Geithner; Gold on the Hill

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copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Today, Timothy Geithner garners much attention.  Initially, when introduced on the national scene, people pondered; “Who is he?” The former President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has an impeccable résumé.  Some said his record speaks for itself.  Average Americans might have admired his ascendancy. Taxpayers could have appreciated that a man of his age would wish to manage the complexity of the United States coffers.   Countless may have considered the enormous challenge he accepted; yet, not comprehend, for Secretary Geithner, this may have been the plan.

Early on, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner had his sights set high.  As a child, born to an affluent, and influential family, he learned that all he desired could be his.  He saw the potential for power in political prospects.  The practicality of a profitable purpose also was apparent to Tim.  When a lad, there was no reason for Timothy to reflect on the concrete pavements beneath his feet.  Geithner would not have supposed he would work as a laborer.  Nor had he likely seen himself as one among the swarms of ordinary citizens.   His personal history may have helped him to know, he would not have to pound the streets to seek pennies for his pocket.  Unconventional as his life had been, Timothy Geithner might have imagined as others did; he was destined for greatness.

Maternal grandfather, Charles F. Moore, was an adviser to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  Through his elder, young Tim became attuned to the Capitol.  He also grew to understand the capital that could be accrued away from the Hill.  Grandpop Moore also served as a Vice President of Ford Motor Company.  “Public Relations” was his claim to fame.  

“Dad,” Peter F. Geithner, did well independently of his father-in-law.  He acquired and distributed much wealth in his work with the Ford Foundation.  Granted, the company connection may have served to benefit Peter.  Nonetheless, had the legal association been absent, an emotional bond born from friendship would have helped clinch a deal.  Networks we fashion, as Timmy might have realized at an early age, can be a force to be reckoned with.

As a tot, Timothy Geithner absorbed lessons as we all do.  Perchance, he had higher aspirations than most.  He hoped to meld the muscle of money with the clout of civil service.  Mister Geithner, throughout his life saw effective ways in which to maneuver.  Likely he heard tales that taught him the nuance of negotiation, and tasted the nectar of success.  

In college, and later in his professional career, Mister Geithner achieved much.  Still, the former New York Federal Reserve Chair, understood, he could accomplish more.  At June 2008 conference he spoke of what might reap greater rewards for those in the banking industry.   Former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Junior convened an economic summit.  Financially, the country was in a fiscal crisis.  Indeed, the United States was well on its way to a monetary collapse; however, only the few economic “experts” know of the impending doom.  The dollar was of little value.  It was predicted soon, American currency would be virtually worthless.

Thus, Secretary Paulson sought advice from his fellow fiscal stewards.  As the man who oversaw the most powerful and prominent banks in the nation, Mister Geithner was among these.  In response to a query from the then Head of Treasury, what emergency controls could the government employ, in an attempt to confront the tumultuous economic crisis?  The fine fellow, confident in his well-established connections, spoke with the lack of temerity exuded by one who savored many triumphs.   Geithner stated; “There is gold in them there hills.”  The gelt Tim Geithner knew would be available if only he asked for it was in the pockets and purses of the taxpayers.

As the supreme authority for the most formidable Federal Reserve, Timothy Geithner felt he could assert what other Administrators might not imagine feasible.  Mister Geithner suggested Secretary Paulson insist that “Congress give the President broad power to guarantee all banking debt.”  Michele A. Smith, then an Assistant Treasury Secretary, overhead the statement.  She affirmed the truth of the allegation; the then New York Fed Chair had said.  Let us seek the impossible.  Government securities or gratuities to cover all arrears, was what Timothy Geithner wished for.

Apparently, at the time the proposal was not considered for more than a moment.  Other economic experts protested the possibility.  Financial fellows proclaimed the idea was “politically untenable.”  It could leave taxpayers in the lurch, responsible for trillions of dollars in liabilities.  Nonetheless, Timothy Geithner was not deterred.  He knew where the dollars were hidden and how to obtain vast treasures.  Capable of great strides and able to rise to the top of hills others have yet to climb, Tim Geithner secured his associations.  The Hill he planned to climb was the one in Washington, District of Columbia.

An examination of Mr. Geithner’s five years as president of the New York Fed, an era of unbridled and ultimately disastrous risk taking by the financial industry, shows that he forged unusually close relationships with executives of Wall Street’s giant financial institutions.

His actions, as a regulator and later a bailout king, often aligned with the industry’s interests and desires, according to interviews with financiers, regulators and analysts and a review of Federal Reserve records.

In a pair of recent interviews and an exchange of e-mail messages, Mr. Geithner defended his record, saying that from very early on, he was “a consistently dark voice about the potential risks ahead, and a principal source of initiatives designed to make the system stronger” before the markets melted down.

The New York Fed is, by custom and design, clubby and opaque.  It is charged with curbing banks’ risky impulses, yet its president is selected by and reports to a board of directors dominated by the chief executives of some of those same banks.  Traditionally, the New York Fed president’s intelligence-gathering role has involved routine consultation with financiers, though Mr. Geithner’s recent predecessors generally did not meet with them unless senior aides were also present, according to the bank’s former general counsel.

Perchance, the New York Federal Reserve Chairs who came to the office before Mister Geithner were not of similar stock, or had they been, their own interest in money was not wedded to a desire to mount a more glorious golden Capitol Dome.  Tim Geithner was different.  As was evident at the 2008 conference, other guardians of greenbacks did not think to give government greater authority over the affairs of banks.  Tim Geithner’s history, however, led him to believe the best could be achieved, at least for him personally, if he mixed business and pleasure.

Mr. Geithner’s reliance on bankers, hedge fund managers and others to assess the market’s health – and provide guidance once it faltered – stood out.

His calendars from 2007 and 2008 show that those interactions were a mix of the professional and private rendezvous.

He ate lunch with senior executives from Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley, at the Four Seasons restaurant or in their corporate dining rooms.  He attended casual dinners at the homes of executives like Jamie Dimon, a member of the New York Fed board and the chief of JP Morgan Chase.

Mr. Geithner was particularly close to executives of Citigroup, the largest bank under his supervision.  Robert E. Rubin, a senior Citi executive and a former Treasury secretary, was Mr. Geithner’s mentor from his years in the Clinton administration, and the two kept in close touch in New York.

For Timothy Geithner, the trailblazer, all roads led to the White House and the wealth that could be seen best from the ultimate Hill.  Early on, in school, in social settings, and on the political scene, Mister Geithner secured relationships that would realize a firm future in government, just as his grandfather had.   He did as his Dad did to grow gold in his business ventures.  Ultimately, Timothy F. Geithner was appointed Secretary of the Treasury.  

In this most powerful fiscal and physical position Tim Geithner was able to garner greater control over all banking policies.  What he had proposed in the summer of 2008 was never a prescription.  It was a prophecy for what he would do.  The impossible became the probable in recent months.  Banks were indeed, bailed out.  Plans for more power to be assigned to the government, to Mister Geithner are in the works.  More money is meant to be funneled to the financial institutions.

Joseph E. Stiglitz a Nobel Prize recipient and Economist at Columbia, is critical of much Mister Geithner has done.  The actions of the current Secretary suggest that he came to share Wall Street’s regulatory philosophy and world view.

“I don’t think that Tim Geithner was motivated by anything other than concern to get the financial system working again,” Mr. Stiglitz said.  “But I think that mindsets can be shaped by people you associate with, and you come to think that what’s good for Wall Street is good for America.”

No one can be sure.  However, it could be.  Apples do not fall from trees.  Birds of a feather may flock together.  A child born to affluence is better able to aspire.  

Main Street and Wall Street may never meet, or at least not until those whose sights are set high step down and see how the common folk live.  The gold on the Hill does not glitter on pavements union workers walk.  Nor do small business owners, everyday, ordinary, average American taxpayers reside on boulevard of bullion.  No, these avenues are reserved for persons such as Timothy F. Geithner, Secretary of Treasury.

Reference for the Geithner Reality . . .

Tortured

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Never for a moment in my life have I been “in love.”  I do not believe in the notion.  Fireworks have not filled my heart.  Flames of a fiery passion do not burn within me.  Indeed, my soul has not been ablaze.  Thoughts of a hot-blooded devotion seem illogical to me.  Such sentiments always have.  Fondness too fertile is but torture for me.  I admire many, and adore none.  For me, the affection I feel for another is born out of sincere and profound appreciation.  To like another means more to me than to love or be loved.  Excitement, an emotional reaction to another, rises up within me when I experience an empathetic exchange with someone who has glorious gray matter.

Today, it happened.  I felt an a twinge that startled me.  I stood still as he entered the room.  I expected nothing out of the ordinary, or at least nothing other than what has become his recently adopted, more avoidant, routine.  Although long ago, I had become accustomed to his face, his voice, and his demeanor, for I have known the man for more than a few years.  In the last few weeks, while essentially he is who he always was, some of his stances have changed.  Possibly, Barry has felt a need to compromise his positions, but I wonder; what of his principles.

Early on, I knew that he and I differed in some respects.  While we each loathe drama, I was never certain if he felt as I do; love need not be a tortuous trauma.  Barry spoke of the need to work together.  Yet, not necessarily in aspect of life.  At times, he advocated aggressive actions I could not consider.  This, for me, caused much confusion.  Nonetheless, I liked the man I saw before me.

I recall the day we first met, face-to-face.  We shook hands.  He smiled.  Barry was polite, not pushy.  Amiable is the way I would describe him.  Then, the second time we saw each other, we had a more extensive conversation.  He took my hand in his.  We each spoke with greater sincerity.  As Barry and I chatted, he looked me straight in the eye.  He listened to my personal tale.  Visibly, he pondered the story I shared.  Barry responded so genuinely to my inquiry, albeit an unconventional concern, I was surprised.  Indeed, I was impressed, although less than I was when I read what he had written.

His books moved me.  The more autobiographical tome endeared him to me.  His notes on hope did not lack the spirit to inspire me.  As one who “loves” to learn, which differs from the impulsive idea that I might be “in love,” a person that can kindle my earnest thirst for knowledge truly electrifies me.  I recall the moment I read the text that, all these years later, still resonates within me.  Barry humbly offered, in a discussion of empathy . . .

It is at the heart of my moral code, and it is how I understand the Golden Rule – not simply as a call to sympathy or charity, but as something more demanding, a call to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.

Barry told tales of his mother, his grandfather, and how through his interactions with each he realized there is reason to think “about the struggles and disappointments” others have seen in their lives.  Reflection helped the younger Barry understand, every individual is not solely right or wrong.  If he were to insist that, his way was the only approach that worked, “without regard to his [or her] feelings or needs, I was in some way diminishing myself.”  Such awareness, such a superior soul; Barry showed what I believe to be a human’s greatest strength, vulnerability.  Were I to have a heart to win, the words of this gentle-man could have surely swept me off my feet.

Even his calm demeanor is as I desire and live.  Those close to me wonder of my own emotional tranquility.  From his manner and manuscript, it would seem Barry believes as I do.  Empathy elicits equilibrium.  Today, he seemed to embrace this notion once again.  We can choose to love our neighbors.  We need not torture “those who are different from us.”

Near noon, on April 23, 2009, at the Holocaust days of Remembrance Ceremony, Barry, the now President of the United States, Barack Obama spoke of this belief again.  Once more, I felt a pang for the person who oft-expressed a profound connection to the feelings of another.  The sweet soul who can bring me to tears, did so once again.  On this historic occasion, Barry shared a profound realization through a personal story.  The subject; the Holocaust and the torture our forebears felt or beheld.

In the face of horrors that defy comprehension, the impulse to silence is understandable.  My own great uncle returned from his service in World War II in a state of shock, saying little, alone with painful memories that would not leave his head.  He went up into the attic, according to the stories that I’ve heard, and wouldn’t come down for six months.  He was one of the liberators — someone who at a very tender age had seen the unimaginable.  And so some of the liberators who are here today honor us with their presence — all of whom we honor for their extraordinary service.  My great uncle was part of the 89th Infantry Division — the first Americans to reach a Nazi concentration camp.  And they liberated Ohrdruf, part of Buchenwald, where tens of thousands had perished.

Stunned, by the saga, and the words that preceded the legend, I began to believe again.  Perhaps the Barry I admire had a change of heart.  Policies he never fully embraced, might not seem reasonable to him now.

During the campaign, Barry, Senator Barack Obama only promised to investigate, not to prosecute.  Many months ago, before the August 2008 declaration, and thereafter, I had thought his stance reflected his vast ability to empathize.  Yet, in the light of the ample evidence, most if not all of which affirms the Bush Administration engaged in extreme methods of interrogation, President Obama still supports or chooses to sustain a position that negates empathy for the victims.  I shudder to think of how the Seventh Generation might be affected.

Hence, I am left to question what I thought was truth.  Was the empathy I envisioned not as sincere as I hoped it to be?  Perchance that is why, for me, love is as torture.  I have faith no one has the power to disappoint me.  Only my choices can be a source of much concern.  For as long as I can recall, I have observed, once infatuation fades, we learn as I had before Barry entered the Oval Office.  He is but another human.  He embraces and then forgets, the power of empathy and the force of our past?

When, in homage to Holocaust victims, and survivors of a heinous hostility that forever stains world history, I sensed he knew.  As I looked on, I forgot the setting.  Intent on the torrent of news on torture techniques I read and heard throughout the day, I made an erroneous connection.  As Barry, President Obama spoke of the deeds done in decades past, and those crimes committed by the previous Administration, I imagined the man I thought I knew meant to express empathy for those who suffered at the hands of Americans.  The Chief Executive, on behalf of the United States avowed.

Their legacy is our inheritance.  And the question is, how do we honor and preserve it?  How do we ensure that “never again” isn’t an empty slogan, or merely an aspiration, but also a call to action?

I believe we start by doing what we are doing today — by bearing witness, by fighting the silence that is evil’s greatest co-conspirator.

In the face of horrors that defy comprehension, the impulse to silence is understandable.

I cried.  Tremendously thankful for the oratory, indeed, I must say, for a second, I was elated.  I wondered.  Had the person many think beloved, the individual I at least treasure, decided to rescind his prior position?

Might he have rejected the thought offered recently; “nothing will be gained by our time and energy laying blame for the past,”  

Could it be the Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony helped the President to renew his faith in his earlier expression;  “(H)istory returns “with a vengeance . . . “(A)s Faulkner reminds us, the past is never dead and buried — it isn’t even past.”  I hoped.

Perchance, he had worked through a struggle I too experience.  As one who has no desire to hurt others, even those who have physically and psychologically harmed individuals, and our country’s image, how might I think prosecution is just?  

I truly embrace such an honorable ability to seek no retribution.  Indeed, I may not fall “in love”; nonetheless, I would hope to live love.  

I feel harsh reprisals are never wise.  I also accept the enduring wisdom of a finer balance.  I have experienced the need to empathize and the conflict of what I might do if one I treasure intentionally injures another.  I have come to discover, if deleterious deeds are allowed to stand, sooner or later the other, I, and perchance, society will be subjected to adulterations that individuals or a culture cannot endure.

Awful actions we accept, avoid, or merely do not acknowledge become a foundation for the future.  Humans inure.  Lest we forget the Milgram shock experiment of decades ago, or the knowledge that when repeated in the present, proves again, as a Psychologist, Thomas Blass, espoused in  “The Man Who Shocked the World.” Milgram extrapolated, to larger events like the Holocaust, or Abu Ghraib.  “people can act destructively without coercion.”  “In things like interrogations, we don’t know the complexities involved.  People are under enormous pressure to produce results.”  

I wonder how many Americans came to accept violence as a necessity on September 11, 2001.  On that dreadful day, a date that now lives in infamy, all Americans were placed in a precarious position.  With the threat of terror etched into our every cell, each of us had to ask, what were we to do.  In the 2004 edition of Dreams From My Father, the Barry, who I trusted to be so thoughtful whispered his woe for what might occur once the “world fractured.” He penned . . .

This collective history, this past, directly touches my own . . .

I know, I have seen, the desperation and disorder of the powerless: how it twists the lives of children on the streets of Jakarta or Nairobi in much the same way as it does the lives of children on Chicago’s South Side, how narrow the path is for them between humiliation and untrammeled fury, how easily they slip into violence and despair.  I know that the response of the powerful to this disorder — alternating as it does between a dull complacency and, when the disorder spills out of its proscribed confines, a steady, unthinking application of force, of longer prison sentences and more sophisticated military hardware — is inadequate to the task.  I know that the hardening of lines, the embrace of fundamentalism and tribe, dooms us all.

Those are the words of the Barry I was inspired to meet, the person I was reminded of when he stood with an audience of individuals who never forget the agony of torture.  Today, as that empathetic soul, the President referred to the future, the generations to come, he stated, “We find cause for hope” when “people of every age and faith and background and race (are) united in common cause with suffering brothers and sisters halfway around the world.”  I thought of the detainees at Guantánamo Bay prison, and the prisoners at Abu Ghraib and the need to empathize with victims of “extreme duress.”

Oblivious to the purpose of this particular speech, in my moment of stupor, I surmised Mister Obama had not only accepted the association, but perhaps had realized what could occur if the transgressions of the previous Administration were allowed to stand as if all was in the past.

“Barry,” Barack, the Commander-In-Chief, further elucidated; “Those [persons] can be our future . . . (D)uring this season when we celebrate liberation, resurrection, and the possibility of redemption, may each of us renew our resolve to do what must be done. And may we strive each day, both individually and as a nation, to be among the righteous.

I imagined the reference was to empathy, to the paradigms I too embrace. Punishment offers no benefits for people.  Yet, there is a need to prosecute the culpable, to ensure that people are answerable for the most atrocious aggressions.  It is vital, if we wish to prevent the numbness that humans so easily adopt, we must bring torture to the full light of day.  Torment executed in our names, I think Barry would agree, hurts us.  Surely, General and President Eisenhower did.  Mister Obama acknowledged this only hours ago .

Eisenhower understood the danger of silence.  He understood that if no one knew what had happened, that would be yet another atrocity — and it would be the perpetrators’ ultimate triumph.

What Eisenhower did to record these crimes for history is what we are doing here today.  That’s what Elie Wiesel and the survivors we honor here do by fighting to make their memories part of our collective memory.  That’s what the Holocaust Museum does every day on our National Mall, the place where we display for the world our triumphs and failures and the lessons we’ve learned from our history.  It’s the very opposite of silence.

But we must also remember that bearing witness is not the end of our obligation — it’s just the beginning.  We know that evil has yet to run its course on Earth.  We’ve seen it in this century in the mass graves and the ashes of villages burned to the ground, and children used as soldiers and rape used as a weapon of war.

Barry knows what President Obama. spoke of in his address at the Holocaust Day of Remembrance Ceremony  Love needed not be tortured.  Expressions of fondness are found in empathy, not extreme duress.

President Eisenhower understood as I had hoped, on this day, Barry Obama had.  What occurs far from view is never truly unseen.  Nor can avoidance erase the scars left on a heart. While as a country, or as individuals we may prefer to retreat to the attic as President Obama’s great uncle did, in truth, it is impossible to forget.

People who participated know this to be so. A belatedly brave Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, Ali Soufan, tell his tales of sorrowful love in My Tortured Decision.  The mediator recalls how for seven years he has remained silent about the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding.  Mister Soufan, as General Eisenhower did before him saw the need to “shed light on the story, and on some of the lessons to be learned.”

I inquire; what will Barry do, and what of President Obama.  Will the man who once held my hand and professed a need to be empathetic do as he declares his commitment? “(W)e have an opportunity, as well as an obligation, to confront these scourges.”  Might he instead do as he hopes we will not, “wrap ourselves in the false comfort that others’ sufferings are not our own,”

I can only hope Barry will encourage the President to heed his own call. “(W)e have the opportunity to make a habit of empathy; to recognize ourselves in each other; to commit ourselves to resisting injustice and intolerance and indifference in whatever forms they may take — whether confronting those who tell lies about history, or doing everything we can to prevent and end atrocities like those that took place . . .”

Let us never forget Guantanamo Bay prison, Abu Ghraib, or any America penitentiary camp, need not be our holocaust.   Tales of tortured love need not be an American truth.

References for tortured love . . .

Counter Terrorism in the White House



Rachel Maddow – former Rice confidant Philip Zelikow on the torture memos, part 1

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

In his attempt to counter a perceived threat to America, Philip Zelikow, the policy representative to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the National Securities Council (NSC) Deputies Committee, unexpectedly became the threat from within the White House.  

The Bush Administration believed the best way to deal with suspected terrorists was to inflict extreme physical and psychological pressure on these perilous persons.  Mister Zelikow offered his dissent.  In a written and verbally stated opinion, Philip Zelikow contradicted what the occupants of the Oval Office accepted as necessary.  “Individuals suspected of terrorism, can be legally tortured.”  

A short time after the Office of Legal Council (OLC) issued the now infamous judgments which allowed for officially sanctioned torment, Mister Zelikow, his superior, who was then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and her Legal Adviser, John Bellinger, gained access to the torture memos.  After a review, Philip Zelikow stated his concern.  He sensed others within the Administration might share his angst.  However, no one, inclusive of Mister Zelikow,  publicly voiced an apprehension, that is, not until this past week.

Today, Mister Zelikow writes of his silence, and the counter position he took on torture for terrorists.  In an article, the former White House insider explains why did not speak out earlier.  “In compliance with the security agreements I have signed, I have never discussed or disclosed any substantive details about the program until the classified information has been released.”

Now that the memos are in the hands of the people, the man who served as the Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission, Philip Zelikow, feels a need to address what for too long was avoided.  In his missive The OLC “torture memos”: thoughts from a dissenter the counter force to corruption within the Bush White House speaks out.  He writes . . .

1.  The focus on water-boarding misses the main point of the program.

Which is that it was a program.  Unlike the image of using intense physical coercion as a quick, desperate expedient, the program developed “interrogation plans” to disorient, abuse, dehumanize, and torment individuals over time.

The plan employed the combined, cumulative use of many techniques of medically-monitored physical coercion.  Before getting to water-boarding, the captive had already been stripped naked, shackled to ceiling chains keeping him standing so he cannot fall asleep for extended periods, hosed periodically with cold water, slapped around, jammed into boxes, etc. etc.  Sleep deprivation is most important.

2.  Measuring the value of such methods should be done professionally and morally before turning to lawyers.

A professional analysis would not simply ask: Did they tell us important information?  Congress is apparently now preparing to parse the various claims on this score — and that would be quite valuable.

But the argument that they gave us vital information, which readers can see deployed in the memos just as they were deployed to reassure an uneasy president, is based on a fallacy.  The real question is: What is the unique value of these methods?. . .

3.  The legal opinions have grave weaknesses.

Weakest of all is the May 30 opinion, just because it had to get over the lowest standard — “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” in Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture.  That standard was also being codified in the bill Senator John McCain was fighting to pass.  It is also found in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, a standard that the Supreme Court ruled in 2006 does apply to these prisoners.  Violation of Common Article 3 is a war crime under federal law (18 U.S.C. section 2441), a felony punishable by up to life imprisonment.  (The OLC opinions do not discuss this law because in 2005 the administration also denied the applicability of Common Article 3.)

However, regardless of historic realities, long-held interpretations of international and national law,  and the writ within the insulated world of the Oval Office, those who would like to think the President is above the law, justify inhumane practices.   The so called “Right” rule, that individuals subjected to torture were not touched in ways that would cause them harm.  Conservatives clamor   . . .

The emotional debate surrounding the use of torture has been reignited by last week’s disclosure of Bush-era memos outlining the harsh interrogation practices utilized against high-profile terror detainees, and the legal opinions used to justify them. Such approved techniques involved slapping, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions, cramped confinement, “walling” (in which detainees were slammed into a flexible wall), forced nudity, and placing a suspect in a small box with insects. President Obama believes that the tactics reflect America’s loss of its “moral bearings,” which is why he discontinued their use and released the memos. But a cadre of political commentators and former Bush administration officials refute that claim, insisting that the techniques should be permissible either because they don’t actually constitute torture, or because they elicit valuable information – or both. We went through the commentary of the past few days to see who falls into this camp.

“One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is they put out the legal memos, the memos that the CIA got from the Office of Legal Counsel, but they didn’t put out the memos that showed the success of the effort …. I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw, that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country.” –Dick Cheney, speaking with Fox News’ Sean Hannity

“The techniques themselves were used selectively against only a small number of hard-core prisoners who successfully resisted other forms of interrogation, and then only with the explicit authorization of the director of the CIA …. As already disclosed by Director Hayden, as late as 2006, even with the growing success of other intelligence tools, fully half of the government’s knowledge about the structure and activities of al Qaeda came from those interrogations.” –Former attorney general Michael Mukasey and former CIA director Michael Hayden, in The Wall Street Journal

“It is, yes, good that the U.S.A. is not doing this anymore, but let’s not get too sanctimonious about how awful it was that we indulged in these techniques after watching nearly 3,000 innocent Americans endure god-awful deaths at the hands of religious fanatics who would happily have detonated a nuclear bomb if they had gotten their mitts on one. And let us move on. There is pressing business. (Are you listening, ACLU? Hel-lo?)” –Chris Buckley, on the Daily Beast

“If somebody can go through water-boarding for 183 times, 6 times a day …. it means you’re not afraid of it, it means it’s not torture. If you’ve found a way to withstand it, it can’t possibly be torture.” –Rush Limbaugh

“I don’t see it as a dark chapter in our history at all. You look at some of these techniques – holding the head, a face slap, or deprivation of sleep. If that is torture, the word has no meaning.” –Charles Krauthammer, on Fox News’ Special Report with Brit Hume

“I think it’s really pathetic for an American president to do that, and to disavow, in effect, the good faith efforts of a previous administration to protect us in ways that I think were entirely appropriate.” –Bill Kristol, on Fox News’ Special Report with Brit Hume

“I’ve been in hotels with more bugs than these guys faced, and they’re tortured?” –Mike Huckabee, on Fox & Friends

“Ultimately though, apparently, according to the evidence, this stuff worked. And some of these guys spilled some beans that saved some lives. Next time we’re in the same predicament, what’s going to happen?” –Steve Doocy, host of Fox & Friends

“Khalid Sheik Mohammed, I understand, was waterboarded 183 times. Did anyone care about that? Does anyone in America walk around going, ‘I’m really upset that the mastermind of 9/11 was waterboarded 183 times.’ That makes me feel better.” -Brian Kilmeade, host of Fox & Friends

“The idea that torture doesn’t work – that’s been put out from John McCain on down – You know, for the longest time McCain said torture doesn’t work then he admitted in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last summer that he was broken by North Vietnamese. So what are we to think here?” –Rush Limbaugh

“If you go beyond posing questions in an even voice, you’re torturing, according to the Times …. Most Americans understand, when life and death is there, you’ve got to do something more than the Army Field Manual.” –Bill O’Reilley

“By reading this people will be reassured and they’ll see the lunacy of the people on the left who say it’s torture. You know, you can only the use the back of your hand you have t splay your fingers when you slap them in the gut. On the face, you have to sue your fingers splayed, and you have to do it between here and here, and close to here.” –Karl Rove, on The O’Reilly Factor

“Far from ‘green lighting’ torture – or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees – the memos detail the actual techniques used and the many measures taken to ensure that interrogations did not cause severe pain or degradation.” –David B. Rivkin and Lee A. Casey, Justice Department officials under George H.W. Bush, in The Wall Street Journal

American opinions remain split, just as they had been in May 2005, when Philip Zelikow first offered his counter to torture.  Today, if anything is to be done to correct what was authorized for criminal behavior, the people must act.  Citizens have already seen what occurs when the public is apathetic, and awards a Commander-In-Chief absolute power.

References for a tortuous reality . . .

Tea Parties; Taxes and Torture Served

TxTrtr

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

I am a discontent and distressed taxpayer!  “Disgruntled” is a word that might describe my deep dissatisfaction with how my tax dollars are spent.  Yet, on April 15, 2009, typically thought of as “Tax Day,” I felt no need to join my fellow citizens in protest.  I did not attend a “Tea Party”.  I too believe, in this country, “taxation without representation” is a problem.  One only need ponder the profits of lobbyists to understand the premise.  Corporate supplicants amass a 22,000 percent rate of return on their investments.  The average American is happy to realize a two-digit increase.  Nonetheless, as much as I too may argue the point, assessments are paid without accountability, what concerns me more is my duty dollars did not support what I think ethical projects.

My cash funded the unconscionable and the President stated “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”  

Had outrage for criminal intent and actions been voiced, I too might have rallied round bays and buildings with buckets of brewed leaves in hand.  Yet, it seemed amongst the tea teetotalers, no one was incensed by the illegal, and what I believe to be immoral practices.

Tea Tossed

The “Teatime” participants I heard did not mention the myriad of misery Americans inflicted on adversaries.  Fury for the previous Administration’s torturous policies did not appear in the papers, or, at least, I did not read these statements.  Talk of the recently released memorandums (pdf) did not evoke much discussion.  The current crop of “grassroots” demonstrators spoke of how the Obama budget might burden their personal lives.  Angry activists vocalized a preference not to pay levees.  Few, if any, reflected on the benefits received.  

While our grievances may differ, we share a conviction.  I too am troubled by what the Obama Administration, which I helped to elect, thinks correct.

Taxes Paid

However, unlike the anxious Americans who voiced their dissent for levees paid, I am happy to give my tax dollars to the government.  For me, funds that help supply public services are vital.  I welcome the opportunity to better ensure there will be police, firemen, and women. I take comfort in the knowledge children and adults may use libraries to peruse quality books. I embrace legislation intended to better instruction.  In my life the importance of education cannot be understated.  Bridges built and maintained, roads paved, traffic signs and signals, functional sanitary sewer systems, and diseases controlled and prevented . . . As a concerned citizen, I am glad I can contribute to these ventures.

I object to what I think unlawful and debauched.  I cannot condone interrogations authorized and acted upon, in my name.  My angst is exacerbated by the current Administration assertion; these crimes are not punishable by law.  Those who tortured only did as was commanded.  At the time, the Department of Justice declares, “superiors” stated such harsh techniques were legal.

Torture Tolerated

What I would call cruel and unusual punishment, the prior President, his Vice, and Cabinet thought proper.  Each Executive stated these torturous measures were necessary to protect Americans.  The people heard proclamations that what “we” did was justified.  It was effective.  Only months ago, Vice President Dick Cheney explained; “The professionals involved in that [so-called torture] program were very, very cautious, very careful — wouldn’t do anything without making certain it was authorized and that it was legal. . .  (I)t’s been a remarkably successful effort. . . .  I think those who allege that we’ve been involved in torture, or that somehow we violated the Constitution or laws with the terrorist surveillance program, simply don’t know what they’re talking about.”  (Memos aside.  Please peruse Torture Memorandums. )

Dick Cheney and his compatriots seem to distinguish between citizens of this country and those who might be identified as “foreigners.”  To further elucidate the spokesperson for the Bush White House stated; “These are not American citizens.  They are not subject, nor do they have the same rights that an American citizen does vis-à-vis the government.”

The newer Administration may concur; civil rights afforded to our countrymen may not be offered to individuals classified as combatants.  While I disagree with that contention, I do believe as the Obama White House  does.  International Law states, all living creatures have an inalienable right to be treated humanely.  

Thankfully, President Obama and his Cabinet condemn tortuous practices.  Yet, the current Administration announced there is no need to prosecute.  Mister Obama affirmed, “(A)t a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”

I must ask; does this declaration ensure history will be repeated?  Individuals such as I accept that tribunals will not transform what was.  Punishment may not convince those who engaged in criminal behaviors to change.  I seek no retribution.  Yet, I do think there is a need to prosecute the culpable.  Humanitarian principles lead taxpayers such as I to declare, torture, by any definition cannot be tolerated.  As a society, we have seen how people are easily numbed by what peers think, say, and do.  Studies show the prevalence of video violence has an influence on what we later think is acceptable.  

In America, ideally, not ideologically, we understand profound principles unite us.  The greater good, the commonweal, take precedence over individualism.  As is inscribed in the Preamble of the Constitution “in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity do ordain and establish” in this country, we care.  Our fellow citizens, and future generations matter to us.  

Perhaps this profundity explains why concerned citizens, those who happily contribute to tolls are distressed by the Obama Administration’s declaration, there will be no prosecution.

Persons such as I, who are troubled by torture, understand the past permeates the present and will be the future, if what is worrisome is avoided, accepted, or is left unattended.  We, the peaceful people who are proud to pay levees of love, are not comforted by an act of contrition.  Nor does the knowledge that President Obama released the memorandums as required by law reassure us.

If intentionally inflicted physical and psychological harm can be characterized as just, and some Conservatives, such as the former Vice President, Dick Cheney, thinks it does, then it makes sense to tax payers who supported the previous President to sanction the acts outlined in recently released memorandums as sound.

Many Conservatives share this sentiment, although not all.  Lest we forget former Presidential candidate John McCain’s succinct statement on one the techniques the Bush Administration authorized.  “They should know what it [waterboarding] is. It is not a complicated procedure. It is torture.” A  man who lives with the memory of being a Prisoner of War, the Arizona Senator emphatically stated, torture is ineffective.  That is until Presidential politics altered his position.

Could it be that candidate McCain did as the current President has done, bow to a constituency that does not demand prosecution for what the United States has defined as criminal since its inception.

Opposition to torture was verbalized before the United States became a nation.  The Declaration of Independence reminds residents of this territory, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In 1863, in the midst of the brutalities of the Civil War, President Lincoln forbade his forces from acts of cruelty, including torture.  After the barbarities of World War II, America led an emergent community of United Nations to adopt in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with its provision that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment (Art.  5).”

In 1975, the United States aided in the United Nations adoption of a separate Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment.  In 1988 President Reagan signed and in 1994 the United States ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the most comprehensive legally binding international treaty prohibiting the use of torture.  The U.N. Convention’s prohibition against torture is absolute, without exceptions.

It was only during the 2006 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (pdf) that the United States turned a blind eye on its history.  Perchance the topic of terror, or the threat envisioned as the Twin Towers fell turned Americans against principled actions.  

Tax and Terror Codes; Reviled, Renewed, or Rejected?

No one can know with certainty what caused a country or countless within the continent to reject the prescribed canon that is the United States Constitution.  Nonetheless, it is clear, the American people do not insist political power be checked.  Collectively, cynicism was and is adopted.  With that acquisition, the country accepted deplorable directives.  The American populace chose to forego authentic representation.  Hence, the electorate allowed for the more heinous atrocities that followed.  Today, only personal financial concerns bring people to their feet and out onto the streets.

The transition was subtle.  Distrustful of government, the public grew to expect the worse.  Now we receive it.  We pay for torture and are pleased  when a President proclaims of “a dark and painful chapter in our history,” this too shall pass.  Personally, I fear it will not.  My fellow citizens did not address my angst when they dumped dried evergreen shrubs on lawns or in a bay.  The President’s decision to disregard what he too called interrogation techniques outlined in the official communication that “undermine our moral authority and do not make us safer” does not bring me joy.

While I did gladly pay my financial assessments, and I did not voice my dissent for torture with tea, I remain a discontent and distressed taxpayer.

References for a dire reality . . .

Rethinking Afghanistan; The Terror Tax



Rethink Afghanistan (Part 3): Cost of War

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Tax time is reason enough to reflect on our budgets, personal and national.  How realistic are our expenditures?  Do we spend more than we earn?  Does our income allow for a few irrational indulgences?  Do discretionary dollars exist?  Might we consider our ample debt.  Does this represent a temporary deficit, easily resolved, or an obligation that cannot be paid promptly.  We may wish to rethink our reality.  At home, families have taken scissors to credit cards.  More than the minimum payment is made.  The intention is to lessen liabilities and increase savings.  In the month of April, after we pay Uncle Sam, most of us concluded, it is time to clean our own fiscal house.  Next, we move to the nation’s ledger.  

Expenses

The largest share of our moneys go to military operations.  The terror tax has become a tremendous burden of American household and communities.  Yet, few wish to rethink this “duty.”

Much to the chagrin of those who do not favor debt, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were paid for on credit.  Taxes were not increased to pay for the two wars.  Indeed, President Bush cut tariff obligations for the American people while he increased the number of dollars devoted to military operations.  

The cash spent on what most would agree were and are protracted conflicts was not placed on the official ledger.  Nor did it exist in American coffers.  What were classified as “emergency supplemental” expenses were made available on loan.  Other countries, rich in resources, furnished the dollars the United States desired.  The currency would need to be re-paid, with interest!  That concept alone could be considered a tax on terror, or an attack on Americans who disfavor debt.

The current Commander-In-Chief promised he would not engage in such tactics.  The Obama Administration would be transparent.  What would be spent on war would be visible in formal, administrative, concrete calculations.  To that end, in February 2009, perhaps before most Americans filed a return, President Obama submitted his budget.  Headlines screamed, Obama’s budget is the end of an era.

Cash and Change On Hand

Change had come.  Obama re-thought Bush policies.  More money would be officially allocated to military operations.  The Pentagon Does Well with Obama Budget. The financial planned commitment to the Pentagon is an abundant $533.7 billion.   This amount represents a 4 percent increase over the previous 2009 allocation. This total excludes money for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The budget includes an additional $75 billion in 2009 for “overseas contingency operations,” a reference to the battles still ablaze in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locales.  Come 2010, $130 billion more will be available for combat.

Insufficient Funds

Cautions presented six months ago, on October 15, 2008, by the Congressional Research Service apparently were not heeded by the new Administration.  Citizens also did not realize, cash for these conflicts is not countless.  It never was.  Calculations were offered.  However, then, as now, the numbers were ignored.  Perhaps, all aspects of the ostensibly perpetual wars were not rethought.

Economic Cost of War in Afghanistan

The War in Afghanistan has cost U.S. Tax payers $172 billion to date, with a request for roughly $13.4 billion to fund the war through the remainder of Fiscal year 2009 expected in March or April.  This brings the total cost through FY 2009 to $185.1 billion.

This figures reflect the budgetary cost alone.  Projected costs over the long term are likely to total more than half a trillion dollars when future occupation and veteran’s benefits are taken into account.  Interest payments could add another $200 billion to that figure. (1) All told, this is more than the size of the recent bailout of Wall Street, and rivals the historic economic stimulus bill just passed by Congress.

Countries outside the United States have spent additional billions on the War in Afghanistan, with the UK contributing roughly £4.5billion (2) and the cost to Canada totaling $7.7 billion to $10.5 billion in Canadian dollars through 2008. (3).

Thus far, you and I, the American taxpayer, borrowed one hundred and eighty five billion dollars, or more,  to fight a war thought futile in Afghanistan.  In Iraq the dollars devoted to deploy each troop, one individual, was $500,000.  That is five hundred thousand dollars!  The money spent on a single soldier sent to Afghanistan is expected to be eight-hundred thousand greenbacks.

Financial Future in Doubt

Many Progressives may wish to wail, “George W. Bush is to blame.”  However, people from the political Party that takes pride in the actions of this President might rethink that truth.  

Days before American tax payments were due, Mister Obama asked Congress for an additional eighty three and four tenths billion dollars ($83.4) to fund the war just through the end of the year!  After Mister Obama assured Americans supplemental expenditures to pay for wars would not be requested, the President rescinded the pledge.  Excuses were made.  Explanations given.  Citizens were told the additional allotment would be the first and the last made by President Obama.

It seems circumstances caused the Chief Executive to rethink his stance on spending and Afghanistan.  Perhaps, citizens will also rethink their position.  In truth, only the people have the power to insist, it is time to cut the funds for war.

Rethinking Afghanistan Realities . . .

Footnote References . . .

1.  The $3 Trillion War. By Linda Bilmes  and Joseph Stiglitz.  Vanity Fair. April 2008

2.  Cost of war in Afghanistan soars to £2.5bn, By Richard Norton-Taylor.  The Guardian. Friday 13, 2009

3.  Economic Cost of War in Afghanistan.

References  and Resources . . .

I Dream the Dream

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org


All of my life I have been a dreamer.  Don Quixote is my adopted name.  Happily, I tilt at windmills.  I do the impossible.  Nothing deters me, that is, unless my lack of ego strength is involved.  Then, unlike Susan Boyle, a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent, I falter.  A being, whose energy, enthusiasm, and personal story brought her to stage, has the courage I lack.  Might it be a fear of failure, or perchance, success scares me.  I know not with certainty.  For now, as I reflect on the woman who wows the world, I think of how I too have dreamed, and what I did to damage, defeat, or even destroy my own ascension.  

I also wonder.  Will the tears I shed as I listen to her sing and watch her gracefully move through her recital wash over me.  Would all that I felt, as I immersed myself in Ms Boyle’s performance, be gone before I acted on the audacity she radiates, or might these emotions help cleanse me of my own deep-seated apprehensions.  Oh, how I crave to come out into the light, to as Susan Boyle stated, be given a “chance.”  Indeed, for me, I know the one who never seems to provide me with what I need to succeed is me.

At the age of two, having entered school at one and one half years of age, I aspired to earn my Doctorate degree.  The vision never faded.  However, apprehension filled my heart, my head, and ultimately delayed the desire.  Absolutely, letters of intent, and introductions for dissertations were written.  Interviews with Department Chairs were granted.  Conversations with Deans inspired and encouraged me.  Nonetheless, excuses prevailed.  Dollars could have been deemed the cause for the postponement.  Other pretexts were easily posed.  My dream was deferred.

Later in life, I realized, perhaps, what I truly yearned for was not as I once believed it to be.  Could I compose, rather than recognize a prestigious scholastic rank.  Might I follow a bliss belatedly acknowledged.  I wish to write, to produce prose, to publish.  This, I realize is my passion.  While, unexpectedly, accidentally, I was given an opportunity I never imagined, I denied its importance.  I did nothing to further my future as an author.

The one tome was widely distributed in a highly esteemed and well-known textbook.  Educational Resources accepted some rare submissions.  Quite a few others honored me with requests for missives on the World-Wide-Web.  Appreciative, I shared many an inscribed statement, stories, and poems.  Complements came and I dismissed them all.  

I hoped for an authentic chance, uncertain as to what that might look like.  Surely, I told myself, I tell myself, one will never come.  I did not have the final, the one, the “proper” credential.  Nor could I possibly pen or present a publisher with a proposal of worth.  

I have read the accepted requests of many an author .who already appears in print. Some of these papers were hand-delivered by published persons who assured me, I have the potential.  Only I, these wordsmiths said, could  create the prospect I think must be provided.

I look ’round every corner for clues.  I crawl through dusty shelves in search of a book to teach me how to market my manuscripts.  I chat with those who have achieved as I aspire to do.  I defend what I know hinders my growth.  I turn to Susan Boyle with delight.  Perhaps, one day I too will perform.  I do have a dream.

I thank you Ms Boyle.  You, perchance, my mentor, my muse, are beautiful, inside and out.  

“Dream what you want to dream; go where you want to go;

be what you want to be, because you have only one life and one chance to do all the things you want to do.”


~ Bette Midler [American Singer and Actress]

Post Script . . .

Curious and contemplative, I wish to consider the words of the melody Susan Boyle chose.  I recall the musical Les Misérables.  However, I heard the song so long ago.  I search for the lyrics to I Dreamed a Dream and much to my sorrow, I find words of despair.  The character that chants words of woe envisions the world as a place where she is unwelcome, where dreams die, perchance before they are able to be truly born.

Fascinated, I find reason to ponder.  Might this moment is Ms Boyle’s life have been her first.  Could it be that she, just as I, had not given herself a chance, at least not until that night.

I recall she left the stage before a more authentic, spoken acknowledgement was delivered.  She was surprised to discover the depth of appreciation for her “talents,” her being.  She brimmed with delight when she was told, it is true.  Her voice, her strength, the being who touched so many souls, was, and is sincerely special.

Might an occasion that conceived much within me be the one that gave birth to Susan Boyle’s dreams come true?

References . . .

Capitalism; Dead, Alive, and Broken

Cptlsm

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

For but a moment, whilst the Group of 20 [G20] met in London’s ancient financial capital, ,”The City,” the roars of remorse, could be heard.  Words of woe had been whispered in hushed tones for quite some time.  Scholars spoke of various possibilities on occasion.  Whether Senior Economic Fellows from various think-tanks thought a system to be dead, alive, or near doomed, there was perhaps a bit of agreement.  “I see what you mean.  It is broken,” Economist Mark Thoma mused more than a year ago.  

The public screamed out in pain for decades; however, few cared about the cries of countless common folks.  Those who argued against principles that place profits before people were easily ignored for they had no power and less influence.  Much to the chagrin of corporate titans, even Economists warned; this could be the end of Capitalism.  Yet, until early in the day, only weeks ago, no one paid much attention to what has become a customary declaration for everyday workers.  Morning has broken, and Capitalism is shattered as well.  

America adopted and advanced a system that was unsustainable..  More than once, “systemic failures” revealed the folly of free enterprise principles.  Nonetheless, worldwide people were convinced to purchase damaged goods and premises.  Yet, as Journalist Professor, Robert Jensen contends, “most notably those in the business world and their functionaries and apologists in the schools, universities, mass media, and mainstream politics” do not want to admit that this is so.

Wanted; Dead or Alive

The evidence is everywhere.  What was a question rarely uttered, “Is Capitalism Dead?” has become a statement, or perhaps the dream of those who have been severely affected by this most devastating downturn.

Wealthy watch breathlessly as stock markets crash.  Banks fail.  Blue Chip companies crumble.  Foreclosures flourish, and people, those once thought prosperous, pour out onto the avenue in search of a job, or some sense of stability.

Perhaps, that is why, average citizens felt a need to break the silence, to speak of the broken Capitalist system.  In the shadow of powerful and prosperous Presidents and Prime Ministers, who gathered together for the G20 Conference, 4,000 demonstrators pleaded, not for pity, but for relief from a fiscal system that requires poverty.  

Frustrated and forlorn by an attitude that fosters further advancement of free market principles, at least in the United Kingdom, dissenters shouted in disgust.  It would not be wise to work within an economic structure that changed the global culture in ways that ultimately brought international institutions down.  

On a fateful day, early in April a young girl in the crowd, Aeyla Windridge pleaded.  I want “the death of Capitalism.”  The twelve-year-old spoke to what Heads of State had not for centuries.  “Capitalism isn’t in crisis, capitalism is the crisis,” so said another activist.  

Recovery, Reinvestment, and Rescue

Few of the principal players, those who represented the twenty participant countries were willing, or able to acknowledge the free market theory is flawed.  Most of the prominent Heads of State were, and continue to be, content with sanguine assessments.  Up to 85 percent of global gross national product comes from the shores of but a score of countries.  Eighty [80] percent  of world trade comes from these territories.  Americans, who might be thought of as the authors of Capitalism, saw and see no reason to change the status quo, at least not substantially.

Borrow and spend had worked well in the past for the superpower, or so the US government attempted to advocate.  While the President poses this philosophy cannot stand, America must move away “from an era of borrow-and-spend to one where we save and invest,” in the same breath, the Chief Executive who represents the country that gave birth to free enterprise, endorses the framework, just as those who preceded him did. (Please peruse the text What Ever Happened to Free Enterprise, By Ronald Reagan)

Capitalism, the Obama Administration states, was not the cause of the planet-wide monetary collapse.  Only greed, excesses, and a lack of regulations brought about the demise of the dollar, and the rate of exchange.  As he addressed other world leaders in attendance at the G20 Conference President Obama conceded, “the crisis began in the United States.  I take responsibility even if I wasn’t even president at the time.” However, Mister Obama contends all countries must be accountable for this massive macro-breakdown.  America’s Chief Executive proposes plans intended to strengthen a Capitalist structure.

In his April 4, 2009 Action to Address to the Global Economic Downturn, President Obama encouraged more regulations in an attempt to expand a consumer-based Capitalist theory.  With little regard for how the American way of life, which the President does not apologize for, cripples common, people throughout the world, Mister Obama declared.

“(W)e know that the success of America’s economy is inextricably linked to that of the global economy. If people in other countries cannot spend, that means they cannot buy the goods we produce here in America,  . . . if we continue to let banks and other financial institutions around the world act recklessly and irresponsibly, that affects institutions here at home as credit dries up, and people can’t get loans to buy a home or car, to run a small business or pay for college.

Ultimately, the only way out of a recession that is global in scope is with a response that is global in coordination.”

One is reminded of why, in earlier years, no one spoke vociferously of the crisis that is Capitalism.  Ordinary people were busy.  For centuries, regular folks worked day and night only to bring home a nominal paycheck.  Even in prosperous nations, people could barely afford to put food on the table.  People took trivial jobs just to secure shelter.  Millions felt forced to pursue professional paths that offer few rewards.  The only goal for the average Joe and Jane was to stay afloat.  Few have had the time or energy to protest their circumstances, or what the powers-that-be had and have imposed internationally.  Today, and in the past, worldwide economic slavery has sufficed.  That is until now.  

Lest the President and Prime Ministers elsewhere forget, in the States, and abroad, people are out of work.  The promise of an ownership society,where “people, from all walks of life,” would open the door of their private residence and say, “Welcome to my home” proved to be but a myth.  The pledge of plump stock portfolios for everyone through Capitalism was a claim never substantiated.  Contrary to the oft-voiced assurances, the American Dream could be achieved anywhere on Earth If people only invested in a free market economy, this current fiscal crisis has shown the world, words were but wishes promoted by the prosperous.

Regardless of how average people are punished by a fiscal formula that requires there be poor people, the current President intends to preserve the Capitalist principles that govern a global economy.  While Mister Obama may not profess a commitment to an “ownership society,” he too wishes to encourage people to possess what they cannot afford.  

Broken Beyond Benevolence

In contrast, more than a few Economists have begun to contemplate the wisdom of a system based on constant consumption.  Experts in monetary movements examine, What went wrong and, rather more importantly for the future, what did not. Other statistician who study the social science of fiscal affairs suggest there is ““Good Capitalism, (and) Bad Capitalism.”  Certainly, no matter the belief, with cause, “Capitalism is under fire.”  

William Pfaff, the author of eight books on American foreign policy, international relations, and contemporary history has pondered the depths of a paradigm profoundly broken. Mister Pfaff offers a perspective less limited than the simpler theories often presented by Administrations and Academics.  The  observer of intercontinental issues writes . . .

The essential question is, what capitalism are we talking about? Since the 1970s, two fundamental changes have been made in the leading (American) model of capitalism.

The first is that the “stakeholder,” post-New Deal reformed version of capitalism (in America) that prevailed in the West after World War II was replaced by a new model of corporate purpose and responsibility.

The earlier model said that corporations had a duty to ensure the well-being of employees, and an obligation to the community (chiefly but not exclusively fulfilled through corporate tax payments).

That model has been replaced by one in which corporation managers are responsible for creating short-term “value” for owners, as measured by stock valuation and quarterly dividends.

The practical result has been constant pressure to reduce wages and worker benefits (leading in some cases to theft of pensions and other crimes), and political lobbying and public persuasion to lower the corporate tax contribution to government finance and the public interest.

In short, the system in the advanced countries has been rejigged since the 1960s to take wealth from workers, and from the funding of government, and transfer it to stockholders and corporate executives.

There is ample evidence to support the author’s contention.  In 1970, the recipient of a Nobel Memorial Prize on Economic Sciences, Milton Friedman, encouraged an emphasis on corporate earnings. A culture that creates a vibrant community, Friedman insisted is counter to “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits”

Decades later, his disciples of sorts, Presidents Ronald Reagan,  George Herbert Walker Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, each implemented plans that increased earned income for the influential and decreased available dollars for the already disadvantaged.  Policies designed to protect and promote an American entrepreneurial taxonomy, or Capitalistic interests, were proposed as a means to spread democracy.  Planet-wide, people and economic practices were transformed.

The second change that has taken place is globalization.  The crucial effect of this for society in the advanced countries is that it puts labor into competition with the poorest countries on earth.

We need go no further with what I realize is a very complex matter, other than to note the classical economist David Ricardo’s “iron law of wages,” which says that in conditions of wage competition and unlimited labor supply, wages will fall to just above subsistence.

There never before has been unlimited labor.  There is now, thanks to globalization – and the process has only begun.

The variance is vast.  Those who have possess so much.  The portion of population that owns little, have far less than even an average individual might imagine.  The wealthy cannot conceive of a life where food might be the most valuable commodity.  A world in which water is worth more than gold seems unthinkable to those who thrive in “civilized” communities,  Yet, this reality may come to towns in a Capitalist country.   Indeed, in some American communities, this truth appears today.

Nonetheless, agreements secured at the G20 summit ensure the adoption of a debt-driven American-style “democracy.”  An arrangement, in which all are not created equal, will continue to be the practiced and preferred economic system planet-wide.  People will once again forget assessments presented less than a decade ago.


Many of the radicals leading the protests may be on the political fringe.  But they have helped to kick-start a profound re-thinking  about globalization among governments, mainstream economists, and corporations that, until recently, was carried on mostly in obscure think tanks and academic seminars.

The reassessment is badly overdue.  In the late 20th century, global capitalism was pushed by leaps in technology, the failure of socialism, and East Asian’s seemingly miraculous success.  Now, it’s time to get realistic.  the plain truth is that market liberalization by itself does not lift all boats, and in some cases, it has caused damage to poor nations.  What’s more, there’s no point denying that multi-nationals have contributed to labor, environmental, and human rights abuses as they pursue profits around the globe . . .

(After a ten-year expansion of market capitalism around the world, as of the year 2000) The World Bank figures the number of people living on a $1 a day increased to 1.3 billion, over the past decade.

The extremes of global capitalism are astonishing . . .  If global capitalism’s flaws aren’t addressed, the backlash could grow more severe.

Indeed, the repercussions have been relentless.  Near a century of consumption, solely for the sake of profits, has weakened the world.  The current fiscal crisis reveals Capitalism was never the cure for what ails the people on this planet.  Persistent poverty, and the threat of increased insolvency, born out of a free enterprise system is an expense few, if any, can afford.  One need only look at Capitalism, and what it has wrought.  Acquisitive individuals may acknowledge one reaps what one sows.  Independently, or collectively, as a global community anyone might come to understand, “If my brother is poor, I/we too will suffer.  Ultimately, I/we will pay for the poverty I/we accept.”  

Without such a realization, and inspired by the spirit of an individualism that has flourished amongst free-marketers, people may, as President Obama proclaimed.  Worldwide, or here at home, we “want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that [has] been missing.”  However, it is not another glorious “morning in America.”  Nor is it a beautiful day in most neighborhoods.  Were the clouds to clear, globally people might avow, authentically, there need be an actual new dawn.  It is time to dream of economic structures that have never been.

The majorities in the States, and throughout the globe, are no longer silent.  Common folks have spoken.  Capitalism is broken.  It is not wanted, dead or alive.

Sources for economic and empathetic structures . . .

Obama; State Secrets A Shame



Countdown: Turley on Obama Administration Invoking State Secrets on Surveillance Program

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Today, the Obama truth is revealed.  Change has come in the form of familiarity.  Some American’s are embarrassed.  Others embrace what, when presented by the previous Administration, they rejected.  Apathy helps most Americans to avoid a sense of shame.  It was announced;  Obama defends Bush-era secrets.  This Administration has gone further to establish government sovereignty.  As a nation, the Obama White House tells citizens, our country will be better protected if details about the surveillance program are considered “Top Secret – Sensitive Compartmented Information.”

Several knew this too would come to pass.  Authentic transformation was but a tease meant to achieve supremacy for Senator Obama.  In the Summer of 2008, the Illinois statesman voted to give George W. Bush more power than even the former President requested.  The issue; the  Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, FISA.  The controversial ballot cast by then Senator Obama did not capture the attention of most.  People were consumed by woes that were more personal.  Privacy is a right most in the United States take for granted.  Until an event in an individual’s life awakens awareness for what was taken away long ago, most do not realize in America the Administration is legally able to watch and listen to a residents’ every move.

The media did not devote much time to Senator Obama’s, measured move.  More importantly, from a business perspective, news stories that address surveillance do not receive a larger share of the audience.  Perchance, auspiciously, for our current President, last July campaign distractions dominated the news cycle.  In 2009, talk of the economy is thought most essential.  Indeed, the United States had already experienced an authentic transformation.

After the infamous attacks on September 11, 2001, the electorate accepted the Bush Administration’s truth.  That is why there are few cries of alarm for the White House’s current claim.  The two are close to the same Each Oval Office expounded; there is a constant threat of terrorist aggressions.  Presidents’ need to have the power to act on “Intelligence.”  Privacy for citizens must be forfeited.  The Patriot Act needed to be passed.  (Please read the text.)  The Commander-In-Chief must have all the authority he or she requests if the American people are to stay safe.  

Hence, convinced of the need to be forever vigilant, countrymen and women changed near a decade ago.  The public became accustomed to constant shadowing.  In the recent past and present, the press presumes correctly.  There is no need to question what collectively, the public concluded justifiable.

It was as it is, apt to assume there was no tale to tell when Congress, with Obama in the Senate authorized the wonderful world of unlawful White House sanctioned wiretaps.  Nor is there a public interest story when the current occupant of the Oval Office through the Department of Justice proclaims, undercover work, legal or not, is necessary.  Americans have come to acknowledge, in dire times such as these, perhaps, the Administration needs be above the law.  The people need not have the power to sue for improprieties or illegalities.

Perhaps, this explains what was and continues to persist.  Less than a year ago, little time was spent on what candidate Obama justified as wise.  The few who expressed apprehension were eschewed.  Thoughts that often, history is repeated, were rejected.  Fear that what occurred today might follow was thought folly.  Regard for the notion, a President with power will not likely relinquish authority bestowed upon him or her, was ridiculed.  Then, as now, those scant individuals who voiced distress were easily dismissed as cynics.  They were relegated to the position of people without faith in the greater cause.  

Supporters of President Obama, sustain hope.  Activists felt, and continue to believe; this time is different.  Barack Obama, or the people who coalesced to create a vibrant civically responsible community, will indeed prevail.  The population is the change we can believe in, or would be were it not for the fact that under the direction of the Obama Justice Department, the government can wiretap without a warrant and still, not be charged with a crime.

Only this week, loyalist recount the rhetoric and rejoice in the knowledge; in countries such as Turkey Obama is a hit! Newsweek’s Howard Fineman, on MSNBC‘s Hardball said Obama “is putting himself forth as . . .president to the world.”  Countless partisans are reassured, assured; as Commander-In-Chief, the man who promised to work for the people, would do what was “right” for everyone on this Earth.  

Yet, less than three months in office, the tide has turned, and not for the better.  Obama Administration quietly expanded Bush’s legal defense of wiretapping program.  Indeed, as President, Barack Obama did as he pledged not to do.  Candidate Obama had declared There would be No warrantless wiretaps if you elect me.  Yet, trust in that promise has become another American shame.

(L)ate Friday afternoon, the  Obama DOJ filed the government’s first response to EFF’s lawsuit (.pdf), the first of its kind to seek damages against government officials under FISA, the Wiretap Act and other statutes, arising out of Bush’s NSA program.  But the Obama DOJ demanded dismissal of the entire lawsuit based on (1) its Bush-mimicking claim that the “state secrets” privilege bars any lawsuits against the Bush administration for illegal spying, and  (2)  a brand new “sovereign immunity” claim of breathtaking scope — never before advanced even by the Bush administration — that the Patriot Act bars any lawsuits of any kind for illegal government surveillance unless there is “willful disclosure” of the illegally intercepted communications.  

In other words, beyond even the outrageously broad “state secrets” privilege invented by the Bush administration and now embraced fully by the Obama administration, the Obama DOJ has now invented a brand new claim of government immunity, one which literally asserts that the U.S. Government is free to intercept all of your communications (calls, emails and the like) and — even if what they’re doing is blatantly illegal and they know it’s illegal — you are barred from suing them unless they “willfully disclose” to the public what they have learned. . . .

This brief and this case are exclusively the Obama DOJ’s, and the ample time that elapsed — almost three full months — makes clear that it was fully considered by Obama officials.  Yet, they responded exactly as the Bush DOJ would have.  This demonstrates that the Obama DOJ plans to invoke the exact radical doctrines of executive secrecy which Bush used — not only when the Obama DOJ is taking over a case from the Bush DOJ, but even when they are deciding what response should be made in the first instance.  Everything for which Bush critics excoriated the Bush DOJ — using an absurdly broad rendition of “state secrets” to block entire lawsuits from proceeding even where they allege radical lawbreaking by the President and inventing new claims of absolute legal immunity — are now things the Obama DOJ has left no doubt it intends to embrace itself.

Only days earlier an evaluation of the Obama White House evoked concern.  Obama Finds That Washington’s Habits of Secrecy Die Hard.  Might Americans particularly those who trusted President Obama would change an Administration’s corrupt practices, consider, as a candidate, an aspirant  Barack Obama built the foundation that now supports him.  The Obama Administration, the Government opts for secrecy in wiretap suit.  Those who today continue to purport, “I pledge my allegiance to President, Barack Obama,” or even only to his plans, may consider the thought.  Past is prologue.  

If Americans do not acknowledge the significance of early actions on the part of Presidential aspirants, if the people hold onto false hope, the electorate hurts itself.  Rights to privacy lost will  not only  be retained but also enhanced.  If citizens trust a challenger will be the change we can believe in, even when he reveals he is not, then, we can expect what will come.  Telephones will be tapped.  Surveillance will pass for security.  The fact that Americans allowed the same intrusive policies to persist is our shame.  

References; the loss of civil liberties restored . . .