Saturday, April 18, 2009

Obstruction of justice at the highest level; the torturers were “just following orders”…

In modern America, the penalties for swiping a candy bar, or accidentally runnning a red light, are more severe than the penalty for killing a so-called “enemy combatant” prisoner with active torture, or by deliberately baking that prisoner to death in a shipping container in the sunny desert, should you be “ordered” to do so by your bosses. It’s also apparently perfectly OK to order others to do these acts under cover of your authority, words contrived and written by men blinded by obeisance, and then put into motion by the morally lazy (although there is some indication that Spain’s judiciary doesn’t quite agree).

President Obama has made a frightfully immoral error by declaring that we can simply move on from our torturing past, with no accountability, and that all the torturers and their bosses should escape the consequences of their willful actions done in violation of international treaties and laws (not to mention the most basic of moral standards).
Obama: “…those who carried out their duties (sic) relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice […] will not be subject to prosecution [because there is] nothing [to] be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”
Well then, why on earth are we wasting so much “time and energy” trying to ship an 89-year old man, John (Ivan) Demjanjuk back to Munich to answer for his WWII “carrying out of his duties”? Shouldn’t we just let bygones be bygones for his long-ago past too?
Obama: “This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke. We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history.”
Prosecution for crimes committed is not “retribution”! Do not minimize my opposition to your path as “strong views and emotions”! I am motivated only by my respect for law and my pragmatic notion that laws are meaningless when enforcement is selective, and that such enforcement selectivity creates a tyranny of the worst sort.
Obama: “Our national greatness is embedded in America’s ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence.”
NO, you have it completely WRONG! Our greatness as a nation is incumbent upon our determination to BE a nation of laws, a nation that operates under the “RULE OF LAW,” which specifically “provides that decisions should be made by the application of […] laws without the intervention of discretion in their application” (Black's Law Dictionary, 1979).

This declaration by President Obama against prosecuting for known crimes harks back to those sorriest of days of the Bush administration, when Bush cited the supposed principle of “unitary executive” power, saying in a signing statement (to McCain’s 2005 torture amendment) that he believed his own adherance to the rule of law to be optional, and that he had the right to ignore laws and treaties at will:
“The executive branch shall construe [the provision] relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President ... of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks.”
James Madison wrote:
“If the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds to believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty...”
It would indeed be ironic if impeachment proceedings were brought against President Obama for the crimes committed by the Bush administration, simply because President Obama chose to “shelter” those lawbreakers from prosecution.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Bleeding us dry

“Annuit cœptis”? Not when it comes to usurious interest rates.

Although it is difficult to keep up with (or make sense of) our current financial morass, every so often a beacon of light can illuminate the crux of the issue. For me, that was the recent Harper’s Magazine piece, “Infinite Debt,” by Thomas Geoghegan. His premise is very simple: the whole mess was caused by unregulated interest rates.

As he notes, the profit potential this change generated drew all investment away from manufacturing and into the financial “services” industry, and the money just poured in, from all over the world, because everyone wanted in on a good thing. There was more money than anyone knew what to do with, and thus, the exotic paper was issued, betting on bets that bet on other bets, snowballing to more than $600 trillion in “investments”--a bubble to beat all bubbles, based on nothing but air, and really, a Ponzi scheme to beat all Ponzi schemes (although Geoghegan does not define it so).

It is only the unregulated interest rates that led investors to demand high year-after-year returns on their deposits, and the only place to find those returns was in the banking industry, so manufacturing (and the jobs and towns it sustains) was bled dry. This accounts for the declining real income of wage-earners, who then turned to credit in order to cover living expenses, and who were also subjected to the high interest rates charged by banks (in spite of the lowest Federal Reserve interest rates in history).

I recently let a small balance remain on a credit card for a couple months, as the card has its minimum payment made automatically and I hadn’t gotten around to paying it off, and the interest rate was not horrendous (13.24%). With an excellent credit rating and almost no debt, I recently received a fine-print letter from the bank (Chase) telling me that the interest rate would rise in a month, “in response to market conditions and to maintain profitability on your account.” Boom! I immediately sent payment in full, plus a slight overage, to force them to issue a credit statement monthly for the next six months. No more “profitability” for you!

It’s pretty obvious that the banks are killing us. They are sapping every dime from regular people (in the form of credit card interest and lost wages and rip-off mortgage schemes), and they are draining the lifeblood from all other industries, and now they’re draining the people’s treasury as well. “Too big to fail”? How about “too big to live”? Banks and the entire financial “services” industry are not being operated in the interest of the people, and it is time for the regulators to address that fact.

Usury is not only a sin, but it is the ruination of any economy where it is allowed to reign.

The only defense the average person has is to do the hard work to eliminate all use of credit from their lives, except for a reasonable mortgage, and if they can’t get a reasonable mortgage, to forego the purchase of a home. To do otherwise is to enslave yourself, to cast yourself into a debtor’s prison of your own making (thanks to the collusion of the banks and the government).

We also need to demand that our representatives re-regulate the banks, but this is a far tougher matter, given their conflicts of interest (lobbyists and campaign contributions) and their general ignorance of the intricacies of the financial industry. A good start would be a cap on consumer interest rates, but it should not stop there. Re-regulation also needs to be applied to the creative rip-off schemes dreamed up by Wall Streeters, and it needs to be made clear that the U.S. Treasury does not exist for the purpose of bailing out losing bettors.

Will any of this happen in my lifetime? Probably not, in the absence of a complete finanacial melt-down, something I dearly hope does not come to pass. For the rest of us, the regular folks who work for our livings, our only response to current events can be to just say no: no more credit-based purchasing, no more feeding the banks, no more get-rich-quick investments. Get out (and stay out) of debt as best you can. The banks are your enemy! For myself, I would rather live in my car than give the banks another dime.