Friday, June 19, 2009

PBS's Frontline: "Breaking The Bank." (Give Me A Break)

PBS's Frontline normally has terrific in-depth reporting about complicated and controversial topics. Not this time.

I just watched a Frontline production titled "Breaking the Bank," which purported to explain the financial melt-down beginning in the fall of 2008. But it really seemed to be a revisionist story, one designed to cover up what went on instead of to illuminate it. The entire hour was focused on two personalities (John Thain of Merrill Lynch and Ken Lewis from Bank of America), and the two financial entities with which they were associated.

Following not too raptly, it would be possible to come away with the conclusion that the entire financial problems of the world were caused by the failures of Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, and the not-too-good decision of Lewis to go ahead and buy Merrill Lynch.

That's it. Story explained.

Who are the bad guys? Well, this guy Thain comes across as kind of a sharpy, going from one top spot to the next collecting millions, meeting with Lewis and trying to pull a quick one by getting Lewis to agree to put up funding and a buy a small minority share of Merrill Lynch.

Lewis is portrayed as an outsider, somebody not a part of the insiders on Wall Street but who is nonetheless smart, hardworking, and ambitious. We keep hearing that he is ambitious, driven (unlike the insider criminals on Wall Street?), and we are led to believe that Mr. Lewis' ambition is somehow to blame for everything that has happened.

Here's the thing about that word "ambition": it's used as a derogatory term when applied to women, minorities, or outsiders. We need to assume it is bad when found in those people, people who want to achieve or attain but are not insider white males. Anybody on the outside who wants a piece of the action is "ambitious," and tacky. The insiders, those who have looted the place blind, are seemingly born to the manor.

If you back away for a minute, the absurdity of the entire hours' program becomes clear.

For example, where did the money from Lehman Brothers go? Why doesn't anyone ever talk about fraudulent transfers, transfers of assets in fraud on creditors, for example? Same for Merrill Lynch. Their insiders apparently looted the businesses and stiffed the customers, the investors and the creditors. Nobody went to Thain and took back the millions he paid to himself during his brief reign at Merrill Lynch. Nobody went to the other insiders at Merrill Lynch who enriched themselves, knowing full-well the whole place was going to collapse. What should happen to every person who worked at Merrill Lynch in the past ten years? All their assets should be seized until we can sort out exactly what happened.

They also don't bother discussing the fundamentally fraudulent transactions of most of the Wall Street Firms and banks in this country, the speculative, gambling, musical-chairs pyramid-scheme underlying nature of what they were doing. Which really is fundamental to explaining the looting. The insiders stripped these companies bare because they knew the time would come when the whole ponzi scheme would collapse, and they wanted to pay themselves first. Screw the public and the investors and the creditors.

No mention of the fact that the richest people in this country, including the politicians to whom millions have been paid in bribes so they would allow the country to be looted, have now hidden their money outside of the country, put it into secret hedge funds and private equity funds, where nobody will ever find out about it. You know why people hide their money outside of the country? Because much of their money was fraudulently and illegally obtained, and they figure if anyone ever comes after them, they are gone in their private jets, with their hundreds of millions secretly hidden away.

Why doesn't our government seize every single one of these hedge funds and private equity funds, every dollar that has been taken out of our country during the recent looting, and bring it back here while we try to sort it all out? Don't ask PBS to mention possible remedies for the international con game. They want to convince us that two guys named Ken and John brought the whole place down. By themselves.

Why no mention of the odd fact that the same criminals who ran these fraudulent schemes are now in charge of the entire economy, put into those positions by our "Change" President. Why no mention of the odd fact that all the hand-wringing and sighing at the national level by our government ("What to do, what to do?") omits any mention of the clear remedy of seizing the money that has been taken, putting it into a national trust fund to be overseen by the courts, then let the investigations and prosecutions for these crimes proceed. Not a word about that.

They try to make this guy Lewis look like the chump, when he was pretty much an outsider. People like Paulson came in and maybe sold him a truckload of ice in Alaska, but Lewis is made to look like the shady guy.

All the other financial institutions are barely mentioned. Yet they were almost all doing the same fraudulent transactions. The difference is that their friend Paulson handed them billions of dollars to rescue them, let them cover up their failings, while he let Merrill and Lehman go down the toilet as scapegoats. Why didn't Frontline mention all the other criminals, all the other major financial institutions? Funding for this program is provided by ..... The same reason our government won't do a thing to go after these criminals. PBS gets their money from where? The federal government and Corporations.

I really wonder about any claim to independence by the people who made this one hour program. It's beginning to feel like the Obama administration and the criminals they've put in charge of our economy have completed the new Propaganda Scheme for the nation: Tiny Green Shoots will save us all. Lehman and Merrill and the Bank of America were the bad guys, Thain and Lewis should be publicly reproached. End of story.

Now let's not look at the past anymore, let's all just look at the future.

The next PSA we see from the federal government will probably show Obama, Paulson, Bernanke and Geithner in little tiny ballerina skirts singing that song from Annie: "Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you, tomorrow, you're only a Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaay AaaaaaaaaaaaWaaaaaaay.

Close your eyes. Try to imagine Hank Paulson in a red curly wig, starring in his own show on Broadway. We could call it "Hankie." "Tomorrow, tomorrow ...."

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