Sunday, December 21, 2008

Your tax dollars at work

The Democratic Activist

Why is the ultra-conservative Bush administration requiring no real accounting of bank bailout funds?

Aren't prudence and accountability supposed to be core conservative values?

Hundreds of billions of dollars of our money ... and ... no tracking or reporting? None, whatsoever?

What's going on, here?

Why are we allowing this?

Distilled from a recent article by Frank Rich of the New York Times:

The question in the aftermath of the Madoff calamity is this: Why do we keep ignoring what we learn from the black boxes being retrieved from crash after crash in our economic meltdown?

Last week ABC News asked 16 of the banks that have received handouts from the Treasury Department’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program the same two direct questions: How have you used that money, and how much have you spent on bonuses this year? Most refused to answer.

Congress can’t get the answers either. Its oversight panel declared in a first report this month that the Treasury is doling out billions “without seeking to monitor the use of funds provided to specific financial institutions.” The Treasury prefers instead to look at “general metrics” indicating the program’s overall effect on the economy. Well, we know what the “general metrics” tell us already: the effect so far is nil. Perhaps if we were let in on the specifics, we’d start to understand why.

In its own independent attempt to penetrate the bailout, the Government Accountability Office learned that “the standard agreement between Treasury and the participating institutions does not require that these institutions track or report how they plan to use, or do use, their capital investments.” Executives at all but two of the bailed-out banks told the G.A.O. that the “money is fungible,” so they “did not intend to track or report” specifically what happens to the taxpayers’ cash.

Nor is there any serious accounting for executive pay at these semi-nationalized companies. As Amit Paley of The Washington Post reported, a last-minute, one-sentence loophole added by the Bush administration to the original bailout bill gutted the already minimal restrictions on executive compensation.

All the talk about restoring “confidence” and “faith” in capitalism will be worthless if we still can’t see what’s going on in the counting rooms.

We’ll keep believing, not without reason, that the whole game is as corrupt as the game show in “Slumdog Millionaire” — only without the Hollywood/Bollywood ending. We’ll keep wondering how so many at the top keep avoiding responsibility and reaping taxpayers’ billions while relief for those at the bottom remains as elusive as straight answers from those Mumbai call centers fielding American debtors.

When will we learn that the "free market" simply cannot be trusted to police itself?

Are we still drinking the deregulation Kool-aid?

Still trusting with glassy eyes and lazy characters the words of habitual, unrepentant liars and thieves?

How bad will it have to get for Americans to finally rise up and put a stop to the kind of mind-blowing incompetence, irresponsibility, immorality, and criminality such as that which we've endured for the past eight long years (actually, for the past 28 years)?

When will we fully awaken from our hypnotic, consumerism-induced trance to realize that the religion of exploitative, Reaganomic "free market" fundamentalism proselytized all these years by pro-corporate, "greed is good," media-0wning monopolists has, for the vast majority of average Americans, been nothing less than a huge, manipulative sham and an utter, horrific ripoff?

Will we do so in time to pull ourselves out of this near-vertical nose dive before we splat ourselves full-speed against the pavement ... or is the pain of a brutal economic crash landing the only thing that will shake indolent American consumers out of their chronic passivity and stupidity?

I think we're about to find out.

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Above the law, below the pale ...

The Democratic Activist
Could anything, ever, actually land a U.S. president in jail? Is there ANY crime so abhorrent, so egregious, so low-down or pathological that an American president, were he to commit it, would find himself prosecuted and behind bars?

Or is the president, in fact, above the law?

From a must-read article by Glen Greenwald:

"The bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee report issued on Thursday -- which documents that "former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior U.S. officials share much of the blame for detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba" and "that Rumsfeld's actions were 'a direct cause of detainee abuse' at Guantanamo and 'influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques ... in Afghanistan and Iraq'" -- raises an obvious and glaring question: how can it possibly be justified that the low-level Army personnel carrying out these policies at Abu Ghraib have been charged, convicted and imprisoned, while the high-level political officials and lawyers who directed and authorized these same policies remain free of any risk of prosecution? The culpability which the Report assigns for these war crimes is vast in scope and unambiguous ..."

And then there's the disgusting, stomach-turning complicity of invertebrate congressional democrats who "looked the other way" as Bush and Cheney legalized torture, committed war crimes, and destroyed many of the most basic, cherished constitutional civil liberties that once comprised the very foundation of our nation ... all in the name of promoting "freedom and American values."

Quoting near the end of the article linked above:

"Here -- from July of this year -- is one of the more remarkable quotes of the Bush era; it's from Nancy Pelosi, who was explicitly briefed on the CIA's torture program in 2002:

Q: You’ve ruled against impeaching George Bush and Dick Cheney, and now Kucinich is trying to pass that. Why do you insist on not impeaching these people, so that the world and America can really see the crimes that they’ve committed?

PELOSI: I thought that impeachment would be divisive for the country. . . . If somebody had a crime that the President had committed, that would be a different story."

What kind of country, what kind of people, knowingly and deliberately allows its elected leaders to order and direct, for years, this kind of rampant illegality, utter immorality, torture and murder, on a wide scale, in its name, with total impunity?

Do Americans believe laws are actually important ... or not? That they should be enforced? Or just written and then ignored?

Is the president a king? Is nothing he does illegal? Is "moving on" more important than preserving the rule of law in America?

Does any people so unethical and irresponsible that it would willingly consent to such wickedness deserve the freedom it so devalues?

Thank you.

Pass it on.


UPDATE: Greenwald has just written another piercing article on the subject of America's reformation as a torturing nation, in which he examines the suspect notion of committing war crimes for the "right reasons." Highly recommended.
The Democratic Activist