Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dirty Double-Crossin' Rats

I'm not a voyeur, so I couldn't bear to watch the public orgy known as the Dimon-Senate Banking Committee hearing writhe its way to completion yesterday. I'll paraphrase what I did watch, with one hand over my eyes:

Dimon: (sounding kind of like James Cagney in one of his gangster roles, talking rapid-fire oligarchy-barky Brooklynese with a mouth full of gravel)."Sorry, so glibly sorry. But I am so huge that even a glitch like a $4 billion loss doesn't put a dent in my greatness. Yeah, yeah we might need a few regulations, but let me do the regulating, guys. I'm just too big for most people to even understand. But I got it covered, see?"

Senators: "Okay, Your Greatness. Would you like some taxpayer-funded champagne to go with your caviar? Are the camera lights creating a drop of perfumed perspiration on your lofty brow? Would you like to retire to a special room where we can enjoy our make-out session in private?"

Senator Bernie Sanders, the socialist-independent senator of Vermont, was very much a part of Wednesday's hearing although he is not an actual member of the Committee. Protesters screamed at Dimon to listen to Bernie before they were escorted out by security guards. Dimon, busy schmoozing with his gentle inquisitors, appeared unruffled by the outbreak of hoi polloi-dom. He is triply safe. He is in charge of a bank the size of a country, he serves on the regulatory board overseeing himself, and he funds the campaigns of almost every senator on the Banking Committee. He is a ranking member of the Board of Directors of the United States of America.

Sanders has just named names in a report by the Government Accountability Office, showing that Dimon is not the only member of the Federal Reserve Board who is a fox guarding the henhouse. Since the 2008 financial meltdown, The Fed gave trillions of dollars in no/low interest loans to Dimon's bank and 17 other corporations whose CEOs also just happened to have seats on the Fed.

JP Morgan, Dimon's bank, received  $390 billion in emergency Fed funds at the same time his bank was used by the Fed as a clearinghouse for emergency lending programs. Jamie Dimon's Fed gave Jamie Dimon $29 billion in financing to buy distressed investment house Bear Stearns in March 2008 after it allowed Jamie's bank to cook the books and erase Bear Stearns' risky mortgage related assests from the balance sheet. Jamie Dimon's Fed gave Jamie Dimon's bank an 18- month exemption from risk-based leverage and capital requirements. (It gave carte blanche to recklessness. It ensured that Jamie Dimon's bank would grow too big to fail, that Jamie Dimon could risk other people's money with impunity and into perpetuity.)

The GAO report says all this chicanery sure does give the "appearance" of impropriety. Ya think? They probably should have called it "Public Enemies" to give it a little more pizzazz.

Sanders, meanwhile, has introduced quixotic legislation that would try to bar banking and corporate CEOs like Jeffrey Immelt of GE from serving on the Fed board. The names of the other plutocrats who profited from their dual positions can be found here.



Meanwhile, the great Crony Capitalism World spins, a magical place where all the risks are subsidized and all the gains are privatized. The dirty rats remain at the helm of the sinking ship.

18 comments:

Denis Neville said...

Jesus told a parable about a man went to hell because he didn’t see the poor. His name was Dives.

“Dives didn’t go to hell because he was rich; Dives didn’t realize that his wealth was his opportunity. It was his opportunity to bridge the gulf that separated him from his brother Lazarus. Dives went to hell because he was passed by Lazarus every day and he never really saw him. He went to hell because he allowed his brother to become invisible. Dives went to hell because he maximized the minimum and minimized the maximum. Indeed, Dives went to hell because he sought to be a conscientious objector in the war against poverty.” - Martin Luther King, "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”

http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/kingpapers/article/remaining_awake_through_a_great_revolution/

The “dirty rats” are damned as Dives.

Suzan said...

Ba-zinga!

Thanks, Karen!!!!

S

Zee said...

Apropos of absolutely nothing at all on the current thread, here come the New York City food police with even more proposed bans on various foods “because it's good for you.”

(@Kat, calm down, take a deep breath, and repeat over and over: "I will not get started on the soda ban.” )

“ While the New York City Board of Health approves of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to cut all large sugary drinks from New Yorker's diets, some members are taking issue with one major point: They don't think the plan goes far enough...

“Certain members spoke up...saying that the proposal should include other items. Board member Bruce Vladeck questioned why large tubs of popcorn were not included in the ban, according to the New York Daily News. Another member, Dr. Joel Forman, pointed out that even 100 percent juice and milk-containing beverages have large amounts of calories and should not be excluded.

While Dr. Kenneth Popler... recognized that...[such bans]would infringe on New Yorkers' rights, he felt that the health benefits were worth it, the Wall Street Journal reported.”
--CBS News (Bold emphasis added.)

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57452634-10391704/bloomberg-soda-ban-board-of-health-eyes-popcorn-and-milkshakes/

So if the New York City Health Department has its way, Joe Sixpack won't even be able to take his family of four to a Friday-night movie and buy a single tub of popcorn to feed himself, his wife and his two kids. He'll need to buy four individual servings of popcorn, that will doubtless cost bluecollar Joe more than the big, single tub.

But there are even more health issues here! The New York City Health Department knows it's really unhealthy for four sets of hands to be digging into that single tub, anyway. You know, they might spread germs or something to one another. So nanny New York City will make damn' sure Joe's family doesn't share food, because that's bad for them, too.

So maybe Joe will just decide to stay home with his wife and kids, watch a government-approved, “healthy” DVD, and eat Cheetos, the adults drinking a sixpack or three of beer, while the kids still get large sugary sodas. That is, until the food police get around to banning all sales of beer, sodas and Cheetos.

I'm sure the ultimate plan is to soon be unable to buy anything but turnip juice and celery-stalk snacks at your friendly neighborhood not-so-super-market.

And after they've all enjoyed the movie and those snacks, they can all report to curbside for mandated calisthenics, led for them by the City via those loudspeakers and spy cameras that are mounted on neighborhood street lights.

Maybe drones could even be used to punish those who try to slack off.

I know many of you out there consider this a trivial matter, but I do not. The “food police” are symptomatic of the broad, underlying dangers of Big Government, which only increase with size. Just as they are doing now.

Whether it's a progressive or a conservative government, those in power inevitably seek more and more control over the individual. It's as natural—and certain—as the Four Laws of Thermodynamics.

Only the details of that “control” differ.

Big Government is a greater danger than it is a blessing, and government should be kept as small as absolutely feasible.

And lest you conclude that my fears about Bloomberg & Co. are both foolish and baseless, let me close by introducing you to—if you haven't already met him— “...the moron who got San Francisco to ban happy meals.”

They've done it in San Francisco, and as California goes, so goes the nation, they say.

http://hotair.com/archives/2011/01/05/daily-show-meet-the-moron-who-got-san-francisco-to-ban-happy-meals/

It's from the Daily Show, and it is one of the most hilarious—and depressing—things I have ever witnessed.

James F Traynor said...

I saw some of it. Jesus, is this what we've come to? DeMint was particularly disgusting in his sycophancy. It's true, Karen, I did feel like a voyeur watching that disgusting shit.

Zee said...

@Denis--

Re: In Nothing We Trust, and the sad tales of Johnny Whitmire and Muncie, Indiana--

http://www.nationaljournal.com/
features/restoration-calls/in-nothing-we-trust-20120419?print=true

Whitmire is a man that I admire. Confronted with bankruptcy and foreclosure, Whitmire's attorney advised him to stay in his home until foreclosure actually occurred—often a very long process.

Whitmire's response? “I don’t believe in a free lunch...” He moved out, leaving the keys on the kitchen table. “I thought the bank should have them.”

Now, Whitmire mows the lawn of the house that the bank owns, hoping some day that he will own it again. Quite a man.

I can't say that the bank did not have the legal right to foreclose on Whitmire. But one would have thought that after having made payments regularly for ten years, the bank might have been better off strictly from a business standpoint by receiving something from a responsible owner rather than nothing at all. Since Whitmire is living in a trailer instead of on the streets, he clearly has some regular income. So why did the bank not work out a deal with the man until he can get back on his feet?

Still, the bank did not really know Johnny Whitmire, and there were, doubtless, procedures that must be followed and standards that must be met lest some human cog in the banking machine get fired for trying to do Whitmire a good turn.

What a shafting: first to have his loan modification revoked, but then to be billed by the bank for prior underpayments when the bank and government were the ones who screwed up. And then to be cited by the City for failure to maintain the home that now belonged to the bank. As I said, neither the Big Bank nor the Big City had any time to know Whitmire.

Sometimes the chips have to fall where they may, but in this case, even I am surprised that nothing better could have been done.

I admire Whitmire's restraint. I think I might have “gone postal.”

“Whitmire is a story of Muncie...[and]...Muncie is a microcosm of a nation whose motto could be, “In Nothing We Trust.”

Well, who can trust ever-Bigger Banks, ever-Bigger Business, or, yes, ever-Bigger Government? The bigger something becomes, the smaller any remaining “heart,” which is steadily replaced by ever more pages of procedures, standards, and requirements that must be followed, obeyed and met before something can get done for anyone.

We have done this to ourselves. It is popular in this forum to bash Big Banks and Big Business, and they deserve it. But keep in mind that the bigger that Government grows, the smaller we “Johnny Whitmires” will also become in government's eyes.

And when all trust fails, it's “Every person for him/herself, and devil take the hindmost.”

Or, to paraphrase Norm on the old sit-com, Cheers, “It's a dog-eat-dog world, and [now we're all] wearing milkbone shorts.”

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say you hit it out of the park today in response to David Brooks' column. Good work.

Zee said...

And for more on food and government oppression--of a nine-year-old-child, no less!--take a look at this article, entitled 9-Year-Old-Who-Changed School Lunches Silenced by Politicians.

http://m.wired.com/wiredscience/
2012/06/neverseconds-shut-down/

"For the past two months, one of my favorite reads has been 'Never Seconds,' a blog started by 9-year-old Martha Payne of western Scotland to document the unappealing, non-nutritious lunches she was being served in her public primary school. Payne, whose mother is a doctor and father has a small farming property, started blogging in early May and went viral in days. She had a million viewers within a few weeks and 2 million this morning; was written up in Time, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, and a number of food blogs; and got support from TV cheflebrity Jamie Oliver, whose series 'Jamie’s School Dinners' kicked off school-food reform in England.

Well, goodbye to all that.

This afternoon, Martha (who goes by 'Veg' on the blog) posted that she will have to shut down her blog, because she has been forbidden to take a camera into school. She said:

'This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today.
I only write my blog not newspapers and I am sad I am no longer allowed to take photos. I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners and I’ll miss seeing the dinners you send me too.' "


There's no target too small for Big Government to crush when it gets the teeniest bit irritated.

Zee said...

@Karen--

Tipped to it by @Anonymous, I looked up your comment on what I think is the most recent David Brooks column. (Not a regular follower save on the PBS Nightly News Hour.)

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/15/opinion/brooks-what-republicans-think.html?ref=davidbrooks

Even as a Conservative I agree with much of your assessment of today's Republican party.

However, I think that you underestimate the greed of much of our middle-class populace once they think they have "paid their debt to society." Or even when they haven't

I recall the stupid thought going around a few years ago amongst "greedy geezers" that they shouldn't have to pay taxes for education if either (1) they had no children, or (2) their children were done with their public school educations.

Well, that bogus debate goes on today still. I didn't have to "Google" very hard to find numerous discussion on the topic, though none as lucid as this one:

http://www.darwinsfinance.com/
americans-kids-opt-out-school/

"I was at a family gathering this summer and the usual topic of complaining about the ineptitude of local government officials and school boards came up. That then led to older participants questioning what their tax dollars were being used for and why they’re even paying school taxes to begin with...

What was especially ironic about the cries to eradicate school taxes for people who don’t have kids in the school system was the fact that the guy’s last kid had just graduated highschool – public highschool. How convenient! "

--DarwinsFinance 29 September 2011

Now, I'm sure that the guy bitching about paying education taxes for other peoples' children fancies himself a "Conservative," but he's not. He's really just damned stupid.

Political colorations aside however, he sounds to me for all the world to be one of your allegedly fanciful

"fictional suspects of the Brooksian imagination: greedy geezers who'd eat their own young in their selfish quest for health care and a small return on the Social Security taxes they paid. --Karen Garcia

If this guy wouldn't eat his own children to lower his tax bill, he certainly is willing to throw everyone else's children under the bus once he's got his.

I think that you seriously overestimate the degree of human kindness at large in today's society, or the willingness of many to take a free ride at the expense of others.

I'm not saying that there's not a lot of human decency out there, but there's a significant fraction of greedy and shirksome people out there too, and they ain't all plutocrats.

Zee said...

More from Salon on the government efforts to silence little Martha Payne and her blog, NeverSeconds:

I always love it when the government bully finally is forced to respond like a cornered rat, and a dumb-ass rat at that!

"On the blog, Payne’s father said that it was not the school but the Argyll and Bute Council that decided to squelch Payne’s photos. The Argyll Council then dug itself in deeper, defensively penning a response to “unwarranted attacks on its schools catering service which culminated in national press headlines which have led catering staff to fear for their jobs,” adding “the information presented in [NeverSeconds] misrepresented the options and choices available to pupils … so a decision has been made by the Council to stop photos being taken in the school canteen.”

Oh, the terror that a mere 9-year-old can apparently instill in a bunch of (presumably) adult caterers and the entire Argyll Council!

You go, Martha!

Makes me proud to be a self-appointed "honorary Scotsman," though kinda ashamed of the caliber of the local Council.

Denis Neville said...

@ Zee

I was surprised that Martha lives in Scotland. It sounded a lot like the USA.

Rights of citizens?

Cases of police arresting people for photographing them.

“Lower your weapons, lower your weapons … this is not a war zone … these are citizens … lower your god damn weapons now!” - General Honoré, New Orleans after Katrina

Those in power should never forget, they work for us, we don't work for them.

Zee said...

@Denis--

General Honore--I can't figure out how you accented the final "e"--sounds like quite a man.

"New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was quoted on a radio interview September 1, 2005, saying: 'Now, I will tell you this -- and I give the president some credit on this -- he sent one John Wayne dude down here that can get some stuff done, and his name is Gen. Honoré. And he came off the doggone chopper, and he started cussing and people started moving. And he's getting some stuff done.'"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russel_L._Honor%C3%A9

It appears that he never forgot for whom he worked.

According to the Wikipedia article, it was rumored that he might challenge the promiscuous and deceitful Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana in the Republican primary in 2010, but that was not to be.

Honore probably understood that American politics is no longer a place in which any decent person should find him/herself.

Denis Neville said...

@ Zee

“I don't make jokes - I just watch the government and report the facts.” - Will Rogers

Lessons in democracy: “NYC Principal Bans 5th Grader’s Winning Gay Marriage Speech,”

http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/nyc-principal-bans-5th-graders-winning-gay-marriage-speech/politics/2012/06/15/41531

One can only assume that the principal tripped over the First Amendment and thought it was the office cat. (paraphrasing E. B. White)

Zee said...

@Denis--

It would appear that one thing that we still have very much in common with our authoritarian Big Brothers and Big Sisters across the pond is an eagerness to stomp on children with both boots--figuratively speaking--when they dare to think for themselves and accomplish something unexpectedly good.

Can't have that! Who knows what the world might come to!

In that same small and mean spirit, I think I'll complain to the City health department about the kids down the street who are selling lemonade on this hot New Mexico day to raise money for our overflowing City animal shelter.

I'm sure that they don't have a food vendors' license, and their "kitchen" has probably never been inspected by the "authorities"...

Valerie said...

I agree - great comment on Brooksie, Karen. And your post here is a winner as well.

Like the quote from MLK, Denis. Thanks for that as well!

Neil Gillespie said...

Thanks Karen. "He [Jamie Dimon] is in charge of a bank the size of a country, he serves on the regulatory board overseeing himself, and he funds the campaigns of almost every senator on the Banking Committee. He is a ranking member of the Board of Directors of the United States of America."

Dimon may have a better job than Obama. Presidents come and go, but bankers often have lifetime appointments.

@ Denis

re: "Those in power should never forget, they work for us, we don't work for them."

Is that urban legend still around?

Those in power work for themselves. Given the high incumbent reelection rates, a majority of the voters do not appear interested in change.

http://www.opensecrets.org/bigpicture/reelect.php

Denis Neville said...

@ Neil – re: “Is that urban legend still around?

Did I say that? I must simply believe all the costumes!

“As I walk out onto the street on a sunny day, dressed in my fortunate bohemian costume…I see nothing, I think nothing, I have no reaction to what I’m seeing, because I believe it all…I simply believe it. I believe the costumes. I believe the characters. And then for one instant, as the woman runs into the shop, I suddenly see what’s happening, the way a drowning man might have one last vivid glimpse of the glittering shore, and I feel like screaming out, ‘Stop! Stop! This isn’t real! It’s all a fantasy! It’s all a play! The people in these costumes are not what you think! The accents are fake, the expressions are fake — Don’t you see? It’s all –‘ One instant — and then it’s gone. My mind goes blank for a moment, and then I’m back to where I was…” - Wallace Shawn, “Are You Smarter Than Thomas Jefferson?”

http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175350/tomgram%3A_wallace_shawn,_are_you_smarter_than_thomas_jefferson/

Yes, there are a lot voters (at least those not targeted for purging or suppression) not interested in change because they too believe in the costumes. And we will all be back where we were. Alas!

Valerie said...

Coming to the discussion a little late but I HAVE to comment on this piece of excellent journalism. Hitting it out of the ballpark again, Karen!

I wish more people would read this article because until we, American citizens of all walks of life, wake up and smell the coffee - until we understand, deep in our souls, that things aren't a little corrupted in our government, they aren't just a little worse than they used to be, they are completely corrupted – we won’t be able to stop the powers that be from stealing everything in sight. Americans need to understand that a Mafia like group which is extorting money from all of us and has almost everyone in Congress on their payroll. It is like one of those old Westerns where the Mayor is corrupt and the Sherriff is on the take and the town isn’t such a great place for decent, law abiding folk to live. Unless ordinary people understand, as Chris Hedges has pointed out the political system is too corrupted to make anything except superficial changes, they will continue to believe that their only responsibility to their country is going to the polls in November. The truth is our only hope for democracy is taking to the streets, either physically or metaphorically, and joining together in this fight against Mafialopy. There are enough of us to do this - to turn the ship around - but we have to realise what is really going on - ignorance is our enemy - and then join together. There is safety in numbers and likewise, there lies our power.

You gotta love Bernie - who surely will have a crown when he gets to heaven for his amazing integrity, compassion and plain ole decency.

Zee said...

@Neil, @Denis and @Valerie--

As I look at the eligible voter turnout data from the following website, my “eyeball estimate” of “average annual turnout of eligible voters” in presidential elections from 1948 through 2008 would be about 52%, more in some years, less in others. So on average, 48% of eligible voters aren't interested in “change,” or, perhaps, anything else at all.

http://elections.gmu.edu/voter_turnout.htm

Of the 52% who do participate regularly in elections, well, Neil, Denis and Valerie, you have most of us pegged pretty well. We show up to do our civic duty, vote, and generally send the incumbents back year after year, living under the illusion that they are doing good things for us in Congress, when, in fact they are mostly doing good things for themselves and bad things to us.

So maybe “the 52%” are almost as brain-dead as the other 48%.

I like to think that my eyes have been opened somewhat to what's actually going on around me. But I had to take the time to seek you Progressives out, listen to you and the news sources and books to which you pointed me and reach my own conclusion that much of what you have to say is true about our corrupt politicians and, yes, many other things as well.

I have the luxury of time, a secure—for the moment, at least—retirement income, and the innate curiousity to explore this and related issues. But what about Joe and JoAnne Sixpack out there, white, middle-class or blue collar conservatives who have been, perhaps, successfully “split off” from Progressive movement by social issues (think: What's the Matter with Kansas ) who are struggling to meet their mortgage, feed and clothe their kids, and maybe hope to send them to college if they don't lose their jobs and get foreclosed on first?

While I am sympathetic to Occupy Wall Street, I'm not sure that Joe and JoAnne are interested in mass movements, Valerie, even if you believe that you have enough participants to take to the streets in attention-getting numbers. J&J just aren't curious enough—nor do they have the time—to understand such a movement, let alone sympathize with it or see anything “in it for them.”

In fact, J&J probably pretty much resent college students who want to be released from their extravagant debts when blue collar guys like Joe Whitmire—discussed earlier in this thread—neither believe in nor want a free lunch.

Progressives—I won't even discuss Democrats who are exactly like Republicans—need to develop a completely new and highly focused economic program combined with a new language in order to have any hope of making any inroads whatsoever into the other 80% of Americans who have been successfully herded into the corrupt two-party-same-as-one system.

Thomas Frank discusses this at some length in the final chapter of What's the Matter with Kansas?, and Eric Alterman discusses it from a slightly different perspective with Bill Moyers on Moyers and Co:

http://billmoyers.com/segment/eric-alterman-on-liberalisms-past-present-and-future/

And for additional thoughs on developing a new language palatable (read: persuasive) to the other 80%, see also Moyers' interview with Jonathan Haidt:

http://billmoyers.com/episode/encore-how-do-conservatives-and-liberals-see-the-world/

Progressivism has devolved into a melange of “interest groups” at war with one another, and J&J largely aren't interested. They might be interested in what's in Progressivism for them economically. Their opinions on homosexuality, feminism, race, climate, whales, abortion and the rest will come along with time without your help--moralizing doesn't help--so forget about selling J&J on the whole ball of wax at once.

Oops! Out of characters. Hope that this makes some sense.