Wall Street VP, Evangelical Baptist minister – just the thief you can trust, eh?


Korchevsky’s Sunday gig, Wall Street during the week, full-time crook

A federal judge in Brooklyn, N.Y., has ordered that Vitaly Korchevsky, a former Morgan Stanley vice president arrested for allegedly trading on confidential corporate information stolen by hackers in Ukraine, be released on $2 million bond.

Mr. Korchevsky, 50 years old, also will be required to pay a $200,000 cash deposit, surrender his and his family’s passports, wear an ankle bracelet for location monitoring and restrict his movements to certain parts of Pennsylvania and New York.

Prosecutors had pressed for the judge to keep Mr. Korchevsky detained in federal custody. They alleged that Mr. Korchevsky was one of the biggest beneficiaries of an elaborate scheme in which overseas hackers stole nonpublic corporate information stored in newswires’ systems and gave it to financial traders, who used the press releases to make lucrative bets.

Mr. Korchevsky alone made more than $17 million in profits from the insider-trading scheme, prosecutors allege, and $10 million of that already has been frozen by the government…Charges…include securities fraud and money-laundering conspiracy…

Mr. Korchevsky has been a Baptist pastor for decades, and dozens of his friends, family and congregants came to support him at Wednesday’s hearing—an estimated 80 to 90 people, according to Mr. Korchevsky’s lawyer Steven Brill. So many people packed into the Brooklyn federal courthouse that an overflow room had to be set up, which is unusual for a routine bail hearing. Some showed up from as far away as Spokane, Wash…

“If you don’t play ball, you’re going to disappoint a lot of people,” Judge Dearie said to Mr. Korchevsky, citing “the faith that hundreds of people have placed in him.”

Mr. Korchevsky is one of five defendants arrested in the U.S. for the alleged scheme. Criminal charges also have been filed against four others who are still at large in Ukraine. International warrants have been issued for their arrest.

Gotta love Korchevsky’s lawyer who claimed he was no flight risk because if he fled back to Ukraine he’d be leaving his wife and children behind in the US. Given the list of crimes he’s charged with, the “ethics” he ignored both on Wall Street and as a pastor, why presume he’s not above walking out on his family?

He’s handing over $200K to guarantee his presence at trial. Gee, that only leaves him with $7 million or so to take with him if he skips out on his family.

Pic of the day

Ukie army grocery bike
Click to enlargeAP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka

A Ukrainian serviceman rides a bicycle in Shyrokyne, eastern Ukraine… Russia and Ukraine agreed in Berlin on Monday to call for the pullback of smaller-caliber weapons from the front lines of the conflict that has claimed more than 6,000 lives.

Too many kinds of comment in my poor brain for this one. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions, humorous, philosophical or otherwise.

White House says just a coincidence CIA director is in Ukraine


Nothing wrong with recycling the same old lies!

Sanctions have been the most visible sign of U.S. anger at Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region in southern Ukraine last month, reflecting the deepest plunge in U.S.-Russian relations since the Cold War.

Obama spoke to French President Francois Hollande about the crisis on Monday and praised Ukraine’s government for showing “great restraint” and working to unify the country, the White House said.

Spokesman Jay Carney confirmed that the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, had been in Kiev over the weekend and decried what he called “false claims” leveled at the CIA by Russian authorities.

“Senior level visits of intelligence officials are a standard means of fostering mutually beneficial security cooperation including U.S.-Russian intelligence collaboration going back to the beginnings of the post-Cold War era,” Carney said.

“U.S. and Russian intelligence officials have met over the years. To imply that U.S. officials meeting with their counterparts (in Kiev) is anything other than in the same spirit is absurd,” he said.

According to media reports, Russia has urged Washington to explain what Brennan was doing in Ukraine.

Bobblehead politicians nod in agreement and sagely quote the nearest brass hat, “Peace is our profession”.

The IMF is interesting to US policymakers for the wrong reason

The International Monetary Fund is an immensely useful organization, able to deliver substantial amounts of financial and technical assistance at short notice to almost any place in the world. It also has the great advantage of almost always being perceived as incredibly boring…

In the realm of international economics, being perceived as boring confers power to the extent that it allows major decisions to be made without a great deal of external scrutiny. From 1918 to 1939, international economic cooperation was hard to come by – in large part because all of the attempted deals were put together at high-profile international conferences. Following the creation of the IMF in 1944, many of the same decisions became routine, a lot less interesting, and much easier to implement…

The US does not dictate what happens at the IMF, but it does have a disproportionate influence. Given the Fund’s origins in helping to rebuild Europe after World War II, European countries are also very well represented on its executive board and in terms of ownership shares (and thus voting weight on important decisions).

One major goal in recent decades has been to shift representation at the IMF somewhat away from Europe and toward the world’s emerging markets. These countries’ global economic and financial significance has grown rapidly, yet they have relatively little representation at the Fund.

A package of reforms has been agreed. Like most products of international negotiations, the agreement is not perfect; but it does move the ball forward…These reforms need to be agreed, in legislative form, by the US Congress before they can take effect. For whatever reason, President Barack Obama’s administration did not push this item hard in 2013 and early 2014 – and the agenda of encouraging further IMF reform has therefore languished.

The Obama administration proposed to tie IMF reform to the presumably imminent approval by Congress of funding for Ukraine. This is sensible legislative tactics but not appealing as an economic strategy. In effect, the administration tried to make the IMF more interesting, particularly to encourage Republicans in the House of Representatives to support the reforms.

The latest indications are that the Republicans will not be so enticed. But the bigger problem is that Ukraine does not really need a massive loan from the IMF. What Ukraine needs is a sharp reduction in corruption, as well as real legitimacy (through the ballot box) for people who want to rein in the influence of oligarchs – a group that has sapped the economy through plunder and incompetence over the past two decades.

Mostly, what looks like happening is typical of Congress and Congressional Republicans. Money for war is always available – so, the White House and the Pentagon will make Ukraine aid sound like war is imminent.

The need to reform the IMF and why – will probably be swept under the rug.

The need to reform Ukraine will simply be ignored. Most of Congress has no interest in anything concerned with real reform vs. the phoney sort they talk about all the time. The kind that means screwing working people even more.

A policy of self-serving hypocrisy towards Russia

The United States has once again twisted itself into a rhetorical pretzel. As when it threatened military action against Syria if a “red line” was crossed, the Obama administration’s rhetoric about Russia and Ukraine goes far beyond what it will be willing and able to enforce.

Earlier this month, President Obama warned that America would “isolate Russia” if it grabbed more land, and yesterday, he suggested that more sanctions were possible. Likewise, Secretary of State John Kerry said the Group of 7 nations were “prepared to go to the hilt” in order to isolate Russia.

But Washington’s rhetoric is dangerously excessive, for three main reasons: Ukraine is far more important to Vladimir V. Putin than it is to America; it will be hard for the United States and Europe to make good on their threats of crippling sanctions; and other countries could ultimately defang them…

The fundamental problem is that the Obama administration doesn’t want to bear the costs associated with an active foreign policy. That’s understandable. A December Pew poll revealed the lowest level of public support for an active American foreign policy since 1964.

This domestic pressure was on display in Syria. Mr. Obama’s error was not that he backed away from military action and accepted Russia’s proposal to rid Syria of chemical weapons. The mistake was that he drew a red line that would have been more costly to back up than the United States was willing to tolerate. America lost credibility internationally for failing to make good on its threat.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration is repeating this mistake in Ukraine…

“Isolating Russia” as if it were Iran or North Korea isn’t a threat America can feasibly make good on. Just because Mr. Putin is acting like the leader of a rogue state, his country cannot be considered as such. Russia boasts the world’s eighth-largest economy. Given the exposure of American corporations to Russia, there would be serious pushback from the private sector if Mr. Obama tried to relegate Russia to rogue-state status. The Obama administration needs to preach what it will ultimately practice. Otherwise Washington’s credibility will erode further as it walks back its words.

A more hard-line response is not the answer. Mr. Obama was right to rule out the military option; diplomacy is America’s only viable path forward…

The Obama administration should focus on supporting Kiev rather than punishing Moscow. That means using its leverage with Europe to ensure that this support sticks, and that Ukraine’s new government does nothing to provoke an extreme response. This will require an acknowledgment of Russia’s core interests and America’s limitations — and an end to empty threats.

There are about three historic levels to the context of this antagonistic complexity. Most of which is viewed with greater clarity outside the United States than within. Not unusual.

On the longest historic stage, Americans forget we acquired foreign territory much in the same way Albanians did Kosovo, Russians did Crimea. We moved in and colonized economic expansion and then used our [foreign] military might to guarantee the freedom of our colonists to secede. In case you never read a history book, that’s how we got Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Utah and a chunk of Wyoming and Colorado.

Nearer in time, lacking an adjacent border, the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq – especially the latter – didn’t have a damned thing to do with protecting our nation. Not on that scale, nothing to do with what we set out to accomplish and failed.

Pretending there is nothing comparable between the secession of Kosovo and the Crimea is patent leather revisionism. The voting population of Kosovo was skewed by incomers as much or more than Crimea – over a shorter period of time. The politics of each differs; but, international codes are cobbled together in an attempt to function independent of local politics. Whether they succeed at it or not.

Henry Kissinger — on the the Ukraine crisis

Public discussion on Ukraine is all about confrontation. But do we know where we are going? In my life, I have seen four wars begun with great enthusiasm and public support, all of which we did not know how to end and from three of which we withdrew unilaterally. The test of policy is how it ends, not how it begins.

Far too often the Ukrainian issue is posed as a showdown: whether Ukraine joins the East or the West. But if Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side’s outpost against the other — it should function as a bridge between them.

Russia must accept that to try to force Ukraine into a satellite status, and thereby move Russia’s borders again, would doom Moscow to repeat its history of self-fulfilling cycles of reciprocal pressures with Europe and the United States.

The West must understand that, to Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country. Russian history began in what was called Kievan-Rus. The Russian religion spread from there. Ukraine has been part of Russia for centuries, and their histories were intertwined before then. Some of the most important battles for Russian freedom, starting with the Battle of Poltava in 1709 , were fought on Ukrainian soil. The Black Sea Fleet — Russia’s means of projecting power in the Mediterranean — is based by long-term lease in Sevastopol, in Crimea. Even such famed dissidents as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Joseph Brodsky insisted that Ukraine was an integral part of Russian history and, indeed, of Russia.

The European Union must recognize that its bureaucratic dilatoriness and subordination of the strategic element to domestic politics in negotiating Ukraine’s relationship to Europe contributed to turning a negotiation into a crisis. Foreign policy is the art of establishing priorities.

The Ukrainians are the decisive element. They live in a country with a complex history and a polyglot composition. The Western part was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1939 , when Stalin and Hitler divided up the spoils. Crimea, 60 percent of whose population is Russian , became part of Ukraine only in 1954 , when Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian by birth, awarded it as part of the 300th-year celebration of a Russian agreement with the Cossacks. The west is largely Catholic; the east largely Russian Orthodox. The west speaks Ukrainian; the east speaks mostly Russian. Any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other — as has been the pattern — would lead eventually to civil war or break up. To treat Ukraine as part of an East-West confrontation would scuttle for decades any prospect to bring Russia and the West — especially Russia and Europe — into a cooperative international system…

A wise U.S. policy toward Ukraine would seek a way for the two parts of the country to cooperate with each other. We should seek reconciliation, not the domination of a faction…Russia and the West, and least of all the various factions in Ukraine, have not acted on this principle. Each has made the situation worse. Russia would not be able to impose a military solution without isolating itself at a time when many of its borders are already precarious. For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one

Leaders of all sides should return to examining outcomes, not compete in posturing. The test is not absolute satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction. If some solution based on these or comparable elements is not achieved, the drift toward confrontation will accelerate. The time for that will come soon enough.

Of course, Kissinger may as well be describing Congress under the misleadership of what passes for a Republican Party, today. He speaks from memories of days when Republicans and Democrats had principled, educated, knowledgeable leaders. Days long gone.

Kissinger is not a diplomat I have a whole boatload of respect for. He rarely challenged the Cold War status quo in his years of service. What positive results attended his efforts resulted from a simple understanding that politics should trump war, trade brings more long-lasting change than imperial bullying.

Frankly, I doubt if anyone in the Confederate Club in Congress will even read his suggested principles. However, they are worth reading at least as a base for your understanding.

Crimea parliament votes to join Russia – referendum to follow

The Crimean parliament has voted to join Russia, with the Ukraine region’s deputy prime minister saying the decree was effective immediately and that Russian soldiers are the only legitimate forces in Crimea.

The parliament unanimously adopted a motion on Thursday for the strategic peninsula to join the Russian Federation…

The Crimea parliament also said a referendum on the region’s status was being brought forward to from March 30 to March 16. Temirgaliev said there would be two questions on the ballot.

“The first: Are you in favor of Crimea becoming a constituent territory of the Russian Federation. The second: Are you in favor of restoring Crimea’s 1992 constitution.” According to the 1992 constitution, Crimea is part of Ukraine but has relations with Kiev.

However, Al Jazeera’s Hoda Hamid, reporting from Sevastopol, said there were serious questions about the legitimacy of the parliament and prime minister.

“The prime minister came to power arguably at gunpoint when the parliament was taken over,” she said. “Then there is a question of legitimacy in the constitution, which says parliament cannot take such a decision…”

As opposed to the democratic thumbs up or thumbs down of insurgents occupying Independence Square in Kiev which validated the current Ukrainian Parliament, eh?

The Crimea parliament, which is afforded some autonomy under current Ukrainian law, voted 78 – 0 with eight abstentions in favour of holding the referendum.

The US president, Barack Obama, meanwhile issued an executive order on Thursday saying that Russia’s involvement in Crimea constituted “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”.

While Putin has about the same level of moral authority in global politics as, say, Dick Cheney, he foretold occurrences like the Crimean move to regain independence from Ukraine when the UN and the US recognized Kosovo. For, regardless of the historic circumstances leading to the move for independence, the context is much the same, e.g., a single ethnicity being the majority of a region and then taking that region into secession.

Nations, even states, which prate about democracy find themselves with their nickers bunched over this question time and again. The LDS Church, American Mormons, were forced to resettle from state-to-state until they picked up and moved to faraway Utah to live their own lives. The US Constitution was ignored by their Midwestern Christian neighbors who said they had a moral imperative to keep Mormons from voting. Still, the LDS hierarchy had to revise their ideology to join the union of the United States of America. And they had no Mormon next-door neighbor to acquire their new state. Kosovo, for example, has Albania – should they so choose. Crimea has Russia.

Again and again, the motivations for secession are often grounded either in hopes for profit – so many of my nationalist friends in Scotland; freedom from ethnic suppression – La Raza in the American Southwest or the Quebecois in Canada; or truly reactionary hatred – today’s Tea Party Confederates mostly in the American South but anywhere else that harbors militia-level paranoia.

Only the egregious deny the likelihood of Crimea voting to claim full independence from Ukraine, tried previously in 1992, and rejoin Russia. Crimea returned over 70% vote for Janukovych in the last election. Their joining to Ukraine was a welfare check to Kiev, payment from the Soviet Black Sea navy. Uncle Sugar will make up that welfare check and more until – and unless – some future election involving all of Ukraine displeases Washington. When Catholic western Ukraine decides it really is Poland…and Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine prefers independence from the west.

Then, we can play the same game all over again.

In many of these nations, from Scotland to Ukraine, I have old friends and relatives on both sides of the individual questions. Depending a lot on their influence on this old brain, my own position may fluctuate. I try to stick to whatever fits within my understanding of political economy. For a more detailed relation of the history of the Balkans and everything east of the Danube, I’d suggest wandering through Ina Vukic’ blog.

Boy takes his parents’ savings, $4,000 – spends it on candy

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy spent nearly $4,000 on candy in several days, the money coming from his parents’ savings hidden in a couch.

“The disappearance [of the money] was first spotted by his father. He opened the stash and saw it was empty,” said Tatyana Kushnerova of the Konotop, Ukraine police department.

After an argument, the son admitted taking the money during his autumn school holiday, $3,300 in U.S. cash and about 600 euros, converting it to Ukrainian hryvnas with the help of an adult acquaintance and spending it on candy, which he shared with friends…

He should be sick for a year. Which is OK – it’s likely to be that long before his family lets him back in the house.