Monday, January 24, 2011

The Dukes Of Moral Hazard

“Jes’ Some Good Ol’ Boys (And Girls), Never Meanin’ No Harm...” Right!

No. I'm not dead. In fact, I'm quite well actually…but I've been so schedule-addled (working from afternoons into nights now) and damned busy for what seems like forever that I can hardly find the time to write like I should.

I am DEEPLY sorry for that. Sorry for that, and for not fighting the good fight as I wanted to here through observation and dialogue with you all. I'm sorrier still for missing all the opportunities to cover all the “News” this blog's name demands we should. So many half-done, fitful pieces tucked in their little folders with reference materials and supportive charts and graphics and all that. Pieces that I tell ya— woulda-coulda been great had I gotten them done. Or something like that.

The following piece was last worked on in the Spring/early Summer of last year. I felt very strongly about the issue it spoke to then…and…

Well…it hits home ever stronger today. Here it is, unedited save for a small, updated editor's note dealing with the status of one of the people mentioned within.

Read on…


The Dukes Of Moral Hazard

Not too long ago, a client I do some work for had a policy in place that pretty much encouraged an activity by its market audience that was going to lead to some innocent people being badly impacted thanks to the wild and self-serving whims of a few. I addressed this to my client, as did others who worked in the same capacity, but responsibility was shrugged off, most classically with the phrase “Hey...we’re not cops.” One co-hort of mine spoke up forcefully to all who would listen, laying out that said client was most assuredly creating a situation of something called “Moral Hazard” . I knew what it meant, having lawyers in the family and an insurance industry professional as a spouse, but some of those it was directed towards (and in the direct position to right the potential wrongs) were in “Duh? Du-u-u-u-u-u-u-hhh?” mode. My co-hort “G” broke it down for ‘em.

G: Moral hazard. (“Sigh!”) You don’t kno—ugh! It’s when you like...knowingly enable a situation that clearly benefits you, but has some elements to it that you KNOW is gonna put some people in harm’s way. Serious harm’s way. Somebody’s gonna get hurt bad.. But you don’t care, ‘cause legally you’re kinda covered. Ethically’re living foul. You know it. Now, we can try to play that shit off, but sooner or later we’re gonna be on the hook when something bad goes down. Watch and see.

CLIENT “A”: I dunno…I think you…might be overstating things.

G: Okay. I'm just sayin', though. You watch and see.

It was only a few months later when the client flipped the script, with a drastic policy change closing those extremely self-favorable but evidently perilous loopholes. Turned out that “G” was exactly right—the bad scenario he would go on to detail had occurred and was exactly what brought on the ol’ switcheroo as people were damaged by the “whatever happens, happens” laissez faire policy and the client was in a position of potentially heavy liability.

Which brings us back... these clowns.

In the heat of the Health Care Reform battle a month or so ago, and quite honestly, ever since around...say, 12:01 p.m. two January 20ths ago, the usual batshitteous wingnut suspects have been in a feces-flinging lather over their ideology’s rejection by a majority of the American people. They chuckled about and cheered on that percentage of the Soreloser-ists who bitterly (Yes, “bitterly”. Funny how no one wants to address that bit of prescience / common sense the then-candidate Obama dared speak publicly on) ramped up their going for their penises guns, post-election loss. They’ve championed the idea of armed insurrection against a hallucinated, tan bogeyman of tyrannous government. They have rationalized threats to life and limb, and simply pooh-poohed blatant assassination-speak against their opponents on the left. Or even the mildly disagreeing middle.

You see, when you come off years of recent skullduggery that makes all the skullduggery of the past look like little more than a smack-your-head-and-go-“Awwwwwww!” game of Stratego™—stealing national elections, lying us into a economy and moral standing-draining war, torturing under the cover of bullshit necessity to mask simple sadism—only to find that “the people” no longer want you at the levers of power that you are addicted to being in the mere proximity of, you will do just about fucking anything and everything, including supporting those who would stoop to damn-near anarchy in America, as long as it means you get to jerk the puppet strings around yet again.

Let's be real, though. Being so bereft of ideas is embarrassing. In a spin-free, reality-based vacuum, said idea-less would look like dimwits. (Sadly, that vacuum has ceased to exist in the last twenty five, cable-news stuffed, centrifuge-action years.) And because the idea-less have no rational counter to the opposing side’s policies and no hold of facts due to truth’s being radioactive to open discussion of their destructive “beliefs”, the last line of defense for them ends up being the public embrace of their lunatic fringe. And it is not just a few in the right’s hierarchy who we find suckling greedily at crazy’s swollen teat. From the House Minority Whip (Now Speaker Of The House—ed.) John Boehner (pictured as “Luke Duke” in the photo-illustration) who screamed like a jumper cable-tortured banshee on the floor of the House as his GOP's obstruction to Health Care Reform dissolved, to wingnuttia’s de-facto dumbfuck standard-bearer Sarah Palin’s whooping up the unsubtle, misspelled placard carrying crowds in her creepy, singsong-y Lonesome Rhodes in-drag- style, to the usually passive-aggressive bitchery/ but now “we really lost”, spiteful, fuck-the-world-ism of good ol’ Insta-fuckwit-gun nut-pundit Glenn Reynolds (“Bo” Duke), it has been a near unanimous embrace-a-nut-a-palooza.

Those few who dare point out the bedshittery of encouraging the extremists come home to find the locks on ye olde wingnut welfare bank vault door have been changed. The American Enterprise Institute’s former sloganeer-in-charge—David Frum, learned this the hard way when he publicly pointed out the clear results of doing the shing-a-ling with the spittle-spraying devils of the fringe.

Dear Arthur,

This will memorialize our conversation at lunch today. Effective immediately, my position as a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute is terminated. I appreciate the consideration that delays my emptying of my office until after my return from travel next week. Premises will be vacated no later than April 9.

I have had many fruitful years at the American Enterprise Institute, and I do regret this abrupt and unexpected conclusion of our relationship.

Very truly yours,
David Frum

It could have been worse for him, I suppose. They could have just mailed him his stuff, like the Reagan blow-up doll and the sumptuous, corinthian leather waterboarding bench from his old office. Postage-fucking-due, of course.

Where “Moral Hazard” comes into play is when these supposedly intelligent-in-some-ways people willfully hose gasoline onto the white hot fires burning within the worst of their ilk. We saw post-the HCR bill’s passage by the House, a rash of vandalism against property, actual physical threats to lawmakers who dared vote “aye”, and some not very-well-coded threats of something worse than injury to the same. The bad actors? Nearly to a Goddamned man, folks identifying with the super-heated phraseology of the lunatics behaving badly at the public gatherings that the Palins, Boehners and piss-pot Reynoldses have not merely winked at casually, but have vociferously championed.

Championed by playing to these kooks’ base “Duke Nukem” eliminationist fantasies with the “harmless” crosshair-sighting of ideological opponents on their websites and telling the very same people they’ve backed carrying firearms to simple rallies to “Don’t Retreat, RELOAD!‘

Championed by making excuses for the un-democratic and actually destructive acts by the fanatics, and then openly playing to them by mimicking their all-too-familiar screaming, screeching and shouting down—except this time on the floor of the U.S. House Of Representatives instead of atop a rickety milk crate on a streetcorner in downtown East Bumfuck where that sort of goonery usually belongs.

Championed by the breathless glamorization of a so-called “movement” whose most fervent members openly...and I do mean openly espouse the hoariest of old racist tropes and rhetoric and at their most moral, barely pooh-pooh said “quackery” as less than inconsequential. Which brings us to their worst pandering—namely the tying things all together with a “Don’t Tread On Me” green and yellow bow of “fuck democracy-ism” by defending the likes of the Hutaree Cult Of Anti-Governmental Crazy—an actual loaded-for-bear group of violence-espousing dead-enders who—guess what?—are ideological brethren to the Teabaggers.

It would be one thing if the heat here was over a basic difference of opinion—a disagreement with policy and direction. But it’s not that. The nexus between the boiling, molten core of the Tea Party “movement” and the pundits and politicos who are gleefully agitating it is the spectacularly unsubtle spectre of cornered-rat violence.

A basic difference of opinion will not move you to bring assault weapons to a town hall debate on health care, to hang nooses to and fro—just out of protest, mind you, or to vandalize opponent's homes and campaign offices. Once violence rears its medusa-head in mere discussions of policy, we have moved from an airing out of differences and debate to terroristic thuggery. And the general rule is: You terrorize when your opponent is someone you hate to the point where your ability to civilly disagree and engage in discussion has effectively left you.

The knifepoint, noose and bullet is the last bastion of the simple-minded zealot.

And when you keep these people madly frothing, knowing full well that you are agitating an unstable core and one of these nuts acts out—because when you talk of “the tree of liberty needing to be refreshed with the blood of patriots”, and you gun-sight ideological opponents and defend anarchic, bomb-making, would-be domestic bomb-tossers—you have tacitly incited that act and are on the hook for it. If not legally, then at the very least in the spirit of the law of basic common sense.

Understand though, that these class and spin-insulated (from their pickled-in-crazy “base”) instigators will try to explain away their non-culpability and cluck their tongues at all the unfortunateness while disingenuously cheering on whatever the awful act committed is, because it still forwards their spiteful “We're not in charge, so fuck the world” narrative.

And if you think the issue of “Moral Hazard” isn’t a worthwhile one with repercussions that can change the course of history, I suggest you go back no further than a mere few years after yours truly here was born—1965.

I was born into and grew up as a member of the old Nation Of Islam in the early 60’s. Muhammad Ali was a family friend as was the late Malcolm X, who was directly and fatally affected by “Moral Hazard’s”...well, hazards.

A mere twelve days after the assassination of JFK, Malcolm went a bit off the reservation if you will, with his infamously blunt “Chickens coming home to roost” statements about the U.S.'s celebration of and willy-nilly meting out of violence domestically and internationally, and tied Kennedy’s murder in as a self-caused by-product of it. Thinking objectively, it was indeed a tough bit of rhetoric, coming so soon on the heels of the world-stunning crime, but actually it was pretty par for the course in terms of the them-vs.-us NOI-speak at the time. The sentiment was one definitely felt in-group, and yes, even in certain circles of über-progressives beyond the Nation, albeit quietly. That said, the words whipped up a vicious anti-Black Muslim backlash, which is doubly ironic when you consider that the group was already under mega-siege by local police departments, the F.B.I., and the C.I.A.’s oh-so-ethical COINTELPRO program. Things actually managed to get worse pressure-wise for the Muslims, and in an effort to create some breathing room, the NOI’s leader, Elijah Muhammad effectively threw Malcolm under the bus via a very public suspension from the Mosque (inside the NOI we simply called it being “put out”) and a printed repudiation of his words.

Now, simultaneous to this, there were also some deep undercurrents of fear and loathing running rampant within the NOI—things the general public had no clue of, but if you were an NOI member and knew people in the hierarchy in the bigger Mosques like New York’s, Boston’s, Chicago’s, Detroit’s, Philadelphia’s and Newark’s, you most certainly knew about it—namely that as the group's leader Elijah Muhammad was in extremely ill health, his natural successor as NOI leader was his second-in-command—Malcolm X, and he, much to the chagrin of his leadership peers was cut from a much different cloth than they were. Like any other religious sect, there were people in charge with a vested financial interest in maintaining the structural status quo that kept them more than just materially comfortable. Malcolm X was not one of these people. He was a hard-ass, an ascetic, and had a pathological dislike of those who profited off the backs of the poor, but extremely charitable followers in the Nation. The fear in the collection-plate grubbing leadership was that should Malcolm ascend to the NOI's leadership upon Elijah's passing, (who would actually hang on “Hyman Roth”-style at death’s door for many years) that the monetary gravy train would end and with it, all of the perks and deference paid to them. (Spike Lee is one of the few non-Nation insiders to pick up on this scandal and notes it as a key plot point in his film “Malcolm X”)

With that, said leadership mounted a well-timed and very self-serving PR assault against Malcolm's so-called “transgressions” that featured great, heaping helpings of superheated, eliminationist rhetoric.

For example:

On July 9, John Ali, a top aide (The NOI National Secretary actually as well as a later exposed FBI plant and informant—ed. note L.M.) to (Elijah) Muhammad, answered a question about Malcolm X by saying that “anyone who opposes the Honorable Elijah Muhammad puts their life in jeopardy.


The December 4th issue of Muhammad Speaks i (The NOI's weekly newspaper—ed. note L.M.) included an article by Louis X (later Louis Farrakhan—ed. note L.M.) that railed against Malcolm X and said that “such a man as Malcolm is worthy of death.”

And then there was the following infamous “satirical” cartoon drawn by Eugene Majied that appeared in the NOI's newspaper “Muhammad Speaks”, depicting not in code, but in blunt visual language to Muslims how things should end for a so-called “traitor” like Malcolm. (The term, “Take his head!” was often roared hyperbolically from behind Mosque rostrums as a call for revenge against those who dared do them bodily harm)

Again, the words in their usual “in our house” context would be more of the usual fire-em'-up hyperbole, as no outside threat's “head” had ever been taken, but that sentiment had never been so literally depicted. This was naked, visceral “snuff”-speak. Words, yes ...but with words you have to be careful when and how you speak and of course know who you are speaking to. You don’t yell “FIRE” in a crowded theatre, nor do you for shits and giggles yell “GUN!” when you see police officers frantically chasing someone down. Bad things can happen.

And very, very bad things happened to Minister Malcolm X.

Much like the loopy, gun-brandishing, conspiracy theory-wedded base of the Tea Partiers, the NOI had its own bag of mixed nuts within. We called them, “Spooky Brothers”. These were the NOI members who most of us kind of shied away from, the scary ones who really, truly, and totally believed in orbiting Motherships spiriting all thirty million of us Black folk away, and the fable of grafted, blue-eyed devils being fashioned 6,000 years ago on the island of Patmos and the like—never considering that a lot of these tales were feel-good, hyper-Black, counter-mythology designed to force out hundreds of years of self-hate that slavery and white supremacism had managed to drill into our heads. No...“Spooky Brothers” were that desperate bunch who couldn’t or wouldn’t discern rhetoric from reality. You could not joke with them. One, a semi-acquaintance of my father's dropped by our home unexpectedly one evening while my dad was still at work and almost pulled a “Cape Fear” number on us were it not for me and two of my three brothers occupying him, whilst another ran to Daddy's job to get him, and when Daddy did get there, he forcibly threw this nut out and pretty much saw to it that he never darkened a doorway within a hundred miles of us again. If there were some never-before-spoken word ten phantom letters of the alphabet past “Z” for “Zealot” to describe what folks like this were, it would have been a perfectly apt one. They were damaged, desperate folks who if not for the psychic life preserver and regimentation of the NOI would have wound up either dead or locked away for having brought death to someone. It was the last-ditch thing they could coalesce around, belong to, believe in. Nuance-free, dead-ender, “Spooky Brothers”.

Sound familiar?

But the “Spooky Brothers” could be sort of useful pariahs in the NOI. Useful in that they would do just about anything you positioned them to if the “order” came from on high, but still, not the sort you went to if you wanted good outside PR. In the end, they were loose cannon fuck-ups. And being fuck-ups you had to treat them the way the NYPD treats fuck-up cops—banishing them to “beats” in the hinterlands where they couldn't cause too much trouble.

In the Muslims' case, those hinterlands was Muhammad's Mosque #25 in Newark, New Jersey—a.k.a. “Spooky Brother Central”. The organization's national hierarchy knew they were there, what they were about and what they were capable of and still pushed that dangerous rhetorical envelope against Malcolm X. And the “Spookies” spookily ate up every bit of the threatening speech, gobbled down every morsel of malice and it metastasized in them, manifesting itself in the so.

Malcolm X's lifeless body being rushed from the Audubon Ballroom across Broadway to Presbyterian Hospital where efforts to resuscitate him failed.

For years afterward, and to our (the old NOI's) eternal shame, many of those in the Nation who spouted that incendiary, threatening bullshit tried to play it off like they had no culpability in egging on the terrible event, especially after Malcolm's historical stock only rose afterward. But as sure as hell they did. They were looking out for their own creepy self-interest, looking to take down the no-bullshit heir apparent, and position themselves better and closer to they said what they said, knowing that there were malleably crazy, eager, subordinate someones who would do what they did. Yes, there were powerful outside entities who did their own part to enable the deed (Yes, I'm looking at you in your sequined, off-the-shoulder gown, J. Edgar) and further a larger and even more destructive agenda, but there the toxic words stand...said by those who said them and acted upon at least in part by those everyone talking knew were capable and anxious to act out.

Only some 35 years later would Louis (formerly Louis X...yes, that aforementioned Louis X) Farrakhan own up to his part in pushing the narrative and fostering the atmosphere that led to Malcolm's murder.

Cold comfort that, but there it is. Moral Hazard, people.

There will of course be the cry that someone is chilling someone's right to speak in laying this nightmare scenario out. That cry will be a supremely hollow one as the people yelling loudest about the “chilling” will be the ones who cheered the disemboweling of The Bill Of Rights post-September 11th, championed the blacklisting of artists who disagreed with the breakneck rush to war, and had no problem with Habeas Corpus becoming little more than a corpse itself when it suited their political desires.

Disagreeing publicly is as American as apple-fucking-pie. But sloppily calling down fatwas for an armed, zealot-filled base to act upon is what the Frum-ian swarthy “evil” are supposed to be known for. When one of our homegrown, whipped-up nuts acts out in his or her fucked-up, ostensibly patriotic duty and gets a person or a group of innocent persons separated from their lives (A-gain), you will see these “Dukes Of Moral Hazard” rush to cover their asses, because we live in an age where every word you blog, bleat, bitch or bloviate lives on no matter how you try to wish it away into the cornfield. You cannot—for lack of a better phrase—un-shoot that gun.

This bears repeating...

And because the idea-less have no rational counter to the opposing side’s policies and no hold of facts due to truth’s being radioactive to open discussion of their destructive “beliefs”, the last line of defense for them ends up being the embracing their lunatic fringe.

Dave Neiwert and John Amato have a book coming out entitled “Over The Cliff: How Obama's Election Drove Driven Right Insane” and it could not be better titled, for that is exactly what has happened. From the actual penning of “Birther” legislation, to the inane, unconstitutional slashes at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of Arizona's so-called immigration reform law, to the repeated and spiteful threats of secession from the republic, “teh crazy” has bled over from the supposed fringe to the main Republican Party garment proper, thanks to the right's luminaries having nothing else to offer. With “teh crazy” having become their new normal, all bets are off. The usual self-centeredness, cowardice and amorality is something we could sort of laugh at as the right's public policy motor would comically seize and blow itself to pieces Wile E. Coyote-style, as in Newt's infamous FUBAR-ing of the budget talks with Bill Clinton in '93. This new, brazen, violence-infused tack being taken...

Well...this is being done at “The Dukes Of Moral Hazard's” own peril.

Here's something you may not know: For decades after Malcolm X's assassination, and very quietly I might add, many who helped fan the flames and create the atmosphere for his murder found themselves on the receiving end of extremely rough justice from patient, long-memoried people deeply wounded by his death. Louis Farrakhan himself went underground for an extended time after the death of Elijah Muhammad and the subsequent exposure of his fecklessness left him with little protection from that silent band of revengers who when time and opportunity allowed 'paid it backward' in very final terms to those involved at all levels. But for the grace of God and some very serious back-channel mea culpas, he is somehow still with us. And even with all of that, his F.O.I. security detail still doesn't let their guard down for a second, nearly half a century later. Why?

Because there is the obvious, above-board justice from the court of common sense and the judgement of history but there is also a thing called karmic justice—where one oftentimes reaps exactly what one has sown. You never really see it coming but if you're smart, you know it's out there, a maelstrom of anger churning far, far away that eventually says “Hello” with but a breeze's kiss on the cheek at first. It touches you nonetheless. And then...then baby, you reap the mother-fucking whirlwind.

They are playing with people's lives. Literally. And there is a price for playing with people's lives...for the poor pawns on the board, of course...but also, for those playing and getting off on the awful game itself.


And there it was as of early this past summer. Or rather, is.

It didn't take a Nostradamus to see “teh crazy” coming. Far more influential writers and pundits felt the first raindrops same as I did. Bill Clinton spoke on it ominously. The person most affected, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords smelled the storm coming miles away and sounded the siren quite early.

Yet, here we are. Still.

Note former President Clinton's call-out to take care in what we say and when

“…Everything any of us says falls on the unhinged and the hinged alike.”

…And this piece's noting...

“...that desperate bunch who couldn’t or wouldn’t discern rhetoric from reality.”

Was Jared Loughner some rabid Teabagger gone 'round the bend? We don't know. He himself may not even know. But the opportunists who helped whip up the toxic. eliminationist, anti-government frenzy and cheered on those who brought and brandished loaded weapons at political rallies and town halls sure as hell is hot did…NOT...HELP.

So, that clucking sound the right's biggest whiners are complaining about? No. It's not the tongues of those of us who foresaw this.

It's just you know...the sound of old friends and family popping in for a visit.

P.S. The following JPEG is just to show when this piece was actually worked on.
Some things are unfortuntely timeless.