Sunday, October 31, 2010

Middle Class Collapse: Economic Disaster Warning **Stop Outsourcing Now**No Jobs in America?** Troubling Questions for Electorate - HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Another youngster enjoying the Halloween decorations in the public library. (Click on the photo for the full effect - sorry about the lighting!) So if the elections go as expected next week, here’s my advice: Be afraid. Be very afraid. - Paul Krugman

The Existentialist Cowboy warns us: Don't Believe the Pundits: It's Not Over 'Til It's Over!"

And the mail-in ballots are running heavily in favor of the Democrats!

Preemptive Strikes?

Like that new NBC (where Leno's revival fell flat on its face recently) TV show, "Outsourced?" Funny, eh? They hope you'll like it, but wait'll it happens to you (if it hasn't already). You'll have lots of time then to watch stoopid TV shows that make light of your futureless lives.

I know of which I speak as I was outsourced in the 90's move by major engineering and manufacturing businesses to bring the cheap H-1B's (who couldn't demand benefits or health care coverage) over here and move the good jobs over there.

Total wages, median wages, and average wages all declined, but at the very top, salaries grew more than fivefold.

Not a single news organization reported this data when it was released October 15, searches of Google and the Nexis databases show. Nor did any blog, so the citizen journalists and professional economists did no better than the newsroom pros in reporting this basic information about our economy.

The new data hold important lessons for economic growth and tax policy and take on added meaning when examined in light of tax return data back to 1950.

The story the numbers tell is one of a strengthening economic base with income growing fastest at the bottom until, in 1981, we made an abrupt change in tax and economic policy. Since then the base has fared poorly while huge economic gains piled up at the very top, along with much lower tax burdens.

A weak foundation cannot properly support a massive superstructure, as the leaning Tower of Pisa shows. The latest wage data show the disastrous results some of us warned about, although like the famous tower, the economy only lists badly and has not collapsed.

Talk about scary Halloween creatures. The latest wage data will knock your socks off. And long-term prospects for good jobs or being able to pay your bills on time in order not to be foreclosed upon soon?


Scary New Wage Data

October 25, 2010 As Bernie Sanders travels around Vermont, he hears from working people and those struggling to find jobs. The real life stories are reflected in a new report by Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston. Total wages fell 5 percent from when the economy peaked, he reported. Wages fell in 2009 for all Americans except those at the very top, who saw a five-fold leap in income. Analyzing government data virtually ignored by mainstream media, Johnston blamed the recession, of course. Another culprit he identified is so-called "free trade," which he called "nothing more than tax-subsidized mechanisms that encourage American manufacturers to close factories, fire workers, and use cheap labor in China." Stop Outsourcing Now Millions of manufacturing jobs were lost and 42,000 American factories closed since 2001. When Congress reconvenes, Bernie plans to introduce legislation to stop American companies that outsource jobs overseas from receiving corporate welfare.

Reversing the Slide in Manufacturing

. . . "During the Bush years, Vermont lost more than 14,000 manufacturing jobs, about one-third of all manufacturing jobs in the state. These were jobs that paid people a living wage often with health care and other benefits," Sanders said Tuesday.

Creating Jobs Again

“As most Americans know, our rail lines, roads, bridges, culverts, water systems, wastewater plants, airports and schools need an enormous amount of work,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said. “In my view, it is far more important to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and create millions of jobs than give tax breaks to people who just don’t need it.”

When Congress reconvenes, Sanders said he plans to introduce legislation to use the $700 billion that would otherwise be used to extend tax cuts for the wealthy “in a much more sensible way.” The tax cuts on households that earn more than $250,000 a year are set to expire on Dec. 31.

“Instead of continuing the tax breaks for the rich, my legislation will require that we use roughly half of that revenue to reduce our national debt and roughly half of that money to rebuild our deteriorating infrastructure,” he said. Sanders would keep in place the tax relief for 98 percent of American households that earn less than $250,000 each year.

My favorite thinker and very fine political reporter par excellence (Russ Baker) over at WhoWhatWhy? has a few pertinent questions for us before the next election (and I'm not questioning a vote for the Democratic candidates by publishing this thoughtful essay as the first step in any winning strategy is to defeat the forces of outright thuggery, just saying that we should think carefully about who/what the candidates are and what they have brought us/will bring to us in the future). Beware of Blue Dogs (from all directions)!

The fine folks at Swiftspeech have the ultimate election issue to consider before you vote.

Who Is Working Hardest To Destroy Democracy?

Al Qaeda Brotherhood or

Koch Brothers?

Seems like an easy question from here.

How many Al Qaeda operatives have you seen . . . really?

The Earth-Bound Misfit (who knew she was French?) has the ultimate " J'accuse!" at her blog.

The English one appears below.


October 28, 2010

It is impossible to overestimate the significance of leaks from the military to the media, particularly to Bob Woodward and his paper, the Washington Post. Quite a few of these have dogged President Obama and forced his hand since he took office (for more on the subject, see this, this and this.)

Now comes yet another leak to the Post, this time en masse, that should not be taken at face value. That is, it is not the purported news being conveyed, but the very fact that it is being conveyed, the nature of the sources conveying it, and the intended result. The article begins like this:

An intense military campaign aimed at crippling the Taliban has so far failed to inflict more than fleeting setbacks on the insurgency or put meaningful pressure on its leaders to seek peace, according to U.S. military and intelligence officials citing the latest assessments of the war in Afghanistan . . . . Officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Few will stop to wonder that most basic of things: Why would these officials be telling the Post this? Would they really just, on their own, talk about such things, despite the inherent danger in doing so, were it truly unauthorized internally?

A few paragraphs later, if we’re still paying careful attention, we get the meat:

The Obama administration’s plan to conduct a strategic review of the war in December has touched off maneuvering between U.S. military leaders seeking support for extending the American troop buildup and skeptics looking for arguments to wind down the nation’s role.

Thus, the story is not necessarily what was in the lead paragraph, namely the purported news that the offensive is not immediately bearing fruit. It is that there is a power struggle going on at high levels in Washington that will determine whether or not the U.S. stays in Afghanistan indefinitely.

. . . Among the troubling findings is that Taliban commanders who are captured or killed are often replaced in a matter of days. Insurgent groups that have ceded territory in Kandahar and elsewhere seem content to melt away temporarily, leaving behind operatives to carry out assassinations or to intimidate villagers while waiting for an opportunity to return.

U.S. officials said Taliban operatives have adopted a refrain that reflects their focus on President Obama’s intent to start withdrawing troops in the middle of next year. Attributing the words to Taliban leader Mohammad Omar, officials said, operatives tell one another, “The end is near.”

The chilling implication, similar to that in Vietnam so many years ago, is that the US simply must commit to the long haul or risk the worst. It is a preemptive strike against Obama’s upcoming strategic review. Namely, why bother to hear what Obama has to say, when it has already been said? And it raises this question: if an elected president is truly in control, then why are “US military and intelligence officials” going around doing their own thing?

Happy Halloween!

Suzan _______________

Friday, October 29, 2010

Grifting Nation: MegaBanks Stepped on Land Mine - "They Thought They Had Enough Money To Pay Off Any Legislator Or Judge" BoA Sleight of Hand?

Ashley witcheroos for the kids at the still-public library. (Click to enlarge for full effect - sorry about the bad lighting!)

Why No One Will Be Jumping From Windows (Or Committing Suicide) This Time Still wondering why the Bush/Cheney money tree will always go back to oil and energy sources? And how this deep-pocket connection and their subsequent ability to work their political will on the U.S. population has led to the end of the American Middle Class? You'll also begin to understand why Mayor Daley's sale (giveaway) of many of Chicago's public assets to Middle East firms wasn't even a tough deal for him to make to guarantee that Chicago wouldn't go out of business until he was safely out of office. I want to make a quip right here about continuing to elect those xtian Rethug Governors, but there are plenty of Dims in that putrid pie too. Anyone ready to run some people out of the country on a rail yet? I know I am. Matt Taibbi strikes at the core of the corruption again and tears them a new one. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Matt Taibbi's unsparing and authoritative reporting on the financial crisis has produced a series of memorable Rolling Stone features. He showed us how Goldman Sachs, that "great vampire squid", played a central role in creating not only the housing bubble but four other big speculative booms that filled its coffers while wrecking the American economy. He explained how Wall Street banks cooked up schemes that helped decimate municipal budgets and cost countless jobs, and how Wall Street lobbying led to a financial reform bill that won't prevent another meltdown.

Taibbi builds on that eye-opening work in his new book, Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That is Breaking America, due out from Spiegel & Grau on November 2. In this exclusive excerpt, he describes how our cash-strapped country is auctioning off its highways, ports and even parking meters at fire sale prices — and finding eager buyers in the unregulated sovereign wealth funds of oil-rich Middle Eastern countries. In the summer of 2009 I got a call from an acquaintance who worked in the Middle East. He was a young American who worked for something called a sovereign wealth fund, a giant state-owned pile of money that swims around the world in search of things to buy.

Sovereign wealth funds, or SWFs, are huge in the Middle East. Most of the bigger oil-producing states have massive SWFs that act as cash repositories (with holdings often kept in dollars )for the revenues generated by, for instance, state-owned oil companies.

Unlike the central banks of most Western countries, whose main function is to accumulate reserves in an attempt to stabilize the domestic currency, most SWFs have a mission to invest aggressively and generate huge long-term returns. Imagine the biggest and most aggressive hedge fund on Wall Street, then imagine that that same fund is fifty or sixty times bigger and outside the reach of the SEC or any other major regulatory authority, and you've got a pretty good idea of what an SWF is.

My buddy was a young guy who'd come up working on the derivatives desk of one of the more dastardly American investment banks. After a few years of that he decided to take a step up morally and flee to the Middle East to go to work advising a bunch of sheiks on how to spend their oil billions.

Aside from the hot weather, it wasn't such a bad gig. But on one of his trips home, we met in a restaurant and he mentioned that the work had gotten a little, well, weird.

"I was in a meeting where a bunch of American investment bankers were trying to sell us the Pennsylvania Turnpike," he said. "They even had a slide show. They were showing these Arabs what a nice highway we had for sale, what the toll booths looked like . . ."

I dropped my fork. "The Pennsylvania Turnpike is for sale?"

He nodded.

"Yeah," he said. "We didn't do the deal, though. But, you know, there are some other deals that have gotten done. Or didn't you know about this?"

As it turns out, the Pennsylvania Turnpike deal almost went through, only to be killed by the state legislature, but there were others just like it that did go through, most notably the sale of all the parking meters in Chicago to a consortium that included the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, from the United Arab Emirates.

There were others: A toll highway in Indiana. The Chicago Skyway. A stretch of highway in Florida. Parking meters in Nashville, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and other cities. A port in Virginia. And a whole bevy of Californian public infrastructure projects, all either already leased or set to be leased for fifty or seventy-five years or more in exchange for one-off lump sum payments of a few billion bucks at best, usually just to help patch a hole or two in a single budget year.

America is quite literally for sale, at rock-bottom prices, and the buyers increasingly are the very people who scored big in the oil bubble. Thanks to Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and the other investment banks that artificially jacked up the price of gasoline over the course of the last decade, Americans delivered a lot of their excess cash into the coffers of sovereign wealth funds like the Qatar Investment Authority, the Libyan Investment Authority, Saudi Arabia's SAMA Foreign Holdings, and the UAE's Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

Here's yet another diabolic cycle for ordinary Americans, engineered by the grifter class. A Pennsylvanian like Robert Lukens sees his business decline thanks to soaring oil prices that have been jacked up by a handful of banks that paid off a few politicians to hand them the right to manipulate the market. Lukens has no say in this; he pays what he has to pay. Some of that money of his goes into the pockets of the banks that disenfranchise him politically, and the rest of it goes increasingly into the pockets of Middle Eastern oil companies.

And since he's making less money now, Lukens is paying less in taxes to the state of Pennsylvania, leaving the state in a budget shortfall. Next thing you know, Governor Ed Rendell is traveling to the Middle East, trying to sell the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the same oil states who've been pocketing Bob Lukens's gas dollars.

It's an almost frictionless machine for stripping wealth out of the heart of the country, one that perfectly encapsulates where we are as a nation.

When you're trying to sell a highway that was once considered one of your nation's great engineering marvels — 532 miles of hard-built road that required tons of dynamite, wood, and steel and the labor of thousands to bore seven mighty tunnels through the Allegheny Mountains — when you're offering that up to petro-despots just so you can fight off a single-year budget shortfall, just so you can keep the lights on in the state house into the next fiscal year, you've entered a new stage in your societal development.

You know how you used to have a job, and a house, and a car, and a wife and a family, and there was food in the fridge — and now you're six months into a drug habit and you're carrying toasters and TVs out the front door every morning just to raise the cash to make it through that day? That's where we are. While a lot of this book is about how American banks used bubble schemes to strip the last meat off the bones of America's postwar golden years, the cruelest joke is that American banks now don't even have the buying power needed to finish the job of stripping the country completely clean.

For that last stage we have to look overseas, to more cash-rich countries we now literally have to beg to take our national monuments off our hands at huge discounts, just so that our states don't fall one by one in a domino rush of defaults and bankruptcies.

In other words, we're being colonized — of course it's happening in a clever way, with very careful paperwork, so we have the option of pretending that it's not actually happening, right up until the bitter end.

I dare you to read it all. In self defense. So you'll know what you're up against in the future USA that is right in front of us all. And if you really want to read about the "clever" thinking of the pirates (criminals) who stole/are still stealing your country, be sure to read "Why The Paperwork Appears 'Sloppy'." Right. It was not accidental. It was on purpose. And it was low-class theft. Protected by high-class citizen thieves (who have moved most of your money out of the country already so you can't get it back). From LivingLies (emphasis marks and some editing was inserted - Ed.):

The essential component of every loan that was never revealed to either the lenders (investors) nor the borrowers (homeowner/investors) was the addition of co-obligors and terms that neither the investor nor the borrower knew anything about.

The “insurance” and other enhancements were actually cover for the intermediaries who had no money at risk in the loans, but for the potential liability for having defrauded the lenders and borrowers. After centuries of lending money and preparing loan documents it seems that the least likely suspect for screwing up the paperwork on tens of millions of “loans” would be the Banks themselves. Yet that is what occurred. The purpose of this article is to show that it was not sloppy, it was intentional. And I will tell you why it was intentional.

The much expected announcement that after a thorough review they have determined the paperwork is in order is a last-ditch desperate effort to block inquiries into the mortgage creation process and the sale of “mortgage bonds” to investors. They attempted to emulate the government’s PR stunt last year with the “stress test” forgetting that they are private companies in litigation subject to discovery. They have now opened the door to discovery, which is the last thing they wanted.

Litigants can now question who was involved in this “review”, what they did, from they received information and assurances, and what documents they looked at. They can ask what was the basis upon which they concluded that they could proceed with foreclosures?

The documents were not sloppy and they were not processed sloppily. They were created and treated exactly as planned. They did it because they thought they could get away with it. They had enough money to buy off any legislator or Judge, or so they thought.

But it isn’t working out that way. It’s not the first time these mega-banks have stepped on a land mine and it won’t be the last, as long as we allow them to grow into such behemoths such that that ascribe to themselves the qualities of government or God.

The game was to move money under a scheme of deceit and fraud. First sell the bonds and collect the money into a pool. Second take your fees, third take what’s left and get it committed into “loans” (which were in actuality securities) sold to homeowners under the same false pretenses as the bonds were sold to investors.

By controlling the flow of funds and documentation, the middlemen were able to sell, pledge and otherwise trade off the flow of receivables several times over — a necessary complexity not only for the profit it generated, but to make it far more difficult for anyone to track the footprints in the sand. If the loans had actually been securitized, the issue would not arise. They were not securitized. This was a mass illusion or hallucination induced by Wall Street spiking the punch bowl.

The gap (second tier yield spread premium) created between the amount of money funded by investors and the amount of money actually deployed into “loans” was so large that it could not be justified as fees. It was profit on sale from the aggregator to the “trust” (special purpose vehicle).

It was undisclosed, deceitful and fraudulent.

Thus the “credit enhancement” scenario with tranches, credit default swaps and insurance had to be created so that it appeared that the gap was covered. But that could only work if the parties to those contracts claimed to have the loans.

And since multiple parties were making the same claim in these side contracts and guarantees, counter-party agreements etc. the actual documents could not be allowed to appear nor even be created unless and until it was the end of the road in an evidential hearing in court.

They used when necessary “copies” that were in fact fabricated (counterfeited) as needed to suit the occasion. You end up with lawyers arriving in court with the “original” note signed in blue (for the desired effect on the Judge) when it was signed in black — but the lawyer didn’t know that. The actual original is either destroyed (see Katherine Porter’s 2007 study) or “lost.”

In this case “lost” doesn’t mean really lost. It means that if they really must come up with something they will call an original they will do so.

So the reason why the paperwork is all out of order is that there was no paperwork.

There only entries on databases and spreadsheets. The loans were not in actuality assigned to any one particular trust or any one particular bond or any one particular individual or group of investors. They were “allocated” as receivables multiple times to multiple parties usually to an extent in excess of the nominal receivable itself. This is why the servicers keep paying on loans that are being declared in default.

The essential component of every loan that was never revealed to either the lenders (investors) nor the borrowers homeowner/investors) was the addition of co-obligors and terms that neither the investor nor the borrower knew anything about.

The “insurance” and other enhancements were actually cover for the intermediaries who had no money at risk in the loans, but for the potential liability for defrauding the lenders and borrowers.

The result, as anyone can plainly see, is that the typical Ponzi outcome heads I win, tails you lose. With that, Wall Street was allowed to suck trillions out of an economy that could not afford it. That $5 trillion surplus left when Clinton was in office was just too darn tempting for Wall Street. They just had to have it.

And they got it.

So the paperwork was carefully created and crafted to cover the tracks of theft.

Most of the securitization paperwork remains buried such that it takes search services to reach any of them. The documents that were needed to record title and encumbrances was finessed so that they could keep their options open when someone made demand for actual proof. The documents were not messed up and neither was the processing. They were just keeping their options open, so like the salad oil scandal, they could fill the tank that someone wanted to look into.

The Obama administration is making a giant error in relying on the existing finance infrastructure to fix itself. This fraud runs so deep that practically everyone at their kitchen table feels it. The loss should fall on those who created it and the victims should be made whole, not because it is a reward but because that is what we do in a nation laws — take people who were victims of wrong behavior and get as much restitution as can be reasonably accomplished.

Quantitative easing is only going to encourage Wall Street, creating yet another pool of cash that they will not be able to resist.

Then what?

As if we didn't already know.

Shredding the Dream: The latest sleight of hand from the Bank of America (to be rapidly adopted if successful by all the others) from our friends at Crooks and Liars by way of Bloomberg? (Emphasis marks and some editing inserted - Ed.)

Bank of America, the nation’s largest lender, has resorted to tough tactics in resisting repurchases of bad loans. Facing pressure from Freddie Mac, one of the two government-controlled mortgage financing companies, to buy back money-losing home loans with problems like inflated appraisals, overstated borrower income, or inadequate documentation, Bank of America issued a blunt threat, according to two people with direct knowledge of the incident.

If Freddie Mac did not back off its demands for the buybacks, Bank of America officials said, the bank would take more of the new, more profitable mortgages it is originating these days to rival Fannie Mae, these people said. Freddie and Fannie, known as GSEs (government-sponsored entities), need a steady supply of healthy new loans to climb out of their financial hole.

The claimed threat from Bank of America, which was not put into writing, according to one of these people, was taken seriously enough that it has been discussed at several Freddie Mac board meetings, including one in mid-October. Some officials have urged the Federal Housing Finance Agency — the government conservator that has controlled Fannie and Freddie since they were bailed out in 2008 — to confront Bank of America and prevent it from trying to play one against the other, which may be infuriating but is not illegal.

“If the tactic worked, I’d be shocked and appalled,” said Thomas Lawler, a former portfolio manager at Fannie Mae and now an economic consultant. “The GSEs are supposed to be run now to minimize losses to the taxpayers. Freddie ought to ignore the threat.”

[...] Wall Street’s unspoken strategy has been to kick mortgage losses down the road until an economic recovery reinflates the housing market. The faulty-foreclosure crisis has forced the issue back into the present tense, triggering a fight over who will bear the brunt of those losses.

The combatants — all of whom are trying to minimize their share of the damage — include homeowners, lenders and mortgage brokers, loan servicers and the underwriters of mortgage-backed securities, the buyers of those securities, title insurers, rating firms, and the federally controlled mortgage buyers Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRD).

And Wikileaks tells us in detail what we knew all along, but allowed the powers-that-be to obscure until they could get out of Dodge (or die (to escape prison) and go to Abu Dhabi or Dubai). One of our best sources on the Iraq War chicanery practiced by the Cheney/Bush junta, Tom Burghardt, reports on "The WikiLeaks Release: U.S. Complicity and Cover-Up of Iraq Torture Exposed."

Don't miss his succinct take. Never forget for a moment that this started with the Cheney/Bush whiz-kid installation of Paul Bremer and his neoCon clones in Iraq after the illegal occupation and decimation of its population. And keep thinking about the American soldiers who are committing suicide daily (emphasis marks added - Ed.).

On October 22nd, the whistleblowing web site WikiLeaks released nearly 400,000 classified Iraq war documents, the largest leak of secret information in U.S. history.

Explosive revelations contained in the Iraq War Logs provided further evidence of the Pentagon's role in the systematic torture of Iraqi citizens by the U.S.-installed post-Saddam regime.

Indeed, multiple files document how U.S. officials failed to investigate thousands of cases of abuse, torture, rape and murder. Even innocent victims who were targets of kidnapping gangs, tortured for ransom by Iraqi police and soldiers operating out of the Interior Ministry, were "investigated" in a perfunctory manner that was little more than a cover-up.

Never mind that the Pentagon was fully cognizant of the nightmare playing out in Iraqi jails and prisons.

Never mind the beatings with rifle butts and steel cables, the electrocutions, the flesh sliced with razors, the limbs hacked-off with chainsaws, the acid and chemical burns on battered corpses found along the roads, the eyes gouged out or the bones lacerated by the killers' tool of choice: the power drill.

Never mind that the death squads stood-up by American forces when the imperial adventure went wildly off the rails, were modeled on counterinsurgency methods pioneered in Vietnam (Operation Phoenix) and in South- and Central American during the 1970s and 1980s (Operation Condor) and that a "Salvador Option" was in play.

Never mind that the former commander of the U.S. Military Advisory Group in El Salvador, Col. James Steele, was the U.S. Embassy's point-man for setting up the Wolf Brigade or the Iraqi Interior Ministry's Special Police Commandos, notorious death squads that spread havoc and fear across Iraq's cities, towns and villages.

The killings and atrocities carried out by American and British clients were not simply random acts of mayhem initiated by sectarian gangs. On the contrary, though sectarianism and inter-ethnic hatred played a role in the slaughter, from a strategic and tactical point of view these were carefully calibrated acts designed to instill terror in a population utterly devastated by the U.S. invasion.

. . . WikiLeaks release prompted the UN's chief investigator on torture, Manfred Nowak, to demand that the Obama administration "order a full investigation of US forces' involvement in human rights abuses in Iraq," The Guardian reported.

Nowak said that if the files demonstrate clear violations of the UN Convention Against Torture then "the Obama administration had an obligation to investigate them."

A failure to investigate these serious charges "would be a failure of the Obama government to recognise its obligations under international law."

There's little chance of that happening under our "forward looking" president.

On the contrary, as The Washington Post reported Sunday, that former CIA general counsel Jeffrey H. Smith, a current adviser to America's top spook Leon Panetta, wants to hang the messenger.

Smith said, "'without question' he thought that [WikiLeaks founder Julian] Assange could be prosecuted under the Espionage Act for possessing and sharing without authorization classified military information."

The Post informed us that Obama's Justice Department "is assisting the Defense Department in its investigation into the leaks to WikiLeaks. Though Smith said he did not know whether efforts were underway to gain custody [of Assange], he said, 'My supposition is that the Justice Department and Department of Defense are working very hard to see if they can get jurisdiction over him'."

As I discussed in late 2009, perhaps the Pentagon is working feverishly to do just that, deploying a Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) "Manhunting team" to run Assange and his organization to ground.

In Manhunting: Counter-Network Organization for Irregular Warfare, retired Lt. Col. George A. Crawford wrote in a 2009 monograph published by Joint Special Operations University, that "Manhunting - the deliberate concentration of national power to find, influence, capture, or when necessary kill an individual to disrupt a human network - has emerged as a key component of operations to counter irregular warfare adversaries in lieu of traditional state-on-state conflict measures."

And with an administration that asserts the right to kill anyone on the planet, including American citizens deemed "terrorists," it isn't a stretch to imagine the Pentagon resorting to a little "wet work" to silence Assange, thereby disrupting "a human network" viewed as deleterious impediment to Washington's imperial project.

After all, in Crawford's view, "Why drop a bomb when effects operations or a knife might do?"

And on a more local note ~

From the good guys at the Institute for Southern Studies we learn the following inside dope about exactly who is allied (and trust me, they are undoubtedly active in your state as well) in what is probably the old never-going-away Jesse Helms network in North Carolina with the infamous Koch Brothers in their rightwingnutter permanent-sellout-of-the-country pursuit of power (emphasis marks added - Ed.):

Art Pope, North Carolina's leading conservative benefactor, has worked closely with the Koch oil barons and spent millions of his own discount retail fortune to sow doubt about the scientific consensus on global warming. Now he's hoping to reap the political benefits.

. . . The Kochs have landed in the public spotlight lately thanks to a New Yorker profile that detailed their efforts to sow doubt about global warming as well as reports by the New York Times and Think Progress about the brothers' efforts to coordinate conservative political initiatives, including an assault on what they call "climate change alarmism."

. . . Pope has close ties to the Kochs as one of four national directors of the Koch-founded political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity; he is also the second-largest institutional funder of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

In addition, Pope is a director and board chair of a family foundation that has steered millions to conservative thinks tanks in North Carolina and nationally that have worked closely with the Koch network to manufacture doubt about global warming.

In North Carolina, the climate skeptics that benefit from Pope's fortune haven't gained much traction in the state legislature. But that could change if Pope's strategy pays off this election year: He has begun funneling money to ostensibly nonpartisan nonprofits that use it to run attack ads, and among the targeted politicians are two long-time legislative leaders who've played a key role in addressing climate change in the state.

. . . For over a decade, the Koch brothers have spent a considerable chunk of their $21.5 billion fortunes financing doubt about climate science.

A report released earlier this year by Greenpeace documented how the Kochs have contributed more than $48.5 million from 1997 to 2008 toward funding what the environmental group refers to as the "climate denial machine" - a network of several dozen think tanks dedicated to sowing doubt about global warming. The Kochs' money has flowed largely through the brothers' charitable family foundations: the Charles G. Koch Foundation, the David H. Koch Foundation and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation.

. . . The largest chunk of money that Pope contributed to the climate denial network went to the John Locke Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit think tank based in Raleigh, N.C. that was created in 1990 to promote the idea of limited government. Not only does Pope provide 80 percent of the organization's funding - a striking $16.9 million from 1997 to 2008 alone - he also sits on its board of directors, which gives him considerable power in managing the organization's operations and policies.

The John Locke Foundation, in turn, has been one of the most outspoken voices of climate denial in North Carolina - working in concert with other groups funded by Koch and Pope to creation the illusion of disagreement about the fundamentals of climate science:

* In 2005, shortly after legislation addressing climate change was first introduced at the General Assembly, the foundation released a public policy statement titled "Global Warming Policy: NC Should Do Nothing," which claimed that climate science remains "unsettled."

* That same year, the Locke Foundation distributed to all members of the state legislature the Michael Crichton novel "State of Fear," a work of fiction that promoted the views of Dr. S. Fred Singer, a prominent climate skeptic. Singer has held positions with the Cato Institute, which was co-founded in 1977 by Charles Koch and is generously funded by the Kochs, and with other Koch-financed outfits including the American Council on Science and Health, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Frontiers of Freedom, Heritage Foundation, Institute for Humane Studies and the National Center for Policy Analysis.

* In 2007, as North Carolina began working on ways to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions, it turned for technical assistance to the Center for Climate Strategies, a nonprofit group of scientists, engineers, business strategists and policy experts that has worked with governments in the U.S., Mexico and Canada on tackling climate change issues.

In response, the Locke Foundation launched a series of attacks on the Center, charging that it was founded by an "environmental advocacy group known to take alarmist positions on global warming" - when in truth it was founded by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, a business-friendly group whose directors have included representatives of Reliant Energy, Dow, and the Academy of Natural Sciences.

At one point Locke teamed up with the Heartland Institute - a climate-skeptic group that's been financed by the Kochs - to hold a conference call during which Locke's research director accused the Center of peddling false assumptions like the idea that "CO2 emission reduction is the solution to global warming."

* Also in 2007, the Locke Foundation released a policy report titled "A North Carolina Citizen's Guide to Global Warming," assuring readers that the "alarming view" of global warming does not represent the scientific consensus. It went on to assert that "[m]ost of the greenhouse effect is natural and is due to water vapor naturally in the atmosphere, as well as natural levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and a few other greenhouse gases."

The report was written by Joel Schwartz, who at the time was a visiting scholar at the Koch-funded American Enterprise Institute.

* In addition, Locke has questioned mainstream climate science through a series in the Carolina Journal, the foundation's monthly newspaper, and opinion pieces published by its staff in other outlets, like the 2006 American Spectator article in which Locke editor Paul Chesser accused Christian climate activists of "Biblical illiteracy" and warned that "God has some serious global warming of His own planned."

It's also spread its message of doubt through speaking engagements by climate science skeptic Pat Michaels, a climatologist who left the University of Virginia under a cloud of controversy over his industry funding and contrarian views to become a fellow at the Koch-founded and funded Cato Institute, as well as through its Carolina Journal radio show, which has discussed topics like "the biases that help convince global warming alarmists that their cause deserves so much attention."

The John Locke Foundation's misrepresentations of climate science continue today. Earlier this month, for example, one of the organization's half-dozen blogs featured a post that declared global warming a "pseudoscientific fraud" that has been "terribly discredited."

Yes, the fraudulent John Locke Foundation has nothing to do with John Locke at all (and I have to admit that after seeing them in action for years here, I've wondered on more than one occasion if any of these pretenders have even read any of John Locke's, whom I studied in Political Theory at UNC, prose).

Out of nowhere a loud laugh emerges from the general direction of my long-lost sense of humor (from my girl on the theater spot, M(alignant) Bouffant):

One could assume that E.E. Smith is vastly more qualified than I to pass judgement on a performance of this type. On the basis of the performance, anyway. (That assumption turns out to be wrong. Whatever a senior editor does at the largest publisher of trade theater books in these United Snakes doesn't have much to do w/ theater. Especially when one can become a "senior" editor w/in a yr. of graduating w/ a B.A. in horseshit-philosophy.)

Click on the link above and read it. It's hilarious and good for what ails you. Speaking of what's good for you and what's good for the banksters (from A Tiny Revolution) - and try to keep a proper level of respect when Bank of America increases your banking fees for no particular reason:
10,000 Ways for Banks to Say Fuck You

This is buried in a New York Times story about the government's legal settlement with Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide (now owned by Bank of America):

Bank of America is paying Mr. Mozilo’s legal bills. Countrywide is paying $5 million toward Mr. Sambol’s repayment to investors and $20 million of Mr. Mozilo’s reparations.

So for all of 2009 before Bank of America repaid their TARP money, we owned them and were paying for Mozilo's defense. And of course we essentially still own Bank of America in less formal ways, and so continue to get to pay his legal team and part of his settlement. Sweet.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the exact amount Mozilo took home from 2003 - 2008 while he was destroying the world economy was $470,686,861. His legal settlement with the government required him to pay $67.5 million in penalties and reparations to investors. But since Countrywide covered that $20 million, he's only coming up with $47.5 million personally - or just over 10%. Like a bad tip.

Did I hear someone on Fox say he was sorry yet?


For what?

From Doug at Balloon Juice (Yes, Everybody Is Exactly As Guilty!):

What I’ve learned over the past few days is that both sides do it. Whether it’s a left-leaning writer using the phrase “curb-stomping” or an angry mob of conservatives actually performing a curb-stomping, whether it’s a liberal drawing a Hitler mustache on George W. Bush or a right-wing militia member blowing up a federal building, whether it’s two black guys in berets standing outside a polling station or a hundred years of Jim Crow laws. It’s all the same stuff and we should just admit it.

Imagine the type of upbringing/education these rightwingnuts must have had to actually believe this is in any way true. Or that their incessant repeating of such convinces any of us.

I can't.

Suzan _______________

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Do the Midterms Matter? The GOP's Agenda Has To Be Stopped, But What Change Did/Will We Get? Kenny Boy/Mozilo = Altar Boys?

Latest Election News (emphasis marks added - Ed.):

1. From The Guardian: Joe Miller Lied About Computer Tampering Scandal

Looks like it's back to the corrupt but non-computer-tampering Lisa Murkowski or the decent Dem Scott McAdams! Yay, Tea Party!

Thursday October 28 2010

Sarah Palin and other prominent right-wingers will today rush to the aid of the beleaguered Tea Party-backed candidate for the US Senate, Joe Miller, after newly released documents reveal he lied about a computer tampering scandal. The row has created alarm about the election chances of Miller, until recently regarded as a safe Republican bet to win the Alaska race. . . . Joe Miller is down to third place with 23% in a new Alaska poll. This, it has to be said, is very different from other polls that have showed him around the mid-30s and a point or two ahead of Lisa Murkowski. His disapproval rating in the poll is an astonishing 68%.

2. From The Guardian: The GOP's Coming Tea Party Hangover

My, my, how things have changed in a week. Busy beavers, eh?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Just weeks ago, the Republican party was falling over itself to co-opt the Tea Partiers. Now that looks like a poor political bet.

Republican strategist Karl Rove first excoriated Tea Party-backed Delaware senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell, then embraced her cause – a switch he may now be repenting at leisure.

Did the Rand Paul supporters who attacked a female protester from the liberal group MoveOn outside a debate in Kentucky on Monday night cost their man the race for Senate?

The answer – sadly – is probably not. Kentucky is a deep shade of Republican red. It would be a major upset if Paul – the Tea Party-backed GOP candidate and the son of libertarian hero Ron Paul – actually lost to Democrat Jack Conway. But this does not mean that the thuggish antics of his supporters, or Paul's own unsettling performance on the campaign trail, is irrelevant. Instead, these furores play into the bigger question of whether the Tea Party movement, the passions it has unleashed, and the candidates it has propelled to prominence across the country are a net positive or negative for the Republican party.

The answer is becoming ever clearer. Tea is the Republican party's cocaine: thrilling for a moment, but ruinous over time.

3. From The Guardian: Remember Nikki Haley? She Could Lose

Who? Oh yes . . . the original "power of the Tea Party" story!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

When she won the GOP primary for governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley seemed a sure thing to win the governor's mansion. After all, it's South Carolina, right?

But she has stumbled badly and could possibly lose, reports Ed Kilgore at Interestingly, her Democratic opponent is (gasp!) . . . well, first of all, a Democrat, which is gaspy enough in South Carolina. But secondly, an Arab (Vincent Sheheen, of Lebanese extraction). Haley herself is Sikh, as you'll recall.

Anyway: it's about the sex. She has evidently refused lately to sign an affadavit swearing that she did not have sex with two men who say they had sex with her. She also says that if elected, she'll resign if it's ever proven that she had sex with either of these fellows.

And the Charleston City Paper, in a lengthy article dissecting all this, notes that tea party Senator Jim DeMint has thus far stayed a millions miles away from Haley.

There's a web site, if you're interested, called Conservatives for Truth in Politics that's tracking all this. Boy, I thought when I read the name, that must be a lonely bunch. But it turns out that the only truth they're really concerned with is about Haley's amorous athletics.

Sheheen, I see, got the endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce, so it seems unlikely that he's some kid of liberal flamethrower. His victory would be more of an oddity than anything, but I guess it's always good to see Sarah P. lose one.

4. From The Guardian: The Tea Party Movement: Deluded and Inspired by Billionaires

Not really new news now, but an interesting take from the Brits. (Okay, I give up. It's not that different from most knowledgeable Americans'.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

By funding numerous rightwing organisations, the mega-rich Koch brothers have duped millions into supporting big business.

The Tea Party movement is remarkable in two respects. It is one of the biggest exercises in false consciousness the world has seen – and the biggest Astroturf operation in history. These accomplishments are closely related.

An Astroturf campaign is a fake grassroots movement: it purports to be a spontaneous uprising of concerned citizens, but in reality it is founded and funded by elite interests. Some Astroturf campaigns have no grassroots component at all. Others catalyse and direct real mobilisations. The Tea Party belongs in the second category. It is mostly composed of passionate, well-meaning people who think they are fighting elite power, unaware that they have been organised by the very interests they believe they are confronting. We now have powerful evidence that the movement was established and has been guided with the help of money from billionaires and big business. Much of this money, as well as much of the strategy and staffing, were provided by two brothers who run what they call "the biggest company you've never heard of".

Charles and David Koch own 84% of Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the United States. It runs oil refineries, coal suppliers, chemical plants and logging firms, and turns over roughly $100bn a year; the brothers are each worth $21bn. The company has had to pay tens of millions of dollars in fines and settlements for oil and chemical spills and other industrial accidents. The Kochs want to pay less tax, keep more profits and be restrained by less regulation. Their challenge has been to persuade the people harmed by this agenda that it's good for them.

5. From The New York Times: Secret Money in Iowa

And stateside we learn the facts on the latest midwest election chicanery brought to us by John Roberts' suborned Supreme Court. (So where did you think Karl Rove had gotten his funding, ad infinitum?)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bruce Braley, a Democrat from northeastern Iowa, has been a popular two-term congressman and seemed likely to have an easy re-election until the huge cash mudslide of 2010. The Republican Party had largely left him alone, but then a secretive group called the American Future Fund began spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on distortion-heavy attack ads.

Mr. Braley is now struggling to maintain his lead against a Republican challenger, Benjamin Lange, who is running on a familiar program of smaller government and opposition to the health care law, the stimulus and growing federal spending. Mr. Braley has disclosed all of the donors behind his ads and his campaign; Mr. Lange generally will not discuss his independent support.

Mr. Braley has shown admirable political courage throughout the race, staunchly defending his support for health care reform, the stimulus and the Bush-era bank bailout. Each will benefit the country over time, he said. “I’m going to stand my ground and won’t be intimidated,” he told a local radio station a few weeks ago.

That position stood him well in the relatively liberal 1st District of Iowa until he became a target of the American Future Fund, one of several conservative groups spending millions of dollars to defeat Democrats while promising their donors anonymity.

As The Times reported recently, the American Future Fund was started with money from Bruce Rastetter, an ethanol company executive. Mr. Braley supports ethanol tax credits — a favorite in Iowa. Mr. Rastetter, who is pushing to defeat several Democrats on the House energy and agriculture committees, has not explained his political goals.

The fund, based in Iowa, has spent at least $574,000 to run a series of anti-Braley ads. One that is particularly pernicious shows images of the ruined World Trade Center and then intones, “Incredibly, Bruce Braley supports building a mosque at ground zero.” Actually, Mr. Braley has never said that, stating only that the matter should be left to New Yorkers.

. . . Mr. Braley has also been the subject of $250,000 worth of attack ads by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which also has not disclosed its contributors.

He is only one of many candidates being pummeled this year by secret money and shamefully false advertising. The American Action Network, another conservative group that does not disclose its donors, is targeting Representative Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, in his race against Sam Caligiuri, a Republican.

The group is running an ad claiming that the health reform law, which Mr. Murphy supported and Mr. Caligiuri wants to repeal, requires jail time for people who do not buy health insurance. The law does no such thing.

Do the midterms matter? So many on the left seem unsure (and are thinking about not voting or voting Green or Purple or Pink (chartreuse?)), but who would have thought you'd get a decent treatment of this issue from the pages of Newsweek? Not I. Jonathan Alter makes a terrific argument that we've got to remove the emotional component from our voting in order to ensure that we do not add to our own long-term hangover from the Cheney/Bush stolen years. Although I don't agree with all his thoughts, they're a good start (emphasis marks added - Ed.).

Why the Midterms Matter The GOP’s agenda has to be stopped. Jonathan Alter

Prediction is an addiction in the press corps. We can search for the key to the Keystone State with sophisticated cross tabs of projected African-American turnout for Joe Sestak in Philadelphia. We can offer the early read on early voting for Barbara Boxer in Alameda County. We can practically study the entrails of Kentucky possum to project Rand Paul’s totals among white men under 30.

But elections aren’t just about who wins. They’re about what happens when one or the other party wins. We’re so eager to promote ourselves with the smartest take on how President Obama and the Democrats got themselves in this pickle that we haven’t done a good job explaining the stakes. We manage to sever cause from effect.

Let’s say you’re an independent voter who wants to send Obama a message on Nov. 2. Have the media told you what that would say? Here’s a clue: moderate Republicans are extinct. With big wins, the Tea Party will transform itself from an insurgency into the driving force within the GOP. Gains in statehouses and legislatures will allow right-wingers to use the 2010 census to redraw district lines that will entrench them in power until 2020. Back in charge in Washington, they will likely block even centrist choices for courts. Extremist senators like Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn will move from being irritants on the fringe to players at the center of our politics.

A question for Democrats disinclined to work on congressional campaigns: do you know the GOP agenda? In brief: repeal health-care reform, so if you lose your job and your kid gets sick, you may have to sell the house; repeal financial reform, so Wall Street scammers and predatory lenders can return to doing everything they did before they wrecked the economy; maintain corporate-welfare subsidies that move jobs overseas; reduce spending by slashing education funding; and ending all clean-energy projects aimed at curbing our dependence on Mideast oil.

Of course, these policies won’t cut the deficit. Republicans insist on extending $700 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy and leaving the $500 billion defense budget un-touched. Entitlements would merely be “reviewed regularly,” the GOP leadership says, which is code for doing nothing.

. . . The party is powered by outrage over bailouts and the stimulus. When pressed, Republican candidates say GM could have survived without Washington. How? Liquidation would have meant the loss of a million jobs. To everyone’s surprise, the auto companies are on the mend, and the banks, despite those obnoxious bonuses, have paid back the taxpayers with interest. TARP worked!

The GOP plan for job creation: cutting taxes and deregulation. We tried that in 2001 only to experience the weakest decade of job growth since the ’30s.

. . . The depressed Democratic base needs to ask itself some questions: Do women want more representatives who oppose abortion? Do Hispanics want to see immigration reform postponed? Do young voters want college loans slashed? If they don’t, they’ll set aside whatever valid grievances they may have with Obama and mobilize.

. . . a right-wing Republican takeover of Congress and state capitals isn’t something to accept with indifference. Midterms matter, and voters tempted to skip this election should have their heads examined.

Frank Rich asks the questions that have the Left in a muddle (and let us know, by the by, that Robert Rubin's corrupt activities and automatic "get out of jail free" card are what brought us the "no prosecute" Wall Streeters administration). But are these enough reason to throw away the rest of your (and your children's children's) future?

What Happened to Change We Can Believe In?

Frank Rich

PRESIDENT Obama, the Rodney Dangerfield of 2010, gets no respect for averting another Great Depression, for saving 3.3 million jobs with stimulus spending, or for salvaging GM and Chrysler from the junkyard. And none of these good deeds, no matter how substantial, will go unpunished if the projected Democratic bloodbath materializes on Election Day. Some are even going unremembered.

For Obama, the ultimate indignity is the Times/CBS News poll in September showing that only 8 percent of Americans know that he gave 95 percent of American taxpayers a tax cut.

The reasons for his failure to reap credit for any economic accomplishments are a catechism by now: the dark cloud cast by undiminished unemployment, the relentless disinformation campaign of his political opponents, and the White House’s surprising ineptitude at selling its own achievements. But the most relentless drag on a chief executive who promised change we can believe in is even more ominous. It’s the country’s fatalistic sense that the stacked economic order that gave us the Great Recession remains not just in place but more entrenched and powerful than ever.

No matter how much Obama talks about his “tough” new financial regulatory reforms or offers rote condemnations of Wall Street greed, few believe there’s been real change. That’s not just because so many have lost their jobs, their savings and their homes. It’s also because so many know that the loftiest perpetrators of this national devastation got get-out-of-jail-free cards, that too-big-to-fail banks have grown bigger and that the rich are still the only Americans getting richer.

This intractable status quo is being rubbed in our faces daily during the pre-election sprint by revelations of the latest banking industry outrage, its disregard for the rule of law as it cut every corner to process an avalanche of foreclosures. Clearly, these financial institutions have learned nothing in the few years since their contempt for fiscal and legal niceties led them to peddle these predatory mortgages (and the reckless financial “products” concocted from them) in the first place. And why should they have learned anything? They’ve often been rewarded, not punished, for bad behavior.

The latest example is Angelo Mozilo, the former chief executive of Countrywide and the godfather of subprime mortgages. On the eve of his trial 10 days ago, he settled Securities and Exchange Commission charges for $67.5 million, $20 million of which will be footed by what remains of Countrywide in its present iteration at Bank of America. Even if he paid the whole sum himself, it would still be a small fraction of the $521 million he collected in compensation as he pursued his gambling spree from 2000 until 2008.

A particularly egregious chunk of that take was the $140 million he pocketed by dumping Countrywide shares in 2006-7. It was a chapter right out of Kenneth Lay’s Enron playbook: Mozilo reassured shareholders that all was peachy even as his private e-mail was awash in panic over the “toxic” mortgages bringing Countrywide (and the country) to ruin. Lay, at least, was convicted by a jury and destined to decades in the slammer before his death.

The much acclaimed new documentary about the global economic meltdown, “Inside Job,” has it right. As its narrator, Matt Damon, intones, our country has been robbed by insiders who “destroyed their own companies and plunged the world into crisis” — and then “walked away from the wreckage with their fortunes intact.” These insiders include Dick Fuld and four other executives at Lehman Brothers who “got to keep all the money” (more than $1 billion) after Lehman went bankrupt. And of course Robert Rubin, who encouraged Citigroup to step up its investment in high-risk bets like Countrywide’s mortgage-backed securities. Rubin, now back as a rainmaker on Wall Street, collected more than $115 million in compensation during roughly the same period Mozilo “earned” his half a billion. Citi, which required a $45 billion taxpayers’ bailout, recently secured its own slap-on-the-wrist S.E.C. settlement — at $75 million, less than Rubin’s earnings and less than its 2003 penalty ($101 million) for its role in hiding Enron profits.

It should pain the White House that its departing economic guru, the Rubin protégé Lawrence Summers, is an even bigger heavy in “Inside Job” than in the hit movie of election season, “The Social Network.” Summers — like the former Goldman Sachs chief executive and Bush Treasury secretary Hank Paulson — is portrayed as just the latest in a procession of policy makers who keep rotating in and out of government and the financial industry, almost always to that industry’s advantage.

As the star economist Nouriel Roubini tells the filmmaker, Charles Ferguson, the financial sector on Wall Street has “step by step captured the political system” on “the Democratic and the Republican side” alike. But it would be wrong to single out Summers or any individual official for the Obama administration’s image of being lax in pursuing finance’s bad actors. This tone is set at the top.

Asked in “Inside Job” why there’s been no systematic investigation of the 2008 crash, Roubini answers: “Because then you’d find the culprits.” With the aid of the “Manhattan Madam” (and current stunt New York gubernatorial candidate) Kristin Davis, the film also asks why federal prosecutors who were “perfectly happy to use Eliot Spitzer’s personal vices to force him to resign in 2008” have not used rampant sex-and-drug trade on Wall Street as a tool for flipping witnesses to pursue the culprits behind the financial crimes that devastated the nation.

The Obama administration seems not to have a prosecutorial gene. It’s shy about calling a fraud a fraud when it occurs in high finance. This caution was exemplified most recently by the secretary of housing and urban development, Shaun Donovan, whose response to the public outcry over the banks’ foreclosure shenanigans was to take to The Huffington Post last weekend. “The notion that many of the very same institutions that helped cause this housing crisis may well be making it worse is not only frustrating — it’s shameful,” he wrote.

Well, yes! Obama couldn’t have said it more eloquently himself. But with all due respect to Secretary Donovan’s blogging finesse, he wasn’t promising action. He was just stroking the liberal base while the administration once again punted. In our new banking scandal, as in those before it, attorneys general in the states, where many pension funds were decimated by Wall Street Ponzi schemes, are pursuing the crimes Washington has not. The largest bill of reparations paid out by Bank of America for Countrywide’s deceptive mortgage practices — $8.4 billion — was to settle a suit by 11 state attorneys general on the warpath.

Since Obama has neither aggressively pursued the crash’s con men nor compellingly explained how they gamed the system, he sometimes looks as if he’s fronting for the industry even if he’s not. Voters are not only failing to give the White House credit for its economic successes but finding it guilty of transgressions it didn’t commit.

The opposition is more than happy to pump up that confusion. When Mitch McConnell appeared on ABC’s “This Week” last month, he typically railed against the “extreme” government of “the last year and a half,” citing its takeover of banks as his first example. That this was utter fiction — the takeover took place two years ago, before Obama was president, with McConnell voting for itwent unchallenged by his questioner, Christiane Amanpour, and probably by many viewers inured to this big lie.

The real tragedy here, though, is not whatever happens in midterm elections. It’s the long-term prognosis for America. The obscene income inequality bequeathed by the three-decade rise of the financial industry has societal consequences graver than even the fundamental economic unfairness. When we reward financial engineers infinitely more than actual engineers, we “lure our most talented graduates to the largely unproductive chase” for Wall Street riches, as the economist Robert H. Frank wrote in The Times last weekend.

Worse, Frank added, the continued squeeze on the middle class leads to a wholesale decline in the quality of American life — from more bankruptcy filings and divorces to a collapse in public services, whether road repair or education, that taxpayers will no longer support.

Even as the G.O.P. benefits from unlimited corporate campaign money, it’s pulling off the remarkable feat of persuading a large swath of anxious voters that it will lead a populist charge against the rulers of our economic pyramid — the banks, energy companies, insurance giants and other special interests underwriting its own candidates.

Should those forces prevail, an America that still hasn’t remotely recovered from the worst hard times in 70 years will end up handing over even more power to those who greased the skids.

We can blame much of this turn of events on the deep pockets of oil billionaires like the Koch brothers and on the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which freed corporations to try to buy any election they choose. But the Obama White House is hardly innocent. Its failure to hold the bust’s malefactors accountable has helped turn what should have been a clear-cut choice on Nov. 2 into a blurry contest between the party of big corporations and the party of business as usual.

Seems clear enough to me. Is it to you? Suzan _________________