Friday, May 31, 2013

Money Laundering: A Quick How-To-Get-Away-With-It

On Wednesday, May 29, 2013, the Washington Post called the Liberty Reserve "one of the biggest laundering operations in history."  Liberty Reserve stands accused with laundering six billion dollars.  For certain definitions of big, this statement could be considered accurate.  In the real world, this is like called a house sparrow one of the biggest birds in history.  HSBC was accused with laundering an estimated two hundred fifty billion dollars for Iran, as well as failing to properly monitor another six hundred seventy billion dollars of wire transfers and almost another ten billion in purchased US Dollars.

Let's put those amounts in numbers:
Liberty Reserve: 6,000,000,000
HSBC:              930,000,000,000

Hey, that's a lot of zeros.  Let's strip these down and ask an eight year old which is bigger.
Genius Nephew, which of these two numbers are bigger: 6 or 930?
* Not pictured, my nephew laughing at me, calling me silly, and pointing at 930.

Seven people have been arrested in the Liberty Reserve case.  Not one person has been arrested relating to the HSBC laundering case.  Let's go back to my Financial Investigator, my eight year old nephew:
Genius Nephew, which of these two numbers are bigger: 7 or 0?
* Not pictured, my nephew laughing at me, calling me silly, and pointing at 7.

The lesson is quite clear.  If you're going to launder funds, go big or go to the big house.  Laundering money is fine as long as the amounts involved are staggering, and you use the profits to expand your business into credit cards and other types of loans.

You might think that I am an anarchist advocating that the government shouldn't bother prosecuting cases like this in the new age of the internet, the greatest social experiment yet, but I'm not.  I am a progressive with some mild anarchist tendencies, usually only expressed while inebriated, advocating the radical idea that governments apply their laws to everyone, not just the conveniently prosecuted.

I'm also disappointed with the Post for the lazy reporting.  Calling Liberty Reserve "one of the biggest" when HSBC was two* orders of magnitude larger is ludicrous.  $6 billion is chump change compared to $980 billion.  Even the Republicans wouldn't argue too much over six billion in a budget debate, but nine-hundred eighty billion gives anyone pause.  To put that in recent news perspective, that is more than 2,940 massive Powerball jackpots.  Imagine if three people won 300+ million dollar jackpots every day for the next two and a half years.  Just ludicrous.

* Thanks, Pinko

Friday, May 24, 2013

So That Happened

Some moments you feel utterly wrecked and confused, while other moments you feel nothing.  Some moments you're so angry you can't speak because you will unleash a fury on an innocent, while other moments you feel only slight loss.  Most moments you just wonder what the fuck to do now.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

To George and Susan on Their Wedding Day

This is not the toast I gave, but the toast I wrote before I was convinced that this toast was better absorbed through the eyeballs than the auditory nerve.  The actual toast I gave will follow on a later date.  Following that, I may give a lecture on how to give toasts, depending on how these two posts are received.*

"There's been a lot of talk about the definition of marriage lately. *Pause for laughter*  People have argued this til the boring end, and yet I do not stand here to speak about the definition of marriage.  I wonder about the meaning of marriage.  What does it mean for two people to stand in front of their friends and family and declare that they will be married.  What does it mean in this world, in this time, for two people to be married?

We hear no end of suffering, we see no end to bloodshed, we see no peace among the disparate groups of humans on this planet.  Misery seeps through our lives, infecting every aspect.  Cynicism rots our core until we can no longer raise a hand in aid of another.  What does it matter that two people wish to join their lives, to entwine their fates, in the face of such utter hopelessness, despair, and cynicism?  What can we do as witnesses, but bear the silent burden?

Bear with me, folks, this does lead to a point. * Pause for nervous laughter.*

When two people stand up to be married, they are defying the naysayers, the broken ones, and the fearmongers.  Two people who love each other enough to stand in front of those they value most in the world to say "I love you, and will hold your heart above all else in this world" are expressing defiance.  Defiance in the face of despair, hope in the face of suffering, and romance in the depths of cynicism.

Marriage is the ultimate rebellion.  Marriage is punk rock.  Marriage is a middle finger held up to an uncaring universe.  Marriage is a defiance of the unending wave of terror that floods our lives from all directions.  Marriage is a beacon of warmth, love, hope, and romance in a threatening world, and we witnesses will always be ready to remind you of this day.  This day when you stood in front of all the people who matter to you and said, "I love you, and take thee to be my partner in all things."

* Received has always looked like a misspelled word to me.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Varying Degrees of Awful

Last Saturday, I was walking into my local Metro station when I was asked for spare change by an allegedly homeless person.  The exchange damn near broke my spirit because it happened like this:

"Hey, man, spare some cha-oh, sorry, bro."

I was wearing some green, heavy-duty carpenter's pants that I use as hiking pants.  They are durable, but have wide enough legs that the thick denim isn't stifling, even in a DC summer.  These pants are pretty faded, worn around the hem, and have some permanent grass stains at the knees.  I was also wearing a green, long sleeve shirt that I always think makes me look like a revolutionary.  Apparently, I looked so pathetic that even a homeless man didn't want any change I might have had.

Thanks, Universe.  I needed this.  Everything is now cobagulating.

I try to remind myself that my life could be so much worse, but this doesn't feel helpful.  Everything can always be worse.  There can always be some other, larger, more hideous monster around the corner.  As much as I sympathize with the plights of so many people in the world, reminding myself that other people live in utter terror for their lives doesn't make me want to thank the Good Lord Pasta for my life.  I am torn between feeling guilt for being lucky enough to be born who I was born, and for trying to assuage that guilt by remembering that I didn't have any choice in the matter, so far as I know.

At least I can go to sleep, reminding myself that life isn't fair, there is no plan.  This comforts me more than any other platitude.