State of the Union

The Umbrella Leaks

It is easy to indict the American people for conniving at fast and loose behavior on Wall Street, but there is a danger that blaming everyone means no one is to blame.   According to the “blame everyone” line of reasoning, Americans became addicted to the easy credit from Wall Street, becoming so greedy in the process that they no longer questioned the source of their material well being.  To a certain extent that is undeniably true, but what really bothers me is that the Carpetbaggers who have taken over the financial system have contributed to the destruction of the US economy.  In their desire to turn profits at any cost they have enabled the evisceration of US manufacturing and encouraged its flight overseas.  The financial experts who have done the greatest damage produce absolutely nothing and are only skilled at moving money around, for which they are rewarded with salaries and bonuses in the millions and even hundreds of millions of dollars, compensation that is unimaginable to anyone who actually has to work for a living.  Most working and middle class Americans have not become rich in the past eight years but the number of billionaires has more than doubled while the gap between CEO and employee has widened dramatically, to levels never seen before in the US. Most Americans do not have or aspire to have McMansions and many are struggling to deal with normal living expenses that have of late been greatly inflated by surging energy costs.  Still others have lost their jobs.

I have no time for or interest in talk radio and its “conservative” agenda, but I share the media’s extreme anger that once again something terrible has happened and no one is accountable.  Blaming it on the American public, most of which did not take out subprime mortgages, is a cop-out because the politicians, regulators, and bankers are the ones who have most profited from “the system” they have created to benefit themselves and they should have known better.  I hold them to a higher standard than a factory worker and wife with three kids trying to figure out a way to buy a house for the family.  No politician, regulator, or banker will every be punished in any way for the grave damage to our financial system that they have connived at.  Didn’t a guy named Alan Greenspan have a lot to do with this?  Why isn’t he answering questions in front of Congress?

The bail-out essentially says that no one did anything wrong or even stupid, “Here’s a bushel of money to make the pain of your bad decisions go away.”  Not a single homeowner losing his house will benefit from the largesse, nor any small business in trouble.  The dudes making millions of dollars are the only ones who will profit and it presumably will be business as usual for Wall Street after the hundreds of billions from the taxpayer are handed over.  This all started with the Savings and Loan scandal of 1981 – John McCain anyone? - which cost the taxpayer $160 billion. By my count, the taxpayer has already assumed over the past month more than half a trillion dollars in obligations for Bear Stearns, AIG, Fannie and Freddy, and Wachovia.  Many people working at the companies in question will lose their jobs, but the golden parachutes continue to float.  When Washington Mutual was acquired by JP Morgan Chase earlier this month, its CEO of three weeks Alan Fishman was given a $13 million golden handshake.   When will it all end?  Maybe it’s best to take the pain now and let the whole system go under.

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Under My Umbrella

McCain denounces “fat cats.” Obama fumes about “predatory lending” and promises to “punish those who set this fire.” It’s easier to heap polemics on bankers than to chastise sinners in the hands of an angry market—especially when you’re angling for their votes. But mortgage-backed securities only become toxic if borrowers break their word. It’s bad business to leverage 30 to 1, yet for every unscrupulous CEO gold-plating his Gulfstream, thousands of Americans were signing on the line then not making good.

Last night, following the failure of the bailout bill, champagne flowed at free-market think tanks. Talk radio hailed people power for turning the socialist tide. But this was no triumph of principle or broad resolve to take face consequences squarely. Americans were persuaded that Wall Street was getting favors they weren’t. The same gluttonous impulse that convinced us that everyone is entitled to a Sub-Zero refrigerator overlooking miles of granite countertops was making sure some pinstriped suit didn’t get a bigger cut. Anyone who thought Americans were drawing in government’s reins was projecting a fantasy. Read More…

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Clarification

Apparently, my feeble attempt at humor at the end of this post fell flat. So for the benefit of Tom Piatak, let me clarify: I wasn’t criticizing Daniel Larison for not endorsing Obama, or even seriously asking him why he didn’t. I would have thought that was obvious after I absurdly claimed that “Larison’s views on Obama have until now been cryptic and indecipherable.”

Piatak suggests that “Perhaps the one who needs to explain his choice for president is Stooksbury.”  Fair enough. I plan, yet again, to waste my vote on a third party crank. It won’t accomplish much beside giving me a few minutes of satisfaction.

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The Surveillance State is Here on Amazon.com

I just wandered over to Takimag where I hoped to penetrate the bizarre graphics to get Pope Benedict’s analysis of the global meltdown.  Alas, His Holiness has not yet spoken out on the issue beyond his indictment of materialism that came out last week. Glancing up the screen, I noticed an amazon banner ad featuring a handsome stainless steel Breville toaster.  Next to the toaster was an ad for Ilan Pappe’s recent book on Palestine and a novel called The Forgotten Legion.  I suddenly realized that I had perused all three items on Amazon during the past week.  This means that Amazon is able to post an ad on a website and through that ad identify the reader and present him with a tailored blurb featuring items that he or she is actually interested in.  I have long been irritated by the ability of google or yahoo to read an e-mail message or a search topic and then pop up in the margin sponsored ads that match key words, but this takes the intrusion to a new level.  I hadn’t actually written or done anything – all I did was visit the website. 

If Amazon is doing this and Taki is allowing it, I presume it must be legal, but is it ethical?  Is there no privacy left?  I remember when I studied Italian that there is no word in Italian for “privacy” because Italians believe that all of life is played out in public, even if that public is only one’s own family.  Have we taken this too far when looking at a household appliance condemns one to an endless cycle of toaster ads popping up every time one visits the internet?

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Don’t you know I’m Local?

Philip Blond, a young British academic, today issues this stirring plea for more localism. He appeals to David Cameron’s Conservative Party to tend to the economic roots of British society. This passage is striking, Read More…

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An Amicus Brief for Neville

On Sept. 30, 1938, 70 years ago, Neville Chamberlain visited Adolf Hitler’s apartment in Munich, got his signature on a three-sentence declaration and flew home to Heston Aerodrome.

“I’ve got it,” he shouted to Lord Halifax. “Here is a paper which bears his name.” At the request of George VI, Chamberlain was driven to Buckingham Palace, where he joined the king on the balcony to take the cheers of the throngs below. An unprecedented honor.

Read More…

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Goodlings, Bad Things and A McCain Imperial City

Monica GoodlingRemember Monica Goodling? Take a good, long look, because make no mistake, you are seeing Washington in a future McCain Administration.

One won’t have a hard time catching up to speed because Goodling’s name is in the headlines again. She is the former senior counsel to the former U.S Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who resigned last year in disgrace. His office has been accused of everything from supplying the Pentagon cover to torture on the battlefield and helping the government carry out illegal wiretapping on its citizens to harassing a semi-conscious John Ashcroft in his hospital bed to make sure they could keep that illegal wiretapping humming despite a near-mutiny among the Justice staff.

Yesterday, current AG Michael Mukasey appointed a prosecutor to look into one of the most overlooked scandals of the Bush Administration — the politically-motivated firing of several U.S attorneys. This appointment was prompted after a 358-page report, released Monday, that found evidence of foul play, further damning an office staffed with a “sweep of religious conservatives” and Bush acolytes (with Goodling as young mother hen) accused of purging the department of so-called liberals in order to make way for loyalists — and people Karl Rove owed favors to.

In their 358-page report, investigators said the lack of cooperation by senior officials at the White House and in the Justice Department left gaps in their findings that should be investigated further.
“Serious allegations involving potential criminal conduct have not been fully investigated or resolved,” the report said, listing lying to investigators, obstruction of justice and wire fraud among the potential felony crimes.

The report found evidence that several of the attorneys were indeed fired because they displeased Republican heavies — and at least one, Bud Cummins, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, was forced out seemingly “to provide a position for former White House employee (Timothy) Griffin,” Karl Rove’s former deputy in the White House political office.

Breakdown of report here.

Goodling’s only job before landing what many would consider a primo post for a recent law school graduate (not counting her stints as a Republican National Committee researcher on the Bush campaign and the Justice Department press office) was six-months in the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. But Goodling, 33, was a 1999 graduate of the law school at Regent University, which was founded by televangelist Pat Robertson and early on became a feeder for the Bush Administration, and she had a secret stairway to heaven.

She pled the fifth last year when congress asked her to explain her role in terminating the attorneys. Known as the whip-hand of God by her detractors, a “faithful” Bushie by those more charitable, Goodling was part of “a generation of young religious conservatives who swept into the federal government after the election of President Bush in 2000,” WaPo detailed last year.

Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick found their presence a little less divine:

No, the real concern here is that Goodling and her ilk somehow began to conflate God’s work with the president’s. Probably not a lesson she learned in law school. The dream of Regent and its counterparts, such as Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, is to redress perceived wrongs to Christians, to reclaim the public square and reassert Christian political authority. And while that may have been a part of the Bush/Rove plan, it was only a small part. Their real zeal was for earthly power. And Goodling was left holding the earthly bag.

Seems, taking the cue from former AG Ashcroft, that Goodling and others in Justice replaced their pocket Constitutions (if they had them) with bibles, and started engaging in the now-infamous litmus tests for new agency applicants, and pushing career people out the door who did not fit the bill. An earlier report in July found that Goodling had violated the law by screening applicants for career, non-political jobs with precision no doubt sharpened from her days as an opposition researcher for the RNC:

“What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?” Goodling asked at least some candidates, according to the joint investigation by Justice’s Office of Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility. Others were asked about their views on abortion and gay marriage.

But this extends far across the Bush Administration landscape, and this is why heeding these lessons is so important on the eve of this election. I remember when the first person I knew complained of being asked the Roe v. Wade question in an interview for an administration job (she was an Afghanistan specialist) around 2003. We shook our heads. Then the second friend arrived a few months later with fresh stories, all from Republican Party faithful not wanting to “disappear” into political blackness if they didn’t toe the line. The swaggering kings of the K Street Project smashing in ecstasy against countless devotees, sycophants and courtiers of the “W,” with no room, or tolerance, for moving off-script. Read More…

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Let Palin be Palin

From an unbroadcast interview on the financial crisis with CNBC:

Palin: “For close to a week, they were my next-door neighbors in New York City, and I could actually see Wall Street from from my hotel room”

Q: “Explain why that enhances your economic policy credentials.”

A: “Well, it certainly does because our – our next door neighbors were investors. They were in the same city in which I met Dr. Kissinger. And there in Wall Street…”

Q: “Have you ever been involved with any negotiations, for example, with investors”?

A: “We have several banks in Alaska. We, we do, it’s very important when you consider even economic issues with Wall Street as A.K.G insurance and the Lehman Sisters rear their heads and we’re renegades. They’re just there. And we’re ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the healthcare reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. And that’s scary.”

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“Pakistan” Rhymes With “Barbara Ann,” Too

Governor Palin and her dad talk to Katie Couric about their apparent disagreement over whether they should announce their intention to send U.S. forces into Pakistan or just start the war without telling anybody. Watch McCain as Palin speaks–you can practically hear him thinking, “What have I done? Is it too late to put Lieberman on the ticket?”

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I’m Still Not Following . . .

Reader Conradg asks Daniel Larison, “Why not just suck it up, be a mensch, and vote Obama?” Larison’s views on Obama have until now been cryptic and indecipherable, so he has attempted to clarify them: “Because Obama holds disgraceful and indefensible views? How about that?”

Larison, more than any single individual has convinced me that there isn’t much of anything to get excited about in Obama, other than his not being McCain; when I really wanted to believe otherwise. But I stand by what I wrote back in March:

If I had to pick between the three remaining I guess I would choose Obama because, well, he isn’t Clinton or McCain. Since no remaining candidate is addressing any important issues and my vote doesn’t matter, I don’t waste much time worrying about it. Whenever I do; I stop what I’m doing, relax with a cold compress on my forehead, pour myself a stiff drink and repeat to myself, “permanent things . . . permanent things . . . permanent things . . .”

But I still have one nagging question that Daniel hasn’t answered clearly enough yet: why aren’t you voting for Obama?

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