Thursday, November 12, 2009

the zona salutes our heros of freedom on the tenth anniversary of the fall of the wall

Via Felix Salmon, I notice that today is a day to be celebrated. No, not Veterans Day. Ten years ago today, the wall came tumbling down – that horrible wall between commercial and investment banks. Two brave freedom fighters, Larry Summers and Senator Phil Gramm, led the charge for freedom, free enterprise, under the heart stirring slogan, “government is not the solution”. The next year, these two mousketeers of market equilibrium, the ownership society, and making the credit flow (at up to 30 percent per annum) like water for the poor! also brought down the horrendous regulations on mortgage lenders that strangled them like Laocoon’s sons were strangled by the sea snake.

Let it not be said that the struggle wasn’t tough. They faced a woman! O typical, broody women – this one, Brooksley Born, was simply an economic illiterate. Far from wanting to set us free – all of us, every last member of the country club – she nattered on about how collapsing the distinction between investment banks and commercial banks, backing up commercial banks with U.S. money, and allowing investment banks to play trillion dollar games with derivatives was somehow – this is the kind of naïve, housewife vocabulary she used… wrong. Women just don’t understand the important things, so luckily she was railroaded, and it turned out good for everybody! The Rolling Stones has a where are they now survey that does your heart good:

"Today marks a decade since the repeal of Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era safeguard that prohibited the commingling of commercial and investment banks. The deregulation gave rise to all-in-one financial behemoths like Citi, ushered in the too-big-to-fail era, and nearly toppled the global financial system.

The hubris expressed during the signing ceremony at the Old Executive Office Building ten years ago today will make you throw up in your mouth a little."

Dickenson reports on the bipartisanship shown at a ceremony in which both Clinton and Phil Gramm got to speak. Gramm’s words, in particular, pierce my heart with arrows of great joy:

In the 1930s, at the trough of the Depression, when Glass-Steagall became law, it was believed that government was the answer. It was believed that stability and growth came from government overriding the functioning of free markets. We are here today to repeal Glass-Steagall because we have learned that government is not the answer. We have learned that freedom and competition are the answers. We have learned that we promote economic growth, and we promote stability, by having competition and freedom. I am proud to be here because this is an important bill. It is a deregulatory bill. I believe that that is the wave of the future. And I am awfully proud to have been part of making it a reality. (Applause.)

And, as Dickenson reports, Gramm has ridden the wave of the future into making millions at UBS bank. A bank that deigned to let the government be the answer just a teensy weensy bit last year, when it got a 52.9 billion dollar government bailout. Noblesse oblige!

Others at the ceremony have benefited enormously from freedom freedom freedom too! Larry Summers we all know and love. But how about Gary Gensler, then treasury undersecretary, now head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission – Brooksley Born, with her sheer ignorance of economics (defined as the science of putting as much money as possible into the pockets of the people who have as little morals as possible), was certainly not going to be invited back under King Summers! Another personage mentioned by Dickenson was a woman – cause, heck, some of the ladies do get with the program. Look at that there Wendy Gramm, the distinguished Senator's wife, who did so much for Enron. This one, another undersecretary of the Treasury, Linda Robertson, distinguished herself with an outstanding trajectory through the naughties, first as an Enron lobbyist (o frabjous day!), and now a senior advisor at the Fed!

So much for the fact that in country club, there’s no such thing as failure. Turning now to another product of the naughties, a liberal hawk who seemed to be consulted about Iraq every other day in the NYT, and who wrote numerous articles gravely sussing out the situation for the New York Review of Books, Peter Galbraith: Peter had a big day today. We learned that as he was ‘advising’ the Kurds and helping free the ever more free Iraqis, devising a constitition that enshrined humanity and federalism, particularily federalism, in our colony, he was also – an eager American and a go getter! – devising a little oil advisory company. And his work is paying off, as – through an absolute coincidence having to do with the provisions he helped put into the Iraqi constitution – he stands to gain 100 million dollars. Not bad! The country club breeds strong men – o, and sometimes the ladies too! – who have the guts to shed their own blood, figuratively, seat, figuratively, and tears, ever so figuratively, while all around are, well, being blown up, driven from their homes or tortured to death. The half a million Iraqi dead, and the two million refugees, may seem like a big thing today – but we are talking 100 million big ones, baby!
Interestingly, the NYT article said not word one of the way he was vetted for writing numerous op eds in the NYT editorial section. Was his byline, officer, Porcupine Group? Did they tell us this was a, to put a nasty word on it, war profiteer? No. Admittedly, his last name helped. Actually, I admit it kills me a little – I love his father and brother, and the one time I interviewed Peter, he seemed most obliging.
Hark, later in the day, an editorial note did appear:

On Thursday, a news article in The Times reported on the ties between Peter W. Galbraith, a former United States ambassador, and a Norwegian oil company that operates in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. According to the Times article, Mr. Galbraith "received rights to an enormous stake in at least one of Kurdistan's oil fields in the spring of 2004.
Since that time, Mr. Galbraith has written several opinion articles for the Op-Ed page in support of Kurdish independence and security. These articles should have disclosed to readers that Mr. Galbraith could benefit financially from an independent Kurdistan that would not have to share oil revenues with Iraq.
Like other writers for the Op-Ed page, Mr. Galbraith signed a contract that obligated him to disclose his financial interests in the subjects of his articles. Had editors been aware of Mr. Galbraith's financial stake, the Op-Ed page would have insisted on disclosure or not published his articles.”

Which is placed below his Galbraith’s stirring call to have American soldiers fight and die to protect his investments:

“Seeing as we cannot maintain the peace in Iraq, we have but one overriding interest there today — to keep Al Qaeda from creating a base from which it can plot attacks on the United States. Thus we need to have troops nearby prepared to re-engage in case the Sunni Arabs prove unable to provide for their own security against the foreign jihadists.

This would be best accomplished by placing a small “over the horizon” force in Kurdistan. Iraqi Kurdistan is among the most pro-American societies in the world and its government would welcome our military presence, not the least because it would help protect Kurds from Arab Iraqis who resent their close cooperation with the United States during the 2003 war. American soldiers on the ground might also ease the escalating tension between the Iraqi Kurds and Turkey, which is threatening to send its troops across the border in search of Turkish Kurd terrorists using Iraq as a haven.”

Oh. Peter Galbraith was one of Kerry's main advisors about Iraq in 2004. Bipartisanship, that is what this is all about - a handshake among oligarchs across the aisle not to take their eye off the ball - no matter how many lives it costs. The ball, of course, is their predatory wealth.

But such is life in an empire run by a corrupt and blind oligarchy. Bad for you, and bad for your children – even if you live on the other side of the world.

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