This week, we’ve been treated to the sight of two of the more notorious con men in our nation’s recent harmonizing on the favorite theme of malefactors and miscreants – ‘blame the system’.
Madoff has been in the news for carping about how the responsibility for the guilt and anxiety he suffered during the time he spent running the nation’s largest-ever Ponzi scheme ultimately lies at the feet of incompetent regulators. Apparently, Madoff’s primary take-away from his gov’t-funded counseling sessions is that it’s their fault for not doing a better job at standing between him and his baser instincts….
Fresh from watching ABC’s This Week with Christiane Amanpour , generally the class act of the Sunday AM talking heads shows, which broadcast live from Cairo this week. She had an excellent group of US and Egyptian journalists for her round table discussion, who talked about just about every conceivable issue involving both the internals of the situation (short-term political maneuverings, the uprising’s effect on the economy, cultural cross-currents, the role of the Muslim Brotherhood) and the external factors (the Obama administration’s reaction, a potential domino effect on other non-democratic Arab regimes).
Except for Israel. Shockingly, I didn’t hear the word uttered once.
In response to:
New York Times | December 8, 2010
Where to start! This is a horrible piece of rhetoric…it doesn’t even qualify as a serious analysis of the problem. I would hope that Professor Rajan has higher standards for his students than is reflected in this painfully transparent apology for an industry gone terribly wrong.
Let’s take the glaring flaws in order:
1. The 4th paragraph is built around a patently specious, self-abnegating straw-man scenario in which the author imagines a very specific, unsavory route to “too big to fail”, as though that’s the only – or even a likely – way that firms scale. Setting aside the fact that the premise (“senseless mergers”) flies in the face of any concept of good corporate governance, the structure of the argument is one that wouldn’t get past a freshman philosophy major, yet alone her professor. Saying that something is bad because it’s senseless is circular hogwash.
UNCLE BARACK’S CABIN
(somebody had to say it)
Before anybody gets their panties in a bunch and flames me, take a moment to understand the literary reference:
“…Tom [is]a Christlike figure who is ultimately martyred [and] beaten to death by a cruel master….”
This guy is going to take the entire country down in flames in service of his messianic ambitions and crap-u-lent political instincts.
I can’t even get angry about it anymore…how to describe my feelings….? Hmm…what’s the opposite of hope? Oh yeah…despair.
In response to:
New York Times | December 3, 2010
If the focus of the trip is as described in this piece, it is yet another tragically wrong-headed blunder on the part of our feckless president. Karzai needs to be read the riot act at a minimum. If not simply dumped.
Many Americans can support, out of our native generosity, helping a committed partner to build a stable Afghanistan. But we have no such partner in Karzai. He’s a weak kleptocrat, so mentally unbalanced that he can’t even resist biting the hand that feeds him, running a narco-state. He and his cronies have stolen hundreds of millions — if not billions — of US tax-payer dollars, while making fools of us on the international stage. The stomach-churning rage & frustration that this creates domestically, and the weakening of the Administration, is only the tip of the iceberg. Anyone who doesn’t connect North Korea’s (largely accurate) believe that they can sell nuclear weapons to rogue states and lob the occasional artillery shell at South Korea with the public abuse of our largess in Afghanistan is blind to the calculus of geopolitics.
This guy needs to be cut off, or taken out. Such has always been the price of treachery towards one’s patrons. For Obama to persist in the fiction that we can somehow work with the guy is the at center of the cancer that has us unable to deal effectively with our international adversaries on both the political and economic fronts.
Afghanistan is known as the graveyard of empires for a reason. Only a fool sets up permanent camp there — particularly when the place is full of grave robbers.
So, I’ve had a number of reactions floating around in my head relative to the whole WikiLeaks brouhaha. In no particular order:
- Much of what has been revealed was only “news” because the state-of-the art of journalistic practice has degenerated into note-taking at staged press events and repackaging press releases. If the fifth estate was doing its job properly no one would be surprised that the Saudis don’t like Iran, that diplomats don’t trust Putin, that Afghanistan is a kleptocracy, that the Chinese policy towards North Korea is cynical and exploitative, or anything else we’ve “learned” from the leaked cables. In point of fact, today’s crop of “journalists” have abandoned their role of seekers-of-truth to such a great extent that it wouldn’t surprise me at all were we to discover that much of what was in the dump was already in the hands of media institutions who self-censored as part of the grand bargain that includes embedding reporters with combat units and gaining access to government officials for pull-quotes and Sunday morning talking heads commitments.
- Julian Asange may be no angel, but it should be pretty clear that he’s being slammed by US government officials (both elected and career) more as a formal reaction to having their jealously-guarded institutional control of information challenged than because of any toxicity of substance. While their sense of personal affront is completely understandable on a human level, we should evaluate claims that some great damage has been done to US standing in the world in the light of how much our reputation has already been degraded by how quickly we abandoned any pretext to principle in our self-indulgent response to 911. I had a good head of steam to write something suitably blistering when I ran across this response to David Brook’s quisling column yesterday. Ms. Garcia couldn’t have put it any better.
- In the eternal battle between the principles enshrined in the Bill of Rights and the propensity of the powerful to operate in the shadows, it’s better to err on the side of the Bill of Rights, even if there are some unpleasant consequences. As Ben Franklin said, those who would give up an essential liberty to purchase a little temporary security deserve neither. I cringe when I see those bumper stickers that say “Freedom isn’t Free” (usually pasted to the back window of a pick-up truck, just under the gun rack), but at its essence, the sentiment is dead on. Every once in a while, ugly truths need to be aired, if only to keep those particular muscles from atrophying.
- This is not to say that anarchic impulses should be applauded, or that we should ignore maxims about too much of a good thing not being such a good thing at all. But I think that Assange is a lot less anarchic than he’s been portrayed as being in recent days. Apparently he gave White House officials more than ample opportunity to review the documents and extended to them an invitation to make their case as to why any of them would put specific people or programs at risk. The Obama administration turned up their noses at the offer, under the tired old canard that playing ball would unreasonably legitimize WikiLeaks. I don’t know if they were too busy figuring out how to best cave on the $250k break-point for the Bush tax cuts to put time into it, but it’s clear that they could have done a lot more to separate the wheat from the chaff. But they didn’t.
- Lastly, it’s pretty clear that much of the hoopla coming from various world leaders is just the prelude to another round of the interminable shake-down of the US government. Look for bridges to be mended with various financial, military and geopolitical concessions. You can’t blame ’em for trying, particularly when our current President has signaled his willingness to pay any price to avoid unpleasantness. And we should really be all that surprised when he does it — after all, it’s not his pocket that’s being picked….
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find it immensely frustrating that a week or so after being kicked in the teeth by the South Koreans on a trade deal, we’re now on the cusp of being drawn into spending billions of dollars and risking American lives to save their asses from their crazy cousins. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the geopolitical importance of quashing the North Koreans — it’s critical, and we really have no choice but to man the DMZ. But if the US is going to occupy the role or imperial protector, we should certainly extract a reasonable price from the client-states which depend upon us.