Monthly Archives: January 2013

Greg Palast on Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz Died for Piers Morgan’s Sins

By Greg Palast for Vice Magazine
Thursday, January 31, 2013

This is the tale of two geniuses. One on TV. One Dead.

aaronsPortrait of a Genius (Not Piers Morgan)

In 2000, Aaron Swartz, aged 14, had just released his astonishing invention, RSS, liberating news and information, replacing the selection of the tiny minds of editors with your own wide judgment.

Around the same time, one of Piers Morgan’s stringers hacked into the phone of Sir Paul McCartney’s wife and stole some highly personal, and highly valuable, information – the type of gossip used to sell Morgan’s grotty little scandal sheet, The Daily Mirror, the cornerstone of Morgan’s $20 million fortune based on tittle and titties. Electronic burglary for profit is a crime in the UK and USA both. But Piers is serving time on prime time, on CNN.

Aaron Swartz did not get a TV show.  The Robin Hood of the Information Liberation Front faced 35 years in prison for a selfless act of civil disobedience.  Swartz was charged for the crime of attempting to liberate documents from JSTOR computers.  JSTOR is the Goldman Sachs and Politburo of university research papers, a giant information sucker squid that hordes research and discoveries crucial to the public – the public which paid for most of the research.

(If Oxford joined JSTOR when Isaac Newton published, only a well-heeled elite would have the secret of thermodynamics.  If Newton worked for Microsoft, we’d be paying a royalty for the use of gravity.)

Aaron, rather than face a life in Obama’s dungeon, chose suicide.  And Piers?

Piers liberated information as well – but for his own profit.  To his loot from hacked gossip, Piers added fraud on the stock market.  His scheme:  Two of Morgan’s influential financial columnists would make recommendations to the rubes reading The Mirror. Piers bought the stocks just before they were boosted in his paper. and thereby pocketed tens of thousands of dollars when the stocks got tips went public. His co-conspirators, the reporters, got jail time. Not Piers. He admitted to the profiteering and walked away with a fine.

So how did Piers get through US immigration when surrounded by a cloud of criminality? Easy: Morgan’s a “genius.”

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Piers Morgan (L) and  US Ambassador to the Queen Louis Susman (R) at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.  The guy in the middle is a literary agent cadging free drinks.

The US embassy gave him a rare O-1 work permit, known as the “Genius Visa” for “the individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts…”.

Odd that: Genius or not, US laws, especially the mellifluously titled, “Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act” of 1996, bar work visas to those who have admitted to “the essential elements of a crime” including fraud and white collar felonies.

But the US Embassy can exercise its “discretion” on visas. And no one is more discrete than the US Ambassador to the Court of St. James, Mr. Louis Susman, whose credentials are listed as former Vice-Chairman of Citibank and “prolific fundraiser for [the] Democratic Party”. Susman’s embassy did a thorough review of Piers’ visa and stamped Piers a genius and innocent as a lamb. (Here is a photo of Ambassador Susman with Piers at the CNN launch party of Morgan’s show.)

What does “genius” Morgan have to do with the horror of the arrest and death of Aaron Swartz?

It’s the story of How The System Works—and Whom It Works For
Swartz, after creating RSS, went on to co-found internet phenomenon Reddit, then social activist group Demand Progress and was named Research Fellow at Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics.  From there, he led the national uprising against SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, which would have criminalized the spread of information and corporatized its control – all by the age of 26.  (Makes you question what the hell you’ve been doing all these years.)

I’ve read the Justice Department’s indictment of Swartz.  The charge would have made Pinochet blush—and Torquemada proud.  Swartz hoped to make public millions of university research papers, as the Great Liberator had already done for federal court records.  Our rulers couldn’t tolerate this any more than Kings and Popes could accept the printing press and translations of the Bible.

The Internet was supposed to bring us freedom by making the world’s information available to all.  No tyrant, no corporation, no commercial or political monopolist could keep vital information from even the remotest village.  But electronic democracy, the free flow of information, has always scared the crap out of the political and commercial oligarchs.

Did Aaron Swartz deny the oligarchs the ability to extract a monopoly rent for information rightly belonging to us? Of that he was guilty.  And by stopping the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” he stopped the theft of our online discourse.  Our rulers determined Swartz had to be punished.

But they would never punish Piers–because Piers Morgan is the puppet clown of the information counter-revolution.  I joke about Piers and his newspaper’s attack on my penis —but, as I’ve explained last week [See “Piers Morgan and My Pee-Pee‘] , Morgan’s un-humorous purpose was to smear this reporter to discredit my investigation of the corporate takeover of the British government, his two masters.

You might find it ironic that the government gave Morgan, the fraudster, a Genius visa while indicting Swartz, a true genius.
But that’s the genius of the system.  Democrats and Republicans, Microsoft and Citibank, not to mention the Chinese Politburo, need a huckster like Morgan who, for a mere $2 million from Time Warner (CNN’s owner) will present whatever tickles his bosses and betters.   Whether the host of Piers Morgan Tonight is fawning on the feckless landlords of the planet (“Romney is one of the least principled politicians I’ve ever met – and [so] Mitt Romney might just save America”), or merely distracting the public with Britney Spears and pretend controversies, America will be defended from real information by his puppet show.

Should we deport Piers?  Yes:  certainly America’s Got Talent has got to be a deportable offense.  But as long as the puppeteers dangle $2 million strings, they’ll just find another willing Pinocchio with the genius to let their show go on.


This is Part IV of “Alex Jones, Guns, Piers Morgan & My Penis,” my first series of columns for Vice magazine. Get the whole series at www.Vice.com – including the full version of this story. This week only, at the Vice site, readers may download my bestseller, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, free of charge.

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Mario Piperni: Stupid Is as Stupid Does

Crazy Louie Gohmert Does It Again

January 30, 2013 By

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Simply knowing that Louie Gohmert was a member of your political party should be a good enough reason for any sane person to switch. His latest:

Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said Monday night that President Barack Obama had a poor understanding of the Constitutional despite teaching constitutional law at one of the most prestigious universities in the country.

Gohmert, along with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), appeared on Fox News’ Hannity to discuss a recent court ruling that found Obama had violated the Constitution when making recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The three-judge panel said the Senate remained formally in session when Obama made the appointments during Christmas break.

“It is part of the Constitution,” Gohmert said. “I think one of the big legal ramifications that should come out of this is a class-action lawsuit by all of those who had him as a constitutional law instructor to get their money back. I think it would be a lay-down case for them.

Obama was a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School before launching his political career.

I’m quite sure that Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert is the benchmark by which stupid is measured. If he isn’t, then someone should make it so. We can start by declaring LG as a unit measurement of stupid. Members of congress could then be assigned an LG value. Michele Bachmann : .96 LG, Sarah Palin : 2.6 LGs, etc.

A few more election cycles to let demographics work its magic and rural Texas will hopefully catch up with the state’s urban areas – Dallas and Austin went Obama in both general elections. Unfortunately, gerrymandering will guarantee that Congress will always have its share of Louie Gohmerts.

Maybe stupid can’t be fixed but it can be slowed down.

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Hating Us for Our Freedom

A U.S. Protégé Is Forced to Face the Past

Rios Montt on Trial for Genocide

Efraín Rios Montt, Guatemala’s former dictator, may yet face the consequences of his actions.  Last Monday, Judge Miguel Angel Gálvez announced that both Montt, 86, and José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, another former general, must “stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity,” Elisabeth Malkin wrote in the New York Times.  Her article, in accordance with Times standards, left a few things out, among them the fact that Montt completed coursework at the School of the Americas (SOA) three decades before taking power.  (The school is now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, or WHINSEC, but “there are no substantive changes besides the name,” one of its former instructors testified shortly after the rebranding.)  His 14 months in charge were brutal, even by the standards SOA grads have set: “an estimated 70,000 unarmed civilians were killed or ‘disappeared;’ hundreds of thousands were internally displaced,” according to Amnesty International.  And his “Operation Sofia” was “aimed at massacring thousands of indigenous peasants,” the National Security Archive website explains—and was quite successful, given the 600 Mayan villages it destroyed.

The National Security Archive is housed at George Washington University, which is worth bearing in mind.  That a prominent university could name itself after the man the Iroquois dubbed “Town Destroyer” in the 1770s reveals much about this country’s prevailing intellectual culture, and its sense of history.  Seneca Chief Cornplanter explained that, whenever someone mentioned that Founding Father’s name, “our women look behind them and turn pale, and our children cling close to the necks of their mothers.”  Washington was hardly an innovator in this regard, and similar to the man who, centuries earlier, “set forth across the countryside, tearing into assembled masses of sick and unarmed native people, slaughtering them by the thousands.”  That was Columbus’ March 1495 rampage across Hispaniola, as described by historian David Stannard.  Montt was a worthy heir to this Western barbarism.

And his policies were right in line with Washington’s goals for the region.  As World War II drew to a close, U.S. State Department planners wrote of the “problem,” as they saw it, with “the other American republics,” which were “manifesting an increasingly strong spirit of independence and jealous insistence on complete sovereignty.”  This nuisance presented difficulties in light of Washington’s efforts to secure “long-term rights for the use…of certain naval and air bases,” and its wish “to maintain the economies” of Latin American nations in accordance with its principles—“quite apart from equity, it is to the selfish interest of the United States” to do so, planners emphasized.

These statements appear in documents from 1943-44, indicating Washington’s ensuing support for dictatorships had little to do with a “Cold War climate” warping the otherwise good intentions of U.S. officials.  From the perspective of these men, Guatemala entered a decade-long crisis as WWII drew to a close.  In 1944, a popular revolt brought down Jorge Ubico, the dictator Washington supported.  His successor, Juan José Arévalo, won overwhelmingly in the election held that December; he started democratizing the country while in office.  In 1951, voters elected Jacobo Árbenz, whose Agrarian Reform Law was part of a broader strategy to limit the power of major corporations.  Under Ubico, Susanne Jonas explains, the government was “active…in protecting and subsidizing (but never regulating or restricting) private enterprise;” it also repressed most of the population, keeping workers poor, terrified, and atomized—and profits high.

But ultimately it was Guatemala’s “increasingly strong spirit of independence” under Árbenz, more so than any specific policies limiting, say, United Fruit’s ability to operate, that led to his downfall in the 1954 CIA coup.  That ouster was one of the CIA’s earliest, though not without its difficulties: one official, as former CIA staff historian Nick Cullather revealed, “rallied his dispirited troops with a reminder that ‘the morale of the Nazis in the winter of 1932, just before their seizure of power in Spring 1933, was at an all-time low ebb.’”  Once Árbenz was out of the picture, the Guatemalan government acted on U.S. Embassy instructions, hunting down thousands of perceived subversives and torturing many of them in an effort to terrorize the population back into submission.  Under these conditions, the public could do little to protest, say, the 1955 Petroleum Code, which Jonas notes was written in English and a “giveaway measure” for foreign companies.

Washington’s 1960s restructuring of the security forces followed, doubling the army’s size and creating the Mobile Military Police, which expanded the state’s reach into rural regions.  These changes coincided with U.S. training for counterinsurgency units, both at the SOA and in-country, as when Colonel John D. Webber traveled to Guatemala in 1966 to monitor the new squadrons’ instruction.  Despite official rhetoric to the contrary, government repression was “totally disproportionate to the military force of the insurgency,” according to authors of the 1999 UN-backed Historical Clarification Commission—it was state terror, in plain terms, due to which perhaps 8,000 paid the ultimate price between 1966 and 1968.  But things weren’t all bad.  In 1962, a Chase Manhattan Bank report noted “the more favorable business climate” of the post-Árbenz era, in which its authors were confident foreign investment would “begin to pick up.”

Efforts to crush even the slightest trace of progressive politics intensified in the following years, and were pursued with utter ferocity in the 1980s.  The 1981-1983 period was the one in which “agents of the State of Guatemala, within the framework of counterinsurgency operations”—developed with Washington’s help, it cannot be overemphasized—“committed acts of genocide against groups of Mayan people,” according to the 1999 truth commission.  Rios Montt was running the show by this point, with the help of his cabinet, two-thirds of which—like the dictator himself—had studied at the SOA.  These were the men who unleashed “Operation Sofia” on the Mayan communities: documents on the National Security Archive’s website demonstrate that the highest levels of Guatemala’s government were involved in its planning and direction.

Another human rights report, compiled by the Guatemalan Archdiocese’s Human Rights Office, gives a sense of what this “more favorable business climate” was like.  One testimony recalls “burned corpses, women impaled and buried as if they were animals ready for the spit, all doubled up, and children massacred and carved up with machetes.”  A second described how soldiers tied up a family inside a house, and then torched it; a two-year-old was among those burned to death.  Yet another tells how a pregnant woman “in her eighth month” came face-to-face with counterinsurgency forces: “they cut her belly, and they took out the little one, and they tossed it around like a ball.”  And in 1980, after shooting a woman lame, a group of soldiers “left their packs and dragged her like a dog to the riverbank.  They raped and killed her.”

These are just four examples of thousands, and part of the broader policy of brutalization for which, in particular, Defense Minister Héctor Gramajo Morales bore major responsibility.  U.S. officials honored him for his efforts at the SOA’s December 1991 commencement exercises in Fort Benning, GA, after which Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government awarded him a Mason fellowship.  Samantha Power, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning “A Problem from Hell” never mentions Guatemala, taught at the Kennedy School before Obama tapped her for his National Security Council, confirming Harvard’s status as a safe haven for contributors to the cause of Guatemalan genocide denial.  But in civilized arenas, it seems more difficult to get away with overseeing the slaughter of thousands—one of several reasons why close attention should be paid to Rios Montt’s trial as it unfolds.

Nick Alexandrov lives in Washington, DC.  He can be reached at: nicholas.alexandrov@gmail.com.

Humor: The Borowitz Report

N.R.A. Defends Right to Own Politicians

Posted by
NRA on Newtown Shootings
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, National Rifle Association C.E.O. Wayne LaPierre warned that the N.R.A. would vigorously oppose any legislation that “limits the sale, purchase, or ownership of politicians.”“Politicians pose no danger to the public if used correctly,” said Mr. LaPierre, who claims to have over two hundred politicians in his personal collection. “Everyone hears about the bad guys in Congress. Well, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a vote is a good guy with a vote. I’m proud to be the owner of many of those guys.”

Mr. LaPierre’s comments drew a sharp rebuke from Carol Foyler, a politician-control advocate who has spent the past twelve years lobbying for stricter limits on the sale of politicians.

“Right now, a man like Wayne LaPierre can walk right into Congress and buy any politician he wants,” she said. “There’s no background check, no waiting period. And so hundreds of politicians are falling into the hands of people who are unstable and, quite frankly, dangerous.”

In addition to limiting the sale of politicians, Ms. Foyler said, it is time for society to take a look at the “sheer number” of politicians in the U.S.: “There’s no doubt that we would be safer if there were fewer of them.”

For his part, the N.R.A. leader ended his testimony by serving notice that he would “resist any attempt” to take away the hundreds of elected officials he says are legally his.

As if to illustrate that point, he clutched Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) close to his chest and bellowed, “From my cold, dead hands.”

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Photograph by Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call.

A Fond Farewell

We’ll Miss You, Sarah Palin

Paul Waldman

January 27, 2013

She’s finally going away. Really.

It seems like such a long time now, but it was only four and half years ago that America was introduced to Sarah Palin, who came down from the wilds of Alaska to set conservative hearts aquiver. Long after she ceased to be listened to for any other reason than that she said something offensive, Sarah Palin’s star has faded so far that even Fox News has no more use for her.

Her umbilical cord to influence—the connection between the studio Fox built in her house and the network’s headquarters in New York—has been severed, her contract not renewed. Some of Palin’s allies anonymously informed reporters that the decision was hers and not the network’s, but I don’t believe that for a second. Roger Ailes is not a sentimental man, and when necessary he won’t hesitate to cut loose an asset whose usefulness is exhausted. And if you’ve ever seen her talking to Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity, you know that she was actually terrible at TV commentary. Neither articulate nor insightful, she stumbled her way through a hundred appearances as a “Fox News Contributor,” offering viewers nothing more than her presence, as if that were enough. In the end, it wasn’t. But that doesn’t mean we won’t miss her.

With the delightful lack of self-awareness that makes her what she is, Palin took the occasion of an exclusive interview with the filmmaker who directed a hagiographic documentary about her, posted on the right-wing race-baiting web site Breitbart.com, to inform conservatives that they need to work on “broadening our audience. I’m taking my own advice here as I free up opportunities to share more broadly the message of the beauty of freedom and the imperative of defending our republic and restoring this most exceptional nation. We can’t just preach to the choir; the message of liberty and true hope must be understood by a larger audience.” She then proclaimed that the way for the GOP to affect this audience-broadening would be to … purge those who would consider compromise with Democrats. Never one to disappoint those waiting for some Palinesque analysis, she explained the 2012 election this way: “A moderate Republican candidate lost after he was perceived to alienate working class Reagan Democrat and Independent voters who didn’t turn out for him as much as they did for the McCain/Palin ticket in 2008.” Well put! If only Mitt Romney, who lost to Barack Obama by 4 points, could have been as successful as the McCain/Palin ticket, which lost to Barack Obama by 7 points.

Alas, there will be no broadening of Palin’s audience. Without a regular gig on TV, the only ones hearing what she has to say in days to come will be her Facebook friends and Twitter followers, a devoted group but one that will dwindle over time. She may get paid nicely to give speeches to the likes of the American Sod Federation and turn up at the occasional right-wing confab, but the sad fact is that the time when anyone cared what Sarah Palin thought about anything is passing. So let’s take a moment to acknowledge what we’ll be without when she’s gone.

There are few political figures remotely as interesting as Palin, with her unmatched combination of crazy ideas, absolute confidence despite a level of understanding of public affairs that would embarrass an average seventh-grader, and a nearly inexplicable white-hot charisma. For liberals, she’s been the embodiment of “hathos,” the thing you find so repulsive that not only can’t you look away, you derive pleasure from your hatred of it (“hathos” was apparently coined by Alex Heard in 1985, but it has more recently been popularized by Andrew Sullivan). Can you imagine encountering a politician again whom you will find even half as appalling?

Other politicians have been considered dolts—Dan Quayle and Rick Perry come immediately to mind—but none has reacted to the accusation like Palin, not only defiant but without the slightest hint of embarrassment for whatever new way she exposed herself, from not knowing what the Bush Doctrine was at the end of George W. Bush’s term, to coining inane new terms (“refudiate”), to reacting to every new controversy by claiming that the real victim was Sarah Palin (remember “blood libel”?), to that extraordinary, rambling statement she gave upon quitting midway through her first term as governor, explaining that she was walking away because to stay and do the job that the voters elected her to do would be “the quitter’s way out.” There really should be a long German word referring to the feeling liberals got whenever Palin said something even more idiotic and offensive than she had before, that combination of shock, disgust, and satisfaction that comes from getting yet more evidence that one of the other side’s leading figures is such an epic nincompoop. Every time, you could almost hear a thousand conservatives plant their faces in their hands.

Palin’s theme was always resentment, the acid bile of the culture war. If you ever felt that you were looked down on by Northeastern elitists, or people with too much education, or condescended to by people who think small towns are rather boring and not the only soil from which morality and patriotism can grow, or laughed at by people who find The Purpose-Driven Life to be a less than profound theological text, Sarah Palin spoke for you. She luxuriated in her grievances—against the establishment, against the media, against everyone from the mightiest politician to the lowliest teenager who happened to knock up her daughter (as Levi Johnston put it at one point, “It’s almost funny, that she’s like, 46 years old, and she’s battling a 19-year-old, and I’m winning”). Resentment was her instrument, her tool, her vehicle and her purpose.

But now Saint Joan of the Tundra will fade from public view. There will be no more reality shows, no more magazine covers, no more speculation about future presidential runs. A couple of years from now, you might say to a friend, “I wonder what Sarah Palin is up to these days?” And they’ll respond, “Who gives a crap?”

Mario Piperni on Big Government

This Country Was Founded on Freedom…and Big Government

January 29, 2013 By

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Were the Founding Fathers proponents of small government? Not so says guest writer John Liming.

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Some of the more vocal of the radicals on the far right fringes of nutter-topia like to blather on about how “this country” ( The United States ) was founded on “freedom” and not on the idea of ” big government. “

There is some truth to that if you look at it a certain way but if you are any student of “Real” History – not the revisionist kind that you might find in some Bible Belt  school textbooks since their great revisions took place some months ago – you might run across the fact that the original “government” of the U.S., (the one that based operations on things called ‘The Federalist Papers’ ) – before the writing of the present-day Constitution was seen by the Founding Fathers as “Too Small” and weak and inefficient to be up to the task of seeing to the best interests of the nation – and it was because of this fear of small government’s disadvantages that led to the adoption of the Constitution which was written to ensure a large Central Government that would actually be big enough and powerful enough to get the job done.

Some of the big-government-hating fanatics who like to  call themselves “modern-day patriots” are either going to spin those facts and embellish them or they are going to do what a lot of them do anyway which is simply to ignore or deny them.

So I hate to break Rightie’s bubble this morning, but The Founders, being very wise, very Liberal in their views, somewhat adventurous and possessed of great faith (If not necessarily a whole lot of virtue) created a large central government, came up with a Constitution by which to govern and persuaded the various states to give great amounts of what had previously been powers reserved exclusively to the individual states over to the Fed so that the new nation could truly be “Of the People, By the People and For the People” in every possible aspect.

That is how the nation was started and that is how She ran for at least a couple of centuries before today’s radical rightists came along with what I believe to be a power grab as their primary motivation and started inventing all the propaganda and changing all the history to suit their own purposes so that a relatively small group of dissidents, sore heads and born losers might somehow bulls**t  their way into a power and prominence they had never known because of their regressive ways, their materialistic greed, their selfishness and their lack of respect for anyone but their own ilk.

Once the age of electronic communications dawned, this bunch finally had the ultimate weapon and believe me when I say they know how to use it – and they do use it 24-hours-a-day and you know what the sad thing about some of this is?

The sad thing about what I believe to be some of the most prominent of the Right Wing propaganda myth media machines is that some of the biggest and the loudest of these did not originate in America and are not totally controlled by truly American interests.

That fact does not seem to faze some of the “true believer” bubbas however, because at least 6 or 8 million of them worship at these blaring altars and soak up every word they spew out as if it were Gospel Itself . . . getting their daily dose of mis-information and created facts – and they have been doing this for more than 40 years now.

Is it any coincidence that so many of them seem to be so dumbed down?

Yes, America was founded on “Freedom” and “Big Government” because the Founders knew full well that “small” government could never protect and preserve the degree of freedoms they envisioned for their generations.

Imagine what it would be like in America right now  if the Righties who always try to run the government down today had lived in the small government America they seem to relish having so much when the Second World War broke out?

BeckGlenn-GeorgeWashington2

If the Righties had their cherished “small” government back then, there is every possibility that we might all be speaking another primary language right now.  I don’t think the Right Wing idea of small militias could have held back the tide of terror and carnage that was raging all over Europe and Asia’s Pacific Theater.

This horrific war machine threatened our own existence and I think it is a damned good thing we intervened with our “Massively large” and efficient fighting machines when we did.

I do not think that Rightie’s idea of muskets and bayonets would have helped much in the face of those kinds of odds.

So try to remember why I am firmly convinced  there is every possibility that when some Right Winger starts preaching against our”Big Central Government” and proposing that we all regress to the days of plowshares, log cabins and muskets, what they are really proposing is a weakening of the government to the point where they can swoop in, take control and run things from their own twisted views of a world that was but can never be again.

Something to think about isn’t it?

John Liming publishes American Liberal Times.

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Naked Capitalism on Geithner

Geithner Finally Leaves Treasury, Blurts a Whole Series of Lies on His Way Out

By Nathan Tankus, a student and research assistant at the University of Ottawa. You can follow him on Twitter at @NathanTankus

I can’t emphasize enough how satisfying it is to see Timothy Geithner finally leave government. True, it would have been more enjoyable to see him leave in handcuffs, but I take my satisfaction where I can get it.

The unfortunate part about high level government officials who are utter failures leaving government is that when they leave, journalists still fawn over them. Timmy got plenty of interviews from major media outlets but the longest, and thus most nauseating, came from the Wall Street Journal. Reading it is like watching a horror movie where everyone knows what’s about to happen to the character and are trying to warn him/her through the screen. Except in this horror movie I’m throwing my hands in the air and saying “that lie was debunked years ago!” I don’t have the patience to go through each and every lie told in this interview, but I’d like to hit on the major ones.

Crisis as “Exogenous Shock”

To repeat a theme on Naked Capitalism, this crisis wasn’t, and most crisis aren’t, are exogenous shocks. They come from variables endogenous (internal) to the system at hand. It’s easy however, for policymakers to frame their responses to crises as responses to external trauma. First, it removes the agency of important players from within the private sector and the public sector. Second, it portrays whatever society is experiencing as inevitable, like sand castles washing away in the beach. Tim “I’ve never been a regulator ” Geithner evokes this blatantly false conception here:

Of course, in a severe crisis — the once in a century event, or hopefully it’s a once-in-a-century event — then the system will inevitably come under much, much more pressure. And even the strongest firms come under pressure then. And in that context, our successors are going to have to do exceptional things again if they want to protect the economy from a failing financial system. That’s inevitable.

After all, every century or so humans just happen to be giving out “liar’s loans”, pushing them on unsuspecting investors around the world, and then because they couldn’t find enough real economy risky borrowers, they had to use credit default swaps to create synthetics versions of them, and they did all that so big that they blew up the casino. Don’t you remember the liar loan and derivative trading scandal of 1908, 1808, 1708, 1608 etc? It’s just natural, so please look away.

This is what criminals and deviants tell themselves about their behavior. They just can’t “help” it and it will happen inevitably. In reality, the financial system is a social institution and its malfunctioning is the result of purposeful human action, not the law of gravity. Individual people and institutions were central to setting the stage and developing this crisis to maturity. The entire U.S. regulatory community and large swaths of are banking system were involved. Those loans don’t just pour out like an overfilled cup. Someone chooses to make them. Someone chooses to lie to a borrower until he buys the con. Real people defended this decrepit behavior and real professionals were pushed out of their jobs for not being slimy and criminal enough.

Incidentally, if you know a flood happens once every century, why wouldn’t you spend your time PREPARING for it? What, is this a Ricardian equivalence thing where any attempt to prepare for floods just makes the flood worse? With the exception of the rotting American state, most places prepare for flood season.
In reality, the financial system is a social institution and its malfunctioning is the result of purposeful human action, not the law of gravity.

“The enforcement response… is still unfolding”

This is an incredible one. According to Geithner, it’s not that bankers haven’t gone to jail, it’s that they haven’t gone to jail yet. In the fantasy world Geithner is selling to the public, all the bankers that deserve jail are going to be put in jail… at some future date. See the full quote below:

MR. WESSEL: And other side is, there were repeated accusations about not enough of them were punished to pay for what they did. You never were comfortable with that.

MR. GEITHNER: No, I felt from the beginning and I think this was always a great strength of our system that you had to have an overwhelmingly strong, powerful, credible enforcement response for the rules that they had to live with. And two things happened. One is that the enforcement response, which is still unfolding, took a lot of time to get traction because these things are very complicated. And the public saw a long lag. And of course, the other thing is that a huge part of what happened across the system was just a mixture of ignorance and greed, or hope over experience, and not illegal. Most financial crises are not caused by fraud or abuse. They’re caused by people taking on risks they don’t understand, too much risk. when the tide turns, it can have catastrophic damage.

When exactly are these “enforcement actions” supposed to take effect? The statute of limitations is running out. In addition, the cases the SEC and Department of Justice have pursued they’ve been quick to settle without an admission of guilt and with liability waivers. The most infamous was the much-ballyhooed mortgage settlement in early 2012, which amounted to a few billion dollars in cash, “billions more” in “writedowns” on various mortgage debts of questionable meaning. Perhaps they will pass a special law allowing convictions well past the statute of limitations, as long as the subject is already dead.

Suddenly though, Geithner jumps into a completely different lie that contradicts the lie he was just telling. How can the investigations into criminal behavior be “complicated”, have “a long lag” while he’s completely sure that “a huge part of what happened… was not illegal”? Put aside the fact that we have piles of evidence that contradicts that drivel. It doesn’t even internally make sense to that paragraph. It’s like detectives showing up to a crime scene, taking one glance at the dead body and going “this is going to be a long investigation but I can say right now the subject wasn’t murdered”.

“We were worried”

Geithner then goes on to muddy the waters about his role in the boom. He says things like“My colleagues and I at the Fed….were worried about the risks you saw building up across the system”. He does know that we have meeting transcripts right now that show as late as 2007 he was playing down concerns about the mortgage market and financial institutions like Bear sterns. Yet we’re supposed to believe that in 2004 he and the rest of the Fed were fighting to rein in risk taking but didn’t have the regulatory authority (which is clearly a lie)? Even if they did believe this, why weren’t they in front of Congress asking for more regulatory powers? This is all rather damning whichever way you look at it.

Goodbye Timmy, or so I can Dream

Good riddance. Unfortunately Geithner’s history as a complete and utter failure will probably guarantee him a place as “wise sage” for decades to come. I can at least hope to see and hear of him much less. I must confess to not having the stomach to unpack all the lies and the depth of them in this interview nor the other hagiographies floating around. Feel free to do so in the comments! There are still plenty of juicy lies in there just waiting to be untangled. He even begs for a history lesson about Mexico in 1995, which I may provide in another post.

Somehow I think Jack Lew won’t live up to Timmy’s vileness. But perhaps that’s just wishful thinking.

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Lovecraft

Mario Piperni on NRA Jesus

Would Jesus Be an NRA Member?

January 28, 2013 By

Jesus-Rile-2

Have you ever wondered where Jesus would stand on the Second Amendment? Well, according to National Review, there is little doubt that he would be a pro-gun lobby, shoot-em-up sort of guy.

The Democrats — ever vigilant for improper mixing of politics and religion — opened yesterday’s news conference announcing their proposed “assault weapons” ban with a prayer from the Dean of the National Cathedral, the Canon Gary Hall. As Drudge highlighted yesterday, he made brief remarks before the prayer and said, “Everyone in this city seems to live in terror of the gun lobby . . . but I believe that the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.”

I have no objection to the Reverand speaking his mind. In fact, I’m glad for clergy to contribute their thoughts to the gun-rights debate. My objection is to the substance of his position, not his participation in the debate. Simply put, self defense is a biblical and natural right of man, and I fear that his words imply otherwise. There is nothing about the cross that requires me to allow someone to kill my family — or anyone else for that matter. Indeed, I have a moral imperative to come to the aid of those in distress.

Here we go. Another right-wing attack on gun control that is completely baseless and irrelevant. One does not need the Bible to make the argument that self-defense is a natural right. Of course it is…but the type of changes to the gun laws that Dems have proposed have nothing to do with the right to defend oneself or protect family and property. The proposals have only to do with a) the type of guns one should be allowed to purchase and b) restricting gun ownership to law abiding citizens and others who do not pose a threat to others. Arguments don’t get any more rational than that.

That said, the entire premise that Jesus would be in support of NRA sponsored lunacy is ridiculous. One need only turn to Matthew 5:38 and Jesus’ own words to make the point that Jesus would have hated guns.

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

Jesus went a little too far with his turn-the-other-cheek bit, but it’s quite clear that claiming that he would have supported the gun lobby is a stretch.

Sullivan:

But when Jesus’s example is used to defend violence, to celebrate self-defense, to find ways to look away from the mass murder of children, beware. Jesus’ response to unspeakable violence was unconditional surrender and yet more still:

Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

Amen.

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