PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT There are many self-serving excuses for greed
As we try to grasp the reasoning behind cuts to life-saving programs while billion-dollar incomes and trillion-dollar profits are being made, we must understand that extreme wealth deadens parts of the brain. Empathy and honesty go first. Then rationality, as evidenced by some of the outlandish excuses given by the very rich for their abuses.
Excuses for Inequality
Here's what Goldman Sachs adviser Brian Griffiths said about it: "We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all."
U.S. wealth distribution has become so extreme that nearly half of America has, on the average, ZERO WEALTH (debt exceeds assets). As for income, the richest 1% seemed to perform the impossible from 2009 to 2011, capturing MORE THAN 100% of the new income gains (income decreased for the other 99%).
As irrational as it might seem to find an excuse for all this, the Heritage Foundation is up to the task, claiming that poor Americans are actually doing quite well with their TVs and air conditioners. Never mind that debt for the poorest quintile of Americans averages $27,000 more than their possessions.
Excuses for Bank Fraud
It seems unlikely that anyone would try to justify the lack of punishment for manipulating global interest rates and consorting with drug cartels. But excuses were readily available. Hyperbole made up for incomprehensibility. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson warned us that without a bailout the world economy would collapse "within 24 hours." Assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer added that with criminal charges "the entire banking system would have been destabilised."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Chuck Hagel Ambushed by the Senate GOP
So the Senate GOP successfully filibustered the nomination of Chuck Hagel to become Secretary of Defense, replacing Leon Panetta. This is the first time that a defense secretary nomination has been stalled by a filibuster – and this is a filibuster to prevent a vote from even happening.
In part, Harry Reid and Carl Levin deserve some of the blame for this, because per the flaccid Democratic caucus, they led the opposition to eliminating obstructive non-filibuster filibusters such as this. They wanted to make nice, nice with the Republicans and reach a "gentleman's agreement" with Mitch McConnell. That's an oxymoron right there, a "gentleman's agreement" with McConnell and his band of political cutthroats.
As reported by NPR, Reid commented on the latest GOP use of an improvised explosive device to bollix up the governance of the United States:
"Just when you thought things couldn't get worse, it gets worse" said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the majority leader. Reid said he planned to schedule another procedural vote for the week after next to try to advance Hagel's nomination to a final vote.
Harry Reid, you have no one to blame but yourself for holding out your hand yet again to hostage takers and expecting them to stop taking hostages. Hey, Harry, they are hardwired to be pernicious and ignore civility, what did you expect?
HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Admiral Miklos Horthy of Hungary is generally acknowledged to have been history’s first fascist dictator (that is an authoritarian ruler who was not royalty). Following the overthrow of a Hungarian Communist government by Romanian royalist forces in 1919, with the acquiescence of his own King he was appointed “Regent” (for the King) in 1920. He held that post until he himself was displaced by the Nazis in 1944. Italy’s Benito Mussolini was appointed Prime Minister by the Italian King in 1922, and with the latter’s acquiescence by 1927 had become dictator of Italy. (He invented the word “fascism” to describe his form of authoritarian government.) So, we have two prominent fascist dictators in essence appointed by Kings. It may surprise you to learn that the most prominent fascist dictator of them all, Adolf Hitler, got to his position by more-or-less constitutional means, in a Republic, not a Kingdom.
Following the end of the First World War, an attempted German Communist revolution was thwarted by the combined forces of the ex-Prussian Army and various right-wing paramilitaries. With the cooperation of the right-wing of the German Socialist Party, the successors to the Prussian Hohenzollern Monarchy (the Kaiser having abdicated and fled to Holland), and other center and right-wing forces established what came to be known as the Weimar Republic. (Weimar was a small provincial city in central Germany chosen as the new Republic’s capital.) Those forces created the first republican constitution for Germany out of whole cloth. The resulting Presidential/Parliamentary system governed Germany from mid-1919 until the Nazi coup d’état which took place in stages starting on January 30, 1933.
GEORGE LAKOFF FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT George Lakoff
Political journalists have a job to do — to examine the SOTU’s long list of proposals. They are doing that job, many are doing it well, and I’ll leave it to them. Instead, I want to discuss what in the long run is a deeper question: How did the SOTU help to change public discourse? What is the change? And technically, how did it work?
The address was coherent. There was a single frame that fit together all the different ideas, from economics to the environment to education to gun safety to voting rights. The big change in public discourse was the establishment of that underlying frame, a frame that will, over the long haul, accommodate many more specific proposals.
Briefly, the speech worked via frame evocation. Not statement, evocation — the unconscious and automatic activation in the brains of listeners of a morally-based progressive frame that made sense of what the president said.
(Photo: Courtesy of George Lakoff)
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Why Aren't Lawbreaking Bankers Behind Bars?
Matti Taibbi has a devastating piece on how the soon-to-be-departed head of the Department of Justice (DOJ) criminal division, Lanny Breuer, admits that the DOJ won't prosecute banks too big to fail, such as HSBC and UBS – among many others. Why?
Because as Taibbi quotes Breuer: "Our goal here is not to destroy a major financial institution."
Breuer also justified overlooking criminal activity at HSBC (and by implication other banks that have been given fines that amount to slaps on the wrist) with the reasoning that criminal activity must be tolerated to ensure that the international financial/banking system is not disrupted: "Had the U.S. authorities decided to press criminal charges," said Breuer "HSBC would almost certainly have lost its banking license in the U.S., the future of the institution would have been under threat and the entire banking system would have been destabilized."
BuzzFlash has written multiple commentaries on the injustice and danger of not prosecuting banks and bank officials who knowingly engaged in fraud, laundering money for terrorist-related banks and individuals, being bankers for drug cartels, and having financial dealing with nations under boycott by the US government (e.g., Iran). But, as we reported and Taibbi reconfirms, the US has a double standard that allows banks who engage in such activity to do so with impunity, while the individuals who are considered terrorists by the executive process, without due process, are targeted for assassination (and are killed along with an unrevealed numbers of collateral damage civilians). Furthermore, Truthout and BuzzFlash at Truthout have documented how the alleged US war on drugs in Mexico has resulted in the deaths of more than 120,000 Mexicans during the six years of the just-ended administration of Mexican President Calderon.
BuzzFlash at Truthout has lacerated the DOJ and regulatory agencies for treating financial firms as if they were the clients of the US executive branch – instead of these executive branch divisions serving the interests of the American people. As far as HSBC, we bluntly headlined a December commentary: "The New 007 License to Kill: HSBC and Big Banks". Prior to that, we posted, "HSBC: Big Bank Executives Not Prosecuted for Narco Blood Money Laundering as Tens of Thousands Die."
In the past few weeks, we have offered commentaries, including: "When US Doesn't Prosecute Wall Street Fraudsters, Taxpayers Get the Blowback"; "Consigliere Lanny Breuer, Head of the DOJ Criminal Division, Leaves Without Prosecuting One Made Man on Wall Street"; "The Covington & Burling Trio Overseeing the Department of Justice Criminal Division: An Injustice"; and "Treasury Approved Bonuses and Raises for Wall Street Bankers Who Tanked Economy," among other BuzzFlash commentaries.
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
How do I know this was President Obama’s best State of the Union speech to date? When Dick Cheney slithers out of the rotting woodwork of his underground basement, which happens rarely these days, to announce that “Obama is destroying the country” – you know that the President was saying all the right things. As for destroying countries and global economies—now that’s something Dick Cheney excels at, indeed, you could call him the Master of Mass Destruction.
But who wants to think about old Dick Cheney after hearing President Obama’s inspirational speech last night? The President seemed determined to wrestle with the most difficult problems facing Americans by setting an agenda to solve them, which range from lifting the middle class economy up, to ending voting inequities in which citizens are intentionally forced to wait in long lines in horribly cold weather for hours to cast their votes, to fixing an eroding infrastructure, to ending the wars, to boldly announcing once and for all that we must get off oil.
Wait a minute! Did I just hear Obama say we’re getting off oil for good?
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
You’re young and prone to trouble. You get triggered quickly. Someone tells you that you’ve screwed up and you’re about to lash back. Then, instead, you think:
1. Look at the other person.
2. Say “OK.”
3. Stay calm.
This is what you do. And nothing happens, except that the moment passes and life goes on. Got it?
This column is another dispatch from Chicago, murder capital of America. How many of the murders — 506 of them last year — were committed by people who had no grasp of this particular social skill (accepting criticism or a consequence), or any of the dozen or so others tacked to the bulletin board in the peace room at Fenger High School?
JOSHUA BROLLIER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On February 11, 2013, the New York Times reported about the funeral of retired Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle, portraying him as a “warrior and family man.” The highly politicized and massive public funeral, held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, points to the severe moral schizophrenia our nation has internalized. We see ourselves as the shining “city on a hill” and therefore a U.S. citizen who kills people in other lands becomes an unquestionably renowned hero. This must appear offensive and ridiculous to many people living beyond U.S. borders.
Mr. Kyle was a man who professed “no regret” for killing 160 people during his four tours in Iraq. A fellow soldier and former Marine, struggling with PTSD, murdered Kyle at point blank range while they were practice shooting for fun and “therapy” at a gun range in Texas. Despite the bizarrely karmic nature of his death and setting aside the much needed conversation on gun culture and pervasive violence which our nation is being forced to address, I am just as worried by our collective need to construct a fig leaf cover up over the legacy of Chris Kyle.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Dick Cheney's Heart of Darkness
"Everytime Dick Cheney laughs, an angel gets stabbed in the back (or fill in the bleep)," Jon Stewart declared the other night in a take down of Dick Cheney.
Cheney, whose vampire heart is still beating due to a defibrillator he has strapped to his body, recentlly took to the airwaves to trash President Obama's foreign policy, including the recent appointment of John Brennan to head the CIA, denouncing him as a "yes man" to Obama. Now, Truthout at BuzzFlash has many objections to Brennan's nomination, starting with his ownership of the infamous Obama administration "kill list." But given that Brennan held senior intelligence positions in both the White House and CIA under the Bush/Cheney administration, Cheney is basically denouncing his own stewardship on intelligence matters.
The problem with Brennan in the Obama administration is that he represents a continuation and extension of the Bush/Cheney encroachment of civil liberties in the name of the "war on terrorism." Yet Cheney vilifies his own legacy because, well because he's Dick Cheney – and virulent arrogance is his trademark.
For more than eight years, BuzzFlash covered his Darth Vader policies, bellicose and misleading statements, treachery and cunning, beginning with his insinuation onto the Bush ticket. Remember that Cheney was appointed to vet a vice-presidential candidate for Dubya, but ended up getting himself named to the position.