Empire of Corruption

by lizard

I am eight episodes from finishing Breaking Bad. There is a key moment (spoiler) where Walter gives a delayed answer to a question from his partner, Jesse: are you in the meth business or the money business? Jesse asks. Neither, says Walt. I’m in the empire business.

With America five days away from default, the empire business isn’t doing very well. I have no idea what the farce/threat ratio might be, but as far as “the market” is concerned, it might not matter. Here’s Michael Whitney with an article that takes a closer look, titled A Repo Implosion:

Absent a debt ceiling deal, the repurchase market–known as repo–would undergo another deep-freeze as it did in 2008 when Lehman Brothers defaulted triggering a run on the Reserve Primary Fund which had been exposed to Lehman’s short-term debt. The frenzied selloff sparked a widespread panic across global financial markets pushing the system to the brink of collapse and forcing the Federal Reserve to backstop regulated and unregulated financial institutions with more than $11 trillion in loans and other obligations. The same tragedy will play out again, if congress fails lift the ceiling and reinforce the present value of US debt.

Repo is at the heart of the shadow banking system, that opaque off-balance sheet underworld where maturity transformation and other risky banking activities take place beyond the watchful eye of government regulators. It is where banks exchange collateralized securities for short-term loans from investors, mainly large financial institutions. The banks use these loans to fund their other investments boosting their leverage many times over to maximize their profits. The so called congressional reforms, like Dodd Frank, which were ratified after the crisis, have done nothing to change the basic structure of the market or to reign in excessive risk-taking by undercapitalized speculators. The system is as wobbly and crisis-prone ever, as the debt ceiling fiasco suggests. The situation speaks to the impressive power of the bank cartel and their army of lawyers and lobbyists. They own Capital Hill, the White House, and most of the judges in the country. The system remains the same, because that’s the way they like it.

There is so much system failure, it can be overwhelming to track. I don’t expect unpaid bloggers to post as doggedly as I’ve tried to do recently, but I was looking forward to Intelligent Discontent’s new contributor, Sheena Rice, get into the mix on a weekly basis, like she said she was going to do in her introductory post.

It’s been awhile, but Sheena has a new post up, titled Scarier than Citizen’s United?. It’s a good read, but I’d like to highlight this section:

In every campaign finance case before the Roberts Supreme Court, some part of campaign finance regulations have been struck down. And honestly I would be shocked if this case was the exception. If aggregate limits are struck down by our friends the Supremes, as a violation of free speech, this would of course lay the groundwork for further attacks against campaign finance laws. Moreover, a decision in favor of McCutcheon could be interpreted to broadly eliminate campaign finance regulation, opening up federal elections to unlimited money.

Awesome right???

What I am really surprised by is the silence in Montana about this case. Montana has been at the forefront of battle of money in politics, and we’ve been there since the early 1900s and the days of Copper King corruption*. Voters overwhelmingly supported a citizen’s initiative to overturn Citizen’s United (well… at least to show support for it being overturned, problem with toothless resolutions.) So where is the discussion about McCutcheon?

I’m partly to blame for this. I have a platform, albeit a neglected one, here and I have not talked about it (or anything for that matter, sorry guys!). There is a lot going down right now; government shutdown, crappy judges, a US Senate race that finally has some life in it, and oh yeah the country may go into default. But we need to be talking about the impacts of corruption, and what that means for our future. Every election cycle means more and more money being spent, at the same time income inequality is increasing at significant rates. If the good old Supremes side with McCutcheon, fair elections will take another giant step backwards.

Sheena shouldn’t be surprised, Montana politics is as corrupt as it has ever been, and that includes Democrats. That’s the problem. The corruption conversation is almost always steered through partisan lenses, and those who don’t go along get marginalized (dropped from blogrolls, for example).

I agree with Sheena, we definitely should be talking about the impacts of corruption, and what that means for our future. If that conversation includes dark money and Brian Schweitzer, then so be it. If that conversation includes opposing the Baucus underling, John Lewis, from attaining a higher foothold in the Congressional feeding trough, then so be it.

Unfortunately, in our current political system, honest conversations about corruption won’t win elections.

I guess all we can do is wait for the failure to become even more obvious.


  1. Why would any elected officials give a damn about working for me? I’m not paying them, though a lot of companies and corporations sure are.

  2. d.g.

    And no body in Montana will say “MNE”– (mae nan ellingson) career lawyer and front-woman to Play Ball Missoula– who, under the impotent oversight of acting mayor John Engen, “legally” embezzled (aka “transferred”) over 2 million dollars specifically designated for “redevelopment” to the slush fund which purchased a 4.2 million dollar baseball stadium that remains in mothballs 8 months of the year. (Hey you! Ignore that $25,000.00 overdue to the city! F***ing punk)! You damned poor kids: go find an abandoned car to sled off in winter! “Default” is, first and foremost, (at the metaphysical level) an ethical–if not spiritual–term. When the best, the wealthiest, the brightest, the avant garde of Missoula, Montana are busily cutting and pasting and posting and pontificating about the debt ceiling, well, go figure if plain poor kids play in pesticide parks and impoverished “Who-Villes” on Russell Street! If Lizard and Peter and the esoteric echelon are too busy raising: money; babies; grandbabies and cyber-self-esteem to step for three minutes to the microphone at City Council on Monday, Oct. 21st, then isn’t the mashing and remashing of debt ceiling issues a distinctively autor-erotic-esoteric exercise? Sycophants come. Sycophants go. Some have a temporally-tantalizing take on language and issues. But if they can’t “show up” and “put up” at the only forum in this pissy little city that counts, what the hell good are they taking up verbal space in cyber space? About time Lizard posted who the hell he is voting for for mayor, don’t you think>????

    • lizard19

      I don’t see a serious candidate in the field of three challengers facing Engen. and I don’t know if there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that Engen can successfully take on the Carlyle Group to acquire Mountain Water Co, but if there’s a slim chance of that happening, then I’ll vote for Engen, despite the baggage.

      • When I moved to China in 2008 Engen was mayor. When I moved back to Missoula in 2013 Engen was mayor.

        WTF?

        • Buzz Feedback

          He’s otherwise unemployable.

          • Oh, surely he can get bumped up like Kadas eventually was. I get worried when people become intrenched in a position, no matter what letter they put behind their name.

            • Buzz Feedback

              I’m sure they’re keeping a seat warm for him at the Center for the Rocky Mountain West.

  3. d.g.

    Oh no! The local mayoral race has no cosmic cache’! (Can’t we play language games and international irony for a while longer??)

  4. JC

    And of course, it took less than 24 hours for Pogie to post on top of Sheena, to reinject partisan politics back into ID and remind us that with the R’s dark money bad; with D’s… crickets…

    Hey Sheena, take a cue from the proprietor of your blog, and just post on top of him: another blast at the totality of the problem with dark money — not just that it is bad when R’s do it. HIs post was calculated to remind you and everybody else who might listen that the ends justify the means: if dems use dark money to win, it is ok becasue they are cool enlightened politicians. When reps do it, it is in deference to the dark lord.

    • Welcome to the plutocracy.

    • ad hominem attack removed

      • JC

        ad hominem attack removed.

        –lizard

        • Ad hominem attack removed

          • Off topic comment deleted

  5. lizard19

    JC, just ignore him, he’s got some important Ryan Zinke posts to write. and remember, we police our own posts ;)

    • The stunning hypocrisy the two of you demonstrate is just such a delight to watch. I’m just glad you have time to waste on my comments, when there’s neo-fascism in America to battle.

      • Steve W

        Your presence here Pogie means to me that this blog is worth your reading and commenting on as determined by yourself.

        Thank you for endorsing this blog with your presence and participation.

        Your example to our youth is educational, noble and self-sacrificing.

        And your example to the nation is comment-worthy!

  6. To be on topic, let me quote the original post. You wrote, “and those who don’t go along get marginalized.”

    I’m just curious. Does deleting comments that disagree with the post (which I, might add, made two shots at me and my blog) count as marginalizing behavior? I don’t mean to suggest that you’re engaging in the very behavior you so passionately decry here, but it seems like you might be.

    • lizard19

      we police our own posts, so JC should not have deleted your comments.

    • lizard19

      I will also point out the our readers can still follow the link to your blog from our blogroll, Don.

      • Given the behavior of the admins of this site on this post, why would that change? Honestly, I don’t understand why my blogroll is such a big deal to you guys. I certainly wouldn’t care if you removed me.

        I would, however, appreciate not having my comments (posted under my real name, I might add), being characterized as off-topic and personal attacks when I have no recourse to respond. That seems fair.

        • lizard19

          respond away, Don. I’m sure no one remembers you saying you would no longer engage with this blog.

          • I take it we’ve got a lot of furloughed workers here. Or do you guys just work at night?

          • And immediately after saying “respond away,” you delete a comment on the topic of the post?

            Intellectual honesty at its finest.

            • lizard19

              I haven’t deleted one comment in this thread.

              JC, if you are continuing to delete Don’s comment, please stop.

              and Greg makes a great point. adios for now.

              • I’ll try again.

                Since the topic of the post deals with marginalization, I wonder how you reconcile your opposition to marginalizing opposing voices with a policy that allows people (including administrators of this site) to engage personal attacks while under the protection of a pseudonym.

                I can’t think of a more effective way to silence someone that to have him risk his reputation by disagreeing and then either attacking him personally or mischaracterizing his comments as personal attacks through heavy-handed moderation.

                You’re critical of my decision to let Larry post comments at my site. Are you as concerned about a policy that is incredibly effective at marginalizing dissent at your place?

        • Matthew Koehler

          Don, Have you forgotten that you have a long history on your ID blog of censoring and removing comments that challenge some of your assertions? As such, I’m not sure you can wear the white ten gallon hat here.

          Heck, when talking about Tester’s mandated logging bill on your blog you even even censored and removed official, substantive testimony on the bill that was presented to the US Senate’s ENR Committee. How in the world does official testimony to a Senate Committee qualify as censorship material?

          Have you forgotten about your history of taking my comments and simply re-writing them on your blog? I haven’t forgotten and have the email documentation from various times, including July 14, 2011, in which you removed comments I made under my real name on your blog and you replaced my comments with snarky, childish comments, which you wrote yourself, but posted under my name.

          Therefore, much of your criticism here about 4&20 seems to apply to some of your history dealing with opposing views on your own blog. Thanks.

          • larry kurtz

            Anal retentive behavior suits you, Matt: Asperger?

          • larry kurtz

            Gen X?

          • larry kurtz

            You drive a newer Land Cruiser, maybe an FJ Cruiser. Green.

            • Matthew Koehler

              Wow, Larry Kurtz. I am pretty anal about keeping my living space clean. I was born in 1972 in Sheboygan. I don’t drive too much. My ’93 Toyota truck has averaged less than 500 miles a year for the past 5 years. We purchased a used 2006 Prius from my father-in-law in 2008, and average about 8,000 miles a year on that. Happy to get 45 mph though and glad the gas engine shuts down at intersections. I do have a decent set of golf clubs, but have never had a country club membership, although I have traded landscaping/painting work for greens fees at public courses. I’m happy w/ the size of my dick, but wish my brain was bigger. I hope this answers all your questions. Thanks.

              • larry kurtz

                Own your pile, Matt and quit whimpering: there is no making friends with those unwilling to compromise when drafting law. Either you’re with us or you’re with the earth haters.

              • lizard19

                attack strategy, policy, fine, but the crap you’re trying to heap on Matt is a clearly unwarranted personal attack, larry, so knock it off.

              • larry kurtz

                your beef with pogie is fair game on your own blog but when commenters pile on just for the hell of it expect blowback, liz.

              • lizard19

                if you think a person’s anatomy should be a part of the blowback, then I feel sorry for you.

                and with us or against us? nice appropriation of George Bush rhetoric.

              • larry kurtz

                jes’ plowin’ da road, liz; jes’ plowin’ da road.

          • larry kurtz

            Custom golf clubs, a membership, tiny dick, big brain.

          • larry kurtz

            Talk about the Daschle amendment, Matt.

          • larry kurtz

            Btw: it doesn’t matter what laws are passed as long as sue and settle remains part of the game …as it should be. Sen. Tester and Rep. Daines are just a knight and a bishop in a chess game being played from a wheelhouse where the courts are just pitches for the real players.

            Montana: work together or perish.

            • Steve W

              larry kurtz, I awarded you one star for each of your bizarre outbursts above. Thumbs down.

              Matt Koehler is a good man, a friend, and a tireless and effective defender of Montana wild lands and wild-lands through out the West.

              The people who hate him are the boards of directors of Plum Creek, Boise Cascade, Weyerhaeuser, etc.

              The people who love him are the local, regional and national environmental activist community, his family, and the friends of the bears, trout, birds, trees, elk, fungi, and wild places.

              It’s a good thing to know whose side you are on larry kurtz. I was mistaken about you i guess.

              It’s sure not the side I’m on dude- just so you know and we are clear about this.

              Pogie isn’t “evil” or sinister; He’s just views the world through a bi-polar lens of two party politics and is a petty authoritarian when it comes to his blog. He teaches high school, so that’s part of his job description if you think about it.

              He’s also a hypocrite. He falsified documents written by others on his blog and is (as he should be) still being called out about this. For one thing he’s never taken responsibility for his transgression against others and apologized, instead preferring to stonewall. So be it.

              Big deal. Most of us humans are in one way or another at some time or another hypocrites. . Hopefully we aspire to raise above that as I’m sure Pogie does. Even if he won’t do a self assessment and admit his part of creating divisions. In fact he seems to relish creating division, so you might also chew on that for a while. I still am.

              These are my personal observations after a lot of reading and a little writing over many years in the blogging hobby.

              I’m tired of the petty and the personal name calling. I’m tired of of idiotic posts like your last 5 or 6.

              Have a good day, and get that looked at.

              Steve W

              • larry kurtz

                Steve: manage your own pile.

  7. lizard19

    Don, I’ll respond down here.

    first, this post is about corruption. the marginalizing I referenced is from partisans like yourself when people point out that corruption is a bipartisan affair.

    second, you imply there is a specific policy that allows people (including administrators of this site) to engage personal attacks while under the protection of a pseudonym.

    I looked around, and couldn’t find the policy you seem to be referencing, but if you check out j-girl’s about page, you can read her perspective about writing anonymously. there’s also this:

    If you don’t like the writing or the writers or the commentators here, don’t stop by.

    if you are really concerned about personal attacks, then you wouldn’t make this weird distinction between attacks coming from a person who uses their full name, and attacks coming from a person who writes under a pseudonym.

    and I’ll say this one more time: JC shouldn’t have deleted your comments on a post I wrote, but I get where he’s coming from. you made a big deal about wanting to disengage from this blog, yet you still come around with disingenuous flame-bait.

    you do bring up some good points, and I try to keep an open mind about how to improve, so I’ll take all your criticism under consideration. have a nice day, Don.

    • And this comes down to the same argument that I have never understood: what power do I have to marginalize anyone. My criticism of your blog is just that–and the same as your criticism of mine. Neither of us have the power or influence to “marginalize” anyone, know matter how often you throw around words like “partisan” as if they automatically discredit someone.

      If you can’t understand how anonymity gives more license to attack and demean people without a commensurate risk to one’s reputation, I don’t think you’ve thought enough about it. I’m not suggesting that people not post anonymously, but I think it comes with more responsibility. The truth is, it generally comes with less.

      It’s frankly pretty hard to understand how responding to a criticism of my blog (which only came after someone pointed out an especially silly criticism from JC) is “disingenuous flame bait.” I’d say it was a pretty reasonable response to an unwarranted and infantile attack.

      • lizard19

        is that what it comes down to? your feigned obliviousness to the persuasive power of the written word?

        this particular medium doesn’t have the reach of print, sure, but it’s also not inconsequential, as you yourself pointed out with your humble Zinke brag. in that same vein, I was reading more accurate reports from a German blogger about the Benghazi attack before our corporate media shifted from the disinfo crap.

        speaking of disinfo, just the use of that term is probably enough to get you to go all gatekeeper on me with conspiracy smears. that’s the role I think you too often play, gatekeeper of what’s reasonable, or whatever your intelligent discontent is suppose to mean, I dunno.

        all of our efforts are pretty small in the grand scheme of things, but we are not powerless (which seems to be a state of mind cultivated by 21st century Democrats).

        the only power in national politics is money, and if you’re not paying attention to where the money goes, or doing so selectively, then you are wasting people’s time.

        I will apologize for not taking down JC’s response to you earlier, though. this is a messy thread, and that’s the least I can do.

        • I’m more interested in where it comes from and then goes. You’ve got big-time money donors like the Koch brothers with their own political agenda for America. This is the 47% talk that got Romney defeated, but still quite active. And don’t think for a second the Democrats don’t have their super donors either.

          The problem’s that this funds the kind of reckless endangerment we’re seeing in Washington, not just now, but always. There’s no leadership willing or able to stand up to this money, or the puppets it props up.

          Boener’s the big problem, mainly because he’s a tool. He’s an alcoholic crybaby that would rather be playing golf than doing anything. The only reason he got where he is today is because other Republicans got shot down and he was all they had left. “Hangin’ in there since ’91,” the sign on his door should read.

          I emailed his office today and told them I’d do everything in my power to ensure he’s not reelected. I did the same to Tester and Daines as well. None of these people can be allowed to return. I wish Tester would have chose this machine to stick his hand in, but he didn’t.

          Overall there needs to be a national campaign of the middle, yes, the majority, against these extremist factions that only make up about 20% on both sides of the spectrum. It could be done, as we’ve seen with national referendum-style campaigns against abortion in California.

          I certainly hope this happens, and it would have to take place from the grass roots. Now is the time to get things going, to get the word out, Brewster’s Million’s style, to choose none of the above come next election.

          This site of course isn’t the appropriate place because it exhibits the same kind of extremes that created and perpetuate this mess.

          It’s no longer the country at this point – it’s the world that can’t take the uncertainty.

          • lizard19

            it’s all very wobbly (not wobblies!!). our extreme left here may just seem extreme considering the extreme extremity of the right.

        • I actually wish you would have left it. All that’s left now is his edit of my posts suggesting I attacked him, which is even more unfair to me, since now he gets out of this thread with only the perception that I attacked. Given your perception that what’s written here matters, you’d think you’d be aware of that.

          I’m not pretending that the written word doesn’t matter. I’m questioning your repeated insinuation that we have some sort of power differential that gives me the power to “marginalize” you. We don’t, and I don’t.

          As for the rest, define what I do and think all you want. It’s cool. If applying your generic label makes sense of our conflicts to you, cool.

  8. Well, here’s what Steve Daines thought of my email telling him I’d do everything in my power to ensure he doesn’t get reelected:

    Thank you for contacting me to express your support for the recent legislation (H.R. 2775) that reopened the federal government thru January 15, 2014 and prevented our country from hitting the debt ceiling until at least February 7, 2014. I value your point of view and appreciate the opportunity to respond.

    There’s more, but what’s the point? I’m glad we have the best and the brightest serving us here in the Treasure State.




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