Adam Ash

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Monday, July 26, 2010

The Capitalist Manifesto: How to Modernize Capitalism from Feudalism to Democracy

There is a specter haunting the planet. It is the specter of the failure of Western capitalism.

All that is solid -- jobs, homes, retirement savings -- melts into air. Our cock-a-hoop capitalism is staring into a pesky abyss which is either Lacan's mirror or the funky Weltschmerz of its own behind.

Yet far away in communist China, capitalism is alive and well -- maybe because China is not a democracy.

In Western democracies, capitalism is in crisis -- maybe because capitalism is not democratic.

The fact is that capitalism is a feudal system, which therefore works well in a feudal society like China.

But in modern, highly evolved democracies, capitalism is a handicap.

Why? Democracy has evolved, but capitalism hasn't. It's essentially unchanged from its 18th century origins. Capitalism is so feudal, it's almost medieval. It requires a subservience from its minions that hints at slavery, serfdom, or peonage. It grants its captains of industry the freedom to lord it over everyone else like banana-republic dictators or command-economy Kremlin bosses. It booms and busts with the fervor of a yo-yo being yanked by a tuning fork on steroids. Every so often it poops itself like a toddler sans toilet training, and sits there bawling in its own excreta until the state steps in to clean its unruly bottom.

Democracy, on the other hand, has advanced like a nimble marsupial -- maybe because democracy had an earlier start than capitalism.

Today, feudal capitalism is just a painful drag on modern democracy. A bad fit, mixing awkwardly with democracy, like sand on the beach gumming up the lubrication of mating; like original sin damning an innocent newborn.

What follows is a radical prescription to drag capitalism out of its fuddy-duddy necrosis: we're going to give it the tools to act in the sentimental spirit of humane socialism, yet retain the animal vigor of brute capitalism.

It is a simple three-point program to democratize capitalism, which will find agreement from the entire spectrum of economists -- Marxists and Keynesians alike, not to mention Schumpeterians, Hayekians, Minskyites and even out-of-favor Friedmanists. The whole bloody lot, from Adam Smith to Paul Krugman.

Now that's a mighty big tent, and you may think I'm out of my way-too-inclusive mind, but bear with me, my fellow-capitalist: your own mind is about to be turned upside down and then spun around like a tween girl at her first dance party, and you're going to love it.

Let's start with a statement that may upset you Friedmanists (as if your world hasn't been rocked enough already).

Capitalism is too irrational to be left to capitalists.

The capitalist market believes it can operate independently of the state until, in the manner of a drugged-out rock star, it chokes on its own vomit. Then, ever so patient, Papa Democracy has to spank Brat Capitalism and bail it out of yet another reckless adventure that threatens to ruin the whole family.

Attached to democracy, capitalism is as dysfunctional as wagon wheels on a Maserati.

The challenge for any democracy is to make its capitalism as democratic as it is -- to evolve capitalism into modernity, the way democracy itself has evolved out of the ancien regime into the robust mode of today's most successful states.

How? Start with the first and most fundamental question: leadership.

Who leads in democratic states? Elected representatives.

Who leads in capitalist corporations? Non-elected CEOs, appointed by boards who are sort of elected by shareholders.

If CEOs were democratically voted into office, like any other leader in a democracy, capitalism could become democratic, instead of being millstoned in autocracy -- a discordancy more incongruous than implanting a penis on a tennis ball.

Unelected CEOs don't belong in modern society: they're throwbacks to a time when father knew best, pashas were carried around on pillowed litters, and a nation saluted the Fuhrer. It's as if we've let loose a mob of little Napoleons in our midst. The most illuminating analogy for today's corporate leadership is this: our CEOs are like feudal warlords in Afghanistan.

They're all-powerful dictators. Exerting one-man rule by decree. Driven by a looter's mentality: they constantly reward themselves with untold riches, no matter how well or how badly the business is doing. They have the morality of con men. If exiled, they abscond unscathed with massive treasure jokingly called golden parachutes. While in power, they can banish thousands from the tribe in mass lay-offs, to cover for the huge mistakes they make as unaccountable dictators. Life in a modern American corporation is about as democratic as Germany under Hitler or Russia under Stalin. Our CEOs are today’s version of Genghis Khan.


To modernize capitalism, and bring it out of its outdated feudal stage, we have to start by making its warlord leaders accountable to someone else besides themselves.

CEOs have to be subjected to the democratic indignity of the vote every four years, just like the elected representatives in a democracy.

If being voted into office is good enough for the President of the United States, it's good enough for the CEO of General Motors or Citigroup or AIG.

If these CEOs were subject to the vote, General Motors and Citigroup and AIG would be thriving today instead of half-dead.

Moreover, in a fast-changing world, CEOs should also be subject to term limits -- just like we need a new US President every four or eight years, we need new CEOs every four or eight years, too.

Their hegemony needs to proscribed, because they've been on a power binge as ambitious as the esurient rapacity of Hitler, Mao, Stalin or Dick Cheney. Which has landed us in our present parlous state of living in the command economy of a Kremlin-like system run by financial banker-predators who, instead of contributing to society in any productive way, hatch vast debt pyramid schemes on the backs of the millions of credit-card holders and mortgage-holders they've created as little money spigots in order to clean them out (every US citizen is now a Wall Street ATM) -- with the final intent of going after our actual taxes, and diverting this bounty away from essential social services into their rackets.

With one big difference.

Instead of suffering under the massive Soviet incompetence (examples: Russia's old auto industry and agriculture) of some self-serving Communist apparatchik who hands out top-down orders to thousands because after years of clawing his way to the top by sucking up to a hierarchy of bosses, he's sucked up enough arrogance from them to think he knows better than anyone how to run an economy ... we're suffering under the massive American incompetence (examples: Detroit and Wall Street) of some self-serving capitalist CEO who hands out top-down orders to thousands because after years of clawing his way to the top by sucking up to a hierarchy of bosses, he's sucked up enough arrogance from them to think he knows better than anyone how to run an economy. Authoritarianism is authoritarianism, whether it lives in the USA or the USSR. So is the rank incompetence bred from flagrant arrogance.

Understand this: I've got nothing against leaders. I appreciate how invaluable a good CEO can be, and the qualities required:

1. A good CEO looks beyond dollars (profits) to people (customers), i.e. he knows he's running a customer-serving machine rather than a money-generating operation (take care of your customers and the money takes care of itself).

2. A good CEO realizes that the best use of yields in the present is to help him decide which bets to make for yields in the future, i.e. he knows he's managing an investment vehicle as well as a profit-extracting operation.

3. A good CEO grows future leaders (giving them the big opportunities as well as the big problems), i.e. he knows there's a future beyond himself.

I'm just against unaccountable leaders whose power is so entrenched, nobody would think of replacing them unless they stole into the bedrooms of every board member twice a night to pee on their bed-pillows.

The only way to curb power is to have people vote for their leaders -- whether they're your president, your governor, your mayor or your CEO.


Who should vote for a CEO?

It can't be the board. They are the cronies of the CEO. In fact, given their mediocre record of oversight (no better than the SEC, skunks overseeing turds), there's no reason for them to exist at all in an updated, modernized capitalism.

Some would say that shareholders should vote for the CEO. This is a notion as misguided as asking frogs to start fishing for crocodiles. The shareholders are totally removed from the day-to-day operations of the corporation. Their only interest in the corporation is that its shares should move up and that it should pay dividends. Shareholders are like the absentee landlords of yore who lived it up in town while their lands were farmed by peasants; they're like those uninvolved faraway owners who expected rent or a percentage of the harvest for doing nothing.

Who are the people with the greatest stake in the success of the corporation -- the most affected by its success or failure?

Obviously, the people employed by the corporation.

The workers. Those lowly grunts who actually do the real work of the corporation. Who get their actual nails dirty, their actual blue and white collars besmirched, their actual lower backs bent out of shape, their actual fingers carpal-tunneled by keyboards. They earn their daily bread from the corporation; its success is way more fundamental to them than to its shareholders.

The shareholders invest money in the corporation, but the workers invest something more important. They invest their lives. They invest the hours of their days. That's a bigger investment than any shareholder makes.

The shareholders merely own shares in the corporation. The workers ARE the corporation.

They are the people who should get to vote for their CEO, because he is THEIR leader, nobody else's: not the leader of the shareholders, nor the bondholders, nor the customers, nor the board. Take the President of the US: he leads the citizens of America, not the people who've bought US Treasury bonds.


How would voting for a CEO work?

Every four years the workers vote. They choose between various people from within and outside the corporation, who put themselves forward as candidates for the job of CEO.

These candidates tell the workers how they'd do the best job for the corporation. In other words, they campaign.

The candidate with the most compelling story of future success for the corporation, and the best record of past achievement, will get the most votes from the workers. If the current CEO did a good job for the past four years, he will probably win and become a two-term CEO.

That's it.

A revolutionary idea for sure, but something that will happen for sure, because it's more commonsensical than the wreck we have now. It's too commonsensical to die, now that it exists. Maybe there'll be a hundred wrecks before this revolution happens, but it will happen. Mark my words, fellow-capitalists; mark them like the fingernails of God marked two tablets on a mythical mountaintop.

For too long, capitalism has suffered under the widely accepted notion of the dictatorship of the CEO. Like the old divine right of kings, we've had the divine right of the CEO.

This ludicrous bit of whimsy has been unquestioned for more than a century. How come? Well, the blindness of the human race to the most obvious of facts is an indelible constant of the human condition. One of the greatest minds of all time, Aristotle, saw nothing wrong with slavery. The most obvious fact, by virtue of its obviousness, has the biggest chance of escaping human awareness. That's how the divine right of the CEO has managed to blunder its wacky way across two centuries without being questioned. Well, I am questioning it now.

Forsooth and gadzooks: monarchies lost all credibility back in the 19th century, yet here we have this idiotic corollary of the divine right of the CEO still operating in the 21st century. This is more absurd than foot-binding a marathon runner. Or powering a moon rocket with a horse-drawn buggy. Or constraining a modern woman in a whalebone corset. The divine right of the CEO is a shackle on the real potential of capitalism. It is holding capitalism back, and caging it in the inefficiencies of its feudal origins. You have tinpot dictators paying themselves exorbitant wages, even when their companies lose money. This is totally inefficient. Utterly not market-friendly. Completely feudal, old-fashioned, and in need of change.


Also, incredibly destructive. These capitalist warlords often get nation states to start wars for their benefit -- like getting the US to overthrow democracies in South America or Africa or the Middle East, or invading Iraq (where the sole beneficiaries are Halliburton and Blackwater, with Big Oil angling for its cut after giving their Texas oil buddies Bush-Cheney a nudge and a wink to go get those oil fields at no cost to them but at a cost of a million plus lives to the Iraqis). These predator-capitalists high-handedly cross borders (like terrorists) and globalize their warlord reach into world-straddling multinational corporations, dwarfing nation states in size and power -- and with the supra-national flexibility to outsource their labor to third-world sweat shops, retail their products to first-world consumer markets, and offshore their profits to handy tax havens.

Who sanctions this globally corrupt and absolute power? Nobody but the warlord CEOs themselves, aided by the governments they buy off. They've replaced the old European state colonialism with a new corporate colonialism. They can now pollute the entire planet with toxic emissions, toxic derivatives, and toxic advertising. They colonize our minds and constrain our hearts in a gulag of the free market. Commodification has conquered the globe; its fetishism constitutes a planetary neurosis. It's almost like the spontaneity of all humanity is caged on a vast Prison Planet of the Holy Business Empire. Ironically, neither the inmates nor their warlord wardens possess the keys to launch either outside into free, fresh air. Both bourgeois capitalists and proletarian labor -- the overlords and the underdogs -- live in captivity. (Of course, the cages of the overlords have nicer furniture and greater commodes and shower curtains.)

This warlordism-gone-global is no way to run any business in an otherwise democratic state.

But when CEOs have to earn a regular vote like everybody else wishing to exert power in a democracy, all is changed forevermore -- as dramatic a change as nasty, scaly dinosaurs evolving into free-flying beautifully plumaged birds.

The corporation is changed in its very structure, because now power becomes a give-and-take two-way street -- flowing from the bottom-up as well as the top-down.

This is the first way to start modernizing capitalism: to make the CEO accountable within the corporation. When all CEOs work for their workers, they will serve their corporations best.


But what if someone starts a company and builds it up -- should someone who actually owns the company be subject to a vote?

Here's where we get to the nub of capitalism.

Also, we get to my second revolutionary suggestion to drag warlord capitalism out of the feudal age into the modernity of the 21st century. Again, we will be going deep into the fundamentals -- into the obviousness that has escaped the human brain until now.

Fundamental question two: what is capitalism good for?

Fundamental answer: only one thing -- it encourages innovation by entrepreneurs.

The entrepreneur is the only thing about capitalism that remains enduringly functional for all time. The only thing worth preserving.

An entrepreneur is one of the greatest kind of human beings there can be: someone who has a new idea and goes to bat for it full blast, promoting their enterprise with all their heart, soul, marrow, bone, blood, balls and ovaries.

Business has its millions of functionaries and worker bees, but it also has its Steve Jobs, its Richard Bransons, its Bill Gates, its Paul Newman's Owns, its Ben and Jerrys, and its Shai Agassis (google Agassi: within the next ten years, he'll be the most famous entrepreneur on the planet).

Like the Beethovens and Picassos, the Darwins and the Einsteins, the Edisons and the Berners-Lees, these brilliant flames of individuality bring the greatest joy and support to the rest of us. Entrepreneurs are the creative artists of capitalism. We could not be truly human, and grow even more human, without them.

One reason entrepreneurs do what they do, is because if their idea works out, and enough people buy it, they might be richly rewarded.

It's not the biggest reason -- far bigger reasons are their creative passion and their pride in having their idea out there working. (It is an index of the vacuity of apologists for feudal capitalism that they prioritize monetary reward over the deeper passions that drive the human heart. Beethoven didn't compose for money; Steve Jobs doesn't do what he does for money; Warren Buffet hasn't bought himself a castle in the South of France. If you think money is what drives people, you're an idiot. And if money is what actually drives you, you're worse than an idiot: you're a psychopath. Just like the bonus-psychotic, 80-hour-workweek slaves of Wall Street. This may be what's wrong with America: too many of its TV-addled citizens think they should be driven by money; they've been misled about their own nature.)

But the lure of a rich reward does help to get the entrepreneur out of bed every morning, for sure.

So nothing should be done to stifle the creative passion of the entrepreneur. This is after all the one and only good thing about capitalism -- its main driver, its beating heart, the reason why we've been slamdanced out of our subsistence lives of yore into the riches of modernity.

Entrepreneurship is a supreme value of civilization because it reflects a fundamental human value, the creative freedom of the individual.

So here's how to keep entrepreneurship alive, and yet keep capitalism accountable.


Say you have a new idea that could make money. If you're juiced by the entrepreneurial spirit, you start a company. It’s yours, you own it. You're the entrepreneur.

Because your idea is good, your company starts to grow. You add more employees as you make more money so that your expanding company can make you even more money.

Here's my second revolutionary proposal to modernize capitalism.

You are the owner of the company as long as your business employs under a 100 workers. You’re the dictator. You’re free to support your employees, or exploit them.


The day you decide to expand to the point where you need more than a 100 workers -- the minute you hire your 101st worker -- the second you find you need to employ more than a 100 workers to expand even bigger and faster to make megabucks -- at that point, a new change kicks in.

A kind of legal French revolution.

A brandnew law of non-feudal 21st century capitalism.

This law says you now have to share ownership of the company with your workers, which I will call citizen workers from now on, because it sounds more dignified.

The minute you have more than 100 citizen workers, you have to give them 51% of your company.

That's it.

Bear with me before you lose your mind or get your knickers in a painful wedgie or split your entire brain on one little hair ... because it's getting worse, my fellow-capitalist.

After you've handed 51% of your business to your citizen workers, you and your citizen workers may decide to take the company public, but then you can offer only up to 49% of the company to outside shareholders.

Out of your share.

The shares of the citizen workers can never be alienated. They’re not even allowed to sell their shares themselves. If they leave the company, their shares go back to the company, i.e. to the other citizen workers.

In other words, the workers will always own at least 51% of their company.

So when you as the owner get to a 100 workers employed, you face an existential decision. You can decide to stay at 100 employees and be an Afghanistan warlord-type dictator. But if you want to expand to make more money on a bigger playing field, you have to change your company from a dictatorship to a democracy.

In one leap, you have to flip your company out of its feudal stage into a new, democratic future. All by yourself, as one individual, you have to do what civilization has struggled for centuries to accomplish.

Poor you. Such a weight of antiquated history on your puny little latterday shoulders. Imagine. You have to abdicate your throne and allow the peasants into your palace to share your escargots, complete with those funny escargot holders. You have to birth your own French Revolution, replete with guillotine-fierce pangs disturbing your bonny bourgeois belly. You have to storm your Bastille and overthrow yourself.


Besides sharing ownership you also share power, because now the citizen workers get the right to vote for their leader every four years.

They will keep voting for you, the original owner, if the company does well and makes money for them. But they will vote for someone else if you start to blow it. (As the original owner, you can rule longer than the two-term limit to which a hired CEO is subject.)

If the citizen workers vote for someone else, he or she starts running the company instead of you. You still own your 49% of the shares, but you have no power anymore.

If the citizen workers decide to sell shares to the public, they can do it without your say-so. They can raise capital for the company by selling up to 80% of your 49% share of the company. The capital they raise goes to the company, not to you. You can decide to sell your 20% of your 49% share of the company in the IPO if you want to cash in.

Hold on to your horses (even if by now they've bolted to Mars). It gets worse.

Every year, if there hasn’t been an IPO, you have to give away 5% of your 49% to the citizen workers until the last 20% of it, which you can keep forever and pass on to your kids. Or sell to the citizen workers in what used to be your company, or sell to shareholders.

How's that for an ouch and a yippee in one, fellow-capitalist? An ouch for you, a yippee for your workers.

It works even better than spreading the wealth around via progressive taxation, which works pretty well; it's about spreading ownership around so wealth will be spread around accordingly to help democracy devolve power down from the elite to the plebs. (In America this has been an uphill battle -- ever since our founders rigged our government to allow the elite to stave off the power of the plebs, yet give the appearance of allowing the plebs a fair shake. America has always been a rather unequal society. The closest we ever came to equality was after WW2. FDR's 1935 Social Security made old age less humiliating; strong unions ensured a decent wage; FDR's 1944 GI Bill opened up an upper-class-only college education to regular folks; Civil Rights gave black folks a political voice; LBJ's 1965 Medicare helped the retired delay death, and US capitalism entered its Golden Age that lifted all boats. Then that amiable shit Ronald Reagan came along to make sure it lifted only yachts.)

Distribute ownership, and you distribute wealth more equally, and combat the scourge of inequality guaranteed by feudal capitalism.

Crazy, isn’t it?

But is it any crazier than what we have now? Who says it's better that shareholders own a company rather than the people who work there, the actual human beings who ARE the company? Who says it’s better to have a board-appointed CEO than one democratically elected by the workers? Who says it’s better to have outside shareholders exert some sort of control when they have never stepped foot on the factory floor and only bought the shares on the recommendation of some broker – what you might call a class of absentee landlords? What’s so logical about that?

One idea behind our 21st century capitalism is that it’s OK to be the dictator of a 100 people, but not of more than a 100. You can screw a 100 people in any orifice available, kick their butts on a regular basis like a regular despot, knock 'em downstairs or kick 'em upstairs, bust their balls or stroke their egos, but no more than a 100.

Every small business can be a dictatorship, but all big businesses have to be democracies. In fact, the workers who sign up with your dictatorship are there because they’re hoping your company will grow beyond a 100 workers into a democracy.


Now you may say this is all totally unfair -- taking a man or a woman’s company away from him or her and handing it to the employees simply because his or her original idea was so good it needed more than a 100 workers to exploit its full potential. Doesn’t he deserve all the money to be made from his idea? Why should these workers be able to muscle in on her profits? He’s the guy who came up with the idea. She’s the gal who took the original risk of starting a business to bring her idea to a waiting world. If we keep doing business this way, we will take all motivation away from those innovators who bring new ideas to our society and keep it growing and changing and vital.

Goddammit: who the heck are these pawns in your scheme for worldwide domination to suddenly become your kings and queens?

It’s easy to mount a counter-argument against this. Who says the guy with the great idea wouldn’t make more money for himself by giving over 51% of his company to his workers, who would now work harder and smarter because they’re working for themselves and not just for him? Isn’t this a better way to make sure that good ideas will better succeed and keep our society growing and changing and vital? And wouldn’t this system encourage natural entrepreneurs to start more than one company: to come up with one idea after the other, and start many companies, one after the other, to get their ideas out in the world -- instead of doing the first good idea they get and sticking with that for the rest of their lives?


Under a more democratic system of capitalism, not only are power and assets shared, but also motivation and incentive.

When everyone is an owner, behavior changes. Everyone in the company, from the CEO to the janitor, owns shares and will be thinking about how they can make more money for the company -- how they can do their job better, how they can save money for the company, how they can maximize profit. The company’s money is their money.

Isn’t that more true to capitalist ideals than it is for the workers to rely solely on a fixed wage?

My contention goes further: I say a democratic corporation will beat an undemocratic corporation run by a board-appointed CEO and owned by absentee shareholders, hands down, no problem -- as easy as milking guilt from a Catholic. It stands to reason: a company owned and run by many capitalists who actually work in the company will work more cost-consciously and more profit-mindedly and more competitively than any other.

Here's the point: turn workers into capitalists. So they act like owners instead of serfs. Take privatizing the economy to the logical extreme of putting it in the private hands of every private individual working in it.

Now the workers will work smarter and harder. The bosses will work smarter and harder. The CEO will work smarter and harder. They’re all working for each other as well as for themselves. They're all accountable to each other. They all want each other to do better, because that way they themselves will do better. They win by sharing.

Like eager beavers, like a colony of ants or bees, like a retreat of monks, like a holistic commune, like a tribe of Bushmen, like a social network, like Mother Theresa's nuns, like an Obama campaign, like Wikipedia, like a Superbowl team, like a black church, like a geek startup, like Costco, like the Civil Rights movement, like that rarest of things, a functional family, they'll not only develop a shared culture, but create something else we seldom see: a shared soul, a whole that's an exponential multiple of its parts, a business that's infused with unbusinesslike emotion, a home-away-from-home haven where humans are delighted to work and work to delight their customers, a community of semi-spiritual empowerment -- which, instead of a mission statement that looks good on paper, births a cause that repletes the soul.

This is the perfect model of a perfect company in a perfectly competitive system. Not the 19th century old-fashioned feudal slow-moving slugs we have now. The fact is that our current feudal capitalism is a miserable system that should be committed to the dustbin of history as soon as enough humans wake up to its profoundly anti-democratic ethos. Feudal capitalism is like an old dog with rotting limbs who miraculously still has a few sturdy molars left to snap at whoever questions the fact that its legs are so gangrenous it can hardly stand. Capitalism is a past-her-time non-erotic sclerotic old sex peddler with a glass eye and more lipstick on her face than a hyena has rotten meat in its intestines. Capitalism is a doddering traumatized soldier of lost fortune who still hits the deck when a baby coughs behind him. Capitalism is the pig shit from an agribusiness farm dumped in a vast lake that renders several counties unfit for human habitation.

But modernized democratic capitalism will be, like democracy itself, an exuberant marvel of human organization -- the reddest rose in the garden of civilization.

Cue the violins.

And now drop the cold water: how the heck do we make this happen? It's all very well to conjure some splendid utopia, but how do you get to a real McCoy, standing tall in the real world, hitching up his gabardine trousers?

Aha. This is where you come in, my fellow-capitalist. Arise from the fainting spell induced by my preceding warblings. Gorge yourself on some tart smelling salts. And get this: it's all going to be up to the you-and-me of the voting public to lean on our elected representatives to nudge capitalism towards modernity by enacting a law that says:

1. Every business that democratizes itself gets a two-year tax holiday.

2. Every CEO who makes democracy happen in his or her corporation within the first 10 years of the program, gets a lifetime tax holiday.

This will probably be the first time in history that a tax break for the rich makes any sense.

So now there is something noble for you to do, my fellow-capitalist. An actual social mission above and beyond your dedication to the making of moolah: start pressing your government for a payback when you democratize yourself -- and enjoy a bigger tax cut than ever imagined by those zombie puppets of predator capitalism, the GOP (aka the Greatly Outnumbered Party).


If workers could vote for their CEOs today, which CEOs would survive? Steve Jobs of Apple would, for sure. But how many others?

If you’re a CEO, engage in this thought experiment: do you feel the cold breeze of democratic accountability raise the hairs on the back of your neck?

If only more of our American CEOs labored with that breeze down their necks.

If only CEOs were self-aware enough to know they're not only caging their workers, but themselves: the potential of everyone -- management and labor alike -- is locked down-and-out on the stultifying top-down feudal plantation command economy of 19th century capitalism.

If only our capitalism worked in a more democratic way.

But under our widely accepted and highly admired system, we just have to cope with the results of dictatorship-predator capitalism: cars and burgers that wreck our environment and endanger life on earth; HMOs that deny us operations that could save our lives; and CEOs who make more money in a day than their workers make in a year.

In fact, when it comes to making wise business decisions, it's a good rule to trust workers and their unions more than CEOs and their bail-out backstops in government. Way back in 1949, a pamphlet came out called “A Small Car Named Desire,” which said Detroit should not bet everything on bigness, but that many consumers would welcome smaller cars that cost less and ran on less gas. The pamphlet was written by the research department of the United Auto Workers Union. After Pearl Harbor, the UAW came up with a plan to convert Detroit's auto plants into arms factories before the CEOs did. When the war ended, the union had a strike at GM with demands that included putting union and public representatives on GM's board, something GM was too dumb to go for. Hey, these dirty-nailed workers are not our class, darling.

But the Union fought on, and most of the things that let workers into the middleclass -- like annual cost-of-living adjustments -- were invented by them against the wishes of the CEOs.

This UAW, whom the GOP today demonizes for Detroit's troubles, helped incubate every new, modern movement of our time. The UAW funded the March on Washington in 1963, when Martin Luther King made his “I have a dream” speech. They funded Cesar Chavez's farm workers union. They provided their conference center in Port Huron, Michigan to the Students for a Democratic Society to write their manifesto. They helped the National Organization for Women get started. They helped fund the first Earth Day.

Tell me one CEO who's been that forward-looking, visionary and modern.

And the UAW has been agitating for national healthcare all along. If the country had listened to the UAW instead of the CEOs of our HMOs, the Big Three would've been able to save themselves the $1,500 extra in employer healthcare payments that an American car costs over what it costs Japan or Europe to make a car.

The UAW has been more business-minded and far-sighted than all the CEOs in America put together. Our workers are the lifeblood and backbone of capitalism. Unaccountable CEOs are the terrorists of capitalism. If the UAW were able to vote for their CEOs, we'd have a thriving Detroit. When all workers everywhere have the basic right to vote for their CEOs, we'll have democratic capitalism, and the US will indeed become a shining city on a hill.

We’re stuck with the capitalism we have instead of the capitalism most of us may prefer, if only we knew about it.

We're stuck with labor and management being enemies, when they should be friends working with the same purpose and motivation. We're stuck with mutual fear and hatred and rage instead of comity and community in the workplace. Workers live in fear of management, because they can be fired for any or no reason. Management lives in hatred of labor, because they think of them as costs that mess up their profits. Management wants machines for workers, and they're stuck with people. The workplace is like a dysfunctional family -- rigid, disciplinarian, abusive Dad vs. rebellious, lazy, unfocused, whiny kids -- instead of a happy family.

We have workers who try to get away with working as little as possible for as much money as possible, and managers who work as long and hard as possible for as much money as possible: not a good life for either. Workers don't have the satisfaction of being committed to their work, and managers don't have the time left over from work to be committed to the satisfaction of family life.

Call me a dreamer. But if democratic capitalism actually happened, you yourself might find that, ohmigod, there’s a dream out there worth following.


There's one last point to cover: my third revolutionary proposal.

How do you make companies accountable to the greater society and our planet and our environment when they're driven by the profit motive?

In other words, how do you make capitalism moral?

Well, you can do it without being moral at all. Just make business accountable. The capitalist solution to this conundrum is simple: every business has to eat its own costs.

Let me explain. Take America's dying auto industry, once the most powerful in the world, that made the weapons with which we won WW2.

It makes cars and trucks. But we pay for the roads and bridges, and the traffic lights, and the polluted environment from gas emissions, and the health costs from car accidents that kill more than a million people a year.

Detroit doesn't eat its costs. It makes its profits and leaves the costs to us.

As the mantra goes, under capitalism businesses privatize profits and socialize costs. (Martin Luther King nailed it when he said capitalism is socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor.)

Under a democratic, accountable capitalism, businesses will have to step up and pay for their costs themselves.

This simple, business-like and non-moral proposal will make capitalism moral.

The immorality of business only happens because it has been able to outsource its costs to the rest of society.

If corporations had to pay top-dollar for polluting the environment, they would stop polluting the environment.

If tobacco growers had to pay the medical bills of those people they give lung cancer to, they might decide to switch to growing fava beans or Golden Delicious apples.

If fast-food hamburger chains had to pay for the environmental costs of the beef they use that come from cattle that fart methane into the atmosphere and cause 18% of global warming, they might invent some really tasty and healthy vegetarian meat-substitutes.

If global finance companies have to account for the social costs of imploding derivatives by paying unemployment insurance to the millions of Americans who've lost their jobs because of this reckless gambling, they might cut down on their trade in risky derivatives.

Here's what's almost Hiroshima-nuking-the-road-to-Damascus brutal and depressing: how America's financial titans managed in a few months in 2008 to socialize their complete failure at the most rudimentary capitalist risk-taking into a Fed-and-Government-Sachs bail-out that they've stink-bombed upon us unwitting taxpayers to the stench-to-heaven tune of $13 trillion -- with nary an apology or sense of shame or, even worse, without the slightest risk of being locked up forever for blatant fraud in an institution devoted to anal-rape rituals.

What can one say? Fuck me with a blowdryer. Paint me yellow and call me a banana. The mind boggles into a fog of boggledom. Extravagant analogies fail me, and I've got the market in extravagant analogies cornered. Let me try. It's as mind-begoggling as Newton espying the grandeur of gravity in a fucking apple, or Blake seeing a world in a grain of sand and holding infinity in the palm of a hand. It's as brain-befarting as a unicorn nodding so fiercely in assent to his lady love's swollen-vagina request for immediate coitus (“yes! yes! yes!”) that -- to the undying frustration of the horn in his crotch -- the horn on his forehead accidentally stabs her through the heart. It's as stomach-bechurning as a mom seeing the freedom of single womanhood waltzing out the front door as she plaintively scoops poop from her squealing baby's bottom at three o'clock in the morning while her husband snores blissfully in bed and her nipples hurt like two little fires burning her dreams of being the first violinist in the Berlin Philharmonic to ashes smoking fitfully at the bottom of a George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine.

Something like that. Anyway, you get the idea. Businesses have to eat their own costs, and bingo! capitalism becomes moral.


Of course there are some other moral things to be done:

1. The way the factory farms of agribusiness treat animals is absurdly cruel and monstrously evil -- caging living creatures together as tightly as skeletons in a mass grave, so confined that beaks have to be snipped and tails clipped to stop them from tearing each other to pieces in claustrophobic rage and sorrow. This has to be addressed by special legislation. One day we will surely stop eating our genetic cousins, and then this legislation won't be necessary. Meanwhile, in America alone, livestock production causes 55% of soil erosion, needs 37% of all pesticides and 50% of all antibiotics, releases 33% of the bad nitrogen and phosphorus going into our surface water, and dumps cancer and heart disease on millions of people. Eighteen percent of all greenhouse emissions in the world come from methane-farting livestock. The sooner we stop eating red meat, the better for our health and our planet. Agriculture should anyway be returned to small farmers all over the world, since subsidized agribusiness doesn't do much to solve world hunger, which is the big moral problem of our time (facts to chew on: a billion humans are hungry to the point of famine; two billion people depend on the food grown by 500 million small farmers in developing countries; these farmers' debt burdens have driven 150,000 Indian farmers to suicide). It can only be solved if each country grows its own food, and maybe if most regions and areas and cities and towns and hamlets and garrets and even most families grow their own local food in their own back garden lots, and apartment dwellers grow food on their window sills and rooftops. Flying food around the world pollutes the planet. (Gardening is the best hobby in the world: if our kids grew up nurturing nature, waiting for fluffy clouds to water seedlings into pretty flowers and colorful veggies, we'd be a nicer, kinder, better world.)

2. What about taxation, so hated by the Reaganauts and the Thatcherites? It has to become heavily progressive again, like it was before Reagan was put in charge by a cabal of Californian CEOs and ruined the Golden Age of American Capitalism 1945-1970 when the middleclass expanded dramatically and a family could live on one paycheck and CEOs didn't pay themselves 300 to 500 times what their workers made. And there should be a tax on all financial transactions.

3. Human rights need a bit of looking at, too, especially equal rights for women. You wouldn't want your sister to grow up in an Arab or African or Asian country. Oppressing women is an economic cost on society, perhaps the biggest cost currently preventing the world from becoming a capitalist paradise. It halves the potential of an economy. The rights of all humans should be expanded in our democracies, plutocracies and dictatorships -- to include the inalienable right of everyone to food, health, shelter, legal and military protection, education and free expression. It may be that all those goods and services should be provided by the state, for free, out of our collective taxes. These rights may be too vital to be left to the machinations of the private sector, too precious to be ruled by the profit motive. It looks like agriculture and finance -- the food that fuels humans, the credit that fuels business -- may be in need of either government takeover or intrusive regulation to steer them away from too-big-to-fail-or-function monopolistic practices in the West.

Feudal capitalism breeds monopolies -- Microsoft and Google are the latest examples of big business crowding out small businesses -- and government's job is to break them up when they happen, and to prevent mergers when bankers and CEOs drool at the hefty fees involved and forget that mergers only work for their short-term pocketbooks but never for any actual long-term business prospects. Not even the omnipotences of the Christian, Islamic and Hindu gods spliced into one Supergod know what the government was thinking when they forced Bank of America to swallow Merrill Lynch and give themselves years of merger heartburn.

4. The financialization of the American economy is a travesty of common sense. Casino capitalism (as opposed to value-producing capitalism) is a waste of human effort. It's a toss-up whether the creation of money (debt) should be left to banks, the government, or to an independent supra-agency (akin to the Supreme Court in the legal system) with the power to sentence to anal rape all those economic war criminals -- banks, brokers, private-equity firms and hedge funds -- who leverage themselves beyond a legal allowance of say 12:1, or give themselves bonuses based on a year's deals instead of five or 10 years' efforts, or spend more than 30% of their capital on gambling with paper assets instead of backing actual businesses that produce real goods and services.

As for the goddam Fed, it should be made accountable to somebody -- perhaps the President. It's the most undemocratic invention ever, created and staffed by banks to oversee banks, giving one man the authority to throw around trillions.

As for the rich, they should be forced -- yes, fucking FORCED -- to use their wealth productively instead of hoarding it in hedge funds. All that money is just sloshing around instead of being productively invested to start new businesses.

Personally I see no place for the gambling of securitization and credit-default swaps in a healthy capitalism. Heard about use value and exchange value and surplus value? Let me introduce you to the value of credit-default swaps: Vegas value. Credit-fault swaps are about spreading risk so far and wide, the whole system is at risk. Look at the numbers: there are $63 trillion of CDS's out there. The Chinese would have to make toy fart balloons for a million years before they'd get up to that Vegas value. These toxic viruses were invented in 1997; before that the world got along fine. What the hell is the raison d'etre of these financial weapons of mass destruction? A CDS is betting that a party will default on their obligation. Hey, let's bet on the fact that we're fuckups. What kind of a system bets on its own failure? This is not the creative destruction of capitalism; it's the destructive destruction of capitalism. It's betting that capitalism will default, which it obligingly does, seeing as its practitioners are willing to bet it will.

While we're at it, I don't see much use for private banks either. Obviously they can't do their jobs; they'd rather speculate than finance businesses. The state runs schools, the police, the army, and should run health. Why shouldn't it run banks as a public utility, and stick to the boring but healthy financing of homes, cars, education and business (instead of reckless gambling with “financial instruments,” a euphemism for Vegas chips)? Just the job for a boring government bureaucrasy, I should think. The government is the solution, not the problem. The greatest advance of the last 30 years, the Internet, was invented by the government. Against the excesses of capitalism, there is only one defense: the nation state.

5. The militarization of the American economy is ridiculous. It must mean one of two things: either we're the biggest bullies in the world, or the biggest sissies. Our government spends more than half our tax dollars -- the so-called discretionary spending part -- on the Pentagon, which is more than the rest of the world spends on its armies combined. We have over 800 overseas military bases. For what? What is the Department of Defense defending us against? Sensible spending of our money? Why aren't they called the Department of Attack? Talk about rampant socialism: the military-industrial-Congressional complex is simply a government handout to corporations who make things we don't need, to do things we shouldn't do. What a circus: weapon systems sophisticated enough to fight alien invaders from the Planet of the Borgs or Klingons but useless against insurgents armed with nothing more than AK-47s, IUDs and the joy of killing Americans; cost overruns running over the moon and back; workers making guns instead of butter, beds, blenders and bulldozers. This boondoggle has no connection with capitalism: it's command-economy Soviet-style communism in action.

6. It may also be a fair legal point to make everyone in a corporation -- workers and management alike -- personally responsible for any harm the corporation causes, instead of moving legal obligations over to the corporate entity, which is a way of escaping personal responsibility.

7. And we may have to get used to the fact that there is a limit to growth -- that developing economies need it, but developed economies don't -- and that the solution to overproduction is to stop stimulating demand, and for all of us to seek happiness in our personal lives instead of in junky stuff. GNH over GNP (gross national happiness rather than gross national product). Research shows that beyond a minimum point of material security, more money makes nobody happier. Moreover, growth by polluting corporations has pitched our only planet into becoming unfit for human life by the time our grandchildren bear children, which should make us all desperately unhappy unless clean, green energy becomes our universal #1 agenda of all time -- a challenge bigger than capitalism itself, that only a modernized capitalism can face. Current capitalism -- caged in its extractive and non-sustainable stage -- caused this problem, and is bound to lose this fight.

8. What to do about our elite? You can't trust them from one generation to the next. Bush Sr was a fairly responsible president with a sense of noblesse oblige. Yet he raised a son who blackened the family name forevermore, plunged the US into two unnecessary wars, stood by helpless while the sea washed an American city away, dug the economy into a grave of debt, buried the GOP under the ideological rubble of absurd unreason, and sanctioned torture. What can one say? That Bush Sr was a terrible parent? That Bush Jr was one exceptionally dumb puppet? That Bush Sr made the monstrous mistake of entrusting his fratboychick to That Really Bad Uncle Cheney? It's a drama out of Sophocles by way of Ionesco.

Like the poor, the elite will always be with us. Privilege breeds entitlement. Entitlement breeds indifference. Indifference breeds scorn. Scorn breeds condescension. Condescension breeds pride. Which comes before a fall.

There's just no getting round the vicious circle. Privilege corrupts. Total privilege corrupts totally. The poor are said to leech on society, but the privileged are full-bore vampires. The bloodlust of our vampire elite is as rampant as a trillion ticks on heat, and can barely be bottled up by democracy. Our income inequality, now back to Gilded Age proportions, is the direct result of the usurious greed of our elite. I don't know what happens at elite universities, but obviously they don't know how to teach their students -- the future leaders of our democratic yet capitalist nation states -- the first thing about social responsibility. Maybe we should make this an entrance requirement to any Ivy League college: go work as a community organizer in some urban ghetto for a year first. America has plenty to choose from. Rub the noses of the elite for a good year of daily exposure in the downer of extreme poverty, and they might emerge with half a heart and a moral compass that points more or less north. (Either that or a No-Child Policy for all millionaires.)


These eight points, although important, are all supplemental considerations when it comes to the urgent business of discouraging capitalism from choking on its obvious contradictions like a teenager risking accidental death for a bigger orgasm by masturbating himself with one hand while strangling himself with the other. The fundamentals are really simple, and summed up in Evert's three-point plan for modernizing capitalism and giving it a human face:

1. Any CEO has to earn his job by winning the democratic votes of his corporation's workers for a four-year term, with an eight-year term limit.

2. Any business will be owned by the founder in perpetuity or until it employs more than a hundred employees, after which ownership passes over to the employees.

3. Any company has to eat its own costs.

This is how capitalism can be saved from itself. Three simple, practical suggestions. The sort of thing the granola-sincere but mutton-headed Left and New Left and Marxist Left and the Port Huron statement and social democrats and democratic socialists and assorted Pinkos and Trotskyites and The Fabian Society and George Orwell and Raymond Williams and Old and New Labour and The New Statesman and liberals and progressives and the Seattle Battlers and The Nation and Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein and Pete Seeger and Billy Bragg have been looking for, ever since Proudhon's “property is theft” and Marx's “class struggle” and “the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it” -- but cannot find because they're more epiphanied by theory than praxis: in other words, more interested in pamphleteering utopias than rolling up their sleeves and organizing change on the ground in the world of real people with mouths to take in food and rear ends to crap it out. Armchair activists can be like the philosophers: they often interpret the world in order to leave it unchanged.

That's why my Capitalist Manifesto really takes off from where the Communist Manifesto took off (five of its famous 10 points are still valid) -- a manifesto that certainly changed a good part of the world in surprisingly horrible ways, including many sharp minds in the unchanged parts. Listen, I know. Capitalism is the opium of the bourgeoisie. But we're stuck with it like we're stuck with the irritating biology of two genders: it's the system that came out on top. Marx didn't understand that capitalism could be democratized instead of withered away along with the state, because although he understood capitalism better than anyone ever, he didn't quite grock democracy like we do (even though most of our democracies are really sort-of-benign plutocracies, except for the one model of the most humanely progressive social organization in history so far, the Nordic exception -- also exceptional for being the highest-taxed AND most competitive economy on earth).

My Capitalist Manifesto posits the sort of stuff that the World Social Forum in South America is groping towards (though soiling a “Manifesto” with the moniker “Capitalist” would offend them). In fact, we have to look to Latin America of all places if we want to find the first green seeds of a modernized capitalism sprouting their delicate, cutesy, adorable, teensy flowery heads.

Today's feudal capitalism cannot stand. It is just too old, too 19th century, too stultifying, too deadening, too unfair, too unequal, too costly, too amoral, too demonstrably the dumbfuckest of all dumbfuckery in the history of the dumbest dumbfuckeduppedness of all dumbfuckable dumbfuckosity.

Capitalism is the dinosaur in our midst.

It's not as if it can't change. It's only been around since the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. If you think of the entire history of humankind as one day, capitalism has been around for two minutes.


There's nothing particularly natural in human nature about capitalism. It's just another economic system that began in England in the 18th century and spread everywhere, and it's been under constant change and challenge since then, with labor laws and the workweek and all sorts of innovations being forced upon it, mostly by workers in opposition to management, and by great new technologies, like the media and the internet. Yet it has not shed its most dysfunctional characteristic -- the labor-management, worker-boss struggle (that Marx figured could be solved by a revolutionary antithesis when all it needs is a synthesis with a little democracy).

Still, things have moved along somewhat. Today's capitalism isn't quite the Seventh Circle of Hell it was when it started out, with children toiling in unhygienic factories for seven days a week, 14 hours a day.

Yet it's still a gazillion miles away from halfway perfection.

Capitalism shares Islam's problem of being mired in a dogma-blighted Dark Age. Read the Wall Street Journal's editorial pages if you want to see how dark. Like Islam, capitalism has not had an Enlightenment, nor a Reformation, nor a Revolution, nor an Age of Reason to help it enter modernity. Capitalism is a selfish greedy hungry whining baby of evolution that needs to grow up. It's an aging lion full of cancerous sores that smells so bad, the young lions can't stand to go near him to oust his stinking ass. We need a new way of thinking about work and workers and markets and production and demand and GDP and arbitrage and leveraged buyouts: freeconomics, not economics. You've got to excuse me here, but you may have noticed: Freedom is my thing. (Responsibility is my other thing.)

It's not markets that should be free, but people.

It's not the freedom of markets that count, but the freedom of people.

It's more important that people be free than markets.

For that to happen, capitalism has to change and become democratized. This will cause an enchanting ripple-effect beyond itself: a democratized capitalism will make democracies themselves more democratic -- as democratic as they should be. Democracy works -- via the vote, freedom of speech, the rule of law, the right to private property, progressive taxes, a social safety-net, and time-tested institutions -- to guarantee the well-being of its citizens, and to give all of them an equal opportunity at achieving their full potential. America doesn't do that: our income inequality grows by the hour; our social mobility is worse than the UK and France, two aristocracy-top-heavy countries. The US is a failure as a democracy because its capitalism is not democratic.

Let's raise the cry: Democracy in all things -- even in capitalism!

We can't have this undemocratic beast of feudal warlord capitalism operating in our democracies, and often making us all miserable, when -- with the three changes I've outlined here -- capitalism can make us all happy.

The time has come for real change. Now is the hour to start working and agitating and demonstrating and protesting and flash-mobbing and publishing and blogging and networking and linking and emailing for a fundamental mutation in our working lives.

Capitalists of the world, catch up! You have nothing to lose but your cages.

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Barack Obama Is A Big Fat Fox News Toady Coward -- And So Are We

So that right-wing creep Andrew Breitbart, who specializes in feeding tapes to Faux News that have been edited to fit in with his wacko narrative that progressives are more crooked or nuts or racist than him, comes up with his latest con.


He releases a tape to show that the folks at the NAACP are racist hypocrites. Why does he do this? Well, the NAACP had the temerity to ask the Tea Party to get rid of racists in their midst, which they started doing (Tea Party rallies have featured posters of Obama with a bone through his nose as a witchdoctor and slogans that say "The American Taxpayers are the Jews for Obama's Ovens").

Let me be clear: Breitbart is to journalism what a warthog's butt is to Einstein's mind.

So what happens? The NAACP attacks the speaker on the Breitbart tape, US Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod, who was telling a story of how she changed her mind 24 years ago when, in her job to help black farmers, these poor white farmers asked her for help, and she didn't put her full force towards helping them, but passed them on to a white lawyer, and when the lawyer did nothing for them, she came to realize that what she did was about helping poor people, the have-nots against the haves, no matter what color they are, and she fought for them like crazy after that (this is a lady whose father was murdered in 1965 by a white man who was never charged).

The Breitbart tape was edited to just show the beginning of the story about how Sherrod felt uncomfortable about helping white farmers, and the Breitbart tape had a title card that said this happened while she was working for the USDA ... all to give the impression that she was a racist, and that the NAACP people listening to her were racists.

That's what Breitbart does; he's a typical rightwing smear machine, a throwback to the McCarthy era. He diarrhees his poison like an elephant who went Neanderthal on a field of blueberries.

So what does Sherrod's boss USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack do, and what does the White House do? They fall for Breitbart's crap, and insist that Shirley Sherrod be fired before the Glenn Beck Show can attack them that day on Faux News.

Funny thing is, Glenn Beck ends up defending Sherrod and attacks the White House for firing her.

Because meanwhile CNN and Rachel Maddow have gotten hold of the white farmer and his wife, now deep in their 80s, who say that Shirley Sherrod went beyond the beyond to help them for two years and saved their farm and couldn't have been more helpful, and they became good friends, and Shirley Sherrod says hello to them on TV, and tells them, now that she has the time, she wants to come and visit.

Then the NAACP apologizes because, they say, they were "snookered" by Breitbart and Faux News.

Snookered my ass. Breitbart's tapes about Acorn were exposed as total BS. So why did the NAACP, on Breitbart's "evidence", react with an attack before asking the woman herself about it, or at least waiting to view the full tape?


We know who Breitbart is. Some hippie banged his GF when he was in high school and the wound has never healed; he's still trying to get even. In earlier times, when journalists fabricated stuff, they got thrown out of the profession, and banished from the media, but now you get a platform all over cable news for being a lying blowhard of a scumbag.

The bigger question is this:

Why was Vilsack and the White House in such a mad rush to fire Shirley Sherrod before the advent of the Glenn Beck Show that day, insisting that she pull her car over and submit her resignation on her Blackberry? Not giving her a chance to explain anything?

Here's why: the White House and Obama are scared poop-less of the right-wing noise machine. Obama has made such a fetish all his life of charming the pants off white people -- starting with his grandparents who sacrificed everything to get him into the best private high school in Hawaii, and ending with his charm assault on the US electorate in 2008 -- that now, when he's charmed his way into the highest office in the land, he still bends over backwards to keep up his post-racial BS by taking the criticism of Breitbart and Glenn Beck and Faux News seriously.


If Obama didn't do this personally, then someone on his staff did, because that is the atmosphere of cowardice about race and everything else that Obama has instilled in his White House and his administration.

It doesn't matter if Obama only heard about this so late that he had to make a late-night call to Vilsack to reconsider, who has now apologized and offered Sherrod a new job. You can't blame the troops for the general's mistakes (the secret police in Communist Russia operated under Stalin's orders, even though the Russian people thought that if Stalin knew what was going on, he'd stop it).

Any rot emanates from the top. The cowardice of the White House starts with Obama. He gave his top job of White House Chief of Staff to Blue Dog enabler Rahm Emanuel. He gave his top economic jobs to economic war criminal Larry Summers who made sure derivatives were unregulated under Bill Clinton, and to Wall Street toady Tim Geithner, who made sure that Goldman Sachs got 100 cents on the dollar from what AIG supposedly owed them, and then tried to hide this from Congress. These three anti-progressive Wall Street bastards sure weren't the change that his supporters voted for.

Obama's cowardice in making those appointments (instead of having someone like Joseph Stiglitz on his economic team) is a cowardice that infects his entire administration. Obama has spent more time courting the right wing than his own progressive base. He might call it inclusiveness; I call it cowardice, a cowardice that springs from political calculation. Many years ago, when he started his career, he calculated that he had to become a credible black man, because his ease with white people raised suspicion among blacks. So he became a community organizer among poor black people, became a Christian in a black church, and married a black woman (his girlfriend at Columbia was white). A friend tells me his nickname at Harvard was "Mr. President," because his ambition was that nakedly obvious. Obama is a man whose sincerity is calculated. That doesn't make his sincerity bogus; merely calculated. With Obama, principles and calculation go hand in hand, like with any politician.


Now that the Shirley Sherrod fracas has been exposed as the high-tech lynching of a good woman, what is Obama going to do?

My guess is, not all that much. I'd be surprised if any heads roll. General McCrystal had to malign Joe Biden openly in print before Obama fired him.

Sherrod herself asked what her grandchildren would think if they heard that the first black Agricultural Director was fired by the first black president.

Mind you, I still think Obama is a better president than any of the candidates supplied by the reckless "Cut-Taxes-of-the-Rich-and-Kick-the-Middle-Class-Now-That-They're-Down" GOP. These are the guys who apologized to BP and want to run the Bush-Cheney playbook again. The gap between them and reality is wider than the gap between Nelson Mandela and Lindsay Lohan. Their dumbfuckery is greater than all the dumbfuckery of history put together in the totality of the immensity of all dumbfuckosity to the most infinite dumfuckallity of desperately dimwitted dumbfucked dumbfuckelosity. Let's face it, the Bush-Cheney presidency was the most dysfunctional government since Caligula, who made his horse a senator. Just think of the GOP's presidential aspirants, all bad jokes in a John Cleese sketch about stumblebum politicians: John Flip-Flop McCain, Sarah Dumbass Palin, Mitt Suck-Up Romney, Newt Big-Lie Gingrich and Jeb Right-Wingnut Bush. The bar they set is lower than the one established by BP semi-CEO Tony Wayward, who in his Congressional testimony, was such an evasive BS merchant, an irate Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla asked him: "Is today Thursday, yes or no?”


What are we to do, those of us who still love our country enough not to be so un-American as to give rich people more tax cuts when so many of them are shielding their money from the IRS in Swiss banks? In 2007 Goldman Sachs paid 1% taxes; how much did you pay?

It is becoming increasingly evident that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party should do something bigger besides making sure that Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman get thrown out of office ASAP: they should primary Obama in 2012. Not that a primary candidate would win. But Obama has to be scared into growing a spine. He has to be reminded who voted for him (the minute he walked into the White House, he acted as if the 13 million email addresses of his young supporters did not exist).

FDR had a spine. LBJ had a spine. Obama does not, even though he has done more good than Bill Clinton ever did. By 2014, the health insurance industry will not be able to kick out people with a pre-existing condition, although it may be too late to save my friend's brother who was diagnosed with terminal cancer this year. But this one little thing in the healthcare reform bill will actually SAVE LIVES. (Of course, the bad Obama things go on forever, from not closing Guantanamo to the Afghan War where Obama is backing corrupt opium warlords against non-corrupt religious wingnuts because of some asshole Petraeus COIN theory, instead of getting the hell out.)

However, in the healthcare reform debate, Obama did not fight for the public option. He kept mentioning that he favors it to keep the industry “honest,” but when push came to shove on that issue, he and Rahm were MIA. Obama only ever fights when he knows he's got the votes. He NEVER fights when he thinks he's going to lose.

He thinks losing for a principle will make him look bad or weak. That is not what leadership is about. That's not what change is about. That's what cowardice is all about.

In this latest political brouhaha, the White House and Obama have established their credentials of cowardice for all to see.

Which is ironic, in view of the fact that Obama is the best president we could possibly have now, even though he is hobbled by a GOP who held up unemployment insurance because they think it encourages people to stop looking for work. This makes it all the more of a pity that Obama kowtows to the likes of Breitbart, Glenn Beck and Faux News. If you're going to be a coward, you should at least choose worthier boogiemen.


It's not just Obama who's the problem. It's you and me and the people next door. We've been taking it up the posterior from Big Oil and Big Pharma and Big Agribusiness and Wall Street, all of them subsidized by our tax dollars. They love big government when it is subsidizing them. But when middleclass or poor people need a cut of the pie, suddenly government is “intruding on our lives” and our wonderful “free market” is being “regulated” to death. We all know what the “free market” is: it's the rigged market where the casino capitalists of Wall Street can make 40% of corporate profits in one year and small businesses die like flies and subsidized big business exports all our jobs to slave labor outfits in other countries.

A majority of Americans have fallen for the bizarro narrative constructed by our elite. It started with Ronald Reagan, who lowered the top marginal tax rate from where it was at 60% to a ridiculous 28% right after he took office, and there was talk of wealth “trickling down” from the top to the bottom. Yeah, sure, if you believe in trickle down, I've got a bottle of pee labeled lemonade for you to share with your loved ones. Under Bush Two trickle down morphed into gusher up from the poor to the rich, and it is this that the GOP is fighting to continue. Another thing about Reagan: he's the guy who started the whole tradition of vilifying black women that now happened under Obama, when Ronnie picked on "welfare queens" as the America's prime villains.

Whereas before Reagan, a regular guy could work for General Motors all his life and afford a home for his family and retire with dignity on one salary, suddenly and mysteriously it all changed after the Reagan tax cut, by the most bizarre coincidence ever in the economic history of humankind, inexplicably and miraculously, to the point that today most middleclass couples struggle to get by on two salaries. Ask a member of the elite what's going on when he turns off his golden faucet and opens his $6,000 shower curtain, and he'll tell you that in the “free market,” there are winners and losers. Yeah, sure. In our “free market” the banks get to borrow millions from the Fed at 0.2% interest and then go play with it. My granny with Altzheimers can make money on that. And they say the people at Goldman Sachs are smart. If they're so smart, how come they ran crying like babies to Congress to bail them out with our tax dollars? If they're so smart, why do they need a rigged market to make money? Goldman Sachs were about to go under like Lehman Brothers because there was a run on them. Believe me, Goldman Sachs is way, way dumb. They're just not quite as dumb as the other assholes on Wall Street, who have their jobs because they're so useless, Daddy sent them to Wall Street because that's where the dumbass gentlemen C kids of the elite can sell crooked derivatives to their contacts running pension funds. Wall Street is a protected reservation for the disabled offspring of the elite. And these are the entitled bastards who've bought Congress wholesale, who were the biggest contributors to Obama's campaign, and whose lobbyists write our laws.


For Reagan's re-election campaign, the elite hired the advertising genius Hal Riney. Riney came up with the brilliant “Morning in America” campaign, and that's when our elite realized they could control the narrative and the voice of American populism with prime BS. They went ahead and bought up all the media properties, and changed the laws so they could destroy all diversity of media in every big city.

The result? Today, after constant propaganda about the “free market” and government “takeover,” most Americans are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. We love the guys who are screwing us, even a vulgar shithead like Donald Trump that I wouldn't allow near my dinner table for fear of barfing before I got to the soup. We non-elite Americans have only two options, to suck dick or take it up the Hershey tunnel, and we're happy to pick one or the other; some of us even like to switch hit between oral and anal. We rant and rave about the fat cats on Wall Street, but we don't move our money out of the “too big to fail” banks like Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and into small community banks and credit unions.

The lower-earning 80% of Americans have to share 15% of the shrinking American pie, yet the latest incarnation of populist Americans, the Tea Party folks, who are older, wealthier Republicans, are saying that spending is out of control (on Social Security, NOT on subsidies for big business or on wars; by them, it's OK if we blow trillions on whacking Arabs who had nothing to do with 9/11, but hell, we've got to cut Social Security, it's the “responsible” thing to do). These Tea Party deaf-dumb-and-blind humans say the government is “taking over” our lives with “social engineering” and that Obama is a “socialist.” They represent a typical section of the petit bourgeoisie, who have traditionally been more scared of the classes below them than of the upper classes who are shafting them along with everyone else.

The whole charade is more absurd than Eugene Ionesco's play “Rhinoceros.” While we're burning and our elite is fiddling, what are the Tea Party people doing? They're complaining about the quality of the firewood.

America has lost its mind and keeps losing its mind. In Europe they're coming down hard on the banks and on the outsize bonuses that inspired the reckless behavior that led to meltdown.

In America, we're still right behind the Wall Street mantra of IBGYBG: “I'll be gone and you'll be gone, so let's make the deal and let the suckers pay in the end.”

And some known masters of supreme assholicity, like Andrew Breitbart, Faux News and Glenn Beck, have the White House so poop-scared they're prepared to throw a good woman under the bus. At this point their bus has to be bigger than Sarah Palin's mouth to contain all the good people they've thrown under it.

No amount of apologizing can excuse their first reaction of utter cowardice in the face of a known liar's fake threat.

Gadzooks and forsooth, folks. The sane mind boggles. But, but and but again: there's more to this than just another political flap.

Obama the coward reflects the prevailing ethos driving all of us: we are a nation of cowards. Until we show some spine, we shouldn't expect to see any from Obama.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Government Isn't The Problem, Private Enterprise Is: The Global Terrorism Of Al Qaeda, BP And Goldman Sachs -- by Adam Ash

Today there are three forms of terrorism threatening the world: political, financial and environmental terrorism. These three forms of terrorism are responsible for the destruction of human lives, livelihoods, property and the environment to a degree that rivals the ravages of war.

All three forms are executed by global, private-enterprise, non-state agents. Our inch-deep media have bestowed the moniker of terrorism on only one of these forms -- the political-religious Al Qaeda variety -- while leaving the other two off the hook. 

This is a little like calling Ted Bundy a crazy serial killer and Jeffrey Dahmer a highly sensitive connoisseur of human protein.  

Just consider the many attributes these three forms of terrorism have in common. All three are partly funded by tax dollars -- via tax credits and subsidies, tax-payer bail-outs, and taxpayer-funded wars that serve as recruitment drives for political terrorists. All three expound a crazed fundamentalist faith affirming the rectitude of their respective causes. All three feel entitled to huge rewards for their destructive behaviors. All three leave it up to regular folks to clean up after them. All three are unapologetic about their activities (adding insult to injury, some may issue a belated apology to their victims). And all three display a bizarre indifference to human suffering, despite their rhetoric to the contrary. 

Moreover, all three forms of terrorism have been enabled by one gaping sinkhole in the social fabric: they appear to have been aided, abetted and promoted by a lamentable lack of government oversight. In all three cases, the problem isn't too much government: it's too little government. 

Here's a brief recap of the three forms of terrorism and their main achievements so far.

Political terrorism. Achievements: the death of 2,976 Americans in NYC on 9/11, and many other deaths in London, Madrid, Bali, India, and Iraq. Motive: anger at America's interference in the Middle East, including US backing of Israel against Palestinians and support of repressive Arab regimes, and US wars against Islamic states. Main agent of terrorism: Al Qaeda. Weapons: airplanes, suicide bombs, car bombs, IEDs, websites.

Financial terrorism. Achievements: Loss of 100 million jobs worldwide. Millions suffering from food insecurity. Wrecked economies. Many small business closings. A great loss of family homes. Motive: profit. Main agent of terrorism: Goldman Sachs. Weapons: speculative bubbles, debt securitization, unsafe derivatives, campaign contributions, regulatory capture, bad mortgages.

Environmental terrorism. Achievements: Bhopal, Exxon Valdez oil spill, Nigerian oil spills, Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Motive: profit. Main agent of terrorism: BP. Weapons: unsafe drilling practices, indifference to worker safety, 1960s clean-up technology, useless contingency plans, campaign contributions, takeover of regulatory agencies, misinformation about climate change, managerial indifference to risk and the environment.

Now let's take a look at the three main agents of terrorism in turn and see what government should be, but isn't, doing about them. In this order: Goldman Sachs, Al Qaeda and BP.


You are a victim of Goldman Sachs terrorism because of the loss of your job or house, or a hole in your retirement plan, or because you know somebody who has suffered these disasters. But you may not know this: when Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street terrorists brought about deregulation, they also brought about the deregulation of future option contracts made by farmers to guarantee themselves a future price for their crops. Before deregulation, the price of food was subject to supply and demand. But once the market in food future options was deregulated, Goldman Sachs had a casino going where they could bet on derivatives based on food. In 2006, Goldman Sachs and others abandoned the tanking housing casino and stampeded into food derivatives. Result? The supply and demand of food stayed the same, but the supply and demand of food derivatives shot through the roof. Here's a quote from Johann Hari whose July 2, 2010 article How Goldman Gambled On Starvation in The Independent exposed this scam:

“At the end of 2006, food prices across the world started to rise, suddenly and stratospherically. Within a year, the price of wheat had shot up by 80 per cent, maize by 90 per cent, rice by 320 per cent. In a global jolt of hunger, 200 million people -- mostly children -- couldn't afford to get food any more, and sank into malnutrition or starvation. There were riots in more than 30 countries, and at least one government was violently overthrown. Then, in spring 2008, prices just as mysteriously fell back to their previous level. Jean Ziegler, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, calls it 'a silent mass murder', entirely due to 'man-made actions.'

"Earlier this year I was in Ethiopia, one of the worst-hit countries, and people there remember the food crisis as if they had been struck by a tsunami. 'My children stopped growing,' a woman my age called Abiba Getaneh, told me. 'I felt like battery acid had been poured into my stomach as I starved. I took my two daughters out of school and got into debt. If it had gone on much longer, I think my baby would have died.'”

Do the financial terrorists at Goldman Sachs care? Of course not. They live in a self-blown bubble that isolates them from the catastrophes that their actions inflict on others. It's a habitat that's actually bigger than just Wall Street; it also includes Washington. 

The ethos prevailing inside this bubble is very weird. First off there is a strange and stubborn adherence to a fundamentalist faith -- the so-called “efficient market hypothesis” -- despite all evidence to the contrary. It bears more than a passing resemblance to the stickiness of the Al Qaeda brand of Muslim fundamentalism. The big difference is that the Al Qaeda worldview springs from the teachings of a prophet who died centuries ago. The prophet of the Goldman Sachs fundamentalists died in 2006. His name was Milton Friedman and he got the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976. Today he deserves The Tea Party Prize for The Most Deluded Free Market Ideologist Of All Time. Myself, I would give him The Adam Ash Raspberry Award for Wrecking More Lives Than Rasputin. 

Other Koranical texts include Atlas Shrugged by the pioneer Tea Party nut Ayn Rand, and the rather excellent Road to Serfdom by ur-libertarian Friedrich von Hayek, who didn't live long enough to see how destructive capitalism can be when it's unbridled and unregulated. Or how toxic financial terrorism can be compared to the brilliant entrepreneurial capitalism of a genius like Steve Jobs -- a guy whom Von Hayek would've loved as a far better role model for his ideas. The creepiest contemporary pamphleteering for the weird and noxious religion of Goldman Sachs-style financial terrorism happens on the editorial pages of the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal (Murdoch also owns Fox News, a great embarrassment to his children, but it makes too much money for Rupert to deep-six it).

There are other curious elements in the terrorist profile of your basic Goldman Sachs group-think hive-mind of bizarro bankster terrorists: a self-perpetuating smugness, a marrow-deep feeling of entitlement, and a megalomaniac hubris.

"We are the smartest guys in the room. We don't need no stinking regulations. We are the free market. We know what's best for the world, because whatever is best for us is best for the world. Heck, in the words of our CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, we're just bankers 'doing God's work.'

"We can package securities into financial instruments that are, in the words of our own Fabulous Fabrice Tourre, 'monstrousities,' but heck, we make a fortune on them. We can make money out of what we know to be 'shitty deals' with our customers because if they want to be our suckers, that's their lookout. We will package a deal with a hedge fund manager who wants to bet against the product we'll sell for him, and we will let him choose the junk inside those securities without telling our customers that the junk was chosen by someone who is betting against the product they're buying.

"We have no idea why the SEC is suing us about this. We're utterly innocent and will fight this crap. After all, we sold our products to sophisticated investors who should've known what they were buying. If we have to pay a fine like we've done before, well, that's peanuts and it's just another cost of doing business. We know how to look out for ourselves -- our guys are in government here and all over the world. We here on Wall Street are Masters of the Universe who are entitled to 40% of the corporate profits in America. We're untouchable and invincible. We deserve every million we make."

I'm not making this up. This is REALLY how they think, based on their own spoken words and emails. It represents a species of psyche that boggles the sane mind. Try to penetrate this mindset and you enter a 21st century heart of darkness. These are not the sort of guys you should want your daughter to marry. When they trot out their favorite excuse for their behavior -- that they sold their “shitty” products to SOPHISTICATED investors -- they are openly acknowledging that they think it's OK to cheat investors AS LONG AS THEY ARE SOPHISTICATED. 

They think this actually explains that they're doing nothing wrong  -- when it's a straight-up admission of guilt.

They can't for the life of them think why anyone would think their actions are suspect. In fact, all their chicanery makes them feel entitled to bonuses in the millions.

The long hours of relentless 24/7 profit pursuit ... the high-risk gambling on asset bubbles ... the betting against your own customers ... the cheat of computerized front-running and inside-information bets ... the psychology of Wall Street casino group-think ... the turning of 30:1 leverage into massive profits ... the millions gifted to them by the Fed at minimal interest ... the outsized bonuses from short-term gains ... the Wall Street philosophy of IBGYBG: I'll be gone and you'll be gone, so let's do the deal and let the suckers pay for it ... all this has made them bonkers.

They don't even blink when Senator Phil Angelides nutshells their practice of shorting the securities they sell as follows: “It sounds to me a little bit like selling a car with faulty brakes and then buying an insurance policy on the buyer of those cars.” 

It's as if wads of crooked cash have sealed off their minds from the quotidian morality the rest of us struggle to live by. You'd have to go down the food chain to the level of an AIDS virus to find a commensurate sense of decency. They share the inside-the-bubble moral myopia of Catholic bishops who shield pedophiles in their midst, of lawyers who write torture memos to provide legal cover for their torture-promoting bosses, of rapists who blame their victims for wearing mini-skirts, and of Al Qaeda bombers who believe their actions are totally justified and will land them in paradise. The big difference being this: a political terrorist believes he'll enjoy his reward in heaven, while a financial terrorist gets to enjoy his reward in the Hamptons.

I'd like to mention two other terrorist groups in the world of business.

Number one: the 52,000 Americans with secret bank accounts in Switzerland, where their money sits happily evading being taxed by our IRS. If you want an idea what those taxes might amount to, consider this: at one point, according to the IRS, the 4,450 secret UBS accounts of Americans whose names UBS have been persuaded to give up, amounted to $18 billion. You do the math. To my mind, there's little daylight between these financial terrorists (let's call them terrorists by omission rather than commission) and an African dictator who rips off his people and stashes his gazillions in a Swiss bank. Yes, he kills people, ouch! But hey, these financial terrorists, all they do is contribute to the infant morality rate in America rivaling a Third World country's, and how bad can that be? As far as I can see, the big difference between rich Americans shielding their fortunes from the IRS and a dictator stashing his money in the same bank is this: the Americans are too cowardly to do the killing with their own hands, and prefer to do it by proxy.

Another Yakuza-like gang of financial terrorists goes by the name deficit hawks. They are terribly concerned about deficits, especially now that a black guy is running up these deficits instead of the white fellow before him.

Pushing back on deficits is a good thing, but pushing back on them NOW is straight-up class warfare. Hooverism. When the private sector is not spending money to keep up employment, the government has to do it. Here is a telling comment from a New York Times reader responding to a Paul Krugman column:

I'm not an economist, but I learned about the Depression and how it stalled out in 1937 when I was in high school -- way back in the 1970's. We learned then what Prof. Krugman is saying here today, that is, balancing the budget in the middle of a time of high unemployment makes things worse. This was once common knowledge. Wha' happened? Are people today stupider than they were in the '70's? Or maybe their education has changed?”

You bet they're stupider. They're being “educated” by Fox News and Glenn Beck.

The real agenda of the deficit hawks is to screw the struggling middleclass and poor and unemployed even more. That is why they bang on about the cost of entitlements -- Social Security and Medicare -- and conveniently forget two things:

1. The military-industrial entitlement of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which will, according to  Economics Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, amount to $3 trillion. Now that's deficit spending, kids (plus corporate welfare, big government, and serial mass murder to boot).

2. The fact that the rich dudes who complain about deficits are paying a top tax rate of 35% on their income above $373,651. The top tax rate was 91% to 92% under Eisenhower, 70% to 77% under Nixon, and 60% under Ford. Then something weird happened. Shortly after Reagan assumed office, it was 28%. Wow. What was happening with our debt during these years? From the end of WW2, when national debt was 120% of GDP, it fell steadily down to the lower end of 30% under Carter. By the most mysterious of utter coincidences in the economic history of Western man, the debt percentage started rising sharply under Reagan. It was shooting past 60% when Bush One left office after 12 years of GOP rule. It dipped down again when Clinton was president, with him leaving Al Gore a budget surplus and the likelihood that perhaps maybe one day we might break even if we felt like it. But the Supreme Court decided to make the guy who lost the election the President, and Bush and Dick “deficits don't matter” Cheney pushed our debt-to-GDP ratio over 70%. Today it's heading for the upper stratosphere as Obama struggles to reverse the effects of the Wall Street meltdown. 

In other words, our deficit problems started their ballooning performance under Ronald Reagan (remember  “trickle-down economics” and “a rising tide lifts all yachts”?). For some totally mysterious reason, when the top tax rate was over 90% under Eisenhower, you could work at General Motors all your life and afford a home and retire comfortably -- all on one salary. Those were the days when it was good to be a member of the middleclass in America, even though suburbia lacked marijuana. Fast-forward to Bush-Cheney, and the middleclass got hammered like a nail hit by a mountain even with two bread-earners per household, while the rich were basking in a second Gilded Age of shower curtains at $6,000 a pop. This was no damn “trickle-down economics”: it was pure “gusher-up economics.” Today the lower-earning 80% of Americans have to try and share 15% of the American pie.

Long story short: “deficit hawk” is code for either “crock of shit” or “let's kick the middleclass even harder now that they're down.”

To me, the most interesting deficit hawk is Peter G. Peterson, Commerce Secretary under Nixon, CEO of Lehman Brothers, cofounder of the Blackstone Group, and founder in 2008 of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. He spent a billion bucks establishing this Foundation. Spending a billion to convince us to cut back on entitlements -- Social Security and Medicare -- now that's a heavy personal bet. (Incidentally, he has on his board one Timothy Geithner, famous for making sure that Goldman Sachs got 100% of the money they lost with AIG; also famous for not knowing how to follow Turbo Tax instructions; and currently semi-infamous for being Obama's Treasury Secretary.)   

Peterson cofounded Blackstone with another Lehman alumnus, Stephen Schwarzman, who became famous for his 60th birthday party that cost $3m (he was also famous for the $684 million cash he netted when Blackstone went public in 2007 and for his $8.83 billion stake after the first day, which soon plunged rather rapidly). Blackstone is one the largest global private-equity companies in the world. They used to be called leveraged-buyout companies -- they buy companies by loading those companies with debt with which they buy the companies. Then they might break up the company and sell the pieces, or fire enough workers to jack up the share price, and then sell it -- all for a tidy profit. Basically what they do is put the company in debt, and pay a good slice of that money back to themselves. Some companies are bought and sold like this until they're bankrupt, but of course the buyers and sellers all make a profit as they load their pass-along punching bag with more debt. “Private-equity” is a rather sanitary term for what these guys do. I'd call them “debt-prison buyout” companies, being as how they often imprison their targets in debt. Anyway, Peterson is one of the guys who got superduperrich doing this stuff (aka “enhancing shareholder value”) after getting merely superrich at Lehman Brothers.

Here's what this snake in saint's clothing wrote in Newsweek about why he put up a billion to establish the Peterson Foundation. I quote it for its satiric flavor: a Kurt Vonnegut or a Joseph Heller could hardly have done it better. The irony is all the richer because this shyster actually believes what his ghost wrote for him. It comes from his heart. He is his own useful idiot.

For the first time in my memory, the majority of the American people join me in believing that, on our current course, our children will not do as well as we have. For years, I have been saying that the American government, and America itself, has to change its spending and borrowing policies: the tens of trillions of dollars in unfunded entitlements and promises, the dangerous dependence on foreign capital, our pitiful level of savings, the metastasizing health-care costs, our energy gluttony. These structural deficits are unsustainable. Herb Stein, who served alongside me in the Nixon White House as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, once drily observed, 'If your horse dies, I suggest you dismount.' And yet, we keep trying to ride this horse.

Underlying these challenges is our broken political system. Our representatives, unlike our Founding Fathers, see politics as a career. As a result, they are focused not on the next generation, but on the next election. When the long-term problems are large and real, they anesthetize us, mislead us, divert us -- anything to keep us from giving up something or having to pay for it. Too often, our political leaders are just enablers, co-conspirators in a disingenuous and greedy silence. Our children are unrepresented. The future is unrepresented. The moment is long overdue for us to become moral and worthy ancestors. So I decided to set up a different kind of foundation, one that would focus on America's key fiscal-sustainability challenges. The fact is, for most of these challenges, there are workable solutions. Our problem is not a lack of such options. It is a lack of will to do something about them.”

Prime-grade bullshit. His writer is using boilerplate we might all agree with to push an agenda that will undermine us all. The Tea Party crazies and GOP voters are very useful idiots in Peterson's skeevy project. The astroturf “grass-roots” organization that Peterson has funded is called “America Speaks” (brilliant name), from whose portals concerned Americans, bamboozled by Peterson's glossy brochures, express their concerns about spending on “entitlements.” Heck, the White House is one of these concerned citizens, too. President Obama has a Trojan Horse going called the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (aka the Deficit Commission), co-chaired by former Senator Alan Simpson, who recently referred to us regular Americans -- you and me -- as the “lesser people.” The conservative Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote this about the commission, stuck as this rag is in the syndrome of every-day-some-new-hysteria, a syndrome mightily characteristic of its ilk of dumbfuckery:

"The members of his bipartisan commission could recommend raising the Social Security and Medicare eligibility ages to 75, means-testing benefits, shuttering one-third of the federal bureaucracy, cutting military spending in half, creating a 10 percent national sales tax and slashing the salary of every federal employee by 15 percent and Washington would still have trillions of dollars in debt and unfunded liabilities.”

Cutting military spending by half? There's a better chance an ant will make an elephant pregnant.

OK, so here we have tax-avoiding financial terrorists sabotaging our tax base, deficit hawk financial terrorists launching an attack on Social Security under cover of noble deficit control motives, and Goldman Sachs financial terrorists and their Wall Street cronies sinking us all in misery while they go their very rich, very merry way.

Who stands between these predatory world-wreckers and us, their victims?

Our government. 

But they couldn't protect us when Wall Street melted us down, and they won't protect us now. Wall Street bribes every administration every time, all the time. Our officials buy into the same mindset as the terrorists; they suffer from what Simon Johnson so aptly called “regulatory capture.” How did these Wall Street terrorists manage to IED our economy into its present unpretty pass? Often the regulations were there, but the regulators were MIA. Overall there was too little government to supervise and regulate them. There just wasn't enough big government in their faces. 

So: what should our government do about them, now that we supposedly know better?

Well, the administration should've taken Goldman Sachs and Citigroup et al into receivership (like they did with Detroit) when they had the chance, and fired the management, but instead they chose to shower them with money with no strings attached, just like Bush-Cheney showered Bin-Laden with recruits when they started the Iraq War.

So what should the government do now?

Regulate, regulate, regulate. 

Prosecute, prosecute, prosecute. 

If the government can get a people-killer like Al Capone for income tax evasion, they can get job-killers like Goldman Sachs for fraud. And if they can find a way of breaking Goldman Sachs up between their banking and trading activities, they should do that. Plus, they should regulate all derivatives -- no loopholes -- to be transparently traded on open exchanges.

But what is the government doing? Shepherding a bill that does not break up the big banks (“too big to fail rules!”), does not re-instate Glass-Steagall ("let's water the Volcker rule down to nothing!"), does not stop the outrageous rates for pay day loans and credit cards ("400% interest is good for pay day borrowers!"), and does not rein in Wall Street bonuses or CEO salaries ("of course American CEOs should make more in a day than a worker makes in a year! those Japanese CEOs who eat Detroit's lunch for breakfast, they've got it all wrong with their puny CEO-to-worker pay ratio of 12:1!").

When the bills of the Senate and the House were being reconciled these past few weeks, there were all these very oh-so-serious debates going on. Our elected officials were back-and-forthing about whether already-loopholed derivatives by the five largest swaps dealers (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America are responsible for 90% of the swaps and derivatives market) should be spun off into separate entities to keep a wall between regular banking and Wall Street casino gambling. That way, us taxpayers might be inoculated from having to bail out the banks, because a casino could take a dive without taking the bank down with it. The House and the Senate also dithered about whether banks with more than $250 billion assets should be subject to some minute leverage limits when they engage in potentially risky activities. They were also arguing about whether Elizabeth Warren's brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, already severely weakened by being put under the Fed (one of the main aiders and abettors of the financial meltdown), should be limited to having only 200 of the nation's 8,200 banks under its aegis, leaving the other 8,000 banks free to cheat us with tricky mortgages and 30% penalty interest on credit card debt.

In other words, the House and the Senate were quibbling about whether they should guarantee the next financial meltdown by a 100% or a 110% or a 120%.

You can bet that the bill Obama eventually signs will be loophole-ready -- and leave you and I and every Main Street person in the world ripe for the plucking and gutting and basting by financial terrorists.

Just look at our states, now going bankrupt and unable to borrow -- while Goldman Sachs and their fellow terrorists can borrow at the ridiculously low Fed rate of 0.2% and stick that money straight into speculating with our future. The government has shoveled trillions at the terrorists, to the point that its own credit rating is wobblier than a toddler trying to foxtrot, while the terrorists don't have to do any cleaning up after themselves. The private debt of speculating terrorists has mysteriously morphed into our public debt. Instead of giving the states and us a helping hand, the terrorists are lecturing us on "fiscal responsibility." Talk about blaming the victim.

Here's something semi-weird: one state has its own state-owned bank. This state, North Dakota, is the only state in the union with a budget surplus. It also has the lowest unemployment and mortgage delinquency rates. Weird, isn't it? Sometimes that dreaded socialism works way better than capitalism, especially when that capitalism is of the unregulated financial terrorist variety.

Maybe the most galling thing about financial terrorism is that there will be no big-time Goldman Sachs or Citigroup or other Wall Street terrorist standing trial. Despite the fact that the SEC got the Department of Justice involved, nothing has been happening on that front. Of course not. Who's going to jail the guys whose contributions to your campaign helped get you elected?

Some smart judge should be sentencing all the top brass of Goldman Sachs -- Lloyd Blankfein et al, even Fabulous Fab himself -- to at least two years penance in some starving village in the Third World, where their terrorist bubble might finally shatter. But it's less likely than Sarah Palin growing a backup brain.

What does it all mean? It means our financial terrorists are more alive than ever, and fully enabled to wreck our lives again. In five to ten years time, Goldman Sachs will be scoring off some other hyped asset bubble (biomass made from tulips, anyone?) or from another batch of hyped stock offerings (green energy IPOs, anyone?), just like they did with the hyped no-profit dotcoms IOPs they peddled before the 2000 market crash. And as the bubble peaks, they'll find a way of betting against their own customers like they did a few years ago. Then, when it all melts down, they'll run to the Fed for bailouts or to us taxpayers or both like they did when Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein were on the phone to each more often than New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg calls his mother (every day his first call of the day). Result? They'll be richer and we'll be poorer.

Our homegrown financial terrorists will notch up another great achievement, elegantly executed with the deft connivance of Congress and the White House. There will NEVER be enough government, or a government big enough, or a politician with testicles big enough, to stop financial terrorism. FDR and trust-busting Teddy Roosevelt were once-in-a-millennium phenoms. Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank and crew are no match for the Scam Artist Wrecking Crew of Goldman Sachs, even though these Dems are a trillion times more sensible and sane than anyone who ever worked for that Yale legacy asshole Bush and that Dick “the bigger the issue, the bigger I lie” Cheney.

Obama, Nancy and Barney try hard (or like to give the appearance of trying hard) but the terrorists of Goldman Sachs have too many votes in the pockets of their silk-lined suits. Obama once wryly observed that the Wall Street banks were like suicide-bombers -- “save us or our downfall will blow up the world!” -- and he was profoundly right.


These Al Qaeda terrorists, who go straight for the body, actually have the semblance of a semi-legitimate beef. Their methods are heinous, and their religious fundamentalism is obnoxious to an absurd extreme -- a combination of Dick Cheney obdurateness, Pat Robertson looniness, and Tea Party stupidity -- but there's a rationale behind their madness. They want to kill innocent Americans because the foreign policy of our leaders supports Israel against the oppressed Palestinians, and supports oppressive Arab regimes. That's what 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed said. Many people who aren't terrorists are also upset about this. Millions of them live in America. The vast majority of people in Europe -- probably worldwide -- are upset about it. But we don't fly planes into buildings or strap on suicide bombs to blow ourselves up in public squares. 

Osama Bin Laden also mentioned another reason he's upset with us: back before 9/11, our infidel army was parked very near Mecca, a terrible affront to his Muslim soul. Fair enough. Of course, this army of ours contained females, Western females at that, which is something that really sticks in the domestic fundamentalist Arab craw, specifically the male one. It seems the harder an Al Qaeda pecker gets over pictures of Western babes, the more enthusiastic does the owner of said pecker get about strapping on a suicide bomb, marching up to an American checkpoint, and blowing his cock in the general direction of 72 virgins.

In the months before 9/11, there was not much government activity against terrorist threats. The Bush-Cheney administration, true to form, did absolutely nothing despite repeated warnings. A 2001 briefing for Bush on August 6 was called “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.” That's what it said on the goddam COVER of the report. Moreover, CIA director George Tenet got so worried because of masses of spooky intelligence that he repeated his warnings to the point that people were tired of hearing them.

But Bush and Cheney and Condoleeza Rice, the Queen of Denial, cared less than Jesus cared for that fig tree he blasted. It wasn't a case of too little government or not enough government. It was a case of ZERO government at the executive end, while 200%-proof warnings were spritzing forth from the intelligence end. 

Then, after 9/11, it turned into a case of Big Government In Extremis. Bush-Cheney went so far as to CREATE terrorists in a country where none could exist under the vigilant and violent eye of the arch dictator Saddam Hussein, who hated Bin Laden with a passion. Yet, while our nation cheered, Bush-Cheney bombed away, drawing resources away from where the criminals lurked in Afghanistan. It was as if people in Britain were watching Hitler attack their ally Poland and then, in reprisal, bombed France.

The US invading Iraq: now we're talking a really big government takeover. Deficit spending by the trillions. Funny how it doesn't upset the Tea Party folks one little bit. They don't get riled when president Bush mortgages our future for the sheer joy of whacking non-culpable Arabs, but when president Obama brings in a little health reform to save American lives, they go more Neanderthal than Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver.

The result? Bush-Cheney advanced the cause of the Al Qaeda terrorists more than Bin Laden himself. Bin Laden's efforts seem kind of puny compared to the Bush-Cheney recruitment drive for Al Qaeda. Because of our wars, young men went flocking to Al Qaeda like hordes of punks crowding Iggy Pop. Plus, when our guys had Bin Laden in their sights at Bora-Bora, Rumsfeld nixed their request for more troops (why? ask him), and Bin Laden skipped away scot-free with his dialysis machine.

Is it irony? Or is it beyond irony? Or does it require a new figure of speech, as yet uninvented? Suffice it to say that the Bush-Cheney response to the threat of terrorism before 9/11 was less than zero, and their response afterwards The Greatest Over-Reaction of All Time, way ahead of Naomi Campbell throwing a cell phone at her housekeeper.

Today Obama is claiming some success with drone attacks on Al Qaeda in Pakistan (these drones are also very good at taking out innocent civilians having a picnic). Meanwhile Al Qaeda types are more likely to be hatching their diabolical plots in Munich, London and maybe Poughkeepsie. Bring on the drones over Trafalgar Square.

My own idea for fighting terrorists is to leave it to our cops. After all, according to the odds, an American has a better chance of drowning in his or her own bathtub than being snuffed by a terrorist. The cops handled terrorists pretty OK before 9/11. We could take the money we spend on Homeland Security and our wars, and have enough doubloons to pave the Mojave Desert with solar panels and build a grid into which to feed that power ... all before Obama's re-election in 2012. But hey, monkeys will land a man on the moon before that happens.

It might also help if -- just like we funnel big bucks to Egypt and Saudi-Arabia -- we funneled big bucks to the West Bank and Gaza. God knows the put-upon bastards in Gaza must get a little edgy living under refugee-camp conditions. We might also give Israel some much-needed tough love to help stop them from embarrassing the Jews. Also, Obama, please, dude, close Guantanamo already. For chrissake.

Not to worry: it won't happen. Our foreign policy will continue to make the world safe for political terrorists. Not too long ago an Al Qaeda-type maniac killed Americans on an Army base here in America. That sweet young man you know who keeps to himself and is all of a sudden growing a beard -- have you checked what he's got in his basement lately?


 One thing to know about BP. Even inside the industry, these environmental terrorists are despised for their unsafe ways. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has fined BP 760 times. Exxon has been fined once. Compare BP's 760 citations for "egregious, willful" safety violations with Sunoco's eight, Conoco-Phillips's eight, Citgo's two and Exxon's one. This one company has a 97% share of all super-serious safety violations.

BP's entire warm and fuzzy “Beyond Petroleum” advertising campaign is a total crock.

Let's consider their history. They're the reason the world moved from coal to oil as a mainstay of energy in the first place.

On May 26, 1908, the Middle East and the world was changed forever. That's when G.B. Reynolds, an engineer hired by William Knox D'Arcy, who had a minerals concession from Shahanshah, the king of kings of Iran, struck a gusher of crude that shot 50 feet high from a well 1,180 feet deep.

D'Arcy formed the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, today known as BP. In 1911 Britain's First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill converted the British Navy from coal to oil. To protect their investment, the British government acquired 50% of APOC's stock. In 1935 APOC changed its name to the Anglo Iranian Petrol Company because Iran insisted on all companies using the name Iran instead of Persia, which was a province inside Iran.

Until 1953, AIOC paid Iran a royalty of 16%. The Iranians weren't even allowed to look at AIOC's books. By then, Western oil companies were running Arab countries like fiefs, and treated their workers like slaves. The oil companies were backed by the military might of their respective governments. Iran's shah was installed by the allies in 1941 and headed up a corrupt dictatorship.

Iranians began to wise up that their country was being run by a British oil company, and shoved the Shah aside to figurehead status, electing a new Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq in 1951. He nationalized the oil industry. Britain contested this at the International Court of Law, but their complaint was dismissed.

So Britain approached America for help, and nothing much happened under Truman. But when Eisenhower, a close friend of Churchill, became president, he approved a CIA plan, Operation Ajax. Teddy Roosevelt's grandson Kermit was in charge of this plan to launch a counter-coup and restore the Shah to power. The CIA paid out $1 million hiring gangs, prostitutes, drug addicts and thugs to demonstrate. Various ayatollahs and big landlords and merchants were behind Operation Ajax, too. Enough riots and chaos were fomented to force Mossadeq to resign. On August 19, 1953 the Shah returned to full power and expressed his personal gratitude to Kermit Roosevelt (who then got a job with Gulf Oil). Then the Shah found Mossadeq guilty of treason and put him under house arrest until he died in 1967. Mossadeq's supporters found themselves in front of firing squads. Mossadeq's foreign minister Hossein Fatemi was taken out of hospital to be executed.

In 1957 the Shah -- with an assist from the CIA and US tax dollars -- created SAVAK, his secret police, and instituted a reign of terror, torture and oppression. One time some SAVAK guys corralled a surgeon to cut off one guy's arms and legs; they then returned the living torso back to the fellow's family as a warning to all his friends. From 1953 to 1979 Iran was nothing but a vast Guantanamo Bay-like BP prison, poor and polluted and brutally bullied.

The US got a quid pro quo from AIOC -- sharing their Iranian concession with US oil companies.

In 1954 AIOC changed their name to British Petroleum. In 1959 they expanded to Alaska. Today they're the UK's biggest corporation, fourth biggest in the world after Royal Dutch Shell (famous for turning Nigerian waters into toxic dumps), Exxon Mobil and Wal-Mart by revenue ($21 billion a year) with gas stations and oil wells on every continent in-shore and off-shore.

The bargain of an Iranian coup that cost only $1 million doesn't look like such a bargain if you consider all the crap we're eating now. As for the Iranians, they've been suffering for the past 70 years under our dictatorship and then their own screwed-up theocracy -- when for one shining moment they actually had a democracy in 1953 before we Americans overthrew it to help BP.

As for us, we got ourselves an oil addiction that makes us send billions to countries that don't like us. 26% of our oil comes from the Middle East. Our meddling occasioned the blowback of 9/11 and one of our wars is now. Our. Longest. War. Ever.

Yep, all the Middle East crap we're in today was caused by the same guys who are now ruining our Gulf of Mexico. BP has a lot more to answer for than their oil spill.

We're also getting some insight into the bubble in which BP terrorist-executives live, coming to us via the gaffes of their on-and-now-off CEO Tony Wayward. Apologies: I meant to say Tony Hayward. This guy was born with both feet firmly planted a foot down his gullet, and we should be grateful for this accident of birth, because his comments afford us a useful view into the BP terrorist bubble -- a habitat so confined and sealed off from the rest of us, and so filled with a gas I'm tempted to call Oxygenia Myopia, that the thoughts of the guys trapped inside it sound like they were scripted by John Cleese for a new parrot sketch starring a dead seagull and a live CEO. A Wayward sampler:

1. "What the hell have we done to deserve this?"
2. "It was a bit bumpy to get it going. We made a few little mistakes early on." 
3. “I want my life back.”
4. “The oil is on the surface, there aren't any plumes.”
5. "Apollo 13 did not stop the space program. The Air France airplane that fell out of the sky off of Brazil did not stop the aviation industry."
6. "I am sure they were genuinely ill, but whether it was anything to do with dispersants and oil, whether it was food poisoning or some other reason for them being ill, you know, there's a -- food poisoning is surely a big issue when you've got a concentration of this number of people in temporary camps, temporary accommodations."
7. "It's not possible to measure the flow from the leak."
8. "The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume."
9. “There has been no evidence of reckless behavior.”

Only a guy with an idiotically absolutist and fundamentalist faith in his cause can be this unintentionally hilarious. Jeez, he makes Pat Robertson sound like Gandhi. Then there's the BP Chairman from Sweden, with a smug smile on his face, telling us how much he cares about the “small people.” Pray tell, you condescending snot, how big are you compared to us? I mean not as the Chairman of a big oil company, but as a member of this race of humans who share Planet Earth with you? You sound smaller than a microbe in the fanny of a fish worm.

Earlier the CEOs of the other oil companies appeared at a hearing with the disaster contingency plans that they submitted to the MMS to get their offshore permits, and these plans are the same plan, with references to protecting walruses in the Gulf of Mexico (walruses haven't lived there since walruses evolved). It's obvious they copied and pasted their Gulf “plan” from their Alaska “plan.” The names and phone numbers of dead people to call are in their plans. They didn't even bother to proofread their plans. It's not that they just don't care. They don't even care about giving the appearance that they don't care. One company's PR response plan is five times longer than its section devoted to protecting wild life. As Congressman Ed Markey remarked to Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, the only new technology these oil barons had to contain oil spills and protect coastlines was a Xerox machine.

But all this BS was countenanced and aided and abetted by the government agency in charge of vetting applications for off-shore drilling permits, the Minerals Management Service (MMS), whose people approved applications by going over pre-existing pencil marks with ink on forms that the oil companies had already filled out in pencil. Under those great oil men Bush-Cheney, the oil companies and government overseers were all one big happy GOP family.

Then Tony Wayward was grilled by Congress and put up the most evasive performance since Walter Matthau's constant denials in A Guide For The Married Man made his wife doubt that he was cheating on her when she had actually seen him doing it with her own eyes. My favorite moment from this “testimony” was when Wayward was asked this question by an irate Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla:

"Is today Thursday, yes or no?”

So what can government do about this immense tragedy flecked with icicles of farce? Especially when they're harboring a permit-granting agency that ALSO collected revenue, and was enabled by Ken Salazar and a chap named Obama to continue this and other ethically challenged practices, only marginally better than the merry days under Bush-Cheney when the government officials of MMS snorted coke with BP executives and bonked them. Actually physically FUCKED the people they were supposed to vet. Organs inserted into orifices and all that. I find myself at a loss for inventing an analogy vivid enough to express the outrage engendered by this malfeasance, but let me try this one. It's a little like a hangman who, in the months that the prisoners await the day they feel the touch of his noose, visits the cells and fucks all the murderers.

Here's Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson on how Ken Salazar, Obama's “new sheriff in town,” continued the Bush-Cheney tradition of being in bed with Big Oil:

“Salazar did little to tamp down on the lawlessness at MMS, beyond referring a few employees for criminal prosecution and ending a Bush-era program that allowed oil companies to make their 'royalty' payments -- the amount they owe taxpayers for extracting a scarce public resource -- not in cash but in crude. And instead of putting the brakes on new offshore drilling, Salazar immediately throttled it up to record levels. Even though he had scrapped the Bush plan, Salazar put 53 million offshore acres up for lease in the Gulf in his first year alone -- an all-time high. The aggressive leasing came as no surprise, given Salazar's track record. 'This guy has a long, long history of promoting offshore oil drilling -- that's his thing,' says Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. 'He's got a highly specific soft spot for offshore oil drilling.' As a senator, Salazar not only steered passage of the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which opened 8 million acres in the Gulf to drilling, he even criticized President Bush for not forcing oil companies to develop existing leases faster.

“Salazar was far less aggressive, however, when it came to making good on his promise to fix MMS. Though he criticized the actions of 'a few rotten apples' at the agency, he left long-serving lackeys of the oil industry in charge. 'The people that are ethically challenged are the career managers, the people who come up through the ranks,' says a marine biologist who left the agency over the way science was tampered with by top officials. 'In order to get promoted at MMS, you better get invested in this pro-development oil culture.' One of the Bush-era managers whom Salazar left in place was John Goll, the agency's director for Alaska. Shortly after the Interior secretary announced a reorganization of MMS in the wake of the Gulf disaster, Goll called a staff meeting and served cake decorated with the words 'Drill, baby, drill.'
“Salazar also failed to remove Chris Oynes, a top MMS official who had been a central figure in a multibillion-dollar scandal that Interior's inspector general called 'a jaw-dropping example of bureaucratic bungling.' In the 1990s, industry lobbyists secured a sweetheart subsidy from Congress: Drillers would pay no royalties on oil extracted in deep water until prices rose above $28 a barrel. But this tripwire was conveniently omitted in Gulf leases overseen by Oynes -- a mistake that will let the oil giants pocket as much as $53 billion. Instead of being fired for this fuckup, however, Oynes was promoted by Bush to become associate director for offshore drilling -- a position he kept under Salazar until the Gulf disaster hit.”


So Obama helped BP to screw us, like he's helping Goldman Sachs to continue screwing us, and helping Al Qaeda to recruit new foot soldiers every day, even among our own population. If Bush-Cheney were superduper-heavy terrorist enablers, Obama is somewhere between lite and super-medium-heavy.

However, in one little instance, it does look like Obama got both his balls back -- after one of them had been banged rather blue by the Health Reform battle, and the other nicked with little cuts all over it in the financial reform struggle against Wall Street.

Obama met with BP and got them to agree to put up the money for a no-cap $20 billion escrow fund, run by an independent third party, and another extra $100 million set aside for oil workers who are unemployed because of the moratorium, and the billions in dividends they were going to pay their shareholders will now be withheld for the next three quarters.

Well, well, well.

One wonders why BP bent over that much. Methinks Obama might have let slip a few details from his emergency plan to take BP America into receivership, as former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has been urging. Or perhaps he reminded them of the many lucrative contracts they have with the US government. These are the only explanations I have for this dramatic outcome. After all, Congress was pushing for lifting the cap from $75 million to $10 billion, and here Obama gets them to pony up $20 billion as a no-cap down payment.

So what happens? Obama is accused by some oil flunky Senator and various Fox News nutters of “shaking down” BP. I should bloody well hope he shook down BP. I wish he had the balls to shake down Goldman Sachs, too. And Citigroup. And while he's at it, step on the nuts and bolts of a few GOP folk whose collective IQs don't add up to anything higher than the temperature in your freezer. These GOP belly-achers with their tongues knee-deep up BP's oily sphincter have also proclaimed that Obama has now created a big “slush fund” that lobbyists will divert to various nefarious interests.

What can one say? Your standard-issue Obama haters will mouth anything that springs to mind. I'm amazed we haven't been informed by them that our President has a forked tongue and a scabby tail and goat hooves, all of which he hides from us through some teleprompter trick, plus he's got 666 tattooed on his third nipple, and cuts noxious farts powered by fumes emanating from the bowels of Hell itself.

Getting $20 billion for the fishermen and hotel owners and other citizens at the short end of the BP stick ... isn't that what a President is for, dammit? Remember Teddy Roosevelt? He busted the trusts, who complained bitterly, just like the GOP-BP people are kvetching now. But Teddy had greater testicular fortitude than them. Now that Obama has “shaken down” BP, we finally know this for an absolute fact: Obama's gonads can swell to maximum size in an emergency, even if they're still small enough to fit into the pockets of Goldman Sachs.

I think it's the best thing I've seen a president do since Kennedy faced down the Russians in the Cuban Missile Crisis. It's better than anything Carter, Reagan, the Bushes and Clinton did put together.

This New York Times commenter supplies some excellent perspective:

“Hearing conservative pundits opine about BP's right to 'due process' makes this former Alaskan ill. Ask the fishermen Exxon has been crushing in court for the last 20 years how much due process they are getting. The continuing failure of that company to pay the civil claims of fishermen in Alaska for the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill is one of the great outrages in the history of American jurisprudence. The President almost certainly saved Gulf fishermen, small businesses, tour guides and other average citizens from enduring a generation of fruitless battle against phalanxes of grey-suited corporate counsel, the smartest people money can buy, who are paid to use whatever process it takes to keep the fishermen of Alaska from recovering their due. Due process, indeed.”

Plus, Obama hasn't done any of the really terrible things other presidents have done, even if his 30,000 extra troops in Afghanistan hits a 7.6 on my Outraged Morality Richter Scale.

Unlike Reagan, Obama hasn't sold weapons to Iran's Revolutionary Guard so he could give money to the Contras to kill nuns. Unlike Clinton, he hasn't stood idly by while the Hutus massacred 800,000 Tsutsis with machetes imported from China. Often the Hutus got so tired from the hard work of chopping down Tsutsis, they simply severed the ankle tendons of their victims so the poor bastards couldn't run away, and then went and had themselves a good night's sleep. The next morning they woke up refreshed enough to finish the job.

While you're wincing, let me fibrillate the tragedy with some tasteless insult comedy. Think of it as a little exercise in mood-switching from your personal emotional trainer. It'll help you become a cannier multi-tasker. Ready? Here goes. Another good thing about Obama: his elegant race-horse trot of a walk is easier on the eye and the stomach than the walk of his immediate predecessor, who had the Texas cowboy swagger down pat, consisting of three actions: the smirk of entitlement; the gorilla swing of the arms; and the male version of the supermodel-catwalk-lead-with-your-vag stride, in which President Bush proudly carried his cojones a few feet in front of him like some avatar caricature of his real-world policies.

But I digress. Back to Obama's $20 billion move. Apparently our president's brilliant coup of coups went whizzz! over the heads of our chattering classes. No ringing praises echoed off the clouds. Our punditocrats appear to be stuck in their own self-blown bubble -- where they're pushing a narrative that requires of Obama that he vent his anger at BP in full view of the American public on national TV. They want our president to be the Drama Queen-in-Chief. Like this solves anything except gives them a headline. Our inch-deep pundits prefer theatrics over results, emotion over effectiveness.

Idiots. Even Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, much as I sometimes like them, couldn't pull their heads out of their tunnel-vision butts on this one. I saw only one guy give the president his proper due on this: Ed of The Ed Show on MSNBC. My man.

Obama's an odd bird for sure. A mystery wrapped inside an enigmatic exterior. He has let himself and his progressive supporters down countless times. He backed the public option because, he said, we needed to “keep the insurance industry honest” -- but in the end, there was no Obama/Rahm/Chicago gun-to-a-knife-fight push to get it through; more likely a push against it.

What happened? Did Obama fold like origami tissue because the votes weren't there? Or had he promised the insurance industry back in 2009 that he would let the public option die? We'll have to wait for an insider's tell-all book before we know.

What we do know is that Obama has kept all the Bush-era human rights abuses that he campaigned against going full-blast full-throttle pedal-to-the-metal, with the single exception of torture. Guantanamo is still open. Indefinite detention and extraordinary rendition remain a permanent blight. Attorney-General Eric Holder uses the same BS Bush-era legal challenges to protect and defend BS Bush-era abuses. After Obama got spooked by the GOP capture of Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts seat, he trotted out his support for the Volcker rule with former Fed Chairman Volcker standing right there. Will there ever be a real  division between commercial banking and investment banking, i.e. between lending and gambling? Fat chance.

Like they say, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck. If Obama walks like a slippery customer and quacks like a slippery customer, he must be a slippery customer. At best a hypocrite. At worst a liar whose word is not worth the empty rhetoric falling so flowingly from his tongue.

But then, but then ... as we now know, Obama was the only one in the White House who insisted on doing healthcare reform in his first year -- all his people were against it -- so that the insurance industry won't be able to cheat their customers with a “pre-existing condition” requirement again, or kick them to the gutter when they get sick, or put a cap on what they pay out when they get sick. One man, and one man alone, Barack Hussein Obama, set the long slog in motion that led to this outcome, against the advice of everyone around him.

But then, but then ... Obama puts General Petraeus in charge of the Afghanistan surge, probably knowing full well the general can't succeed, and if this hero can't do it, Obama can withdraw the troops and make enough Americans happy to re-elect him in 2012. The only way Petraeus COULD succeed is if he buys off the entire Taliban, like he did the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. But something tells me that not even the Fed (who so happily shoved over $13 trillion of cheap money at our Wall Street  terrorists) would advance Petraeus the puny trillion or two he'd need to turn the Taliban into America-friendly druglords. 

But then, but then ... Obama gets BP to pony up a down payment of $20 billion on making their Gulf victims whole. 

Odd. Is there some steel in all that fluffy friendliness? Is he just shy about showing it? Or is he, ever the community organizer, waiting for us to take on some of the responsibility ourselves like an actively responsible community, who will stick our collective pitchforks in the fat behinds of our irresponsible elite, Obama's sculpted butt included, to force these irresponsible leaders of ours to do the people's bidding? Or is he waiting to show his progressive hand in his second term, when he will have nothing to lose, and Nancy Pelosi might still be leading a majority of fractious Dems in the House, and Chuck Schumer might be running the Senate, and perhaps not be as friendly with Wall Street as he has been all this life?

Who knows and what the heck. Hey, let's rerun the final episode of Lost instead, while we sip from our plastic bottles of Poland Spring Water, and our sixteen-year-old careens down the highway in our SUV on his way to score some meth at the local lab, and let's all say thank you to our various gods for some small mercies.

Actually, $20 billion makes a big mercy. Humongous. Elephantine. Jupiter.

Chalk up one for the small people.

For now, anyway. Because -- cackle-cackle -- there are lurking off-shore, within polluting distance of our coastline, hundreds of BP oil rigs, so many that Tony Wayward couldn't give a precise number at his Congressional grilling (one of them is way bigger than the one that blew up, and just as unsafe as the one that blew up). Do you think BP will shave 20% off their profits just to play it safer in the future? Or invest billions in new cleanup technology? If you believe that, I have a bridge to nowhere to sell you. As for Goldman Sachs, they've been back in the million-buck seats for more than a year, and lobbying fiercely for the right to screw us again, and succeeding in their efforts. And as for Al Qaeda, their spawn could be living right across the street from you. Those Al Qaeda freaks know how to snag a bitter teen on the Internet. They were global before your kid got his first DSI.

So where does that leave you and me and everyone else we call human? Just one word of advice, folks.