Sunday, December 25, 2011

Outrage as a Defence Mechanism

NOTE: I don't have a fucking clue what "blogger" did to make the formatting so insane. Enjoy!

Here's a couple of online articles! The first is from Matt Taibbi: "A Christmas Message From America's Rich" and it is, as you can imagine, as infuriating and sickening as it sounds. (What America's rich are saying 'natch, not what Taibbi says about America's rich.) For example:

Then there’s Leon Cooperman, the former chief of Goldman Sachs’s money-management unit, who said he was urged to speak out by his fellow golfers. His message was a version of Wall Street’s increasingly popular If-you-people-want-a-job, then-you’ll-shut-the-fuck-up rhetorical line:

Cooperman, 68, said in an interview that he can’t walk through the dining room of St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida, without being thanked for speaking up. At least four people expressed their gratitude on Dec. 5 while he was eating an egg-white omelet, he said.

“You’ll get more out of me,” the billionaire said, “if you treat me with respect.”

Finally, there is this from Blackstone CEO Steven Schwartzman:

Asked if he were willing to pay more taxes in a Nov. 30 interview with Bloomberg Television, Blackstone Group LP CEO Stephen Schwarzman spoke about lower-income U.S. families who pay no income tax.

“You have to have skin in the game,” said Schwarzman, 64. “I’m not saying how much people should do. But we should all be part of the system.”

There are obviously a great many things that one could say about this remarkable collection of quotes.

Which of course Taibbi does. You can read the whole thing yourselves. I just want to pause for a moment on the section about interest-rate swaps. He's talking about J. P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon (who the NYT once referred to as "Obama's favourite banker"):

Dimon, incidentally, is another one of those bankers who’s complaining now about the unfair criticism. “Acting like everyone who’s been successful is bad and because you’re rich you’re bad, I don’t understand it,” he recently said, at an investor’s conference.

Hmm. Is Dimon right? Do people hate him just because he’s rich and successful? That really would be unfair. Maybe we should ask the people of Jefferson County, Alabama, what they think.

That particular locality is now in bankruptcy proceedings primarily because Dimon’s bank, Chase, used middlemen to bribe local officials – literally bribe, with cash and watches and new suits – to sign on to a series of onerous interest-rate swap deals that vastly expanded the county’s debt burden.

Essentially, Jamie Dimon handed Birmingham, Alabama a Chase credit card and then bribed its local officials to run up a gigantic balance, leaving future residents and those residents’ children with the bill. As a result, the citizens of Jefferson County will now be making payments to Chase until the end of time.

Do you think Jamie Dimon would have done that deal if he lived in Jefferson County? Put it this way: if he was trying to support two kids on $30,000 a year, and lived in a Birmingham neighborhood full of people in the same boat, would he sign off on a deal that jacked up everyone’s sewer bills 400% for the next thirty years?

Doubtful. But then again, people like Jamie Dimon aren’t really citizens of any country. They live in their own gated archipelago, and the rest of the world is a dumping ground.

Just look at how Chase behaved in Greece, for example.

Having seen how well interest-rate swaps worked for Jefferson County, Alabama, Chase “helped” Greece mask its debt problem for years by selling a similar series of swaps to the Greek government. The bank then turned around and worked with banks like Goldman, Sachs to create a thing called the iTraxx SovX Western Europe index, which allowed investors to bet against Greek debt.

In other words, Chase knowingly larded up the nation of Greece with a crippling future debt burden, then turned around and helped the world bet against Greek debt.

Does a citizen of Greece do that deal? Forget that: does a human being do that deal?

You know, I find it rich that morons who think the ordinary Greeks should suffer whatever austerity is imposed upon them, because they supposedly made hay while the sun was shining, imagine that the whole country was in on the interest-rate swap scam. Supposedly it was a secret from Germany's bankers but every Greek pensioner was laughing into their shirt-sleeve, in on the joke. And now, all the Greeks have to pay!!! That's right! The Greek millionaires and billionaires who have taken all their money out of the country will pay on higher taxes on, well, nothing probably, and everyone else will see tax increases, benefit cuts, higher education costs, unemployment, etc., etc., etc., ...

It's a goddamn scam and ANYONE who buys into the worldview of the richest 1% is a fucking moron who has renounced the right to be taken seriously.

And while we should be outraged at the infantile petulance of these billionaire parasites (YES! Even that "Home Depot" guy is leeching off the hard work of his thousands of employees. Those Wall Street assholes are completely useless.) what is even more disgusting is that we continue (as a society) to live in their world and respond to their worldview (fighting back against austerity for example) when the REAL challenges are forced to go onto the back-burner. I'm referring to our mindless devouring of the world's life-sustaining resources (BTW - if the quote is still the wrong font in snot-green, blame "Blogger"!) :

There isn't enough to go around anymore. We're stealing from our biosphere and we're stealing from each other and we're even stealing from generations not yet born. For example, we're emptying our oceans of essential food species, depleting them beyond their baseline reproduction stocks. And, as we fish one to the verge of extinction, we move on to the next most desirable species and find ways to market that. We're draining our groundwater reserves to drive the hopelessly unsustainable Green Revolution and, in the process, subjecting farmland to massive amounts of fertilizers and pesticides that speed its exhaustion and transform it into useless desert. With food scarcity already spreading through the world we're diverting vital farmland and increasingly scarce water to grow crops to make biofuels.

The long and the short of it is that the human race has to get serious about switching to an alternate political-economic system, but we're in thrall to shallow greed-heads and we waste all of our time trying to "resist" the US-led capitalist-imperialist plunder of the Middle-East's oil reserves to feed the carbon economy, which feeds the parasite Wall Street economy, which causes financial crises and fucks us all over.

It's "OUTRAGEOUS"!!!! But what does it mean to be "outraged"? What do we do when we're "outraged"? Protest for an afternoon? Camp out in a park until we're asked to leave? Write our MPs? Write a letter to our local paper?

Throw a rock through a corporation's window?

Hey! For that last option, did you:

A. Think "right-fucking-on dude! smash the state! the people united will never be defeated!"


B. Think "Horrors! A rock going through a corporations' window! Now the state has every reason to crush legitimate dissent and blah, blah, mewl, whine ..."

If you answered A or B, then you're part of the problem.

Merry Whatever.


karen said...

We render the 1% irrelevant. We build communities, get to know our neighbours, we learn to take care of ourselves and each other. We stop being suspicious and fearful, because that is the wedge that drives us apart.

As MoS says, we must break our addiction to growth. We must break our addiction to stuff and to meaningless diversions. We have to stop being so lazy.

Montreal Simon said before Christmas that he wanted to start having a conversation about this, about making a better world. Let's start that conversation soon.

Owen Gray said...

They have lived for so long in an alternative universe, that they are beyond reach -- unless the whole house of cards comes down.

Sir Francis said...

...then you're part of the problem.

I often get asked "Yeah, but what can we do?" by people who feel powerless to change the status quo. One thing I urge (and something that everyone, even the most politically ill-informed, can do) is to consistently think and speak of our political and corporate elites, not in the refined terms of the policy differences we may have with them, but in the raw terms of their fundamental illegitimacy.

The more Americanised we become, the more we become imbued with Americans' reflexively reverential attitude to power structures. Normalising and mainstreaming contempt for those structures in the way we live and speak on a daily basis (rather than just camping out on Nathan Phillips Square for a few weeks) is crucial. It needs to become a habit.

thwap said...


I'm working on two campaigns. One to mock the fuck out of Rob Ford and de-legitimize the very idea of his legitimacy.

The other is against harper.

I'm also writing a presentation that I want to bring to people in the 3-d world.

Owen Gray,

You're entirely correct. Why should the elites stop now? Everything always goes their way. They're in a bubble and they won't notice they've cut the floor out from under themselves until it's too late.

Then, amid the ruins, there'll be a new group of winners, who will imagine that all is for the best in this the best of all possible worlds.

Sir Francis,

Canadians used to be described a little less than half a century ago as more deferential to authority than US-Americans. But I think as you do, that things have changed.

It's strange. Whether REpug or Democrat, they treat their opposite number with contempt. (Talking about Clinton's penis or Obama's birth certificate or, Reagan and bush II's utter stupidity) but then they all line up and do what they're told anyway.