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Inside Job: Obama and the Wall Street Mafia


John Simkin
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I watched a DVD of Inside Job (2010) a documentary film about the late-2000s financial crisis directed by Charles H. Ferguson. It is a film that I would recommend everyone to see. Ferguson has described the film as being about "the systemic corruption of the United States by the financial services industry and the consequences of that systemic corruption."

I knew most of the story but the interviews were fascinating. Most of the main conspirators were unwilling to be interviewed by Ferguson. However, the film does include clips from the testimony given before Congress. Ferguson was able to interview some of the academics who played a vital role in the scam. To my surprise they did not seem to be aware of the immorality of taking large sums of money to write reports that provided cover for the conspirators to rob innocent people of their pension funds.

Ferguson shows the role that Clinton and Bush played in this financial scandal. He also showed how Obama is under the control of the Wall Street Mafia and the same group of people are still in control of the US economy. This is why the people behind the scandal have not been punished for their crimes. Nor have there been any attempt by the authorities to get back the large sums of money the bank executives and their political placemen have stolen from the people (via their pension funds).

I found one statement in the film very significant. Apparently, for the first time in history, the majority of the American public, are financially worse off than their parents. According to Marx, that places us in a revolutionary situation.

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Guest Tom Scully

But, John....look at all the lives "journalists" and politicians are saving, compared to the reaction to being subordinated and crushed, Marx ascribed to an informed populace reacting rationally.

What a relief, the idea that the media and the pols have no agenda to turn almost all of us into serfs with a third world level of living conditions/compensation, social unsafety net, motivated by their own ambition to gain whatever might be in it for themselves. I only post this because the word, "savvy" seems to explain the total lack of commitment by "the left", to anything but Wall Street interests....

Substitute "savviness" for soullessness, and maybe this will be helpful in explaining the American (English speaking nations) property party, a one party system with two right wings, one democrat, and the other republican, vs. "the sheep", the clueless and seemingly indifferent, living paycheck to paycheck, (if they can even find work...) vast majorities in Australia, Canada, the UK, and in the US.

http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/2862328.html

30 August 2011

Political coverage in Australia is broken because journalists are identifying with the wrong people.

Why political coverage is broken

The following is a transcript of Jay Rosen's keynote address at New News 2011, part of the Melbourne Writers Festival, co-sponsored by the Public Interest Journalism Foundation at Swinburne University of Technology. (Melbourne, Australia, August 26, 2011.)

This talk had its origins in my appearance about a year ago on the ABC's Lateline with Leigh Sales. We were discussing election coverage that looks at the campaign as a kind of sporting event. Every day journalists can ask, "who's ahead" and "what is the strategy for winning?" A perspective that appeals to political reporters, I said, because it puts them "on the inside, looking at the campaign the way the operatives do."

I then mentioned the ABC's Sunday morning program, The Insiders. And I asked Leigh Sales if it was true that the insiders were, on that program, the journalists. She said: "That is right." I said: "That's remarkable." She… well, she changed the subject. And let me add right away that Leigh Sales is one of the most intelligent journalists I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

So this is my theme tonight: how did we get to the point where it seems entirely natural for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to describe political journalists appearing on its air as "the insiders?" Don't you think that's a little strange? I do. Promoting journalists as insiders in front of the outsiders, the viewers, the electorate… this is a clue to what's broken about political coverage in the US and Australia. Here's how I would summarise it: things are out of alignment. Journalists are identifying with the wrong people. Therefore the kind of work they are doing is not as useful as we need it to be.

Part of the problem was identified by Lindsay Tanner in his book, Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy. He points out how often the Australian press reframes politics as entertainment, seizing on trivial episodes that amuse or titillate and then blowing them up until they start to seem important. I'm not going to dwell on this because Tanner has it well covered. So did my mentor in graduate school, Neil Postman, in his 1985 classic, Amusing Ourselves To Death.

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/08/31/media/index.html

....But then I saw the Tweet That Explains Everything. A momentous controversy erupted earlier this afternoon when President Obama announced that he wanted to deliver a speech about jobs to a joint session of Congress next Thursday at 9:00 p.m., which happens to be the same date and time of a planned GOP presidential debate, prompting House Speaker John Boehner to respond that he would convene a joint session on Wednesday -- the day before -- but not on Thursday.

The profound issues raised by this conflict prompted an orgy of probing analysis and vibrant debate among political journalists, party spokespeople and various partisan loyalists over who was being dishonest and Outrageous (indeed, so weighty and consequential is this showdown that it even subordinated the day's prior top news story involving the scheduling snafus of Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann in Iowa). Thankfully, we have a free and adversarial watchdog media in this nation to sort out the competing claims and to keep the citizenry informed and focused with respect to the Wednesday/Thursday conflict, which is what produced this aforementioned Tweet:

todd1.png

Also today, this report appeared, referring to this U.S. diplomatic cable released this week :

Wikileaks Reveals Atrocities by U.S. Forces

Chuck Todd won't be going on "#Hardball" -- or any other television news program -- to discuss that story, nor will virtually anyone else be doing so (such matters will not be mentioned at all, except to explain how it is WikiLeaks who are the Real Criminals). And that contrast explains virtually everything there is to say; as I said earlier today as this speech scheduling crisis emerged: "I hope this Tuesday v. Wednesday [sic] drama goes on for at least a week - will be so valuable for historians trying to explain things."

UPDATE: Here is the headline and sub-headline from the NYT article on this conflict; to read it and realize that it is the top story on the paper's website is to hear "imperial collapse" like few other things convey (click on image to enlarge):

nyt.png

From a TV programmer's point of view the advantage of politics-as-entertainment is that the main characters, the politicians themselves, work for free! The media doesn't have to pay them because taxpayers do. The sets are provided by the Government, the plots by the party leaders, backbenchers and spin doctors. Politics as problem-solving or consensus-building would be more expensive to cover. Politics as entertainment is simply a low-cost alternative....

....Now I'm going to teach you a little press critic's trick: one way to detect the dominant ideas at play in any familiar form of journalism is to ask how that form positions the users. Politics as a game played by the insiders positions us as connoisseurs of our own bamboozlement. Or, alternatively, we can feel like insiders ourselves. Which brings me to a second idea we could do without…

The cult of savviness

In the United States, most of the people who report on politics aren't trying to advance an ideology. But I think they have an ideology, a belief system that holds their world together and tells them what to report about. It's not left, or right, or centre, really. It's trickier than that. The name I've given to the ideology of our political press is savviness. And I see it in Australia too. When you watch political journalists on a roundtable program summing up the week and looking ahead, what they are usually performing for us is… their savviness.

So let me explain what I mean by that term. In politics, our journalists believe, it is better to be savvy than it is to be honest or correct on the facts. It's better to be savvy than it is to be just, good, fair, decent, strictly lawful, civilised, sincere, thoughtful or humane. Savviness is what journalists admire in others. Savvy is what they themselves dearly wish to be. (And to be unsavvy is far worse than being wrong.)

Savviness is that quality of being shrewd, practical, hyper-informed, perceptive, ironic, "with it," and unsentimental in all things political. And what is the truest mark of savviness? Winning, of course! Or knowing who the winners are.

To the people inside it, savviness is not a cult. It is not a professional church or "belief system". They would probably reject my terms. But they would say that journalists need to be savvy observers because in politics the unsavvy are hapless, clueless, deluded, clownish, or in some cases extreme. The unsavvy get run over: easily. They get disappointed: needlessly. They get angry – fruitlessly - because they don't know how things really work.

Prohibited from joining in political struggles, dedicated to observing what is, regardless of whether it ought to be, the savvy believe that these disciplines afford them a special view of the arena, cured of excess sentiment, useless passion, ideological certitude and other defects of vision that players in the system routinely exhibit. Therefore the savvy don't say: I have a better argument than you. They say: I am closer to reality than you. Especially if you are active in politics yourself.

Now in order for this belief system to operate effectively, it has to continually position the journalist and his observations not as right where others are wrong, or virtuous where others are corrupt, or visionary where others are short-sighted, but as practical, hard-headed, unsentimental, and shrewd where others are didactic, ideological, and dreamy. This is part of what's so insidious about press savviness: it tries to hog political realism to itself.

But even more insidious than that is the positioning effect. Remember what I taught you: to understand the ideas in play, ask how a given form of journalism positions us, the users of it. What's so weird about savviness is that it tries to position us as insiders, invited to speculate along with journalists and other players on how the mass public will react to the latest manoeuvrings. But the public is us. We are the public. But we are also the customers for the savviness product. Don't you see how strange that is?

Take the most generic "savviness question" there is. One journalist asks another: how will this play with the voters? Listening to that, how will this play with the voters, haven't you ever wanted to shout at your television set, "hey buddy, I'm a voter! Don't talk about me like I'm not in the room when I'm sitting right here watching you." This is what's so odd about savviness as a political style performed for the public. It tries to split the attentive public off from the rest of the electorate, and get us to join up with the insiders. Under its gaze, other people become objects of political technique. In this sense savviness is an attack on our solidarity with strangers who share the same political space.....

http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/February-2005/Brother-Bill-A-Look-at-William-Daley/

Brother Bill: A Look at William Daley

FROM OUR FEBRUARY 2005 ISSUE: The youngest of the seven children of the late mayor Richard J. and Eleanor “Sis” Daley, William Daley has moved beyond the family’s local power base to hold major positions in government, business, and the law. Supporters and critics alike credit him with remarkable savvy and consider him a go-to talent for plotting strategy (although he insists that he and his brother–the current mayor–“don’t talk about city stuff”). Now Bill Daley is back in Chicago, with a top job at J. P. Morgan Chase and big charitable dollars to dispense. But given his record for exceeding expectations, few observers expect his shrewd moves to stop there..

...“If you asked Bill the difference between Cicero and Plato, he wouldn’t know,” says the Chicago lawyer and Democratic stalwart Wayne Whalen, but he possesses a “keen intelligence” on how to plot strategy, to predict how people will behave in a given situation, to see beyond conventional wisdom. As a result, Daley, 56, has played politics at such a high level that his career virtually tracks the roller-coaster history of the Democratic Party through the past quarter of a century."

When Al Gore called Bill Daley in the summer of 2000 and asked him to run his campaign, Daley was the only person on both Gore’s lists of Vice Presidential prospects and campaign chairmen. “That’s a mark of how unique he is,” Gore says. ...

JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) People | Reuters.com

http://www.reuters.com/finance/stocks/officerProfile?symbol=JPM.N&officerId=506050

Mr. James S. Crown is Independent Director of J P Morgan Chase & Co since 2004. Mr. Crown joined Henry Crown and Company, a privately owned investment

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2011/01/the_mystery_of_bill_daley.html

01/ 6/2011

The mystery of Bill Daley

By Ezra Klein

Imagine I told you that one of the candidates President Obama is considering for chief of staff opposed the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, opposed doing health-care reform and led the Chamber of Commerce's effort to loosen the post-Enron regulations on the accounting and auditing professions. His major qualification for the job is that he's extremely well liked by the business community, in part because he routinely advocates for their interests and in part because he's a top executive at J.P. Morgan. His theory of politics is that the Democratic Party has become too liberal and needs to tack right. Last year, he doubled down on that argument by joining the board of Third Way.

Now imagine I told you that one of the candidates President Obama is considering for chief of staff has been endorsed by Howard Dean as a "huge plus" for the Obama administration and previously chaired Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign. Dean, of course, was the great liberal hope in 2004, and has been a key voice for progressives ever since. Gore's 2000 campaign was a notably populist effort, in tone if not in content.

Now imagine I told you they were the same guy.

This is the mystery of William Daley. Reports suggest that he'll be named Obama's chief of staff fairly soon, perhaps as early as tomorrow. But how is it that a centrist banker who opposed the Obama administration's signature initiatives has such a large constituency among liberal political types both inside and outside the White House?

Daley certainly has his backers. The Obama administration, home to many liberals, clearly likes him. So does Howard Dean, and so did Al Gore. He's apparently quite popular among business leaders, as well. His performance shepherding NAFTA through the Congress certainly sounds like it was an impressive political feat, whatever you think of the underlying legislation.

Perhaps Daley is simply an obscenely good executive vice president type: He seems to have impressed everyone who could one day promote him, alienated virtually no one (or at least no one who has come forward publicly) and effectively advocated for the interests of whoever happened to be paying him at the time.

Or maybe the answer is that the Obama administration has simply decided to tack right, and they figure the way to do that is to hire someone who legitimately believes that tacking right is a good idea. I don't find Daley's theory of politics persuasive, but if you wanted to get credit in the media for moving to the right, it'd help to hire someone who had publicly and clearly attacked your moves to the left.

But the evidence here really doesn't add up. Dean wanted more a vastly more progressive administration, but he likes the guy who wanted a vastly less progressive administration. The administration likes its own record but appears interested in hiring someone who doesn't. There's a widespread perception that the White House is too close to Wall Street, but the leading candidate for chief of staff is a top executive at J.P. Morgan. Oh, and he was on the board of Fannie Mae, too.

The Daley pick seems like a bad idea to me. The particular theory of politics he espouses seems woefully detached from the realities of the modern partisan environment -- as Jon Chait says, it effectively means "allowing extreme positions to redefine the parameters of the debate." But you can certainly read this post as evidence that Daley is a singular political talent, and the Obama administration would be well served by hiring someone able to sustain these sorts of contradictions.

If anyone has seen very persuasive arguments for or against Daley elsewhere, link them in the comments. I'm particularly interested in testimonials from people who've worked with or against him.

Edited by Tom Scully
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I watched a DVD of Inside Job (2010) a documentary film about the late-2000s financial crisis directed by Charles H. Ferguson. It is a film that I would recommend everyone to see. Ferguson has described the film as being about "the systemic corruption of the United States by the financial services industry and the consequences of that systemic corruption."

I knew most of the story but the interviews were fascinating. Most of the main conspirators were unwilling to be interviewed by Ferguson. However, the film does include clips from the testimony given before Congress. Ferguson was able to interview some of the academics who played a vital role in the scam. To my surprise they did not seem to be aware of the immorality of taking large sums of money to write reports that provided cover for the conspirators to rob innocent people of their pension funds.

Ferguson shows the role that Clinton and Bush played in this financial scandal. He also showed how Obama is under the control of the Wall Street Mafia and the same group of people are still in control of the US economy. This is why the people behind the scandal have not been punished for their crimes. Nor have there been any attempt by the authorities to get back the large sums of money the bank executives and their political placemen have stolen from the people (via their pension funds).

I found one statement in the film very significant. Apparently, for the first time in history, the majority of the American public, are financially worse off than their parents. According to Marx, that places us in a revolutionary situation.

This sounds like a revealing documentary, John.

I will try to look for it on the television or get a copy of it on DVD.

I thought in 2008 that we were being scammed when GWB, McCain, Obama and Warren Buffett told us that life as we knew it would end if Congress didn't pass TARP.

I didn't buy it at all, and I was right.

One of the things that cinched in it for me was Warren Buffett going on a prime time television interview preaching doom and gloom that could only be averted with the passage - right after he committed to purchase $5 billion in Goldman Sachs stock or warrants, all of which he has since redeemed for a huge profit (or at least that is what I have read).

And now he has committed another $5 billion to Bank of America/Merrill Lynch.

Forgive me if I'm suspicious.

At least for the last 15 or so years, the investment banking community (at least some of the highest profile members) have done more harm than good.

I no longer trust this sector of the economy.

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Guest Tom Scully

....Forgive me if I'm suspicious.

At least for the last 15 or so years, the investment banking community (at least some of the highest profile members) have done more harm than good.

I no longer trust this sector of the economy.

Is this what a failed "free markets" economic system looks like? Didn't AIG and all major banking concerns in Europe and in the U.S., demand and receive what amounts to an emergency, "do over", rescuing the bond holders, the wealthiest with U.S. taxpayer debt legislated into instant equity?

Isn't the whole, failed mess just a serial ramping and then bursting bubble...internet stocks, broader market, housing, commodities and precious metals....rinse, repeat? Is it a sustainable system, or a series of concentrated malinvestment? Overbuilt fiber optics networks, overbuilt housing and commercial space, over invested/hyped precious metals during a period of zero interest rates and no inflation catalysts in western economies.

Would you object to the majority voting for change, restricting speculation which drives the serial bubbles, restricting malinvestment in the next big bubble, leaving all personal and corporate taxes where they are stepping aside to permit Bush tax cuts to actually sunset. Investigations and prosecution of the elite who wrecked the solvency of the banks, AIG, real estate/Fannie/ Freddie ????????????????

...and, consideration in a serious way of Buffett's suggestion to tax capital gains at levels similar to earned income, again, as it always used to be? Maybe exempt higher tax rates on investments designated as intended to benefit the society through expansion of jobs that pay decently and include medical, dental, and retirement benefits. Walmart and Taco Bell investment gains would not qualify.

Doesn't the U.S. flavor of capitalism seem to have suffered a crisis of its own making, serious enough to disqualify it from business as usual in its present form? Is the political and law enforcement dynamic reflecting this at all and reacting to this instant failure and expensive, public rescue, in any way that seems rational? How could lowering taxes, not investigating or prosecuting anyone, and making demands for deregulation even be taken seriously, or dared to be forced down our throats, when most of us received no benefit from going deeper in debt to save the bond holdings of the wealthiest of the world?

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