Thursday, August 27, 2009

Appeasing Israel—At What Cost?

By Jeff Gates

Barack Hussein Obama’s June 4th speech in Cairo was awaited with keen anticipation by a global population of 1.3 billion Muslims outraged at the abuse that Zionism has long inflicted on its neighbors—with U.S. support. Ten weeks have since passed. The potentially positive impact of his remarks was immediately offset when he appeared the next day at the Buchenwald death camp in Germany. The timing of that Holocaust photo-op resolved all doubts about who stage-manages this presidency.

Media attention immediately shifted back to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In the lead-up to the Cairo speech, Obama’s White House handlers enabled this right-winger to proclaim—from the White House—that peace with the Palestinians ranked a distant second to Tel Aviv’s concerns about Iran. Soon after the Cairo speech, Netanyahu reluctantly referenced a “two state solution”—though only under duress from Middle East envoy George Mitchell. Obama quickly portrayed as an “important step forward” this grudging referral to an agreed-to strategy.

In truth, Netanyahu announced several giant steps backward. Rather than agree to negotiate a two state solution, he set preconditions certain to preclude two states, leaving nothing to negotiate. Again negating the potentially positive impact from Cairo, Obama praised the Israeli leader even as he insisted that Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” where Jerusalem as “Israel’s capital will remain united.”

Netanyahu also insisted on Israel’s right to colonize even more Palestinian land by expanding the very settlements destined to preclude a viable Palestinian state. By applauding this defiant speech, Obama inflamed the very conditions that have precluded peace in the Middle East for more than six decades. In the ensuing ten weeks, Netanyahu’s stance has only further hardened—with Obama’s tacit approval.

Anticipating pressure to negotiate in good faith, Tel Aviv opened a three-front assault. First, Foreign Minister Avignor Lieberman (from Moldova) began talks in Moscow. By conducting diplomacy in fluent Russian, he showed that Israel could—and would—turn elsewhere for the “special relationship” that Tel Aviv has long enjoyed with the U.S.

Second, the Israel lobby opened a domestic assault on Obama by announcing, “Jewish leaders are deeply troubled by his recent Middle East initiatives.” The lobby also reminded Obama, a political product of Ashkenazi funding from West Side Chicago, just where his presidential bread is buttered.

Third, as soon as Middle East envoy George Mitchell opened talks with Damascus, the first negotiations since the U.S. withdrew its ambassador in 2005, Netanyahu gave a speech on Syria in which he made no mention of the Golan Heights (seized during Israel’s preemptive 1967 war) while including terms certain to ensure that peace with Syria would also remain beyond reach.

Yet again the Obama team appeased the Israeli leader. With no need to cite the high-profile Holocaust photo-op, the official Syrian newspaper noted simply, “This is the principle that always guides Israel when approaching the Zionist-Arab conflict. The Israelis see themselves as victims rather than the aggressor.”

By again failing to stand up to the Zionist state and its extensive lobby in the U.S., Obama once again enabled the very conduct that most endangers U.S. national security. While his words in Cairo promised a “new beginning,” his actions both before and after that speech signaled business-as-usual.

If he continues to placate Israeli extremists, his conduct may well induce another terrorist attack. Should another attack occur, recent history suggests that an orgy of evidence will point to Iran-backed Hezbollah while Israel again portrays itself as a hapless victim in need of U.S. protection from an “existential threat.” Absent presidential resolve to ensure that “special” is expunged from the U.S.-Israeli relationship, this entangled alliance will continue to ensure that the U.S. can be portrayed as guilty by its association with this enclave’s extremist behavior.

With his remarks, Netanyahu transformed the two state solution into a bargaining chip. By his insistence on terms that preclude a final settlement, he reconfirmed Tel Aviv’s commitment to sustain this conflict. By continuing Israel’s expansion of the settlements, he ensured that peace would remain beyond reach. Obama’s propensity to appease at time-critical junctures suggests he will continue on a course that invites more terrorism—either by Israel or by those provoked by U.S. support of its extremism.

Any objective assessment of this presidency would reveal its disproportionate pro-Israeli composition. Democrat Harry Truman, a Christian-Zionist, extended nation-state recognition to this Zionist enclave. Republican G.W. Bush, another Christian-Zionist, staffed his presidency virtually the same as Democrat Obama—with a vast cadre of pro-Israelis. With so little difference in perspective, it is little wonder there is so little difference in Israeli behavior. Or in the risks that this relationship imposes on the U.S.

This trans-partisan “insider” operation shares an allegiance neither to party nor president. Its only loyalty is to a shared covenant whose obligations to an expansive Greater Israel take precedence over U.S. interests. The scope and scale of this shared bias suggest that the only way for the U.S. to restore its security is to withhold funding for Israel, withdraw its diplomats and reshape its foreign policy around U.S. interests.

Should this latest occupant of the White House continue to act inconsistent with U.S. interests, this young Commander in Chief must be reminded why the Framers set such a low evidentiary standard for proving treason. As a former professor of constitutional law, surely he knows that a conviction for that capital offense requires only proof of “adhering” (or granting “aid and comfort”) to an enemy—whether domestic or foreign.

The costs of this entangled alliance in blood, treasure and hard-earned credibility are known. By his concessions to the Israel lobby and by his appeasing an extremist minority at the expense of the majority, Barack Obama invites a charge of treason.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Israeli Policy: Evil Stupidity or Stupidly Evil?


Cited in a recent Ha’aretz piece about the decline of the israeli left, the late academic Yeshayahu Leibowitz is described as remarking that he is not sure whether Israel’s policies since 1967 are evil stupidity or stupidly evil. In another, verbatim citation, Leibowitz is quoted as having said, more resolutely, in 1990: "Everything Israel has done, and I emphasize everything, in the past 23 years is either evil stupidity or stupidly evil."

Along with a number of other academics such as Ilan Pappe and Neve Gordon, journalists such as Amira Hass and Gideon Levy, and other critics of conscience such as David Grossman, it is good to see instances of intellectuals fulfilling their proper role of speaking up.

In Liebowitz’s case, he is not as well known outside Israel. In 1969 he reportedly began describing the “inevitable Nazification” of Israeli society. Further, by the time of the (first major, 1982) Lebanon War, he became known for using the term Judeo-Nazi to describe the Israeli army. He also called for soldiers to refuse to serve in the IOF.

Interestingly, an online search for the Liebowitz quote cited above returns less than 10 hits — presumably because it was originally in Hebrew — which makes it all the more worthwhile to highlight for a critical English-speaking audience. There is a sizeable collection available online of incriminating quotes of past — and presentisraeli “leaders”, few of them in dispute (usually the few that are disputed are because they were attributed but not authoritatively recorded. One recalls the infamous and hotly contested and denied Menachem Begin quote attributed to him by the late Amnon Kapeliouk, for example). Yet not all the critics make it to the Anglophone media.

A Latvian-born Orthodox Jew, Yeshayahu Leibowitz moved to Palestine in 1935 and reportedly opposed a religiously-based state. More about his interesting life and career can be gleaned in English here, and there are a number of videos on YouTube.

For quotation references, see Edward Alexander, ‘Israelis Against Themselves’, chapter three in Alexander and Bogdanor (eds.), The Jewish Divide Over Israel (2006), p. 36. The same author repeats much of the content in this piece at an academic “monitor” site, apparently in the same likudnik thought-police vein as the execrable Campus Watch.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dostoyevsky on the Jewish Question

By Nathaniel Kapner, Real Zionist News

Fyodor Dostoyevsky left us a prophecy of the threat to Christian civilization by emancipated Jewry.

In his book, Diary Of A Writer, published in 1877, Dostoevsky penned a journal entry entitled "The Jewish Question." With alarming and frightening foresight, by which he penetrated into today’s events, Dostoevsky predicted a growing domination over social and political affairs by the Jews with their newly acquired rights:

“The Jews look forward to world domination. This requires them to maintain their own close-knit identity. If the Jews are given equal legal rights in Russia, but are allowed to keep their ‘State within a State,’ they would be more privileged than the Russians. The consequences of this situation are already clear in Europe.”

Expressing his concern regarding Jewry’s agenda for world domination, Dostoevsky demonstrated how Jewish bankers had taken over Europe by the mid 1800’s:

“It is not for nothing that everywhere in Europe the Jews are reigning over the stock exchanges, not for nothing that they control capital, not for nothing that they are masters of credit, and not for nothing, I repeat, that they are the masters of all international politics.

"What is coming is the complete triumph of Jewish ideas, before which, sentiments of humanity, the thirst for truth, Christian feelings, and the national and popular pride of Europe must bow.
And what will be in the future is known also to the Jews themselves: Their reign is approaching, their complete reign!” View Entire Article Here

In light of Jewry's control of Europe’s financial & social sphere, Dostoevsky then voiced his fears regarding Jewry’s threat to Russia:

“What if there were only three million Russians and there were eighty million Jews? How would they treat Russians and how would they lord it over them? What rights would Jews give Russians?

"Wouldn’t they turn them into slaves? Worse then that, wouldn’t they skin them altogether? Wouldn’t they slaughter them to the last man, to the point of complete extermination?”

Dostoyevsky brought his prophecy to a head by predicting that Jewry’s religious dictates, coupled with the control of the “Yid and his bank,” would bring the Gentiles into complete subjugation:

“It is impossible to conceive of a Jew apart from his religion. They are all waiting for their messiah, all of them, from the lowest Yid to the highest and most learned philosopher and rabbi-Kabalist. They all believe that their messiah will unite them in Jerusalem and bring by his sword, all nations to their feet.

"The Yid and his bank are now ruling over everything: over Europe, education, civilization, socialism, especially socialism, for he will use it to uproot Christianity and destroy its civilization. And when only anarchy remains, the Yid will be in command of everything.

"For while the Jew goes about preaching socialism, he will stick together with his own, and after all the riches of Europe have been wasted, the Yid’s bank will still be there. The Antichrist will come and stand over the anarchy.”

Friday, July 31, 2009

Why We Need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
-Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

What is the end goal of the battle against Wall Street fraudsters, government officials on the take, insane torturers and other other bad guys we are fighting against? Is it to see the perpetrators tried for their crimes, and then sentenced to life in jail? Or executed?

I think that's aiming too low. That's not going far enough.Why? Because the people who have done these criminal acts will likely be replaced by some other corrupt, ruthless folks in the future.

Meet the new boss ... same as the old boss.

If all we do is punish the perpetrators, the spin will be it was just a "handful of bad apples". This is the same angle that was used on the grunts at Abu Ghraib, even though we now know that the orders for torture in Iraq came from the very top.

Further, many American military, intelligence, financial and political folks are afraid to expose what they know for fear that it will plunge the country into chaos. As someone wrote anonymously in response to an essay I wrote:

"I think this is the key question. What would happen if this great crime were exposed and justice meted out to the many involved? How would the system be rebuilt and who would keep the broken pieces together during the healing process? Without some thought along these lines, many people will see exposing [these crimes] as stepping into the abyss."

So unless we can provide a way to obtain truth and justice and save our country, many people with inside knowledge or who are in positions of power will hinder rather than help us.

Finally, even if the criminal masterminds are prosecuted, other countries will just blame it on the "crazy Americans".

Who cares about other countries? Well, countries all over the world have problems with crime and corruption. So even if the American criminals are brought to justice, it is likely that the true lesson will not be learned by others.

A Different Strategy

There is an alternative strategy: a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

As you may recall, South Africa set up a truth and reconciliation commission.
The Commission granted amnesty to the people who committed brutal acts of murder and torture under the apartheid regime. I wasn't in South Africa at the time, but my impression is that the Commission helped South Africa heal its incredibly deep wounds quickly. Not only did the victims have a chance to tell their stories, but the people who carried out these horrible acts had a chance to confess in public.

Would the same work with current crimes? Maybe so.

What if the perpetrators of the financial, military, torture, and other crimes and their assistants were granted amnesty from prosecution on the condition that they fully explain how and why the crimes happened? And anyone caught consciously lying would automatically go to jail? The following might occur:

• Lower-level conspirators would probably be more likely to come forward and tell what they know

• When they come forward, they are more likely to point their finger at the real masterminds

• Seeing a way to support the truth without destroying the country, others who have knowledge of the true facts -- even if they were not direct participants -- would be more likely to work publicly for truth and justice, instead of hindering us

• People in other countries will hear the true facts, so that the same types of crimes will be somewhat less likely to be used in their countries

Less is More

Does this sound like I'm being soft on the criminals? Well, initially a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would not grant amnesty to anyone who failed to fully confess. So let's say higher-level people did not admit their role in the crimes: they would be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law.

Moreover, sometimes less is more.

Remember those Chinese finger cuffs you played with as a kid? If you tried to pull your finger out quickly, you got trapped ... but if you patiently pushed the ends towards the middle, you could free your finger.

Well, the current criminal situation we face in America today may be like Chinese finger cuffs. If we insist on jailing or executing all of the perpetrators, the resistance might be so great that we stay "trapped" in the current "cuff" of immobilization and resistance to the truth and magnitude of the crimes.

But if we are a little more patient and a bit more intelligent in our approach, we might be able to "free" the forces of truth and justice, and free ourselves from the nightmare in which we are currently trapped.

We need to be fierce and unrelenting in our push for truth and justice. And -- though it may seem paradoxical -- with a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as an end-game, I believe we might get there a lot quicker than if we demand the heads of all those involved in the crimes.

I am not talking about going easy on the bad guys. They've got to come totally clean or they get life in prison or worse. But I am talking about doing something that actually might work.

I'm also, frankly, talking about turning lemons into lemonade. Financial fraud and manipulation, starting the Iraq war based on false pretenses, torture, spying etc. are all acts of tremendous evil and deceit. But through the idea of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we might be able to use these crimes to wake up America and the world to the secret history of what's been happening behind closed doors, the true nature of governments and manipulation, and the possibilities for a better society.

We might be able to confess our sins as a nation, and to -- perhaps for the first time ever -- truly start living up to the ideals expressed by the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

Note: Senator Leahy has proposed a truth and reconciliation commission, but it is limited to crimes under the Bush administration, and it does not include financial crimes. I believe that a T & R commission must investigate whoever broke the law - republicans or democrats - and include financial crimes, which are some of the worst crimes as far as their harm to the greatest number of people.

Israel Boycott

"One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail."
-Rabbi Jaacov Perin

Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction
By Naomi Klein - January 8th, 2009

It's time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa.

In July 2005 a huge coalition of Palestinian groups laid out plans to do just that. They called on "people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era." The campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions—BDS for short—was born.

Every day that Israel pounds Gaza brings more converts to the BDS cause, and talk of cease-fires is doing little to slow the momentum. Support is even emerging among Israeli Jews. In the midst of the assault roughly 500 Israelis, dozens of them well-known artists and scholars, sent a letter to foreign ambassadors stationed in Israel. It calls for "the adoption of immediate restrictive measures and sanctions" and draws a clear parallel with the antiapartheid struggle. "The boycott on South Africa was effective, but Israel is handled with kid gloves.… This international backing must stop."

Yet even in the face of these clear calls, many of us still can't go there. The reasons are complex, emotional and understandable. And they simply aren't good enough. Economic sanctions are the most effective tools in the nonviolent arsenal. Surrendering them verges on active complicity. Here are the top four objections to the BDS strategy, followed by counterarguments.

1. Punitive measures will alienate rather than persuade Israelis. The world has tried what used to be called "constructive engagement." It has failed utterly. Since 2006 Israel has been steadily escalating its criminality: expanding settlements, launching an outrageous war against Lebanon and imposing collective punishment on Gaza through the brutal blockade. Despite this escalation, Israel has not faced punitive measures—quite the opposite. The weapons and $3 billion in annual aid that the US sends to Israel is only the beginning. Throughout this key period, Israel has enjoyed a dramatic improvement in its diplomatic, cultural and trade relations with a variety of other allies. For instance, in 2007 Israel became the first non–Latin American country to sign a free-trade deal with Mercosur. In the first nine months of 2008, Israeli exports to Canada went up 45 percent. A new trade deal with the European Union is set to double Israel's exports of processed food. And on December 8, European ministers "upgraded" the EU-Israel Association Agreement, a reward long sought by Jerusalem.*

It is in this context that Israeli leaders started their latest war: confident they would face no meaningful costs. It is remarkable that over seven days of wartime trading, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange's flagship index actually went up 10.7 percent. When carrots don't work, sticks are needed.

2. Israel is not South Africa. Of course it isn't. The relevance of the South African model is that it proves that BDS tactics can be effective when weaker measures (protests, petitions, back-room lobbying) have failed. And there are indeed deeply distressing echoes of South African apartheid in the occupied territories: the color-coded IDs and travel permits, the bulldozed homes and forced displacement, the settler-only roads. Ronnie Kasrils, a prominent South African politician, said that the architecture of segregation that he saw in the West Bank and Gaza was "infinitely worse than apartheid." That was in 2007, before Israel began its full-scale war against the open-air prison that is Gaza.

3. Why single out Israel when the United States, Britain and other Western countries do the same things in Iraq and Afghanistan? Boycott is not a dogma; it is a tactic. The reason the BDS strategy should be tried against Israel is practical: in a country so small and trade-dependent, it could actually work.

4. Boycotts sever communication; we need more dialogue, not less. This one I'll answer with a personal story. For eight years, my books have been published in Israel by a commercial house called Babel. But when I published The Shock Doctrine, I wanted to respect the boycott. On the advice of BDS activists, including the wonderful writer John Berger, I contacted a small publisher called Andalus. Andalus is an activist press, deeply involved in the anti-occupation movement and the only Israeli publisher devoted exclusively to translating Arabic writing into Hebrew. We drafted a contract that guarantees that all proceeds go to Andalus's work, and none to me. In other words, I am boycotting the Israeli economy but not Israelis.

Coming up with our modest publishing plan required dozens of phone calls, e-mails and instant messages, stretching from Tel Aviv to Ramallah to Paris to Toronto to Gaza City. My point is this: as soon as you start implementing a boycott strategy, dialogue increases dramatically. And why wouldn't it? Building a movement requires endless communicating, as many in the antiapartheid struggle well recall. The argument that supporting boycotts will cut us off from one another is particularly specious given the array of cheap information technologies at our fingertips. We are drowning in ways to rant at one another across national boundaries. No boycott can stop us.

Just about now, many a proud Zionist is gearing up for major point-scoring: don't I know that many of those very high-tech toys come from Israeli research parks, world leaders in infotech? True enough, but not all of them. Several days into Israel's Gaza assault, Richard Ramsey, the managing director of a British telecom specializing in voice-over-internet services, sent an email to the Israeli tech firm MobileMax. "As a result of the Israeli government action in the last few days we will no longer be in a position to consider doing business with yourself or any other Israeli company."

Ramsey says that his decision wasn't political; he just didn't want to lose customers. "We can't afford to lose any of our clients," he explains, "so it was purely commercially defensive."

It was this kind of cold business calculation that led many companies to pull out of South Africa two decades ago. And it's precisely the kind of calculation that is our most realistic hope of bringing justice, so long denied, to Palestine.

*On January 14, in response to Israel's aggression in Gaza, the EU called off its plans to upgrade the EU-Israel Association Agreement, a sign of growing understanding that political sanctions can be brought to bear to bring an end to the war.

This column was first published in The Nation

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The "Family": Secretive "Christian" Advocacy Group Praises Hitler as Paragon of Leadership

U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak (Creative Commons photo by Brian Rendel via Flickr)

By Ed Brayton for the Michigan Messenger
7/23/09 3:26 PM

This story is especially disturbing.

Despite weeks of media attention paid to the now-infamous “C Street” house owned by The Family, a secretive Christian group, U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak — who lives at the house near the U.S. Capitol — denied any knowledge of the nature of the mysterious Washington, D.C., rowhouse and any involvement with the organization that owns it and uses as a seat of influence on Capitol Hill.

Jeff Sharlet, contributing editor at Harper’s magazine and the author of “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power,” lived for a time at Ivanwald, another boarding house owned by the group in Arlington, Va., this one for younger men without political power.

“The bottom line here is that Stupak is either being dishonest or confessing dangerous ignorance,” Sharlet said. “The house’s function has been public knowledge since the [Associated Press] wrote about it 7 years ago. Multiple mainstream media outlets have reported on the house’s role as in effect, a lobby in all but name, led by a man who is on video and audio record citing the leadership lessons of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Matt Taibbi Accused of Anti-Semitism Over Goldman Sachs Article

Posted by Matt Taibbi, True/Slant at 8:00 AM on July 13, 2009.

It’s been interesting, to say the least, watching the public reaction to my Rolling Stone piece last week. I of course expected that some kind of highly unpleasant response would come my way from Goldman and its allies in the press, but I admit to being surprised a little by the form this response took. Obviously I don’t want to dwell on this business, because it’s beyond boring when someone in my position complains about his critics, but I feel like I have to say something about at least a few of the talking points of the inevitable Goldman counteroffensive, which in various forms (letters sent to me personally, public comments) have reached my desk in the last few days.

The most ludicrous of these, and the one that surprised me the most, is the accusation that my article was anti-Semitic propaganda. The first letter I got on this score I actually mistook for a joke sent to me by one of my friends. Then I got another one which I quickly realized was not a joke at all. “Isn’t it convenient,” it read, “that an Arab-American writer for Rolling Stone looks at Wall Street and picks the most prototypically Jewish firm around to demonize.”

The last time I heard something similar was a few years ago, when Debbie Schlussel, a severely dimwitted Detroit-based right-wing pundit, railed against my supposed Arabness after I wrote an article about the Lebanese population in Dearborn, Michigan. I wrote to her to let her know that I’m actually Irish and Filipino, and not at all an Arab, but never got a response. This time the charge is a little different, as several writers complained that my article was “a rehash of every classic anti-Jewish conspiracy theory” and “a pale copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

The evidence for these charges seems to be as follows. One, I used the word “tribe” somewhere near the end of the piece. Two, the term “blood-funnel” was used (one person also hinted that the use of a squid image was somehow anti-Semitic, but I was not entirely clear what was being referred to there). Three, I “singled out” Goldman and failed to level similar charges at “less Jewish firms” (yes, one letter-writer actually used that phrase) like Morgan-Stanley.

A few points in response to this preposterous argument. Firstly I’m going to make a blanket denial and just say that the question of religion was so far outside my thinking while writing this piece that I never even considered it. If this issue had even entered my head so much as once, I probably would have been more careful, and it is remotely possible that I might not then have used a distantly suggestive word like “tribe,” if only to avoid having to answer charges like this. But I didn’t consider it, for the simple reason that it’s completely ridiculous and not at all relevant.

For one thing, while Goldman’s founders a gazillion years ago were apparently Jewish, I seriously doubt that religion plays any role at all in the makeup of the modern Goldman. I don’t have any way of knowing this, but I would be shocked if it weren’t true that a majority of Goldman’s current employees were not Jewish. And whatever the reality is, I don’t care; it’s not a concern of mine and we didn’t make it a concern in the article.

If anything it seems to me that what defines these Wall Street characters is not religion but the absence of it: even a hardened atheist like myself comes away from the experience of reading about the last two decades of Wall Street history shocked by that community’s complete and utter Godlessness and moral insanity. What I’m saying in other words is that if any of these clowns actually had a real religious sensibility, we wouldn’t be in this mess — and that’s coming from someone who believes all religions to be inherently ridiculous. For Goldman now to hide behind the cloak of Jewish victimhood is both more obnoxious and less convincing than Marion Barry wearing a dashiki after the indictment.

Then there is this other argument, the one being bandied about by Time magazine, among others. According to Steven Gandel of Time, the problem with my piece is that it is — get this — too specific. According to the above passage, focusing on Goldman in particular when attempting to explain (in general) the crimes of Wall Street to ordinary readers is somehow a distraction from the “real problem.” To repeat:

…spend too much time on Goldman and you miss the fact of how broadly the financial system and the regulations that are supposed to keep profiteers in check failed us.

I had to read that passage several times to even begin to grasp its ostensible meaning. Apparently this is the best argument that Time could come up with to discredit this article, that the rhetorical technique of using a specific example of a specific bank like Goldman to tell a broader story about Wall Street in general distracts readers from the “more important” issue of how government regulators… failed to stop banks like Goldman! I mean, really, how’s that for circular thinking? This is silly stuff even by Time magazine’s standards.

I’ve been shocked by how many grown adult people seem to have swallowed this argument, that the argument against Goldman’s behavior during the bubbles of recent decades is invalid because “everyone was doing it” -- and other banks, like for instance Morgan Stanley, were “just as bad” as Goldman was.

Two things about that. One, it isn’t true, not really. By any reasonable measure Goldman is and has been the baddest guy on the block for a long time. When it comes to government influence, no other Wall Street company even comes close. And while maybe one might have made an argument that other players were more damaging to society before the crisis of last year, there’s simply no question now, after the bailouts and especially after the AIG fiasco, that Goldman now reigns supreme in the area of insider advantage. To pick any other bank to tell the story of the rapidly growing influence of Wall Street on politics and the blurring of public and private roles would be a glaring journalistic oversight, and surely even Goldman’s biggest supporters would admit this.

Two, even if it is true that “everyone else was doing it”: so what? Who cares? To me this response is highly telling. We published a piece accusing Goldman Sachs of systematically ripping off pensioners and other retail investors by sticking them with rafts of toxic mortgages it knew were losers, of looting taxpayer reserves to cover its bad bets made with AIG, of manipulating gas prices to massive detrimental effect, of helping to explode an internet bubble that caused over $5 trillion in wealth to disappear, and numerous other crimes -- and the response isn’t “You’re wrong,” or “We didn’t do that shit, not us,” but “Well, Morgan did the same stuff,” and “Why aren’t you writing about Morgan?”

Why didn’t we write about Morgan? Because we didn’t. Because it’s your turn, you assholes. Maybe later someone will tell the story of the other banks, but for now, while most ordinary people are only just learning about the workings of the financial innovation era that blew up in their faces last year, the top dog in that universe is going to be first in line to get the special treatment. That might be inconvenient for Goldman, but it doesn’t make the things I or anyone else say about them untrue.

Normally I don’t care so much when people criticize my work. It goes with the territory. But in this case, the response of a bank like Goldman and Goldman’s supporters is characteristic of the subject matter in a way that is important to point out, even after the fact of publication. These are powerful people who know how to play the public relations game, have all the appropriate contacts, and have a playbook that they follow to discredit their critics. Whether it’s me now or the next guy who takes them on, they’re going to come back with some kind of charge, be it “Everyone was doing it,” or “We’re just smarter than the other guys, you can’t blame us for that,” or “The real culprits are the ineffective regulators,” something.

They’re going to say that and more, but whether it’s this time or the next time, the important thing is to pay attention to what they don’t say. And what they didn’t say about this piece is that it was wrong. They didn’t deny any of it. They said others were just as bad, they said I was a bad guy, they said it was a conspiracy theory. But they didn’t say it was mistaken, and that’s the only thing that matters.