Monday, February 09, 2015

Federal PMITA Prison

As we all swoon in horror over the latest evidence of HSBC's malfeasance, it's probably worth observing that if you or I pled guilty to deliberately laundering hundreds of millions of dollars for Mexican drug-lords, as HSBC did in 2012, we'd be looking down the business end of a twenty-stretch before we could blink.

What type of prison would the US authorities put us in, Michael from Office Space? 
We get caught laundering money, we're not going to white-collar resort prison...  No, no, no.  We're going to federal pound me in the ass prison. 

Spot on.

And not only that - before you even saw the inside of your cell, forensic accountants would blast through your finances like a plague of locusts, stripping every penny you ever owned and couldn't account for. They'd take your house and your car and your kids' college fund and leave you without a pair of boxer shorts to cover your criminal nutsack, if they could, and if your wife had any expensive jewellery - a penchant for diamond rings, say - then she'd be lucky to keep her digits.

If the Americans caught you or I laundering cash for drug dealers, we'd be flattened like roadkill by the turbo-charged juggernaut of the US justice system and the best lawyers you could buy would be no help at all.

What happened to HSBC, after they admitted taking actual cases full of money from real-life, actual gangsters?  The company paid a fine

Note how that's the company paying that fine, not the men and women who actually laundered all the money for the drug lords.  Not one of those people got a day in prison, of either the white collar or ass-pounding variety.  

I raise this anecdote just so you can bear it in mind, the next time you read one of those Why must the Commies persecute the poor bank for doing its job pieces, and to illustrate exactly how the authorities would go about launching a real campaign of brutal persecution, if they so chose.


Phil said...

I wish people would shut up about the anal rape. It's a massive problem in American prisons, but it basically doesn't happen over here... yet. I'd hate to think of some young headbangers going to prison and starting a party in the showers because That's What You Do. (It could happen. High school proms, I say. Not only does nobody know what 'prom' is short for, we don't even have high schools.)

organic cheeseboard said...

This is totally off topic, so feel free to delete it. But still, since it's an issue related to the kind of place I work at, it's annoyed me more than most other Decent Media Panics - the Kate Smurthwaite 'getting silenced by Goldsmiths' thing. Having read her account of it, ably copied and pasted without question by Nick 'fearless truth-teller who does such brilliant reseach' Cohen, I always thought 'this isn't the full story' - and it turns out not to be.

The poor final-year student who volunteers as head of Goldsmiths comedy soc was clearly bullied by Smurthwaite into either paying, with money they didn't have, for massive security to deal with a non-existent threat of protests (the evidence for which came from, um, Smurthwaite herself), or alternatively cancelling a show by someone with the power to pull in a whopping 8 punters (plus some people who might have turned up on the promise of free tickets).

Much as I find student politics as interesting as you do, FR, the one thing you can be sure of is that student politicians will sometimes make mistakes, or at the very least be unable to deal in a totally professional, media-savvy way, with people who are much more used to the 'real world'. It's an endless source of Outrage for Decents, of course, whose lives are essentially attempts to re-live their student politician days, but so often it turns out that the Outrageous Antics from Hoirrid Lefty Students are in fact the unintentional consequences of fairly cynical PR stunts, such as this obviously was on Smurthwaite's part, and such as the 'NUS rejects will-you-conden-ISIS-a-thon' where the 'rejection' was actually to do with procedural issues rather than NUS loving teh izlamofascistz.

Essentially, if you're lacking in lefties to complain about, or if you're an unfunny comedian lookiAng to raise your profile, then get on down to your local SU, and you'll manage to get into a Nick Cohen column.

flyingrodent said...

It may be because I took no interest at all in politics when I was a student. I've said it before and I'll say it again - a keen interest in student politics is fine if you're a student, but men our age should really be past all that, and that goes double for nationally-printed journalists, I think.

I wouldn've be surprised to find that you were absolutely right about this story. If all of these stories about no-platforming students proves anything, it's the old adage about their politics being so vicious because they stakes are so low. And I can't say that I grudge them it, really - for most of them, it's the first and last time that they'll be able to exercise any meaningful political power at all.

Jacob Bacharach wrote a wordy but fine piece on the general topic recently, pointing out how insane it is to assume that students should be honour-bound to politely hear out the likes of e.g. Condoleeza Rice, rather than sending her off with a flea in her ear. The idea that all of this is some dire threat to free speech is flatly ridiculous.

flyingrodent said...

And, sorry if that's one of your bugbears, Phil. The quickest and easiest way I could think to demonstrate how merciless the US justice system can be with those it chooses to punish was that scene from Office Space, which has fun with the differences in how how white-collar criminals can expect to be treated as opposed to e.g. gang-bangers from South Central.

organic cheeseboard said...

Feel free to ignore all of this, but still, there's nowhere else to put this rant.

I think that student Unions in general are on a bit of a hiding to nothing - they're large-scale, often multi-venue events locations, but they're run generally by part-timers with very little experience, and they usually have much greater demands on them in terms of heath and safety etc than other venues (witness the 'safe spaces' policy etc, which apparently Smurthwaite refused to sign). If a performer who has a reputation for belligerence and divisiveness tells you that there's going to be 'trouble caused by outsiders' at an event, and it's not sold many tickets at all (even if a few people might turn up for free), the cost-benefit analysis would clearly be in favour of cancellation.

With that, Smurthwaite's approach to this is typical of - I can't think of a better phrase than shit-stirrers, really. She claims that feminist societies are invited free to her gigs and suggests that Golsmiths do the same, knowing full well that her very particular views on certain issues, which she phrases in the least accommodating way possible (i.e. calling anyone who doesn't want to see prostitution made illegal a 'rape-enabler' etc), will likely cause a sizeable amount of that society's members to feel uncomfortable with her there. And then, when that smaller opposing faction loses a vote on her, and subsequently voice absolutely no actual desire to picket her etc, she continues to claim, based on a tweet (yes a single one) from a student at another Uni, that it will 'kick off' and imply that the Union has to order extra security, while also refusing to sign their 'safe spaces' policy doc. When the union decides it can't afford this and that it's not worth the hassle, she then runs to the press claiming to have been 'silenced by feminists' - and is then back up by people saying how feminism is awful, why can't we all just get along, when KS is pretty much the archetype of a militant who refuses to accept differences of opinion. I can't see how this is anything other than attention-seeking, and again involves the use of student volunteers who have a lot of other things on in their lives to make cheap political points and get column inches.

ejh said...

we don't even have high schools

You sure about that?

flyingrodent said...

With that, Smurthwaite's approach to this is typical of - I can't think of a better phrase than shit-stirrers, really.

I suspect you're probably right here and I have to say that I'm usually more keen on shit-stirrers than I am on people who toe the line. Give me an inventive stirrer over a "centrist" who thinks university fees are a grand idea any day.

And while the picture you're painting here is the familiar one of a basically unsurprising scenario blown up into a scandal, it's one of many where I'm inclined to retort to any descriptions of its supposedly horrifying nature with the word - And?

Even if you're right, this issue is one of a thousand bones of grievance dragged out to be and gnawed upon as and when it's convenient to do so, because the whole point of grabbing readymade non-scandals is to have a massive argument about it.

Sometimes, it's worth getting into that row because it's revealing or just because it's worth defending folk who are being treated unjustly. Other times, you're better to decline the invitation to get down into the mud and wrestle.

Victory in these mud-wrestling exercises is usually impossible, so that can hardly be the aim. I think it's pretty clear that the point isn't to win, rather than to keep the fight going forever until absolutely everyone is exhausted and mud-splattered.

dsquared said...

I'm not so sure about the Smurfthwaite thing. As a publicity stunt for a show that didn't really need one (it was a sell-out at Edinburgh), it seems like a weird and poorly planned one.

I'm just as willing to believe that it was originally a show put on by the Comedy Soc and Feminist Soc, that the latter has some weirdo loyalty oath incorporated into its safe-space policy which effectively reads "You have to have been on the side of the current President in every Twitter war of the last five years" and that the ensuing drama caused several parties involved to decide that a stagey flounce might suit their interests better than any other option.

Then the Comedy Soc booker realised that "do you know what, I am never going to get involved in the thankless and shitty business of comedy promotion again, but the FemSoc people include some that I will be bumping into for the next two years, so I am going to stitch up the performer rather than my fellow students".

That one all seems to stem from a) people trying to make "whorephobia" into a thing and b) a not intuitively obvious but seemingly tight NATO-style alliance between one wing of the sex workers' union and the online forces of trans activism.

magistra said...

There's a post by the Goldsmiths Comedy Society President at

organic cheeseboard said...

I didn't really mean it as publicity stunt for her show but for herself, really. Though just on that 'Edinburgh sell-out' thing, judging from her blog it was free to get into that show, which was at a Mexican restaurant.

From the comedy president's account, it seems that it was a security issue, not anything to do with the feminist society (that's something Smurthwaite seems to have fixated on, on which more later) - they didn't think it was worth the expense of hiring extra security after they'd been told it was 'going to kick off' by the performer. Smurthwaite did also apparently refuse to sign the SU safe space policy which seems pretty non-controversial but which she thought implied support for sex work (if anyone else can spot this support in there, let me know) -

I don't think either side really covers themselves in glory - the comedy person seems to have been affected by Smurthwaite's lack of email replies and general unpopularity in choosing how to deal with the supposed 'threat', and Smurthwaite seems to be milking it for all it's worth (e.g. posting about it more or less immediately on her blog, emailing every media contact she has to complain, then claiming after the event that her blog was written to 'counter the lies of others' - she got her retaliation in first).

More generally it seems the whole 'trans/anti-trans and sex work/anti-sex work' thing is another example of those arguments which would be interesting as long as they involved nobody who's actually involved. A lot of trans people seem to be very militant and unreceptive to standard and uncontroversial differences of opinion (e.g. immediately finding fault with Owen Jones's seemingly cuddly piece today), while a lot of the people they dislike seems to be fairly obviously prejudiced against transgender people per se (good old Nick Cohen chief among them, and his old chum Suzanne Moore as well). That's where this dodgy letter in the Observer seems to come from - this being portrayed as some kind of inter-feminism argument which seemed to hoodwink a lot of normally sensible people (e.g. Mary Beard saying 'well yes, almost every example of suppression of freedom of speech in the letter I signed is bogus, but still', or good old Peter Tatchell signing then immediately recanting - Unite vs Terror anyone?).

organic cheeseboard said...

no-one except me cares about this, and I don't even care about it much, but Smurthwaite's Twitter feed is a bit weird. Apparently the Golsmiths SU publishing their side of the story is a truly evil thing to do, makes them all assholes, and amounts to them trying to destroy her career.

Along with thinking 'WTF? you were the one who made a big issue out of this, emailing all your mates in the media (most of whom didn't bother to check the SU's version of events before piling into them - what did you think they'd do, say yes, actually we are free speech hating idiots and your obviously selective version of events is actually entirely correct)', it's also suspiciously reminiscent of that time someone wrote a letter to the Observer saying 'Nick Cohen needs to find a new column to write' to hich Nick and all his cums said 'stop trying to get Nick fired!'. Some things never change.