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Tuesday: Stop fooling around

The NYTimes was full of some pretty gruesome articles this morning.  For example, there was the announcment of the release of a book intended for medical personnel headed into the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.   The book, “War Surgery in Afghanistan and Iraq: A Series of Cases 2003-2007”,  had been under wraps by US Army censors because it shows men, women and children whose bodies have been damaged by war.  They don’t want to upset the delicate sensibilities of the American people who are funding such experiments in cutting edge medicine.

The battlefield treatments are amazing and innovative.  It’s just desperately sad that they are needed at all. Photographs in the book were taken by Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist David Leeson of The Dallas Morning News.

Then, there is this piece, “At Freddie Mac, Chief Discards Warning Signs”.  Back in 2004 the warning signs of trouble in the home mortgage industry were presented to the head of Freddie Mac, Richard Syron, who said the corporation couldn’t say no to anyone.  Here’s a classic quote from Syron that Yes Man Extraordinaire, Barack Obama, should take to heart:

“If I had better foresight, maybe I could have improved things a little bit,” he said. “But frankly, if I had perfect foresight, I would never have taken this job in the first place.”

Ooo, here’s another cautionary quote for the Yes Man, he who has no coalitions of his own and will be completely at the mercy of the Blue Dogs in Congress with whom he has made his bed:

Indeed, executives of both companies maintain that one of the reasons the firms hold so many bad loans is that Congress has leaned on them for years to buy mortgages from low-income borrowers to encourage affordable housing. In 2004, Freddie Mac warned regulators that affordable housing goals could force the company to buy riskier loans.

Others, however, dismiss that explanation. “Sure, it’s hard to deal with the pressures of Congress and shareholders and regulators,” said a former high-ranking Freddie Mac executive. “But that’s why executives get paid so much. It’s not acceptable to blame those pressures for making bad choices.”

Yes, well, why is it always the guys who get paid the big bucks that end up costing us so much in money and lives?

A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast of Fresh Air with Terry Gross where she interviewed the chief economic strategists for the McCain and Obama campaigns. I love terry Gross and have listened to her for years so it pains me to hear how totally she is in the tank for Obama. (Sidenote: A couple of weeks before the economic strategists interview, she had one on the pension crisis with Theresa Ghilarducci from the University of Notre Dame.  Ghilarducci sounds like an FDR New Dealer and a Clintonista and Gross treated her like she was from Mars.  The last minute or so of the interview was so frosty and tense you’d think Terry was talking to Gene Simmons)

Terry’s interview with Jason Furman, Obama’s chief economic strategist, was notable not so much for Terry’s fawning but for Furman’s vague ideas.  As the conversation progresses, Furman starts to channel his inner child and he begins to sound like a floppy young puppy, all wide eyed and playful.  He’s all “REALLY” and “a LOT” and a “WHOLE BUNCH”.  Golly!   But underneath all that innocence, there are subtle signs that Obama is planning something not so nifty.  For example, when he talks about Social Security, Furman says:

“This is our most important program.  It’s REALLY important that we protect it, not just for people today but for generations to come.  Second of all, for middle class families, for a lot of them, it’s their only source of income… So it’s not something you would REALLY want to burden them with in the course of adjusting to that.”

Ok, Ok, stop right there.  “Adjusting” to WHAT exactly?  Terry never asks.  Furman goes on to describe the taxes on people making over $250K that would go up “a bit”.  Fine.  A little rate hike isn’t unreasonable.  But what is all of that middle class “Adjusting” about?  It sounds faintly familiar.  Like, when the Bushies were talking about privatizing and how there would be initial overhead but then we would all just have to settle for less in benefits down the road.  But anyway SS was insolvent and we’d all just have to get used to funding our own retirements through the fabulous new “instruments” that the Wall Street Peeps would set up to handle all of our retirement savings.  Is that the kind of “adjustment” that Furman is referring to?

Not that Terry cares much anymore.  I get the distinct impression that the poor or those in need of a safety net are really sad stories but not much she and HER class can do much about.  I mean, the Republicans will never allow for real reform.  So, the people who slip through the cracks are like Bangladeshis who get wiped out in the latest cyclone.  Terry and The Nation Letter Writer types just tsk-tsk, shake their heads in disbelief and say, “Those poor people, they shouldn’t farm so close to a major body of water on those rich soils of the delta plains.  What did they expect?  Pass me another canape, please. And did you see that new book with pictures of civilians caught in a warzone?  Revolting!”

Reminder: The Audacity of Democracy is currently filming all across the United States.

Let’s get this baby shot and in the can!  If you’re interested in becoming an associate producer or even making a small donation to this worthwhile endeavor, click here.