Monday, August 22, 2011

Chutzpah, Oligarch Style

Rumors have been swirling that too-big-to-fail Bank of America is on the verge of collapsing under the weight of its own greed and corruption.  Its stock has lost a third of its value in the past few volatile  weeks.  Its foreclosure robo-signing fraud settlement with the Feds is being delayed by an upstart attorney general who has the temerity to be doing the right thing by the victims, and not accepting a piddling settlement from the bank.

The feds have no jurisdiction over what New York AG Eric Schneiderman does regarding his own investigation and prosecution of BoA, but that hasn't stopped the Obama Administration from trying.  According to a New York Times article by Gretchen Morgenson,  the Obama Justice Department and HUD are putting pressure on Schneiderman to just drop whatever he's doing and agree to their overly generous deal. Blogger Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism, (thanks to Denis Neville for the link) who has been covering this banking scandal drama better than anyone, today came right out and said it: the Obama Administration is just plain corrupt:
Admittedly, corruption among our elites generally and in Washington in particular has become so widespread and blatant as to fall into the “dog bites man” category. But the nauseating gap between the Administration’s propaganda and the many and varied ways it sells out average Americans on behalf of its favored backers, in this case the too big to fail banks, has become so noisome that it has become impossible to ignore the fetid smell.
The Administration has now taken to pressuring parties that are not part of the machinery reporting to the President to fall in and do his bidding. We’ve gotten so used to the US attorney general being conveniently missing in action that we have forgotten that regulators and the AG are supposed to be independent. As one correspondent noted by e-mail, “When officials allegiances are to El Supremo rather than the Constitution, you walk the path to fascism.”
Luckily for us, though, this White House is so inept that the blatant strong-arming is being done right out in the open, for an unbelieving public to gawk and gasp at. The so-called "attack dog" unleashed by the White House/Wall Street cabal is one Kathryn Wylde, pal of Timothy Geithner and board member of the New York Fed. She had the bad taste to actually confront Schneiderman at the funeral of former Governor Hugh Carey last week and demand he leave her poor Wall Street alone! When it comes to entitled boors, apparently nothing is sacred if it interferes with the pursuit of the almighty dollar.  Not even the funeral of a governor.

 Kathryn Wylde gets around.  Not only is she on the board of the Fed, she started a big business lobbying group called "Partnership for New York City", made up of bankers and real estate moguls.  She then went on to spawn the "Committee to Save New York" whose main purpose was to kill the so-called millionaire surtax in New York State, thus leading to one of those manufactured debt crises we have come to expect.  As a result, the state has imposed draconian teacher and public employee layoffs, decreased government services and massive cuts to the Medicaid program.  Wylde's group also has close ties to newly elected Governor Andrew Cuomo, another Wall Street lackey conserva-dem in the Obama mold.  The group ran a whole series of campaign-type TV ads earlier this year, simply to thank their bought-and-paid-for governor for making them even richer.  If Cuomo hadn't "saved" the wealthy, according to Wylde, there would have been a mass exodus of hedge fund managers (and their campaign contributions) to Greenwich, CT! 

Kathryn of Oligarchia

Kathryn Wylde apparently has not learned the trick of any oligarch worth his salt: keeping a low profile and not whooping with glee in TV commercials when the banksters catch yet another break. The political art of lying is not in her skill set. Asked about her run-in with Scheiderman, she bragged to The Times that she told the AG: "It is of concern to the industry that instead of trying to facilitate resolving these issues, you seem to be throwing a wrench into it. Wall Street is our Main Street — love ’em or hate ’em. They are important and we have to make sure we are doing everything we can to support them unless they are doing something indefensible." (fraud and grand larceny are okay, but maybe murder might cross her line).

 This spring, a group of activists actually showed up at her house and demanded that she quit her job.  Here is the clip  (she seems polite in a shell-shocked sort of way -- notice how she's clenching the railing of her front porch as the hippies converge!)

Meanwhile, Eric Schneiderman has been joined by a few other state attorneys general in Just Saying No to the Obama Administration's strong-arm tactics.  They include Beau Biden of Delaware, son of the vice president.

P.S.  If you'd like to drop a line of support to Schneiderman, you can do so here.


Valerie said...

I just sent off my thank you to AG Eric Schneiderman - thanks for that link, Karen. It seems like the only ones with the guts to stand up to the big banks are Elizabeth Warren and a handful of AGs.

After reading about Rick Perry on RealityChex I almost thought I would cave and vote for O'traitor if Perry ends up being the Republican nominee - but fortunately your piece slapped some sense back into me. Corrupt is the word! That is how bad it has gotten; Obama doesn't even try to hide his use of clout to pressure justice officials on behalf of his campaign donors.

I really DO hope B of A fails and for once I am on the side of the Tea Party, no way do we bail them out again! If the leadership of that bank loses a gazillion dollars for their shareholders, well I hope their shareholders sue them in civil court. Then all those arrogant banking execs who have been laughing at us while they scoop up their undeserved millions can join the rest of us at the bottom of the economic heap.

Anne Lavoie said...

Obama corrupt? Say it ain't so, Joe.

Remember Obama's shady deal with crooked Tony Rezko to buy that buffer around his pretentious Chicago mansion to keep the riffraff further away? It's a good thing for Obama that McCain couldn't make a big deal out of that, being one of the Keating 5 himself.

Obama's excuse was that it was a bone-headed move. He's just a common dummy after all. He must love the talk that he is a weak negotiator, gets rolled by the Republicans (bankrolled, yes), can't stand up for himself, etc.

I am sure he went hat-in-hand, or a tin cup, to Goldman Sachs for his campaign money, and now he is proving his worth to their ilk so they can help him once again and get elected. He's their man, that's for sure.

Maybe we should draft Beau Biden for President. He even has an election advantage of having been willing to actually serve his country, and now he stands up to the POTUS too. Right on.

Denis Neville said...

Kathryn Wylde reminds me of Animal Farm’s Squealer. She justifies whatever means necessary to protect the banksters.

“Wall Street is our Main Street.”

The pigs are the “brainworkers” on this farm. They take all the milk and apples not for their own pleasure, but for the “good” of all the rest of us.

Like Squealer, her words define her, and her behavior betrays us.

4Runner said...

Two articles of interest out today:

1) The New Yorker: "The Deflationist: How Paul Krugman Found Politics"**

2) Rolling Stone: "Shredded Justice: Is the SEC Destroying Evidence and Covering Up Wall Street Crimes?"

**If you like Paul K, you'll learn lots about his life, wife & cats, etc.

D12345 said...

Great piece. And thanks for the link to Schneiderman.

I must take issue with something in Anne Lavoie's post though.

"He even has an election advantage of having been willing to actually serve his country."

I don't think that being in the military of the US is "serving your country."
Maybe "serving the mega-rich and the imperial aims of the US" but certainly not serving his country."

Also as a footnote.....Gore, Kerry, McCain all had this "advantage."

But the main point is still true...the corruption of Obama is massive.

Denis Neville said...

Digby sends us to Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail:

“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate…I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress…”

As Digby says, “[his] words reverberate today in ways he couldn't have anticipated.”

How ironic, the absence and/or corruption of justice under Barack Obama.

Kat said...

Honestly, what more do the Obama apologists need? How long can they defend this man?

John in Lafayette said...

This is why I love this blog. Stories like this simply don't show up in the MSM.

Thank you for the link to Eric Schneiderman. Let's hope that, unlike Spitzer, he has enough common sense not to undermine his own efforts. People willing to take on Wall Street and the POTUS are rare indeed. We can't afford to waste any more.

A couple of asides. People who serve in the military are serving their country. The fact that their government has been co-opted isn't their fault. Few, if any, of the military people I know are motivated by service to the elites. Where I get upset is when people say that military service is the ONLY way in which one can serve his/her country. Teachers serve their country. Plumbers serve their country. Someone who hires a new employee is serving our country. I would argue that Karen Garcia is serving our country as much as any military man. Enough with the lie that says joining the military is the only way we can serve our country.

Denis Neville's post reminds us just what a great man the Reverend King was. His message has gotten sanitized into simply a call for racial equality. While King was certainly concerned with that, he was far more concerned with the struggle for justice and equality for all, of which racism was only a part. King was concerned with the rise of corporatism and economic injustice, which he rightly understood to be class struggles. Racism was, and is, a tactic used to help win the class war for the wealthy. Anything to keep the middle and lower classes fighting among themselves.

G-d, how we miss Martin Luther King.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Yes, yes, yes to every reaction through noon, my time.

Right on! How much more can The Big Zero's apologists take before they "get it"? He and his merry band of thieves disgust me.

Thanks for this report. And the link to AG Schneiderman.

Kat said...

@ Valerie: What is it about Rick Perry that makes us consider voting for Obama at this point? Even my husband (and myself) say we would have to reconsider if Perry was the Rep. nominee. But yeah, I'll come to my senses after this story and the Karen's reminder in "Hello, Carbon Dioxide" that the Democrats are not going to work any harder at protecting our environment. I mean, I don't think Bush could have gotten ANWR opened up for drilling, but I think with Obama in another term we can see that "dream" realized as well as a pipeline from the tar sands.
Very much off topic, but we were talking about sports earlier and I am horrified to find that in NY you have to buy a 200 dollar permit and pay an hourly court time fee to play! The senior permit is 20 dollars. Now, I'm not one to go for the generational warfare but that is one hell of a disparity! I wouldn't be able to play in NYC.
As for the military-- I like what John has to say. Also, some of the veneration of the military has the feel of "This is the next best thing to serving". Andrew Bacevich wrote something about it and termed it "cheap grace" (It was about a military tribute at a BoSox game.)

D12345 said...

I do have a problem with John's comment regarding being in the military as service to the country.

We can start with the premise that the vast majority of volunteers are driven largely by economic necessity. Their choices are limited in life and the military has much to offer. Some of those people may have also bought into the ceaseless propaganda about America as a defender of liberty etc. Their choices are limited in life. They are trying to survive. And this is of course an understandable choice.

But let's consider those who have other options in life. Choosing to join an organization which is primarily used to maintain US domination of the world, suppress popular movements and protect 3rd world raw materials for the giant corporations.....this does not strike me as service in a positive way.
And after all, once in, it is not the individual's choice how he or she is deployed.
So choosing to be the passive servant of the American military machine does not strike me as wise, or constructive.

Are the operators of drone missiles serving their country? Are the generals serving their country?

But in a sense, the question has not been framed properly. And the mention of King is relevant here.

Our goal in life should be to serve humanity....not our country.

Are those in the US military serving humanity?

Not in this world,

One person's opinion.

D12345 said...

Further....I am actually disturbed at this whole idea of "Serving our country." For John to write

" I would argue that Karen Garcia is serving our country as much as any military man."

is troubling. Karen is doing something very positive and important. The military is a force of criminal destruction.

Of course the members of the military are not consciously serving the elites. They either need the job or they come from military families and it is the family business or they have bought into the propaganda.

They may be innocent dupes, but they are still dupes.

After Vietnam, I don't know how anyone in this country could think the US military is a positive force.

This is so counter to Martin L is hard to see his name juxtaposed with the idea that military service in the abstract is a good thing.

We are on the same side...I don't want to go to internecine. But this glorification of country, (now, "The Homeland!") is pernicious.

Remember those great posters the Soviets put up on the Russian front aimed at the Russians fighting for the Czar in WWI— "Turn the guns around"

We need to serve the people of the world....nothing less!!!

Valerie said...

What we learned from Vietnam was not to blame the soldiers for the political decisions leading to war and keeping us in war. We have a country full of ignorant people (and I don't mean that in a condescending way) who are easily manipulated. And some of those young people - who have few job options thanks to offshoring factory jobs - get manipulated into "serving their country" as soldiers. Yes, of course, there are the gung ho ones who just love the idea of blowing stuff up - just like there really are welfare queens who scam the system - but most of the soldiers who risk their lives, limbs and mental health are convinced that they are doing it for a higher purpose.

We haven't been teaching people in this country to think for themselves for years, so many are seduced by propaganda. From a psychological point of view, the soldiers HAVE to believe that what they are doing is protecting America from foreign invaders. The idea that they are fighting them over there so that they don't have to fight them on American soil is pervasive. And that they are protecting and helping the innocent people of Iraq and Afghanistan who truly want change and a democratic way of life. The brainwashing that goes on in the echo chamber of the military is constant and strong. Why else would young people go into that hell hole?

While I am completely against these wars - and am even considering voting for Ron Paul just because I want out of these wars so badly - I do not blame the soldiers in general. It is the military "leadership" - those who never see combat - and the "leadership" and hawks in our government who are to be condemned.

In a perfect world, every member of Congress and every president and vice president who votes to start a war or keep a war going should have to send a child into combat. If they refuse, they don’t get to vote in favour of a war. And wars have to be funded by taxes that are paid NOW and not at some future date. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would have been over a long time ago if gas at the pump had been taxed a dollar or two per gallon to pay for these wars. Let’s see some shared sacrifice. Shaking the hand of a soldier in uniform and thanking that person for service to his/her country or sticking a yellow ribbon magnet on the back of a giant SUV just doesn’t cut it.

John in Lafayette said...

Two things here. First, if the military is a force of criminal destruction, it isn't the fault of the military. They answer to a civilian authority. They do as they are told by the President. The military is like any other weapon; when used improperly it can be extremely destructive, but the weapon isn't evil in and of itself. Sometimes it can be used for a positive purpose.

Second, now and again some positive purpose requires the use of military force; sometimes the people needing to be opposed will answer to no other form of persuasion. Would slavery have been ended without having gone to war? Would Hitler have been stopped?* Milosevic? The Moslem population of Kosovo certainly think the US military is a positive force, as do the people of Korea. As do countless Americans who rely on the National Guard when disaster strikes.

Certainly our use of military force has all too often been at the behest of commercial, and not humanitarian, interests. And certainly our military has grown far too large. The armaments industry and other corporate interests that feed the military have grown much too powerful.** But it's the interests of those corporations that drive the war machine, not the interests of the people in the military. Those people don't like going to war. After all, when we go to war, they're ones getting shot at.

*My family exists today only because the US Army liberated Dachau. I'd say that was a pretty legitimate, positive use of military force. I'm glad we killed Germans to achieve that particualr goal.

**And remember, it was Eisenhower - a military man - who warned us of the dangers of allowing the military/idustrial complex to gain too much power.

4Runner said...

Another aspect of the military: it is socialism in action. I served 2 years in the peacetime US Army. Was fed 3 meals/day, given free clothing and medical/dental care, was housed comfortably and paid monthly. After basic training I got transported across the Atlantic Ocean via troopship and then spent 18 months in Paris. Which enabled me to travel all over Western Europe on the cheap. After being discharged I was awarded 4 years of free college on the GI Bill. Am now VA benefits eligible and can mention (but do not brag) that I'm a "vet". Socialism rules!!

D12345 said...

I will try one more time.

1. I am not blaming the poor largely desperate volunteers in today's US military.

2. The two wars cited, Civil War and WWII were fought with the massive enlistment of civilians. Yes there are times when humanity demands that wars be fought....and people accept that necessity.

3. That is a far cry from having a huge war machine which dominates the world, has bases in every imaginable place and is in the service of a relentless imperial power.

The vast number of dictators in the world are there because the US placed them there after destroying popular movements.

The US has been the implacable enemy of popular economic democracy,

Those bases in every corner of the globe are there to protect US corporations.

The fact that the soldiers have no choice in what they do, and choose to serve a force which has been tremendously destructive in modern times, may mean that they are misguided, or that they are desperate. But they are not deserving of a place of honor.

Regarding Korea, I recommend IF Stone, "The Secret History of the Korean War." Stone was, of course, a dedicated leftist, but Bruce Cummings, a modern historian echoes many of his findings.

Protecting the Korean people was the farthest thing from the minds of Truman, Dulles etc.

But all of the blather about our brave men and women is all part of the resurgence of the glorification of the military which has emerged since 9/11.

Some of them are brave, some are cowards. Is the man in suburban Virginia or Las Vegas aiming drones at Yemen and Pakistan a brave man?
I don't think so.

They are no braver than the insurgents who fight against them.

Bill Maher made that point and it lost him his spot at ABC.

The US sometimes plays a t positive role in the world, but generally that is incidental to the pursuit of limitless wealth for the ruling elite. And now, when they offer support to some popular movement, it is to overthrow a monster that they put in place! (see Sadaam, Shah, etc.)

And yes, Eisenhower made a speech....big deal. He authorized the coup in Guatemala, Enthroned the Dulles boys, cowered before McCarthy, chose Nixon as his vice president (when Nixon was at his worst!!!)

Let's glorify the Berrigans, Debs, Bertrand Russell, King, and others who
stand up against the power of the imperial state.

The soldiers in today's military are essentially being used.

My opinion.

John in Lafayette said...


I think you're missing my point. I'm not trying to glorify the men and women who serve in the military, at least not any more than I glorify anyone who acts from what they perceive to be the best of motives. Nor am I trying to justify the way the military is being used.

What I am trying to say is that the misuse of the miltary is not the fault of the military. They carry out orders; it's their civilian leadership - read: President Obama and his cronies - that gives them. It's also the civilian leadership that decides the size of, and purpose for, our military. One doesn't become a hero simply by virtue of enlisting, but one doesn't become a villain, or a dupe, in the same way, either.

By all means, let's glorify King and Russell. But that doesn't mean we can't also glorify people like my friend Roy Pickel (now deceased), who helped liberate my great-grandfather from Dachau, or the people who put a stop to ethnic cleansing.

A couple problems:

You didn't really want to bring up the Red Army as a proper use of a military force, did you? The Red Army stood up against the power of the imperial state??? The Red Army WAS the power of an imperial state.

The Civil War was fought with a very large number of conscripts, many of whom objected quite strongly to being impressed. The draft, in fact started with the Civil War because neither Davis nor Lincoln could raise nearly enough volunteers. The Confederacy started drafting conscripts nearly a year before the Union did. New York had draft riots. Southern soldiers called it a rich man's fight and a poor man's war.

Anonymous said...


You state we are responsible for the vast number of dictators in the world and they were placed there after we destroyed popular movements. I take that you mean present day. I abhor our military interventions and covert operations, but I'd be interested in your list of present dictators that you count as our responsibility. Will you indulge me with your list?


Valerie said...

OK - Back to Schneiderman fighting on our behalf.

I just got a petition alert from Credo so if anyone want to sign it - they have one going. It basically says we side with Schneiderman. Once again, I made a phone call to the White House. I know Obama doesn't give a crap about what his former supporters think but there is little I feel I can do to support Scheiderman who is out there on a limb - pretty much by himself - other than try to put a little pressure on Obama to leave him alone and let him do his job. If I lived in D.C., I'd be outside the White House with a sign.