Archive for September, 2008

Bluff Called

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

The American people went up against some high-rollers in a table-stakes showdown yesterday, and the professional gamblers blinked. The people had to call their bluff, because the people are the only ones holding any high cards in this game. We have a vote, and we can close down the table.

It’s the Rumplestiltskin story on a grand scale. The maid pledged her first-born to a troll in exchange for the ability to spin gold from straw. That’s what Wall Street’s been doing, spinning gold from straw, on the pledge of the US government to mortgage our kids and grandkids. Except that the people wouldn’t go along.

In the first place, the people don’t trust Rumplestiltskin with their kids’ money. The people are aware that Bush, Paulson, and their cronies in Congress have been running a scam. Nobody says exactly what this money is for. Nobody says where this money is coming from. When the people try to find out, through their trusted news-suppliers, where the heck the billions are going, the policy-makers leave the room. Would you pledge your first-born to people who refuse to answer questions?

To say that bailout proponents are a collection of cynics would be an understatement. On the Democrat side, they allowed more than a third of their majority to vote against the bill–mostly, incumbents who face tough election contests–believing they could pass it easily with the help of those notorious agents of greed, the Republicans. But there weren’t enough “safe” Republicans to risk a vote for blackmail. It wasn’t principle that won the day for the people, but stark terror.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Congress, in giving the Bush plan any serious consideration at all, exposed itself as an assembly of thugs and enablers. The gamblers in banking and real estate bid up prices on everything with easy credit, pocketed the profits and commissions, and put housing and a decent quality of life out of reach of half the population. Now their equity is being devalued, as prices begin to retreat to within the range of ordinary people, and they want government to make up their losses. Only a corrupt government would do such a thing. They made their buck on the inflation of the bubble, and now they expect to be compensated because it busted?

Voters also noticed that in the “legislation” proposed by the Bush/Frank/Paulson cabal there was no provision for the raising of the money. They were just going to spend it, and they never said where they were getting it from. That’s dishonest, and the people saw through it.

How would the people have reacted if Barney Frank had written a bill that called for a one-time property tax levy, graduated, on owners of more than five million, to put the banks back on their feet? The people would have applauded, but Frank didn’t propose such a tax. In fact, nobody proposed anything except the blank-check approach. No government subsidies for college loans and small business loans. No direct assistance to mortgage debtors. No rent subsidies for displaced tenants and homeowners. No public works. Nothing but the Bush plan, slightly revised. People aren’t stupid enough to accept the first solution offered to a problem as complicated as this one, especially from people they don’t trust who have lied to them before.

As low as members of Congress score on the public trust scale, the news media rank lower. News-consumers must have noticed the dismay on the faces of the TV people–their cooperation in sowing panic has been a mainstay of this blackmail attempt–as Dow Jones declined ever so moderately (much less than the gains that brought it to its current overpriced level) and didn’t crash. There was panic among the news-mongers that there was no panic. Bluff called.

Will there be a depression? Of course commerce will slow down. That was already happening. A bailout might have postponed the reckoning until after election day, but when you spend what you don’t have, you eventually have to pay up. As individuals, we borrowed to eat and work. As a nation, we borrowed to enable our leaders to loot, waste and ravage. The bill is coming due.

As it turns out, the creditors, who said they wouldn’t lend without this payment, stand to lose more by burying their money than by lending it, and so the credit markets continue to function. It might become harder to borrow, but for the vast majority of Americans, blacklisted or about to be blacklisted by credit rating bureaus, it will be no less impossible than it is now. Let this bailout die, and let’s oust this racketeering outfit that used to be our government before we allow them to dabble any further in finance.

Racketeers’ Tab Comes Due

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Congress is about to make an unprecedented payment on the national credit line that will cripple at least two generations of American workers. Even though Democrats and Republicans have been siphoning wealth to their rich patrons (foreign and domestic) from the rest of us for a couple of decades, it doesn’t seem to have been enough. The big owners just suffered a loss of about 10% of their U.S. holdings and they’re threatening to ruin us if we don’t make a big payment. Now. Their sugar-daddies in Washington are leaving government, and they figure they had better get it now if they’re going to get it at all.

If this sounds like racketeering, that’s because it is. It’s trillion-dollar blackmail. The blackmailers are folks who accumulated dollars by selling us crap and then loaned most of it back to us so we could afford to spend. We mortgaged everything to get the money, and we bid up the price of everything with the money they loaned us. Meanwhile, the actual value of our assets (and theirs) was degraded by war, outlaw government and criminal business practices. Now, they want their money, and, if the racketeers who run our government don’t pay them, they’ll shut the whole operation down.

Somebody could have told the creditors that US dollars were a bad risk. Here’s a nation that wages aggressive warfare year after year, that imprisons large segments of its population and drugs the rest, that craves violent entertainment, that doesn’t read, that elects crooks to public office, and that believes God is coming presently to take them directly to heaven. Responsible investors know better than to dispense money to an outfit like that. These suckers fell for an old con game–churning up sales to simulate value–and they deserve to bear the consequences. But if we don’t meet their demands, the economy will crash, our leaders tell us.

Poverty is spreading like a virus, and this makes it easy to sow panic. Certainly, the commercial news media (owners of many excess dollars) and the political class have been promoting the idea that there will be a catastrophe if we don’t make the protection payment. Notice that they never tell us where the money will be going. Which pockets will be full when the trillion is handed out? Not mine, I’m betting, and not yours, either. Ask your congressman how much of it will be going to foreign investors. Ask the pundits how much will wind up in the hands of millionaires. Ask how much will be used to augment bank accounts already swollen by two decades of frantic buying and selling.

Will we be saved if we fork this money over? It’s just a downpayment, after all, and the financiers’ creditors are merciless. As extortionists, they will demand and demand and demand, and our kids and grandkids will have to sweat out the next half-century trying to meet the obligations we take on. Then there’s the problem that the money to pay the protection doesn’t exist. We can print it, but that will degrade the value of the dollars in our pockets and bank accounts, which will buy less and less. That’s already happening.

What if we refuse to pay? That will be the end of loaned money for awhile. At least, that’s what they’re threatening. My credit card from Chase Bank probably won’t work anymore because Chinese drug-makers and Arabian oil-mongers and German wine-merchants will no longer be giving Chase money to lend. It’s not smart to lend to debtors who can’t pay the money back or who will pay it back in devalued currency. When credit dries up, commerce slows, and people lose jobs. That’s already happening, too.

So we’re screwed either way. If we don’t make up the crooked financiers’ gambling losses they won’t lend us any more money. If we do, we saddle our kids and grandkids with debts they can’t possibly handle. Either way, most of us end up broke, and many of us end up hungry and homeless. All because of our profligate system, which requires us to buy endless crap, including megatons of bombs and bullets, with money we don’t have.

If I have to choose between profligate poverty and responsible poverty, I’m inclined to choose the latter. Our leaders have disqualified themselves from making any further decisions for posterity, and we should stop them from throwing our grandchildrens’ money away. Voters should pledge not to vote for any incumbent or candidate who supports this. Let the lenders grab their lost money from the billionaires who have it. Don’t put it on my tab. Economic consequences? Bring ‘em on!

Predator

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Ever run over a squirrel or a raccoon with your car? Do you remember musing at the time that that little critter was alive and sentient and then suddenly it wasn’t and being a little sad about it. Sarah Palin doesn’t get sad about that sort of thing. Rather, she gets a thrill when she ends the life of an animal, and the thrill is bigger when the animal is bigger. Given the joy with which she kills, do you think she’d hesitate to shoot and skin you if you gave her half a reason?

Maybe she would, but Palin and McCain are definitely billing themselves as unapologetic predators, she an enthusiastic killer of wild animals and he a heroic terminator of people who happened to be under the bombs he dropped on Viet Nam. They and their supporters revel in the superior status the power of life and death confers, and you could see it on the cruel, pallid faces and hear it in the ecstatic drawling voices on display in St. Paul.

Republicans square this somehow with a belief in the divinity of Christ, who was not known for his prowess as a hunter or as a soldier. This exposes Republicans as hypocrites and their piety as a sham, but never mind: Jesus is OK with war now, and he will save the warriors when the final reckoning comes, and it’s coming soon.

According to some public opinion polls, from the average American’s point of view, if you’re not a predator, you’re prey, and this explains all the Republican strutting. When all else fails, when your candidate has a face like a sphincter, act tough, and put some religious conviction behind it.

A person would have to be fairly gullible to believe that Jesus changed his views on violence since he expired on the cross, but that’s what they’re selling, and the mass media, at least, say people are buying it. We’ll have to wait for the end of the world to see who goes to heaven and who doesn’t, but many believe that the meek and unarmed will have an advantage at that point that they definitely don’t have now.

Obama could easily fall into the macho trap that Palin and McCain have set. We’ve seen him bare his figurative teeth in the past and we’ve seen him flex his figurative muscles so as not to be mistaken for prey. His aggressive positions on Afghanistan and Iran are examples of predatory posturing.

I hope Obama saw that clip on YouTube in which a herd of water buffalo stood up to a pride of lions. The tasty ungulates were bigger and more numerous, and the one the lions were trying to eat finally got away, with a couple of lions getting thoroughly roughed up by stronger members of the herd. If Obama keeps up his predator act, he could get beat up and maybe eaten.

Bust St. Paul

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

The city of St. Paul received multi-million-dollar guarantees from the Republican Party to insure against lawsuits resulting from police misconduct and other unconstitutional acts. In other words, a political party conspired with local government to violate the law of the land.

And the Twin Cities did just that. Storm troopers armed and outfitted in kevlar and gas masks by the governments of Minneapolis and St. Paul unleashed wave after wave of violent force against people on the streets to protest government policy.

There were pre-emptive seizures and arrests. There were beatings. There were gas and percussion grenades. Tightly-handcuffed protestors, along with bystanders swept up in the dragnet, were manhandled and jailed. Cameras were confiscated, and press credentials were ignored.

These two city governments violated fundamental constitutional rights to assemble, to speak and publish, to be secure from government searches and seizures, to report on events, and to maintain political affiliations, not to mention the right to walk the public streets unmolested by thugs in police uniforms.

New York City just settled with protesters arrested several years ago in that big, rich city. A two-million-dollar damage award isn’t going to bust the apple, but 20 or 30 million in punitive damages could cause St. Paul’s constitutionally deficient leaders some serious hurt.

In fact, legal strategies are being plotted, and we should all press for a mammoth class action, plus criminal prosecutions, and make sure the awards exceed whatever insurance and other guarantees these two lawless boroughs think they have.

I’d like to participate, but from a thousand miles away in Connecticut, all I can do is holler. I can turn off “Prairie Home” at the first mention of anything Minnesotan and lay off Scotch tape, but I’d like to do more.

So I’m suing my city over something that happened here in April, when George Bush paid a visit. A hastily-arranged peace demonstration in which I participated was herded into a “free-speech” zone a block away from the Hartford street down which the Bush motorcade drove. This was a violation of my rights under the Constitution of the State of Connecticut, and I decided to bring suit today, as a citizen, as a writer, and as a candidate for public office.

If all of the 200 or so people who were with me when Bush passed within a quarter-mile of us were to join my suit we could cause some heartburn among the city leaders who impeded us in our exercise of the duties of citizenship. Between Hartford and the Twin Cities, we mIght even raise a bit of money for progressive causes. My city has till September 23 to respond to my complaint, which is posted on-line at www.fournierforcongress.org/lawsuit.