Saturday, April 05, 2008

At Long Last, Fresh Air On The Pirates Who Plunder Our Commonwealth by Anthony McCarthy

The past week on Fresh Air from WHYY, was better than average. Especially good was the interview Terry Gross did Thursday with Michael Greenberger, from The University of Maryland School of Law, about the disaster that the deregulation of banking, lending and investments have caused. Usually what you hear or read is all about the poor investors who got taken while they were attempting to make money off of other peoples’ work and lives. Greenberger, though, touched several times on what it meant for people who were lured into borrowing by the loan sharking operations that unregulated markets always generate when allowed to, as well as those victimized without ever having agreed to participate in the corrupt system.

He pointed out the most basic point, one generally unmentionable in our media, the money stolen through the “new financial instruments” came from somewhere and it goes to those who made the best bets in the crap game that is the product of economic policies adopted from the 80's and 90's. Those in the management class, who through a combination of incompetence and larceny move that money from those who earned it into the winners’ pile, somehow become disgustingly richer as a result of their “work”.

Especially important was his repeatedly citing Phil Gramm as the source of the worst of the “reforms” that allowed the wholesale theft of as of yet untold tens of billions, maybe hundreds of billions. He especially mentioned removing “derivatives” from any possibility of regulation. Noting that Gramm is John McCain’s principle economic advisor is especially important this year. Since McCain himself admits that he knows nothing about economic issues, his choice of Gramm to serve as his brain in these matters should be enough to show he’s the opposite of the reformer his media-driven mythology insists on. That white-knight role is a pose that was created for him after he got caught in the Keating scandal. With his history, positioning the entirely tainted, ultra-sleazy, Phil Gramm as his candidate for economic Czar should be enough to kill that one off, though not in the corporate media. We’re going to have to do it outside the moldy media.

You’ve got to wonder what Russ Feingold was thinking when he handed that bucket of whitewash to McCain. What that could teach about the belief that process “reforms” are the answer to the corruption in American life, and the rather amazing fact that our politics seem to become increasingly more corrupt as these reforms are attempted, will be forced as that corruption balloons.

The word “reform”, how it has been distorted to mean “allowing theft by means of deception” and how it benefits from the suppression of historical education is worthy of a full airing. Maybe the generally perceptive Geoff Nunberg should target it for some intense investigation. How many of the changes in laws and regulation that get called “reform” today are nothing but a covert campaign to make theft by the rich legal? I’d guess that use of the word counts for at least 80% of its appearance in the corpus today.

John McCain using a complete rotter like Gramm as his economic brain is what Democrats and the left should be talking about constantly. As it is we are engaged in bashing both of those with the only chance at preventing Gramm giving the rest of our money to those who own him. We do have a bad habit of not keeping our eyes on the prize, don’t we. Maybe it’s because we have so little experience in getting it. As long as those who put pie-in-the-sky ahead of the task at hand are in charge, we will continue to fail to get even what we can here and now. Until theft is once again made illegal and those criminals are jailed and the money returned to its owners, process reform is a minor detail.

Unlike many of the media hacks and executive apologists brought in to explain these issues, Greenberger is a law professor. Maybe it’s a clue that you get new thinking when you ask different people who know what they’re talking about to explain these things. The rest of NPR should take that into account before they call the same shell game artists and con-men from the same old guess pools and other Republican fronts* - along with the one requisite insider-Democratic chump - for the twentieth time this year. If they want to inform, they would. Based on their continuing performance, that doesn’t seem to be their purpose.

Terry Gross can be one of the most frustrating as well as one of the best media figures in America. If her program was nothing but repeated attempts to prove that she’s still the coolest kid in the high school it would be less frustrating but sometimes her program is important and excellent. I wish she’d drop the increasingly tenuous attempts to fit in with the aging, youth culture, in-crowd. You would think that at this time of her life she doesn’t have to try for that distinction anymore. Terry, if I want to hear about TV I’ll watch TV. Why do you think I turn on the radio to begin with?

* As I am typing this, Steve Roberts is on the Diane Rehm Show blasting a caller for pointing out that John Yoo has been handsomely rewarded for his part in the Bush regime’s use of torture by a prestigious position at Berkeley and a platform provided to him by NPR. Roberts is using the cover of “The First Amendment”.

When did it become constitutional doctrine that there was a “First Amendment right” to talk on NPR? If this silly smokescreen for putting the worst of far right mouthpieces on NPR - and just about every other organ of the media- is true, some important truths need to be pursued. Seems that this “First Amendment” is a conspicuously, unevenly distributed commodity in the United States these days. Since there is limited time for this right to be exercised, isn’t it time for Roberts, who has wasted enormous amounts of air time for decades, repeating the received wisdom everyone else in DC blathers, to let someone else exercise their "rights"? Apparently he and a few select others, are hogging all of this "right" to themselves.

Yoo being given the privilege of promoting torture and excusing his part in its practice is not the fulfillment of his rights but a choice made by producers and others in the media to curry favor with criminals with power and money. When NPR is in bed with the likes of John Yoo, its reason to exist evaporates.

Rehm seems to have an increasing problem supplying this "right" to any but DC insiders these days, her Friday shows, for example. She seems to see the problem herself since as I continue typing she is objecting now to Roberts’ defense of giving the man who facilitates torture an NPR megaphone. But that only makes you wonder even more why she doesn’t get other people on her own show.