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May-01-2014 11:55printcomments

Too Big To Blame

I never saw a city boy yet who was worth a damn.
- Ernest Hemingway

Dodd-Frank act
american.com

(DAYTONA BEACH) - The Dodd-Frank Bill, an Act to regulate the American financial industry and provide investor and public protection, was passed by Congress and the Senate some three years ago. Since that time, at least one senator has observed that following the greatest heist in world history, all the known perpetrators are still prominent, richer than ever and even regarded as folk heroes in the financial media. Not one of them - on and around the street of dreams that shoulders the sulking, ineffectual Trinity Church - has yet been fingered, prosecuted or required to spend a single night in the slammer.

If the scenario were a Hollywood script, no credible producer would touch it. Here it is: A group of billionaire scoundrels conspire to gerrymander an already hopelessly stacked system, committing not only unethical but criminal acts on an enormous scale. Then they plead poverty and the threat of world catastrophe, such that two successive administrations – one run by a moron named Bush, the other by a redeemer named Obama – resurrect the criminals with close to a trillion dollars in tax-payers' money, with which the plaintiffs immediately leverage themselves into even greater riches.

The only comparable farce I can think of – and this was on a microscopically smaller scale – was the occasion in enlightened Canada when Clifford Olson, the celebrated serial child rapist and killer, persuaded the RCMP to pay him $100,000 in return for information about where 11 or 12 children's bodies were buried. Following THAT atrocity, he toddled off to a five-star prison where he would earn a law degree on the public purse while patiently waiting for Canada's insane justice system to provide him with the possibility of parole in 25 years. Meanwhile, as a respected senior citizen, he collected Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security and Subsidy payments, for a total of around 15 grand a year, invested prudently no doubt while he was – at least for a time - in durance vile.

The crimes of Wall Street have been revealed and dwelt upon ad nauseum, the subject of endless commentary. The criminal conspiracy – which has been the worst kept secret in history for at least six years - involved investment banks, brokers and traders, of which Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank were prominent among the more agile players. These mobsters (1) cobbled together a universe of individual home mortgages, some good, some bad, some outright trash, (2) bundled them as collateral behind “mortgage-backed securities,” a hybrid, hitherto unknown but scarcely credible investment instrument, (3) hired huge credit rating agencies with household names, such as Moody's and Standard & Poor's, to attest to the quality of this mountain of manure, and then (4) sold billions of dollars worth of this odoriferous inventory to the gape-mouthed public and even supposedly knowledgeable institutions.

But that was only the opening salvo in this criminal caper. Rather, it was the first of a three-act atrocity. Next, they simultaneously placed enormous bets AGAINST the success of the garbage they had just sold as investment-grade securities, by running up immense short positions, nailing still other individual and institutional suckers.

The crime STILL didn't end there. They made further billions by designing and concocting sophisticated new “products,” a favorite banking hyperbole, in the form of derivatives twice removed, such as Credit Default Swaps, in effect selling what amounted to massive insurance policies both for and against the likelihood of the mortgage-backed securities (a) surviving, or (b) defaulting. For perhaps the first time in history, institutional sharpies were allowed, on a massive scale, not only to play both sides against the middle - which is routine enough on Wall Street - but to play the middle as well.

If you care to try this – or anything remotely approaching this – on a more modest scale in Las Vegas, where the regulators are not as patient and understanding as the SEC, the Attorney General of New York State and the Federal Department of Justice, you will likely have your kneecaps broken at a minimum, or more likely you will be deposited in a shallow grave in the desert hard by Interstate 15.

But the government and financial apologists for what followed were in a way even more culpable than the criminals. The rationale for giving more billions to the thieves who extracted billions from the system, went something like this: “if we don't bail these poor guys out, our whole system might collapse.” In other words, declaring that it isn't really a crime to be a crook on Wall Street, it's more aptly described as sin, that wonderful Holy Roman Christian invention, because it is subject to infinite forgiveness.

And besides “THEY'RE TOO BIG TO FAIL.”

It's as if the Attorney General were to say: “I know these Mafia guys are hoods, but if we prosecute them, think of the social repercussions on Manhattan's Lower East Side above Fulton Street, and in great tracts of New Jersey centering on Hoboken. It would likely mark the end of the olive oil import industry as we know it, and most importantly, our diplomatic relations with Sicily might be jeopardized.”

Writing in the New York Times at the time, Gretchen Morgenson pointed out that, while the Savings and Loan tsunami 25 years ago involved billions in fraudulent activity, it created a tiny fraction of the financial chaos that ensued as a result of the latter day Wall Street heist. The S & L gig was primitive stuff by today's standards, old hat, just a simple homespun enterprise of using the public's deposits to make fraudulent loans to non-existent companies owned by friends, relatives and themselves. It was amateur pilfering, compared with the artistry of Wall Street. And that whole sub rosa S & L industry was signed off and anointed by a smiling Ronnie Reagan. Even so, hundreds of criminals were indicted and many of them went to jail, some even within hailing distance of the (then) Vice-president's office.

Does all this Wall Street nonsense remind you of something? For those of you who tuned in late, I'll repeat what a lonely voice in the wilderness (that of my son Kevin) has for 20 years been trying to impress on 30 million fellow Canadians, most of whom are preoccupied with weighty, worldly stuff like “artists” with sophisticated names such as Blue Rodeo or Goo-goo Dolls, the Stanley Cup Play-offs, paying for the aftershock of the Vancouver Olympics and whether or not Stephen Harper will appoint yet another token minority poster-person as yet another useless Governor General, in order to use up the $50 million thereto budgeted.

The common denominator shared by the crime on Wall Street and the institutionally-sanctioned Christian crime in Canada is the ongoing existence of known, even celebrated, criminals who have not been, and never will be, clapped in stir. But as between the two, for longevity and magnitude, even the Wall Street criminals come up smelling of roses and looking like boy scouts.

Canadians have known publicly since 1907 about the mass torture, atrocity and genocide that has been going on among the indigenous people from whom we stole our home and native land. But in muffled, subtle fashion, it's still going on with the federal bankrolling of “elected” chiefs and tribal councils while the people continue to starve. It's now public knowledge where the bodies are buried, and who the perps are, right up to the churches' head offices, the Musical Ride stables, the Parliament Buildings and – just across the street - the PMO that Trudeau elevated, without benefit of any constitutional justification, to a fourth branch of the government.

An occasional token priest has been fingered and sacrificed, has taking the rap for centuries of torture and genocide, and has done a little less time in the calaboose than he spent in seminary. Such tiny admissions of “sin” have been offered to bolster the “few-bad-apples-in-the-barrel” nonsense as a diversion. But not a single person, place or thing has ever been tried for one of the hundred thousand murders that have taken place in the true north strong and free since

Wolfe, the dauntless hero came,
And planted firm Britannia's flag
On Canada's fair (albeit previously occupied) domain.

The perpetrators, as on Wall Street – according to, initially, saintly spokespope Joe Ratzinger, the Hitler Youth alumnus since cross-dressed in a gold gown - and latterly, Humble Francis I, the recovering Junta chaplain from Argentina - are not criminals but merely sinners. And as long as we dub crimes against humanity “sin,” that bland Vatican invention, which can be absolved by buying a candle or by mumbled sorrow in a confessional, these animals will continue to beat the rap - globally.

It's loads of fun, of course, for Canadians to practice that favorite national pastime of bad-mouthing Americans. It keeps them healthy, like doing push-ups. But on the subject of crime, the American experience is no more reprehensible than the Canadian version. It just happens to be a tad more professional, even as it follows in the grand tradition of the Holy Roman Church or Canada's estranged and deadbeat Dad, the British Empire.

All three, in fact, share the distinction of being too big to blame.

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