What's Wrong With America? We're Cowards
Before I tell you how I'm a coward, and how Dick Cheney is a coward, and how President Obama is a coward, and how everyone in America is a coward, I want to suck you into my story by starting on a positive note.
To wit: I have a failsafe strategy for when I'm gobsmacked by the exceptionalism of our incompetent institutions, like the Fed missing the bubble, our intelligence services not nixing the visa of the Explosive Gonads Bomber, our incompetent pols giving an incompetent Wall Street the right to ruin us again in a few years, the Senate letting Joe Liebermann take one last bite out of the healthcare bill, or the CIA putting out the welcome mat for a triple agent who's about to blow them up. And then there's Obama asking ex-Presidents Clinton and Bush to help Haiti, when Bush destroyed Haiti's democracy in 2004 and Clinton's been trying to turn the country into a sweatshop.
I've got this default setting that stops me from foaming at the mouth in Sartrean nausea and grinding my teeth into Heideggerian nothingness. Here's what I do: I sit myself down and zen in on how much I still love our failed state of America, and how there are things about America that are actually exceptional.
Freedom of speech. MLK. Geeks. The internet (invented by the Pentagon). Entrepreneurs. Paul Krugman. Elizabeth Warren. Steve Jobs. Our generosity to disaster victims. 24/7 innovation. Matt Taibbi. John Cassavetes. The Great Gatsby. Flash drives. Sylvia Plath. Wallace Stevens. A can-do attitude that once landed us on the moon. Andy Warhol. Bob Dylan, still doing it. A Streetcar Named Desire. The Decemberists. Warren Buffett. My Fair Lady. New York women who don't take crap from men like women do in other countries yet give better blowjobs than women in other countries. And Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.
Meditating on these things of wonder and beauty helps. Especially these days.
The incompetence of our institutions is bad enough. It's the spin from officials embedded in these institutions after their organizations have stepped armpit-deep in doo-doo that really grates, and makes one almost wish we lived in a post-Baudrillard simulacrum where one could call Jack Bauer for some assembly-line-waterboarding of everyone connected to Washington and Wall Street.
The all-time winner of the Cretin Award for Supremely Smug Self-Delusion has got to be Lloyd Blankstein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, who said: “I'm just a banker doing God's work.” Did he ask the Onion for that one? This is a firm that shorted the derivatives they created and sold to pension funds and the like; in one case the derivatives tanked in months. As Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Chairman Phil Angelides told Blankfein this past Wednesday: "I'm just going to be blunt with you. 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."
1. SOME WEIRD US-SPECIFIC PSYCHOSIS?
Goldman Sachs and Blankfein would've have been Goldman Blankrupt if his cronies Paulson, Bernanke and Geithner hadn't arranged a secret backdoor bailout via AIG and let him switch to being a bank-holding company so he could suck on the Fed's tit. Some “capitalist” is this Lloyd Scumbag Blankfein: he likes to live by the sword but can't take dying by the sword when his cosmic fraud and intergalactic incompetence backfire on him. Instead of doing the decent thing and jumping out of the nearest window, he bleats like a baby beggar for help from the very people he screwed, the American taxpayer. On top of being an immoral scumbag and an indictable crook, the man is also a total coward. And a great American traitor: Benedict Arnold on steroids. Today the Goldman Gang That Couldn't Trade Straight is still getting cheap money from the Fed and cleaning up now that most of their crooked rivals are gone. According to Kevin Drum's BRILLIANT article in the current issue of Mother Jones: “The sliced-and-diced mortgage securities that caused so much trouble during the credit bubble are being re-sliced and -diced via something called a RE-REMIC (resecuritization of real estate mortgage investment conduit) -- and business is booming. At Goldman Sachs, leverage in the first half of 2009 was at its highest level in its history.”
Bring back Eliot Spitzer as Attorney-General. If he still had that job, Goldman Sachs would be in the dock and the planet would be a safer place.
I didn't grow up in America, but there must be something that happens to American babies as they suckle at the matronly gazoombas -- some weird US-specific psychosis that makes them permanently poop out any ability to feel any shame.
The leaders of our incompetent institutions have one thing in common: they NEVER man up. Blowing it is never having to say you're sorry. A genuine mea culpa and resignation is as rare as a penguin in the Sahara.
Which bring us to seven cases in point, from the CIA to Haiti, after which we'll get to the cowardice of us all.
2. SEVEN DEGREES OF DYSFUNCTION
Number one: how about our Intelligence Services? They let a known rookie terrorist walk onto a plane to America, even though the Brits possessed the nous to withdraw their visa to him, and in the end our nation has to rely on a Dutch tourist to jump the kid while he's trying to set fire to his nuts on a plane descending over Detroit.
THEN Homeland Security's Janet Napolitano sits on Meet The Press and insists that the system worked after the system screwed up, her unapologetic face trying on various forms of a reassuring grin, like a gargoyle whose strings are being pulled by a puppetmaster suffering from dyskinesia.
Number two: how about those stumble-bums at the Fed? They can't see the biggest bubble in 80 years ballooning right under their nosehairs, and end up shoveling trillions of our lucre into the pockets of a bunch of Wall Street crooks -- mega-Madoffs too connected to be indicted -- to stop a Great Recession from becoming a Great Depression.
THEN Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, the supposed savior of a system he could have and should have prevented from tanking in the first place if he weren't asleep at the wheel over his copy of Atlas Shrugged, tells Congress, when asked if the Fed did a good job supervising and regulating financial institutions before the crisis hit: “We didn’t do a perfect job by any means, but I don’t think we stand out as having done a worse job than other regulators.” Is he fucking kidding? They did a job a gazillion times worse than any other regulator. They did the worst job since Hitler didn't foresee losing when he invaded Russia. In May 2007 when the subprime market was in trouble, Bernanke said: "Importantly, we see no serious broad spillover to banks or thrift institutions from the problems in the subprime market. The troubled lenders, for the most part, have not been institutions with federally insured deposits." Meanwhile, 5 of the 10 largest subprime lenders were being overseen by the Fed. The Fed didn't see the bubble coming, when all Bernanke and his gang of numerate fuckwumps had to do was notice the fact that folks were spending up to twice as much as before on their monthly mortgage payments. Then Time Magazine goes and names this Dunderhead of the Decade their Person of the Year.
Number three: how about our CIA? Five CIA guys and two Blackwater guys don't think they need a Jordanian spy patted down for explosives before they invite him to meet with them, because they know him, and a few minutes later poof! they're gone.
THEN the CIA director Leon Panetta writes this in the Washington Post:
“This was not a question of trusting a potential intelligence asset, even one who had provided information that we could verify independently. It is never that simple, and no one ignored the hazards. The individual was about to be searched by our security officers -- a distance away from other intelligence personnel -- when he set off his explosives.”
So Leon Panetta is saying the brilliant CIA should be thanked because instead of many more intelligence personnel being blown up, only seven were? Is he fucking kidding? Was he born with half his brain missing -- the part to do with responsibility and accountability?
As for the dead guys -- hard-working professionals doing everything they can to hunt down our enemies -- did they ever watch a Mafia movie and notice that everybody pats down everybody else before they have a meeting? Does anybody in the CIA have the balls to look reality in the face and say: this was a brilliant terrorist plot, Al-Qaeda totally outsmarted us, and we were really stupid to let the triple agent go past three checking points without having him patted down?
Number four: how about our Senate?
Sigh. Shrug. Gag. Puke. Let's observe a moment's silence in sympathy with our founding fathers, who are currently spinning so fast in their graves they can't tell their femurs from their coccyxes.
Our Constitution created a nifty balance between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, and then one of them, our glorious Senate, started a little tradition called the filibuster, which the current GOP threatens to use even if the Democrats want to pass a law urging sons to call their mothers every Christmas, so a straightforward majority of 51 is not good enough to get a bill passed, even though it's good enough in every deliberative chamber on the third rock from the sun -- so what Degree of Dotty Dysfunction do we have here?
As you know, in order to get the last two Democrats on board a bill that was already whittled down to an everything-must-go give-away to Aetna, Cigna and Fuckya ...
... Harry Reid had to make it legal for the federal government to pay the cost of Medicare expansion in Ben Nelson's state of Nebraska in PERPETUITY while the other states get theirs paid for only three years ...
... and Hangdog Harry also had to let Dem Traitor Joe Liebermann vent his elephantine spite by wiping his heinie on the idea that people 55 and older might get the right to buy into Medicare ....
... thereby pissing off the progressive base of Harry's party so badly, they may not turn out for the midterms, which may cause the Dems to lose the House (and has turned Ted Kennedy's safe seat in Massachusetts into a toss-up).
WTF!? WTF!? WTF!?
In her New York Times column, Gail Collins quotes these stats to bring home the ludicrousness of the filibuster:
“U.S. population: 307,006,550.
“Population for the 20 least-populated states: 31,434,822.
“That means that in the Senate, all it takes to stop legislation is one guy plus 40 senators representing 10.2 percent of the country.”
NOW for the spin ... Harry Reid and Barack Obama are both proud as hell that they got a bill passed in the broken institution called the Senate where the fate of our nation is torn to pieces on a daily basis. They're happy an extra 30 million Americans can now get affordable healthcare, and that the insurance companies won't be able to turn down folks for a pre-existing condition or drop anyone when they actually need care. And food authority Michael Pollan has pointed out that the health insurance companies might now decide to do something about all that fast food that gives us chronic diseases and the farm subsidies that subsidize the foods that make us sick, because millions of chronically sick Americans will be cutting into their profits. Imagine that: the health insurance industry vs. agribusiness. The one fighting for their right to make big profits off our sickness, and the other fighting for their right to make us sick. Only in America, folks.
OK, maybe we can have between half and one cheer for the Senate's version of a healthcare bill. It's historic and all that, and no one has been able to pass anything like this since Christopher Columbus cut the ears off native Americans, but how about the fact that everyone is now mandated to fork over their hard-earned money to Aetna, Cigna and Bleepya or get hit by taxes or fines: in other words, the government is forcing you to pay for the golden faucets of these predator CEOs, who spend less than 80% of our premiums on actual healthcare while Medicare spends 96%. Howard Dean is right: not having a public option now will keep us fighting the health insurance companies to contain costs for the next 30 years.
Number five: how about the fat cat bankers making out like bandits -- which is what they are -- less than a year after our taxes saved their incompetent asses, and now fighting tooth and nail for the right to build the next bubble -- a fight they're winning -- and for the right to trick us into 30% interest on credit cards?
THEN Goldman Sachs CEO Blankfein tells Congress that the popping of the financial bubble engineered by him and his cronies was as likely as four hurricanes hitting LA. In that case, why were they betting against their own products? The Financial Crisis Inquiry Committee Chairman Phil Angelides had to remind Blankbrain that hurricanes are acts of God and financial crises are made by men. The obtuseness of Blankhead was evident in his comment last year when he meant to be wry, perhaps forgetting that the 100 million people all over the world who are now jobless may not appreciate the pitch-imperfection of this wryness: “I'm just a banker doing God's work.” I guess when Blankprick got paid $68 million in 2007, that was God giving him all that money for helping 68 million little old ladies across the street.
If Goldman Sachs were a Chinese institution, their top guys would've all been hanged by now.
Number six: how about Sen. Barney Frank weakening the Consumer Financial Protection Agency bill, which will establish a body to protect us against dangerous financial products like we're protected against faulty toasters? First thing Barney did was strip out the idea of the White House that banks should be required to offer “plain vanilla” versions of financial products, such as mortgages with simple terms, like standard 30-year fixed mortgages, and low-interest, low-fee credit besides their complicated products. Next: all the banks with less than $10 billion in assets, i.e. 98% of all banks, are exempted from scrutiny by the Protection Agency.
THEN Barney Frank goes on the Rachel Maddow show and brags about how scared the banks are of his bill.
Number seven: how about the suffering of earthquaked Haiti? Well, they might have suffered a little less if we hadn't destroyed their peasant agriculture by flooding the country with our subsidized cheap rice (Congress needs the votes of American farmers, not Haitian farmers) thereby forcing the peasants to move to Port-au-Prince and build themselves shacks where they can die in the first earthquake. They might have suffered a little less if we hadn't gotten rid of Aristide because he didn't listen to us and was all for doing pesky little things like raising the minimum wage. Now Bill Clinton and George W. Bush of all people, two presidents in a long line of bastards who've backed dictators and/or thrust neoliberalism upon this poor country and helped its elite loot it, are called upon by Obama to help Haiti. First the jackboot, then the helping hand. The irony is diabolical; we need a modern Milton to do it justice. Question: why is Haiti the poorest country in our hemisphere? Answer: us.
Seven cases of mind-boggling incompetence and dysfunction: The Fed is useless, Homeland Security is useless, the CIA are idiots, the Senate is a Maginot Line blocking all progress, Barney Frank is creating a Consumer Financial Protection Agency bill that protects the banks, Bill Clinton is helping Haiti after he screwed it (probably to screw it better in the future), and why haven't the brass of Goldman Sachs and Citigroup been indicted yet?
Here's my answer: cowardice.
3. WHY I AM A COWARD
I understand cowardice, because I was once a total coward for four months. Back in the 90s, me and my muse took off four years from the adworld to write the longest novel in English, a two-generational saga called Love and Gravity about the struggle for freedom in South Africa (unpublished) and when it was done, we had no more money left. At one point I took my last $20 and bought fourteen cans of tuna, so I knew I would be able to eat for the next fourteen days. Then I got an out-of-the-blue call from a headhunter, and the next thing I know I'm on a plane to Winston Salem to work on a pitch for an agency there, where the new creative director had assembled a team of misfits like me. The campaign that I created got the agency their first piece of big new business. I stayed there two years, and helped the agency double its size in that time.
One time the whole creative department had to pitch in on a massive campaign for Winston cigarettes. I don't smoke and I think cigarettes should be banned. But did I say I can't work on the campaign? Did I resign? No, I bent over and went along with the prevailing ethos. I was a complete coward, and the worst kind: a moral coward. Why was I such a coward? Because I didn't want to stand alone, and because I needed the money. Those fourteen cans of tuna reared up like the Furies. I didn't want to face such a humiliation of my body and soul again any time soon. Rather be a moral coward. So much for my strength of character.
So why are Cheney and Bernanke and Obama all cowards? Not because they'll be down to their last fourteen cans of tuna if they shut up (Cheney) or do something for Main Street instead of support Wall Street (Bernanke and Obama). So let's find out how they're cowards and why.
4. WHY CHENEY IS A COWARD
Cheney appears to be speaking for the GOP and more than half the nation -- the 58% of Americans who want the Explosive Gonads Bomber waterboarded. Is Cheney a coward because he's scared of having no money? No.
Dick Cheney is a coward because he wet his pants over 9/11 and they've never been dry since.
But there were some clues to his cowardice before 9/11. (Listen up, spineless Dems, these are your talking points against Dick if you've got the balls to attack him 24/7 and thereby change the conversation and limit your losses in the mid-terms.)
1. Despite his readiness to start wars and send others to war, Cheney himself ducked the Vietnam War, asking for and receiving five deferments. During the hearings about his nomination as Secretary of Defense in 1989, Sen. John Warner asked Cheney about these deferments. Cheney replied: "I would have been happy to serve if called." A lie.
Asked by a Washington Post reporter about his deferments, Cheney said, "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service.” Not a lie.
Back in 1992, Cheney acolyte Paul Wolfowitz was critical of the decision by Bush Sr not to invade Baghdad and overthrow Saddam. Later Craig Unger reflected on this: “Interestingly, in what critics later termed ‘Chickenhawk Groupthink,’ the moderate, pragmatic, somewhat dovish policies implemented by men with genuinely stellar [military] records -- George H. W. Bush, Brent Scowcroft, and Colin Powell -- were under fire by men who had managed to avoid military service -- Cheney, Wolfowitz, Libby, and Khalilzad.”
2. Then there is Dick Cheney the macho hunter. His favorite “sport” is canned bird shooting. Here's a report:
“Upon his arrival at the exclusive Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier Township, gamekeepers released 500 pen-raised pheasants from nets for the benefit of him and his party. In a blaze of gunfire, the group ... killed at least 417 of the birds. According to one gamekeeper who spoke to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Cheney was credited with shooting more than 70 of the pen-reared fowl.
“After lunch, the group shot flocks of mallard ducks, also reared in pens and shot like so many live skeet. There's been no report on the number of mallards the hunting party killed, but it's likely that hundreds fell.
“Rolling Rock is an exclusive private club for the wealthy with a world-class golf course and a closed membership list. It is also a "canned hunting" operation -- a place where fee-paying hunters blast away at released animals, whether birds or mammals, who often have no reasonable chance to escape ... Bird-shooting operations offer pheasants, quail, partridges, and mallard ducks, often dizzying the birds and planting them in front of hunters or tossing them from towers toward waiting shotguns.”
And Cheney proudly calls himself a hunter. I'm reminded of Elvis loading up his pool with lightbulbs and shooting them, with one difference -- he shot at defenseless LIGHTBULBS.
These two forms of cowardice should have been a clue to what followed after 9/11.
3. Before 9/11, Cheney ignored a memo of August 6, 2001 that said “Bin Ladin Determined To Strike In US” and the Intelligence Services under Cheney didn't connect the dots even though three Hamburg members of Al-Qaeda took flight lessons in South Florida and the FBI expressed concern about that. The flat-footed non-response by the Bush-Cheney administration to the memo and other signals allowed Al-Qaeda to pull off the biggest act of terrorism ever. (At this point Cheney was acting as the President behind the scenes, while Bush was a puppet, his strings pulled by Cheney and Rove; Bush starting doing his job only in his second term and began exercising real power when he fired Rumsfeld in 2006. By the time Bush left office, he was so pissed with Cheney he didn't accede to Cheney's repeated requests to grant Scooter Libby a full pardon.)
After 9/11, Cheney the coward did two things. Number one, he wet his pants to such an extent that he sanctioned torture. He came up with the term 'enemy combatant,' to make detainees torture-able, and imprisoned them at Guantanamo Bay, US territory in Cuba, where they were supposed to not be on US soil and therefore not subject to US law and torturable. The men imprisoned here for torture included a 14-year-old, two 15-year-olds and an 88-year-old. Many of the “terrorists” were guys handed to us by thugs of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan making good money from our bounty of $5,000 per head and settling a few scores along the way. Detainees were tortured at Guantanamo Bay, in Iraq and Afghanistan and at CIA black sites in Europe. To date 180 people have died in custody, 38 with “homicide” on their death certificates. The innocent Afghan taxi driver Dilawar died within five days of his arrest at Bagram, after two days of continuous beating that pulped his legs, as revealed in the 2007 documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side,” where his torturers tell all.
The photos of Abu Ghraib were just the tip of the iceberg; Obama later refused to release another batch of photos because former CIA directors complained to him and in typical cowardly Obama fashion, our President caved because research showed his approval rating would go down a few points if he released the photos.
As for Cheney, his “work the dark side” crimes against humanity have forever endangered our troops who might ever fall in enemy hands.
3. Then Dick 'Five Deferments' Cheney sacrificed American kids in two wars he had planned before 9/11 happened, both because of oil. Afghanistan was over a pipeline, and Iraq was because Saddam had the insolence to cut out American oil companies when he made deals with Russian and other foreign companies.
Cheney had a good excuse for the Afghanistan war: the Taliban, whom we had backed against Russia, and who'd been the guests of Texas oil men, harbored the terrorist master-funder Bin Laden. The Taliban offered three times to negotiate Bin Laden's handover, but Cheney refused to negotiate and attacked. The weird thing about his attack was that when we had Bin Laden cornered at Tora Bora, and our guys there were begging for troops on the ground, Rumsfeld refused to commit ground troops because he was scared of the possible losses, and he and Cheney let Bin Laden get away. Cowards.
4. Cheney had no excuse to attack Iraq, whom the US had backed against Iran (even when Saddam Hussein used poison gas against the Iranians). But Cheney had planned a war against Iraq since the 90s, when he was one of the original signers -- along with Rumsfeld, Scooter Libby, Paul Wolfowitz and others -- of the Statement of Principles of the neocon thinktank PNAC (Project for the New American Century) started in 1997 (and ended in 2006). PNAC called for the greater militarization of America and hostile intervention in regimes inimical to the US. These guys were hawks on steroids, actually looking to have wars all over the globe. On January 16, 1998 the PNAC sent a letter to Bill Clinton, urging the President to embrace their plan “for the removal of Saddam Hussein from power.”
Once Cheney, who headed up the team to find a Vice-President for Bush, suggested himself as Vice-President, and once the Supreme Court handed the presidency to Bush-Cheney, Cheney and his neocon cronies had the power to go after Saddam Hussein.
Problem: how to sell such a war? Cheney and crew were casting about for a reason when 9/11 happened. Now two reasons to sell the war occurred to neocons Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz (who talked Bush on board). One was a connection between Saddam and 9/11, and the other was that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Both were BS, but they were good enough to sell a BS war.
Cheney couldn't make the connection with 9/11 stick, although many Americans believed it, and still do, including Cheney himself. The McClatchy news people reported that one of the reasons Khalid Sheikh Mohammed got waterboarded 183 times and Abu Zubaydah got waterboarded 83 times is that Cheney and Rumsfeld insisted that the interrogators find “proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there."
Meanwhile, there were the weapons of mass destruction. Said Wolfowitz: "For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.”
THEN Cheney and Bush later claimed they were misled by faulty intelligence and blamed the CIA when no such weapons were found. The truth is they wanted a war anyway and didn't give a shit what intelligence said as long as they could use it to sell the war.
Today, revisionism has so taken hold of our commentariat that everybody has bought into the lie of “faulty” intelligence that supposedly led Cheney and everyone else astray.
Has Cheney ever manned up about any of this? No. Has he ever apologized for the deaths of thousands of American soldiers and tens of thousands of the wounded and brain-damaged and those with post-traumatic stress disorder? No. Has he ever apologized for the million plus Iraqis killed? No. Has he ever apologized for the fact that these wars played right into Bin Laden's hands? No. That he was played for a sucker by Bin Laden? No. That his wars led to a huge spike in Al-Qaeda recruitment? No. That his wars led to a huge spike in acts of terror? No. That he made us infinitely less safe than before? No. Has he ever apologized for the fact that there may have been no Explosive Gonads Bomber if it weren't for his wars? No.
Why not? He's a coward. (Has anyone ever tried to nail him on this? No. When they're not cowards, our mainstream media are doltishly ignorant.)
Instead, Cheney is attacking Obama for not being war-like enough, when Obama is committing the folly of stepping up the Afghanistan war. It's like the kettle calling the kettle black.
Here's what Coward Cheney said after the Explosive Gonads Bomber was foiled:
"As I've watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low-key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won't be at war. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won't be at war. He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of Sept. 11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won't be at war.
"He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core Al Qaeda-trained terrorists still there, we won't be at war. He seems to think if he gets rid of the words, 'war on terror,' we won't be at war. But we are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren't, it makes us less safe. Why doesn't he want to admit we're at war? It doesn't fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn't fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency -- social transformation -- the restructuring of American society. President Obama's first object and his highest responsibility must be to defend us against an enemy that knows we are at war."
Obama has said again and again that we are at war. So many times that it drives me crazy. Cheney is flat-out lying again. Why is he doing this? From cowardice. He's trying to rewrite history -- to make excuses for being a war criminal who's too scared to go overseas because he might get arrested and find himself in the dock in The Hague. He's hiding his criminality behind a torrent of lies. He's projecting his own cowardice on the President.
He is not only a cowardly war criminal, he's unpatriotic. Instead of condemning the Explosive Gonads Bomber first, and congratulating the people who stopped the bomber, he does nothing but condemn our president from start to finish. This is the act of an un-American coward. The same goes for his odious lying daughter Liz.
There's a stunning contrast between Cheney and Bush, who said about Obama: "I'm not going to spend my time criticizing him. There are plenty of critics in the arena. He deserves my silence.” And: "I love my country a lot more than I love politics. I think it is essential that he be helped in office."
5. WHY BERNANKE IS A COWARD
The Fed was created in 1913 to be independent of Congress and the President. But it's not independent from the banks. It's governed by a board of directors dominated by bankers chosen by banks. Same with the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks, including the NYC one, run by Tim Geithner before he became Obama's Treasury Secretary.
Which is why the Fed has done nothing about the scandal of overdraft fees on debit cards. The overdraft industry is only 16 years old, but it's a business of nearly $40 billion. A typical overdraft fee is $35, which, according to Kevin Drum in Mother Jones, gives the bank $2 for every buck borrowed: an annual percentage rate 10,000%. It sure beats what a Mafia loan shark makes. In 2004 the Fed ruled that overdraft fees shouldn't be classified as loans so the banks could continue with their loan sharking. Rock on, banks: keep gouging America.
This Fed is the outfit that Chairman Bernanke runs and uses to flood the crooks of Wall Street with trillions, so they can keep gambling in the Great Wall Street Casino. Bernanke is all for saving the banks, but too much of a coward to do anything about saving America from the banks. He's got Insider's Myopia bad. Why is he a coward? Because he wants to keep his job. Not for the money; for the power.
6. WHY OBAMA IS A COWARD
Here's what makes President Obama a coward: having appointed the wrong guys to oversee the economy, Summers and Geithner, he has not fired them yet.
Tax dodger Geithner is the man who with Paulson arranged the backdoor bailout of overseas banks and Goldman Sachs via AIG, and then, coward that he is, asked AIG to keep quiet about it.
Summers is one part of the four-member cabal that stopped the regulation of derivatives under the Clinton administration. Back then, Brooksley Born was at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (its mission is to protect us from fraud and promote healthy futures and options markets). She did an analysis with her team in the 90s that led them to anticipate the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Sound familiar? So Born suggested regulating derivatives. She was told to shut the heck up by Greenspan, Rubin, Summer and SEC Chairman Levitt, Bill Clinton's so-called President's Working Group. Her recommendations suppressed, she resigned in frustration as Chair of the Commission.
HOW is it possible that the guy who caused the problem is now charged with saving us? This is like appointing Paul Wolfowitz as our Secretary of Defense when Gates leaves. What the heck is Obama thinking?
He does have one guy advising him who is not culpable: Paul Volcker, Fed Chairman from 1979 to 1987, who heads up Obama's Economic Advisory Board. Volcker is pushing for regulation to ban commercial banks from securities trading altogether. Is Obama doing anything about Volcker's advice? No. Why not?
Obama is a coward. Why? He needs Wall Street's money for his campaign in 2012. That's it, plain and simple. Obama is selling us out, you and me, the American people, because he believes he needs the Wall Street crooks to bail out his ass in 2012. He needs those fraudsters to help him bamboozle us to vote for him again. Wall Street contributed $475m during the 2008 election cycle to individuals and PACs (the healthcare lobby contributed $167m, farm lobby $65m, defense lobby $24m).
That's America, folks. That's why we're a failed state. The most powerful man on the planet, and Congress itself ... both are bending over for a bunch of crooks who are back doing the same socially useless things and making big bonuses -- the very same actions that caused over 17% of Americans to be unemployed or underemployed today.
No one in America has the power or the courage to stop these crooks from practicing their fraud and blowing up our economy again.
In England they've put a tax of 50% on the bonuses of their crooks, but in America we're too cowardly to try that.
In China they hang businessmen for fraud but in America we throw trillions at them so they can keep on ripping us off.
In Europe they're all for putting a tax on all financial transactions to make some socially useful money off them, but we're too cowardly to try it.
Now Obama wants to get our TARP money back from the banks via a tax on them over 10 years, which will cause the fat cats as much pain as a sardine wriggling on a whale's palate causes pain to the whale.
Obama is a big thin coward, but Paul Volcker is not. Speaking to a conference of top bankers on December 8, 2009, Volcker said this about bankers' pay: “Has there been one financial leader to say this is really excessive? Wake up, gentlemen. Your response, I can only say, has been inadequate.”
Bankers say new regulations could stifle innovation; Volcker said: “I wish someone would give me one shred of neutral evidence that financial innovation has led to economic growth -- one shred of evidence.”
The reason Volcker wants a ban on commercial banks engaging in securities trading is simple: so they can get back to lending and borrowing, and help the economy instead of sabotaging it.
Are there any signs that Obama is being persuaded by Volcker? No. Our president has got Summers and Geithner so deep up his butt that, whenever he has anything to say about the economy, their arms are moving his tongue.
Poor Barack. Between a white mother and a black father, he's genetically engineered to look for the middle. So he keeps trying to find the middle in Washington, which is not easy, given the fact that, number one, the GOP has morphed into the party of crazy people, and number two, corporate lobbyists have taken over the writing of our laws, something we the people mistakenly thought was supposed to be done by the people we elect. Between the lobbyists and the GOP, Washington's middle has moved since Reagan gave it a big push, and now it's moved so far that today the middle sits maybe an inch away from Mussolini's right boot. On a good day.
What should Obama do? Here's a clue from a commenter on a New York Times thread on January 7th, 2010. His name is Michael Radosevich. He spins a great could-have-been fantasy that has the absolute ring of moral truth.
“The Fed should have forced Bear Stearns into a pre-arranged bankruptcy, with protections for innocent investors. Then, it should have sold off the solvent parts, and seized & clawed back all the ill-gotten gains from Bear Stearns stockbrokers, managers, & executives. Then, it should have taken a close look at Citibank, BoA, & the other "zombie" banks, seized those banks, busted up those banks, &, again, seized & clawed back all the ill-gotten gains from managers, & executives. Et cetera with all the other AIGs, Goldman Sachs, et al.
“Then, the U.S. Attorney for New York City should have prosecuted these thieves & fraudsters, starting with the CEOs & executives of these companies. As we saw some of these thieves getting ten & twenty year prison terms, we would not have been so dismayed by paying the bills they left for us.
“Instead we got corporate bailouts & cheated the taxpayers & workers. Barack "Wall Street" Obama, Geithner, Bernanke, Larry Summers & the rest just continued ripping off taxpayers & giving our money to vulture capitalists.
“Most of us who voted for Obama were looking for intelligent leadership. Instead, we got more of the same crony 'capitalism' & stupid, ignorant policy.”
Pretty crisp, eh? The crispest I've read in two years.
What is Obama doing besides his plan to recover our TARP money -- which we know he's doing simply because White House polling tells him the people are angry out there, and he must do something, so he picks the easiest cosmetic thing to do that changes nothing structurally?
He's doing nothing. Zip. Nada. Except of course making a little noise every now and then.
In fact, Obama is making damn sure that the fat cat bankers get to keep all the tools they need to cause another disruption three to seven years down the road. Here's Kevin Drum in his BRILLIANT report in the current Mother Jones about Obama's regulatory proposal:
“'We don't want to tilt at windmills,' he explained last June -- and there was little doubt which windmill he was talking about. Just a couple of months earlier the financial industry had won a stunning victory over a seemingly shoo-in administration proposal to modify bankruptcy laws for strapped homeowners -- and they had not only won, they had managed to get billions in extra bailout money at the same time. That remarkable demonstration of raw power caught the Obama administration's attention, so rather than risk another defeat it began compromising even before its proposal was introduced. Top bank executives and financial lobbyists were part of the planning from the start, and as a result mutual funds and hedge funds got away with only modest new limits, credit ratings agencies were left largely untouched, the most dangerous varieties of derivatives were left alone, almost nothing was done to reduce the size of the biggest banks, and additional powers were given to the Fed, which has shown repeatedly that it's too close to Wall Street to ever regulate it effectively.”
In the first 10 months of of 2009, the financial industry spent $402 million on lobbying and campaign contributions. More than $8 million went to members of the House Committee on Financial Services.
7. WHY THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE COWARDS
We Americans are so used to being screwed over by our elite, we accept it. In fact, we're grateful.
We're big-time victims of Stockholm Syndrome.
Some of us are so deluded we run around waving teabags, calling Obama a socialist, a most peculiar form of Stockholm Syndrome -- call it Evangelical Stockholm Syndrome. When Pat Robertson says the people of Haiti got earthquaked because they made a pact with the devil to win their freedom from the French, he's doing much more than being dadaesque callous -- he's talking an evangelical dialect that is viscerally understood by his Evangelical Stockholm Syndrome people.
When Cheney says Obama is pretending we're at war, he's doing much more than lying -- he's talking a language that is viscerally understood by his Stockholm Syndrome followers on Stockholm Syndrome-engendering Fox News.
When Obama says if the banks can pay their employees big bonuses, they can pay back the American people, he's trying to appeal to his base of Obamian Stockholm Syndrome victims. Except a majority of his section of Stockholm Syndrome victims don't buy it. On The Ed Show, the host asked viewers to call in and answer the question: Is Obama doing enough to rein in the banks? 31% of Stockholm Syndrome victims said he's doing enough, 63% of Stockholm Syndrome victims said not.
Call it Stockholm Syndrome or cowardice, it amounts to the same thing: inaction in the face of injustice done to every one of us personally. How many times have you been hit by an overdraft charge? The banks even hit the party who receives the overdraft check. And we put up with this outrage.
Is your bank account at one of the 25 biggest banks in America? If you don't move it to a smaller bank or a credit union, you're helping the fat cat bankers to screw you: you're a coward.
If you're one of the 58% Americans who think the Explosive Gonads Bomber should be waterboarded, i.e. you're willing to sacrifice our principles simply because you're scared, you're a coward.
If you keep paying the minimum on your mounting credit card charges, or if you're paying off an underwater mortgage, you're a coward. Billion-dollar corporations walk away from their obligations all the time; if they're immoral punks, why not you? Especially when they're ripping you off.
If you're giving Obama a pass on his coddling of fat cat bankers, you're a coward.
What is it with us? Don't we have the courage of our convictions? Or don't we have any convictions to be courageous about?
Last Monday, a 100-year-old woman died in the Netherlands. Her name was Miep Gies. She worked for Anne Frank's father Otto, and agreed to keep the Frank family and three other Jews in a secret annex to Otto's office where the Gestapo wouldn't find them. Mrs. Gies biked to various groceries so her food purchases would not arouse suspicion. She and her husband kept the Franks going for more than two years. After the Gestapo raided the office, she tried to bribe them to save the family. She kept Anne Frank's diary, hoping the girl would come back for it. It's because of Miep Gies that we have Anne Frank's Diary.
This is what Miep Gies said about herself: “I am not a hero. I was just an ordinary housewife and a secretary.”
Miep Gies risked her life. Most of us Americans can't even risk our time. We spend a great part of it in front of the TV machine. Our couch-potato passivity and ignorance and cowardice have earned us the right to be screwed by our elite day in and day out.
This is an agonizing time in the life of our nation. I have friends who've been devastated by the Great Recession. A neighboring country is suffering unimaginable devastation. During days as dark as these, our choices define us more precisely than usual. We create who we are in our own eyes and in the eyes of our loved ones, our children, our neighbors, our peers, and everyone whose paths we cross. In pop-Sartrean terms: faced with the absurdity of existence, we're condemned to exercise our freedom of choice. Maybe this is a crude, blunt, shallow way to put it, but I look at it like this:
Once I was a coward. Now I ask myself: who would I rather be from now on? Lloyd Blankfein or Miep Gies?
Over to you, dear reader. When you look in the mirror, who do you want to see?
And what do you want to do about it?