Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Corruption is Now Complete

Sergeant Pepper Spray of UC-Davis has officially been replaced as National Bad Guy. That dubious honor now belongs to Sergeant Slaughter of the US Army. The cop who mounted a one-man chemical assault against peaceful student  protesters last year was placed on administrative leave and never charged with a crime. The soldier who got airlifted out of Afghanistan after his massacre of civilians as they slept in their beds will probably get a whole lifetime of administrative leave and will have to be charged with a crime. But if history is any guide, he could also eventually walk free, or at most spend his days under perpetual psychiatric care. His compatriots in the Haditha and My Lai massacres all walked free, once the public outrage abated and people moved on. 

The big difference is that Sgt Bobby Bales, as he is fondly being remembered by people who probably didn't know him all that well, is also being cast in the American media as a sympathetic victim who just snapped after one deployment too many. Legend already has it that he joined up out of patriotism, post 9/11,  to serve his country and fight the terrorists. Only... not so fast. It turns out that Bales may have joined the Army simply to escape accusations of fraud stemming from his stint as an investment broker. He'd been ordered to pay actual and punitive damages totalling more than $1 million to a retiree he had cheated out of his life savings. The Washington Post has the story.

But, whatever. Our duly elected president and Congress are set to legalize fraud anyway. The guilty shall be absolved. After Obama's in-house lobby of CEOs known as the Council on Jobs & Competitiveness told him they wanted the Sarbanes-Oxley Act dismantled, he was only too happy to comply. That was the law enacted during the Bush Administration in the wake of the Enron scandal; it made it illegal for corporations to defraud their investors, and forced potential cheaters to make honest disclosures about risk.

Now, the oligarchs have convinced their apparatchik in president's clothing that honesty is both a job-killer and a second term killer. It's not enough that they, like the war criminals, have walked free from past felonies. They won't be satisfied until they get permission to commit even more unpunishable crimes.

Hilariously, the weasels of the political class have named this scam of a bill the JOBs Act -- standing for "Jumpstart Our Small Business Start-Ups."  It passed in the House almost unanimously, giving lie to the narrative that bipartisanship is dead. Democrats and Republicans love to pretend-fight over contrived issues like birth control, the better to sneak their Wall Street-enabling agenda past the public. Democratic apologists are already making the excuse that their side was hoodwinked into voting for it, seeing how the name would fool anybody, plus they probably didn't have time to actually read it. What a joke. If they didn't have time to read it, it was because they were too busy fund-raising from the bill's actual mega-rich authors.  

The Senate is expected to pass the measure this week with the usual fast-track speed reserved for bills that screw the 99%. There is some surface pushback, but since Harry Reid made sure a super-majority will be needed to defeat it, some Democrats will be able to save face and brag how they voted against it and still get what they really want. 

Former N.Y.Gov Eliot Spitzer, who once prosecuted the fraudsters now hoping to be exempt from culpability, has a scathing smackdown of this latest political scandal in Slate:
Once again, the Puppets on Capitol Hill are about to slam the Muppets on Main Street. The country still hasn’t recovered from the Wall Street-induced financial cataclysm of 2008, yet Congress is preparing to enact the Orwellian ”JOBS Act”—a bill that should in fact be called the “Return Fraud to Wall Street in One Easy Step Act.” The bill will undo some of the most important reforms placed on Wall Street in a generation.
Even the staid New York Times is calling the proposed legislative chicanery "Orwellian" in its scope. From an editorial titled You Scratch My Back:
With their eye on campaign cash, President Obama and lawmakers from both parties have decided they can all get more from corporate constituents if they cooperate to enact legislation that big donors want.....

Its proponents — stock exchanges, venture capital groups, biotech start-ups, investment banks — say that the easier it is for companies to raise money, the more they will grow and hire workers. Its opponents — the current and former chairmen of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the association of state securities regulators, AARP, the Consumer Federation of America, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. labor federation and unions, several big pension funds and many prominent securities experts — have presented ample evidence to show that deregulation raises the cost of capital by harming investors and impairing markets, making it harder for legitimate companies to thrive.

John Coates of Harvard Law School recently told a Senate banking subcommittee that the proposals in the JOBS Act “could not only generate front-page scandals, but reduce the very thing they are being promoted to increase: job growth.” Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, and other supporters, notably Senator Charles Schumer of New York, have responded to the warnings by fast-tracking the bill for passage. Over the past week, Senate Democratic leaders scrapped plans for introducing a Senate version that presumably would have restored some of the protections gutted in the House bill. Instead, they chose to embrace the House version.

Former financial regulator William Black calls the JOBS bill the most cynical thing to come out of Washington in living memory:
The JOBS Act is something only a financial scavenger could love. It will create a fraud-friendly and fraud-enhancing environment. It will add to the unprecedented level of financial fraud by our most elite CEOs that has devastated the U.S. and European economies and cost over 20 million people their jobs.... Financial fraud is a prime jobs killer.
Powerful regulatory regimes -- strong accounting rules, strict corporate governance, tough securities laws, and vigorous civil and criminal enforcement of the regulations and laws is the greatest infrastructure for strong economic growth that a nation can provide. For decades, the U.S. had an enormous competitive advantage over other nations in raising funds through securities because investors placed great trust in issuers that were subject to effective regulation. U.S. equities traded at a substantial premium compared to securities issued in other nations (which means that companies could raise capital much more effectively and inexpensively). Regulators serve as the "cops on the beat" that prevent a Gresham's Dynamic in which "bad ethics drives good ethics out of the markets."
The only "cops on the beat" in evidence these days are the paramilitary thugs who beat up Occupy protesters, stop and frisk minorities on suspicion of being minorities, and spy upon Muslims. Fraud is being openly celebrated as a virtue and peaceful demonstration is being vilified as a crime. The political miscreants are no longer even trying to pretend they work for the people who voted for them. Mendacity must get so exhausting after awhile.

Do you really think Obama and his Justice Department are going to crack down on the psychopathic NYPD?  Think again. The president just had Billionaire Mayor Bloomberg to lunch, ostensibly to offer him a job in his second term. The president rakes in millions of dollars on any given day while canoodling with the obscenely wealthy and satisfying their every craven whim. His grand plan to shred Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is still very much on the table, despite his shallow populist rhetoric. Even serial Obama apologist Jonathan Chait has had enough of defending him. Read about the first (but not last) attempt at the Grand Bargain/Big Sellout here.

Electoral politics no longer has any meaning for regular people. The presidential horserace is a product of the mainstream stenographic media and SuperPacs  -- a shallow sporting event to which we are invited to take sides and pretend our vote matters. Rombamarama will be a contest between two guys vying to see who can raise the most money and who can do the most to please the plutocrats. That is it. 

The fact that Occupy is alive and well and growing every day is testament to the fact that the people are just not buying this crap any more.

It's time for a JOBS Act, all right. We need to Just Overcome B.S. And get ready for May Day.

**Update: Harry Reid has yanked the bill after amendments more protective of investors and the import-export bank failed, and the final cloture vote looked set to fail as well. You can read further details from Dave Dayen via Firedoglake. I think a little burst of public sunshine helped them see things from a reasonable point of view. Meanwhile, lobbyists will continue to open their checkbooks in hopes of better days for the professional fraud class.

13 comments:

Kat said...

some phrases that should scare you:

3."public/private partnership" 2."doing well by doing good" 1."overwhelming bipartisan support"

The Black Swan said...

From what I have read about the murders in Afghanistan, the Afghanis believe it was more than one man and that helicopters were involved. The eyewitness accounts are of several drunken men doing the killings. Not to mention several different guns were used and the murders took place in villages several Kms apart. I don't know what to make of this story or what the truth really is. I do know that our Media and Government lie to us all the time about everything.

Thanks for speaking the truth to the constant lies and propaganda we are stuck with. The difficulty is that when lying is so prevalent, how do you know when to look for the truth, and where?

Denis Neville said...

Karen is correct when she says, “Electoral politics no longer has any meaning for regular people.”

“If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal.” - Emma Goldman

Obama, a lesser evil? Obama and Mittens are a choice between two different versions of the status quo, one 1%-approved stooge taking on another 1%-approved stooge. Vote Obama and see Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid cut anyway.

David Swanson asks, “What Are Elections Good For?”

http://davidswanson.org/node/3611

“Lesser evilism in elections appears a perfectly rational position: Only two candidates have a shot at winning, and one of them is less evil. End of story. The argument against lesser evilism is far more complex. First one can chip away at the impression that one of the candidates really is significantly less evil…In Obama we have a president who has largely continued, protected, and expanded upon the crimes and power grabs of his predecessor…yet one could still make a plausible case that electing McCain would have been the more evil outcome. The logic of lesser evilism still appears to make voting for the less evil candidate the rational choice even if that candidate is likely to be just ever so slightly less evil…”

“…there is more to lesser evilism than whether and how one votes. Seen in this larger context, no longer are we talking about a rational calculation in a voting booth. We're talking about a poisoning of the mind and a distortion of civic life that eliminates confrontations between the people and their government by convincing people that government is a football game and that the people's job is to cheer for one of the teams. This predictably results in the two candidates at each future election both being more evil and both competing for a more evil and unaccountable office than either of the candidates had been at the previous election, even if the less evil candidate always wins.”

“The Occupy movement has begun a public organizing campaign and begun to change the national conversation about economic justice by pushing the whole country, not by signing on behind a candidate or a party.”

“It makes a difference whether or not you can switch your lesser-evilism off. That switch appears to be broken in most people. So, I propose we switch it off permanently, pull the plug out of the wall, and bury the idea in the ground. Let's stop thinking in terms of lesser evil and start thinking in terms of greater good.”

Time to pull the plug and prepare for the battles between humanity and the reactionary forces that threaten it.

Karen Garcia said...

Hi everyone. Here is my response to Maureen Dowd's column about the general pleading his war case to Congress:

Old generals never say die. They just fly in the face of all fact and echo that odious "stay the course" mantra. Even the admission by Jones that this war is a lost cause does not translate into an immediate withdrawal in his warped way of thinking. He wants to stay for just one more glorious season in hell, before reassessing the situation. Calling the increasing atrocities "isolated incidents", even as these isolated incidents coalesce into one long string of mayhem, is a sick joke nobody believes any more.

It was only a year ago that the murders committed by another "renegade" group called "The Kill Team" were exposed, with lower level soldiers being the only ones convicted. The official story, again, was that these troops also apparently "snapped." These psychopaths kept body parts of their victims as souvenirs. The full extent of the horror was, as usual, brushed under the rug by the brass. And quickly forgotten until the next rampage that so totally took the generals by surprise.

And just last month, whistleblowing Lt. Col. Daniel Davis revealed that the generals have been lying through their teeth about their alleged successes all along. You can read more here:

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=106726

Continuing this travesty for even one more month would be criminally insane. The president should start the withdrawal immediately , heeding neither the GOP hawks nor the generals. Innocent lives depend upon it. The buck stops with Barack.

Denis Neville said...

“The buck stops with Barack.”

LOL!

Here’s what our feckless Commander-in-Chief Obama said about Bradley Manning in April 2011:

“If you’re in the military…I have to abide by certain rules of classified information. If I were to release material I weren’t allowed to, I’d be breaking the law. [never mind that he is sharing still-classified documents with a reporter, David Ignatius, who will spin things in a favorable light, so as to support his reelection] We’re a nation of laws! We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.”

The last is worth repeating:

“We’re a nation of laws! We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.”

LOL!

That from President Due Process, the former constitutional lawyer.

Will said...

@Timothy, Valerie and Anonymous,

Here's one more take on OWS that I believe y'all will find interesting. I think frequent NYT commenter Bill Appledorf is right on the money with this post from a few days ago:

"Police goons' job is to intimidate the tens of thousands of people who would come out to protest if they weren't afraid of being beaten up and arrested by the police.

The movement's job is to draw hundreds of thousands into the streets to overwhelm the goons with sheer numbers and force the government to redress our grievances.

The politicians' job is to systematically outlaw demonstrations. NDAA gives the government the power to pull a Solzenitzen on anyone who becomes too influential of a voice against corporate authoritarianism.

Check this out, a report on RT about HR 347, the latest move by Washington to criminalize dissent: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9W38EG0FZZw

The political environment here is becoming more like a communist country behind the iron curtain every day. We already have central planning by the handful of giant corporations that have cornered control in every sector of our economy.

Look at the gear cops wear, like Star Wars troopers.

Protest is a dangerous occupation. We stopped the Vietnam War, got the Civil Rights Bill and Voting Right Act passed in 1965. A lot of people were beaten and arrested by the cops. Some were killed.

Here we go again."

Jay - Ottawa said...

What’s a voter to do?

Banks too big to fail.
Deals too vile to pass up.
Lies too involved to unravel.
Crimes too great to punish.
Laws too firm to enforce.

Massacres too alarming to admit.
Soldiers too broken to replace.
Wars too long to end.

Politicians too entrenched to be rid of.
Arguments too vaporous to resist.
Systems too twisted to salvage.
Parties too alike to matter.
Advice too sound to apply.

What's left?
Only one thing.

Occupy or Disappear.

James F Traynor said...

I think we're getting to the point where they don't give a damn what we think. It's 'Take it or leave it.' We may have to fight soon. Jeez, I hate to think of it, but it's coming down to it. Protesting alone isn't going to do it. It's going to be an American Syria. Shit.

Denis Neville said...

@ Will – I had not been aware of H.R. 347 [euphemistically titled the "Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act"] that Obama signed into law earlier this month.

H.R. 347 says: “Whoever knowingly enters or remains in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so; knowingly, and with intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of government business or official functions, engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct in, or within such proximity to, any restricted building or grounds when, or so that, such conduct, in fact, impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of government business or official functions; knowingly, and with the intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of government business or official functions, obstructs or impedes ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds; or knowingly engages in any act of physical violence against any person or property in any restricted building or grounds; attempts or conspires to do so, shall be punished.”

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America reads as follows: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

H.R. 347’s language is so broad as to put an end to free speech, political protest and the right to peaceably assemble in all areas where government officials happen to be present. It is obviously aimed at the Occupy Movement. HR 347 should be titled the "First Amendment Rights Eradication Act". By singing this bill, Obama makes freedom of speech a felony that could put protestors in jail for up to 10 years. The law states it is a prosecutable offense to enter a building or grounds of a special event of national significance or enter a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting.

More empty Obama words from his inauguration speech, “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history.”

America is on its way to becoming a boiled frog.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

The Black Swan wrote "The difficulty is that when lying is so prevalent, how do you know when to look for the truth, and where?"

Jokingly, I'll say that I'm reminded of the film "Men in Black" where the character played by Tommy Lee Jones knows where to look for information --- the supermarket tabloids:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119654/quotes?qt=qt0402606

!!!


@Denis Neville: Thanks for the David Swanson link.


@Denis, Will, Jay, and all:

I must say that I find it notable and ironic that the proper functioning of the elective political system and the effectiveness of protest have both been so diminished in the U.S. that we have come to the point that, for example, two U.S. Army soldiers --- Bradley Manning and Robert Bales --- may have had more of an impact on getting this nation out of our interminable recent wars than all the normal political actions have.

Obviously, that shouldn't be the case, and we need to find the energy and the means so that can be changed and the rational average citizen can have some significant influence.


@Karen: thanks for the heads-up on the outrageous "JOBS" bill. I knew they were trying to cut regulation, but I hadn't been paying sufficient attention to specifics.

TimothyD11 said...

@Anonymous

A mass credit default will not happen, so what is your next suggestion?

Like you said, people will not want to hurt their credit -

and most people will not trust that other people will actually do it with them - so they won't want to be the only fools ruining their credit scores.

Occupy CAN work if we overwhelm them with numbers.

But I'm convinced that things aren't bad enough for enough people to make that happen yet - most people are still comfortable enough and aren't interested in what us kooks have to say.

And I think "they" keep most people comfortable enough because they know that comfortable enough for most people is enough to keep them distracted and uninterested.

So apparently we'll have to wait for things to get much worse to get enough people interested in finding out WTF is going on.

I'm just afraid about how much they'll take away in the meantime and how hard it will be to get it all back once we finally collectively make it clear that we have had enough and want our earnings, benefits and wealth back.

Angry Person in Australia said...

I agree TimothyD11 with everything you wrote. It is an indication of just how powerful the still nascent Occupy Movement is that the government/corporate hierarchy has been so quick to pass legislation making it against the law to peacefully protest. The longer it takes people to wake up in America (and Australia for that matter), the more laws the exploiters will pass.

As Chris Hedges says, the police are the foot soldiers of the one percent and now that they are being set up in riot gear (which allows them to remain anonymous - always a dangerous thing)the Occupy Movement needs an up swell of law abiding citizens to participate. Let's get grandmas with grandchildren and dumpy, frumpy middle aged men and women out there to give those campers some support!

But along with encouraging apathy, the culture in America has accepted selfishness and materialism as virtues. So you are right, unless people are directly affected, they are not likely to get involved in something that could hurt them personally and only has a small chance to help those less fortunate. I saw so much of it when I was last in the U.S., those who were unaffected by the lay-offs and the rip-offs, who have good health care insurance through their employers were indifferent to the fact that so many Americans are slipping through the cracks. They believe that their good fortune is a result of their own hard work and those who aren't doing as well must be lacking in a work-ethic and therefore deserve their bad-luck.

So between the selfishness and hard-heartedness that is so rampant and people being afraid and demoralised (as mentioned by Denis in Karen’s latest thread) on the other side, the protest movement is left to a very few decent and stalwart individuals. I certainly applaud the Occupy protesters for their diligence and commitment to peaceful protest.

Valerie said...

Thanks for that link to the Post, Karen. It certainly shows a very different person from the sympathetic PTSD soldier he is being portrayed to be. I find it interesting that the spin is that Bobby was on his fifth tour of duty and that was why he cracked, yet the same group is not demanding we get out of the war business!

The message the American people ought to be taking in is that WAR IS BAD! It does bad things to people. It traumatises gentle souls and it brings out the worst in bullies. What people who are so gung ho for endless war don’t seem to realise is at some point these soldiers are going to come home and live amongst us; and they will come home damaged psychologically and emotionally. People like Robert Bales are ticking time bombs. And they have killed people in war – that line has been crossed.

Interesting, @James, that the Afghan accounts are quite different from the American accounts of what happened and who was involved. I wouldn’t put it past the military or my government to be lying to me. But I wouldn't put it past Karzai's government to be lying either. I think THAT is a sign in itself. When the truth is so obscured and we don't know who are "friends" and who are "enemies," then it is time to leave.