Take My Freedom – Please!

Since America was shocked out of its exceptionalism by 9/11, we’ve been facing a classic political dilemma:  Security versus Freedom.   In the old Soviet Union, security definitely won, and even today, Russians wax nostalgic for paranoid Stalin and his much-vaunted Order. From the 30’s to the 50’s, there was neither chaos nor crime – there was however state terrorism and the knock on the door in the middle of the night.  Here in the U.S., we’ve prided ourselves on our Freedom, even when J. Edgar in his prom formal was listening at our door and making sure that we weren’t Reds.

Post 9/11, however, we seem to have cheerily folded up the Bill of Rights and handed our privacy to the Feds and various Web-based monoliths.  The result has been a safer – albeit much more intrusive – America.

To start with the Googles, Facebooks, and Microsofts:  they can indulge in as much finger-pointing as they like, but the truth is that each of them is tracking us like a bloodhound so that we can be targeted by advertisers.  In a 2010 speech, Zuckerberg proclaimed that “the age of privacy is over.”[1]  He seems to be proving his point with Timeline, which makes it incredibly easy for me or anyone to find your posts from 2005, when you were going through your Anarchist phase.  The Timeline, to put it neatly, lasts for several centuries. . .

Google is doing its best to “be evil” by scanning every word of Gmail for the purpose of determining ad placement.[2]  Microsoft skewered this practice with a series of ‘Gmail Man’ videos, though they themselves have never been angels.  The Googster “inadvertently” created a database of worldwide WiFi networks – and the info on them — while taking pictures for its Street View program.  Even though they later apologized, those 600 gigs of data still live. [3]

If you have any doubt that mouthing concern about “privacy” is nothing more than corporate B.S., here’s the result of a 2010 Carnegie Mellon study:  “My students and I discovered that Google, Facebook and thousands of others essentially have bogus privacy policies.”[4]  Well, who wudda thunk it?

To set our sights on the Big Daddy of privacy invaders – the Fed – shows us something of larger consequence than getting a pesky online ad from Viagra (and your name’s Virginia).  Bush’s signing of the 2001 (USA) Patriot Act, and Obama’s extension of same, promises at least  three more years of authorized roving wiretaps, business records searches, and the ability to surveil “lone wolves.”[5]  What does this actually mean?

That National Security Letters “permit the government to obtain the communication, financial and credit records of anyone deemed relevant to a terrorism investigation even if that person is not suspected of unlawful behavior. . . .reports have confirmed that tens of thousands of these letters are issued every year and they are used to collect information on people two and three times removed from a terrorism suspect.[6]   When I was in junior high, I used to worry that the government could check my library records and find out I was reading Marx.  Heck, that was just teenage paranoia – now, they really can!!   And it’s nice to know that under the Patriot Act, the FBI can search e-mail and phone records without a court order.  Who needs those pesky papers anyway?

Let’s move on to the indefinite detention of immigrants and searches without a subject’s permission, shall we? [7]  They should go well with the unmanned drones flying over the U.S. doing domestic surveillance.[8]  Whoa, what is this, Afghanistan?  Not really, since we’ve spent $100 billion reconstructing that country while our citizens lose their homes, jobs, and dignity. But anyhoo. . .

In the two months after 9/11, 1,200 Muslim-Americans were arrested in sweeps, mainly on immigration charges. Most had absolutely no proven ties to terrorism.  And the FBI, while pretending to do community outreach, spied on Muslims in their mosques, etc.   In fact, “…they recorded intelligence about Americans’ religious beliefs and practices, associations, opinions, and expressive activities in violation of the Privacy Act.”[9]  But that’s OK, since 39% of Americans say U.S. Muslims should carry special identification.[10]

It was recently revealed that Quantico training of agents consists of telling them that “that “main stream” [sic] American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the Prophet Mohammed was a “cult leader”; and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is no more than a “funding mechanism for combat.”[11]  Does that apply to the church collection plate?

We’ve all heard about “enhanced interrogation” techniques, a pleasant euphemism for simulating drowning in prisoners using Cheney’s favorite pastime, waterboarding.  You know, it’s not a “used car”, it’s a “pre-owned vehicle!”  The truth of things actually doesn’t change when you rename them.

Still, the scariest violation of all has occurred, sadly, under Obama.  Attorney General Holder has justified the killing of Americans abroad, without charges or a trial, as long as those people are suspected “terrorists.”[12]  In his own words: “Due process and judicial process are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.”[13]  I imagine that might be a surprise to the Founding Fathers.  But not to Anwar al-Awlaki, born in New Mexico yet blown away by a joint CIA-military drone strike in Yemen.[14]

Now that we can freely murder our own, it seems that all things are possible.  Martial law if a city gets “out of control” – especially minorities.  The shooting of citizens here if it can be justified under the broad brush of “National Security.”  Another Manzanar if the U.S. is attacked again.  Because we have let politicians and the media scare us, we have handed over our privacy, rights, and freedoms freely – something the Soviets didn’t have too much choice about.  If we don’t stand up for the current target of populist ire – Muslim-Americans — we’ll be sitting down beside them in some cozy little cell at Gitmo.

======

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Los Illegales

        With the Supreme Court hearing arguments this week on Arizona’s SB 1070, and a flagging economy sparking hatred of “others” which sporadically flares up across the land, it seems timely to examine the (now) national issue of illegal immigration.

There are currently 10.8 million illegals in the U.S. but – good news, Nativists! – this number has decreased by a million since 2008.[1]  Seems that The Recession and nutcases like Governor Jan Brewer of AZ have driven scores back to Mexico, engaging in what Romney charmingly calls “self-deportation.”    The loathsome Arizona law enables police to try to determine immigration status during a “lawful stop, detention or arrest when there is reasonable suspicion that the individual is an illegal immigrant.”[2]  Does that reasonable suspicion translate to driver has brown skin?  You bet your KKK hood it does!

What’s more, illegals are required to carry papers at all times in a desert version of the National Identity Card which most Americans hated, and shunned, even post-9/11.  Oh yeah – you’re also not  supposed to stand in a parking lot and “gesture or nod” that you’re available for work.  Take that, Home Depot!

In my native state of California, there are 2.6 million illegals.  If you listen to the haters, they are taking American jobs, callously using free social services, not paying taxes, blah blah.  Yet here’s the actual truth:  “L.A. County Economy Would Shrink by More Than $100 Billion If All Illegal Immigrants Were Deported, Says UCLA Report.”[3]  If Romney’s wet dream comes true, and all L.A. illegals go bye-bye, that translates to a 21.9% decrease in employment, and a loss of 1.3 million jobs.  However, in a brave new utopian world, where illegals have amnesty, 211,000 jobs would be added and tax revenues would increase by $1.9 billion. [4]  Also, Mittens, did it ever occur to you that the cost of deporting 11 million people would be approximately $144 billion?[5]  That could fund a whole ‘nother half-war!

California has not been immune from the madness, with the passage – and repeal, due to its unconstitutionality – of noxious Prop 187 in the 90’s.  This would have deprived illegals from using public health care and schools.  That was a pretty good idea:  we could foment an underclass where epidemics spread unchecked (guess what, 1%? – viruses don’t recognize class) and illiteracy among kids could be worse than it is under LAUSD.

But let’s take a hard look at the tired refrain:  “’They’ are taking our jobs.”  They are, if your job is maid, gardener, cook, nanny, bus boy, construction, doorman, or migrant farm worker.  Farmers have stated often that if illegals are banned from their fields, they won’t be able to harvest, resulting in higher consumer prices for people like you and me.  And Americans don’t wish to put on that straw hat and work for substandard wages — they’ve made that perfectly clear.

Let’s put our focus on Los Angeles, a city composed of immigrants.  Take away all Latinos, and life as we know it will come to a squealing halt.  No more cheap domestic labor for mansions and middle-class homes.  No more immaculate leaf-blown lawns.  No more patient caregivers to babysit Johnny and Suzie while Mom goes off to work, or, in the Romney paradigm, to a day spa.  L.A. is like a Third World country, with a distinct underclass that enables everyone else to feel like Madonna.   A reporter for the L.A.Times said it best in Paradise Lost: California’s Experience, America’s Future:  “This town runs on brown wheels.”  You better believe it.  And if those wheels are removed, a la the film A Day Without A Mexican, you’ll find Tom Cruise doing his own laundry and Ah-nuld cooking his lunch.  Unthinkable!

Amazingly, one of the few entities to have displayed compassion for the plight of illegals is the Catholic Church.  Our Lady Queen of Angels is exemplary, openly building a sanctuary to house those on the verge of deportation (they must have American children and a good work record).  The L.A. Cardinal and priests have put themselves on the line for speaking out – and doing something – where illegals are concerned.  “”Millions of people here are good citizens and workers who pay taxes and own homes,” says Father Richard Estrada.[6]

Even so, there are still barriers beyond the border which haunt the children of illegals.  Happily, Gov. Brown just passed the CA “Dream Act,” which entitles those without papers to qualify for scholarships and to pay in-state tuition.  But the heartbreak is that many college graduates who were brought to the U.S. illegally end up with the same low-skill jobs as their parents. [7]  Many of these kids find out they’re illegal when they first apply for college or a  job.  Those who excel – according to the Horatio Alger dictum  – who get good grades and acceptance at four-year schools, find that without a social security number, they are condemned to a life of cleaning houses.  This is truly a tragedy which (one hopes) a Democratic Administration will address.

There are so many reasons for granting amnesty to those who’ve been in the U.S. for decades.  It enables them to be paid a living wage and avoid exploitation from unscrupulous employers; it prevents the travesty of deporting parents whose children are U.S. citizens – will we be deporting Americans now?  (We kill them without trial if they’re a terrorist — that much is clear).  We enable millions of hard-working people to come into the light and get off the black market cash payroll.

If you don’t think that illegals are hard-working, you haven’t been to Los Angeles.  I see men sweating in 100 degree heat, lifting enormous boxes and doing back-breaking work; maids getting down on hands and knees to scrub a kitchen floor; valets running like Olympic sprinters so they can return your Lexus to you.

I’m not condoning lawlessness, but the illegals aren’t criminals.  They’re people who’ve come from a poor, corrupt country to better their circumstances, not unlike my forbearers, or yours.  And even if your great-great-great-great Uncle Winslow came over on The Mayflower, you are still not a native.  To quote Jack White of The White Stripes:  “White Americans, what? Nothin’ better to do? Why don’t you kick yourself out, you’re an immigrant too?”[8]  Listen up, Arizona.

 

The Neocons And Their Wars Of Choice

          

The IRAQ WAR MEMORIAL

Even now, nine years later, my anger rises to a level even Paxil can’t control as I think about the Necons’ two Wars of Choice.  Now that it’s almost all over, let’s look at the results:  [1]2,583 coalition deaths in Afghanistan; and oh yeah, those civilians who don’t matter much:  12,793 dead.  In Iraq, the U.S. body count is 4,487 and those pesky civilians died to the tune of 162,000, which of course could be much more.  That’s nearly 200,000 dead and countless others maimed and driven crazy.  And oh yeah, $1.324 TRILLION was expended by the U.S. on both fronts. For what??

Granted, Saddam wasn’t exactly a sweetheart, and he managed to kill about 1 million of his own people in the span of 24 years.  Yet was there no way of removing him from power – or having him removed – that didn’t entail horrifying casualties, the complete disruption of life in Baghdad, and the looting of a Museum which contained some of mankind’s most precious artifacts?

Not according to the Neocons.  Per this genius brain trust, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” – Condi[2] .  Forget that Bush’s “intelligence” about Iraq’s nuclear program was completely discredited before the 2003 invasion.[3]  Ideologues like William Kristol could still proclaim: “The world is a mess. And, I think, it’s very much to Bush’s credit that he’s gotten serious about dealing with it. . . . The danger is not that we’re going to do too much. The danger is that we’re going to do too little.”[4]  Guess what, Bill?  We did too much to promulgate the Necon wet dream of “democracy promotion” in the Middle East.

Perhaps Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel (a Republican!) said it best: “”So why did we invade Iraq? I believe it was the triumph of the so-called neo-conservative ideology, as well as Bush administration arrogance and incompetence that took America into this war of choice. . . . They obviously made a convincing case to a president with very limited national security and foreign policy experience. . .”[5]  Right.  Let them stand up and be counted:  Cheney, Lieberman, McCain, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Scooter Libby, Condi, so-called writer Kristol, David Brooks, and Doug Feith.  If any of them had an ounce of shame, they would self-immolate in front of the White House.

I don’t include W. among the perpetrators, since he was merely a puppet dangled from Cheney’s arm.  He was too busy praying to Jesus to listen to saner voices, like Colin Powell’s.  Who said of his embarrassing 2003 speech before the U.N., in which he cited truck movement to justify an Iraq invasion, “[it’s] “a lasting blot on my record”[6]  No duh.  Now live with it.

Let’s remember some of the classic quotes and actions from those long-ago days of ’03:  “Don’t worry, it’s a slam dunk” – George Tenet, then-head of the CIA.  “Mission Accomplished” and the flight suit.  George Bush action dolls.  General Shinseki reprimanded by Wolfowitz for saying we needed several hundred thousand soldiers in Iraq, and then we end up sending a million troops all told.[7]  Oil money was going to pay for Iraqi reconstruction.[8] (Wolfowitz again).  Find a cave, Paul.  It worked pretty well for Osama.

Let’s focus our minds on the incredible bevy of lies we were force fed prior to the Neocon Blitz.  The “intelligence” garnered from Iraqi defector “Curveball,” who has admitted he lied his ass off about WMDs. [9]   The forged documents “proving” that Sadaam had tried to purchase yellowcake powder from Nigeria.  Hell, even the Italians could tell they were fake![10]   The shoving down our throats threats of WMDs which never materialized, even though the Bush Administration continued searching for years.  The inevitability of the Iraq invasion post-9/11, which, per Bob Woodward[11], Bush and Cheney began planning by December of that year.  The ominous hinting of some “link” between Sadaam and Al- Qaeda, which, hello! never existed.

But say it enough times, and the American public is dumb enough to swallow anything.  Like forgetting that most of the hijackers hailed from Saudi Arabia – but wait, those are our allies!  So let’s target an old hated enemy instead. We got him, but at what cost, in human lives and dollars?  If we’d had that trillion plus when the Neocons’ pals, Wall Street, blew up the economy, we might have been able to weather it better.  Or at least not cut food stamps and aid for the disabled.

Let’s look at the other culpable parties, starting with Congress.  Twenty-three brave Senators voted against the Iraq War Resolution, among them:  Barbara Boxer (proud to have her as our rep!), the late Ted Kennedy, Patty Murray, Harry Reed, Paul Wellstone, and Russ Feingold.  All of them, but one (Lincoln Chafee), Democrats.  In the House, 296 craven Congressman (215 of them Republicans) voted for Bush’s Folly, uh, Doctrine.

Then there were the “embedded” reporters from the networks.  Nothing guarantees objectivity like actually traveling with the troops (upon whom you depend for your safety and/or life).  And accepting every General’s briefing as if it were the Sermon On the Mount.  Because questioning the Neocons’ two Wars Of Choice would be un-American, anti-9/11, and as suspect as wearing a Che shirt.

So what have we left in our wake?  In Afghanistan, a U.S. puppet government that was “surprised” by the ferocity of recent insurgent attacks.  What do you want to bet that Mullah Omar crawls out of his spider hole and takes back control within the next few years?  In the meantime, Iraq is a mess, a “budding police state” according to Human Rights Watch.  Al Qaeda in Iraq (nonexistent before us) is having a field day.

And the Neocons?  They are actually pressing forward with dreams to attack Iran.  To quote retired General Anthony Zinni:  “If you liked Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ll love Iran.”  What is it that precludes these people from learning?  Is Dick Cheney embedded in their brains?

======

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Red & The Blue: Two Nations, One Under God, Divisible

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

OK  I’ve got an idea.  Sometimes these can be dangerous – like when I wanted to enroll in law school or get an MBA – but I think that this one has merit.  Hear me out.

America is hopelessly divided politically:  hence, the stalemate in Congress; the Presidential elections that hinge on the votes of three people in Ohio — and one could be Joe the Plumber.   Let’s face it – we have evolved into two separate nations with values and beliefs as far apart as L.A. and Alabama.  Instead of sitting and crying about it (or getting vicarious revenge through The Daily Show), let’s do something for once.  Here then is my immodest proposal:

Do what Lincoln should have and break the U.S. into two distinct nations:  The United States of Tolerance (UST), and the United States Of Jesus (USJ).  Here’s how it works:

Eliminate all present federal highways which cross the country, like the I-90.  The 5 (Golden State) can stay since it traverses wholly Blue Land.  In their stead, build a road from Seattle to Minneapolis, with no exits in Montana and North Dakota.  Similarly, build an interstate from Los Angeles to New Mexico, and from NM to Florida, with no offramps in the South.  In this freeway’s mind, Dixie does not exist.  They will have their own roads (possibly dirt) for White Vehicles Only.

Now that we’ve cut off transportation between the two prospective nations, let’s examine how commerce between them will work.  The same as it does now, except that taxes in USJ will be paid to their new capitol in Montgomery, AL (I wanted to make it Richmond, after the Confederacy, but good on VA, they’re a Blue State now!).   Good luck to USJ, since they currently collect more in federal aid than they pay out in taxes.  I’m sure that Texas border vigilantes will serve as local police, and the KKK can put out the fires they start.  The Idaho Militias can provide an ad hoc National Guard.

Now onto federal laws.  The UST will still retain the Constitution, though Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Roberts will be “encouraged” to retire.  With Originalists gone and a predominantly Democratic Congress, the following laws will be passed:

1)      National Healthcare (and not even one mention of the word “socialism”!)

2)      Equal Pay For Women  (Even though they’re not fetuses, they’re people.)  Which brings us to:

3)      Reproductive Choice – made on a personal, not governmental , level.  And oh yeah:

4)      Use of fetal tissue to cure deadly diseases

5)      Legalization of gay marriage

6)      Abolition of the NRA

7)      Proponents of hate speech and racism deported to USJ, Deep Fried Sector

This leaves the USJ to enact whatever the hell laws they want.  Such as:

1)      Combination of Church & State

2)      USJ declared a Christian theocracy, with Jesus the titular head

3)      No abortions – ever.  Ditto, contraceptives.   An occasional maybe:  the rhythm method.

4)      Teaching of “intelligent <sic> design”, i.e., Creationism, in schools

5)      Founding Fathers to be depicted riding dinosaurs (thank you, Tom Tomorrow!)

6)      Women to be stay-at-home Moms only – sorry, Nikki Haley & Elizabeth Dole!

7)      Mexican border to be guarded by Star Wars missile defense manned by slaves  captured Hispanic nationals.

8)      Every citizen required to own a gun.  NRA has its own federal department.

So what’s so wrong with my scheme?  It’s practical, and relieves the mounting pressure between religious zealots who wish to dwell in the 15th century and the “cosmopolitans” of Manhattan, with their soy lattés, NPR, and sodomy.

UST gets to keep Hollywood, the NY publishing industry, Las Vegas, and Hawaii; USJ gets nearly the entire South;  states filled with waving wheat and potatoes; and Alaska, with animals aplenty waiting to be slaughtered, preferably from a low-flying helicopter.  Florida, although a Blue State in the 2008 election, will be considered On Probation until 1) They acknowledge the existence of Cuba  2) They learn to distinguish a hanging chad from an orange and  3) Kathleen Harris is exiled to Wasila.

Likewise, Santa Cruz, CA and Eugene, OR will not be admitted to the UST until they sign an acknowledgment that it’s not the 60’s anymore.   If California objects to anything, it can simply withdraw and become its own country again (The Bear Flag Republic) .  Its GDP will still be more than the entire USJ’s.

On the other side, Texas might want to declare its independence if it decides to Remember The Alamo. JR Ewing might be brought back to head the Lone Star nation.  Mitt Romney can preside over Utah, and a hologram of Jefferson Davis can be the President-at-large.  Minorities (non-Christians, blacks, Hispanics, LGBT, anyone-who-isn’t-white) might want to emigrate over to the UST.   Likewise, those who are struck by the thunderbolt of Enlightenment, as well as evolutionists, women, and the entire population of Austin, TX.

Atlanta will be declared a Neutral Zone, like Switzerland but with CNN instead of Alps.  Ted Turner, “The Mouth Of the South”, will be named Honorary Mayor, unless he remarries Jane Fonda.  Lockheed with be forced to move its operation from Marietta, GA, back to Burbank, CA (hey, we need jobs!).  USJ companies allowed to continue doing business in the UST:  Krispy-Kreme, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Popeyes.   Those we’d like to have:  Chick-Fil-A, Emeril’s New Orleans, and Lexington Barbecue No. 1.

Los Angeles and NYC will be declared “no go zones” by the USJ.  A Fundamentalist film industry will be set up in Dollywood, TN.   USJ residents will be allowed to cross over into Florida in case they want to go to Disney World (why make the children suffer?).   The inverse will be true for Nashville.  And oh yeah, country music is banned in UST — except for Willie Nelson.

I think you can see that I’ve come up with a workable solution.  No more Congressional squabbling.  No more Santorums jamming their antediluvian views down our throats , and on their side, no more exposure to “R”-rated films and Rihanna.  Let’s end this Values War once and for all.  As long as we get to keep Graceland.

====

Laissez Faire Capitalism: Except When It’s Not

Tom Tomorrow

In this heated season of GOP primaries, we hear, ad nauseum, about the virtues of “small government”, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand of the market”, and the almost holy power of “laissez faire economics”, which, in French, basically means “get the hell out.”  As in:  corporations are entirely capable of being self-regulating, both financially and ethically, and they don’t need no stinkin’ Feds looking over their shoulders.  For more elucidation on this sweet Fairy Tale, please see anything written by Ayn Rand.

What have been the results of deregulation in the past?  Let’s start with a familiar name – Leland Stanford – an infamous member of the Big Four (aka, “The Octopus”) which held a stranglehold on the nation’s transportation with their unabashed monopoly, The Southern Pacific Railroad.  It certainly gave Mr. Stanford enough money to endow a nice university in his name. And to earn the sobriquet “Robber Baron.”

Now onto the airlines.  You could say that prior to deregulation in 1978, fares were kept artificially high and the Friendly Skies loved it.  But what has happened since?  Nine major carriers have declared bankruptcy or are no more (including United, Delta, Braniff, American, Pan Am, Continental, and TWA).  The level of service has sunk beneath appalling – no food, baggage fees, potential carry on fees, seats that could barely hold a Hobbit, flight attendants who go postal due to increased layoffs and higher workloads.  Even pilots are having episodes mid-flight, and safety standards have inched down the inflatable slides.

Anyone remember Alaska Flight #261, which crashed into the Pacific because the jackscrew wasn’t properly greased?  I personally spent a fun-filled twelve hours in the Honolulu Airport (at least they had hula dancers) because my plane needed a new battery.  I didn’t realize it was like your car, where the AAA shows up with jumper cables.  Personally, I’d pay the higher pre-reg fares to get:  1) A decent meal (Alaska used to serve baked salmon!) 2) The peace of mind that some semblance of maintenance has taken place 3) A flight crew not collectively on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Microsoft’s tech version of “laissez faire” was certainly unique.  Bill Gates, before his later, humbler period, was a hyper-aggressive bastard who either bought his competition or put them out of business.  Anyone remember Netscape?  At one point, they had the browser market sewn up.  Then Bill came along, bundling IE Explorer with Windows (which was at one time on 90% of desktops), and Netscape now occupies that place where FoxPro, Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect gently sleep.  Of course, billg. and crony steveb. attained that market share by forcing PC makers to bundle their machines with Windows, or else.  Clinton’s DOJ brought this to the fore, and Microsoft was saved from breakup by the reign of King George W. Still, they must now abide by what are frequently known as rules.

Let’s look at the precursor to this Great Recession, one brought about by exactly the same factors:  deregulation, massive fraud, and greed.  In the 80’s, it was decided by the Wise Powers in Congress that Savings & Loans could now make risky real estate loans without undue supervision.  Why, they could even lend money to themselves!  This brought about the failure of 747 S&L’s.  Total cost of bailout?  A mere 87.9 billion. [1]  Those involved in one of the biggest financial scandals in US history?[2]  A certain Neil Bush (yes, from those Bushes) whose fraud was so great that he was forever barred from the banking industry; a Senator John McCain (one of the “Keating Five”), and a certain astronaut/Senator named John Glenn.  You will be happy to know, though, that the average sentence for those S&L execs who went to jail was 1/5th that of the average bank robber.[3]  Here’s another foreign phrase which should always appear next to laissez faire:  Caveat Emptor (“Let The Buyer Beware”).

Which brings us to these Modern Times.  Was it really just 2001 when Enron finally imploded?  Doesn’t that scandal seem almost quaint in the wake of 2008?  Due to greed, corruption, stupidity, and greed, the US economy tanked due to the implosion of the real estate market, subprime lending, and Wall Street’s unfailing knack for creating something (to be securitized) out of nothing.  The result?  Then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson going on bended knee before Congress, begging for a $700 billion bailout of “too big to fail” companies.  You may have heard of some of them:  Wells Fargo, B of A, CityBank, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, AIG, AMEX, Discover.

Oh yeah – GM and Chrysler.  Now, in the harsh land of Capitalism where workers can be decapitated – uh, downsized – by the thousands, to increase profits and offshoring, the Feds suddenly felt sorry for the automakers (they are after all, people), and kept them from closing their massive doors.  In the theoretical realm of laissez faire, their failure would have happened (Hey, they couldn’t compete, they stayed too long with SUVS, boo hoo).  Exactly the rhetoric that the Newts and Mitts spout every day.  However, in the real world, the results would have been disastrous:  thousands more losing their jobs; the death of two great American icons; the death of a U.S. city; stowaways in allied industries going down with the ship, no more Camaros, ever.  This simply could not be.

TARP put to the lie forever laissez faire as a consistent economic policy.  America will not let Coke go out – nor Disney, GM and Chrysler.  Who would sponsor the next Olympics?  The funny part is the attitude of the bailed-out execs themselves:  they are all for hands-off  government when it comes to things like safety and profits.  But the moment they risk going under, they accept corporate welfare with more eagerness than Ismay stepping into that lifeboat.  And unlike actual welfare recipients, they aren’t required to work for it.  In fact, the more they mismanage their business, the more cash (and bonuses) they’re awarded. Talk about failing upward.

====