Why Obama’s Regulators Let Wall Street Bankers Off Easy
If there’s anything more maddening than the sheer scale of the financial fraud that sent America and the rest the planet spiraling into the economic abyss in 2008, it’s the fact that no Wall Street bankers have gone to jail for causing the mess. As in zero, zilch, none at all.
So at his farewell party last month to celebrate a lengthy career at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)—the US regulatory agency that supposedly keeps Wall Street in check—James Kidney, a trial attorney who had been hamstrung for years by indifferent bosses, broke his silence and went off on an awesome rant about how no one in the financial sector fears the body supposedly policing their behavior. The SEC, in essence, is a joke.
Describing it as “an agency that polices the broken windows on the street level and rarely goes to the penthouse floors,” Kidney told an audience of fellow employees that they had dropped the ball because of a revolving door of corruption between the SEC and Wall Street megabanks. “I have had bosses, and bosses of my bosses, whose names we all know, who made little secret that they were here to punch their ticket. They mouthed serious regard for the mission of the Commission, but their actions were tentative and fearful in many instances,” he said.
Will Unions Save College ‘Student Athletes’ from Poverty?
The 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament came to its frantic conclusion on Monday night, with hundreds of millions of dollars in bets, ticket sales, and ad revenue changing hands across the country as young men hurled themselves at each other in desperation on national television. In the end, UConn point guard Shabaaz Napier was basking in the glow of victory, smiling for the cameras with his teammates, which made it easy to forget that he recently expounded on the seedy underbelly of college sports in America.
"I don’t feel student-athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but like I said, there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving," he told reporters in late March when asked about the Northwestern University football team’s ongoing effort to unionize.
In case you haven’t noticed, big-time college athletics is a pretty sordid business that rests on the exploitation of the labor of young men and women, many of them from poor backgrounds, under the auspices of the dubious “student-athlete” construct. Supposedly these kids are on campus to learn first and play second, ridiculous one-paragraph essays notwithstanding. But as has been repeatedly pointed out, the universities, coaches, and NCAA brass rake in huge profits each year—college sports is now a multibillion-dollar industry—while the kids who don’t make the pros (or suffer heinous injuries before they have the opportunity) are largely left high and dry.
Fed up with the status quo, the Northwestern Wildcats—a mediocre but widely identifiable Division I football program—filed with the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to form a union and earn legal recognition as employees earlier this year, and, in what is being hailed as a potentially landmark ruling, they won. Now the students are set to vote on April 25 on unionization, and there is at least some chance they will embrace the opportunity, assuming the university overlords don’t scare them away from the idea. With employee status and union bargaining power could come protection for those with athletic scholarships from suddenly being cut off from receiving an education if they became injured or didn’t perform as expected—and maybe, further down the line, they could receive a real share of the cash generated by the massive advertising revenue their athletic endeavors make possible.
"This place is just so inundated with corruption—it’s steeped in corruption like a teabag. There was a Roman emperor—Caligula—who appointed his horse to the senate. At this point, the system has gotten so bad that if the Koch brothers appointed their horse to the Senate, it wouldn’t even make a difference. That’s where we are."
—Florida Representative Alan Grayson talks to VICE about the Supreme Court’s latest decision to turn America into an oligarchy
Narco-Saints Are Melding Catholicism with the Drug Trade in Mexico
Since the 1970s, Mexico has been plagued with high-volume drug traffickers attempting to satiate the United States’ demand for low-cost narcotics, resulting in country-wide violence and guerrilla warfare in the streets. In Mexico, a rapidly adopted narco-culture built on the back of folk Catholicism has transformed from back-alley prayers to narco-saint Jesús Malverde into public altars for Santa Muerte, Lady of the Holy Death.
Patrick Polk is a professor at the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures, as well as a curator of Latin American and Caribbean Arts. His current exhibit at UCLA’s Fowler Museum takes on representations of narco-culture, along with marginalized religious icons and unrecognized sacred figures from Latin America and the United States. Called Sinful Saints and Saintly Sinners, the collection plays on folk legends and the drug traffickers and impoverished who rely on them as nonjudgmental sources of strength and protection. I sat down with the bespectacled, bearded professor, who has an upside-down tattoo of St. Expedite on his right arm.
Marcos López (b. Santa Fe, Argentina, 1958): Santos Populares, 2013
VICE: Where does your interest in narco-saints start?
Patrick Polk: Well, I got my MA and PhD in folklore here at UCLA, so my interests have fundamentally been religions and ritual traditions of the African diaspora and also popular religion and religious art in the United States. A lot of my work has been where Europe and Native America and Latin America and Africa sort of collide in Los Angeles, particularly with the way in which religion, material culture, and visual spirituality mix and mingle and reshape in LA.
Not a lot of saints here.
I’m from an even more sinful place: Las Vegas. But I love to drive around LA and just look and see what kind of things pop out. I’ve done exhibitions on storefront murals, muffler sculptures, little rider bicycles. A lot of folk art in general and religious art in the sense of the vernacular.
While the super-car or the SUV has replaced the camel as the most popular means of transportation in the modern Emirates, the animal retains an important place in the nation’s heart. “Beautiful camel” may strike you as something of an oxymoron. But many a bedouin or sheikh will think nothing of dropping up to $3 million dollars on a so-called prized beauty, in the hope that she’ll bring home the coveted Bayraq—the fairest camel in the land. In this episode of The VICE Guide to Travel, Charlet finds herself the only woman in the desert, looking for the elusive beauty in the beast.
Michael C Ruppert on Syria, Obama, and global economic collapse: “The United States Empire is crumbling as we speak. The world doesn’t have a Plan B for what happens when the United States fails. But the United States NEEDS to fail. The US dollar NEEDS to fail. Not until you have killed the last fish, cut down the last tree, and poisoned the last river will you discover that you cannot eat money.”
Watch Part 3 of Apocalypse, Man
A Visit to the World’s Largest Porn Convention
Sex sells. From sandpaper to steak, there is seemingly nothing it can’t be used to market—save baby formula. That being said, I’m sure a think tank of modern Mad Men are currently trying to eroticize the formula game. Of course, sex is best at selling itself, which makes the Adult Entertainment Expo business as usual; emphasis on business. A literal circle jerk for folks who make their living off lasciviousness, combined with a lil’ somethin’ for fuck fans—and by “a lil’ somethin’,” I mean, “the opportunity to take awkwardly staged photographs with bored looking women in sheer shirts”—the self-proclaimed “World’s Largest Adult Trade Event” is a veritable smorgasbord of smut, all of which can be possessed for a price.
The Adult Entertainment Expo takes place where events of its ilk should take place: Las Vegas, aka Xanadu for mouth breathers; where the cocktail waitresses are already conveniently dressed like sex objects. In the casino that surrounded the expo (Hard Rock, natch), degenerate gamblers refused to look up from the slot machines they were vacantly poking at, not even to gawk at the scantily clad ladies go-go dancing right in front of them. Countless others, I’m sure, sat in the rooms above, watching television on their vacations. Vegas, baby! Vegas!
A Pimp Is Suing Nike for Not Warning That Shoes Could Be Used as Weapons
A Portland pimp named Sirgiorgiro Clardy wants a $100 million settlement from Nike because he claims that not warning people that their shoes could be used as a deadly weapon constitutes negligence. 26-year-old Clardy is serving a 100-year prison term for kicking the shit out of a johnwho tried to get out of paying, then robbing him and leaving him for dead at the 6th Avenue Moteljust outside downtown Portland. The victim later had to get plastic surgery on his nose.
Testimony in court from psychiatrist Frank Colistro called Clardy a psychopath who is 100 percent likely to offend again, to which Clardy responded by throwing a fit and shouting expletives at the jurors, just like a non-psychopath would. Clardy will be eligible for parole in 36 years, by which time he’ll be 62.
Property seized in drug raids can help fund police operations, but now that marijuana is legal in Washington and Colorado there are going to be fewer drug raids, which means fewer seizures, which means less money for the cops. Good.