From the New York Times:
The Justice Department has countered that crisis-era wrongdoing often amounted to reckless or risky behavior, but not criminal misconduct. Senior executives were far removed from the front lines of fraud, the department has argued.
In recent months, however, the Justice Department has pursued actions against bank employees suspected of manipulating foreign currencies. Those cases are expected to conclude in the coming months.
“Corporations do not act criminally, but for the actions of individuals,” Mr. Miller said in the speech, adding, “The criminal division intends to prosecute those individuals, whether they’re sitting on a sales desk or in a corporate suite.”
A golden oldie from Matt Stoller:
These systems interrelate, and inefficiency in one impacts the other. This became very obvious to me when I went to Kenya last summer, and saw how a semi-competent telecom and banking system could work. Kenya has the world’s most innovative mobile payments system, called M-Pesa. M-Pesa is a cell phone based cash remittance system based on text messages. Unlike Chase’s Quickpay system, M-Pesa just works, and works well.
You load your SIM card with money at any number of street stalls, telecom stores, beauty shops, or anywhere else someone has decided to set up a Safaricom outlet. Transfers happen via text message, and they cost 0.5 – 4% of the cost of the transaction, which is cost effective for a country where so few people have access to banks. Withdrawals can happen at any Safaricom outlet. If your phone is stolen, that’s ok, the cash is loaded onto your SIM card and you have a unique password. And everyone uses it. It’s like Paypal, only it’s not terrible.
This isn’t just a problem of monopolistic behavior or excessive market power. Safaricom is a very powerful company in Kenya, and there is basically no competition to what they do. Yet they have produced a terrific system that companies all over the world are trying to replicate. Cell service on volcanos where no one lives except zebras and lions is more reliable than cell service on Fifth Avenue in New York.
What seems to have happened is that American corporate executives are now more focused on financial engineering, which is essentially the extraction of capital from their enterprises and from the public, than they are at selling improved goods and services. For example, GE just got a tax break extended which added $3 billion a year in annual profit in the latest fiscal cliff deal. That’s a lot of money, and not one good or service was improved to drop that cash to the bottom line.
As another example, the cable industry is projecting an average monthly bill of $200 by 2020, versus $86 today. At 73 million subscribers, that’s an additional $100 billion a year of revenue. Comcast alone has 22 million customers – that’s $30 billion a year for this one company alone. And let’s be clear, this is not going to better products, Americans tend to get worse internet and cable service than counterparts around the world. Investing in manipulative pricing schemes, lobbying for tax breaks and not investing in good infrastructure is a rational choice for American corporate executives, since their ethic is to extract as much capital as possible from the American economy. And yet, this is why America can’t have nice things.
Word has reached the Koch brothers that a few North Carolina judges remain unbought. From the New York Times:
RALEIGH, N.C. — The ad first appeared on television the Friday before last, a black-and-white spot charging that Justice Robin Hudson coddled child molesters and “sided with the predators” in a North Carolina Supreme Court dissent. It has run constantly since.
As notable as the ad’s content and frequency, though, is its source. It was created and aired not by one of Justice Hudson’s two opponents in Tuesday’s primary election, but by a group that had just received $650,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee in Washington, which pools donations from corporations and individuals to promote conservatives in state politics and is now broadening its scope to target judicial races.
The sums have been unusual for such elections. The primary race for Justice Hudson’s Supreme Court seat alone has drawn more than $1 million — the bulk of it by independent groups including the Republican committee and an arm of the state Chamber of Commerce, which has spent $250,000 to promote both of her opponents with money from companies including Reynolds American, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Koch Industries…
…and we’re here to help. From The New Yorker:
Because West Virginia has a population of only 1.8 million — less than the city of Houston — an investment in influence goes far. The conservative fossil-fuel magnates Charles and David Koch, through their charitable foundations, have devoted particular attention to the state. The Investigative Reporting Workshop, at American University, found that, between 2007 and 2011, the Kochs gave $30.5 million to two hundred and twenty-one universities; West Virginia University received nine hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars, the third-highest amount, behind George Mason and Florida State. In February, the university announced that it was creating a five-million-dollar Center for Free Enterprise, funded in part by the Charles G. Koch Foundation.
The Kochs also helped fund research at the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia, a think tank that, in 2007, published “Unleashing Capitalism: Why Prosperity Stops at the West Virginia Border and How to Fix It,” edited by a West Virginia University economics professor named Russell Sobel. The book argued against mine-safety regulations, on the ground that “improved safety conditions result in lower money wages for workers,” and asked, “Are workers really better off being safer but making less income?” It also called for relaxing rules on water usage. “Although they are intended to benefit citizens, water use regulations will only hamper prosperity by impeding the state’s ability to retain and attract businesses and to generate new employment opportunities.”
Governor Manchin invited Sobel to brief his cabinet, as well as a joint session of the Senate and the House Finance Committees. The state Republican Party chairman said, “Unleashing capitalism will be our party platform.” In February, Americans for Prosperity, the political-advocacy group funded heavily by the Koch brothers, established a chapter in West Virginia. A state Republican consultant told me, “You can do things here incredibly, incredibly cheaply. For instance, A.F.P., the Koch brothers, went and did North Carolina last time. Well, a legislative seat here is about one-fourth the size of a legislative seat in North Carolina. So there’s bang for your buck.” In any given district, he said, “You can go in for twenty grand, and probably fix a problem.” He also noted, “People are just showing up with pockets full of money, saying, ‘We want to help you out.’ ”
Can there anything more pathetic than a grown “man” who would pay thousands of dollars to shoot a tame deer bred to have great, bulging deformed antlers?
(Now that I think of it, maybe there is. Back in the day in Laos, I worked for an American ambassador who would strap on his six-shooter when he went upcountry to our CIA base near the Plain of Jars, safely surrounded by spooks and our Hmong guerrillas. His own generation’s war was World War II, which he had sat out at our embassy in Switzerland.)
At Gin and Tacos Professor Ed says:
General Motors under [CEO Roger] Smith spent $90 billion on robotics and automation in nine years … Of course none of it worked, with factory robots breaking down constantly, painting one another, and welding car doors shut…
The fact is that General Motors didn’t go bankrupt, it committed financial suicide because its executive culture fostered a loathing for the UAW and the hourly workforce that was so extreme that it obliterated basic logic and business sense. The idea was not to replace the workers with Japanese robots (GM Robotics was acquired from Fujitsu) because it would save money; it was to replace the workers with robots because fuck the workers.
Try to picture the mindset of people who would rather run their company into the ground than give their grunt employees a Cost of Living raise. It’s like an airline that would rather blow all of its planes up on the runway than give passengers an entire can of soda.
But enough about Delta.
From the New York Times:
Mr. Sherman said in the source notes that he interviewed 614 people who knew or worked with Mr. Ailes for the book, which took more than three years to report and write. More than 100 pages are devoted to source notes and bibliography.
Former employees cited in the book talked of Mr. Ailes’s volatile temper and domineering behavior. In one anecdote, a television producer, Randi Harrison, told Mr. Sherman that while negotiating her salary with Mr. Ailes at NBC in the 1980s, he offered her an additional $100 each week “if you agree to have sex with me whenever I want.”
A Fox News spokeswoman said in a statement on Tuesday: “These charges are false. While we have not read the book, the only reality here is that Gabe was not provided any direct access to Roger Ailes and the book was never fact-checked with Fox News.”
Why bother? Would you hymen-check a whorehouse?
Ethan Couch again, the spoiled 16-year-old killer of four given a walk by a kindly Texas judge. Yesterday I made a quick search of the initial coverage to find out who was responsible for spoiling this pathetic little rich kid. The only information I could find was that his parents were divorced. No names given. No occupations, no bio at all on this “wealthy family.” A psychologist testified that the parents were disasters, but again the news accounts left them nameless. The pickup Ethan was driving was owned by his father’s company, the watchdogs of the press reported, but apparently they were unable to dig out its name. To find it, I had to go to the Cleburne (Texas) Times-Review, in a December 3 story about the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit against Cleburne Metal Works, owned by one Fred Couch. Plenty of interviews with the parents of the killed; none with the killer’s parents. No mention of unsuccessful attempts made. No word as to whether they were even present in court. Nobody seems to have staked out the Couch mansion, or mansions. No photos of the parents who apparently infected their brat with affluenza at birth, and followed up regular maintenance doses for 16 years.
Judge Jean Boyd, it seems, isn’t the only one passing out free rides.
Forget about Swine Flu, MERS, type 2 diabetes, COPD, HIV/AIDS, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, hantavirus, and Low-T. Here’s what’s really killing us all.
The controversial decision, as well as backlash over a defense strategy that included testimony that 16-year-old Ethan Couch suffered from “affluenza” — an upbringing so privileged that he was unable to discern right from wrong — has led to significant criticism from the public.
“The Republican Party, I really believe, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from years and years of bullying and taunting. The Republican Party is Jonathan Martin. The Democrat Party and the media are Richie Incognito.”
Well, yeah, maybe. Except for Jonathan Martin being black.
From Tim Weiner’s history of the CIA, Legacy of Ashes:
The ambassador [Henry Cabot Lodge] resented the agency’s exalted status in Saigon. “CIA has more money; bigger houses than diplomats; bigger salaries; more weapons; more modern equipment.” He was jealous of the powers held by [CIA station chief] John Richardson, and he scoffed at the caution the station chief displayed about Conein’s central role in the coup plotting. Lodge decided he wanted a new station chief.
So he burned Richardson — “exposed him and gave his name publicly to the newspapers,” as Bobby Kennedy said in a classified oral history eight months later — by feeding a coldly calculated leak to a journeyman reporter passing through Saigon. The story was a hot scoop. Identifying Richardson by name — an unprecedented breach of security — it said he had “frustrated a plan of action Mr. Lodge had brought with him from Washington, because the agency disagreed with it…one high official here, a man who has devoted most of his life in the service of democracy, likened the CIA’s growth to a malignancy, and added he was not sure that even the White House could control it.” The New York Times and the Washington Post picked up the story. Richardson, his career ruined, left Saigon four days later; after a decent interval, Ambassador Lodge moved into his house.
Here’s Ed at Gin and Tacos on his dabblings in the stock market:
My tolerance for the absurdity of the whole enterprise is in decline. Every time I make a profitable transaction now, I can’t stop thinking, “Why do I have more money now? I didn’t do anything.” And I didn’t. Nobody who plays this game does. It is a world in which nothing is produced and destroyed except money itself. One day you buy something for x dollars. The next, you sell it for 1.5x. Your personal profit is money created out of thin air.
And this, on a much larger scale, is the dominant profession of our financial (and social, and political) elite. They create ever more complex financial instruments out of other intangible financial assets and then they sell them to one another and everyone walks away with money even though nothing happened. The old saying about the stock markets being a form of liar’s poker is a lie inasmuch as poker is a more legitimate enterprise. Real money changes hands between real people performing a transaction with a payout agreed upon in advance.
These people – our Producers, our Galtian heroes, our Job Creators – are people who don’t actually make, create, or produce anything. It’s all blips and clicks and algorithms and trades programmed to self-execute when defined parameters are met. It takes knowledge and a specific talent to do this successfully; that is indisputable. Regardless, I can never wrap my mind around how … intrinsically worthless are the “assets” involved in this game. The only thing that the hedge fund manager or the day trader creates is personal wealth.
…you’ve already come across this tale of life among the British upper classes, but here’s another tasty morsel for you:
LONDON — The photographs of the art dealer Charles Saatchi with his hands around the neck of his wife, the celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, look as startling now as when they were published last month. But what has happened since has been, in its way, equally unsettling…
Mr. Saatchi, 70, has offered various explanations, some of them verging on the unpleasant. Discussing why, in addition to mock-strangling his wife during the incident, he had also shoved her finger up her nose, he said: “Even domestic goddesses sometimes have a bit of snot in their nose. I was trying to fish it out.” (He was alluding to Ms. Lawson’s cookbook “How to be a Domestic Goddess,” a title that has been applied to her ever since the book came out, in 2000.)
From Patrick Radden Keefe’s muckraking piece in this week's New Yorker on corruption in the West African republic of Guinea:
The international finance system has evolved to accommodate a wide array of illicit activities, and shell companies and banking havens make it easy to camouflage transfers, payment orders, and copies of checks. Paul Collier argues that there are often three parties to a corrupt deal: the briber, the bribed, and the lawyers and financial facilitators who enable the secret transaction. The result, he says, is a “web of corporate opacity” that is spun largely by wealthy professionals in financial capitals like London and New York. A recent study found that the easiest country in which to establish an untraceable shell company is not a tropical banking haven but the United States.
Yesterday’s cringe-worthy dedication of Bush’s Folly leads me to re-post, not for the first time but I hope for the last, my 2006 psychoanalysis of the frat boy president. (For further elaboration on the theme, see this from 2002.)
The younger Bush’s career can only be understood as a lifelong obsession with disappointing the father he so plainly hates.
He follows his father’s footsteps in school, as a pilot, as a businessman, and finally as a politician. Unable to fill those footprints, he made each one seem unimportant by pretending contempt for it. He got C’s where his father got A’s; he was a cheerleader while his father captained the baseball team; he ducked the combat flying that made his father a hero; he burned through the seed money his father’s friends gave him, failing in the oil business which had made his father rich.
At last he was taken in hand by a sleazy political op who realized that the father’s name and money would be enough to elect the wayward son governor of Texas. (Polls at the time showed that a significant portion of the voters thought that W. actually was his father.)
Then Karl Rove set out to hand-carry his meal ticket into the White House itself.
Take that, you old fart, junior must have thought as he took the oath of office. Any asshole can get to be president. But even that wasn’t enough. Deep inside, where the Oedipal snakes writhed in his subconscious, there was still work to do.
What better to way to humiliate his father than to degrade the supreme office the old man had spent his life to reach? What sweeter revenge than to slime, like a slug, the presidency itself? And so he enlisted Rumsfeld and Cheney, his father’s ancient enemies, to help in the work of patricide.
Outdoing his father as president, the junior Bush must have known in his heart, was beyond his limited capacities. But his whole life offered proof of his ability to fail, and so he took the only path remaining. He would become, God help the rest of us, the worst president in history.
Cherries picked from an interview George W. Bush gave to the Dallas Morning News
“The best way for people to understand what I meant by ‘compassionate conservative’ is to look at the programs we implemented and look at the results…”
“Much of my presidency was defined by things that you didn’t necessarily want to have happen.”
To refresh your memory, here’s the Cliff Notes version of the Atlanta test-rigging scandal:
In the two and a half years since, the state’s investigation reached from Ms. Parks’s third-grade classroom all the way to the district superintendent at the time, Beverly L. Hall, who was one of 35 Atlanta educators indicted Friday by a Fulton County grand jury.Sadly for Dr. Hall she is not — unlike Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan, Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, John Paulson, Ken Lewis of Bank of America, et cetera and ad nauseam — too big to jail. As are also the massed forces of the Republican Party working so effectively to destroy our public school system. Dr. Hall and her teachers were just caught up in the process. Jay Bookman explains:
Dr. Hall, who retired in 2011, was charged with racketeering, theft, influencing witnesses, conspiracy and making false statements. Prosecutors recommended a $7.5 million bond for her; she could face up to 45 years in prison.
After all, Hall and other education leaders operate within a structure of reward and punishment every bit as real as that within APS. And as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other media outlets have reported, similar cheating problems have popped up in school districts around the country. Most have occurred in poverty-stricken districts where the educational challenges can be overwhelming, the pressure to improve is immense and the needle is very hard to move.
Hall did not enact the federal No Child Left Behind policy mandating a strict regimen of testing, including a menu of rewards for success and harsh punishment for failure. She did not wave hundreds of millions of dollars in private foundation money in front of school districts to encourage them to hire, fire, promote and pay almost exclusively on the basis of standardized testing. Hall didn’t treat academic progress as an economic development tool too useful to Atlanta’s “brand” to be questioned, as some in the business community did. Like her APS underlings, Hall merely responded, somewhat rationally, to a system that was designed by others and that demanded results too good to be true too quickly.
That is an underappreciated aspect of this tragedy. By other standards, including untainted National Assessment of Educational Progress testing, Atlanta public schools did make measurable, sustained progress during the Hall era. But in an environment that demands a scale of improvement that only charlatans can deliver, it wasn’t enough.
From Naked Capitalism:
Now Johnson carefully laid the bread crumbs, but so as not to violate the rules of power player discourse, pointedly switched from the banana republic term “oligarch” to the more genteel and encompassing label “elites” when talking about the US (“elites” goes beyond the controlling interests themselves to include their operatives as well as any independent opinion influencers). Yet despite his depiction of extensive parallels between the role played by oligarchs in emerging economies and the overwhelming influence of the financial elite in the US, there’s been a peculiar sanctimonious reluctance to apply the word oligarch to the members of America’s ruling class…
But the fact that some people have advantages and are able to make the most of them, isn’t the reason to pin the “o” word on America’s top wealthy. It’s that, like Simon’s prototypical emerging market magnates, they increasingly dominate our society and are running it strictly for own self interest and devil take the rest of us. And the results on important metrics are worse than in Russia. The Gini coefficient is a widely-used measure of income inequality. The Gini coefficient is worse (higher) for the US than for Russia. Even though its rich have gotten richer and have pulled away from their lessers, the rest of the population has also done better:In dollar terms, Russia’s GDP increased 7.5-fold over the last decade from around $200bn to $1.5 trillion; at the same time, nominal average wages increased 14-fold over the same period from $50 to around $700 a month.And the latest statistics on the Gini coefficients (at least readily findable on the Web) are a few years stale. As we’ve written, the income gains in the US from 2009 to 2011 went entirely to the top 1%, which saw a 121% increase; the rest of the population suffered a small decline. That would increase the US Gini coefficient even further.
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it,” according to Upton Sinclair. But suppose you were a top executive of, let’s say, something called the Cerner Corporation. Your salary just went through the roof due to a Democrat president whereas you yourself were a staunch Republic. Would self-interest and maybe even a smidgen of gratitude then lead you to become a Democratic? Upton Sinclair would have predicted just that, but then what would you expect from a Social?
Meanwhile, back in the real world, we learn from the New York Times that:
While proponents say new record-keeping technologies will one day reduce costs and improve care, profits and sales are soaring now across the records industry. At Allscripts, annual sales have more than doubled from $548 million in 2009 to an estimated $1.44 billion last year, partly reflecting daring acquisitions made on the bet that [Obamacare] would be a boon for the industry. At the Cerner Corporation of Kansas City, Mo., sales rose 60 percent during that period. With money pouring in, top executives are enjoying Wall Street-style paydays…
Cerner’s lobbying dollars doubled to nearly $400,000 between 2006 and last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. While its political action committee contributed a little to some Democrats in 2008, including Senator Baucus, its contributions last year went almost entirely to Republicans, with a large amount going to the Mitt Romney campaign.
Current and former industry executives say that big digital records companies like Cerner, Allscripts and Epic Systems of Verona, Wis., have reaped enormous rewards because of the legislation they pushed for. “Nothing that these companies did in my eyes was spectacular,” said John Gomez, the former head of technology at Allscripts. “They grew as a result of government incentives.”
It seems these days High Lord Romney doesn’t quite know what to do with himself.
Four weeks after losing a presidential election he was convinced he would win, Romney’s rapid retreat into seclusion has been marked by repressed emotions, second-guessing and, perhaps for the first time in the overachiever’s adult life, sustained boredom, according to interviews with more than a dozen of Romney’s closest friends and advisers.
Dear Mitt: I know this won’t help you, but millions of middle-aged men find themselves in your position every single day in this country. That is, they find out the hard way that all their years of experience and all their hard-won expertise count for absolutely nothing at all. And they learn that, in part, because of a philosophy of business that you yourself have helped to foster, and have profited from. No, Mitt, you’re not a victim of age discrimination like they are. But I bet they feel a lot of what you’re feeling. Unfortunately, they do not have multiple houses in which to brood. Chances are they lost the single home they did have.
Here’s another way in which those millions differ from you, Mitt: They genuinely have something to offer.
I'm sure none of this has occurred to you. After all, if you were the kind of guy who was capable of picking up on things like that, it’s entirely possible you would not be in the position in which you now find yourself.
This is from our local weekly, The Lakeville Journal:
LAKEVILLE — Diplomat John L. Loeb shared a startling memory with students at The Hotchkiss School in a talk on Tuesday, Oct. 9.
It was the fall of 1945 and Loeb was one of a handful of Jewish students at the school.
During movie night, the students saw newsreel footage of Nazi concentration camps.
Far from being horrified, Loeb said his fellow students “cheered and hooted.”
Afterward, one young man told Loeb, “We don’t like Hitler but at least he killed Jews.”
I didn’t know Ambassador Loeb, who was an upperclassman and, if I remember right, editor of the school newspaper. But one of my classmates was Jewish, as well as being musical, intelligent, small, and unathletic. He was, that is to say, asking for it.
So he was taken to the woods alongside the golf course, depantsed, and made to mimic masturbation. Photos of this were circulated. The following year he was expelled for stealing a watch that one of his tormentors had planted in his bureau drawer.
This was long ago and I’m told by people familiar with the school today that sadism and hate crimes are no longer condoned and tacitly approved at Hotchkiss. This may well be, as a fish rots from the top. In my day the headmaster turned a blind and benign eye on this sort of thing. His successors, I understand, have not.
Go here for a long and frightening Wichita Eagle story about a hometown boy who didn’t have to run away to seek his fortune. It was right there in Wichita, piled up for him by his daddy, Fred Koch. The word bully never appears in this profile of son Charles. It didn’t have to. It rises from the page.
Professor Wolff at The Philosopher’s Stone:
The angle of the video makes it clear that it was not recorded by one of the guests, so we can only conclude that one of the wait staff managed to set up a camera and film the proceedings.
Upper classes always ignore the presence of their servants, a fact that gave rise to an entire genre of eighteenth century French comedy. [Think “The Marriage of Figaro” without the immortal music.] Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they seem constitutionally incapable of remembering that the working class is populated by actual human beings with eyes and ears and fully functional intelligence. This failure is ideological, not personal, in nature. Were the rich and powerful of the world to acknowledge the full humanity of those they exploit, they would find it difficult to sustain the easy air of superiority that they consider their birthright…
At Romney’s rich donor dinner, it is a virtual certainty that the wait staff consisted of men [and perhaps women — one cannot tell from the video] who make too little money to pay federal income taxes, and hence are among the 47% whom Romney says are dependent moochers who cannot take personal responsibility for their lives. These people were obviously in full view of Romney as he stood at the podium and spoke for more than an hour. The fact that it obviously never occurred to him that he was talking about people present in the room says more about Romney than any formal biography or hatchet job exposé possibly can.
Tired of home-grown class acts like the Romneys and the Koch brothers? Time to hate on Gina Rinehart for a change:
The richest woman in Australia has caused a storm by calling her struggling fellow countrymen ‘whingers’ and telling them to get out of the pub and work harder…
The daughter of the late Australian iron-ore mining magnate Lang Hancock, 58-year-old Mrs Rinehart was declared the world's richest woman in May…
The controversial Mrs Rinehart has also attacked Australia’s ‘class warfare’ and insists it is billionaires such as herself who are doing more than anyone to help the poor by investing their money and creating jobs…
In an extraordinary accumulation of riches from the mining industry, Mrs Rinehart’s wealth has grown by an unprecedented £11 billion this year alone. She makes more than £630,000 every 30 minutes, say financial experts.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — A group of former U.S. intelligence and Special Forces operatives is set to launch a media campaign, including TV ads, that scolds President Barack Obama for taking credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden and argues that high-level leaks are endangering American lives…
Calling itself “OPSEC” for short — which in spy jargon means “operational security” — the anti-leak group incorporated last June in Delaware, a state that has the most secretive corporate registration rules in the U.S.
It also set itself up as a nonprofit organization under section 501(c)4 of the U.S. Tax Code, allowing it to keep donors’ identities secret. Spokesmen for the group declined to discuss its sources of financing.
And so the Swiftboating begins. Can Karl Rove and those adorable Koch boys be far behind?
The Perrspectives piece from which the following excerpt comes is the most powerful indictment of Romney’s character that I’ve seen yet. It’s worth reading in its entirety.
In his interview with David Muir of ABC last week, Governor Romney trotted out a new defense of keeping his secret tax returns secret:
“From time to time I’ve been audited as happens I think to other citizens as well and the accounting firm which prepares my taxes has done a very thorough and complete job pay taxes as legally due. I don’t pay more than are legally due and frankly if I had paid more than are legally due I don’t think I’d be qualified to become president. I’d think people would want me to follow the law and pay only what the tax code requires.”
Put another way, if you paid a penny more to Uncle Sam than you could’ve, you’re not just a sucker; you should be disqualified from becoming President.
Just like Mitt’s dad, George Romney.
Mitt’s idol didn’t merely establish a precedent by releasing 12 years of tax returns during his failed 1968 presidential campaign. As Paul Krugman recently reminded voters, the auto magnate and Michigan governor not only paid a lot to the U.S. Treasury, but probably much more than he needed to.
Those returns also reveal that he paid a lot of taxes — 36 percent of his income in 1960, 37 percent over the whole period. This was in part because, as one report at the time put it, he “seldom took advantage of loopholes to escape his tax obligations.”
(The contrasts between father and son hardly end there. As Rick Perlstein documented, George Romney didn’t merely develop an innovative profit sharing plan for his employees at AMC and return bonuses if he thought them too high. He also believed that “rugged individualism” is “nothing but a political banner to cover up greed.”)
Here’s L. Randall Wray, an economics professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
…Bill Black joined our department in 2006. At UMKC (and the Levy Institute) we had long been discussing and analyzing the GFC that we knew was going to hit, using the approaches of Hyman Minsky and Wynne Godley. Bill insisted we were overlooking the most important factor, fraud. To be more specific, Bill called it control fraud, where top corporate management runs an institution as a weapon to loot shareholders and customers to the benefit of top management. Think Bob Rubin, Hank Paulson, Bernie Madoff, Jamie Dimon and Jon Corzine.
Long before, I had come across Bill’s name when I wrote about the S&L scandal, and I had listed fraud as the second most important cause of that crisis. While I was open to his argument back in 2006, I could never have conceived of the scope of Wall Street’s depravity. It is all about fraud. As I’ve said, this crisis is like Shrek’s Onion, with fraud in every layer. There is, quite simply, no part of the financial system that is not riddled with fraud.
The fraud cannot be reduced much less eliminated. First, there are no regulators to stop it, and no prosecutors to punish it. But, far more importantly, fraud is the business model. Further, even if a financial institution tried to buck the trend it would fail. As Bill says, fraud is always the most profitable game in town. So Gresham’s Law dynamics ensure that fraud is the only game in town.
As Sherrill said, without regulation, capitalism is thievery. We stopped regulating the financial system, so thieves took over…
It is practically never that Thomas L. Friedman commits good sense in good writing, both at the very same time. Let us all rejoice, therefore, in this:
I’ll make this quick. I have one question and one observation about Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel. The question is this: Since the whole trip was not about learning anything but about how to satisfy the political whims of the right-wing, super pro-Bibi Netanyahu, American Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, why didn’t they just do the whole thing in Las Vegas? I mean, it was all about money anyway — how much Romney would abase himself by saying whatever the Israeli right wanted to hear and how big a jackpot of donations Adelson would shower on the Romney campaign in return. Really, Vegas would have been so much more appropriate than Jerusalem. They could have constructed a plastic Wailing Wall and saved so much on gas…
From the New York Times story today on JPMorgan’s recent gambling losses, now at $5,800,000,000 and headed south:
…Ina R. Drew, the senior executive who resigned as head of the chief investment office shortly after the trading losses, volunteered to give back her pay. The giveback is a precipitous fall for Ms. Drew, once one of Mr. Dimon’s most trusted executives. Ms. Drew earned roughly $14 million last year, making her the bank’s fourth-highest-paid officer. Ms. Drew declined to comment…
I may have bitched about this before, but here goes again. Republican word-twister Frank Luntz doesn’t even need to bother twisting the word “earn” into a new frame. Standard media usage has already done the job for him, as we see in the paragraph above. Historically, “earn” carried a favorable connotation: study hard and you earned a Phi Beta Kappa key; honest dealing earned you a good reputation; you earned your salary by working hard at some productive task.
By and large the word was used to describe a particular type of exchange — one party providing something desirable and useful to a second party and receiving a reward for it in rough proportion to the service provided. A win-win transaction.
We would not say that your uncle Charlie earned a hundred bucks at the poker table last week, or that a lottery winner earned a million dollars, or that Bernie Madoff earned a billion, or that Mitt Romney earned a fortune from his father’s will.
In what sense, then, did Ms. Drew “earn” $14,000,000 last year?
It isn’t that the English language lacks words to describe what Ms. Drew and Mr. Dimon do for their money. Here is a short list:
Get hold of, grab, get, receive, snatch, take, grasp, amass, obtain, seize, get your hands on, divert, embezzle, skim, swindle, mulct, extract, acquire, gain, procure, score, secure, misappropriate, siphon, loot.
Take your pick, but give “earn” a rest.
Mitt the Twit offers us this assessment of the choices we face in November:
...I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff. But don’t forget nothing is really free.
Mitt, Mitt, Mitt… “stuff from government” is not free. We pay for it. That’s what those things we call “taxes” are supposed to be used for. It’s not free. And most of us realize it’s not free. You only think “stuff from government” is free because you’re not paying those same taxes.
I hope this has been helpful, Mitt. Feel free to drop me a line if you find any other fundamentals of the social contract to be confusing.
From the Los Angeles Times:
EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. — As protesters assembled on a beach in advance of Mitt Romney’s evening event at the home of conservative billionaire David Koch, the candidate slipped to East Hampton for his first of three fundraisers on this tony stretch of Long Island…
A New York City donor a few cars back, who also would not give her name, said Romney needed to do a better job connecting. “I don’t think the common person is getting it,” she said from the passenger seat of a Range Rover stamped with East Hampton beach permits. “Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them.
"We've got the message," she added. "But my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies — everybody who's got the right to vote — they don't understand what's going on. I just think if you're lower income — one, you're not as educated, two, they don't understand how it works, they don't understand how the systems work, they don't understand the impact."
From Salon, here’s David Weigel with a look backwards at the GOP’s history of voter suppression in Florida:
James Ridgeway writes on the mechanisms that keep voting rights away from felons. In Florida, for example, home to around a quarter-million black men with felony convictions, the new-old rules force “any former felon who wanted to regain voting rights to appeal directly to the governor.”
What does that mean? In a 2004 Vanity Fair piece titled “The Path to Florida,” David Margolick and a team of reporters looked at the manifold ways that the state can keep people off the rolls. They attended one voting rights-restoration hearing for Beverly Brown, “a black Miamian who has been applying for seven years.”
“Thank you, Governor and Cabinet,” she says, her voice trembling as she looks up at Jeb Bush, in a beige suit, and three of his cabinet members, seated above her on the dais. “I’m a graduate patient-care technician, and there’s nothing more I’d like to do than to utilize my skills to help others.”
She has been lucky enough to have had some private health-care jobs; recently she cared for a young quadriplegic. But what she’d really like is to get a state license — something she can’t do unless her civil rights are restored. Her convictions, all drug-related and nonviolent, date back almost 20 years, except for a more recent conviction for having been caught with pot.
“Since when have you been drug- and alcohol-free?” Jeb asks flatly, looking up from her file.
“About nine years,” says Brown.
“O.K., in 2001 there — you were convicted of marijuana possession?”
“I had — yes, it was in my possession, but it didn’t belong to me. Someone left it in my car…”
Bush gives her another once-over and delivers his verdict. “I’d like to take this case under advisement.” It’s not a no, but it’s not a yes either. Over the next couple of weeks, Brown will try to find out why the case has been on hold, but she’ll get no answers; Bush is not required to give any.
Some two years before this hearing, Governor Bush’s 25-year-old daughter Noelle had been sentenced to ten days in jail after crack cocaine was found in her shoe at an Orlando drug treatment center.
Governor Bush was not in the courtroom. He was campaigning for reelection elsewhere — accompanied that day by his younger brother, President George W. Bush, himself a recovering addict. But their sister Dorothy flew in from Maryland to represent the family at the sentencing.
My questions: Were Noelle’s civil rights ever restored by a governor, so that she could vote in Florida and maybe even become a licensed patient-care technician? And if so, by which governor?
As for Beverly Brown, who really cares? The world is full of Browns.
Something I've done that I’ll bet Mitt Romney has never done is... fill out a job application.
Guys like Romney don’t fill out job applications, y’see. According to Mitt’s Wikipedia page — and here Wikipedia's notorious subjectivity works in our favor — his employment history begins thusly:
Romney was recruited by several firms and chose to remain in Massachusetts to work for Boston Consulting Group (BCG), reasoning that working as a management consultant to a variety of companies would better prepare him for a future position as a chief executive.
In contrast, my employment history began with a clean shirt, my own pen, and an index card on which I had jotted down three personal references. I went to the mall just north of town and went from store to store, asking at each one if they were accepting applications. If they were, I reasoned it would make a better impression if I had my own pen than if I asked to borrow one. There’s something else I bet Mitt Romney has never done: give an iota of thought to the impression he would make by asking to borrow a pen.
Eventually, my efforts yielded the sort of job one would expect from a shopping mall in the late 70s — a minimum wage gig that turned out to be seasonal. I was told when I was hired in September that this particular store did not hire seasonally, which led me to expect that I could work there for as long as I did a good job. However, when there were massive layoffs the following January — myself among them — I realized that I had been lied to about that. I would bet that, too, is an experience Mitt Romney has never had. Rather, my guess would be that Mitt has always been the one lying to employees. (Although one could argue that currently he is lying to his prospective employers, which to varying degrees we have all done.)
Since then, I have filled out many job applications for all sorts of jobs. One is worth mentioning. When I fled Ohio for San Francisco (to launch my illustrious stand-up career) I had to choose between necessities and luxuries. One of the things that came under the heading of luxury was... a telephone. Ya know why? Because I had no credit history, the phone company required a prohibitively large (for me) deposit. And because I had no phone, a prospective employer refused to take my application. Apparently, what I considered a minor inconvenience he considered an insurmountable barrier. I will bet Mitt has never had to worry that he would not be seriously considered for any position in which he was interested. And I don't have to bet on this one — I will guarantee you Willard M. Romney has never had to do without a phone, for any reason.
I am happy to report that it has been a long time since I’ve had to fill out a job application. I have graduated to the ranks of people who get hired by circulating resumes, and from there to the exalted ranks of those who have their resumes dismissed out of hand. I am quite sure the being in that latter category is another experience that Mr. Romney and I will never have in common.
Romney recently suggested adding a Constitutional qualification that “the president has to spend at least three years working in business before he could become president of the United States.’” I might go along with that — if those three years began with filling out a job application. Unlike Mr. Romney, I think that would educate any would-be president in the way this country reallyworks.
The municipal bond business has always been a cesspool. Nixon’s corrupt attorney general, John Mitchell, crawled out of it and on to greater things, so to speak: Watergate and the plumbers.
But I’ve never seen the bond racket more clearly exposed or better explained than by Matt Taibbi in this month’s Rolling Stone. Read it, and weep for the Republic. He starts out with this:
Someday, it will go down in history as the first trial of the modern American mafia. Of course, you won’t hear the recent financial corruption case, United States of America v. Carollo, Goldberg and Grimm, called anything like that. If you heard about it at all, you’re probably either in the municipal bond business or married to an antitrust lawyer. Even then, all you probably heard was that a threesome of bit players on Wall Street got convicted of obscure antitrust violations in one of the most inscrutable, jargon-packed legal snoozefests since the government’s massive case against Microsoft in the Nineties — not exactly the thrilling courtroom drama offered by the famed trials of old-school mobsters like Al Capone or Anthony “Tony Ducks” Corallo.
But this just-completed trial in downtown New York against three faceless financial executives really was historic. Over 10 years in the making, the case allowed federal prosecutors to make public for the first time the astonishing inner workings of the reigning American crime syndicate, which now operates not out of Little Italy and Las Vegas, but out of Wall Street…
After all, who can say they have never used the bus? Maybe not on a regular basis, maybe only for an emergency. I myself have done both. When I lived in San Francisco I could not afford a car (something else Mitt Romney has never experienced.) But I didn’t actually need one. I could get just about anywhere in 30 minutes or so. All sorts of people took the bus. People in business suits, people in waitress uniforms — some of those were even women — people in jeans and t-shirts. It was all very democratic. (And I got some decent exercise and a lot of reading done.)
In Los Angeles, the buses aren’t quite as useful. Oh, they go just about everywhere, but LA is so goddam big that relying on them is something of a desperation move. (Mind you, I don’t denigrate the people who depend on them - rather, they have my sympathy.) So I use the buses every now and then, usually when my car is in the shop. I make a conscious decision to do without a rental, and take a bus home. My wife will invariably ask why I didn’t call someone to pick me up. But the fact is I like to take the bus every so often. I feel it’s an experience to which I should maintain a connection.
Sometimes it’s quite an experience. The last time I took an LA bus there was a guy sitting in the back having a very spirited conversation with his own reflection in the window. At one point he said to his reflection, “I don’t care — I’ve got a bullet for everyone on this goddam bus!” To which I mentally replied: “And it’s neatly mounted on a nifty plaque, right? With a commemorative T-shirt?” I was quite relieved when he got off at the next stop.
So that’s something else I’ll be Mitt Romney has never done — having to wonder, really wonder, what someone five feet away from you is contemplating. Even in San Francisco where the “right” people also took the bus, I was engaged in conversation by a guy who kept his entire right arm suspiciously concealed in his coat. Turned out he was a Moonie, turned out he’d hurt his hand and it was in a cast, but it took a good ten minutes to find that out. And then there were all those guys who wandered past the bus stops shouting at the air. (This was in the 80s, when he had not yet started electing people who shout at the air to state legislatures and Congress.)
So there are several experiences that are not uncommon that I’ll just bet Mitt Romney has never had. I’d also be willing to bet that were he to have them, he would not learn the same things from him that I did. If Mitt Romney is elected, there will most likely be fewer buses, and they will wind up costing more. Those who have to wait will find themselves waiting longer — for a lot of things.
Missouri legislators have developed a cure for those suffering from an inability to vomit:
From Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
In his mind, of course, the best proof of that rampant stupidity is the failure of Newt’s party, opponents and the country at large to ask him to save the country. If you fail to recognize the frankly astonishing, the profoundly fundamental and the fundamentally profound transformational genius contained in the skull of Newton Leroy Gingrich, well then, you must be stupid.
On the other hand, wouldn’t a smart person understand that you don’t win friends and support by going around and treating everyone else in the world as stupid? Isn’t that pretty basic stuff? I don’t recall Ronald Reagan, for example, lecturing people on how stupid they must be not to appreciate him.
In fact, most of us learn that lesson no later than the third grade. If at the age of 68 you’re still making that mistake and still wondering why people don’t like you, then no, you’re not very smart after all.
It must be very strange to be the man who wrote this. Who can he be? The answer is here.
It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can’t get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.
From Ezra Klein:
“People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress,” said Alan Dlugash, a partner at accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron LLP in New York who specializes in financial planning for the wealthy. “Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”
Foster Friess, one of the leading bidders in the current E-Bay auction of the 2012 election, is being rightly excoriated for saying this:
“This contraceptive thing, my gosh it’s such [sic] inexpensive. Back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly,” he said.
There are men in this world still who think contraception is solely the woman’s problem. Clearly, Mr. Friess is among them. That would be fine, maybe, if they would at least get out of the way and leave it to the women to solve. Right?
Apparently not. For we also have this:
Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) walked out of the hearing in protest of [Issa’s] decision, citing frustration over the fact that the first panel of witnesses consisted only of male religious leaders against the rule. Holmes Norton said she will not return, calling Issa’s chairmanship an “autocratic regime.”
So what we have is what we always have, in the Republican worldview: It’s your problem, whatever it is - until you try to do something about it. Then and only then will they take an interest - and only to tell you that you can’t solve it at all.
And they call this process “freedom.”
From Gail Sheehy’s 1995 profile in Vanity Fair comes all you need to know about Newt — semi-smart but with nutty ideas, poor follow-through, and a mess left for somebody else to clean up.
Surprisingly, the boy in the bottle-thick glasses with a plaid shirt and plastic pocket protector was only a runner-up as a National Merit Scholar. He did make the debate team, but, according to his stepfather, Bob Gingrich, “he wasn’t an A student … He wasn’t the class pride.” His mother Kit claims that Newt’s I.Q measured in the 120s…
“He always tried to be one of the boys,” says Kip Carter. “He never quite was.” To illustrate the point, Carter tells a down-home kind of story from the 1970s. Newt and Carter, who was then his campaign treasurer, used to barbecue hogs in the Gingriches’ driveway in Carrollton, Georgia. They would go to a friend’s farm and pick out a hog and shoot it.
“One day, Newt says to me, ‘I need to be the one to kill the hog. It’s only right, just morally.’”
Carter showed Newt how to use a Walther P-38, a W.W. II German pistol. “I said, ‘Put some corn in your left hand. When the pig comes over to get it, put the pistol against his head and shoot him between his eyes.’”
“So the pig comes over and he starts eating,” says Carter. “Newt flinches as the round hits the pig on the side of the head and ricochets down.” But the shot only stunned the hog and sent it fleeing back into the pen. “Newt keeps trying to get this pig to come back to him. Newt’s getting madder and madder. I said to him, ‘You just shot the son of a bitch in the head, Newt, why do you think he’s gonna come to you?’”
Carter recalls urging his comrade-in-arms, “‘You gotta get in there, in the hogpen, and go get him.’ But Newt wouldn’t do it. So I ended up going in the pen and killing the hog.”
Robert Paul Wolff is a Jewish philosopher who taught at Harvard, Columbia and Chicago before becoming head of the Afro-American Studies department at the University of Massachusetts. Now retired in North Carolina, he blogs at The Philosopher’s Stone. The excerpt below is from an essay called “Free, White, and Twenty-one.” In it he takes on the political question of the week: What Can South Carolina Possibly See in Newt?
It was more or less at this time that a new and curious linguistic practice entered the public speech of America. Ordinary White working class families began to be referred to, and increasingly referred to themselves, as “middle class.” Now “middle class” is itself a rather suspicious bastard sociological category. It does not have the historical roots and deeper meaning of “petty bourgeoisie,” which conveys the notion of shopkeepers and small business owners who, although owners of their means of production, are yet not the great geldbesitzeren or haute bourgeois who command the economic heights. But it also does not merely mean “between rich and poor.” It does, in the American context, somewhat correspond to the old distinction between “suits” and “shirts” or “white collar” and “blue collar.” However, in the racially segregated America of the ’50s and ’60s, “middle class” clearly meant suburban, respectable, not living in an inner city ghetto. It meant NOT BLACK.
The Civil Rights Movement challenged the Black Codes, it challenged Jim Crow, it challenged the deeply embedded caste system of American society. And it was successful! I will yield to no one in my outrage at the discriminations that still afflict Black Americans, but I am old enough to recall what this country was like in the ’40s and ’50s, and that change has been dramatic, transformative, and irreversible.
We may celebrate this change as the greatest progressive victory of the twentieth century, but to a large number of Americans, the change has been devastating, incomprehensible, and hateful. No longer can Whites at the bottom of the economic ladder console themselves, in the dark night of their souls, with the secret thought, AT LEAST I AM NOT BLACK.
Tacked on to the end of The Rude Pundit’s daily scatology is the question below. None of Romney’s Republic opponents will dare to raise it, for fear of having to answer it himself. However we can surely count on the truth-seeking pit bulls of the MSM to… Okay, okay, forget it.
In other words, everything Mitt Romney wants to do would harm Americans. Everything. So of course he’s gotta get out there and be the total dickhead he always was and always will be.
Here’s the question someone needs to ask, repeatedly, of Romney: “If you had been elected in 2008, what would you have done to clear the wreckage left behind by George W. Bush?”
Hot off the wire from CNN:
In his last days in office, outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour pardoned two men convicted of murder, a state official said Monday…
OMG, is it possible I’ve been wrong about Haley Barbour all these years? Is it possible he’s not a complete, top-to-bottom, front-to-back vicious asshole? Could he really be correcting some hideous miscarriage of justice? Nah—
Both men, according to the affiliates, were working as trusties at the governor's mansion.
God know what he was telling Freddie Mac, but here's a summary of the clueless Newtster’s most recent attempt on history:
Gingrich, who explained that he was outraged by activist liberal elitist judges imposing their secular values on America (and more generally by “lawyers” who have come “to think that they can dictate to the rest of us”), declared that as president he would simply ignore Supreme Court decisions he didn’t like, abolish Federal appeals courts whose “anti-American” judges ruled in ways he didn’t like, and encourage Congress to subpoena judges to explain their decisions.
He claimed that Lincoln had similarly “just ignored” the Dred Scott decision, when he issued his Emancipation Proclamation; he said that Jefferson had similarly abolished Federal circuit courts whose judges he opposed; and he asserted that Jackson and FDR had also taken stances against what he declared to be the spurious doctrine of “judicial supremacy”— that the courts can pass judgment on the constitutionality of presidential actions or acts of Congress.
He insisted that the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision on detainees at Guantanamo could be declared “null and void” by the president “because it infringes on my duties as commander in chief to protect the country.”
He wrapped up his case by invoking those infallible and all-seeing guides, the Founding Fathers, who he said “were very distrustful of judges, saw them as an elite instrument of government designed to oppress people. And, as a result, consciously made the judicial branch the third branch and the weakest branch.”
You knew instinctively, of course, that all this was just more waste product from the GOP’s current White Hope (its Black Hope having self-destructed). But you probably didn’t have the time or inclination to do exploratory surgery. However The Liberal Curmudgeon (from which the above excerpt comes) has done a thorough dissection for you; sadly, the patient did not survive.
From The Liberal Curmudgeon:
I have been perplexed for some time why Newt Gingrich is routinely acknowledged even by his bitter enemies within the Republican Party as a “genius,” but the answer turns out to be simple: he acts exactly like one of those obnoxious elitist intellectual know-it-alls that the right-wing know-nothings think is the hallmark of an intellectual. He is constantly reminding us of his doctorate in history; he routinely claims he understands issues more deeply than anyone else; he has made a career of denouncing or (when he had the authority) eliminating professional expertise that might challenge his own certain pronouncements; and he is a veritable fount of crackpot “big” ideas (mining minerals on the moon, protecting the United States from sci-fi doomsday scenarios, and “fundamentally transforming” everything as a first step to doing anything.
Another useful rule of thumb: real geniuses, as opposed to simple egomaniacs, do not generally refer to themselves in the third person.
From The Carter Center:
Half of the workforce of the artisanal mining sector in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is comprised of children. Children as young as two years. Without viable economic alternatives, most children must join their parents in rudimentary mining pits. Children as young as two years transport, wash, and crush minerals to earn half a dollar a day.
These schools should get rid of unionized janitors, have one master janitor, pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work; they’d have cash; they’d have pride in the schools. They’d begin the process of rising…
Go out and talk to people who are really successful in one generation. They all started their first job at 9 to 14 years of age. They are selling newspapers, going door to door, washing cars. They were all making money at a very young age.
From Edward O. Wilson’s On Human Nature:
I suggest that we will want to give [universal human rights] primary status not because it is a divine ordinance…or through obedience to an abstract principle of unknown extraneous origin, but because we are mammals. Our societies are based on the mammalian plan: the individual strives for personal reproductive success foremost and that of his immediate kin secondarily; further grudging cooperation represents a compromise struck in order to enjoy the benefits of group membership.
A rational ant — let us imagine for a moment that ants and other social insects had succeeded in evolving high intelligence — would find such an arrangement biologically unsound and the very concept of individual freedom intrinsically evil. We will accede to universal rights because power is too fluid in advanced technological societies to circumvent this mammalian imperative; the long-term consequences of inequity will always be visibly dangerous to its temporary beneficiaries. I suggest that this is the true reason for the universal rights movement and that an understanding of its raw biological causation will be more compelling in the end than any rationalization contrived by culture to reinforce and euphemize it.
Is Dr. Wilson right? “In the end,” who knows? At present, in the United States at any rate, the biological consequences of inequity are invisible to its temporary beneficiaries.
The point, which Teddy Roosevelt was the last Republican president to grasp, is that the natural and inevitable result of “free market” competition is not efficiency, invention, a level playing field, personal freedom, or the greatest good for the greatest number. It is monopoly.
This is what the Republican small government types would fear if they had a clue. Not government regulation. Ask anyone for his or her worst experiences with unresponsive, uncaring, indifferent, and rapacious bureaucracies. The answer will seldom be the Post Office or the Social Security Administration or even the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Nine times out of ten it will be a bank, an insurance company, a giant utililty, a cable provider. You can’t vote the rascals out. There is no congressman to complain to. You haven’t got a hope of successfully suing them. Corporate decisions are unappealable, mercilessly and mindlessly enforced by courts and bill collectors.
You can’t even get past the phone tree to speak to anybody in actual authority. Such people must exist, but they are faceless and unaccountable. You are in Kafka country. Just ask any of the poor bastards defrauded and evicted in the great mortgage swindle that blew up the economy for everyone but the bankers responsible.
This is the “big government” the useful idiots of the Tea Party ought to fear. Instead they are speeding its arrival. Perhaps it has already arrived. Look at the chart.
The only thing capable of standing in its way is the regulatory authority of the “big government” that the boobies have been taught to fear. Indeed it may already be too late. The Citizens United decision and the corporate-owned Congress and Obama’s economic team may have seen to that.
In which case God bless us all, and Tiny Tim Geithner.
Jamie Dimon has put a down payment on his own police force:
JPMorgan Chase recently donated an unprecedented $4.6 million to the New York City Police Foundation.
The gift was the largest in the history of the foundation and will enable the New York City Police Department to strengthen security in the Big Apple. The money will pay for 1,000 new patrol car laptops, as well as security monitoring software in the NYPD’s main data center...
“These officers put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe,” Dimon said. “We’re incredibly proud to help them build this program and let them know how much we value their hard work.”
I thought us li’l old taxpayers were supposed to pay for those things. So that the police would, you know, protect all of us.
Silly me. That would be socialism...
Speaking of Vogons, here’s more from From Crazy for God, Frank Schaeffer’s memoir of growing up evangelical:
“The other day,” said Pat [Robertson], “I was invited to speak to the Orlando chapter of The Full Gospel Businessmen’s Association. At the end of my talk about how God will bless us if we plant a seed of faith and give richly to His work, by supporting the 700 Club’s special fund, I said, ‘Now bow your heads, open your hearts, and close your eyes so no one but God and me can see you. Now each one of you men’ — they were all successful, married, Christian men in their midforties to fifties — ‘raise your hands if you still masturbate.’ And do you know, over half raised their hands!”
For this call to storm the barricades we are indebted to Jim Fallows. The true horror comes not from the video itself, but from the fact it was made at all.
Tim Dickinson disassembles Roger Ailes in The Guardian, from which this excerpt comes. Dickinson writes that Nixon was married twice instead of once and that Ailes lives in New Jersey instead of Putnam County, New York. But no one’s perfect, and the rest of the piece looks pretty solid to me. Scary stuff.
Ailes knows exactly who is watching Fox News each day, and he is adept at playing to their darkest fears in the age of Obama. The network’s viewers are old, with a median age of 65. Ads cater to the immobile, the infirm and the incontinent, with appeals to join class action hip-replacement lawsuits, commercials for products such as Colon Flow and testimonials for the services of Liberator Medical (“Liberator gave me back the freedom I haven’t had since I started using catheters”). The audience is also almost exclusively white — only 1.38% of viewers are African-American. “Roger understands audiences,” says Rollins, the former Reagan consultant. “He knew how to target, which is what Fox News is all about.” The typical viewer of Sean Hannity’s show, to take the most stark example, is a pro-business (86%), Christian conservative (78%), Tea Party-backer (75%) with no college degree (66%), who is over 50 (65%), supports the NRA (73%), doesn’t back gay rights (78%) and thinks government “does too much” (84%)…
In fact, a study by the University of Maryland revealed that ignorance of Fox viewers actually increases the longer they watch the network. That’s because Ailes isn’t interested in providing people with information, or even a balanced range of perspectives. Like his political mentor, Richard Nixon, Ailes traffics in the emotions of victimisation.
“What Nixon did — and what Ailes does today in the age of Obama — is unravel and rewire one of the most powerful of human emotions: shame,” says Perlstein, the author of Nixonland. “He takes the shame of people who feel that they are being looked down on, and he mobilises it for political purposes. Roger Ailes is a direct link between the Nixonian politics of resentment and Sarah Palin’s politics of resentment. He’s the golden thread.”
On Rupert Rosebud, see this and this. I always look forward to the moron defense, so popular with captains of industry: “Gee, I’d love to help you guys, but I just can’t remember things too good. If only I was as smart as you fellas, with all your lawyers and documents and everything! But I just woke up one day and there I was CEO. Nobody ever tells me anything, and every time I ask about stuff or make some little suggestion they just laugh at me and hand me a private jet to play with and off they go off to do whatever it is they do. Sometimes I just cry myself to sleep wishing I wasn’t such an idiot.”
I was a great Howard Dean fan because he, like the two Roosevelts, came from the high-WASP moneyed aristocracy. All three grew up with self-satisfied, over-privileged assholes and understood that the slowest of their old playmates went to Wall Street, just as the slowest of the British aristocracy were historically packed off to the church or the military. Inconceivable that Dean would have been as impressed by the wisdom of moneylenders as Obama has been. As with Clinton, the circumstances of Obama’s life have made him a shape-shifter. The best we can hope for as president of a plutocracy is the occasional election of a traitor to his class, a renegade plutocrat.
Before we leave this repellent subject, recall that Murdoch, like William Randolph Hearst before him, didn’t lift himself up by his own bootstraps (that being, as we too often forget, an impossibility). He is just another fat rich kid, born on third base under the impression he hit a triple — like Donald Trump, Mitt Romney, the Koch brothers, George W. Bush, Richard Mellon Scaife, and so many, many other living arguments for a Death Tax set at a comfortable 100 percent.
We look back at the Great Depression and out the window at our present one, and wonder why we never seem to learn from our mistakes. At the cycle of deficits and income inequality and again wonder why. At Vietnam and Iraq and wonder why. Are we blind? Amnesiacs? Idiots?
If an individual citizen presented with symptoms so repetitive and self-destructive, no psychiatrist would hesitate to pronounce him, in layman’s terms, crazy. Why can’t they — the conservatives of both parties — ever learn?
This, though, is to misunderstand matters. They have learned. The disasters brought on so predictably and persistently by Republican administrations were not, in their view, deplorable. They were, and are, great victories.
From the GOP’s point of view both Reagan’s and George W. Bush’s stewardships of the economy were not failures, but wildly successful. Wages stayed flat or dropped, unions were busted, public and private debt skyrocketed. Good news everywhere you looked — if you were a stock gambler or an asset-stripping takeover artist or a money lender. Jobs lost to assembly lines in China, call centers in India? Marvelous. Pointless and endless wars? God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world. Without war what would become of war profiteers?
What would become of the rest of us, you ask? Who cares. We’ve got ours, Jack. And yours, too.
Buck sends along a 1932 essay in Harpers Magazine by Albert Jay Nock. By “barbarian” he meant something like the British aristocracy, which in his view still possessed a certain residual noblesse oblige. Most likely he was over-generous in this, being something of a snob himself. But a snob who could write. Here’s a passage from the article, titled Our American Upper Class:
In other societies, as a general thing, a member of the upper class is not supposed to make the accumulation of wealth his master-concern, or expected to be particularly good at it. His ancestors are supposed to have stolen enough in the first instance to enable him to rub along, merely taking care of what he has and devoting himself to other pursuits. The hoarding of wealth is not a serious infraction of the upper-class canon, though when it shows itself as a master-concern it is usually regarded with disfavor; but a master-concern with accumulation is not thought to comport with upper-class dignity…
When Mr. Hoover, Mr. Ford, Mr. Rosenwald, Mr. Sloan, Mr. Gifford, Mr. Dawes, Mr. Schwab, Mr. Farrell, Mr. Strawn talk nonsense their words are not referable to any class-criteria, for none exists; their divagations are published widely, accepted complacently, lauded uncritically, and it goes for nothing that the mere passage of time proves them to be nonsense.
The complete bankruptcy of intelligence exhibited in these representative pronouncements from our upper class should make a clean sweep of the notion so often advanced to account for the low level of our general culture, that our best minds nowadays go into business. They do not. They do not go anywhere. There is nowhere for them to go.
Our society has made no place for the individual who is able to think, who is, in the strict sense of the word, intelligent; it merely tosses him into the rubbish-heap; while picking out the stupidest millionaire in sight and placing him in the White House to the accompaniment of a deafening fanfare of adulation for his almost superhuman abilities.
Intelligence is the power and willingness always disinterestedly to see things as they are, an easy accessibility to ideas, and a free play of consciousness upon them, quite regardless of the conclusions to which this play may lead. Intelligence, therefore, while not precisely incompatible with success in accumulating wealth, is unrelated to it; hence it is disallowed by our Philistines.
It is ineffectual among our Populace, on account of that class’s intense preoccupation with the bitter problem of keeping body and soul together from day to day. The only class with which it might be effectual, our Barbarians, is virtually forbidden to transform itself by the cultivation of intelligence because of society’s strong insistence that it shall set up no class-ideals and class-criteria of its own, but shall keep steadfastly to those of the Philistines.
One may see evidence of this in the character of the great and rich educational institutions that our Barbarians have founded, as compared with those founded by the corresponding class in England. They are strictly middleclass institutions; that is to say, they are organized to do everything for the “average student,” for the motor-minded, a great deal for the incompetent, the merely clever, and sagacious, but nothing whatever for the unconsidered minority which gives promise of some day becoming intelligent.
From Kitty Kelley’s dissection of the Bush dynasty, The Family:
As President, Bush kept a male fertility figure, which he had received from the President of Mozambique, in the Oval Office bathroom. The carved wooden statue, facing the toilet, stood three feet high and was anatomically correct, if somewhat exaggerated. The President kept a roll of toilet paper on the extended male organ. He liked to send young women into the bathroom and watch their reaction when they emerged.
“Alixe Glenn, who was deputy press secretary and about twenty-six years old at the time, told a group of reporters about George Herbert Walker Bush’s weird sex thing,” recalled one White House correspondent. “She said the President told her to go into his bathroom and wash her hands. She did as she was told and came out red-faced with embarrassment. The President thought it was killingly funny.”
2. Why did Ms. Glenn tell this story to reporters?
3. Why didn’t they print it?
4. If George Herbert Walker Bush were president today, would he Tweet?
5. If so, what?
6. Would Andrew Breitbart post it?
7. For sheer classiness, would you prefer (A) a president who finds it funny to embarrass a young female employee by exposing her to a giant wooden penis from Mozambique or (B) a president who allows a smitten young female employee to fellate him? “Neither” is not an acceptable answer; this is not a test of your political correctness. Choose one, and be honest.
8. Now rank the two presidents again, this time on the basis of psychosexual health.
9. Go to the bathroom and wash your own hands, as necessary.
The criminal code is brutally harsh about assigning responsibility where the lower orders are concerned. The kid sitting outside in the car while the others rob a convenience store is responsible for the clerk’s death, even if he didn’t know she was killed. So is the grandmother or girl friend who harbors the suspect knowing of his crime.
Try this on Goldman Sachs, AIG, Countrywide, or BP. The jails would burst. The shakiest entrapment and encitement tactics are routinely used against suspected terrorists, but almost never against bankers or CEOs or industrial polluters. Not to report a crime is a crime for you, but not for them. Shielding a criminal makes you a criminal, but not them.
Where’s the fairness? Fairness is for suckers. Grow up.
While looking for something else I came across this note in my files. The Koch brothers weren’t exactly flying under the radar till Jane Mayer discovered them last August. Their blips had been visible on our screen for a long time, but attention was not paid.
Wall Street Journal 8/9/99 piece on how Koch Industries and other big corporations give judge expenses-paid “Economic Institutes for State Judges” for judges in such hell-holes as Sanibel Island. In such “institutes” these often pretty naïve (to judge by the story) jurists learn the corporate slant on junk science, free market, the cost and ineffectiveness of EPA regulations. Koch is of course a major polluter. First Koch-backed groups rank judges on how their decisions affect business. Political groups use these rankings in judicial elections. Often judges with low scores decide to attend the seminars.
From the Los Angeles Times:
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was ticketed by U.S. Park Police after being found responsible for a four-car traffic accident on his way to the high court Tuesday morning.
The incident occurred just before 9 a.m. on the southbound George Washington Parkway across the Potomac River from Washington in Virginia. Scalia reportedly rear-ended another driver who had stopped in traffic, and two other vehicles followed behind. No one was injured.
Mark Wilson reminds me that in 2001 I posted an item under the headline “Scofflaw Jurist OKs Soccer Mom’s Bust,” which I reprint below to save you the trouble of following its link. Nothing, it seems, is beneath plutocracy’s mouthpiece — including but not limited to the law.
In 1997 a soccer mom named Gail Atwater was bringing her two young children back from practice. She was almost home, travelling 15 miles an hour, when a Lago Vista, Texas, police officer stopped her pickup because she wasn’t wearing a seat belt.
The policeman arrested her in front of her children, handcuffed her, searched the truck, and took her to jail. There she was locked in a cell until she came up with a $310 bond for a $50 misdemeanor. She got home to find that on top of everything else, her truck had been towed.
It was okay, though.
Because on April 24, 2001, the United States Supreme Court decided, 5-4, that none of this violated Ms. Atwater’s constitutional right to be free of “unreasonable searches and seizures.” Among the majority, as is usual when the Bill of Rights is being undermined, was Justice Antonin Scalia.
On December 14, 2000, the New York Times ran the following copyrighted pictures of three Supreme Court justices leaving for home after the Court appointed George W. Bush president. The one on the bottom, the only one not wearing his seat belt, is Antonin Scalia. It was at that time, and had been since 1985, illegal under Section 40-1602 of the District of Columbia code to drive without a seat belt in place. Justice Scalia was not, however, seized, cuffed and jailed. Luckily for him, he had not yet got around to ruling that the Constitution permitted such a thing.
David Rhode is a paramedic in Middleton, Wis. He works 56 hours a week, mostly in 24-hour shifts, frequently carrying wheezy patients up and down flights of stairs. He said he earns about $43,000 a year.
HuffPost asked Rhode, 36, how it feels to be overpaid. His eyebrows went up.
"I drove my Ford Focus here," he said. "I live in a 950-square-foot condominium!"
Luckily, this question is easily answered: Anyone who makes under $250,000 a year is overpaid. Anyone who make over $250,000 is underpaid.
Please make a note of it. It is, after all, one of the base assumptions of our current national discourse.
Former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, whose heart brimmeth over with compassion for the littlest people of all, spake thus to the Conservative Political Action Conference:
“My first year as governor my pro-life agenda was adopted by our Democrat-majority legislature, and Americans United for Life, I am proud to say, named Mississippi the safest state in America for an unborn child,” Barbour said.
He made no mention of born children, perhaps because life expectancy in Mississippi, 73.6 years, is fiftieth among the states. Topping the list at 80.0 years is Hawaii, where President Obama may have been born in the summer of 1961. If so, he can be expected to live until August 4, 2041, a Sunday.
It’s all about The Finesse, The Donald explains to The Fox News:
I think my whole life has sort of been about finesse when you get right down to it. I mean it's — what running a country is, is to a certain extent we have to bring principle back and we have to also bring common sense back," Trump said.
From the New York Times review of Donald Rumsfeld’s apologia pro sua vita. It is titled Known and Unknown, and its 800 pages can be yours for the low, low price of $36 — less than a nickel a page! (All sales final.)
“Too many troops could hurt our ability to win Iraqi confidence,” [Rumsfeld] writes, “and it could translate into more casualties, because more troops would mean more targets for our enemies.”
I pass along this from Robert Paul Wolff so you won’t have to waste any more of your time reading crap about Sarah Palin’s presidential prospects.
Back in the early seventies (when the late unlamented Richard Nixon was as yet an undisgraced president), I was sitting around with several UMass colleagues gossiping, as was our wont, about a mutual friend. He had just been elevated from the faculty to a Deanship, and we were speculating about what sort of administrator he would be. Since he had not even served as a Department Chair, we had no track record on which to base our speculations, so we were very much at a loss.
Then Zina Tillona, a Professor of Italian in the Romance Languages Department (since phased out as part of a long, tragic world-wide assault on the Humanities) offered a bit of folk wisdom that, with the benefit of many years of hindsight, I now recognize as truly profound.
“Well,” she said, “most people do most things the way they do most other things.”
At first, what she said struck me as being very close to tautological, but as I reflected on it, I began to realize the deep insight of that simple remark. People have styles of behavior, modes of interacting with the world, that are grounded in their character, and a person’s style of being manifests itself in small things as much as in large.
If a person is perpetually late, lingering with a student in her office rather than promptly moving on to the next student on her appointment list, she will probably continue to be late when it is Deans and Provosts she is dealing with. If a professor’s desk is neat and cleared of all papers, with six pencils lined up in a row, their newly sharpened points exactly aligned, then he will almost certainly be punctilious, precise, and obsessively complete in his scholarly work.
I thought of Zina’s maxim when trying to puzzle out the political ambitions and intentions of Sarah Palin. Would she run for the Republican presidential nomination? Did she even want to be president? One of my sons, to whom I had long since passed on Zina’s folk wisdom, recalled it for me, and went on to suggest that it held the answer to my questions.
Palin has held three significant positions in her life: mayor of Wasilla, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Commission, and Governor of Alaska. She walked away from the second and third, each time because she saw an opportunity to maximize her fame and personal wealth. She clearly had no interest in actually being Governor of Alaska, nor is there the slightest indication that she wanted actually to be, or even had any idea what was involved in being, Vice-President of the United States.
Since most people do most things the way they do most other things, she will almost certainly run for the nomination, because that is the best way to remain famous and to develop new money-making opportunities without working for them. But should she have early successes in the 2012 primaries, as well she may, she will find some way, before the nomination process is complete, to drop out of the race, presenting herself as a victim of all manner of plots and prejudices.
Indeed, even if she secures the nomination, it is a virtual certainty that she will quit the race before she is defeated on election day. That this will cause chaos in the Republican Party will be of no concern to her, for at no time in her entire career has she ever exhibited the slightest loyalty to anyone or anything beyond her own immediate interest.
The Associated Press reports:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bank of America Corp. has joined several other financial institutions in refusing to handle payments for WikiLeaks…Curious as to just how rigorous the Bank of America’s “internal policies” might be, I turned to Google.
“This decision is based upon our reasonable belief that WikiLeaks may be engaged in activities that are, among other things, inconsistent with our internal policies for processing payments,” the bank said.
Similarly, traffickers used accounts at Bank of America to purchase three planes that ended up smuggling 10 tons of cocaine. “Federal agents caught people who work for Mexican cartels depositing illicit funds in Bank of America accounts in Atlanta, Chicago and Brownsville, Texas, from 2002 to 2009,” the article says.
And here goes again:
Among Bank of America’s 50 million customers, Pierre Falcone was far from ordinary. An infamous global arms dealer who unlawfully sold weapons to Angola for its civil war and an international fugitive, Falcone was convicted of tax fraud and illegal arms dealing in 2007 and 2009 and is currently serving six years behind bars.
Yet for nearly two decades, Falcone and his relatives freely used 29 different bank accounts to funnel at least $60 million into the US from secretive havens like the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, and Singapore, and from shell corporations and secret clients. Despite his criminal record and worldwide notoriety, Bank of America essentially treated him like any other depositor.
And yet again:
In withering complaints filed in state courts in both states, the attorneys general accused Bank of America of assuring customers that they would not be foreclosed upon while they were seeking loan modifications, only to proceed with foreclosures anyway; of falsely telling customers that they must be in default to obtain a modification; of promising that the modifications would be made permanent if they completed a trial period, only to renege on the deal; and of conjuring up bogus reasons for denying modifications.
More news from the swill kings who caused the present depression. (Don’t tell me this isn’t a depression; I have eyes.)
However, while Paulson has been criticized, unfairly or not, because $12.9 billion of the bailout money went to Goldman, he’s drawn little scrutiny for what he did in his first 18 months in office, during the final frenzied stages of the housing bubble.
In his eight years as Goldman’s chief executive, Paulson had presided over the firm’s plunge into the business of buying up subprime mortgages to marginal borrowers and then repackaging them into securities, overseeing the firm’s huge positions in what became a fraud-infested market.
During Paulson’s first 15 months as the treasury secretary and chief presidential economic adviser, Goldman unloaded more than $30 billion in dicey residential mortgage securities to pension funds, foreign banks and other investors and became the only major Wall Street firm to dramatically cut its losses and exit the housing market safely. Goldman also racked up billions of dollars in profits by secretly betting on a downturn in home mortgage securities.
“No one was better positioned . . . than Mr. Paulson to understand exactly what the implications of his moving against the (housing) bubble would have been for Goldman Sachs, because he knew what the Goldman Sachs positions were,” said William Black, a former senior thrift regulator who delivered the harshest criticism of the former secretary.
Paulson “knew that if he acted the way he should, that would have burst the bubble. Then Goldman Sachs would have been left with a very substantial loss, and that would have been the end of bonuses at Goldman Sachs.
Great catch by Robert Stein at Connecting.the.Dots:
As Glenn Beck’s Dr. Frankenstein, Karl Rove’s rehabilitator and Sarah Palin’s sugar daddy, Murdoch has defined media deviancy down to the point where it matches the now rock-bottom ethical standards of politics.
One gauge of his dual motivation is reflected in the antics of the Journal, which Murdoch has put behind a pay wall online, but which in recent weeks has made freely available to all its most virulent attacks on Obama.
In today’s edition alone, one columnist calls Barack Obama “kind of a jerk,” another parses his “disastrous fall” and still another explains why “Connecticut voters want a smackdown of the president’s policies.”
But if would-be readers are interested in a critique of Stephen Hawking’s views on God or what Congress should do about IPOs to help the American economy on “the road to recovery,” they will have to pay Murdoch for the privilege.
It takes only a little investigation to learn how bad things have been inside those buildings. The list of offenses for which the DeCosters and their farms have been fined in Iowa and Maine only begins with hiring children and illegal immigrants.
In 2000, Jack DeCoster, the operations’ founder, was named a “habitual violator” of Iowa’s environmental laws. His egg factories have been cited by OSHA for deplorable working conditions. In 2003, Mr. DeCoster paid more than $1.5 million to settle an employment discrimination suit charging that 11 women working in the Clarion plants had been subject to sexual harassment, including rape and threats of retaliation. There have been nearly 1,500 illnesses as a result of the salmonella outbreak. Every one of the billions of eggs produced this way has been tainted.
The recall, which began Aug. 13, involves more than half a billion eggs from the Iowa operations of two leading egg producers, Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms. About 1,500 reported cases of Salmonella enteritidis have been linked to tainted eggs since the spring — the largest known outbreak associated with that strain of salmonella.
The F.D.A. inspection reports portray areas of filth and poor sanitation at both operations, including many instances of rodents, wild birds or hens escaped from cages — all of which can carry salmonella — appearing to have had free run of the facilities.
Wright County Egg is owned by Jack DeCoster, who has a long history of environmental, labor and immigration violations at egg operations in Maine, Iowa and elsewhere. The inspection report identified Mr. DeCoster’s son, Peter DeCoster, as the chief operating officer of the Iowa operation.
A reliable source in the Maine legal community tells me that over the years two law firms in the state have dropped Mr. DeCoster as a client. Basically, my source says, because the guy was such a flaming asshole.
Think about that for a minute. How flaming an asshole would a millionaire client have to be for a law firm to fire him? Remember that O.J. Simpson had a lawyer and Tom DeLay had a lawyer. Bernie Madoff had a lawyer. Even Leona Helmsley had a lawyer.
Hardly a CEO in the country would not argue that high wages are necessary to attract the very best type of chief executive. They make precisely that argument in defense of their own bloated paychecks. Paying less would put the stockholders at the mercy of a lower type of CEO altogether — a less competent and less efficient steward entirely.
But not a one of these CEOs, obscenely overpaid or merely grossly so, would give a moment’s consideration to the idea that low wages might result in less efficient and less competent workmen as well. Nor that higher wages might attract a better class, likely to work smarter and harder. Somehow workers do not need the motivation of good pay, while managers can hardly exist without it.
As we see in this uplifting story from CNN:
According to the report “CEO Pay and the Great Recession,” chief executive officers of the 50 firms that laid off the most workers since the start of the economic crisis earned nearly $12 million on average in 2009. That’s 42 percent more than the average pay of CEOs at S&P 500 firms as a whole.
“I think that really shows a really perverse incentive system in this country,” said Sarah Anderson, lead author of the Institute for Policy Studies’ 17th Annual Executive Compensation Survey. “You are handsomely rewarded for slashing jobs in the middle of the worst economic crisis in 80 years,” she said…
Another disconcerting finding of the report: 72 percent of layoff-leading firms announced mass layoffs while delivering positive earnings reports. Anderson explained layoffs are really driven by efforts “to boost short-term profits even higher and also just to continue to have such high CEO pay levels.” She said these mass cuts are often bad for business over the long-term because they impact worker morale, which can lead to lower productivity. She said they also result in additional costs related to hiring and training new workers down the road.
Billionaire tax dodger Sam Wyly says:
In the six years since the Securities and Exchange Commission started investigating the Wylys, the brothers have not spoken publicly about the business enterprises that produced so many unflattering national headlines about them: a maze of 58 trusts and shell corporations based in two well-known tax havens, the Isle of Man and the Cayman Islands…
If filing the case was intended to push the Wylys to accept harsher terms, Sam vows it will not work. It’s not just that he and his brother did nothing wrong, he said:
“We made all the shareholders money, we made all the employees money, we did a good job for the customers, we did a good job for the vendors. We did everything you’re supposed to do with a company.”
Speaking softly, he smiled like a guy at low boil. “I could write them a check, but that’s not the point,” he said, unleashing another chortle. “It’s not about the money.”
H.L. Mencken says:
When somebody says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.
From the Associated Press:
NEW YORK — The New York Times reported on its website Thursday that federal authorities have decided to indict Roger Clemens on charges of making false statements to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs.
What kind of a society indicts a baseball player while Blankenship, Blankfein, Dimon, and Hayward walk free?
…speak Truth to Power, which does not care.
But Washington is providing only a trickle of help, and even that grudgingly. We must place priority on reducing the deficit, say Republicans and “centrist” Democrats. And then, virtually in the next breath, they declare that we must preserve tax cuts for the very affluent, at a budget cost of $700 billion over the next decade.
In effect, a large part of our political class is showing its priorities: given the choice between asking the richest 2 percent or so of Americans to go back to paying the tax rates they paid during the Clinton-era boom, or allowing the nation’s foundations to crumble — literally in the case of roads, figuratively in the case of education — they’re choosing the latter…
The antigovernment campaign has always been phrased in terms of opposition to waste and fraud — to checks sent to welfare queens driving Cadillacs, to vast armies of bureaucrats uselessly pushing paper around. But those were myths, of course; there was never remotely as much waste and fraud as the right claimed. And now that the campaign has reached fruition, we’re seeing what was actually in the firing line: services that everyone except the very rich need, services that government must provide or nobody will, like lighted streets, drivable roads and decent schooling for the public as a whole.
So the end result of the long campaign against government is that we’ve taken a disastrously wrong turn. America is now on the unlit, unpaved road to nowhere.
Here’s David Stockman, Reagan’s budget chief:
…The third ominous change in the American economy has been the vast, unproductive expansion of our financial sector. Here, Republicans have been oblivious to the grave danger of flooding financial markets with freely printed money and, at the same time, removing traditional restrictions on leverage and speculation. As a result, the combined assets of conventional banks and the so-called shadow banking system (including investment banks and finance companies) grew from a mere $500 billion in 1970 to $30 trillion by September 2008.
But the trillion-dollar conglomerates that inhabit this new financial world are not free enterprises. They are rather wards of the state, extracting billions from the economy with a lot of pointless speculation in stocks, bonds, commodities and derivatives. They could never have survived, much less thrived, if their deposits had not been government-guaranteed and if they hadn’t been able to obtain virtually free money from the Fed’s discount window to cover their bad bets…
From the Hartford Courant:
And that’s why there’s a bidding war growing for the estimated 750,000 tons of garbage that 70 towns and cities pay more than $500 million a year to burn at a trash-to-energy plant in Hartford…
Last year, the most cost-effective route for Stamford was a vendor that shrink-wrapped the city’s trash to keep it compact and easily portable and trucked it to a landfill in Ohio.
More from one of our public truth-tellers, James K. Galbraith. Why does he bother? Why do I bother pointing you to his Congressional testimony, or you bother reading it? Nothing will be done to punish the criminals, nor to prevent them from stealing again once the heat dies down. Nothing ever is.
But read Galbraith’s whole statement here anyway. It’s like pissing in a blue serge suit. Nobody else notices, but at least it makes you feel warm.
Control frauds always fail in the end. But the failure of the firm does not mean the fraud fails: the perpetrators often walk away rich. At some point, this requires subverting, suborning or defeating the law. This is where crime and politics intersect. At its heart, therefore, the financial crisis was a breakdown in the rule of law in America.
Ask yourselves: is it possible for mortgage originators, ratings agencies, underwriters, insurers and supervising agencies NOT to have known that the system of housing finance had become infested with fraud? Every statistical indicator of fraudulent practice — growth and profitability — suggests otherwise. Every examination of the record so far suggests otherwise. The very language in use: “liars’ loans,” “ninja loans,” “neutron loans,” and “toxic waste,” tells you that people knew. I have also heard the expression, “IBG, YBG;” the meaning of that bit of code was: “I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone.”
If doubt remains, investigation into the internal communications of the firms and agencies in question can clear it up. Emails are revealing. The government already possesses critical documentary trails — those of AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve. Those documents should be investigated, in full, by competent authority and also released, as appropriate, to the public. For instance, did AIG knowingly issue CDS against instruments that Goldman had designed on behalf of Mr. John Paulson to fail? If so, why? Or again: Did Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac appreciate the poor quality of the RMBS they were acquiring? Did they do so under pressure from Mr. Henry Paulson? If so, did Secretary Paulson know? And if he did, why did he act as he did? In a recent paper, Thomas Ferguson and Robert Johnson argue that the “Paulson Put” was intended to delay an inevitable crisis past the election. Does the internal record support this view?
…among the simple folk of Wall Street is foreseen by The Epicurean Dealmaker, and should certainly be fun to watch. Unhappily it will only end in the triumph of a new Great Vampire Squid with a different name. In the long run we will all be, once again, drained.
I must agree with Felix Salmon and others, who claim that the real damage to Goldman Sachs has already been done, with its formerly venerated name being dragged publicly through the mud with an accusation of fraud. While this may have little effect on the majority of Goldman’s business on the sales and trading side of the house — where counterparties are generally too smart to raise a stink about the 800 pound gorilla of the global financial markets (and often too unprincipled themselves to care) — it should and will have an effect on Goldman’s extensive investment banking business with governments, corporations, and other entities.
The Great Vampire Squid has been living for years off the simple fact that, like the fabled IBM of yore, no-one ever got fired (or sued) for picking Goldman Sachs. That calculus has been changed, and I and every one of my red-blooded peers in the industry who is not currently drawing a paycheck signed by David Viniar are making damn sure that CEOs, CFOs, government officials, and Boards of Directors know it.
For those of you who were wondering, this is the real reason why Goldman’s market capitalization has taken the vapors to the tune of more than ten billion dollars in response to an action likely to cost it no more than a tiny fraction of that amount: its reputation premium is quietly and rapidly evaporating.
There is no shortage of competent investment banks and adequate investment bankers available to conduct the financing and M&A business of the global corporate and government economy. No longer can Goldman rest assured that it will win mandates simply because it is Goldman Sachs. In fact, it may lose many for that very reason…
Although just wait and see what happens if enough of them sense that Goldman is mortally wounded. They’ll gang up and rip it to shreds without a second thought, just like they did to Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and almost did to Morgan Stanley. Live by the sword, die by the sword, baby. Booyah!
Today’s Waterbury Republican-American carried this story on the appearance of beloved elder statesman Henry Kissinger at the Kent, Connecticut, Lions Club:
Kissinger delighted the audience with his humorous remarks and took his time answering a half-dozen different questions.
First Selectman Bruce K. Adams was the last in line and he took the opportunity to ask Kissinger for advice in governing and leading the small town he lived in. Kissinger candidly admitted that he has been focused on foreign policy rather than local politics. “I’m counting on you in making this the special place it is.”
Also today, the Associated Press carried some earlier advice from the retired Sage of Foggy Bottom:
WASHINGTON — As secretary of state, Henry Kissinger canceled a U.S. warning against carrying out international political assassinations that was to have gone to Chile and two neighboring nations just days before a former ambassador was killed by Chilean agents on Washington’s Embassy Row in 1976…
In 1976, the South American nations of Chile, Argentina and Uruguay were engaged in a program of repression code-named Operation Condor that targeted those governments’ political opponents throughout Latin America, Europe and even the United States.
Based on information from the CIA, the U.S. State Department became concerned that Condor included plans for political assassination around the world. The State Department drafted a plan to deliver a stern message to the three governments not to engage in such murders.
In the Sept. 16, 1976 cable, the topic of one paragraph is listed as “Operation Condor,” preceded by the words “(KISSINGER, HENRY A.) SUBJECT: ACTIONS TAKEN.” The cable states that “secretary declined to approve message to Montevideo” Uruguay “and has instructed that no further action be taken on this matter…”
“You can instruct” the U.S. ambassadors “to take no further action” on the subject of Operation Condor, said the Sept. 20 cable by Harry Shlaudeman, assistant secretary of state for Inter-American affairs, to Shlaudeman’s deputy.
The next day, on Sept. 21, 1976, agents of Chilean Gen. Augusto Pinochet planted a car bomb and exploded it on a Washington, D.C., street, killing both former Ambassador Orlando Letelier, and an American colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt [below]. Letelier was one of the most outspoken critics of the Pinochet government.
…or so says former Bush speechwriter David Frum. Myself, I would never impute ulterior motives to the fat freak.
When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say — but what is equally true — is that he also wants Republicans to fail.
If Republicans succeed — if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office — Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less and hear fewer ads for Sleep Number beds.
So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished.
For the cause they purport to represent, however, the “Waterloo” threatened by GOP Sen. Jim DeMint last year regarding Obama and health care has finally arrived all right: Only it turns out to be our own.
Peggy Noonan, in The Wall Street Journal:
Fox is owned by News Corp., which also owns this newspaper, so one should probably take pains to demonstrate that one is attempting to speak with disinterest and impartiality, in pursuit of which let me note that Glenn Beck has long appeared to be insane.
Ezra Klein and Paul Krugman are onto something in this excerpt. Klein used the word “thoughtful” in the quote below. He meant “smart,” of course, but was too thoughtful to say so.
[Jonathan] Chait professes himself puzzled by the right’s intellectual insecurity. Me, not so much. Here’s how I see it: in our current political culture, the background noise is overwhelmingly one of conservative platitudes. People who have strong feelings about politics but are intellectually incurious tend to pick up those platitudes, and repeat them in the belief that this makes them sound smart. (Ezra Klein once described Dick Armey thus: “He’s like a stupid person’s idea of what a thoughtful person sounds like.”)
Emanuel Rahm’s “retard” has become an increasingly complicated political bankshot: from the White House to Sarah Palin to Rush Limbaugh, back to Palin and now to Connecticut’s Senate race:
One of the two candidates, Linda McMahon, was the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment — and it turns out that there was a mentally handicapped WWE wrestling character who was savagely beaten in a steel cage and worse. And in light of the flap over Rahm, I’m told that McMahon’s opponent, Rob Simmons, is going to demand that she account for it…For your viewing pleasure (h/t Greenwich Time), here’s Eugene:
“Eugene” is the stage name of a mentally handicapped wrestling character who performed on WWE’s “Raw” brand. When he was introduced in 2004, according to press reports at the time, viewers complained to WWE, forcing them to issue a statement saying they intended him to be portrayed as a “hero” who would inspire “other people with disabilities to strive to achieve their dreams.”
But there’s footage all over the internet of Eugene getting savagely stomped and beaten, and even demeaned, and one storyline even ended up with him getting savaged in a steel cage. And the Simmons campaign is going to demand that McMahon account for this.
Here's a sorry story.
When the Wall Street collapse began, I took my son’s college nest egg out of a high income bond fund, and bought a one-year CD from Wachovia Bank at 4.5 percent interest. Now that the year is up, I thought I’d roll it over at the same bank.
Not going to happen. Now they are paying just one percent and forcing their customers (read victims) to buy an 18-month CD. I have a one week window in which to get that money out, or the bank will roll it over automatically at one percent.
Remember Wachovia is now owned by Wells Fargo, which bought it for $12 billion, shortly after receiving a $25 billion bailout from you and me. This makes it the second largest bank in the U.S. which is now even more “too big to fail.”
In October Wachovia raised its credit card interest rates three percentage points. Now they range from 12 to 22 percent Another brief story to show how capitalism really works.
Assuming you need a scapegoat to make you feel better, the Republican Party has a rep for you. Eric Hoffer is rolling over in his grave I’m sure. Since we don’t watch television anymore, I wasn’t aware that this parody is based on an Apple app commercial until I read about it, but all you television watchers already know that I suppose. Thanks to the author of this video who has a great new blog, Waking Up Now that will undoubtedly be worth keeping an eye on and also has a detailed explanation of how and why he created the video with intricate explanations for each rep. Watch the video first, then read the explanations. That’s the creator of the video’s advice.
I don’t want to take all the credit — his reaching Social Security age this year may have had something to do with it — but my previous posting on the Loofah King couldn’t have hurt.
In any event, the old horndog has seen the light and is shocked, shocked at what strikes him as lewdness these days:
Rio Americano High School is receiving national attention — but not the kind schools brag about.
Fox News television host Bill O'Reilly's show recently blasted Rio’s song team for provocative dance moves during a performance at a back-to-school rally…
Here’s a happy ending for you:
Don’t remember Andrea Mackris? That means you haven’t clicked recently on our blogroll link to “Bill O’Reilly’s Pathetic Sex Life.” For a Cliff Notes version, here’s an excerpt from The Smoking Gun’s anniversary hommage to the popular perv.
But we’d wager that the volcanic O’Reilly, 60, is still incensed about writing that hefty check. For her part, Mackris, 38, has stayed mum, presumably pursuant to some kind of confidentiality agreement. She has relocated from Manhattan to Missouri, where she was recently named to St. Louis Magazine’s best dressed list.
Brady Bonk posted the picture below on Ketchup is a Vegetable, where at first glance I took it for satire. Sadly, no. A little Googling showed that it circulates principally on the hard right side of the blogosphere, as an exercise in nostalgia whose implied subtext is, “Are you morans happy now?”
But no matter how hard I look, I can’t see anything but rich white trash — a spoiled, smug, aging brat indistinguishable from a dozen other WASPs I grew up with. How else can that smirk be read?
Evidently as the portrait of a towering yet folksy leader tragically taken from the nation by an ill-considered constitutional amendment. No doubt the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
As usual, though, it doesn’t. I’m right.
We here in Connecticut are sick and tired of all the attention South Carolina has been getting for being ridiculous. So here’s what we’re doing about it:
WASHINGTON – Pro wrestling executive Linda McMahon has never been shy about wading into the ring — and now she’s plotting a smackdown of Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd.
World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. said Wednesday McMahon has resigned as the company's chief executive to seek the Republican nomination for Dodd's Connecticut seat, providing a show-business twist to one of the nation's marquee Senate races…
McMahon, who typically worked behind the scenes at World Wrestling Entertainment, has said she’s appeared in portions of the shows at least several dozen times during her more than 25-year-career. One video on the Internet shows her in the ring, appearing to kick a man in the groin.
As you sit stupefied before Cheney preening his soiled and broken feathers on every talk show he can find, relieve the monotony with this thought from Steve Benen:
What Obama really ought to do, according to Dick Cheney, is seek out the former vice president’s advice and follow it. After all, Cheney believes he’s proven himself on the issue.
I seem to recall the Bush/Cheney era a little differently. Cheney thinks it was a sterling success when it came to national security and counter-terrorism. Perhaps there’s something to this. After all, except for the catastrophic events of 9/11, and the anthrax attacks against Americans, and terrorist attacks against U.S. allies, and the terrorist attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Bush’s inability to capture those responsible for 9/11, and waging an unnecessary war that inspired more terrorists, and the success terrorists had in exploiting Bush’s international unpopularity, the Bush/Cheney record on counter-terrorism was awesome.
After the previous administration established a record like that, President Obama didn’t ask Cheney for tips? The nerve.
I am curious about something, though. Terrorists first attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, early on in President Clinton’s first year in office. Six people were killed, hundreds more were injured. The Clinton administration caught those responsible, subjected them to the U.S. criminal justice system, and foreign terrorists did not strike again on U.S. soil during Clinton’s terms in office.
So, at any point in 2001, did the Bush White House turn to Bill Clinton and Al Gore and ask, “How did you do it? What were the keys to keeping this country safe over that period of time?”
I have a fat and constantly growing file of FBI stupidity, inefficiency, incompetence, bribery, theft, entrapment, perjury, burglary, and murder. But this — this — still surprised. To think of such a thing requires a mind of vileness beyond the imagination of decent people. To carry it out is unspeakable.
…But Boyd, a 41-year-old mother of five and U.S.-born convert to Islam, reserved her sharpest comments for what she called a cruel trap that law enforcement authorities set up to get her out of her house Monday while agents scoured it for documents after the arrest of her husband, two sons and four other men.
Boyd, whose family lives in the Johnston County community of Willow Spring, described a harrowing experience Monday afternoon when she answered the door to find a man she thought was a family friend wearing a shirt that appeared to be bloodied. He told her that Daniel and their three sons, Dylan, Noah and Zakariya, were in a serious car crash. He asked her to get into a Highway Patrol cruiser that would take her to Duke Hospital, where they were being treated.
Boyd summoned her daughter and pregnant daughter-in-law. They wrapped their heads in scarves, grabbed their Qurans and flew out the door. For Boyd, it was a particularly painful experience. Her 16-year-old son, Luqman, died in a car crash near their home in 2007.
When they arrived at Duke Hospital, the cruiser took them to a construction site at the rear of the facility. A man dressed as a doctor came out and asked whether she was the wife. When she said yes, he extended his hand. She told him she does not shake men’s hands. He then grabbed her wrist and handcuffed her.
“I’m not a doctor. I’m an agent and your family is not in the hospital,” he told her. “You’re being detained, and you need to cooperate with us.”
Boyd estimates she was then surrounded by 30 agents who frisked her and asked whether she had weapons or weapons of mass destruction…
U.S. District Attorney George E. B. Holding declined to respond to Boyd’s version. “I am sticking to the four corners of the indictment. We try our cases in court and won’t go back and forth before then,” he said Tuesday.
Holding, you will be unsurprised to learn, is a piece of legal litter left over from the George W. Bush administration. He is a fat rich kid who owes his job to that unspeakable embarrassment from North Carolina, the late Senator Jesse Helms.
One of Obama’s most puzzling failures has been leaving so many George Holdings in their U.S. Attorney jobs, bad aftertastes from the most disgraceful period in the history of the Justice Department. When you move into a new house, it’s a good idea to clear out the old owner's garbage.
Once again it develops that denial is not just a river in Egypt:
Chris Mozilo, nephew of Angelo R. Mozilo, the former chief executive of Countrywide Financial — a name synonymous with the subprime disaster — recently started a new business, eModifyMyLoan. It sells software that homeowners can use to apply for loan modifications.
Chris Mozilo worked at Countrywide for 16 years. “I’m very proud of my career in mortgage lending,” he said. “We helped millions of people achieve the goal of homeownership.”
They’re mad as hell, and they’re not gonna take it anymore. Who? Wall Street bankers, of course.
The mighty Atlases upon whose shoulders we sit are getting angry at our ingratitude. They give, we take; they build wealth, and we sponge off it; they motor the world, and all we do is unthinkingly criticize and complain when the invisible hand of the market rewards them. Well, Mr. and Mrs. American whiner, they want you to know they’ve had it, as reported by Gabriel Sherman in this article in New York Magazine:
“No offense to Middle America, but if someone went to Columbia or Wharton, [even if] their company is a fumbling, mismanaged bank, why should they all of a sudden be paid the same as the guy down the block who delivers restaurant supplies for Sysco out of a huge, shiny truck?” e-mails an irate Citigroup executive to a colleague.
“I’m not giving to charity this year!” one hedge-fund analyst shouts into the phone, when I ask about Obama’s planned tax increases. “When people ask me for money, I tell them, ‘If you want me to give you money, send a letter to my senator asking for my taxes to be lowered.’ I feel so much less generous right now. If I have to adopt twenty poor families, I want a thank-you note and an update on their lives. At least Sally Struthers gives you an update.”
You might think your life is tough, what with losing your job, your home, your retirement, but you just don’t get it. Your perspective is warped by the distorting prism of reality. You should have gone to Columbia or Wharton. Maybe then you’d understand that the rich have special needs. They also face special problems, the likes of which you and I could never hope to understand. For example, cost structures. Cost structures are an invisible web of interlocking expenses that, well, force you to be a greedy snob. A former Goldman Sach’s man explains:
To Wall Street people who have grown up in the bubble, the meaning of the crisis is only slowly sinking in. They can’t yet grasp the idea of a life lived on less. “Without exception, Wall Street guys have gotten accustomed to not being stuck in the city in August. So it becomes a right to have a summer home within an hour or two commute from Manhattan,” says the Goldman vet. “There’s a cost structure of going with your family on summer vacation that’s not optional. There’s a cost structure of spending $40,000 to send your kids to private school that is not optional. There’s a sense of entitlement, that you need that amount of money just to live, that’s not optional.”
Do you get it yet? If you happen to be stuck in the unemployment line this August, just know it could be worse: you could be stuck in a dreary penthouse in Manhattan. But then again, you didn’t go to Columbia or Wharton, so it’s probably not sinking in. It’s all about cost structure, which never enters our beautiful minds, or the beautiful minds of those lucky Sysco delivery drivers who get to idle away their days in huge, shiny trucks.
There’s one more thing. A lot of these beneficient Wall Street people were willing to vote for Obama. You know, because they care about you, me, America in general. But this liberal sense of entitlement he’s been spreading around violates their free market principles, and not even the billions of dollars in TARP money that he’s giving them is enough allay their concerns. Thus, they warn, Wall Street just might do something unheard of in the history of American finance — turn right!
During the campaign, Obama was never shy about his promise to undo the Bush tax policies. But it was easy to ignore his occasional lapses into populist rhetoric and focus on his intense intelligence and Ivy League education. Now, in the wake of the crisis, Wall Street’s politics are shifting rightward. “All the rich people I know took George Bush for granted,” says an analyst at a midtown hedge fund. “I’m a Democrat, but I agree with Rush Limbaugh on a lot of this stuff,” rails the wife of a former AIG executive.
The argument that Obama has in fact done a great deal to help Wall Street—to the tune of trillions of dollars—doesn’t have much truck with these critics. “If you really take a look at what Obama is promising, it’s frightening,” says Nicholas Cacciola, a 44-year-old executive at a financial-services firm. “He’s punishing you for doing better. He doesn’t want to have any wealth creation—it’s wealth distribution. Why are you being punished for making a lot of money?” As a Republican corporate lawyer puts it: “It’s the politics of envy, and that’s very dangerous.”
There you have it. We’re pushing Wall Street right into the arms of Rush Limbaugh. When they deliver us to another Republican regime, we’ll only have ourselves to blame.
I bet you feel really stupid now about complaining over paying their bonuses.
This is from a review of Richard Posner’s new book, A Failure of Capitalism. The reviewer is MIT’s Robert M. Solow, who won the 1987 Nobel Prize in economics.
It seems to me that effective limits on leverage, even if they have to be different for different classes of institutions, are basic to controlling the potential instability of the financial system. Even with more transparency, extreme leverage is what generates extreme uncertainty and systemic risk.
And it also encourages the dangerous compensation practices that Posner pillories. Leverage allows a clever player to manage enormous sums; it is then irresistible to focus on the short run and skim off mind-boggling paychecks and bonuses before the opportunity goes away…
The financial system does have a useful social function to perform, and that is to make the real economy operate more efficiently. Some human institution has to collect a nation's savings and put them at the disposal of those who have productive ways to use them. Risks arise in the everyday business of economic life, and some human institution has to transfer them to those who are most willing to bear them.
When it goes much beyond that, the financial system is likely to cause more trouble than it averts. I find it hard to believe, and I suspect that Judge Posner shares my disbelief, that our overgrown, largely unregulated financial sector was actually fully engaged in improving the allocation of real economic resources. It was using modern financial technology to create fresh risks, to borrow more money, and to gamble it away.
As seen on Wall Street:
(1) I support the Obama pay cap for CEOs of companies on the dole.
(2) My choice would be to cap them at the rate of a 4-star general or admiral, with max seniority.
(3) If you sent all Fortune 500 CEOs and their #2s to St. Elba, performance of their companies would not on average deteriorate. The “myth of the irreplaceable CEO” is just that — myth.
We seem to have heard the last, thank God, of Bush’s incredibly bad imitation of a West Texas accent. (I know it’s bad because I was working as an oil field roustabout in McCamey, Texas, back when Bush was still a boy just up the road in Midland, exploding frogs.
During Bush’s self-worshipping, self-pitying embarassment of a legacy tour hardly a trace remained of the laughably phony accent on which nobody in the media ever called bullshit, to my knowledge, for eight long years.
But now that Bush no longer has to suck up to the base by pretending he’s country, the First Wrangler has reverted to talking like every other spoiled brat from the rolling prairies of Connecticut. (I know that accent, too, having grown up with rich white trash in Connecticut myself. God help me, I probably have it.)
Sally Quinn at The Washington Post explores why there was no room at Bush’s inn for the Obamas. She concludes that it’s just doggone hard to give up power. I conclude that it’s because Bush is a small, mean, petty person who has quite naturally surrounded himself with other small, petty people. The whole sorry episode is the type of thing you have to expect when rich white trash winds up in the White House:
But Blair House is huge. It’s not one house but four houses put together. The federal government bought the house from the Blair estate in 1942 and connected the adjoining Lee house in 1943. The two closest houses to those were bought in 1969-70 and connected as well. So Blair House now has 119 rooms and is 70,000 square feet. It’s larger than the White House. And yet there was no room at the inn for the Obama family.
You might ask: What is this really about?
Here’s the back story. John Howard was a member of George Bush’s coalition of the willing in Iraq. Howard is no friend of Barack Obama’s. When Obama announced for the presidency, he proposed legislation that would withdraw troops by March 2008; Howard responded by saying, “If I were running al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008 and be praying as many times as possible for a victory not only for Obama but also for the Democrats.” Obama responded that it was “flattering that one of George Bush’s allies on the other side of the world” had attacked him.
Howard was about as unpopular in Australia when he lost his last election (and still is) as Bush is in the United States right now. The Australian press has gone crazy over the Blair House story in a way that the U.S. press has not, saying that Howard should have offered to stay elsewhere.
The unavailability of Blair House means that the Obamas will have to move three times in three weeks, adding an additional disruption for two young girls already in an incredibly pressured situation. Not only that, but the expense of staying at the Hay-Adams Hotel was considerable, as was the added expense and trouble of having to secure the hotel and its environs by the Secret Service. All of this so that Howard and his wife could have 119 rooms to themselves (including living rooms, sitting rooms, dining rooms and kitchens) for one night?
Why couldn’t the Howards have stayed at their country’s embassy, as Tony Blair did at his? Why couldn’t the reception have been held at the State Department? The White House could easily have made these things happen.
This is by Ross Mackenzie, retired editor of the editorial page at the Richmond Times Dispatch. I know you will feel, as I did after reading it through, deeply ashamed:
The left and the media and the ever-expanding blogosphere, and of course the Democrats, never permitted George Bush to recover from the circumstances of his 2000 election.
They deemed him unacceptable, accidental, illegitimate, likely a conniver in the national outcome — and so took to lobbing their hateful commentaries one after another without end.
On issue after issue they rejected his appeals for bipartisanship, especially in his second term. In his 2004 victory speech, Bush said: “Today, I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent. To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support, and I will work to earn it. ... We have one country, one Constitution, and one future that binds us. And when we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America.”
Yet from Social Security and judges to the surge and terror and continuation of the tax cuts, malign leftists dug in and sought to foil him on every front — to deny him any victory, any success, anywhere.
“Malign” is too harsh? Consider: Television, blogospheric, and newspaper commentaries slammed President Bush 24/7. Nicholson Baker wrote Checkpoint, whose protagonists weigh whether to assassinate him. Twelve thousand San Franciscans signed a petition to rename an Oceanside sewage plant for him—
Hollywood went apoplectic, with Oliver Stone — director of the detestable October-released flick “W” — declaring: “We are a poorer and less secure nation for having elected (Bush) as our president. ... America finds itself fighting unnecessary and costly wars and engaging in dangerous and counterproductive efforts to fight extremism. Even more significant and troubling, I believe, is his legacy of immorality.”
Despite this vicious stream, George Bush persevered and prevailed. The events of 9/11 changed him. Mistakes abounded, but no subsequent domestic jihadist strike ensued. As he noted at the Army War College last month, this staggering security success was “not a matter of luck.” Against islamo-fascism pre-emption (described by the all-knowing as naive, idealistic and wrong) was — as it remains — the right policy for spreading liberty and democracy, particularly in a Middle East that boasts so little of either.
The enterprise in Iraq, following the surge, now approaches victory — the great Osama bin Laden himself having declared Iraq “the central front” in his war against the United States.
Barack Obama repeatedly pronounced Iraq a distraction and - from beginning to end — a mistake. Yet a resolute Bush was true to his values, to his nation, and to mankind’s ultimate cause. Last month he told The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel that liberty can be extended beyond Iraq as long as America continues to believe “in the universality of freedom.”
His early tax cuts helped the country out of the recession Bill Clinton left him. The budget exploded, as did deficits — largely a result of expanded defense spending for the war on terror. (Said Bush in the Strassel interview: “I refused to compromise on the military” — for which thank heaven, given that the first obligation of every administration is the people’s protection.)
Bush was correct about Social Security, despite a spineless, risk-averse Congress unwilling to get its game together. While vastly more nominations would have been better, he managed against obstructionist Senate Democrats to gain approval of 61 federal appellate judges (compare Clinton’s 65), now constituting majorities on 10 of the 13 appellate courts. And he gave us the estimable Supreme Court Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
Yes, spending blew out of control — albeit with congressional concurrence.
Problems plagued the war’s conduct in Iraq. Post-Katrina New Orleans was mishandled. Still, Bush can boast hefty tax cuts, major assistance for HIV-infected areas of Africa, significant gains in health care and in education accountability, a multi-ethnic Cabinet (including the first two black secretaries of state), and massive improvements from surveillance to strategic policy.
We invest our presidents with greatly too many expectations. It happened with George Bush and his predecessors, as it is happening with Barack Obama — the latest secular savior. Few mortals can deliver on more than a small percentage of their promises and hopes.
Yet Bush carried two added burdens: (1) difficulty in articulating his goals and (2) relentless hammering by leftists hostile to his values and his success. Then, perceiving him harmful to the Republican brand, many conservatives abandoned him as well. Still and all, his favorable ratings never descended to the ratings for Congress — particularly the Congress led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
George Bush a perfect president? Hardly. The worst president of the past half-century, as too many with ideological axes to grind would have us believe? Compare, oh, Carter and Clinton. A more prudent categorization: The most consequential president since Reagan.
To those cognoscenti who argue such an appraisal is preposterous, remind them of this: The most recent conventional wisdom — the consensus of the best minds and analysts — was (remember?) that because the fundamentals were so sound the stock market could not crash, the economy could not possibly collapse.
Former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson — a man of laconic, perceptive humor — noted that “those who travel the high road of humility in Washington are not bothered by heavy traffic.”
George Bush concludes his presidency with abundant accomplishments, not least a safer nation — and still, despite a tsunami of hateful coverage, commendably humble. When the tumult and the shouting die, an appreciative people would escort him down to robust and lingering applause.
From today’s New York Times:
[South Carolina Governor Mark] Sanford, a wealthy real estate investor, is often mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012, in part because he is seen as an exemplary adherent of the party’s low-government, antispending philosophy. He recently wrote an op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal saying he was opposed to a “bailout” for states…
Mr. Sanford once carried two piglets onto the floor of the House chamber to symbolize his opposition to what he considered wasteful spending. One of the piglets promptly defecated; lawmakers were not amused. Indeed, though Republicans dominate both chambers, they have overriden hundreds of his vetoes on spending over the years, including, in one recent session, money to expand children’s health insurance, indigent defense, and to provide cost-of-living adjustments for retired state employees.
Yep, it’s time for ole Dubya to mosey on down the trail, droppin’ his “g’s” as he goes. Be headin’ back to the Lone Star State where it all began, where the legend was born. After all he’s done, that boy needs a good long rest. Kickin’ back in boots and jeans, him ’n Laura, kids comin’ by now and then, all helpin’ put books on the shelves of the Dubya Liberry. Catchin’ them Rangers on the TV and shootin’ some birds when the mood takes him. Nothin’ like killin’ things to make you know you’re livin’.
Cheney liked to shoot birds, too, until he found out it was even more fun to shoot people. “What’s all the fuss about?” he kept saying. “Only shot him in the face.” Admit it now, is Dick Cheney some kind of hoot, or what? There’s another boy knows how to have a good time.
Dubya’s hopin’ for visits from Donny and Condi and the Rover once things settle down, though Condi’s been actin’ a little funny lately. Actin’ like she wouldn’t mind seein’ the back of Li’l Georgie once and for all so’s she can concentrate on rehabilitatin’ her sorry ace. Which is not in the best of shape after years of consortin’ with a war-makin,’ law-breakin’ moron…
So maybe Condi won’t be stoppin’ by, after all. And you know Colin Powell won’t be comin’ by, not after he came out for the skinny guy from Chicago with that long-winded speech on the TV. God Amighty! Didja think maybe he’d never get to the point? Mr. Holier Than Thou. Doesn’t like waterboardin’. Doesn’t like this. Doesn’t like that. Man has no sense of humor, that’s the problem.
Seems like Donny’s a little frosty these days, too. ’Course, Donny’s never forgiven Dubya for bein’ president when everybody knew Donny was smarter and tougher and meaner and had a better plan. Now he’s busy rehabilitatin’ hisself, too, though most people think his raggedy ace is beyond savin’. Should have got it out of town a long time before he did.
Li’l Donny wrote a article not long ago in the New York Times of all places. Covered most of a page and seemed to be about the Surge and how we have won the war in I-Rack but just don’t know it. Donny’s still a little haired off at Dubya for makin’ him take the fall for all the money’s been wasted and all the people’s got killed.
But, hell, Donny’s always been haired off at somebody. Been that way since he was a rasslin’ champ down at Tiger Town. Look funny at him, he’ll take you to the mat with a triple half-nelson and a double headlock. Break your legs, arms. Break your neck. Then he’ll stick your head under water ’til you cry “uncle.”
Dubya could get lonely down there in Big D, with all these people not showin’ up like they said they would. They was like a nuke-you-lar family, you know. Thick as thieves. Peas in a pod. Bugs in a rug. Tight as ticks. Gonna be tough goin’ it alone with just Laura. You can see from her pictures she’s nice but no fun.
’Course, if there’s one thing Dubya knows how to do it’s have fun. Not like Donny and Condi. They’re too busy tryin’ to get they aces out of the fryin’ pan of history. Worried about they legacy or somethin’.
Not Cheney, though. Not him. You can take your legacy and put it… well, you know where. That’s what he seems to be sayin’. You don’t like it, sue me. Indict me. Get too close, I’ll have a heart attack. Cheney’s tough. They’ll never lay a glove on him.
Or Dubya either, come to think of it. Not that anybody’d want to. He did his best and you can’t ask more’n that from a man. People say, Yeah, but his best wasn’t good enough. In fact, they say, his best was the worst we’ve ever seen. People say he lied to us and listened to our phone calls and opened our mail and screwed around with the Constitution and got us into a crazy war and screwed up the economy and generally behaved like a despot — if only a junior varsity kind of despot.
Well, maybe. But let’s not be churlish. We were always told we lived in a country where anybody could become president. And anybody did.
You judged Paris Hilton all wrong. You thought she was nothing but a worthless, spoiled tramp, and I admit she played the part well. I myself was fooled for many years. But it turns out she’s actually a philanthropist who’s hip to the plight of the global economy. Don’t believe me? Check it out:
American socialite Paris Hilton has declared herself a saviour who shops for the greater good in tight economic times.
In Sydney to host an exclusive New Year’s dance party, the 27-year-old heir to the Hilton hotel fortune this week drew criticism for spending 5,560 Australian dollars (3,844 US dollars) in a 40-minute shopping spree.
Local charities accused her of callous excess but Hilton Wednesday defended the splurge.
“I’m in Australia, I think it’s important to help out, you know, the economy out here, everywhere in the world,” she told reporters, ahead of her New Year engagement.
“And what’s wrong with doing a little shopping? It’s New Year’s, I need a New Year’s dress.”
Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard, questioned during a news conference Tuesday about Hilton’s shopping spree, commended the socialite for recognising Australia’s attraction as a fashion and shopping destination.
“I heard that a politician said that,” Hilton said. “I thought that was very sweet and it’s true.”
Hilton will be paid 100,000 Australian dollars by the party’s promoters for her Sydney appearance, promising a number of costume changes ahead of midnight.
Wow. That’s, like, totally cool and sweet. Now I know that I’ll be helping the economy when I go to the hardware store today to buy a pitchfork. Nothing wrong with a little shopping.
Harshing on the twerp is sort of like kicking a dead dog, but hey, what harm can it do? Bush has no more feelings to hurt than the mutt does. So here’s an excerpt from Tom Degan, master of The Rant:
…All of that aside, we might as well face the fact that President Obama is now in charge of our beloved nation — in fact if not in law. All that’s left for Bush is the occasional photo op and mindless waves to a few carefully selected crowds of Right Wing robots — not unlike what Queen Elizabeth does. He doesn’t look like a president. He doesn’t talk like a president. He doesn’t act like a president. He’s an embarrassment.
For the rest of our history, even if we last into the next millennium, the image of George W. Bush’s twisted, grotesque smirk will be an eternal reminder of this generation’s jaw-dropping naivete involving politics and affairs of state. The fact that this half-witted little guttersnipe was elected twice to the most powerful office in the world defies credulity. And considering the gravitas of the two men he was able to defeat, his tenure as president is all-the-more embarrassing. It is akin to Jascha Heifetz losing to Jack Benny on American Idol.
Barack Obama, on the other hand, looks like a president! Think about that for a minute or two. On April 13, 1945, the morning after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a long time White House employee was shocked when President Truman walked into the Oval Office. She had never seen a president walk before.
Can you imagine the mass, cosmic shock this country will experience when President Obama holds his first news conference? From coast to coast, men will be nudging their wives, “Did you hear that, Martha?? The President of the United States just put two grammatically correct sentences together! Pass me my smellin’ salts, darlin’!” No doubt about it, this is a new age…
Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzalez and a covey of Judges indicted in Texas. There are many stories coming out of Texas on these indictments. Here are a couple. Google News has dozens if not hundreds more.
Noam Chomsky may well be right about the former president’s conspicuous and repeated mispronounciments:
The focus is on personalities, on Jeremiah Wright’s sermons, Sarah Palin’s pregnant daughter, or whatever it may be. In that terrain, the Republicans have a big advantage. They also have a formidable slander and vilification machine which has yet to go into full operation. They can appeal to latent racism, as they are already doing. They can construct a class issue. Obama is the elite Harvard liberal; McCain is the down to earth ordinary American, and it so happens that he is one of the richest people in the Senate.
Same thing they pulled for Bush. You have to vote for Bush because he is the kind of guy you would like to meet in a bar and have a beer with; he wants to go back to his ranch in Texas and cut brush. In reality he was a spoiled fraternity boy who went to an elite university and joined a secret society where the future rulers of the world are trained, and was able to succeed in politics because his family had wealthy friends.
I am convinced, personally, that Bush was trained to mispronounce words to say things like “mis-underestimate” or “nu-cu-ler”, so liberal intellectuals would make jokes about it; then the Republican propaganda machine could say see these elitist liberals who run the world are making fun of us ordinary guys who did not go to Harvard (but he did go to Yale, but forget it).
My George W. Bush Countdown Calendar for today reads:
In his memoir, The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama, the African-American Senator from Illinois, tells of an encounter with George W. Bush at a meet-and-greet at the White House. The president shook his hand warmly, then “turned to an aide nearby, who squirted a bit dollop of hand sanitizer in the president’s hand.”
Can this possibly be true? Is it out of context? Anybody read the book?
This is what you’ve got to expect when you let rich white trash into the White House: