Friday, April 3, 2009

Epic Crimes Committed in Your Name (Bank of No America You've Ever Known)

First off, from Vanity Fair, where it disturbs me to see this type of serious article on an uninteresting but well-recompensed fool, we learn that:

(Rush)’d become, second only to the fortunes of the new president, the biggest political story going, one loved equally by right and left. By the right because he so infuriated the left, and by the left because he so discomfited Republican moderates. He was the perfect political lightning rod, polarizing but entertaining too. The most elemental fact about the Limbaugh career might be that, outside of seriously corrupt dictatorships, nobody has made as much money from politics as Rush Limbaugh. Since this Top 40 D.J. and local talker in Sacramento went national, in 1988, as a right-wing voice, he has made hundreds of millions of dollars in salary, bonuses, participation in advertising revenue, and the sale of his show to the Sam Zell–controlled Jacor radio production company (Zell, a real-estate entrepreneur, now controls the Chicago Tribune), which was then sold to Clear Channel. His new contract, signed last summer, is worth a reported $400 million over eight years. There are, too, his newsletter, his paid Internet site with its voluminous traffic, his blockbuster best-sellers, his speaking fees, his half-dozen cars, including a Maybach 57S, his Gulfstream G550, and his Palm Beach estate with five houses. Rush’s business plan seriously impacts on the future of the Republican Party. Indeed, the extraordinary thing Rush has done, something arguably never before accomplished in the history of the co-dependent relationship of media and politics, is manage to keep his media day job while assuming something rather close to direct political power. Every other entertainer who has discovered a political mission—from Ronald Reagan to Sonny Bono to Al Franken—has had to quit show business and run for office. Not Rush. Rather, one hand ably washes the other.
Which is not a tribute to anything concerning his importance or his ability to sell himself and his sordid wares to the ignorant of this world, but a knock on what passes for knowledgeable conversation today to the glow-worm TV-ites of Knownothingism political sensibility. Speaking of Knownothingism which is about to be cured (again, although to what eventual good is yet to be known), Matt Renner tells us that (and if this doesn't make the public begin to collect names and addresses then nothing will - and I still LURVE Dennis the Giant Killer!):
Anger over the bonuses at A.I.G. blew back onto members of the Obama administration as it was revealed that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and others had been aware of the bonus payments but failed to halt them and did not express "outrage," until the bonus checks were already cashed. Further revelations of backroom dealings and million-dollar bonuses threaten to make any kind of assistance to financial institutions politically impossible for Congress. A larger and potentially far more explosive powder keg of bonus payments - this time to top executives at now defunct Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. - may be about to blow. Ongoing investigations at the New York attorney general's office and at the office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) into this previously revealed, but mostly ignored, story may add new details about who in the Bush administration, in the financial sector and at the Federal Reserve knew about these much larger bonuses and the suspicious circumstances surrounding them. In its last days as an independent company, Merrill gave performance-based bonuses exclusively to employees earning $300,000 a year or more and holding a rank of vice president or higher, according to their financial statements. $3.62 billion was handed out to these executives - a sum equal to 36.2 percent of the $10 billion in taxpayer funds that were allocated to Merrill as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) before the bonuses were paid. The company had been failing as a result of misadventures in the now infamous mortgaged-backed securities market which began crumbling with the decline of home values as the bubble burst. The performance bonuses were determined by Merrill's compensation committee on December 8, 2008, before Merrill revealed that it lost $15 billion in the final three months of 2008, unusual timing according to court documents filed by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in an ongoing suit against Merrill's former CEO. In prior years, Merrill paid performance bonuses of this type after the end of the year, in January or February of the next year. Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), the chairman of the House Domestic Policy Subcommittee under the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, signaled interest in investigating the bonus payments in a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Neel Kashkari, an interim Bush hold-over at the Treasury Department, who has been in charge of the TARP program since the beginning. The letter states that Merrill was not in "a sustainable financial position to award such bonuses without the considerable amount of US taxpayer funds ... TARP funds therefore could have had a decisive effect in funding the bonuses ..." The letter pointed out that the bonuses at Merrill "were not locked in by preexisting contract and were performance bonuses, as opposed to retention bonuses." During the A.I.G. bonus scandal, it was pointed out that the A.I.G. bonuses were locked in by contract and were thus more difficult to revoke. The A.I.G. bonuses were also structured as "retention bonuses," or money to keep people who were essential to the company's wind-down operation. While A.I.G.'s excuses fell short for critics, Merrill doesn't even seem to be able to make the same argument. Kucinich requested "all documents" relating to communications between the Federal Reserve, Treasury department and Bank of America. Bank of America bought what was left of Merrill after a shotgun marriage was arranged by Bernanke and then Treasury Chairman Henry Paulson. Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis also received a letter of inquiry from Kucinich. The questionable timing and the amounts of these bonuses were not revealed to Bank of America shareholders when they voted to acquire Merrill. These facts raise questions about what government officials knew about the bonuses and when they knew it, according to Kucinich's letter. "If ordinary [Bank of America] shareholders were ignorant of the details of the Merrill bonus arrangement, was the US government as well?" the letter asked, after pointing out that the US government owned 800,000 shares of preferred stock in Bank of America and federal officials met with both banks on a regular basis. The letter said that Paulson and Bernanke met with Lewis in mid December 2008 on several occasions to keep Bank of America on board in the deal to buy Merrill. Bank of America subsequently received an additional $20 billion (for a total of $45 billion) in government funds and a $118 billion guarantee against potential losses in risky investments - a huge pillar of support from the government. It is yet to be established by any investigation whether executives at Merrill and Bank of America looted while the company crumbled at the expense of taxpayers and shareholders.
As the "audit will not be released before the Obama administration's new bank rescue plan goes into effect. . . the plan would use billions more taxpayer dollars to back private capital from the financial sector and buy risky mortgages from the drowning banks." Pitchforks anyone? (H/t to Ornery Bastard and many others for the suggestion.) I guess it's pretty clear by now why the financial restructuring has not been done by Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz or Dean Baker (to mention a few of the stellar but really non-candidates previously available to the Obamaniacs). And no, we can't entertain comforting dreams anymore - it's over (we're over - kaput - out of there) - except for the shouting. As someone else said so wisely "Lynch Merrill!" Finally (and you should read the whole essay), our best insider friend, John Pilger, is spot on about the "Fake Faith and Epic Crimes" being committed in our names. We should commit ourselves anew to the cause of U.S. legal responsibility for its actions. (Emphasis marks the spot - Ed.)
These are extraordinary times. With the United States and Britain on the verge of bankruptcy and committing to an endless colonial war, pressure is building for their crimes to be prosecuted at a tribunal similar to that which tried the Nazis at Nuremberg. This defined rapacious invasion as "the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." International law would be mere farce, said the chief US chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson, "if, in future, we do not apply its principles to ourselves." That is now happening. Spain, Germany, Belgium, France and Britain have long had "universal jurisdiction" statutes, which allow their national courts to pursue and prosecute prima facie war criminals. What has changed is an unspoken rule never to use international law against "ourselves," or "our" allies or clients. In 1998, Spain, supported by France, Switzerland and Belgium, indicted the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, client and executioner of the West, and sought his extradition from Britain, where he happened to be at the time. Had he been sent for trial he almost certainly would have implicated at least one British prime minister and two US presidents in crimes against humanity. Home Secretary Jack Straw let him escape back to Chile. The Pinochet case was the ignition. On 19 January last, the George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley compared the status of George W. Bush with that of Pinochet. "Outside [the United States] there is not the ambiguity about what to do about a war crime," he said. "So if you try to travel, most people abroad are going to view you not as ‘former President George Bush’ [but] as a current war criminal." For this reason, Bush’s former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who demanded an invasion of Iraq in 2001 and personally approved torture techniques in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, no longer travels. Rumsfeld has twice been indicted for war crimes in Germany. On 26 January, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, said, "We have clear evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld knew what he was doing but nevertheless he ordered torture." The Spanish high court is currently investigating a former Israeli defence minister and six other top Israeli officials for their role in the killing of civilians, mostly children, in Gaza. Henry Kissinger, who was largely responsible for bombing to death 600,000 peasants in Cambodia in 1969-73, is wanted for questioning in France, Chile and Argentina. Yet, on 8 February, as if demonstrating the continuity of American power, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, James Jones, said, "I take my daily orders from Dr. Kissinger." Like them, Tony Blair may soon be a fugitive. The International Criminal Court, to which Britain is a signatory, has received a record number of petitions related to Blair’s wars. Spain’s celebrated Judge Baltasar Garzon, who indicted Pinochet and the leaders of the Argentinian military junta, has called for George W. Bush, Blair and former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar to be prosecuted for the invasion of Iraq — "one of the most sordid and unjustifiable episodes in recent human history: a devastating attack on the rule of law" that had left the UN "in tatters." He said, "There is enough of an argument in 650,000 deaths for this investigation to start without delay." This is not to say Blair is about to be collared and marched to The Hague, where Serbs and Sudanese dictators are far more likely to face a political court set up by the West. However, an international agenda is forming and a process has begun which is as much about legitimacy as the letter of the law, and a reminder from history that the powerful lose wars and empires when legitimacy evaporates. This can happen quickly, as in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of apartheid South Africa — the latter a spectre for apartheid Israel. Today, the unreported "good news" is that a worldwide movement is challenging the once sacrosanct notion that imperial politicians can destroy countless lives in the cause of an ancient piracy, often at (a) remove in distance and culture, and retain their respectability and immunity from justice. In his masterly Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, R.L. Stevenson writes in the character of Jekyll:
Men have before hired bravos to transact their crimes, while their own person and reputation sat under shelter . . . . I could thus plod in the public eye with a load of genial respectability, and, in a moment, like a schoolboy, strip off these lendings and spring headlong into the sea of liberty. But for me, in my impenetrable mantle, the safety was complete.
Read all here. And brace yourself for the Amero. Suzan __________________

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