good, I don’t think that Heath Ledger’s performance was really worth all the hoopla that the critics have been making. The opening sequence was great, and the Joker’s legendary madness was well-written, more or less. And Christian Bale has grown into the Batman role a little more.

Overall, the movie was a helluva ride, which is generally what I’m looking for in a movie that comes from comic books. Of course, you get a better ride from something like Ultraviolet, and I’m looking forward to the Watchmen movie next year, but that’s not important right now…

While I enjoyed the movie, there is a major philosophical beef I still have with its existence. This issue dates back to Batman Begins, and is essentially going to be a fundamental problem with every installment of the new Batman movie franchise. The problem is a lack of respect for canonicity.

Now, I’m not one who insists that a comic-based movie adhere rigidly to the established stories of the comic. Marvel’s movies have convinced me that movies are a different medium and their stories must therefore be constructed differently. That’s totally fair.

What bothers me – has bothered me since Batman Begins – is that the established canon of the four previous Batman movies was simply erased. Some of us appreciate a consistent story universe, and this has now been completely destroyed. I feel it as a personal affront, that the creators of the two latest Batman movies simply have no respect for their forerunners – and no respect for those of us who have some degree of fondness for those earlier films.

A new Batman movie could have gone with new villains and executed a graceful transition from the more campy movies into this darker vibe. That would’ve been artful. Instead, we just get conceptual amputation. Reboot. A total do-over, as if all that came before was a waste of time that deserves to be forgotten. It’s rude.

And Christian Bale’s Batmobile was just ugly.



Song of the Moment: "Low Place Like Home," Sneaker Pimps
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