Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Piles Of Crap

Senate Subcommittee Investigating Financial Crisis Releases Documents on Role of Investment Banks

April 24, 2010

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released several exhibits that will be among those discussed on Tuesday at the fourth of its hearings on the causes and consequences of the financial crisis.

The exhibits are available at this link.

Using Goldman Sachs as a case study, the April 27 hearing will focus on the role of investment banks in contributing to the worst U.S. economic crisis since the 1930s, resulting in the foreclosure of millions of homes, the shuttering of businesses, and the loss of millions of American jobs. The Subcommittee, whose Chairman is Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and whose Ranking Republican is Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has conducted a nearly year and a half investigation into the 2008 financial crisis.

“Investment banks such as Goldman Sachs were not simply market-makers, they were self-interested promoters of risky and complicated financial schemes that helped trigger the crisis,” said Sen. Levin. “They bundled toxic mortgages into complex financial instruments, got the credit rating agencies to label them as AAA securities, and sold them to investors, magnifying and spreading risk throughout the financial system, and all too often betting against the instruments they sold and profiting at the expense of their clients.” The 2009 Goldman Sachs annual report stated that the firm “did not generate enormous net revenues by betting against residential related products.” Levin said, “These e-mails show that, in fact, Goldman made a lot of money by betting against the mortgage market.”

Goldman Executives: "No Regrets" for Deals That Accelerated Crisis
One of the testier exchanges thus far was between Sparks of Goldman and Levin. It surrounded one of the offshore deals Goldman peddled called "Timberwolf," which included securities backed by subprime mortgages that were most at risk if the housing market dropped.

Goldman documents show that the firm's sales force was told to make selling Timberwolf a priority. In 2007, Goldman sold about $300 million of Timberwolf securities to a hedge fund that collapsed later that year. A senior Goldman executive later described the deal as follows: "boy that timeberwof (sic) deal was one shitty deal." According to the subcommittee, 94 percent of the securities in the deal were from other offshore deals.

The hearing room then erupted in laughter — low titters at first, and then bigger laughs — as Levin repeatedly asked Sparks about the "shitty" deal and the e-mail.

Levin asked: Did you tell your clients that "this was a shitty deal?"

"Your top priority was to sell that shitty deal."

"Should Goldman be trying to sell a shitty deal?"

Levin later grilled Viniar about the e-mails or comments in which Goldman employees referred to specific deals as "crap" or "shitty" or "junk." What did he think about such disparaging comments — and how would clients feel about them? Levin asked.

MSNBC video [5:58]
Levin grills Wall Street execs

April 27: Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mi., quotes from an email as he repeatedly refers to "a shitty deal" while grilling bank executives during a hearing on Goldman Sachs' activities during the housing crisis.

Is Goldman Sorry It Sold A Security One Employee Described as #$%&*?
Throughout the hearing, Levin kept returning to the argument that Goldman should have told clients its opinion of the security. Goldman should also have told clients if it stood to profit if the security performed poorly, Levin suggested.

The Goldman execs basically disagreed with Levin. They argued that when Goldman sold mortgage securities, it was not acting as an adviser to clients. Instead, they said, the company's role was to sell clients whatever they wanted to buy.

"The investors that we're dealing with on the long side, or on the short side, know what they want to acquire," CEO Lloyd Blankfein said. "I don't think our clients care, or that they should care," what Goldman's opinion is, he said.

It went back and forth like this for hours this afternoon, with variations on the theme. But there was one break in the monotony. It came when Levin was questioning David Viniar, Goldman's CFO:

LEVIN: And when you heard that your employees, in these e-mails, when looking at these deals said, God, what a s***y deal, God what a piece of crap -- when you hear your own employees or read about those in the e-mails, do you feel anything?

VINIAR: I think that's very unfortunate to have on e-mail.

'God, What a Piece ofCrap'
Viniar's answer told us all we need to know about the banal but profound immorality of Goldman's business culture: "I think that's very unfortunate to have on e-mail."

A flabbergasted Levin cut in with "On e-mail? How about feeling that way?" and Viniar, apparently moved by jeers of ridicule from the audience, conceded "I think it is very unfortunate for anyone to have said that in any form." Pressed further by Levin asking, "How about to believe that and sell them?" the CFO finally conceded, "I think that's unfortunate as well." To which Levin responded, "That's what you should have started with."

But Goldman's executives didn't start with any such moral qualms or end with them, as was made clear in the testimony of Goldman Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein that followed. Blankfein basically pleaded ignorance about the company's scams, making it clear that offering the details of such products was below his pay scale. That would be $68 million in 2007, the highest in Wall Street history, when Goldman's bets against its customers paid off so handsomely. What was clear is that his job was to ensure the company's immense year-end profitability with no questions asked about the methods used. "I did not know" he replied when asked about the details of the company's trades, and at another point he added, "We're not that smart." Then there was "I don't have any knowledge" on selling short, and finally, "We did not know what subsequently occurred in the housing market."

The Senate tries to get the bankers to admit they sold America a pile of crap.
The question at the center of Tuesday's Senate hearing on the role of investment banks in the financial crisis: Are Goldman Sachs bankers criminals or merely a big bunch of jerks?

Put another way: Did the employees of Goldman Sachs deliberately mislead investors by failing to disclose that one of the people creating a certain mortgage-backed security was also betting against it, as a new lawsuit by the Securities and Exchange Commission alleges? Or did they simply recommend mortgage-backed securities to investors, then turn around and bet against them—essentially betting against their own investors?

Investment Banks And The Financial Crisis, Directors
C-Span, Apr 27, 2010: Senate Committee Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs

Computerized Front-Running: Another Goldman-Dominated Fraud
Also called High Frequency Trading (HFT) or "black box trading," automated program trading uses high-speed computers governed by complex algorithms (instructions to the computer) to analyze data and transact orders in massive quantities at very high speeds. Like the poker player peeking in a mirror to see his opponent's cards, HFT allows the program trader to peek at major incoming orders and jump in front of them to skim profits off the top. Note that these large institutional orders are our money - our pension funds, mutual funds, and 401Ks.

When "market making" (matching buyers with sellers) was done strictly by human brokers on the floor of the stock exchange, manipulations and front-running were considered an acceptable (if morally dubious) price to pay for continuously "liquid" markets. But front-running by computer, using complex trading programs, is an entirely different species of fraud. A minor flaw in the system has morphed into a monster.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Happy Birthday, Hubble

"Here's looking at you, kid."

Eye Of Heaven (MyCn18)

Happy birthday to the Hubble Telescope

The Hubble Telescope was launched on April 24, 1990. NASA says the best is yet to come.
The Hubble Space Telescope launched on April 24, 1990 with a flawed mirror, but survived for two decades in large part because of five repair missions by space shuttle astronauts. Its cosmic gaze has led to breakthrough discoveries about the universe and embedded stunning views of the cosmos in the hearts and minds of the public.

"Hubble has done all those things and become an icon of science because it can produce glorious images," said Rick Fienberg, an astronomer and press officer of the American Astronomical Society.

But there's bigger and better science yet to come.

Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543)


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 2010

I really wonder what gives us the right to wreck this poor planet of ours.

~Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

It is our collective and individual responsibility to protect and nurture the global family, to support its weaker members and to preserve and tend to the environment in which we all live.

~Dalai Lama


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Limbaugh Logic... Or Lack Thereof

God is sooooooo angry because the United States passed Health Care Reform that He decided to smite Iceland with an erupting volcano?

Limbaugh: "God may have replied" to passage of health care reform with volcano eruption in Iceland

He rammed healthcare down our throats and now we have a huge MFING problem on our hands with this volcano!!
RUSH LIMBAUGH: You know, a couple of days after the health care bill had been signed into law Obama ran around all over the country saying, "Hey, you know, I'm looking around. The earth hadn't opened up. There's no Armageddon out there. The birds are still chirping." I think the earth has opened up. God may have replied. This volcano in Iceland has grounded more airplanes -- airspace has more affected -- than even after 9/11 because of this plume, because of this ash cloud over Northern and Western Europe. At the Paris airport they're telling people to head to the train station to catch trains out of France, and when people get to the train station they're telling people, "There aren't any seats until at least April 22nd," basically a week from now. It's got everybody in a shutdown. Earth has opened up. I don't know whether it's a rebirth or Armageddon. Hopefully it's a rebirth, God speaking.


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Friday, April 16, 2010

The Battle Of Culloden Moor, 254 Years Ago Today

1746 - Battle Of Culloden

Culloden Moor, known then as Drummossie Muir, was the site of the last pitched battle on the British mainland on 16 April 1746.

The Jacobites were pulling back into the Highlands, ending their siege of Stirling as they headed for Inverness.

Ghosts of Culloden... can you hear them...?
It was called the Rising of the Forty an' Five. In 1745, Prince Charles Edward Stuart undertook to retake the throne of England for his Father, James II of England. Prince Charlie was called the Young Pretender, because he was in line for the throne if he were successful in his effort. [...]

It was on this day in 1746. 254 years ago on a cold and windswept moor near Inverness, Scotland. A haunted place known as Culloden Moor. A field that, like other killing fields, shall live forever in legend and tears. And infamy. It is a story of heroes and of cold blooded brutality.

Ghosts of Culloden ~ Isla Grant

Slaughter of the Wounded; The Cruel Aftermath
Notwithstanding the massacres which were committed immediately after the battle, a considerable number of wounded Highlanders still survived, some of whom had taken refuge in a few cottages adjoining the field of battle, while others lay scattered among the neighbouring inclosures. Many of these men might have recovered if ordinary attention had been paid to them; but the stern duke, considering that those who had risen in rebellion against his father were not entitled to the rights of humanity, entirely neglected them. But, barbarous as such conduct was, it was only the prelude to enormities of a still more revolting description.

1746 - Highland Dress Proscription Act
Following the Jacobite defeat at Culloden, the last pitched battle on British soil, Prince Charles fled to South Uist then eventually across to France.

His supporters who remained suffered terribly from ‘Butcher Cumberland’ and his medieval reprisals. To further punish Scotland, Parliament issued imperious Acts to destroy the clans, their identities and economic structures.

New laws imposed abolished heritable jurisdictions, claimed estates for the crown, banned the playing of bagpipes, the wearing of tartans and Highland dress for all except government troops, and restricted the possession of weapons.

After Culloden
The absolute will of the Scottish lairds was to be replaced by the execution of the king's laws. Legislation of 1746 and 1747 was passed to weaken the independence of the Highlands. Public executions of those loyal to the Jacobite cause impressed upon the Scottish people the need to toe the line.

The lands of the Jacobite chiefs were forfeited and a determined effort was made to end the clan system once and for all. Yet, as more than one historian has pointed out, the great lords on the fringes of the Highlands such as Argyll, Montrose, Gordon, Atholl and others lost their baronial rights, in the more remote regions, the power of the chiefs had been patriarchal rather than feudal, personal rather than legal and territorial. It was the inexorable advance of a money economy into the Highlands that followed the rebellion, and not the effects of any royal statute that finally ended their supremacy.

The Disarming Act of 1746 forbade the carrying and concealing of arms, made broadsword illegal and the search for them legal. The wearing of Highland clothes or plaid was prohibited to all except serving soldiers of the Crown. Another act was passed to suppress nonjuring, meeting houses, considered "seminaries of Jacobitism" and "nurseries and schools" of rebellion.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Idiot Air Waves

Why are stupid and uninformed people paid enormous amounts of money to act like ignorant buffoons and pollute the radio air waves?

Uninformed Limbaugh Wonders ‘Where Was The Union’ At Non-Union Mine Disaster
Last Friday, Rush Limbaugh asked why a coal miner union didn’t protect the 29 miners who were killed when Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, WV, exploded under unsafe conditions:
Was there no union responsibility for improving mine safety? Where was the union here? Where was the union? The union is generally holding these companies up demanding all kinds of safety. Why were these miners continuing to work in what apparently was an unsafe atmosphere?
Listen here

In fact, the United Mine Workers of America (UMW) “tried three times to organize the Upper Big Branch mine, but even with getting nearly 70 percent of workers to sign cards saying they wanted to vote for a union, Blankenship personally met with workers to threaten them with closing down the mine and losing their jobs if they voted for a union.”

Blankenship rose in Massey’s ranks by breaking its union mines in the 1980s. Blankenship said then that busting unions is “invaluable” to profits, as non-union companies can “sell coal cheaper and drive union coal out of business.”

Jeebus, Rush. Aren't there any news sources on your planet?

Countdown with Keith Olbermann
Limbaugh oblivious on miners' union fact

April 13: Keith Olbermann points out that Worst Person in the World, Rush Limbaugh, tried to blame the miners' union for the West Virginia mine explosion, completely oblivious to the fact that the mining company kept the union out.

I think Keith has accurately diagnosed the problem. Again.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

No Miracles

People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were traveling abroad.

~Marcel Proust

4 Missing W.Va. Miners Found Dead
Rescue workers located four bodies deep in a West Virginia coal mine, dashing any faint hopes of finding more survivors of a deadly explosion that has claimed 29 lives, the worst U.S. mining disaster in a generation.

Officials announced the grim discovery at the Upper Big Branch Mine early Saturday, after first notifying family members.

"We did not receive the miracle that we prayed for," Gov. Joe Manchin said. "So this journey has ended and now the healing will start."

Until late Friday, officials had held out a slim chance that four missing miners may have made it to an underground refuge chamber which held enough oxygen and water to survive for four days.

"None of the chambers had been deployed and none of our miners suffered," Manchin said.

Mine rescue effort turns to recovery
President Barack Obama said Saturday that steps must be taken to make sure such an explosion does not happen again.

"We cannot bring back the men we lost," he said in a statement. "What we can do, in their memory, is thoroughly investigate this tragedy and demand accountability."

Deadly Record: Massey’s Mine In Montcoal Has Been Cited For Over 3,000 Violations, Over $2.2 Million In Fines
This deadly mine has been cited for over 3,000 violations by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), 638 since 2009:
  • Since 1995, Massey’s Upper Big Branch-South Mine has been cited for 3,007 safety violations. Massey is contesting 353 violations, and 127 are delinquent. [MSHA]

  • Massey is contesting over a third (34.7%) of the 516 safety citations the Upper Big Branch-South Mine received in 2009, its greatest count in the last 15 years. [MSHA]

  • In March 2010, 53 new safety citations were issued for Massey’s Upper Big Branch-South Mine, including violations of its mine ventilation plan. [MSHA]
. . .

Massey is now contesting $1,128,833 in fines for safety violations at the deadly Upper Big Branch-South Mine, with a further $246,320 in delinquent fines:

  • Over $2.2 million in fines have been assessed against Massey’s Upper Big Branch-South Mine since 1995, with $791,327 paid. Massey is contesting $1,128,833 in fines. Massey’s delinquent fines total $246,320. [MSHA]

  • Massey is contesting $251,613 in fines for citations for Upper Big Branch-South Mine’s ventilation plan. [MSHA]
. . .

Massey’s corrupt CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce board member Don Blankenship, has previously told employees that it was more important to “run coal” than follow safety regulations.

In 2002, President George W. Bush “named former Massey Energy official Stanley Suboleski to the MSHA review commission that decides all legal matters under the Federal Mine Act,” and cut 170 positions from MSHA. Bush’s MSHA chief, Dick Stickler, was a former manager of Beth Energy mines, which “incurred injury rates double the national average.”

The Politics of Life and Death in West Virginia
In the wake of the Massey Energy tragedy that killed 29 coal miners in West Virginia, there appear to be two steps that could improve worker safety there. First, as the mine accident record of the last decade suggests, join a union. Second, put Democrats in the White House to reverse the GOP's nationwide gutting of federal regulation and oversight. Sadly, both trends in West Virginia have been moving the opposite direction.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Worker Safety Call Out

Thank goodness there are a few responsible people willing to call something out for what it is. And what this is, is a call out to right-wing BS.

For any of those who may have a real conscience, consider this as a call out. For any of those who don't, consider this as contempt for your lack of morals...

Ed Schultz, April 7, 2010 transcript excerpt:

SCHULTZ: It’s going to take a miracle for rescuers to get to the four trapped West Virginia miners and get them out alive. That mining company had thousands of safety violations over the years. This has me convinced that we need an investigation into criminal negligence. I’ve got a commentary next here on MSNBC.


SCHULTZ: Rescue crews were not able to rescue and resume the search. Methane gas levels underground are still too high. Crews continue to drill holes to ventilate the area and hopefully restart the search. Meanwhile, the Labor Department is launching a special investigation into safety conditions at the mine, and they should.

“The Charleston Daily Mail” reports that the mine has had 3,000 safety violations in the past 15 years. It was cited as recently as last month for improper ventilation. Last night United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard told me the mine would have been much safer if workers had been unionized.

LEO GERARD, PRESIDENT, UNITED STEELWORKERS: The CEO of Massey promotes himself as a union buster. He promotes himself as having a record of fighting unions wherever they show up in his workplace. If he spent as much time helping the workers get a union, helping us then clean up his workplaces, we wouldn’t have these fatalities and he wouldn’t have these fines.

SCHULTZ: Mr. Gerard, are you willing to say tonight that if these workers had been members of a union, this would not have happened?

GERARD: I can absolutely say that if these members had been member of a union, they would have had the right to refuse unsafe work in our collective agreements and they would have been able to refuse that work.

SCHULTZ: And I have to tell it like it is tonight, folks. This is all about the man, the man in the front office who took home over $19 million in income in 2008. This is about the man having his foot right on the neck of the middle class, having his foot right on the neck of those mine workers.

In an economically depressed area of West Virginia where there is no economic development, this is what they do. And in the midst of all of that, without regulation, they’re allowed to abuse workers. You see, because if they don’t go down in that hole they lose their job. And all these right wingers in this country who are attacking the middle class and attacking labor in this country, you need to go to these funerals because there’s going to be 25 of them and maybe more. We don’t know what’s going to happen to the other four. It doesn’t look real good at this hour.

But here’s the point. Unions not only — this is just — I can’t believe we’re having this discussion in this country as if we have to vilify collective bargaining, where a family can be protected from dangers in the workplace and there won’t be the man on the neck of that worker, the neck of that family and those kids who are now missing a loved one.

Criminal negligence, homicide, you name it. The Congress has to get into this once and for all. President Obama, you need to get involved in this.

This is what the Employee Free Choice Act is all about. Where there’s not going to be intimidation, where there’s not going to be retribution against employees who just think about organizing in the workplace because they’d like to go down into a workplace where they’re not going to lose their lives. Where it will just increase the safety in their area. Is that asking too much? Is it all for the dollar bill in America? This is morally wrong. There is absolutely no difference between what these guys did in the front office at this Massey Energy Company than what these guys did down the street on Wall Street to folks who were ripped off. This is a matter of life and death. That’s what this is.

And you know what we’re going to do right now as Americans? We’re all going to sit at the dinner tables tonight and we’re going to ask ourselves, what are we going to do about it? And so when I see these rallies out there with Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann and they claim to be for the working folk of America, show me.

Have the guts to stand up for these families that are now in tragic loss. Show me, you Republicans, show me you care. Show Americans that you have a heart and you have a soul and that you don’t despise American workers who just want a fair shake in the workplace. I’m really biting my tongue right now.

Sometimes I wish I was on HBO, but this is where I belong, and I started this show a year ago to fight for the middle class and now we have some dead people on our hands. And now we have Republicans who are saying that, well, the Employee Free Choice Act is not the right thing to do. We have the United States Chamber of Commerce throwing lobbyists and millions of dollars against those families who would like to have a chance to get some protection in the workplace.

Do you believe that this company was genuinely addressing the safety violations? No. I could go on for hours, but this is where we stand in America. It’s an ideological divide. Some people care about the working folk of America. And some people flat-out don’t give a damn. I don’t think Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, I don’t think they give a damn.

I couldn’t support a Republican right now if you cremated me with them. I couldn’t warm up to a Republican if you cremated me with them right now.

They are against the middle class in this country.

Mine deaths spark criticism of operator's record

Mine owner ran up serious violations

Mine cited for broken fresh-air system

Extracting coal remains a dangerous proposition. Could more labor unions help?

Want Safer Mines? Unionize Them
Without the big move to non-union operations that has been plaguing the coal industry for more than two decades, there's a good possibility that 25 dead and four missing miners in West Virginia tonight would be sitting down to dinner with their families instead of being mourned by them.

For those in peril in the dark...
The CEO of Massey Energy is Don Blankenship. The same Don Blankenship who invented a scandal and funded it to the tune of $3 million to run one one state supreme court judge out of office for the crime of siding with workers. The same Blankenship who was photographed cavorting along the French Riveria with another justice while his company had a $77 million case before the court. The same Don Blankenship who regularly condemns the whole idea of environmental protection, saying that global warming does not exist and that asking people to conserve is tantamount to communism. The same Blankenship and the same Massey that last year was convicted of massive and systematic age discrimination. The same Blankenship and the same Massey who were ordered to pay $30 million in environmental damages after running up fines that actually topped $2.5 billion.

Most critically this is the same Blankenship and the same Massey who lost miners as recently as 2006 due to lack of safety equipment. At the end of that case, the widows of the dead men refused to accept the settlement, stating that it was clear that the company executives had placed profit ahead of safety. [...]

Whatever happens, let's not forget that without constant attention and championing of the cause of safety, it's all too easy for any company to forget that these are men and women in their charge, not just corporate assets.

Blankenship's Bloody Coal Mine: A Deluge of Violations
Over $2.2 million in fines have been assessed against Massey’s Upper Big Branch-South Mine since 1995, with $791,327 paid. Massey is contesting $1,128,833 in fines. Massey’s delinquent fines total $246,320. [MSHA]

Massey is contesting $251,613 in fines for citations for Upper Big Branch-South Mine’s ventilation plan. [MSHA]

Compare those fines to coal mine owner Don Blankenship's compensation package of $19.7 million in 2008. He could pay those assessments out of the change in his sock drawer. He fights them and runs a delinquent account instead.


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Happy Easter

Happy Spring and Happy Easter!

If spring came but once a century instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake and not in silence, what wonder and expectation there would be in all hearts to behold the miraculous change.

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Easter morn with lilies fair
Fills the church with perfumes rare,
As their clouds of incense rise,
Sweetest offerings to the skies.
Stately lilies pure and white
Flooding darkness with their light,
Bloom and sorrow drifts away,
On this holy hallow'd day.
Easter Lilies bending low
in the golden afterglow,
Bear a message from the sod
To the heavenly towers of God.

~Louise Lewin Matthews

Saturday, April 03, 2010

When will we listen?

I am reminded of that anonymous quote: "Nobody knows the age of the human race, but everybody agrees that it is old enough to know better." It's not really Déjà Vu, all over, again... is it?

Something to think about:

We Still Don’t Hear Him

Bob Herbert, NYT:

“I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight,” said the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “because my conscience leaves me no other choice.”

This was on the evening of April 4, 1967, almost exactly 43 years ago. Dr. King told the more than 3,000 people who had crowded into Riverside Church that silence in the face of the horror that was taking place in Vietnam amounted to a “betrayal.”

He spoke of both the carnage in the war zone and the toll the war was taking here in the United States. The speech comes to mind now for two reasons: A Tavis Smiley documentary currently airing on PBS revisits the controversy set off by Dr. King’s indictment of “the madness of Vietnam.” And recent news reports show ever-increasing evidence that we have ensnared ourselves in a mad and tragic venture in Afghanistan.

Dr. King spoke of how, in Vietnam, the United States increased its commitment of troops “in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support.”

It’s strange, indeed, to read those words more than four decades later as we are increasing our commitment of troops in Afghanistan to fight in support of Hamid Karzai, who remains in power after an election that the world knows was riddled with fraud and whose government is one of the most corrupt and inept on the planet. [...]

His bold stand seems all the more striking in today’s atmosphere, in which moral courage among the very prominent — the kind of courage that carries real risk — seems mostly to have disappeared.

More than 4,000 Americans have died in Iraq and more than 1,000 in Afghanistan, where the Obama administration has chosen to escalate rather than to begin a careful withdrawal. Those two wars, as the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and his colleague Linda Bilmes have told us, will ultimately cost us more than $3 trillion.

And yet the voices in search of peace, in search of an end to the “madness,” in search of the nation-building so desperately needed here in the United States, are feeble indeed.

Dr. King would be assassinated exactly one year (almost to the hour) after his great speech at Riverside Church. It’s the same terrible fate that awaits some of the American forces, most of them very young, that we continue to send into the quagmire in Afghanistan.

“I think that people want peace so much that one of these days government had better get out of their way and let them have it.”

~Dwight D. Eisenhower


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