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The truths we must declare are simple truths.

April 21, 2009

The truths we must declare are simple truths. Great violence menaces our cultural achievements. Starvation and disease cannot be tolerated. Resistance at risk of life is noble. But we know this. Western Europe and North America are drenched in the blood of struggle for social change. Feudalism, the reduction of men to starving hulks, the purchase of their minds, the eradication of their spirit – these are blights on human culture. These are vicious forms of aggression at once more fundamental and more pervasive than the crossing of frontiers by foot soldiers. Wherever men struggle against suffering we must be their voice. Whenever they are cruelly attacked for their self-sacrifice we must find our voices. It is easy to pay lip-service to these ideals. We will be judged not by our reputations or our pretences but by our will to act. Against this standard we too will be judged by better men.

~Bertrand Russell, Closing Address to the Stockholm Session, International War Crimes Tribunal – 1967

I have spoken hitherto of the possibility that democracy may be a self-limiting disease, like measles. It is, perhaps, something more: it is self-devouring. One cannot observe it objectively without being impressed by its curious distrust of itself—its apparently ineradicable tendency to abandon its whole philosophy at the first sign of strain. I need not point to what happens invariably in democratic states when the national safety is menaced. All the great tribunes of democracy, on such occasions, convert themselves, by a process as simple as taking a deep breath, into despots of an almost fabulous ferocity.

~ Last Words: A short essay on Democracy, HL Mencken, 1926

Life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim.
~Bertrand Russell

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Stemella permalink*
    April 21, 2009 7:05 am

    Bank Aid Programs Are Seen as Open to Fraud

    Shocking revelation, I know.

    The Treasury Department’s most ambitious plans to rescue troubled banks — partnerships between the government and private investors, backed by the Federal Reserve — are inherently vulnerable to fraud and should not be started without stronger safeguards, a top government investigator warned in a report to be released Tuesday.

    The report also warned that the Treasury’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program has evolved into a $3 trillion effort of “unprecedented scope, scale and complexity” and comes with too little oversight and too little information about what companies are doing with the taxpayer money they are getting.

    “The American people have a right to know how their tax dollars are being used,” wrote Neil M. Barofsky, the special inspector general assigned to monitor the bailout program, in his second report to Congress.

    Timmy the elvin one will demonstrate his sleight of hand to Warren’s apparently irrelevant congressional TARP oversight committee in the next hour to shovel them another bucket of bullshit. They will express their concerns, but not meaningfully; later showered with chocolates and kickbacks.

    Geithner has diarrhea of the jawbone. So many words and so little communication. Most importantly, no apparent increase in transparency, no regulatory improvement or measures of compliance, no way to account for what the hell they are doing. We are simply supposed to trust them.

    The worst part of all was Geithner’s insistence that there was no possible alternative to his approach. It’s his way or the highway. Total absolutist thinking. Status quo Uber Alles.

    Sorry. No dice.

    • triv33 permalink
      April 21, 2009 9:49 am

      Oh, you had me at the Bertrand Russell quote. Here’s one Timmy’s counting on…

      There is no nonsense so arrant that it cannot be made the creed of the vast majority by adequate governmental action.

      ~Bertrand Russell

    • cometman permalink*
      April 21, 2009 11:36 am

      Really good stuff today. The post and the verse and everything!

      I think we talked about this a bit, but have you heard about the utter lack of transparency there will be for these supposed “stress tests” they are holding for the banks? Evidently the results of the tests are going to be reported to the banks first and then to the public a few weeks later. Why not at the same time? It’s like they’re deliberately giving the banks time to fiddle with the results if they don’t like what comes out the first time. i have zero confidence that the publicly reported results will be the same as what the banks go to see. Especially since one article I posted somewhere mentions that even before the tests are over, they are saying that all 19 banks undergoing the tests will “pass”. How the hell do they know if they aren’t even finished yet!?!?!?! RRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrr

      • Stemella permalink*
        April 21, 2009 1:38 pm

        Yeah, it’s all crap. The stress tests are the equivalent of leave no child behind, except it’s leave no zombiebank behind. Take this rigged multiple choice test and we’ll fudge the results to justify why you zombie bank that should be busted up into chunks instead get to have all this money to keep being a life and brain sucking zombie at the sheeple’s expense!

        Until Glass Steagall is reinstated or an equivalent act is passed separating the commercial from swindler gambler investments banks, there is no way this thing will be fair or real.

        Thanks c-man for the compliment. I appreciate it.

    • cometman permalink*
      April 21, 2009 1:15 pm

      A simple truth from Dean Baker:

      If our priority is to save the bankers from suffering the consequences of their own mistakes, then it makes sense to throw all our money at them. But if the point is to fix the economy, then we have to look elsewhere.

      Those of us who know economics recognise this fact. Those who insist on the bank-fix route should be asked one simple question: “When did you stop being wrong about the economy?”

  2. Stemella permalink*
    April 21, 2009 9:26 am

    Too big to fail
    Too unitary the executive, still, even now
    Too much power concentrated
    Can’t turn this ship around
    to correct injustice of recent past
    to correct the course we follow
    Onward marching profiteering pirates

    This is not my house
    This is not my beautiful wife
    This is not my America

    My god, we know exactly how we got here,
    but we are powerless to change it

    America has become the enemy

    The cephalopods will swallow us whole.
    Either them or the rats and roaches.

  3. cometman permalink*
    April 21, 2009 11:58 am

    More Geithner goobledygook. I think the trick now is just to spout so much convoluted asinine nonsense that people just start ignoring it all. What the hell is any of this supposed to mean!?!?!?!?!

    Geithner said the new plan “strikes the right balance” by letting taxpayers share the risk with the private sector while at the same time letting private industry use competition to set market prices for the assets.

    “If the government alone purchased these legacy assets from banks, it would assume the entire share of the losses and risk overpaying,” Geithner said in his remarks. “Alternatively, if we simply hoped that banks would work off these assets over time, we would be prolonging the economic crisis, which in turn would cost more to the taxpayer over time.”

    Right. The taxpayer is only picking up 85%-90% or so of the tab and if the banks default they walk. What a great deal for us!!! And of course these “private” investors are going to try to use pension funds for that part. And they’re going to buy each others’ bad assets and the more they bid them up, the more government money they get. How in any sane universe is that the right balance for the taxpayer? It’s only the right balance if your intent is to get medieval on the taxpayers’ asses and turn this country back into a feudal state.

    Geithner said “the vast majority of banks” have more capital than they need to be considered well-capitalized. But he said the economic crisis and the bad assets have created uncertainty about the health of individual banks and reduced lending across the system.

    Really? So why the hell do we have to keep handing them money?

    In a letter Tuesday to oversight panel chairwoman Elizabeth Warren, Geithner said that $109.6 billion in resources remain in the rescue fund. But officials expect the fund will be boosted over the next year by about $25 billion as some institutions pay back money they have received.

    But under questioning from panel members, Geithner said that even if banks want to pay back the money, that doesn’t mean the government would necessarily accept the payment.

    “Ultimately we have to look at two things, one is do the institutions themselves have enough capital to be able to lend and does the system as a whole, is it working for the American people for recovery,” Geithner said.

    So if they try to pay the money back, the government won’t take it because even though they do have enough capital to be financially sound, at the same time they don’t.

    There will be no Justice. None. The only satisfaction is going to come Michael Douglas “Falling Down” style – starring Little Timmy the Asshole Elf as the Bum.

    • Stemella permalink*
      April 21, 2009 1:32 pm

      I listen to Geithner speak. I know he is speaking English. But it all registers as Klingon. He studied the Hank Paulson tapes. All obfuscation.

      Warren had to tell him to STFU with his intro so that there could actually be some questions. What he says is meaningless. What he is doing speaks the volumes. He is screwing over the working and middle class tax payers and funneling more ransom to the ultra rich and greedy tax evaders. Absolutely no justice.

      I used to get hyped and hopey over investigations, subpoenas and talk of righting the wrongs of excessive misuse of power. I only shake my head these days, knowing it’s all kabuki.

    • cometman permalink*
      April 21, 2009 5:03 pm

      More details of Geithner’s dissembling, this time from McClatchy. Referring to the PPIP:

      This program is “inherently vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse,” Barofsky’s report said, calling on Treasury to impose strict conflict of interest rules on fund managers and require disclosure of all private investors to limit collusion and even money laundering.

      The PPIP has been controversial since unveiled on March 23, because it’s designed to lure private investors to buy bank assets with a large measure of taxpayer support. For an asset worth $100 but sold for $84, the government and investor could each put up as little as $6 and the remaining $72 would be financed through a low-cost government loan. Critics charge that taxpayers bear most of the risk if the asset loses value while sharing the reward of any gain.

      “I just don’t get it, Mr. Secretary, how this represents protecting the taxpayer,” said Damon Silvers, a panel member and chief counsel for the labor union AFL-CIO.

      Geithner countered that the plan must be compared to the alternative, which was having the government purchase all the troubled assets.

      “You can’t measure the returns to the taxpayer through this narrow prism,” Geithner said. “It does not provide a full measure of it.”

      The government purchasing all the assets is the only other alternative? Really?? How about throwing those who committed fraud in the slammer and letting the crooked banks fail?

      But then who would still be around to invite Timmy to their private island to cavort on the deck of a 200 ft yacht purchased with ill gotten gains. We simply can’t have that.

      • Stemella permalink*
        April 21, 2009 5:43 pm

        Hah! I detect the tone of a populist! Maybe if he’s on the deck of a 200 ft yacht a tentacled one could take him for a swim ;)

        His insistence that there are no alternatives to his plan worries me. It shows the same inflexibility and unwillingness to admit mistakes as the Bushistas. Above all response to disasters, whether man made or natural, requires flexibility and adaptability. We’re really screwed with this technocratic douchebag at Treasury along with Bernanke in the Fed. They are like carrots and peas and stupid is, is what they do.

  4. cometman permalink*
    April 21, 2009 12:30 pm

    Can anyone in DC make a simple declarative statement about anything? First Hopey McChangerton says nobody will be prosecuted for torture, not those who did it or those who ordered it done. And now Justice says‘Not so fast’.

    Journalist Michael Isikoff, who has been talking with Justice Department officials, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Monday, “Just listening to some of the comments in the last few days, particularly from Rahm Emanuel and Robert Gibbs about how the president is focused on looking forward, not backward, and he is not interested in seeing these people prosecuted, there are some people in the Justice Department who are listening to that and saying, ‘That’s not their decision to make. Decisions about criminal prosecutions are made by the Justice Department based on the facts and the law.’”

    “There’s actually sort of a taboo,” Isikoff added, “about the White House meddling and dictating to the Justice Department about who should be investigated and who shouldn’t.”

    According to an article by Isikoff and Evan Thomas in the current issue of Newsweek, “Senior Justice Department lawyers and other advisers, who declined to be identified discussing a sensitive subject, say Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has discussed naming a senior prosecutor or outside counsel to review whether CIA interrogators exceeded legal boundaries–and whether Bush administration officials broke the law by giving the CIA permission to torture in the first place.”

    And now Obama says maybe it should be looked into after all:

    Obama told the White House press Tuesday that the four recent Bush administration memos authorizing harsh interrogations released “reflected, in my view, us losing our moral bearings,” and that while CIA employees who followed the guidelines should not be prosecuted, but that “with respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the Attorney General within the parameters of various laws and I don’t want to prejudge that.”

    However, one statement Obama made may give those opposed to investigations all the ammunition they need to derail them.

    “I do worry about this getting so politicized that we cannot function effectively and it hampers our ability to carry out critical national security operations,” Obama stated.

    If they ever do look into this, my money’s on it being a total whitewash. But then again I tend to agree with H L Mencken on a lot of things.

    A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.
    -H. L. Mencken

    Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.
    -H. L. Mencken

    I’m feeling really normal lately.

    • cometman permalink*
      April 21, 2009 1:26 pm

      Simple truths from Chris Hedges from Where’s Rev. Wright When You Need Him?:

      The Obama administration’s decision not to prosecute CIA and Bush administration officials for the use of torture because it wants to look to the future is easy to accept if you were never tortured.

      He goes on to mention the Rev. Wright that nobody listened to as he was bashed in the media for months:

      The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, on April 13, 2003, gave a 40-minute sermon called “Confusing God and Government.” Only a clip from the sermon—the phrase “God Damn America”—made it onto the airwaves. It was repeated in endless loops on cable news channels and used to turn Wright into a pariah. Obama denounced his former pastor. The rest of the sermon, and especially the context in which the phrase was used, was ignored. Obama would be a better president if he listened to voices like Wright’s and listened less to his pollsters and advisers.

      The sermon was a cry from those who cannot forget what white and privileged Americans—as well as, now, the Obama administration—want us to ignore. It was a reminder that there are two narratives of America. And until these narratives converge, until we all accept the truth of our past, justice will never be done. We will continue until then to speak in two irreconcilable languages, one that acknowledges the pain of the past and seeks atonement and one that does not. We will continue to be two Americas.

      • Stemella permalink*
        April 21, 2009 2:16 pm

        If McChangerton (love that!) wants to be cool, looking to put his man on the moon as the first 21st century Hipster Man, then go for it. The Prez is the paper signer and the spokesman.

        But, as you mention above, he should let the DoJ do its job. If they find in the course of investigations that laws were broken, then goddamnit, uphold that law. If team Cheney wrote unlawful memos, then fucking remove those lawyers license to endorse torture further. Clinton lost his license for lying about a hummer. Yet Yoo gets to still practice and teach in law schools? Fuck that noise.

        There are definitely two or more legal and life standards in America by race and by class and combinations of both. Obama wanted to be post racial, post class, so hip and post partisan, so moved forward, so changed. Not without justice and fairness, no change, no how.

        We (He) not only have to address and embrace the injustice of the past, but the great injustice of the present tense. Looking only to create some future myth won’t cut it. This isn’t a campaign commercial anymore. People are losing their foundations. I live in one of the areas hardest hit by the real estate bubble. The job losses still have not stopped hemorrhaging. Asking people to volunteer instead of making sure they have work first (as he did today) definitely ain’t gonna cut it.

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