Goldman Sachs: It’s Hard Out Here for a Vampiring Pimp

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Kind of like the situation in Guantanamo, it seems that all that can be said has been said of the soul-raping of American citizens by the Wall Street masters of the universe. Unfortunately, the deeper one digs, the uglier it gets. Matt Taibbi, who needs a Pulitzer ASAP, has been doing some ridiculously heavy lifting in the service of truth. Some of his previous efforts were celebrated here and frankly, I’ve little to add regarding the latest (and most disgusting) connecting-of-the-dots. I’ll humbly and gratefully get out of the way and let him get the System in his sights. This is must reading, folks. There is his piece that drops in Rolling Stone here and then the follow-up here.

Here’s a taste:

That a company as rich and powerful as Goldman would stoop to peering through the web version of a locker-room peephole to make a few extra pennies either front-running random trades or somehow using visitor data “not for their benefit” shows how completely and utterly morally absent this company is. There is not an ill-gotten dollar they will not chase, no matter how small or insignificant the sums might be.

Word should be spread about this and anyone who used the Goldman 360 portral for trading should seriously investigate this situation, as it is entirely possible you’ve been ripped off — legally, perhaps, although how much “legality” a disclaimer like that can confer is a serious question in my mind.

More to the point, the fact that Goldman is getting enough public pressure that it feels it has to respond to these queries shows that the company is reeling. And the fact that their public statements have been so hilariously transparent and clumsy shows that they’re rattled and don’t know how to handle this kind of heat, which they’re not used to getting. Kudos to Zero Hedge for applying the pressure; readers who want to see Tyler’s very funny response to Canaday should read here.

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The Terror Card, Torture and You or, The Evil of Banality

“A perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm.”

That quote, attributed to a former CIA official who courageously remains anonymous, seems about as perfectly succinct a crystallization I’ve yet read regarding the mindset (the official one shared by the insiders as well as the unofficial one prevailing amongst the blissfully ignorant who don’t care to ponder what happened, how it happened, and why it happened) of the circumstances that precipitated the blatant, persistent torture of detainees. Oh, I mean “enhanced interrogation”, as the mainstream media dutifully scribbles at the behest of the bad guys.

Even the usually reliable Michael Kinsley has recently gotten in on the act, proving that there are some story lines so aggressively promulgated that no one working for the MSM is entirely insulated from their influence:

Indignation comes cheap in our political culture. Polls give the impression that the proper role of voters is to sit like a king passing judgment on the issues as they pass by like dishes prepared for a feast. “No, I’m not in the mood for waterboarding today, thanks. But I think I’ll have another dab of those delicious-looking executive-pay caps.” Prosecuting a few former government officials for their role in putting our country into the torture business would not serve justice or historical memory. It would just let the real culprits off the hook.

The reason this is so specious is that even today the New York Times still can’t quite bring itself to call these acts torture, (Repeat: The New York Times. This is the paper heralded and derided in equal measure as the voice of liberalism, no matter how laughable that claim.) Let’s not dance around the topic: editorial sanitizing of this magnitude is analogous to describing rape as an ”enhanced fornication technique”. Does that seem over the top? Imagine if some pundit (not to mention average citizen) dismissed the horror of rape or even made fun of it? This is what tough guys ranging from Rush Limbaugh to “Mancow” Muller have done with the torture “debate”, turning one of our darkest hours into a farce, milking it for laughs as well as a measuring stick for how pro-America one is. Their heads would explode from the irony if there was anything inside their skulls to detonate. To Muller’s credit, at least he was willing to take the Pepsi challenge; although his ordeal was over before he could cough out the words “I’m a contemptible shit stain”. While it would be delightful, on purely karmic levels, to see some of these bellicose scarecrows, such as Cheney, Rumsfeld, O’Reilly and Beck attempt to last more than ten seconds on that table, it is beside the point, and further cretinizes what needs to be a sober discussion.

 

Certainly, anyone who has the temerity to insist that this practice (let’s call it drowning) is emphatically not torture, without ever having enjoyed it at the hands of a friendly, much less unfriendly, interrogator, richly deserves to be accordingly humiliated. But we all know that great white chickenhawks like those listed above (not to mention their craven yet rabid cheerleaders) would fold like a rusted lawn chair in a matter of moments. Anyone paying attention (and anyone obtuse enough to not already take the word of the people who understand these issues: the people from the United States armed forces) could have learned almost a year ago that Christopher Hitchens issued a definitive take on the matter. “Believe me, it’s torture,” he wrote. (And he should be given appropriate kudos for having the integrity to test the waters, so to speak, before feeling fit to pronounce what was, and was not, torture. Then again, he is not only embarrassingly more intelligent than these buffoons, he is also interested in the truth, something no one mentioned above could ever be accused of.)

 

Kinsley continues:

Between April and November of that year, there were dozens of articles about torture in general and waterboarding in particular in major print media outlets, on the Web and on TV, many describing it in detail and some straightforwardly labeling it as torture. Millions of people saw these reports, knew that torture was going on and voted for Bush anyway. There is no way of knowing how many of those who voted against him were affected by the torture question. A good guess would be “not many.” (Not me, for one, I’m sorry to say.) Bush’s opponent, John Kerry, never mentioned waterboarding.

And? To be certain, Kinsley is correct in the sense that while, on an ascending scale of wrongheadedness, it’s not appropriate to single out some lower-ranking scapegoats, and it’s not enough to “merely” bring the higher-ranking officials (e.g., the despicable lawyers and the leaders of the previous administration who gave them their very clear and unambiguous marching orders). There needs to be a wider net cast, and one that does not exonerate the Democrats who also whistled past this political graveyard. Indeed, the American populace, to a certain extent, is implicated here. But, as with the Iraq war, it was our supposedly free press that failed us the most: we know enough now about Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al to understand we could and should have expected the worst; while this does not mitigate their criminal misdeeds, we should not pretend to be shocked (or even particularly appalled) at the non-revelations of how they combined their extreme political pettiness (Machiavellian ruthlessness) and their general ignorance of the mess they were creating (“Bring ‘em on”, “last throes”, “stuff happens”, et cetera). But at the end of the day, it was the press who didn’t ask any tough questions, who didn’t expose or promote the obvious truths rotting right out in the open, like a fetid carcass.

 

And then there are the sociopaths, the ones who you actually fear believe not only in the apocalyptic fantasies they peddle, but feel they are the appropriate (even the chosen) ones to answer the challenges. Here you have the Kissingers, Weinbergers, Fleischers, Gingriches. These are seldom the ones behind the wheel (although some of them would jump at the chance), these are the ones riding shotgun, whispering not-so-sweet nothings into the impressionable ear of the idiot in charge (think Reagan, think Bush), the ones content to practice their dirty work long distance.

I have a special hatred in my heart for these smirking Iagos, the well-paid political hacks who reside inside the fortified cocoon of spin and subterfuge. The ones who are neither powerful enough to make the decisions or brave enough to do the damage; these are the ones who put on business suits before hitting the battlefield, talking points echoing around their half-empty heads. Their masters, the flies, crawl into the shit to lay their eggs, they are merely the spawn that emerges from this waste, camera-ready smiles frozen on their faces. They are born into this, never capable of playing on the field or willing to cheer from the sidelines, they are the equipment managers, the ones who want to be near the action but not close enough to get caught in the crossfire. These are the spokespersons and professional apologists; the career insiders.

       

Some are born into it; some are paid to do it. Some, like the irredeemably despicable Liz Cheney, are born into it and get paid (quite handsomely) to do it. But to single these scumbags out is like blaming rock musicians for the dumbing down of American culture. The fact of the matter is that if people weren’t willing or able to be duped by clowns like Karl Rove, then clowns like Karl Rove would have to find another line of work.

And it’s finally taken the one issue everyone used to agree on to illustrate, without the slightest possibility of misunderstanding, how far Republicans have slinked off the Reservation. Lampooning this new low is, of course, easy and would be amusing if it was not so pathetic and sickening (still, there has been no shortage of potshots, all of them quite worthwhile, some of them absolutely indispensable). Even the most battle-scarred political junkie has to marvel at how hurriedly the hardcore Right is dumpster diving into moral depravity, all for the sake of propping up their tattered and increasingly absurd ideology. While Andrew Sullivan and Frank Rich (embedded above) are always on the money, John Cole has a definitive take, here.

Considering what they have done with virtually every other aspect of the Bush years, I honestly expected them to do what they did with the trillions of dollars of spending and debt that happened with a Republican congress and a Republican President Bush- first, pretend it didn’t happen, then after being forced to acknowledge it did happen, claim that everyone was doing it and blame the Democrats and scream about Murtha and Barney Frank, and when that didn’t work, just pretend that it was “other” Republicans who aren’t “real conservatives” (Move along, these aren’t the wasteful spenders you are looking for) while ranting about earmarks. That is what they did with spending; I figured they would do it again with torture.

But they didn’t and they aren’t. Instead, they are mobilizing and going balls to the wall in defense of sadism. It is really quite amazing, and a testament to just how sick and detestable and rotten to the core the Republican Party has become.

It’s fortunate that in spite of the institutional apathy we still have indefatigable watchdogs like Glenn Greenwald tallying up the lies, spin and systemic deceit. He offers consistently refreshing proof that real progressives are not in the tank for Obama or any politician, but remain invested in holding elected officials accountable. There are dozens of other semi-high profile scribes out there, mostly representing the dreaded blogosphere. The old guard recognizes it is in their best interest to actively marginalize these voices, though that stale strategy is inexorably losing steam. The only people who disdain the bloggers more than politicians, of course, are the high profile (though increasingly endangered) Op Ed scribblers. These indolent bovines, along with their brethren–the so-called mainstream journalists–seem happiest when covered in the mud and slop their masters make for them. There are notable exceptions; for every Charles Krauthammer there is a Dan Froomkin; for every George Will there is a Frank Rich. For every twenty jejune Maureen Dowd columns, there is the all-too-rare exception.

The rest of the media, forever in the backwards shadow of the insular, elitist (yes, elitist) inside-the-Beltway circus, can’t (or worse, does not want to) figure out that the sources they quote (all too often anonymously) are waging war on the six-to-twelve hour spin cycle, so the details are massaged accordingly. And so we have Cheney getting equal, or more, air time than Obama, with the network nitwits breathlessly asking “Who is right?” That Cheney is getting so much play is not in itself a big deal; it’s undeniably newsworthy, and if he wants to dig himself deeper into his depraved ditch, I’m sure we all have a few shovels we’d be willing to lend him. In fact, he is unintentionally doing the country a large favor by backing himself further into a corner (not that he has any choice with the prospects of war crime trials, however unlikely, looming): he is drawing an unmistakable line in the rhetorical sand in terms of the rule of law and the ways it was trampled on his watch.

The problem is not that he is making his case convincingly; it’s that the Democrats (“led” by the half-witted and choleric Harry Reid) are scared enough of their own shadows that when a high-ranking (no matter how unpopular) Republican plays the terror card, they tremble with Pavlovian precision. The spectacle of Reid being played like an accordion, while spewing largely unintelligible tough talk (“Can’t put them in prison unless you release them”) was a new low, even by the minute standard he has set during his mostly feckless tenure.

The other, larger problem is that the media is obsessed with the us-and-them, false equivalence sham. It’s irresponsible enough to allow equal air time for obviously self-interested charlatans like Cheney and Gingrich; it’s incompetence bordering on dereliction that they ignore available evidence for the sake of sensationalism. To take just one of the more insidious examples, the notion that torture (although we won’t call it torture) was effective and saved thousands, perhaps millions, of lives is risible on every level. The simple fact that we got the info we needed from certain suspects before we tortured them should be a slam dunk for overdue accountability. The fact that the aforementioned torture was inflicted not to save lives but in the desperate attempt to coerce an acknowledgment of the fabricated tie between Sadaam and Osama is sickening as it is irrefutable. Even worse, and this is perhaps the most contemptible aspect of the disgrace that is Guantanamo, all of these so-called arguments rely on the erroneous assertion that all of these detained individuals represent the “worst of the worst”. In other words, it’s explicitly understood, in the Cheney version of this story, that every single person we’ve captured is guilty. Of course, even a cursory examination of the case files reveals that more than a handful of these people, aside from never being charged with a crime, had no ties or connections to Al-Qaeda. There are many examples, here’s one.

Where is the media in all of this? Busy handicapping the spin as a legitimately alternate perspective. Impartiality, in today’s media, means allowing liars to lie with impunity and letting Americans decide for themselves which “side” is more convincing. No wonder more than fifty percent of Americans have indicated that torture is acceptable in certain circumstances. John McLaughlin himself actually uttered the words “not all waterboarding is the same” on a recent show. Thanks for clearing that up for us, big guy. Virtually the remainder of the chattering class has been perfectly content to keep their readership on a need-to-know basis. Not taking a principled stand is one thing (only people who find actual inspiration in movies like Mr. Smith Goes To Washington expect more than this from our supine press), but to actively disengage with reality is unconscionable. If only these posers had sufficient shame, or awareness, to understand how poorly they’ve performed in the service of our nation.

Obama, as Matt Taibbi points out here, has gone from not exactly distinguishing himself in this matter (as well as waffling on the mostly lucid and unassailable take he offered on the campaign trail) to clumsily ensnaring himself in this mess to, against all probability, upping the ante. Count me amongst the people who are willing to give him some more time, and some additional benefit of the doubt (certainly, he inherited this disaster and only the most naively optimistic folks on the left actually expected he could waltz into office and change this fiasco overnight). Count me also amongst those who are puzzled (at best) and disillusioned (at worst) by his behavior. By hanging back and letting the Cheney pushback gain traction, he immediately made his task a lot harder than it had to be. Rookie mistake? Let’s hope. By ostensibly trying to avoid politicizing the matter (as if that is possible in contemporary America) he all but guaranteed it would be entirely about politics. And thus far, the bad guys are winning. It’s early still and Obama has shown himself to be a master of the long game, but it’s difficult to get a good read on how (or why) he’s allowed this opportunity to slip from his hands, and into the oily, scaled claws of Darth Cheney. Inconceivably, the attacks that happened on the last administration’s watch turned out to be the gift that keeps giving. Only in America.

Lastly, there are the rest of us. Part of the equation, one hoped, in electing Obama was to begin moving past the Bush debacle as quickly as possible; in this regard, any warm body (well, any warm Democrat’s body) would do the trick. But Obama, his eloquence and affirmations aside, spoke forcefully about reclaiming the rule of law and undertaking the imperative task of restoring America’s standing in the eyes of the world. Part of that promise entailed renouncing, without equivocation, the types of travesties that in a pre-9/11 world would never happen on U.S. soil. That was part of the evolution of a democratic nation, we learned from our past mistakes and, as unforgivable as they were, we moved on. The Bill of Rights and that little thing called Habeas Corpus guaranteed (at least in principle) that if atrocities occurred, they would be recognized, denounced, and those responsible held to account. Mostly, it reassured the world that anyone on our soil would be treated in accordance with our laws. As quaint as it may sound to 21st Century ears, Americans once overwhelmingly endorsed this quite simple proposition; it was, in effect, the bulwark our freedom was built upon.

As we now know, 9/11 changed everything. 9/11 gave us the terror card, still the only dark ace up the sleeve of the detestable GOP; as we’ve seen in recent weeks, it still trumps the house (of Representatives). 9/11 gave us Guantanamo and the bottomless pit of moral putrefacation. 9/11 gave us Jack Bauer who, along with Walker, Texas Ranger, will keep us safe and ensure that America remains unfriendly turf for evildoers and liberals. How else, really, to explain the hysteria that attended the announcement of some detainees possibly being moved to maximum security prisons within the U.S.A.? Only a craven populace spoon-fed the aesthetic sensibilities of Prison Break could possibly conceive a scenario where these hardened (yet untried) criminal masterminds band together to bust out of their chains and wreak havoc on the pastoral American heartland. The same simpletons obsessed with owning guns, it seems, are afraid to actually use them if the situation ever arose. But that’s a joke anyway; only people who steer their mental ships to the ill-winds blown by Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News could really get weak in the knees imagining escaped al-Qaeda agents roaming their gated communities.

Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead, more people were horrified by the possibility (not to mention the certainty) that innocent civilians were plucked out of their offices or homes and spirited away overseas, held without charge and tortured without compunction? How about, instead of imagining our children being savaged by terrorist outlaws on the loose, we contemplated the possibility of our children being held, in a foreign country, with no legal recourse, and indicted without a trial? Without even being told what they supposedly did? These are the dark fantasies Kafka imagined and Orwell anticipated, but the point of such dystopian fiction was to depict the worst case scenario so as to shake slumbering citizens awake.

A perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm.

Here we are, in a scared new world, with atrocities having been committed in our names. Those most culpable keep on rattling the sabres of insanity, strutting like peacocks on a TV screen near you. The journalists watch their own backs while their bosses are too busy watching their profits dwindle to process more bad news. The politicians fear nothing more than losing their status, and will be accountable enough to go on record once the dust has finally settled. Almost everyone else reclines in silence, well-fed and secure behind the wall of sleep.

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What Would Touchdown Jesus Do?

If they could just go to church and keep their superstitions to themselves, no one would give a second thought to what Catholics did behind closed doors (or, as the Pope says, what happens to altar boys in the rectory stays in the rectory).

It’s only when they whip themselves into a self-righteous lather and begin pontificating about the moral decline of their fellow sinners that they become insufferable. They are, for the most part, unbearable anyway, but as long as they are quiet, they can be ignored.

The latest manufactured outrage du jour involves the (apparently) polarizing decision of Notre Dame to have Obama deliver a commencement address. Oh the humanity! Who has ever heard of a head of state speaking to graduates? Especially a very popular, newly elected head of state? Naturally, the parochial bluebirds have their feathers in a fury over this crass development. Predictably, we are obliged to listen to them frantically whistle their righteous indignation. Michael Gerson, the former Bush speechwriter (he also worked with the rehabilitated Charles Colson, easily one of the ten biggest douche bags on the planet during the ’70s) who gave us such gems as “Axis of Evil” for his boss, and “mushroom cloud” for Condi Rice and who remains on record as endorsing virtually everything the worst president of all time managed to fuck up during his tenure, now seems to fancy himself as national scold, a job the “liberal” Washington Post inexplicably pays him to perform. It didn’t take him too long to weigh in on the ways in which it is inconsistent with the Catholic church’s teachings to have Obama soil the sacred grounds that gave us Touchdown Jesus (check it out, here). Gerson, more than any other current hypocrite, exemplifies the (literal) weekend warrior mentality of so many religious bullies: get thee to church, speak loudly and often about your own spirituality, and ceaselessly bemoan the lack of same in our slack and unenlightened society.

But today, Kathleen Parker (one of the many conservative voices the Washington Post feels obliged to promote, along with the aforementioned Gerson, and including–but not limited to–Charles Krauthammer, George Will and William Kristol), serves up a false equivalent with the obtusity with which only religious right wingers can consistently produce. Her (obviously intended to be provocatively titled) piece today “The Principle at Stake at Notre Dame” gets quickly to the illogical and intelligence-insulting talking points: It has always seemed to me (she sniffs) that the truest form of feminism, as in the earliest days of suffrage, would be to hold abhorrent the state-sanctioned destruction of women’s unique life-bearing gifts.

Wow. You have to giver Parker credit here. This is a statement of such intellectual dishonesty and hysterically over-the-top demagoguery even George Will might hesitate before typing it. So let’s see: the overarching goal of feminism, which is to ensure that women have equal rights in a democracy, is somehow inconsistent with the notion that a woman should be free to do whatever she wishes with her own body? That is old, hackneyed boilerplate and has been roundly denounced (in social circles as well as with womens’ votes). But Parker attempts to turn the tables and assert that if you are not pro-life, you are therefore advocating state-sanctioned destruction of women’s unique life bearing gifts. Really? So, it is not a matter of personal choice (the kind of issue libertarians love and most Republicans consider their bread and butter, at least while campaigning and whenever Religion does not interfere), but in fact a decision that is anti-feminist? How does one grapple with logic this stridently sophomoric? By advocating the right of a woman to do what is in her own personal best interest, that woman is implicitly endorsing the destruction of women’s unique life bearing gifts? So no woman who has had an abortion has ever had a child? No woman who has ever had a child got an abortion? A woman who supports the right of another woman to have an abortion is not content with that silent affirmation but is in actuality intolerant of the other woman’s right to give birth?

Of course not. To understand this type of sophistry, one has only to consider the repugant (yet hilarious) position religious folks take in denouncing gay marriage. They are not against the gays, per se, they are for heterosexual marriage. And by abiding legal unions for homosexuals, the institution of marriage is being weakened, and perverted! See how this works? (And, ironically, notice the typically Republican victim formulation in both scenarios: recognizing a woman’s right to choose is not simply a personal decision the pro-lifers disagree with, despite their disagreement being distinctly un-American, it is a threat to women who cherish all unborn babies and an outrage to the sanctity of women’s unique life bearing gifts. By supporting the (very American) right of gay couples to wed, this is not merely a forward-looking and controversial idea that only repressed and fearful religious types can’t comprehend, it’s an act of hostility toward the sacred and holy institution of marriage which, of course, was created and championed when God himself, feminist that he was, created a woman for Adam’s pleasure, before this same woman ate the apple and fucked everything up for humanity for eternity.)

Isn’t it curious how these deeply devout Catholics find it within themselves to protest, on principle, owing to Obama’s “stance” on abortion? Leave aside the fact that he does not personally seem to be especially in “favor” of it; he has said a great deal more, publically, about wanting to reduce abortions than anything approximating an official encouragement of the practice. Certainly, his standing as a happily married husband and father should be a model for the finger-pointing faithful, and the institution they endorse, as window dressing, which is currently in such shambles (and not because of the recent advent of gay couples legally wedding). Cliche alert! How often are the most obstreperous politicians clamoring about marriage (specifically) and our degenerated national values (generally) the ones who are working on their second or third marriages? (Hint number one: Quite often. Hint number two: Newt Gingrich.)

Naturally, it would give these squeaky wheels’ stances a modicum of credibility if they also protested, say, torture. Or the tax cuts from the last eight years that made the wealthiest percentile sickeningly more wealthy, in direct proportion to the middle-class (not to mention the working poor and impoverished), whose pieces of the pie dissipated under Bush’s watch. Nope, when it comes to taking stands on principle, the hairshirt only comes out of the ecclesiastical closet when the issue is conveniently the most politicized and easy-to-grandstand. Only then do Catholics (in particular) and “Christians” (in general) boldly stand up to be counted. Abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research (the latter being arguably the most recklessly ignorant and arrogant stance) are the holy-roller trinity that functions as the foundation upon which these dimwitted disciples stake their claim. These, naturally, are the same imbeciles who vocally endorse the death penalty, gun “rights” (including assault weapons, the NRA being the second only to God as a voice of authority, which makes it delightfully appropriate that the actor noted for playing Moses was the spokesperson of that pitiful organization), and have said little or anything about Iraq, Guantanamo, Katrina or any of the other outrages that any so-called “Christian” should instinctively become apoplectic over.

Why not throw a pig roast in Mecca? Parker asks, upping the ante and comparing the concept of a sitting president giving a commencement address at a Catholic university (that invited him in the first place) with an intentionally demeaning and hostile religious provocation. Because, you see, these poor “Christians” are really the persecuted ones in our politically correct, Socialist state. For all the innocent students know, their souls will be damned to eternal hellfire just for hearing Obama speak; and after all, they only want to graduate! This is truly the level of discourse the defenders of the faith are attaining, which, now that I think of it, suddenly makes me understand the popularity of Joel Osteen and Rick Warren.

This has been well articulated by better writers than me ranging from Christopher Hitchens to Thomas Frank to Matt Taibbi, but it is always worth reiterating: the sheep who bray the loudest also live and vote, by their words and deeds, with a political party that is not only inconsistent, but antithetical, to the very words Jesus Christ allegedly uttered. And even if He didn’t utter them, they are attributed to him in the book they read and revere as The Word Of God. Simply put, His life is the basis on which these people view the moral impetus that gives their earthly lives ultimate meaning, therefore in even the most cursory analysis, these followers of Christ are willfully (if ignorantly) shirking the very teachings of their Holy Father. Fortunately, the illimitable hypocrisy of the contemporary “Christian” has never been an undue cause for instrospection, or concern.

At least if these folks had taken to the streets and protested the Iraq War, or the unforgivable incompetence that compounded the folks suffering after Katrina, or if they were online right now forming “bible study groups” to discuss the ongoing revelations about the institutional torture their earthly savior (Bush) sanctioned, maybe there would be some sane ground for them to stand upon. At least then it would be possible to declare their reactionary, blinkered positions as consistent (morally, spiritually). As it stands they see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil, unless it is what they are told to do by the very human servants who have their own best interests in mind as they beat their blackened, hate-mongering hearts.

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You Using the Whole Fist, Wall Street?

I can’t get that hot, asphalt taste out of my mouth. We’re all out of money, it seems, but there is plenty of tar to go around. I  was only half-joking when I proposed that perhaps it was time to revisit the old-fashioned (and quite brutal, even savage) practice of tarring and feathering disgraced public servants, here and here. Less than two months later, our capacity for outrage has scarcely been quelled; indeed, we all better begin practicing yoga in order to prepare our nervous systems for the flood of feelings that will churn up as more of this mendacity is revealed.

I’ve considered myself relatively (remotely?) in the loop, just in terms of keeping abreast of the seemingly daily revelations about how outrageous and, let’s stop mincing words and tiptoing around the truth, criminal the so-called masters of the universe have acted in bringing down our entire economy. Most people know that these scumbags shit money because they eat it all day, but very few of us had any idea that we all had skin in this poker game they were playing with the national piggy bank. I’ve read virtually everything I can to try to get a handle on the situation (above and beyond the whys and wherefores, but just the simple how the hell did we get here and where the hell do we go from here?), and even reading a little is enough to make one sick. The aftershock of this meltdown is a psychic jet-lag that won’t pass anytime soon. Therefore, it is going to be imperative for us to seek out reliable sources of information and arm ourselves with the truth, because when the sytem shits itself we all have skidmarks in our shorts. Where we are right now is the proverbial car wreck you can’t help but look at. Only this car wreck involves each and every one of our cars, except that none of us were driving them at the time. Hence the proliferating public outrage.


 
As usual, Frank Rich is able to articulate, in one short column, the context of this escalating debacle in terms of where we find ourselves, right now. He rightly grasps the insidious bigger picture, but also correctly questions whether Obama is properly equipped to meet this challenge before it devours his administration. In short, everyone knows the game is rigged, but it’s time to wonder aloud how Change (with a capital C) can come about if everyone involved is playing on the same squad?

To get ahead of the anger, Obama must do what he has repeatedly promised but not always done: make everything about his economic policies transparent and hold every player accountable. His administration must start actually answering the questions that officials like Geithner and Summers routinely duck.

Inquiring Americans have the right to know why it took six months for us to learn (some of) what A.I.G. did with our money. We need to understand why some of that money was used to bail out foreign banks. And why Goldman, which declared that its potential losses with A.I.G. were “immaterial,” nonetheless got the largest-known A.I.G. handout of taxpayers’ cash ($12.9 billion) while also receiving a TARP bailout. We need to be told why retention bonuses went to some 50 bankers who not only were in the toxic A.I.G. unit but who left despite the “retention” jackpots. We must be told why taxpayers have so little control of the bailed-out financial institutions that we now own some or most of. And where are the M.R.I.’s from those “stress tests” the Treasury Department is giving those banks?

Is this going to happen? Don’t bet on it. But why? Such a simple, and fair question. Unfortunately, as Rich indicates, the answer is also simple, and it’s ugly:

Another compelling question connects all of the above: why has there been so little transparency and so much evasiveness so far? The answer, I fear, is that too many of the administration’s officials are too marinated in the insiders’ culture to police it, reform it or own up to their own past complicity with it.

Matt Taibbi does some incredibly heavy lifting here, and this is award-winning journalism (I won’t hold my breath, since he is not counted amongst the connected and celebrated, and ever-supine, fraternity of the MSM):

People are pissed off about this financial crisis, and about this bailout, but they’re not pissed off enough. The reality is that the worldwide economic meltdown and the bailout that followed were together a kind of revolution, a coup d’état. They cemented and formalized a political trend that has been snowballing for decades: the gradual takeover of the government by a small class of connected insiders, who used money to control elections, buy influence and systematically weaken financial regulations.

The crisis was the coup de grâce: Given virtually free rein over the economy, these same insiders first wrecked the financial world, then cunningly granted themselves nearly unlimited emergency powers to clean up their own mess. And so the gambling-addict leaders of companies like AIG end up not penniless and in jail, but with an Alien-style death grip on the Treasury and the Federal Reserve — “our partners in the government,” as Liddy put it with a shockingly casual matter-of-factness after the most recent bailout.

The mistake most people make in looking at the financial crisis is thinking of it in terms of money, a habit that might lead you to look at the unfolding mess as a huge bonus-killing downer for the Wall Street class. But if you look at it in purely Machiavellian terms, what you see is a colossal power grab that threatens to turn the federal government into a kind of giant Enron — a huge, impenetrable black box filled with self-dealing insiders whose scheme is the securing of individual profits at the expense of an ocean of unwitting involuntary shareholders, previously known as taxpayers.

The most galling thing about this financial crisis is that so many Wall Street types think they actually deserve not only their huge bonuses and lavish lifestyles but the awesome political power their own mistakes have left them in possession of. When challenged, they talk about how hard they work, the 90-hour weeks, the stress, the failed marriages, the hemorrhoids and gallstones they all get before they hit 40.

“But wait a minute,” you say to them. “No one ever asked you to stay up all night eight days a week trying to get filthy rich shorting what’s left of the American auto industry or selling $600 billion in toxic, irredeemable mortgages to ex-strippers on work release and Taco Bell clerks. Actually, come to think of it, why are we even giving taxpayer money to you people? Why are we not throwing your ass in jail instead?”

But before you even finish saying that, they’re rolling their eyes, because You Don’t Get It. These people were never about anything except turning money into money, in order to get more money; valueswise they’re on par with crack addicts, or obsessive sexual deviants who burgle homes to steal panties. Yet these are the people in whose hands our entire political future now rests.

Obviously, Obama inherited this shit storm. People would be more inclined to cut him slack if his administration did not happen to include some of the slimiest engineers of this national implosion. Throwing Chris Dodd to the wolves while going to the mat for Geithner is the first thing Obama has done that strikes me as blatantly political and self-serving. It borders on the outrageous and it considerably weakens his integrity (as an agent of change, and as a leader). And frankly, the bloated dog and pony shows in Congress aren’t doing much for me. It’s good TV for the C-SPAN cycle, but these clowns are a day late and a few billion dollars short. As usual, these out-of-touch enablers are only capable of (feigning) outrage when the public prompts them. While the Wall Street clusterfuck signifies the official comeuppance of Republican financial ideology, let there be no mistake that there are plenty of Democrats whose porcine paws are filthy with the muck they’ve been lazily wallowing in.

The only ostensible silver lining in this catastrophe is that the pitchfork wielding populace might oblige some overdue accountability. What we really need is a reckoning, but a simple Q&A session will signify sufficient progress at this juncture. It’s time to start getting some very basic questions answered, and it’s not too late to take back money that was handed out to unworthy recipients (on the individual level as well as entire companies). People are right to point out that the AIG bonuses are a tempest in a tea (party) pot in terms of the overall GDP, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t demand return on our investment; it’s our money now. Start with this minor mess, and work backward. That, and only that, will set the necessary precedent for how we untangle ourselves from this capitalist-on-crack quicksand going forward. Naive as it may sound, truth needs to trump politics, at long last. Anyone, no matter what side of the political fence they get Wall Street kickbacks from, needs to come clean. (Okay, that fantasy goes beyond naive and borders on comical.) We know the people lined up at the trough are disinclined to question their own conduct, so it’s time to slap the teet out of their mouths and demand some answers. Heads need to roll, at least figuratively. That, at least, is a start. 

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