Friday, May 31, 2013

The Daily Lesson of our Governing Elite

The collapse of American morality

Bucks County Courier Times
May 30, 2013

Morality and democracy are being extinguished in the United States by an immoral and undemocratic governing elite.

Corporate profit has become the god of modern American idolatry. Wall Street barons and corporate CEOs are the high priests of this perverse religion. Washington is its temple, where the apostles of austerity worship, adore and serve corporate profit.

Catastrophic levels of unemployment among the late middle aged, the young and minorities are destroying more than the once fabled prosperity of the American people. In a nation where optimism was once a national characteristic, deprivation and despair are widespread. A killing poverty and suicide are growing, quantifiable realities.

Hope is being extinguished, and with it the morality that sustains a civilized order.

The change came gradually. In service to corporate profit, tax laws allow major corporations to escape taxation. Trade policies obliterated good paying jobs and decimated American manufacturing. Congress votes massive corporate subsidies while gutting the regulations that add cost to the corporate bottom line and quarterly report — no matter the cost to the environment, public health and safety.

All of this was accomplished by massive amounts of lobbying and campaign contributions in an electoral process that is nothing more than a system of legalized bribes which makes a mockery of democracy.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the rise of Wall Street and its domination of the federal government.

Federal nullification of state usury laws allowed the introduction of obscenely expensive consumer credit to mask falling wages and boost Wall Street profits. Banking laws allowed creation of the few “money center” banks and facilitated their profits, to drive competition from the market. Consumer protections were abandoned one scheming step at a time, to nickel and dime bank customers out of billions.

The American people got used to it.

Then Wall Street bribed and lobbied its way to the combination of its banking and investment activities, giving those “savvy” crooks access to the hard assets of the American people. And in an eight year riot of greed and fraud they gambled it away, some $7 trillion and more of the wealth of the American people.

The American people woke up and demanded that those failed banks should not be rescued.

Instead, led by the presidential candidates of both parties, supported by weeks of almost hysterical propaganda and mindful of the legalized bribes of a thoroughly debased election process and the prospect of post-elected office rewards, Congress bailed out the failed banks.

The Federal Reserve pumped more than $20 trillion into those failed banks and favored corporations, while unemployment and foreclosures devastated the middle class.

The new president surrounded himself with Wall Street minders, and Wall Street operatives were installed throughout the “regulatory” agencies, reporting to their once and future Wall Street paymasters.

The attorney general of the United States, the Treasury secretary, the chairperson of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and a squad of others hold “round trip tickets” back to the Wall Street law and banking firms and major corporations they left for “service” in Washington.

The attorney general found no cause to prosecute a trail of fraud broad enough for a blind man to follow, and then headed off the efforts of state attorney generals to go after the crooks and recover some of the stolen wealth of the American people.

The chairperson of the SEC and her husband made millions representing virtually all of the big banks, which means she must “recuse” herself from any actions against those banks. In other words, the agency will be effectively leaderless in its work to police the markets.

All the while, the incentives and rewards for hustling investors and defrauding depositors remain in place and the Wall Street casino roars on toward the next catastrophe.

While American parents try to teach their children the morality of the ages — the difference between right and wrong, truth and lies, justice and injustice, compassion and exploitation — the daily lesson of our governing elite is that morality is for losers and crime pays, if you’ve got money.

The Sgt. Schultz Defense

Is anyone accountable? 
Bucks County Courier Times

“Hogan’s Heroes” was a popular television sitcom in the late 60s about American and Allied prisoners of war in a Nazi camp during World War II, who pretended to try to escape while running an intelligence operation. Stereotyped and farcical characters got the laughs.

One of the most farcical was the bumbling German guard, Sgt. Schultz, who when confronted by his superiors with the goings on of the ever industrious prisoners, of which he was very much aware, would reply: “Nothing. I know nothing!”

That defense is very much in vogue in Washington these days. Take for example former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the furor over Benghazi.

It’s pretty clear what happened. The administration wanted to get an embassy up and running ASAP in the “liberated,” post Kaddafi Libya, to show “progress.” A team of diplomats was sent with inadequate security into harm’s way. When the attack came there was no American force in place to help. People died.

The president says he knew nothing. But he must have known an embassy was being set up. After all, they are his ambassadors. But Clinton knew, and I cannot believe she did not know it was a dangerous place. And as secretary of State at the time, “I know nothing” does not wash.

But that’s what the American people got: a “mea culpa” that avoided mea culpa. In contemporary American politics, that passes as an art form and is much admired in Washington.

And now we’ll get a farcical, finger pointing congressional investigation, when all that is required to end the farce is a simple acknowledgment of accountability from Clinton and an apology to the survivors of the deceased and the nation that she was in charge and made a mistake of fatal consequences.

Don’t hold your breath. Presidential wannabes are made of sterner stuff.

As apparently was a senior administrator of the IRS, who told Congress he knew nothing of a politicized targeting of tax exempt non-profit corporations which may have crossed the line into overt politics, when in fact he knew full well.

Or consider the response to the news that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has secretly spied for over two months on more than 100 AP reporters, collecting the work, home and cell phone records of the reporters and their sources.

The Obama administration is obsessed with secrecy, and when the AP pierced that veil  to report on the CIA, the Administration secretly spied on the reporters and the Constitution went out the window, along with accountability.

It would make an interesting contest. Put George Bush and Barack Obama on the White House balcony, and see which one can throw a copy of the Constitution the farthest. My guess is it would be a tie.

“Hey, look Barack! I got due process and habeas corpus 200 feet.”

“Not bad, George! Let’s see what I can do with unwarranted search and seizure and freedom of the press.”

Now the scandal over the AP is page one, and nobody knows anything.

The attorney general, who is in charge of the DOJ, says he had no idea, because he “recused” himself when the investigation started. Decisions were left to some underling. But, there are question to be asked.

Did the attorney general give any instructions before he took a powder? Like: “Now look, guys. I know the president wants to get these “leakers,” but I’m warning you: remember the Constitution!” Or, did he bother to check up and see what his subordinates were up to?

Apparently not.

And of course, the president says he had no idea because the attorney general had no idea.

“Nothing. I know nothing!”

Very funny, for a sitcom. For a democracy, not so funny.