Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Not the Smartest Guys in the Room or Anywhere (For That Matter)

Remember Jack Abramoff and the smart-as-whips (on your back) Bushies (and their Enron pals, dying just in time) who brought us to this pretty pass? Ever wonder how smart they really were? Several years ago I wrote about the Enron "Smartest Guys in the Room" who seemed quite limited in intelligence to me and their choices (like building a really BIG house) after stealing so much of innocent people's savings were worse than laughable, although with Bush himself as the measuring stick . . . . Many people thought they deserved Dante's lowest level of Hell. But what did we know? Brad does. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

One of the ugliest developments in American culture since Abramoff's obscure Cold Warrior days in the Eighties has been the raging but highly temporary success of various "smart guys" who upon closer examination aren't all that smart. There was BALCO steroid scum Victor Conte ("The smartest son of a bitch I ever met in my life," said one Olympian client), Enron's "smartest guys in the room" Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay, and, finally, "ingenious dealmaker" Jack Abramoff.

Somewhere along the line, in the years since the Cold War, Americans as a whole became such craven, bum-licking, self-absorbed fat cats that they were willing to listen to these fifth-rate prophets who pretended that the idea that rules could be broken was some kind of earth-shattering revelation - as though they had fucking invented fraud and cheating. But to a man, they all turned out to be dumb, incompetent fuckups, destined to bring us all down with them - not even good at being criminals. . . . (Matt) Taibbi's piece (in Rolling Stone) covers in detail some of the many scams that Abramoff and the rest of the nationwide Republican Network of dishonest, opportunistic players who now comprise the power structure of the Republican party - or the "vast rightwing conspiracy" as Hillary correctly described it. It's an ugly, but accurate portrait of those who have hijacked all that America was supposed to have stood for while an otherwise distracted and/or media-whipped public was trained to look the other way - or otherwise give the benefit of the doubt to some very very bad guys who have earned no such benefit.

Those bad guys now run the country, its government, its corporations and its media virtually in its entirety. And more shamefull still, they've got goons played for suckers who are so daft and gullible that, to this day, they run around and play apologist for these people who - I guess they don't realize it - are fucking them hard up their own asses with their own hard-earned money and blindly offered good-will. You'll find many of those dopes repeating Fox "News" and Limbaugh-isms over Thanksgiving dinners everywhere, and otherwise plying their foolish and self-destructive trade wherever they can. A stroll through some of the most trollish comments left here at The BRAD BLOG reveals these people have left only the dimmest of connections to Reality as it exists in 2006 on the planet Earth.

. . . All along, Abramoff was buying journalists, creating tax-exempt organizations to fund campaign activities and using charities to fund foreign conflicts. He spent the past twenty years doing business with everyone from James Dobson to the Gambino family, from Ralph Reed to Grover Norquist to Karl Rove to White House procurements chief David Safavian. He is even lurking in the background of the 2004 Ohio voting-irregularities scandal, having worked with the Diebold voting-machine company to defeat requirements for a paper trail in elections.

We're glad to see Taibbi pick up on some of our reporting as he writes . . . . And now it comes out that Diebold, the notorious voting-machine company, paid some $275,000 to Abramoff's firm, Greenberg Traurig, with the apparent aim of keeping legislation requiring paper trails in the voting process from getting into the Help America Vote Act. Conveniently, Abramoff pal Bob Ney, one of the HAVA architects, blocked every attempt to put paper trails into law, even after the controversial electoral debacles of 2000 and 2004.

...But it would certainly help to keep such bad guys from affecting so much corruption and damage for so many years before they actually get busted, if Taibbi would be kind enough to point out some of the sources - independent, alternative, "blog" or otherwise - who have been trying to blow such whistles for so long.

With appropriate credit and recognition from the mainstream, as we opined a several weeks ago, reporting such as ours and many others would likely have the effect of stopping the bad guys before they manage to wreak quite as much havoc on our once-great American democracy.

We'd hope that even the usually independent-minded Rolling Stone would keep such important points in mind by choosing to give appropriate attribution where possible in their future reporting. As we've said before: It matters.

Greenberg Traurig. Do those two words have a special ring to you by now? And if not, why not?

R. Allen Stanford and Miami-based Greenberg Traurig: Why Is It Always Greenberg Traurig? In the 1990's, Greenberg Traurig's behind-the-scenes influence as a lobbyist in Miami zoning and permitting decisions began to attract my interest. The firm, for instance, was the key organizing force for the Homestead Air Force Base fiasco. Whenever a zoning decision involving South Dade was on the county commission agenda, founding partner Bob Traurig was in the audience and frequently on behalf of converting farmland to sprawl. Environmental land use attorney, MIguel De Grandy - formerly of Greenberg - remains an influential player in county politics, mainly related to zoning and also an advisor to the unreformable majority of the county commission. Both Marvin Rosen and Jack Abramoff represented Greenberg Traurig, as well. . . . The Miami Herald runs an excellent story on R. Allen Stanford - charged with multi-billion fraud - and a new angle: the stage was set for Stanford's multi-billion fraud in 1998, the year Stanford persuaded Florida banking regulators to grant his company special rights to open a Miami office outside the scrutiny of federal banking regulators. In this unique instance, Sanford was represented by Greenberg Traurig. "There was no lawful way that office should have been opened," said Richard Donelan, the state's chief banking counsel who opposed the deal. On Eyeonmiami, I've written a lot about 1998, the year Jeb Bush was elected governor of Florida. That year and that election set the stage for the the biggest boom in housing and construction in Florida history, now in ruins. Jeb won in South Florida, and primarily through the coordination of his base constituency - builders and developers - and as a result, Miami is the epicenter of the housing bust. This is the place the gears of the machine all lined up to mesh Wall Street financial motive with political levers at the most intricate level of decision making, from state authority to local zoning allowing unsustainable growth. The boom, based on unsustainable foundations and fraud, destroyed South Florida's quality of life and environment, minting millionaires through the reciprocal arrangements of campaign contributions and politicians. And Greenberg Traurig attorneys seem to pop up everywhere.

Stanford obtained authority to do offshore banking - an exclusive arrangement-- with the help of Greenberg Traurig lobbyists from a Democratic administration in Tallahassee during the 1998 campaign for governor. Stanford does not begin to show up, according to a brief and cursory review of campaign contribution lists, as a prolific political donor until 2000. His contributions appear to be weighted to Democrats. Whose chains did Greenberg Traurig help to pull, during 1998, for Stanford in Tallahassee?It is part of the story that the Herald might have considered more carefully. There was a huge amount of political pushing and pulling in 1998.

Although Bill Clinton had won Florida in 1996, Lieutenant Gov. Buddy McKay, who served out the term of the late Gov. Lawton Chiles, lagged Bush badly in the polls.

Read the rest here. Chris Hedges addresses the pressing issue of exactly who is paying for the guilty guys to stay out of jail and the not-guilty ones to languish there for year.

But innocence and guilt are funny things in America. If you are rich and guilty, if you have defrauded banks and customers and investment firms of billions of dollars, as AIG or Citibank has, if you wear fancy suits and have degrees from elite universities that cost more per year than Brown used to make, you get taxpayer money. You get lots of it.

You maintain the lavish lifestyle of jets and spas and million-dollar bonuses. You live a life of unchecked greed and have too much in a world where most have too little. If you are moral scum in America we take care of you. But if you are poor, if you are, say, Tearyan Brown and African-American and 39 years old with four kids and no job and you live in the inner city, you are in trouble. No one comes to help you. You don’t get a second chance. This is what being poor means.

Enjoying the real end of days much now? Suzan __________

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