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    • The Torture Culture
      Ok, here’s the deal: Torture does not work to get information. Period. You do not torture people to get information, you torture people to send information, or rather, to send a message. What is that message? (Originally from Dec 16, 2010, but it seems worth re-upping for a new generation of readers – Ian.) We Torture People […]
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The Culture of Cannibalism in US Politics: The Cycle of Corruption

MarkTwain_arts Mark Twain, in “Cannibalism in the Cars,” suggested that cannibalism of the body politic is a logical outcome of the practice of the political values of the elected representatives of the United States, in dire circumstances. What would occur, if such dire circumstances did not require a natural disaster, but became a systemic feature of the political landscape?

doncamp

The current economic crisis and America’s abject failure to provide economically-efficient, affordable healthcare are two examples of dire circumstances that are systemic features of America’s political landscape. Both crises are the results of bad governance. Both circumstances are direct products of the growth of influence of en-corporated political interests (encorps) in the system of governance of the United States. Bad governance, in both cases, involves a betrayal of the public trust that is manifested in not regulating the encorps in a way that protects the public’s interests, especially with respect to not meaningfully regulating the encorps ability to influence government officials.

The United States was born wary of the power of vested interests to influence public policy. Alexander Hamilton’s comments in the Federalist Papers are an example of this concern. .

In republics, persons elevated from the mass of the community, by the suffrages of their fellow-citizens, to stations of great pre-eminence and power, may find compensations for betraying their trust, which, to any but minds animated and guided by superior virtue, may appear to exceed the proportion of interest they have in the common stock, and to overbalance the obligations of duty.

Unfortunately, keeping the vested interests out is not a simple matter. How can it be when parties themselves are collective expressions of a set of weighted interests? Frankly, it is sensible for people of like purpose to strive together to achieve their aims, and there is nothing necessarily insidious about the practise. In fact, it’s a cornerstone of Democracy and civil society.

It is also, however, the entry way for corruption because the crux of the matter is not that people have differing and competing interests: it’s that they differ so greatly in terms of their power to realize those interests. When the power to realize those interests is used to unjustly deny the interests of less powerful, but equally or more deserving citizens, through a donation that is traded for a piece of unjust legislation, then it can be said that a positive feedback loop of corruption has been initiated.
The overly simple analysis that follows attempts to describe the basic workings of this system.
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Friday: “I’m shocked that there’s gambling going on in here”

Obama is asking his Wall Street buddies to ease up on the bonuses this year.  It’s unseeemly.  By the way, what is it with the pictures of Obama and his administration that annoys me so much?  Is it that he’s always surrounded by men?  There is a significant concentration of testosterone in the White House that may be reaching toxic levels.  Remember how Bill Clinton promised an administration that looked like America- and then delivered on that promise?  Ahh, those were the days.  But I digress.

So, in the picture, he’s sitting with his legs spread like he’s practicing for some cheerleader split, junk dangling over the edge of the chair.  I’m sorry but he just looks stupid.  And Joe Biden is on his left, Tim Geithner on his left.  Tim Geithner, you may recall is the guy who has a problem with Sheila Bair, the head of the FDIC, preseumably because Bair has ideas in her pretty little head.  You know, ideas like getting investor who own tranches to be realistic about their returns and putting a HOLC like entity together to get homeowners to pay their mortgages?  Silly stuff like that.  Geithner probably thinks, “I’m sure glad you could never be my wife” whenever Bair opens her mouth.

These braintrusts think it is “shameful” that Wall Street bankers rewarded themselves using our money.  But they are wagging their fingers:

Should Mr. Obama have to go to Congress to seek more money for the bailout fund to avert the failure of more banks, he would most likely encounter opposition within both parties and demands for tighter restrictions on pay for executives of institutions that receive government assistance.

Mr. Geithner has already signaled a willingness to impose stricter compensation limits as part of a revamped approach to dealing with the banking crisis, but with his strong words on Thursday, Mr. Obama seemed intent on reassuring Congress and the public that he would step up the pressure on bankers before granting them additional assistance.

Well, that’s telling them. They will get a sternly worded letter saying, “Don’t do it again or Congress will have to regulate you.”  I’ll bet that put the fear of Gawd into them.  The bankers are going to have to court some more Blue Dog Democrats to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Change!™  Ain’t it grand?