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Brad @ Burning Man

In case you haven't noticed, almost every country in the world has been facing a problem that used to be confined to third-world hellholes: kleptocracy, which means "rule by thieves." In country after country, corrupt banking officials lent out money that they knew was going to be stolen, based on fraudulent loan applications. Usually, bribes were involved. Supposedly, this money was loaned out to build the country up, or to support working people, or to create jobs. But (and surely you've noticed this) at least half of that money ended up doing no such thing; it ended up in the offshore bank accounts of the corrupt bankers, of their personal friends, and of political officials (of all parties) with suspiciously close ties to those corrupt bankers.

As those loans came due, none of the people who stole that money have been asked to pay back more than a tiny portion of those loans, certainly nothing close to what was stolen. So how will those loans be repaid? "Austerity." They will pass laws that stop all the repairs on your kids' schools, that stop updating their textbooks. They will find excuses to seize the money that was set aside to cover your medical expenses and your retirement. They will cut your pay, but raise your rent or mortgage until you are evicted, and then that building will be sold to pay back the banks for the money the kleptocrats "borrowed" and then stole. You think this is the only place that it's happened? We're not even the first country they did this to.

In case you haven't noticed, citizens of every country that fell into kleptocracy have risen up with two demands: the kleptocrats must be brought to justice, and if those loans are to be repaid at all (and given that the banks knew the loan applications were fraudulent, there's no good reason to do so), it must be the thieves, not the people who didn't benefit from those loans, who pay them back.

In case you haven't noticed, you are not the only police officers who have been asked to use as much force as necessary, in order to crack down on trivial ordinance violations, as an excuse to shut those citizens up. Your fellow police have been asked to shut down those protests in every country in Latin America, in every country in the Middle East, in every country in North Africa, and in almost every country in Europe. In country after country, one of three things has happened: the cops obeyed orders and the kleptocrats are getting away with imposing austerity, or else the cops obeyed orders but foreign governments stepped in, citing actual or impending police atrocities, and overthrew the kleptocrats, or else they did something that you chose not to do, this last week or two.

In a few countries, the cops saw that they didn't have the choice of defending the perfectly law abiding, saw that they were being asked to defend criminals, concluded that they could not morally justify obeying the order to shut down the protests, and went home. Few if any of the protesters even asked the police to switch sides and join the protests against kleptocracy. Most of us know that that's an unreasonable request, we know that most of you feel that you owe it to the uniform you wear, and to the oath you took, and to your fellow officers, not to join the protesters. But in the countries where the police, asked to use force to shut down peaceful protests against kleptocracy, took off their uniforms and went home until it was all over? Not just in the Arab (Spring) world, but in places like Iceland? Freedom is on the march. Nor have those countries slid into poverty because they refused to cover the debts that the thieves owed to the dishonest bankers; those countries are recovering from the global recession faster than we are.

But you stood shoulder to shoulder with your brother and sister officers, and either nobody said anything, or else when somebody said something, nobody else stepped forward to back them up. You all decided to obey the orders passed down from the kleptocrats. You enforced municipal ordinances. Some of you, most of you, even did so peacefully and professionally. But you ended the only chance we had to escape ten years or more of austerity rule. So, ten years from now, when your pension has been stolen from you? Ten years from now, when your child or your parent or your spouse gets sick, or you get sick yourself, and you're told there's no money to pay for your health care because we can't tax job creators or penalize too big to fail banks, so that's where the money went? Ten years from now, when you see what your country has turned into after ten more years of CEOs and boards of directors who know that if they steal enough to make themselves "systemically important" they can scoff at every law? This will be your only consolation: you did what everybody else around you was doing, which is what you were told to do. May it give you some comfort.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
mymatedave
Nov. 30th, 2011 10:34 am (UTC)
Excellent article, Brad. Glad I found your LJ
athelind
Nov. 30th, 2011 01:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Brad.

For the last few weeks, an unfinished sentence has been floating around in my brain whenever the Occupy movement comes up, whenever I contemplate the principles of passive resistance in the face of a police force that (once again) has chosen to become hired thugs for the wealth-hoarders:

I withdraw my consent ...

I haven't been able to finish that sentence. Certainly, I don't withdraw my consent from the social contract entirely. I don't withdraw my consent from the principles embodied in the Constitution.

I know the answer now.

I withdraw my consent to be governed by thieves.



Edited at 2011-11-30 01:57 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous)
Nov. 30th, 2011 02:17 pm (UTC)
Those who willingly enter contracts with thieves...
So...once again, as a person who actually helped RUN a mortgage bank from 2000 to 2003...and REJECTED (with massive computerization help) "Liar loans" from mortgage brokers who would "cook" the information to get folks approved. I worked for a subsidiary of Third Federal Savings and Loan, Cleveland, OH. An honorable mortgage and banking institution (there are a few left), in the mold of "Its a Wonderful Life's" Bailey and Sons Savings and Loan. They (Third Fed) is a Savings and Loan, and regulated by the Office of Thrift Supervision...they didn't need a bailout during the S&L crisis (remember THAT?), and they don't sell their mortgages. We were their "experiment" with the web...DeepGreen Bank.

Now, at DeepGreen, if you didn't have a 720 FICO score, or higher, you were immediately rejected, and that was a backbone of our underwriting policy, so, we got OUT of alot of the "you must loan to low income folks", almost immediately. We also had a STRICT 85% Combined Loan to Value (meaning, you needed to have 15% or more equity left in the property, when you combined ALL of the mortgages). We didn't charge preditory rates...in fact, the LOWEST you COULD charge, mostly, because we only took high quality credit risks.

Still, the regulators we on us about CRA...the Community Investment Act. They asked, "How do you plan on investing in your community"...which, we found HILARIOUS, because, our community, as it was, was the INTERNET...our ONLY branch...but we handled the government nanny state agents, as well as we could. We explained our purpose, our focus, our policy. We showed them that it was IMPOSSIBLE for anyone in our company at a higher level, to ask us to waive our underwriting policies (we'd been asked, as a favor, by the CEO and COO, to do so...we simply could NOT do it...we had not designed the system to be overridden, on PURPOSE). So, my story, to add to this "anecdotal" story about bankers and kleptocrats...is that ALL OF US (kleptocrats included) could ONLY have done what we did, with the whole-hearted acceptance and encouragement of good-ol' Uncle Sam himself. You want to go after someone who caused this to happen...move from Wall St. to Washington, D.C. Go camp on Barney Frank, and Jimmy Carter's lawn. They are the ones that conjectured that getting poor people into homes (and consequently into mortgages) would somehow elevate them from poverty to main-stream middle-classness.

What we found? If your FICO score is low, its a measure of your financial character...while other banks experienced 4% or more default rates, ours was less than 1%...4X lower...just because the FIRST bar was requiring you show some responsiblity with your credit. You might find that harsh...but, if EVERYONE had done that...the bubble would NOT have existed, and its bursting avoided.

Facts, not anecdotal stories folks...this was caused by government social engineering, and accelerated by banking greed...but the overseers are as much, if not more, to blame here.
siege
Nov. 30th, 2011 04:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Those who willingly enter contracts with thieves...
This is a case of a waterfall eroding the cliff it falls from. Lots of people go on about the CRI and presume that it was the basis for all error. But someone had to continue pouring all that water (that is, money) into the basin below (meaning the pockets of the wealthy); the only question was how to make it easier to get that water where it was headed. Eroding the high cliff (the laws and principles controlling the flow) was the simplest answer.

As far as I can tell, you can't make the impoverished into "better" people by putting them in debt. This is the reason the CRI appears to have failed: it required mortages to be made available in order to increase house ownership, as a proxy for greater personal stability and investment. But did it do anything else toward that end? Did it provide education, micro-loans, or any other thing which increases a person's willingness and ability to produce income? No, of course not. "Fake it 'til you make it" doesn't work so well for those who don't have the resources to even make the mask, much less the training to wear it.

So I'm going to ask, then, if anything else was allowed or being done to invest in local communities? Nevermind nonlocal communities like "The Internet", do you know of specific investments which were not reduced-quality loans?

Let's point that finger back at the people who refused to focus on the purpose of the law, who failed to find a creative solution to a lack of investment in The System by the poor. (And by this, I mean creation as in "building or making something" rather than "imaginative or unusual" or "out of the box"; I don't care how in or out of any box a solution is, did you solve the problem, and is that solution reasonably efficient and sustainable?)
kimchalister
Dec. 3rd, 2011 10:37 am (UTC)
Re: Those who willingly enter contracts with thieves...
People have always relied on the banks to tell them if they could afford a loan -- the banks had formulas and guidelines and laws to go by, so people relied on their judgement. No one told people that the banks has ceased to make good judgements and would let you borrow more money than you could afford, and that the banks were going to lie to you about being able to refinance before the interest jumped up, or that this kind of stuff causes the home values to crash. Most people aren't economic experts, and relied on the bank people to be the experts. So much for trusting experts....
brynndragon
Nov. 30th, 2011 02:23 pm (UTC)
I guess it was too much to ask our police officers to be heroes. OTOH, no one should have to chose between being a hero and being a thug. (OTGH, if you can't step up when the time comes, pick another line of work. Any job that involves force requires people who can properly judge how, when, and where to apply it.)
fengi
Nov. 30th, 2011 08:29 pm (UTC)
Amen.
pingback_bot
Dec. 1st, 2011 06:19 am (UTC)
Open Letter to the Police who Cleared the #Occupy Camps, by Brad Hicks
User ionotter referenced to your post from Open Letter to the Police who Cleared the #Occupy Camps, by Brad Hicks saying: [...] you were told to do. May it give you some comfort. Original post can be found on Brad's LJ, here. [...]
silveradept
Dec. 4th, 2011 04:35 am (UTC)
As I recall, "I was only following orders" has been established to be an unacceptable defense when charged with atrocities. While I doubt anyone will raise these incidents to that level, I think that the comfort of only having obeyed orders will be very small indeed.
pingback_bot
Dec. 5th, 2011 08:00 am (UTC)
A full-fledged weekly post 26 November - 4 December 02011
User silveradept referenced to your post from A full-fledged weekly post 26 November - 4 December 02011 saying: [...] to remind them that doing their job does not necessarily mean following the orders they receive [...]
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