by Bob Higgins
Banks, brokers, their insurers and accountants, hell, the whole corrupt financial industry now constitutes the “distinctly native American criminal class” designation that Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson ascribed to the congress a century ago.
It seems that not a day passes without revelations that fraud, Ponzi schemes, insider trading, or other illegal or unethical practices are the rule rather than the exception in the world of high finance.
Today was no exception as the NYT reported that JP Morgan pulled a quarter of a billion dollars out of Bernie Madoff related investments before Madoff’s arrest and didn’t inform other investors, effectively leaving them holding an empty bag.
The other item, also from the Times offers further illustration of the orgy of excess going on in the canyons of Wall Street. Last year, they report, was the sixth largest in history for bonuses, with the gamblers, scalpers and other assorted players leaving the tables with an astounding 18.4 billion. This while the country tightens its collective belt, loses its collective job and reduces its collective expectations. President Obama (I admit to enjoyment when I type that) spoke to reporters before a morning meeting with VP Joe Biden and Treas. Sec. Tim Geithner:
Harry Truman in a “bipartisan” moment with Lauren Bacall, a staunch liberal Democrat. This is about as “bipartisan as Harry got.”
Last week was exhilarating for Democrats and, judging by the international media, for people all over the planet who have suffered for nearly a decade from the misguided and often criminal policies of George Bush and his terribly inept administration.
The swearing in of Barack Obama and the departure of the Connecticut Cowboy from our public affairs was something long anticipated, and, after our long dark winter, as welcome as the return of springtime and birdsong, at least in these quarters.
The Republican smear machine however, wasted no time in cranking up to its full powers of bloviation. Their program of attacking nearly every move Obama made and every statement he uttered, began seconds after his swearing in and I’m sure will continue unabated in the immediate future. Here’s hoping that they are afforded every opportunity to quibble and obstruct, to grouse and whine, as a minority party for decades to come.
The moaning and squawking over the slightly bobbled recitation of the oath of office, a gaffe that was meaningless and easily ignored by people who have something other than chowder between their ears, was, in Republican circles, fanned into a twenty four hour cause celebre by the fulminating heads of Fox Noise and soon picked up on the other “open all night,” “all the news that fits,” networks.
The storm so roiled the calm in our national teapot that Obama’s advisers encouraged him to retake the oath, which he did in a private and sparsely attended ceremony in the White House a day later.
All seemed well with the republic until Glen Beck pointed out that Obama had not sworn the oath with his hand on a Bible,” I checked” Beck chirped, “We have never had a president sworn into office without a Bible,”
The school was “almost completely” segregated because it was located within a good Hail Mary pass of Wright Patterson AFB. I don’t remember exactly the reasons but we were told that because the school received federal funds for students who were military dependents that it had to be integrated.
“Integration” was accomplished by the admission of two young Black kids, The boy was named Sam. I remember because we became friends for awhile until the transparent racist displeasure of my little Quaker Grandmother became thick enough to keep him from dropping by. She wasn’t ready for a black president.
The girl’s name is beyond my atrophied powers of recall. I can see their faces though; both were exceptionally attractive, beautiful in fact, bright, “A” students (National Honor Society), and the son and daughter of Air Force Officers. They weren’t related, although they might have passed for brother and sister (to my eyes) and they knew each other from the Air Base (the Air Force at the time wasn’t a lot more integrated than my high school).
Their presence among the lower and middle class adolescent white children of factory workers, shopkeepers and lower level bean counting managerial types caused no great stir. There were no serious problems (to my eyes) other than an occasional racist taunt, or snub. Civility towards them was rigorously enforced. The powers that be paddled freely and often back then and the sting of that paddle and its humiliation was seldom sought.
I’m sure that Sam and what’s her name saw their experience of being the only “colored kids” among fifteen hundred white kids quite differently than I did but they seemed to smile through it. Again, “to my eyes.”
Dwight Eisenhower was the President at the time, Kennedy, (who would become my boyhood idol, surpassing Chuck Berry) wouldn’t announce his candidacy for another year. Elections in those days were still conducted with a degree of merciful brevity.
“Brown v Board of Education” was only five years in the past; the Civil Rights Act of 1964 five years in the future and Dayton was divided by a river. Black faces were seldom seen east of the river unless on the bus or wielding a rake and although I rode buses frequently I had little contact with and I think, no animosity towards them. In fact, in my budding “beatnik liberal,” barely formed, pre Malcolm and James Baldwin consciousness, I confess to finding them exotic if not damned “quaint”. Please forgive, if you will, my youth and ignorance (and that of my country).