The Money Party at Work

We keep doing the same things over and over again and expect different results.

Michael Collins

Who are the officers guiding our ship of state, steering us through the troubled waters of a failed economy and two tragic and costly wars?

Do we have bold leaders ready to move us away from the failed policies that generated a free market kleptocracy for insiders and their masters, the ultra wealthy?

Are they brilliant tacticians who can think far enough outside of the box to get us out of calamitous foreign adventures that generate nothing but death, destruction, and ill will on the part of those we seek to "help"?

At the start of President Obama's administration, it was clear that this would be a cabinet that spanned those few degrees of that mythical political spectrum called "the middle."  The political middle, like the Hobbits' "middle earth," is a contrivance, although much less artful.  It's where you're supposed to be if you're the president.  You stand for those who count; those with the vested interests in the economy.  You are that special gatekeeper at the intersection between avarice and the nation's wealth.

Will anything truly change?

We can tell by the key players in domestic and foreign policy.

Chief economic adviser Larry Summers and Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner are the stewards of economic policy and programs.  They have a long public track record.  Summers was a key player in repealing the Glass Steagall Act in 1999.  In place since the Great Depression, that law prevented banks from wild, risky speculation.  Since it was repealed in 1999, banks have run free doing the very things that the act prevented.

Summers was also a key player in the passage of the Commodity Services Modernization Act of 2000.  That act brought back derivatives which had been illegal since 1906.  These highly speculative market products were the very thing Glass-Steagall would have prevented.

Geithner served as one of the nation's top bank regulators as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the most powerful Fed by far.  He had his own stress test for banks in 2007 and thought everything was fine.  Most of those banks are so stressed two years later that they require welfare from the federal government just to stay afloat.

Summers is guiding government policy in the most spectacular welfare program of all - Wall Street welfare.  Banks have now received twice as much in welfare payments as they received under Bush and its just beginning.

As Treasury secretary, Geithner is making this happen. He's also working to see that the Federal Reserve offered trillions more in credit guarantees for the failed banks and bankers.  Geithner also ratified what most experts called an illegal tax break for the nation's largest banks written into code by a Bush Treasury staffer.  It's a $140 billion giveaway that no one will even talk about.  By failing to repeal or even discuss it, it's become Geithner's giveaway.

Citizens aren't doing so well.  The foreclosure relief bill failed despite Senator Richard Durbin's (D-IL) exceptional effort.  That would have kept 1.7 million families in their homes.  No help on that one from Summers and Geithner.  The credit card bill of rights failed to cap interest rates on credit cards.  The 29% rates common at any bank's whim, could have been capped at 15%, President Obama's suggestion.

But there were no breaks for us.  Our so-called credit card bill of rights lacks the one right that would have helped -- a ban on usurious fees from the failed banks.  We don't get any special tax code changes from Treasury staffers but the banks get $140 billion that simply stays in place because no one in power seems to care.  This makes it clear to us who really counts.

Our foreign policy is changing in some ways.  We're supposedly reducing our commitment to the war in Iraq but increasing it in Afghanistan.  Perennial diplomatic envoy Richard Holbrooke made his views clear when he signed on with Madeleine Albright and other notables to advocate a more aggressive military policy in the Middle East.

The media anointed peace maker is now the president's special envoy to South Asia.  He showed his stuff during an April visit to Pakistan.  The diplomacy was so adept that the trip was described by a U.S. scholar as "the worst-ever visit" by an American team to South Asia in history.  It was a complete disaster."

That diplomacy was complicated by the policies of General David Petraeus, Commander of the United States Central Command.  He's responsible for the Predator drone (unmanned killer aircraft) attacks on Pakistan's western region.  The drones do a good job of killing both Taliban rebels and innocent Pakistanis.  Pakistani's are taking special exception to their fellow citizens being killed by outsiders, the Taliban or robot killer drones.

They'll be seeing more of that in the near future, perhaps.  The new policy in neighboring Afghanistan will involve a lot of killing if past records indicate future performance.  General Petraeus appointed General Stanley McCrystal to lead the war in Afghanistan.  Former head of the top secret Joint Special Operations Command, McCrystal has a reputation for rough tactics that get the job done.  Seymour Hersh called the group "an executive assassination ring" that reported directly to Bush and Cheney in the past.

Summers and Geithner have been wrong for over a decade.  They supported from the massive deregulation of banks and the enabling of the complicated Ponzi scheme referred to as derivatives.  They've continued the flow of trillions from the U.S. Treasury to failed Wall Street financial instructions.  And there's no record that they've done anything directly for the vast majority of citizens.

Holbrooke is a constant warrior in diplomat's clothing.  He even implied a threat of another 9/11 with the absurd claim that 5,000 Taliban thugs were going to take over Pakistan's nuclear weapons to scare the public into supporting a blank check in South Asia.

General Petraeus has filled in the details of that check despite the lack of public response to Holbrooke's scare tactics.  It's going to involve just the type of highly aggressive campaign in Afghanistan that has made us enemies throughout the Middle East.

Is this what we voted for?  We've got two Wall Street veterans presiding over the continued looting of the Treasury in behalf of failed banks and financiers.  While CEO's keep their jobs at insolvent banks, citizens get nothing.  After seven years in war based on shameless lies and over a million dead, we're about to move the action to Afghanistan.  We keep doing the same things over and over again and expect different results.

All aboard the Ship of Fools.


Annotated references

Images:  Geithner, Summers, Petraeus, Holbrooke

Permission to reproduce in whole or in part with attribution of authorship, a link to this article, and acknowledgment of image credits.


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You made several good points in this piece - points that I intent to investigate further.  But you said, "After seven years in war based on shameless lies and over a million dead, we're about to move the action to Afghanistan.  We keep doing the same things over and over again and expect different results."

I'm afraid I have to disagree with you on that point.  President Obama is doing exactly what we didn't, but should have done when we went into Iraq. We should have gone into Afghanistan and stayed there to root out the terrorist initially.

Essentially, Afghanistan and Pakistan are one and the same.  Pakistan is an unstable nation, threatened by radicals and terrorists, and armed withnuclear warheads. How can we simply walk away from that fact? In my opinion, that would represent the very height of irresponsibility by President Obama, and this government.  We can't simply wish reality away. It is incumbent, therefore, for President Obama to do something to neutralize that threat.

Normally, I am also against war and this nation asserting its might to interfer in the affairs of other nations.  But common sense require that we first, see life as it is, and only then as we would have it.

While I don't always agree with Obama, I do have faith in him.  So far he has proven himself to be a practical man of tremendous intelligence and objectivity.  He's also proven himself to be a man who is thoughtful and measured in his response to adversity, so I am confident that he's not going to go one step farther than is necessary to keep America secure - but he MUST keep America secure.

Therefore,it seems to me, that we must view his decisions through a very different prism from which we viewed the behavior of Bush and Cheney, and have faith in the fact that this man has a lot more information than we are privy to.

A Stately Old Ship

The stately old vessel
Limps weakly towards port
As the rolling storm begins.
Veracious vermin gnaw
At its rotting hull,
Destroying from within.
Colors that once flew proud and strong
In distant and exotic lands,
Now flutter shamefully,
Tattered and torn,
Reflecting the flaws of man.

With cheers of fading greatness,
True patriots were scorned;
Demagogues were lifted aloft,
While the ship of state we mourned.
But the old vessel was
Made of sterner stuff
By a different kind of man;
Storms and vermin and rotting hulls
It can easily withstand.

Waiting in port, a fresh new crew
Eager to take command;
A new coat of paint, and fresh colors await,
This proud ship of state's next stand.

Eric L. Wattree

Eric L. Wattree

Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everybody who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

There are a few points where we part ways.

You said: "Essentially, Afghanistan and Pakistan are one and the same."

Not really.  Pakistan is a developing nation.  Afghanistan is a disaster.  Pakistan has an army of 600,000 and a tradition of military cohesion, while Afghanistan is a series of tribal fiefdoms.  Afghanistan can't rid itself of the Taliban even with our help.  Pakistan can do so promptly if it relaxes it's full tilt obsession with the India - Pakistan border (they've lost three wars to India and have faced a hostile regime for the last several years.  If we want the Taliban out of Pakistan, we'll do what apparently we did do, have India give an assurance that they'll not start an incursion or other hostilities for a period of time.

"According to reports, the US has told Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, currently in Washington that if this plan goes ahead, US Predator drone strikes inside Pakistan against militants will immediately be stopped. The scores of attacks over the past year or so have created bitter resentment in Pakistan as they have killed numerous civilians as well as militants."  Asia Times, May 8, 2009

We'll know the deal was done if the Predator attacks stop.  The Intelligence Daily, May 9, 2009

You said:  "While I don't always agree with Obama, I do have faith in him.  So far he has proven himself to be a practical man of tremendous intelligence and objectivity."

Obama wants to put tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan.  For what?  To capture Taliban?  Every time we ratchet up hostilities, we kill locals, innocents.  That's the nature of any occupying army.  When we do so, we've not only violated a moral standard, we incur the hostility of the people of that nation, who then turn toward radicals from their own country, radicals that they'd normally despise.  In Pakistan, the nation is equally divided in hostility toward both the U.S. and the Taliban.  Why?  Predator drones kill civilians as well as Taliban and they're not welcomed by anyone.

The notion that any president can sit in the White House and order troops here and there without declaring war, troops that will kill people in our name but without our direct consent is offensive to me.  "Obama" is just a name and a manufactured image.  He's given over the economy to Wall Street and he's continuing Iraq, increasing Afghanistan, and proposing GITMO-lite.  He's essentially pardoning the Bush - Cheney crew for massive crimes by saying lets not "look back."  If that's the standard for crime, then open all the prisons up because nobody there was convicted of a future crime. 

If Obama was named "Charo," a green dwarf from a distant planet, ruling us as he does, we'd despise him.  That's why I don't worry about personalities - Obama's, Bush's, etc.  I can't have faith in someone I've never met and spent time with.  If I do, it's having faith in a storyline created by his media handlers. 

It's not reasonable to conduct massive wars when the country is faltering.  It's not reasonable to obligate to Wall Street failures all of what's left of the nations credit. 

What I see is a PR success and, short as the time has been, a massive policy failure.

"Furthest from him is best, whom reason hath equaled, force hath made supreme above his equals." Milton

I was one of the rare birds on the left who felt that, if we were justified to do anything anywhere, Afghanistan was the place.

It was not a hearty response, particularly, after I saw how the crime syndicate was spinning a new patriotism based upon the consumer reflex.  Remember "Buy, Buy, Buy!" as the way to help NYC in the aftermath of 9/11?

But I also anticipated that, surely, we'd stick around after the fact to do the right thing and help to create/recrreate a missing infrastructure.  

I was still naieve, obviously, and it had not yet sunk in that the real agenda was to be Iraq.  I don't have a close, current sense of Afghanistan at this point but I'm not very thrilled with nukes controlled by an unstable neighbor right next door.

The Bush regime should be held to account, as part of the war crimes story, for the mess left behind by their negligent consideration of of the resulting Afghan fundamentals.  Kharzai painted his pictures with purple fingers, yeah!

That's one place that I hope Obama really is forward-looking in his vision of things.

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." - Thomas Jefferson

I felt the same way about Afghanistan.  It was a matter of justice and national protection.  Afghanistan had a history of tolerance which included women's rights.  It also had a history of supporting higher education and advances in the culture.  That plus the hard core needs for infrastructure was enough to build on.

Catch bin Laden, build a bunch of roads and other stuff in return for destruction of the poppy fields, permanently, and take a hike.  But that was a fantasy.  When bin Laden was allowed to escape, I knew we were going for a long ride down Ocams Razor.

In the campaign, Obama caused a stir by saying, we'd do hot pursuit of terrorists into Pakistan because he wanted bin Landen (movie version, "Bring Me the Head of bin Laden").   It's interesting that in justifying the drones, continuation of war, and Gen McCrystal, Obama made no mention of bin Laden.  Maybe he read one of my replies on a thread somewhere - "If you want to get bin Laden all you need is a good map and a couple of guys with shovels."

What was it Al Pacino's character Sonny said to a NYC detective at the start of

Dog Day Afternoon,

Sonny:  Kiss me.

Moretti stops, stares back.

Moretti:  What?

Sonny (deadpan):  When I'm bein' ******, I like to be kissed a lot.

"Furthest from him is best, whom reason hath equaled, force hath made supreme above his equals." Milton

The United States is an unstable nation, run by radicals and terrorists, and armed with nuclear warheads. How can we simply walk away from that fact?

We have a long history of invading other countries, overthrowing democratically elected leaders if they cared more for their own country and their own people than about our business interests, and we have nothing even close to resembling a democracy. Our own leaders care more about business interests than about our country and promoting the general welfare.

In a democracy, we wouldn't have to have faith in our leaders because we'd be able to hold them accountable.

Many of the people who voted for Obama thought that he would be the lesser evil. Wars, torture, and bailouts for the rich are evil. Obama has expanded the war in Afghanistan, allowed the use of torture to increase, and greatly increased the bailouts. How can expanding and increasing evil be less evil? What we have now is even greater evil than we had before.

We have a proud history of slaughtering Native Americans to steal their land, of being the first nation to use weapons of mass destruction against civilian populations, and of being the only developed country in the world that would prefer to let its own citizens die than to interfere with the obscene corporate profits of the health care industry.

This is no ship of state, this is nothing but a ship of fools and the sooner it hits that iceberg, the better for us, for humanity, and for the planet. CON-gress is the biggest con game ever. Con game is short for confidence game. Not too many people still fall for it, but they have some of the best shills in the business, like Kucinich and Obama, and they're going to keep running their game until they get busted. And they will. Ponzi schemes are born to fail.