Dear American:I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to email@example.com so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson *
This isn’t intended for me, I don’t think.
It’s a missive from the edge of despair, I mean brink
of total desperation; the communication therein
says her hopes for survival are slim
and she’s writing to the Front, though we’ve yet to meet,
with a confidential matter ‘cause she’s heard I’m discreet.
And the urgency of her request for my aid
is matched by the depth of the trust she displayed.
“Don’t betray me like our oil minister did (staged a coup).
And I’m about to flee Nigeria soon
but I’ll never make it out,” she says, with twenty million
three hundred twenty thousand US dollars that are still in
her possession. She embezzled them, I guess.
Look, I don’t really know her so uh… that’s none of my business.
She’s the LADY MARYAM ABACHA, deposed.
These days, can’t even get her caps-lock key unfroze. *
Last week’s ripe moment turned out to be the Thursday night Washington photo op when Treasury Secretary Paulson and Fed Chief Bernanke emerged from a huddle with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and just about every other legislative eminentissimo in an attempt to reassure the nation that its financial system had not turned into something like unto a truckload of stinking dead carp. I don’t know about you, but I got two distinct vibes from the faces in that particular tableau: 1.) abject fear, and 2.) a total lack of conviction that they knew what they were doing.
The product of that huddle was a cockamamie scheme for the US treasury to absorb all the losses from a twenty-year binge in which Wall Street created and retailed the most complex set of swindles ever seen on this planet Earth. The background music to the tableau was the whoosh of a several trillion dollars exiting the US financial system never to be seen again.
The next day (Friday) many particulars of that scheme began to emerge — such as the complete lack of oversight and review mechanisms for Treasury’s new power to monetize private business failures and frauds — and the stock market soared in response. Other new features of the reformed capital landscape also resolved later that day, like a new experiment aimed at eliminating the short sale as a way of guaranteeing that henceforth market bets could only be placed on the upside of the table. It will be interesting to see how that reform works out in the days ahead.
Over the weekend, all these various playerz retreated into their gilded bunkers to negotiate the details, and by Sunday night, among other things, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley — the two remaining investment giants left standing — announced that they would metamorphose into regular banks in order to qualify for additional truckloads of government loans in exchange for any leftover fraudulant securities still lurking in their vaults. Another new provision had the Treasury rescuing swindled foreign companies, too — in effect, saving the world, which seemed at least, how you say, pretty ambitious.
And, lest I be accused of quoting exclusively from one side of the spectrum – and I’d remind folks that what with the current Republican administration having nationalized AIG, one may want to be careful about slinging ‘socialist’ as an insult – one from Daniel Larison at The American Conservative (AmConMag = paleocon in most taxonomies – it labors under the twin disadvantages of consistency and truthfulness):
During the months before the invasion of Iraq, I often heard or read the claim that we had to defer to the government, because they “knew more” than the rest of us, which meant that if they claimed a dire threat was on the horizon there really was a dire threat on the horizon. As it turned out, they knew scarcely more than the average well-informed citizen, and much of what they thought they knew was wrong. There was a broad, international consensus of supposed experts that did not doubt the severity of what turned out to be a non-existent threat, and this consensus held despite an acknowledged lack of reliable information. Indeed, the consensus thrived on the impossibility of proving a negative. Except for a relative handful of dissenters, who were either ignored or dismissed as cranks, the people in the relevant policy community acquiesced or kept quiet, and the average citizen looked at the near-unanimity of supposed experts acknowledging the severity of the threat and took it far more seriously than he would have ever done otherwise. Instead of asking who benefited from building up the threat, people were cowed into taking the threat for granted and accepting more or less unquestioningly government proposals for addressing it. To be part of the mainstream conversation, one had to admit first of all that the threat was real and serious, at which point the debate was really already over.
This strangely misplaced confidence in government expertise seems to have returned. This time people seem to be inclined to defer to government claims because the situation really is quite serious and the problem at hand is fairly complex, which makes it much easier to confess a lack of expertise, yield to expert opinion and say, “Well, we have to trust the government–the alternative is unthinkable!” If the last few years have shown anything, I would have thought they would have taught us to recognize this sort of browbeating as a means to shut down critical thought and skepticism. The people who sold a war of choice as a war of necessity are now telling us that yet another emergency measure is absolutely necessary, which makes me think that it is distinctly possible that it is not. The language of necessity in turn feeds the public’s fear that things must be so bad that they should not question the principle behind the emergency measure. They can, as half-hearted critics of the invasion did, quibble about means and process, and at this point that is all we are seeing from most members of Congress, but they are not supposed to doubt the necessity of acting and acting now.
I’ve already written about taking a deep breath and counting to ten – what about the current situation requires us to act NOW NOW NOW NOW? Weren’t we being assured a week or two ago that everything was under control – by the very same people who are now predicting total world economic collapse? Were they lying then? Lying now? Incorrect then/now/both? Why do they need all the money up front?
What I really really like is the idea of subjecting CEOs to the same petty humiliation everyone else gets treated to. I suggest that for every separate asset these CEOs sell to the government, they be required to write a Hardship Letter over a 1010 warning (that’s a reference to the statute forbidding lying in order to get a loan) explaining why they acquired or originated this asset to begin with, what’s really wrong with it in detail, what they have learned from this experience, and what steps they are taking to make sure it never happens again. Furthermore, the Treasury Department will empanel a committee of the oldest, most traditional, and bitterest mortgage loan underwriters–preferably those downsized to make way for automated underwriting systems–to review these letters and opine on their acceptability.
Now – I hope – back to dogs, bugs, birds, etc. On deck – ants! Zombie bears (and how do walruses relate?)!