MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
What a desert it has been for those who are concerned about justice, democracy, income fairness and the Constitution. So many hopes have soared on the wings of politicians promising change and an end-to-business as usual in DC, only to have expectations dashed as the candidates are elected, take office and conform to the status quo rather than change it. It has been a dismaying and enervating slog, sinking in the quagmire of political moral corruption to be limply reassured by the begrudging outlook "that it could be worse."
The danger is that dismay can lead to hopelessness and withdrawal from the great struggle for summoning our better angels.
For years, we have seen with few exceptions (Bernie Sanders, Paul Wellstone, etc.) political figures head to the seat of the US government only to become compromised by corporate control through campaign contributions, the media cult of "conventional wisdom," and co-option by the "reality" of power.
But Ms. Smith has come to Washington, and her name is Elizabeth Warren. In just a couple of months she has taken a fierce tenacious stand for accountability and fairness in regards to Wall Street. This contrasts with US Attorney General Eric Holder, who represents the dismal disappointment of the Obama promise of change on many fronts, including Holder's failure to criminally prosecute even one Wall Street executive.
BuzzFlash at Truthout most recently wrote about this in a commentary, "Holder Admits That Department of Justice Believes Big Bankers Are Above the Law. " (The Holder article includes links to many of the numerous pieces we have written on the failure to hold the executives of big banks and financial institutions accountable for real crimes.)
In an article on Talking Points Memo, "Elizabeth Warren Comes Out Swinging Against Banks," you read with a celebratory joy that,
just two months into her new job as Massachusetts senator, the former consumer advocate has used her perch to publicize and rail against shady practices by financial institutions and what she views as leniency from the regulators tasked with overseeing them.
The latest example came last Thursday during a Banking Committee hearing, when Warren demanded answers from a panel of federal regulators as to why the multinational bank HSBC got off with a fine for money laundering for Mexican drug cartels — along with violating international sanctions against several countries, including Iran and Libya — when people caught with drugs go to jail for life.
“No one individual went to trial, no individual was banned from banking and there was no hearing to consider shutting down HSBC’s activities here in the United States,” Warren said. “So … what does it take? How many billions of dollars do you have to launder for drug lords and how many economic sanctions do you have to violate before someone will consider shutting down a financial institution like this?”
When her questions were repeatedly dodged by Treasury’s overseer of financial crimes David Cohen and Federal Reserve governor Jerome Powell, it set her off.
“If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you’re going to go to jail. If it happens repeatedly, you may go to jail for the rest of your life,” Warren said. “But evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night — every single individual associated with this. I just — I think that’s fundamentally wrong.”
BuzzFlash has, among other financial institutions, focused on HSBC getting off while breaking laws that allowed the bank to profiteer off of narco money laundering, conduct financial transactions with official "enemies" of the United States, and more.
Talking Points Memo also recounts a Senate Banking Committee hearing in mid- February,
when Warren caught a panel of half a dozen senior bank regulators flat-footed by asking them, simply: “Can you identify when you last took [one of] the Wall Street banks to trial?”
“We do not have to bring people to trial,” said Thomas Curry, who leads the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. She retorted, “I appreciate that you say you don’t have to bring them to trial. My question is when did you bring them to trial?”
None of the regulators could answer, responding with a series of dodges and non sequiturs. Warren had made her point — and she didn’t hesitate to drive it home.
“There are district attorneys and United States attorneys out there every day squeezing ordinary citizens on sometimes very thin grounds and taking them to trial in order to make an example, as they put it,” the freshman senator said. “I’m really concerned that ‘too big to fail’ has become ‘too big for trial.’”
Just when you think that all your ideas of fairness and justice are fantasies chasing around in your head like crazed dogs, Elizabeth Warren swoops into DC and gives voice to your thoughts about how the government is letting the heads of "banks to big to fail" get away not only with crimes, but ones that undercut the official policies of the executive branch and Congress, in regards to the "war on drugs," trading with the enemy, financial fraud, etc. In short, the Department of Justice is enabling crime.
That's not an outlandish claim; it's the reality, as Holder has testified before Cognress.
Now, you realize that you might not be crazy after all, numbed into benighted doubt by a government that lets plutocrats violate laws without criminal accountability.
You don't need Frank Capra (Director of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington") to feel vindicated. It's not a movie. It's for real.
Elizabeth Warren is in town, and she's not giving an inch.