NYT’s Jackie Calmes’ “Grossly Inaccurate” Hit Piece on Neil Barofsky

It isn’t surprising that the knives are out. Former Special Inspector General of the TARP Neil Barofsky’s new book Bailout depicts the Treasury, where his effort was housed, as completely, hopelessly in thrall to the banks. While Hank Paulson at least seemed genuinely to appreciate the need for procedures and checks to protect taxpayers’ interests, Geithner chafed at any interference in catering to every whim of the financial services industry and used every bureaucratic trick at his disposal to undermine Barofsky.

Although Barofsky’s book has generally gotten very positive reviews, including one from the New York Times’ Gretchen Morgenson last weekend, a rearguard action by Friends of the Administration was inevitable. And it has come in the form of a book review by a Washington reporter for the Grey Lady, one Jackie Calmes.

Reader e-mails criticizing particular articles are infrequent. Ex Adam Davidson at his worst, I can’t recall a previous time when I’ve had more than one reader complain about a specific piece. But the Calmes review led two readers (both pretty reasonable regulars) to object to what both called a “hit piece”. From Robert S:

You simply must check out Jackie Calmes’ hit piece on Neil Barofsky, which is masquerading as a review of his new book, on page C1 of Wednesday’s NY Times. Here’s the link.

What a load of “in-the-tank” crap it is! I NEVER send LTE’s [Letters to the Editor] to the NY Times, but tonight I did just that.

Reader Mrs. G. in the subject line of her message, also described the article as a hit piece disguised as a book review, and continued:

I quickly scanned author Jackie Calmes’ roster of NYT articles in recent months — seems to be the resident pseudo-neutral Obama ya-ya team, specializing in reporting on “messaging” by legacy parties. Anyway, the nasty tone in this “book review” suggests it was dictated direct from D.C. by some thuggish Obama-Geithner “messaging” person — there’s a gaucheness in the meanness and zero attempt to maintain the typical NYT “veil” of neutrality.

We’ll soon get to a detailed parsing of the heavy-handed effort to smack down Barofsky, but first let’s turn to Mrs. G’s astute take on Calmes. Calmes penned a cringe-making piece about a photo of Obama, attempted to absolve Our Fearless Leader of blame for high unemployment, praised Simpson-Bowles, and celebrated the death of the public option as a victory for sanity. In other words, straight down the line defenses of the Administration, via pushing the neoliberal party line and fawning over key figures, such as this puff piece on Geithner.

Now to the article itself. It’s clumsily written. Calmes starts out by calling Barofsky a populist, which is the DC analogue to the British pejorative “unsound.” But it’s not surprising that someone who would cross the banks by *gasp* being preoccupied about fraud would be seen in power conscious Washington as having a screw loose.

She then moves to recapping the incident at the top of the book, in which Barofsky has a drink with assistant Treasury Secretary Herb Allison in a ritual effort to mend fences (aside: this is one reason I could never hold one of these jobs, not that anyone would be nuts enough to ask me. The reason he and the Treasury dudes hated each other is their roles, as they defined them, put them in direct opposition. There’s no getting on with people who are firmly dedicated to having you not do your job, and wasting time trying to find common ground seems like a complete waste of time and mental energy). This is a well told, intriguing little episode that frames the book: that everyone in DC, or at least in positions of authority, is keenly aware of career advancement. That means that there are well defined norms as to how far you push contentious agendas and the understanding is that is not very far.

But Barofksy is a good old fashioned prosecutor who isn’t interested in currying favor in the corridors of power and believes in the law. And this job was enough of a step up that he can afford to take chances. Allison really does suggest that Barofsky is hurting his career (and his family!) in a way that is creepily upscale Mafia. And in keeping, Allison’s “What do you want” questions come off as a very direct ask of what it would take to buy Barofsky off.

But as Calmes recounts it, the meeting is lifeless (I wondered if that was deliberate, to give readers the impression that was a failing of the book, rather than of her writing). And she insinuates that Barofsky depicted the incident in bad faith:

Yet Mr. Barofsky goes on to say that he did not really think that Mr. Allison was threatening him; in fact, Mr. Allison “was, in a very Washington way, sincerely trying to be helpful.”

Throughout his book, Barofsky goes out of his way to try to give his opponents the benefit of the doubt. But there is actually, contra Calmes, no inconsistency in what he said. Barofsky sets forth how pretty awful conduct is perfectly normal, and how deep-seated the corruption and tribalism are. The key is “in a very Washington way”. Grandstanding and bullying are normal, meaning Allison was making a ritual, as opposed to a real, threat. And Allison, having succeeded in the conventional careerist mode and getting it further reinforced within the Beltway, simply can’t fathom why someone would seek to buck that system.

She also assails Barofsky for being concerned about potential losses from the TARP, and fails to convey that he was concerned about both fraud and the use of funds for other than their intended purpose of additional lending, which he recounts at length (for instance, banks using TARP funds for acquisitions). And she repeats the “TARP was paid back with interest” (cleverly including only the banks, when half the TARP funds that went to AIG are still outstanding). As this blog and other writers have discusses ad nauseum, looking at TARP in isolation is meaningless. This is a finance form of three card monte. The banks were healthy-enough-looking to be allowed to pay it back (although critics like Simon Johnson and Anat Admati have called for banks to have much higher capital levels) by virtue of a massive tax on savings via the Fed’s super duper low interest rates. Those goosed asset values and gave the banks rock-bottom borrowing costs, which were flattering to bank balance sheets and allowed them to rack up attractive earnings (including via the pretty much risk-free strategy of funding at near zero rates and buying Treasury bonds). She also falsely claims that “not a penny went to banks during the Obama administration” when they in fact got $10 billion in loans and HAMP incentive fees.

And get a load of this (note she’s run these talking points in other articles):

As ugly and flawed as the rescue process was, and as galling as Wall Street’s revived bravado and bonuses can be to most Americans, the fact remains that an economic collapse was averted, and that Main Street is recovering: slowly, but typically so for recessions brought on by credit crises. As Europe’s crisis persists for a fourth year, commentators around the globe have suggested that the Continent should have followed America’s example.

“The fact remains?” I’d like to know where she gets her facts. A financial market failure was averted, but Calmes seems clueless about the real and continuing damage to the real economy. As we occasionally point out, what we have had is at best a technical recovery, and it looks like it is turning south again. And her smug tone about Europe is all wet. Europe in fact followed the US playbook, and as Josh Rosner recounts in considerable and persuasive detail, that’s one of the reasons it is now going over the cliff. The Paulson-Bernanke-Geithner team adopted a “bank bondholders will take no losses” policy, when the clear record of past financial crises is that coddling the banks by not forcing writeoffs of equity and to the degree needed, cramdowns of bondholders, resulting in weaker recoveries (cue Japan) and much greater losses in the end. Rosner estimates that Germany already has suffered €500 billion in costs by following the American path rather than the approach the Swedish used in their early 1990s banking crisis. (And that’s before we get to the fact that Europe’s current woes are in large measure due to unresolved problems with the design of the Eurozone, which is unrelated to its crisis responses).

The next paragraph is out and out smarmy:

To the extent that Mr. Barofsky acknowledges that neither big losses nor big fraud cases occurred, he credits the anti-fraud measures he pressed Treasury to include in programs and contracts. Yet his book is a chronicle of complaints that Treasury undercut, blindsided and ignored him. Perhaps the biggest criticism of Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner suggested by Mr. Barofsky’s account is that Mr. Geithner should have been a lot more conciliatory toward this zealous inspector general, if only to avoid becoming the biggest villain in Mr. Barofsky’s morality tale.

Nothing like choosing to be obtuse. In the wake of the Libor scandal, Calmes is apparently still a buyer of the Treasury party line that the banks would behave themselves out of concern for reputational damage (I am not making that up). She also ignores the fact that Barofsky quickly made himself visible and feared and that that also probably had had a deterrent effect (not that he wanted to, mind you; he was advised the way to make sure he could do his job was to cultivate good relations with Congress and the media. And of course, Calmes tries to spin this the other way later in the piece: the fact that Barofsky needed to establish good communications with folks like Barney Frank and Richard Shelby meant the Treasury intransigence was fully justified!). She also tries to paint Barofsky as overstating the degree of Treasury interference (after all, Treasury did include some of the stuff he wanted, right?). In fact, the book makes clear that the Geithner Treasury fought him tooth and nail, and he’d routinely have to call in the cavalry (Congresscritters or the media) to get anywhere. The level of bureaucratic obstruction and the sheer pettiness of some of the tricks is noteworthy.

She also falsely claims the book adds nothing to the story of the crisis. Huh? Aside from showing how fully both the Paulson and Geithner Treasuries identified with the banks, and the stylistic differences between them, Barofsky recounts a number of episodes that reflect poorly on Geithner: his failure to even attempt to negotiate down the payout on AIG CDS, the refusal to cut back bonuses to AIG staff (including, contrary to Adminsitration claims, clearly non-essential staff) and a long form account of the disastrous HAMP program, which as Barofsky reveals, was never intended to help homeowners and was implemented in a half-assed manner. And what is her crisis reading list? All are flattering to the powers that be: David Wessel’s In Fed We Trust; Hank Paulson’s On the Brink; and of course, Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail.

Calmes closes the piece by contending that the fact that Wall Street is giving more money to Romney is proof that the Administration’s policies weren’t all that bank friendly. Funny, Obama was clocking more in donations than all Republican candidates combined in 2011, which is the relevant time frame for Barofsky’s story (he left SIGTARP in March 2011). Since Romney became the Republican candidate, the Administration has taken to attacking Romney’s record with Bain, which is being taken up in the media as a (well deserved) broader criticism of private equity. PE is a huge fee machine for Wall Street. Even though Team Obama has focused on Bain only, it’s not hard to see how members of that part of the financial-industrial complex would pour money into Romney to support their franchise.

If journalism were a profession, Calmes’ piece would make a strong case for disbarment. But since reporters increasingly act as scriveners to the powerful, Calmes is likely to continue to enjoy a career of well paid stenography.

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  1. Mark P.

    I figured you’d get to addressing Calmes’s piece of mendacity and I’m glad that you did. Good work — and, wow, you sure can write fast.

  2. ambrit

    Another crypto insomnial night. However, perversely enough, this piece gives hope. Our Esteemed Blogatrix and fellow travelers continue to tell truth to power. No amount of toadying and boot licking can change the facts, and that is the importance of pieces like Mz Calmes; it displays fear on the part of the elites. Otherwise, everyone in the MSM would simply ignore Barofskys’ book. Now I know I have to get the book and read it; the Grey Lady has told me not to.
    Thank you Mz Smith!
    Somehow, all this brings to mind Maos’ Great Leap Forward and similar exercises in delusional thinking. All we need is a copy of The National Review and we can build that bridge! Yes we can! Just keep the proper frame of mind and reality will follow along! Got it? Are you with the program? If not, there ‘Will Be Consequences!’ Don’t worry about all that engineering stuff. This bridge WILL be built, and on time. The quarterly results require it. That is all you need to know.

  3. Joe

    Excellent take down Yves. Thanks for that. The NYT has become (always was?) the U.S. version of Pravda. It would be laughable except that the self annointed serious people take them seriously.

    1. Jay Schiavone

      Not exactly Pravda, perhaps. As YS notes in her second paragraph, Gretchen Morgenson gave the book a positive review and, unlike Calmes, Morgenson is a genuine poobah at the Times’s Business desk. And for those who have taken to comparing Calmes to Judy Miller: Ms. Miller’s epic disgrace will not soon be repeated at any media outlet. There are very few straight-news journalists who are as odious AND as well-connected as was Judith Miller, and it will require a truly bizarre confluence of events to thrust such a journalist into the vortex of high-level scandal AND be held to account for their bad behavior. The conservatives tried to do it to Dan Rather and with trifling results.

  4. Kathi Berke

    Excellent critical analysis of this poorly disguised hatchet job on Barofsky.

    “…Mr. Barofsky acknowledges that neither big losses nor big fraud cases occurred…”

    Calmes’ false but slippery logic: A fraud case has to be brought to have occurred. Even under W Jeffrey Skilling went to jail.

    The giveaway (heck the entire review was filled with ’em) was Calmes’ suggested reading on the ongoing Great Recession: “In Fed We Trust”; “Too Big To Fail” & “On the Brink”(!) by Hank Paulson. How about “I’m in bed with the banks and I like it” as a subtitle to these fawning pieces of dangerous propaganda?

    Calmes should take remedial Geithner courses with Sheila Bair, former FDIC Chair. He blocked every effective proposal she put forth on dealing with the housing crisis. Bair even resorted to the NYT’s op-ed pages (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/19/opinion/19bair.html?pagewanted=print), committing the cardinal sin of going public.

    Where are we today? Awaiting a global depression. Maybe in the bubbles of Washington, NY, Silicon Valley, Davos, etc. the sun is shining and the air is dewy. But Main Street is deserted.

    1. ambrit

      I never thought that I’d be pining for The Firing Line show, but Ifil and toadies make me want to cry. No wonder Bill Moyers has come back out of retirement. Just look at the quality of PBS talking heads shows today.

      1. dcblogger

        Washington Week and the NewsHour are only horrible because the producing station, WETA allow them to be horrible. Anyone from Greater Wash DC who wants to do something about that should contact me at d2route@yahoo.com

        we don’t have to put up with it.

    2. DP

      With panel members like that, it sounds like Washington Week in Review is as toothless and worthless now as it was 20 years ago, which is roughly the last time I watched it. They should have changed the name of it to “Inside the Beltway” or “Conventional Wisdom”.

      1. rafael bolero

        Remember when the McNeil-Lehrer show as new, and real? They had a standing commentator named Knoll from the Madison, WI, Progressive magazine who actually gave ‘leftist’ analysis. (He died of a heart attack, unfortunately, and then they did not ‘replace’ him). Remember, PBS is running scared its funding will be cut, forever now, and it shows. Not that I watch it ever, anymore. That’s why we are here, and elsewhere similar.

        1. ambrit

          Mr. bolero;
          That and the corrupting influence of Mz Krocs’ money. I began noticing an increase in the number and duration of “announcements” fairly soon after her bequest. Anyone else notice something similar, or is it just a ‘sign of the times?’

        2. SocraticGadfly

          Hell, back in the 1980s, Duke, on McNeil-Lehrer, even interviewed third-party presidential candidates on the program. No way in hell today’s Please Be Smooth does that.

  5. DP

    That so called review by Calmes is a disgrace. I sent her an email (link to it on her byline) telling her so and encourage others to do the same.

  6. Warren Celli

    The Gray Lady has never been a lady, she has always been an Evilism slut, and now she has shifted her prostitutional skills to the servicing of Xtrevilism. The disease has mutated and metastasized.

    What we have here is not so much a take down of Jackie Calmes as it is a documentation of the disease of Evilism (Vanilla Greed for Profit) mutating into Xtrevilism (Pernicioius Greed For Destruction) and metastasizing into the global body politic. Can we all say trickle down cannibalism here delivered on that same old good cop bad cop good plate. Sheesh!… who can you trust when you have so badly soiled the ‘rule of law’ all along the ladder of crumbunism?

    Writing to the Gray Slut (have we noticed more graphics and less gray lately?) is like writing to Santa. But the Evilism folks want to believe so badly — just like all of the folks on the lower rungs that they have screwed in the past and that sent them mountains of letters throughout the years — that they grovel to the scam Gray Slut with their complaints of ‘deception’. Boo Hoo!

    You have to admire the disease of Xtrevilism — if one can admire a disease — as it threatens to topple the human species from its dominant role on the planet. Who coulda thunk it? Death from within. What a clever approach.

    The disease of Xtrevilism and its forebear Evilism can only be cured with Fairism.

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    1. Jay Schiavone

      “The disease of Xtrevilism and its forebear Evilism can only be cured with Fairism.”
      Are you suggesting that we seek help from fairies? Is this a Hobbit thing?

  7. Capo Regime

    Wow. Had to go read the review when I saw this. Great takedown–would add Yves you were much nicer than she or the NYT merit. First quote approval now this–can they sink any lower and why do so few people mind of the total corruption of the press and media in the U.S.? Given the egregiousness of their behavior it seems little remarked. Thank you Yves for being one of the few touchstones of honesty and clarity left in this nation of grifters and spinmeisters.

  8. Capo Regime

    In another time or place Barofsky would be held up as an exemplar of integrity and public service. Who are the exemplars per Ms Clames and others of her ilk? Than fellow NC’ers is a disturbing thought….

  9. Up the Ante

    “Aside from showing how fully both the Paulson and Geithner Treasuries identified with the banks, and the stylistic differences between them, Barofsky recounts a number of episodes that reflect poorly on Geithner ..”

    Yes, but does he reflect upon the Justice Dept., his former employer ?

    Is he trained to “timidity” and if so is he selling us that product ??

    Is he selling us essential “deviation” ?



    Your anger is righteous, and we would incorporate it into our deviation, IS IT ??

  10. briansays

    from jesse

    This is the very image of the regulatory and banking bureaucrat of today, from Tim Geithner to Gary Gensler to Ben Bernanke, and almost every member of the governments of the Western World.

    And it is that very dryness of human empathy, the lack of vigor in moral conviction, the willingness to accept great crimes and injustices as the unfortunate by necessary outcome of ‘the system,’ that makes all the difference between a Franklin D. Roosevelt and a Barack H. Obama, between a living being and a whited sepulchre.

    Careerism. Favoritism and expediency for the sake of the system that rewards them. It is a pernicious form of selfishness and self-indulgence, privileged arrogance.

    It is not a choice of poverty for the sake of truth. It is merely the choice made between ‘enough’ and ‘more,’ where more represents not a very comfortable living, but the fabulous, ostentatious wealth and power that seems to have become the god of the scions of the me generation.

    And it is a sickness, unto death.

      1. LeonovaBalletRusse

        George Carlin was a true patriot. I’m a pre-Boomer (“The Sacrificed Generation”), and my sane, moderate, ethical world was destroyed by the Sex, Drugs, and Rock&Roll narcissistic cultural steamroller of the “Conventional Boomer” majority, who were prime patsies of Madison Ave and Tavistock from the mid-sixties. The Conventional Boomer Generation never had to mature–not even in “retirement” today; and as self-indulgent jerks they raised a generation of self-indulgent crooks, who raised a generation of UberCrooks or of alienated “extremist” and “defeated” lost souls of every kind. The next generation is an army of robots programmed by the Global Fourth Reich to do their genocidal bidding on cue. Who can change this dynamic? Did Carlin have any hope?

        1. Up the Ante

          Your solution lies in considering the odds that a young Siddhartha had an analogous conversation .. with his concubine.

          contra the unconscious renunciate

  11. briansays

    By Chris Hedges
    Jul 23, 2012

    The greatest crimes of human history are made possible by the most colorless human beings. They are the careerists. The bureaucrats. The cynics. They do the little chores that make vast, complicated systems of exploitation and death a reality. They collect and read the personal data gathered on tens of millions of us by the security and surveillance state. They keep the accounts of ExxonMobil, BP and Goldman Sachs. They build or pilot aerial drones. They work in corporate advertising and public relations. They issue the forms. They process the papers. They deny food stamps to some and unemployment benefits or medical coverage to others. They enforce the laws and the regulations. And they do not ask questions.

    Good. Evil. These words do not mean anything to them. They are beyond morality. They are there to make corporate systems function. If insurance companies abandon tens of millions of sick to suffer and die, so be it. If banks and sheriff departments toss families out of their homes, so be it. If financial firms rob citizens of their savings, so be it. If the government shuts down schools and libraries, so be it. If the military murders children in Pakistan or Afghanistan, so be it. If commodity speculators drive up the cost of rice and corn and wheat so that they are unaffordable for hundreds of millions of poor across the planet, so be it. If Congress and the courts strip citizens of basic civil liberties, so be it. If the fossil fuel industry turns the earth into a broiler of greenhouse gases that doom us, so be it. They serve the system. The god of profit and exploitation. The most dangerous force in the industrialized world does not come from those who wield radical creeds, whether Islamic radicalism or Christian fundamentalism, but from legions of faceless bureaucrats who claw their way up layered corporate and governmental machines. They serve any system that meets their pathetic quota of needs.

    These systems managers believe nothing. They have no loyalty. They are rootless. They do not think beyond their tiny, insignificant roles. They are blind and deaf. They are, at least regarding the great ideas and patterns of human civilization and history, utterly illiterate. And we churn them out of universities. Lawyers. Technocrats. Business majors. Financial managers. IT specialists. Consultants. Petroleum engineers. “Positive psychologists.” Communications majors. Cadets. Sales representatives. Computer programmers. Men and women who know no history, know no ideas. They live and think in an intellectual vacuum, a world of stultifying minutia. They are T.S. Eliot’s “the hollow men,” “the stuffed men.” “Shape without form, shade without colour,” the poet wrote. “Paralysed force, gesture without motion.”

        1. JTFaraday

          Well, I hope it was better than the first part, which doesn’t really say anything, and so I’m not tempted to click.

          1. JTFaraday

            Okay, I admit it. Against my better judgment I went and looked at it anyway.

            It’s a cut and paste job. A grad student could have written it. What are they paying over at Huffpo?

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      “THE BUREAUCRATIZATION OF THE WORLD” by Henry Jacoby, translated from the German by Evelne Kanes (Berkeley and London, University of California Press, 1973, paperback 1976; “Die Burokratisierung der Welt: Ein Beitrag zur Problemgeschichte” – published by Hermann Luchterhand Verlag GmbH,Neuwied and Berlin, 1969, as No. 64 in the series Soziologische Texte, edited by Heinz Maus and Friedrich Furstenberg).

      “Old wine in new bottles” in perpetuity. De-centralization is the only way out.

    2. Justicia

      First, thank you Yves for posting this critique of the Calmes hit job on Barofsky. I read the book review while on the plane and was just infuriated.

      Second, to the point above, the Hollow Men (and Women) are produts of graduate schools (business, economics and law) that have inculcated “value neutrality” as the norm for the professions. Having exluded all considrations of ethics or morality from discussion or consideration, and having made the unbridled pursuit of self-interest (e.g., the “eat what you kill” culture) the sole criteria for professional judgment are we surprised that our elites behave the way they do.

      As Carlin said – garbage in, garbage out.

  12. ltr

    We needed this, I was appalled at the review but was not surprised by it from such a “reporter.”

  13. Bob Swern


    Thank you so much for pointing out how fully even the New York Times embraces the “Foxified” nature of what passes for the MSM’s version of “the political dialogue” in this country.

    You are a voice of sanity.

    And, yes, you absolutely hit this one out of the park!


  14. jsmith

    “Now to the article itself. It’s clumsily written. Calmes starts out by calling Barofsky a populist, which is the DC analogue to the British pejorative “unsound.””

    Ah, yes, the scary, scary word “populism” always the bugaboo since Isaiah Berlin and his post-WWII horsesh*t convinced the proto-neoliberal elite that what people needed was negative liberty crammed down there unthinking throats.

    Have fun choosing between the McRib and the QuarterPounder, freedom-lovers!!

    Berlin and his mypoic acolytes would have mankind erase such terms as socialism, Marxism, populism etc so as to preserve the perceived order and stasis that the post-war elite have sought to construct for us unthinking proles.

    Determine your own destiny, commoner?!!!

    Why, that buts up against the freedom of the elite to subjugate, rape, kill and steal from you, pissant!!

    Tosh, tosh.

    Be good little boys and girls and allow us to slowly demonize – over decades – any word that even smacks of any idea that we – the elite – have determined is just no good for your simple minds.



    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      js, Don’t you mean “Saint Isaiah Berlin,” the pet of British Imperial “Nobility?”

    2. steelhead23

      JS, Bingo! Words matter. Labels matter. And the elite have been managing this imagery for decades, perhaps centuries (did the elite pay for Votaire’s attack on J.J. Rousseau?). It flat amazes me how many erstwhile literate and bright folks I know react in an absolutely knee-jerk manner when I mention Marx, yet know less of his great work and ideas than they know of the dark side of the moon. We are well trained.

      1. JTFaraday

        “did the elite pay for Votaire’s attack on J.J. Rousseau?”

        And according to some people, Chris Hedges is CIA.

        I know the .01% is powerful, but I don’t know why some people are so convinced these intellectuals aren’t perfectly capable of coming up with this stuff all by themselves.

    3. Yasu Y

      Was in NYC for a business trip, listened to a radio about about collective action against the large soda ban there haha.
      Choice of size of sugary death = freedom :)

  15. John Anderson

    Years ago, when I wrote a book about the 1985 MOVE Bombing in Philadelphia–a major fail for the Philadelphia Inquirer in terms of its coverage–the Inquirer gave my book (“Burning Down the House,” Norton, 1987) to one of its own reporters to review. Very like Calmes, this reviewer proclaimed that the story had all been told, and, what’s more, this was a boring account of the old story that everyone knew. The novelist John Wideman reviewed the same book in the Washington Post a few months later–too late to save it–and wrote that even a good novelist would be hard-pressed to equal the story of MOVE as it unfolded in “Burning Down the House.”

    Time and the report of an independent “MOVE Commission” (one of whose readers was the late, former Watergate prosecutor Henry Ruth), have, I think, vindicated “Burning Down the House.” Fortunately, I don’t think Mr. Barofsky will have to wait that long.

    What happened to Mr. Barofsky in the pages of the Times today is, alas, nothing new.

  16. Klassy!

    Excellent rejoinder.
    I think all the truth you need is in this statement from Gretchen Morgenson’s review:
    But after canvassing other inspector generals for guidance, he writes, he learned of different priorities: maintaining and possibly increasing budgets, appearing to be active — and not making enemies.

  17. David Chaney

    Thank you Yves for this sharp takedown and for all the work you do against these evil monsters in the banks, government, and media. I have been fighting with the banks for five years pre and post Chap 11 and I know they have no respect for the law, and the “judges” make sure it stays that way. Lawyers are astonished. Perhaps they are Caine toadies.

    Re: Barofsky. He was asked on NPR’s Marktplace business radio program if fighting the banks was similar to fighting the “drug wars” in Columbia. He said similar, except in the U.S. no one tried to kill him {I’m guessing that is no one tried to kill hiim to his knowledge, or he wisely avoided small planes.) But I would add another very important difference: the drug kingpins were brought to “justice” or killed. In the banking scandal, no perpetrators went to jail, and in fact the perps were given essentially unlimited government money to continue their caper/grift.

    Finally, you have to read the Blooomberg sob story today about the poor Wall Street risk traders who can’t play th game the way they used to, and how awful it is. (I’m guessing it’s not federal regs, it’s that there are no marks out there stupid enough to take the other side of the trades,)

    The piece reads sort of like interviewing a mass murderer in jail and he says the thing he misses most is the thrill of the chase and then torturing and dismemembering his victims. The article is really a disturbing insight into the pathological Wall Street mind.

    I would follow Borofsky into the bowels of Hells if we could bring these banksters to justice.

  18. Ms G

    Update. Calmes’s disgraceful hit piece called out also by Dayen at Firedoglake. Dayen shatters Calmes’s obtuse parroting of the “TARP got paid back” lie with direct quotes out of today’s report from none otehr than Barofsky’s successor at SIGTARP, IG Christy Romero — OUCH!

    Quote to Dayen (and his quote of Romero’s report) below:

    “But the hilarious part of this is that, on the same day that the review drops, we learn that hundreds of banks have not repaid TARP, and hundreds more that have quite literally did so with federal loans.

    Of the 707 banks that received taxpayer money from the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program starting in 2008, also known as TARP, about half have repaid the Treasury.

    However, 137 of those banks used a government-loan program to repay their taxpayer debts, according to the quarterly report to Congress of the Office of the Special Inspector General for TARP.

    Of the 325 banks still propped up with taxpayer money, 203 have missed dividend or interest payments, with some missing as many as 13 payments since receiving capital injections at the height of the financial crisis, the report said.

    Adding to their woes, the dividend that the bailed-out banks are required to pay to Treasury is set to increase to 9 percent from the current 5 percent as early as 2013.
    “Those banks are not able to raise the capital that is required to get out of TARP,” said Christy Romero, the special inspector general for the bailout program.

    That this comes from a SIGTARP report, Barofsky’s old job, is kind of poetic. The truth is that, even on the confined terms that TARP defenders want to use, their boasts fall short. Only by saying “big banks” repaid TARP can the statement remain true. Hundreds of banks across the country took the taxpayer money and ran.”

    Calmes should be ashamed and embarassed. But like Geithner, she’s probably just “offended” and will come back with some line about how people have been accusing her of previously working for Murdoch (compare Geithner strawman that “Bailout” is all about the misimpression that Timmy worked for GS!)

  19. Jill

    The power elites are afraid. They don’t trot out hit-pieces like Calmes wrote unless they are feeling insecure. Good.

    Keep laying out facts Yves. They still matter! Great work!

  20. Ms G

    Did anyone catch Geithner’s metaphor for the Federal Reserve, offered by way of smacking down the ignorant rubes who have come to realise the extent to which the Fed is very much a creature (machine) of the private banking sector?

    “A lot of people thought the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was a bank — a private bank — rather than the fire station of the financial system.”

    Not a private bank: a FIRE STATION of the financial system!
    And JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon is a Fire Station Director (even though he’s the head of a PRIVATE bank). Ok then.

    Timmy and his crew are getting seriously annoyed that folks are starting to take an interest in, and understand, the Fed, banking, how credit and wealth are created and what Timmy and his crew actually did to our country under cover of “stabilizing the financial system.”

  21. Hugh

    Calmes is clearly channeling Geithner. It would be interesting to know who her contact in his office was or if she was taking dictation from the great man himself.

    Kleptocracy needs apologists like Calmes to run interference for it. And she quite apparently is eager to do so. But of course it is not Calmes alone. She had editors at the Times who needed to sign off on her propaganda and they too were more than willing to.

  22. JustAnObserver

    And now we wait, with bated breath, for the equivalent hit-pieces in the enslaved parts of the blog world. Should be a prize for guessing where the smear will occur first.

    For my bet I’d go for BlogoPravda = Daily Kos.

    1. Ms G

      Actually Bob Swern from Kos (?) posted above to compliment and thank Yves for her report.

    2. Walter Wit Man

      So far they are mostly just ignoring him.

      My search of Daily Kos just now revealed two hits for “barofsky” from the last 7 days. One was not directly related and the other, by “Superpole,” is eagerly anticipating the book.

      It does seem that more critical Democrats like Superpole are able to voice their views more openly, they are just relegated to the backseat on the site.

      Interesting to look at recent diaries that have the “President Obama” tag: http://dailykos.com/news/President%20Obama

      On an initial look these diaries all seem supportive of Obama and I don’t see any real criticism. I guess they’re in campaign mode because they mostly seem to be focusing on the horse race.

    3. Walter Wit Man

      Another interesting search to do on Kos is for their “Anti Capitalist” group: http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Anti%20Capitalist%20Meetup%20Group

      There is one article from last year that seems critical of Obama but for the most part this anti capitalist group sure seems to be focusing on Republicans and not questioning the current administration much. Plus, they seem to be supporting Democrats. How can one be anti capitalist AND a Democrat?

      Seems like an obvious honey pot to divert wayward Democrats from leaving the capitalist party too soon.

      1. Bob Swern

        Actually, rumor has it that Bob Swern is the “Robert S.” who, along with Mrs. G., pointed out this travesty/faux book review to Yves shortly after the Calmes hit piece on Barofsky first appeared online, very early this morning.

        As far as Daily Kos is concerned, there are hundreds–dare I say it, many thousands–of Kossacks that are less than thrilled, if not outright horrified, with the administration’s behavior/performance on a myriad of issues, such as: the economy, health care, the environment/global warming, gun control, etc., etc.

        Michael Moore just had an excellent piece on Aurora at the top of the “Rec List” there over the past 24 hours.

        Jesselyn Radack, arguably, the leading advocate on behalf of whistleblowers in the U.S., posts there on almost a daily basis.

        Elizabeth Warren has a post up there at least once every few weeks.

        Numerous, critical (of the administration) bloggers on the economy, including yours truly, gjohnsit, Meteor Blades, Michael Lux, Ozymandius DSWright, priceman, and many others.

        On healthcare, checkout the commentary of nyceve and slinkerwink.

        On any given day, if you look hard enough you’ll find arguments for Marx and Mao, and anti-capitalism, in general.

        Is there a lot of blowback from the hack-ish set, and many in the Democratic Party infrastructure? Yes. A hell of a lot, sometimes/often to the point where it stifles the dialogue. Yes, and, sometimes that’s just absurdly over the top, too.

        But, here’s a newsflash: many of us that are there WANT to be on the front lines of dissent, especially as it relates to confronting the neoliberal set with what are now the remnants of what USED TO BE reasoned, mainstream Democratic thought.

        –Bob Swern

        1. Walter Wit Man

          Well, pinging Yves is a bit different then penning your own post on the subject at Daily Kos.

          In fact, I don’t see any posts at Daily Kos that directly takes on Obama or the Democrats. Again, how can one be anti capitalist and not take on the Democrats?

          And btw, I did read some of those posters you mention, especially during the health care debates. While I found some of them mildly interesting, and I admired the patience of Slinkerwink especially, having to deal with utter crap from Democratic goons, there is no benefit from a site like Daily Kos. Its whole raison d’etre is to sucker liberals into staying in a criminal capitalist right wing party. Obama is a war criminal and should be tried and imprisoned for the rest of his life and I would be banned or hounded from the site if I wanted to discuss this important and factual point. Daily Kos is all about hounding anyone that veers too far left and group tackling them so they stay in the Democrat party.

          I also see people self-censoring there so that they take their criticism of Obama to other sites (like you are claiming to do here). I have no desire to take part in censored conversations. Doesn’t that make you question the site? That you are literally not allowed to make certain arguments? How undemocratic!

          I just find it very illuminating to look at the anti-capitalist group.

          For instance, searching the first three posts, this jumps out at me:

          1. In the first post, out of 156 comments maybe one is sort of directly critical of Obama, while Romney raked through the coals for his vulture capitalism.

          2. In the second post, with 87 comments, Obama is never mentioned.

          3. Same thing for the 3rd post, with 42 comments, no Obama.

          Now, many of these commentators have a signature line that shows their dissatisfaction with Obama or the Democrats, but they are for the most part wimpy little complaints further made to look weak by the fact that their signature line is the most strident they are allowed to be at Daily Kos.

          Lastly, none of those things you mention sell me on Daily Kos. Quite the opposite. When you mention Elizabeth Warren and Michael Moore I want to run away screaming. It’s sites like Daily Kos that are bringing fascism to this country. The Obama progressives are more dangerous than any right-wingers right now.

          1. Kyrie Eleison

            This is exactly why Alceste wanted to tell the whole of the human race to go scratch as he headed off to his cave.

          2. Kurt Sperry

            Indeed. The problem obviously is that DKos and other sites like Democratic Underground that overtly and explicitly embrace the promotion of the Democratic Party as not just a policy but their very reason for being cannot allow free debate, and that includes even the best reasoned and fact based criticism of the party leadership. There is no real coherent underlying ideology, no moral standards, there are no policy lines in the sand- whatever the party leaders say must not be challenged unless the challenge is couched in sycophantic partisan fashion.

            Challenge the Party at those sites and a band of unclever partisan thugs will be turned loose with ad hominem attacks- often in direct violation of putative site rules. The overt and unapologetic prime directive is to support the Party, whatever the party does. My Party, right or wrong is the bottom line.

            Now it is sometimes possible to challenge orthodox partisan policy as Bob Swern does admirably, but you are walking a razor’s edge in so doing and the threat of draconian censorship and banning hangs ever in wait for those who dare. Fear and censorious intimidation constantly hang in the air of the discussions like some poisonous miasma.

            Why support such an unhealthy, inbred and intellectually stunted discussion environment with one’s participation? It really is toxic to free and healthy debate.

    4. Up the Ante

      There may be equivalents to hit pieces, like silence from Chomsky or a suggested perforated outrage from Cockburn if he were still alive.

  23. stevefraser

    From Wikipedia: “At the center of neoliberalism is the rule of law. Hayek believed that liberty was maximized when coercion was minimized.[13] Hayek did not believe that a complete lack of coercion was possible, or even desirable, for a liberal society, and he argued that a set of traditions was absolutely necessary which allowed individuals to judge whether they would or would not be coerced. This body of tradition he notes as law and the use of this tradition as the Rule of Law.[14] In designing a liberal system of law, Hayek believed that two things were vitally important: the protection and delineation of the personal sphere[15] and the prevention of fraud and deception, which could be maintained only by threat of coercion from the state. In delineating a personal sphere, an individual could know under what circumstances they would or would not be coerced under, and could make plans for the use of their resources in achieving their aims.”

  24. Jill

    I just had a chance to read G. Greenwald’s column today. He writes a piece that hammers home the kind of propaganda the NYTimes sees fit to print: “In The New York Times today, Tom Friedman argues that the only thing that could save Syria is if that country is lucky enough to have the U.S. do to it what the U.S. did to Iraq, and in the process, says this:

    And, for me, the lesson of Iraq is quite simple: You can’t go from Saddam to Switzerland without getting stuck in Hobbes — a war of all against all — unless you have a well-armed external midwife, whom everyone on the ground both fears and trusts to manage the transition. In Iraq, that was America.

    Just on the level of basic cogency, this makes absolutely no sense. Friedman says that a country will be “stuck in Hobbes — a war of all against all — unless” it has America there. But Iraq did have America there, and — as Friedman himself points out just a few paragraphs later — it got “stuck in Hobbes,” precisely because America was there…”

    It’s clear they are propagandizing us for more war, no strictures on robbing the public and the worship of Obama. It’s creepy.

    Like Yves, Glenn is easily able to dismantle these “arguments” with an appeal to reality.

    1. ggm

      Never forget, they shilled for Enron, too. During the height of the fake crisis caused by slimy Enron traders NPR reported that the rolling blackouts were necessary because environmental activists had caused real energy scarcity.

  25. LeonovaBalletRusse

    National Pravda Radio has begun its “Food Scarcity Scare”–due to the drought, you know. Be afraid.

    1. Ms G

      Not quite “without comment.” He led into the link with “Jackie Calmes says that sigtarp ig neil barofsky is incoherent.” Mr. DeLong’s comment is: “read about how NB is incoherent.”

      How unreasonable is it to suppose that this “echo Calmes” was coordinated by the same office that wrote Calmes’ piece for her signature?

      DeLong’s pointed choice of “incoherent” is telling of how worried and “offended” the House of Geithner is over “Bailout.” Next, we can expect a Pharisee-leak operation where “incoherent” gets replaced with “mentally ill,” etc. I really hope not.

  26. marcusbalbus

    excellent piece. i gagged when reading the “review” today and was susupicious of its intent. NYT should be ashamed of itself.

  27. Kokuanani

    FYI – Barofsky will be at an on-line book salon @ Firedoglake on Sept. 22.

    Come on over to discuss his book with him. You don’t have to be registered @ FDL to follow the discussion, but you do have to be so to comment.

  28. joebhed

    Barofsky – “Fuggedaboutit, the bankers own this town – lock, stock, barrel, a.k.a. Your Congress.”

    Calmes – “A bi-partisan bitchin job about ordinary things”.

    Yves: – “Another partisan shooting of the messenger”.

    Bottom Line: “The bankers own this town!”

    For the Money System Common.

  29. JerseyLad

    An Obama apologist. Sad. We’re getting screwed by both parties. Time for a viable third party. Maybe 2016.

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