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The Morning Grumpy – 12/18/12

18 Dec


All the news, views, and filtered excellence fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

1. Last week, the U.S. government fined HSBC Bank a total of $1.9BN for their role as an active, knowing participant in the laundering of billions of dollars in drug money. The fine, which is about one-seventh of HSBC’s 2011 profit, is but a slap on the wrist. Matt Taibbi wrote a brilliant column about how the fine proves that the drug war is a joke.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that the reasoning here is beyond flawed. When you decide not to prosecute bankers for billion-dollar crimes connected to drug-dealing and terrorism (some of HSBC’s Saudi and Bangladeshi clients had terrorist ties, according to a Senate investigation), it doesn’t protect the banking system, it does exactly the opposite. It terrifies investors and depositors everywhere, leaving them with the clear impression that even the most “reputable” banks may in fact be captured institutions whose senior executives are in the employ of (this can’t be repeated often enough) murderers and terrorists. Even more shocking, the Justice Department’s response to learning about all of this was to do exactly the same thing that the HSBC executives did in the first place to get themselves in trouble – they took money to look the other way…

… So the executives who spent a decade laundering billions of dollars will have to partially defer their bonuses during the five-year deferred prosecution agreement? Are you fucking kidding me? That’s the punishment? The government’s negotiators couldn’t hold firm on forcing HSBC officials to completely wait to receive their ill-gotten bonuses? They had to settle on making them “partially” wait? Every honest prosecutor in America has to be puking his guts out at such bargaining tactics. What was the Justice Department’s opening offer – asking executives to restrict their Caribbean vacation time to nine weeks a year?

…How about all of it? How about every last dollar the bank has made since it started its illegal activity? How about you dive into every bank account of every single executive involved in this mess and take every last bonus dollar they’ve ever earned? Then take their houses, their cars, the paintings they bought at Sotheby’s auctions, the clothes in their closets, the loose change in the jars on their kitchen counters, every last freaking thing. Take it all and don’t think twice. And then throw them in jail.

Also, HSBC was fined by the Argentinian government for money laundering activities and an active probe of the bank’s money laundering activities for drug cartels continues in Mexico. Should we be shocked? HSBC was founded (partially) as a way to launder money during the British Opium Wars. I think the disposition of their leased tower in Buffalo is one of their smaller concerns at this point.

2. If you didn’t know, Alan and I have been creating twice-weekly podcasts with Brad Riter at Recently, we started a series called “Low Rent Life Coach” in which we offer advice to people in need of unprofessional guidance from three middle-aged white guys. You should be listening to them.

3.  More guns, more mass shootings – coincidence?

America has long been heavily armed relative to other societies, and our arsenal keeps growing. A precise count isn’t possible because most guns in the United States aren’t registered and the government has scant ability to track them, thanks to a legislative landscape shaped by powerful pro-gun groups such as the National Rifle Association. But through a combination of national surveys and manufacturing and sales data, we know that the increase in firearms has far outpaced population growth.

In 1995 there were an estimated 200 million guns in private hands. Today, there are around 300 million—about a 50 percent jump. The US population, now over 314 million, grew by about 20 percent in that period. At this rate, there will be a gun for every man, woman, and child before the decade ends.


Sure, just a coincidence.

4. The three speeches. Incredible.

I’d like to never watch a speech like this again.

5. I’d also like to live in a country where we don’t need video guidance on what to do during an “active shooter event” in a workplace or school.

Yes, it’s real.

Fact Of The Day: Kodak developed a digital camera as early as 1975. It took 23 seconds to record the photo onto a cassette.

Quote Of The Day: ‘It’s now very common to hear people say, “I’m rather offended by that”, as if that gives them certain rights. It’s no more than a whine. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. “I’m offended by that.” Well, so fucking what?’ — Stephen Fry

Christmas Song Of The Day: “How To Make Gravy” – Paul Kelly

Song Of The Day: “Strange Times” – The Black Keys

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