Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Comment on Chris Hedges's "One Day We'll All Be Terrorists"

Chris Hedges has a disturbing essay on TruthDig.com surveying the US crimes against American citizen Syed Fahad Hashmi. My response directly below.

The Bush-Obama bailout of Wall Street, costing US (that's you and me), trillions proved that the United States is an Oligarchy. The coddling of health insurers further supports that conclusion.

The Bush-Obama assault on the rights of all people, including especially Citizens of the United States, is proof that the US is fast exiting its time as a democracy.

The question I return to again and again: Is Obama doing this intentionally? Some in the US are simply dogmatic true believers in the divine right of the few over the many. Others are merely craven, self-serving opportunists. My sense is that Obama is one of the latter -- one who knows he is acting against the common good, acting against the Constitution, but is determined to carry on because it serves his own vile self-interest.

Chris Hedges's essay:
One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists

Posted on Dec 28, 2009

By Chris Hedges

Syed Fahad Hashmi can tell you about the dark heart of America. He knows that our First Amendment rights have become a joke, that habeas corpus no longer exists and that we torture, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantánamo Bay, but also at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan. Hashmi is a U.S. citizen of Muslim descent imprisoned on two counts of providing and conspiring to provide material support and two counts of making and conspiring to make a contribution of goods or services to al-Qaida. As his case prepares for trial, his plight illustrates that the gravest threat we face is not from Islamic extremists, but the codification of draconian procedures that deny Americans basic civil liberties and due process. Hashmi would be a better person to tell you this, but he is not allowed to speak.

This corruption of our legal system, if history is any guide, will not be reserved by the state for suspected terrorists, or even Muslim Americans. In the coming turmoil and economic collapse, it will be used to silence all who are branded as disruptive or subversive. Hashmi endures what many others, who are not Muslim, will endure later. Radical activists in the environmental, globalization, anti-nuclear, sustainable agriculture and anarchist movements—who are already being placed by the state in special detention facilities with Muslims charged with terrorism—have discovered that his fate is their fate. Courageous groups have organized protests, including vigils outside the Manhattan detention facility. They can be found at www.educatorsforcivilliberties.org or www.freefahad.com. On Martin Luther King Day, this Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. EST, protesters will hold a large vigil in front of the MCC on 150 Park Row in Lower Manhattan to call for a return of our constitutional rights. Join them if you can.

The case against Hashmi, like most of the terrorist cases launched by the Bush administration, is appallingly weak and built on flimsy circumstantial evidence. This may be the reason the state has set up parallel legal and penal codes to railroad those it charges with links to terrorism. If it were a matter of evidence, activists like Hashmi, who is accused of facilitating the delivery of socks to al-Qaida, would probably never be brought to trial.

Hashmi, who if convicted could face up to 70 years in prison, has been held in solitary confinement for more than 2½ years. Special administrative measures, known as SAMs, have been imposed by the attorney general to prevent or severely restrict communication with other prisoners, attorneys, family, the media and people outside the jail. He also is denied access to the news and other reading material. Hashmi is not allowed to attend group prayer. He is subject to 24-hour electronic monitoring and 23-hour lockdown. He must shower and go to the bathroom on camera. He can write one letter a week to a single member of his family, but he cannot use more than three pieces of paper. He has no access to fresh air and must take his one hour of daily recreation in a cage. His “proclivity for violence” is cited as the reason for these measures although he has never been charged or convicted with committing an act of violence.

“My brother was an activist,” Hashmi’s brother, Faisal, told me by phone from his home in Queens. “He spoke out on Muslim issues, especially those dealing with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His arrest and torture have nothing to do with providing ponchos and socks to al-Qaida, as has been charged, but the manipulation of the law to suppress activists and scare the Muslim American community. My brother is an example. His treatment is meant to show Muslims what will happen to them if they speak about the plight of Muslims. We have lost every single motion to preserve my brother’s humanity and remove the special administrative measures. These measures are designed solely to break the psyche of prisoners and terrorize the Muslim community. These measures exemplify the malice towards Muslims at home and the malice towards the millions of Muslims who are considered as non-humans in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The extreme sensory deprivation used on Hashmi is a form of psychological torture, far more effective in breaking and disorienting detainees. It is torture as science. In Germany, the Gestapo broke bones while its successor, the communist East German Stasi, broke souls. We are like the Stasi. We have refined the art of psychological disintegration and drag bewildered suspects into secretive courts when they no longer have the mental and psychological capability to defend themselves.

“Hashmi’s right to a fair trial has been abridged,” said Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “Much of the evidence in the case has been classified under CIPA, and thus Hashmi has not been allowed to review it. The prosecution only recently turned over a significant portion of evidence to the defense. Hashmi may not communicate with the news media, either directly or through his attorneys. The conditions of his detention have impacted his mental state and ability to participate in his own defense.

“The prosecution’s case against Hashmi, an outspoken activist within the Muslim community, abridges his First Amendment rights and threatens the First Amendment rights of others,” Ratner added. “While Hashmi’s political and religious beliefs, speech and associations are constitutionally protected, the government has been given wide latitude by the court to use them as evidence of his frame of mind and, by extension, intent. The material support charges against him depend on criminalization of association. This could have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of others, particularly in activist and Muslim communities.”

Constitutionally protected statements, beliefs and associations can now become a crime. Dissidents, even those who break no laws, can be stripped of their rights and imprisoned without due process. It is the legal equivalent of preemptive war. The state can detain and prosecute people not for what they have done, or even for what they are planning to do, but for holding religious or political beliefs that the state deems seditious. The first of those targeted have been observant Muslims, but they will not be the last.

“Most of the evidence is classified,” Jeanne Theoharis, an associate professor of political science at Brooklyn College who taught Hashmi, told me, “but Hashmi is not allowed to see it. He is an American citizen. But in America you can now go to trial and all the evidence collected against you cannot be reviewed. You can spend 2½ years in solitary confinement before you are convicted of anything. There has been attention paid to extraordinary rendition, Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib with this false idea that if people are tried in the United States things will be fair. But what allowed Guantánamo to happen was the devolution of the rule of law here at home, and this is not only happening to Hashmi.”

Hashmi was, like so many of those arrested during the Bush years, briefly a poster child in the “war on terror.” He was apprehended in Britain on June 6, 2006, on a U.S. warrant. His arrest was the top story on the CBS and NBC nightly news programs, which used graphics that read “Terror Trail” and “Web of Terror.” He was held for 11 months at Belmarsh Prison in London and then became the first U.S. citizen to be extradited by Britain. The year before his arrest, Hashmi, a graduate of Brooklyn College, had completed his master’s degree in international relations at London Metropolitan University. His case has no more substance than the one against the seven men arrested on suspicion of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower, a case where, even though there were five convictions after two mistrials, an FBI deputy director acknowledged that the plan was more “aspirational rather than operational.” And it mirrors the older case of the Palestinian activist Sami Al-Arian, now under house arrest in Virginia, who has been hounded by the Justice Department although he should legally have been freed. Judge Leonie Brinkema, currently handling the Al-Arian case, in early March, questioned the U.S. attorney’s actions in Al-Arian’s plea agreement saying curtly: “I think there’s something more important here, and that’s the integrity of the Justice Department.”

The case against Hashmi revolves around the testimony of Junaid Babar, also an American citizen. Babar, in early 2004, stayed with Hashmi at his London apartment for two weeks. In his luggage, the government alleges, Babar had raincoats, ponchos and waterproof socks, which Babar later delivered to a member of al-Qaida in south Waziristan, Pakistan. It was alleged that Hashmi allowed Babar to use his cell phone to call conspirators in other terror plots.

“Hashmi grew up here, was well known here, was very outspoken, very charismatic and very political,” said Theoharis. “This is really a message being sent to American Muslims about the cost of being politically active. It is not about delivering alleged socks and ponchos and rain gear. Do you think al-Qaida can’t get socks and ponchos in Pakistan? The government is planning to introduce tapes of Hashmi’s political talks while he was at Brooklyn College at the trial. Why are we willing to let this happen? Is it because they are Muslims, and we think it will not affect us? People who care about First Amendment rights should be terrified. This is one of the crucial civil rights issues of our time. We ignore this at our own peril.”

Babar, who was arrested in 2004 and has pleaded guilty to five counts of material support for al-Qaida, also faces up to 70 years in prison. But he has agreed to serve as a government witness and has already testified for the government in terror trials in Britain and Canada. Babar will receive a reduced sentence for his services, and many speculate he will be set free after the Hashmi trial. Since there is very little evidence to link Hashmi to terrorist activity, the government will rely on Babar to prove intent. This intent will revolve around alleged conversations and statements Hashmi made in Babar’s presence. Hashmi, who was a member of the New York political group Al Muhajiroun as a student at Brooklyn College, has made provocative statements, including calling America “the biggest terrorist in the world,” but Al Muhajiroun is not defined by the government as a terrorist organization. Membership in the group is not illegal. And our complicity in acts of state terror is a historical fact.

There will be more Hashmis, and the Justice Department, planning for future detentions, set up in 2006 a segregated facility, the Communication Management Unit, at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. Nearly all the inmates transferred to Terre Haute are Muslims. A second facility has been set up at Marion, Ill., where the inmates again are mostly Muslim but also include a sprinkling of animal rights and environmental activists, among them Daniel McGowan, who was charged with two arsons at logging operations in Oregon. His sentence was given “terrorism enhancements” under the Patriot Act. Amnesty International has called the Marion prison facility “inhumane.” All calls and mail—although communication customarily is off-limits to prison officials—are monitored in these two Communication Management Units. Communication among prisoners is required to be only in English. The highest-level terrorists are housed at the Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, known as Supermax, in Florence, Colo., where prisoners have almost no human interaction, physical exercise or mental stimulation, replicating the conditions for most of those held at Guantánamo. If detainees are transferred from Guantánamo to the prison in Thomson, Ill., they will find little change. They will endure Guantánamo-like conditions in colder weather.

Our descent is the familiar disease of decaying empires. The tyranny we impose on others we finally impose on ourselves. The influx of non-Muslim American activists into these facilities is another ominous development. It presages the continued dismantling of the rule of law, the widening of a system where prisoners are psychologically broken by sensory deprivation, extreme isolation and secretive kangaroo courts where suspects are sentenced on rumors and innuendo and denied the right to view the evidence against them. Dissent is no longer the duty of the engaged citizen but is becoming an act of terrorism.

Chris Hedges, whose column is published on Truthdig every Monday, spent two decades as a foreign reporter covering wars in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. He has written nine books, including “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (2009) and “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” (2003).

Stanley Fish on Divine Vengeance!

December 29th's New York Times has Stanley Fish considering the joys of divine vengeance in film — the license we are granted to relish violence in film when the perpetrator is unqualifiedly justified because of some awful wrong done him or her. My response below.
Great topic. Let's not forget the leading advocate of divine justice is the God of Judeo-Christian religion.

Vengeance is arguably one of two Great Motives in film, the other being love. Vengeance and violence are uniformly just in war films, especially if the war involves the US. Can any of us imagine a war film showing the US as fundamentally morally awful? If the US is at war, in fact or fiction, it is taken as axiomatic that the violence is just. Today, we even get POV reality footage of 'surgical strikes' -- surgeons are engaged in violent acts, are they (!)

Much sci fi involves sublime violence — Wars or the Worlds.

In some films, the vengeance is explicitly granted divine status -- take The Crow, with Brandon Lee, who died in a _representation_ of violence.

Look at the entire oeuvre of Quentin Tarantino, who perfectly mashes the fine line between justice and absurdity. Lucy Liu's character in Kill Bill begins as a victim on a divine quest and becomes a violent beast.

I think my personal favorite is Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, which does a pretty good job (the best I can recall) of stripping away the veneer of justice. A woman horribly wronged, and an assortment of entirely unrelated men setting out to balance the scales of justice -- for money. Each of these men with his own vile violent past, including Clint Eastwood's Will Munny (hint hint), who of all the assassin's has the most terrible past.

And then there's Hamlet.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Roger Cohen in Defends the Faith of The New York Times

Roger Cohen offered a weak essay lauding the wonders of America. He was inundated with criticism. He responded with a tip of the cap and further defenses. Here, my response.

Dear Mr. Cohen:

Perhaps you can answer how the Times decides when to end new comments on op-ed essays. My guess is that the Times reacts against critical trends, and it's understandable why responses to you recent essays are overwhelmingly critical.

To be blunt, you sound like a 5th grade school teacher -- in keeping with a newspaper that doesn't remotely measure up to the standards it claims to set. More like Defender of the Faith than a defender of America.

The US has military bases in how many countries? One hundred fifty? More? The nation has been at war _continuously_ for over sixty years (undeclared and arguably all unconstitutional). No Third World War? Tell that to Vietnamese, Iraqis, Iranians, Cambodians, Laotians, Chileans, Guatemalans, Nicaraguans, Timorese....

Racism towards Arabs (whom you neglect to mention in your quasi-mea culpa) is soaring. Members of Congress brazenly tar all Arabs, all Muslims.

Two successive administrations, including the one hailed as the most liberal in generations, have missed _no_ opportunity to attack civil liberties. Civil liberties "haltingly advanced"? Obama is halting, not advancing.

As your colleague Paul Krugman and many other moderates and liberals have noted, the US is substantively an oligarchy. The "American dream" is dying. Wealth rules, with the eager support of all three branches of government, including, again, the "most liberal" President Obama. The president has acted to advance poverty and inequality, which are growing rapidly.

Though environmental disasters are widely recognized, the government and people show, at best, blithe indifference. Perhaps on no other count can the worst of the US be seen. The Times takes part as it focuses attention on China, though the US towers in its responsibility for ecological catastrophe. The US has repeatedly fought legislation in Europe to regulate GM foods, pesticides and plastics. Some aim.

We are indeed heirs of fortitude and foresight. Obama shows NO sign of heeding this. And you do nothing for future progress by carrying on the grade school teacher's mission of indoctrination.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ten Year Old Girl Surprised by Her Daddy's Return from Iraq

Does Obama have the decency or courage to view something like this? His own daughters are 8 and 11 years old.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bill Moyers Interviews Matt Taibbi and Robert Kuttner

Below, my response to Bill Moyers's interview with Matt Taibbi and Robert Kuttner on Friday, 18 December. I'll post a link to the video when it is available.

Robert Kuttner is wrong in his assessment of Obama.

1. Obama is not so intelligent, at least not in the way that the US needs. (Obama is very smart when it comes to pleasing those in power.) As Tony Judt notes in the current New York Review of Books, the principle (perhaps only) criterion of policy evaluation is economic -- will the policy serve/make money (to put it a little too simply). Obama is squarely inside this school of 'thought'. He does not consider whether a policy is morally right or wrong. He just doesn't.

2. I believe that the largest private donor to Obama's campaign is not Goldman Sachs, but Harvard University. Granted, Harvard probably doesn't donate with the single-mindedness that Goldman does, but this does point to a largely unexamined component in the current disaster -- the role of Harvard Business School (More than Chicago, these days, the center of right-wing economics) and Harvard Law School (where Obama learned his 'obedience to authority').

The role of 'leading' universities in indoctrinating people into patterns of obedience to power cannot be overstated. This is no conspiracy theory but simply an observation of social fact.

3. In May 2008, Penn professor Adolph Reed wrote of Obama (whom he knew personally in Chicago) as a "vacuous opportunist, a good performer with an ear for how to make white liberals like him." This strikes me as right on the mark. Frankly, I think Obama is ripe for Freudian analysis. His father abandoned him when he was very young. He no doubt blamed himself, as children do. Now he is stuck in a pattern of endlessly trying to please those he perceives as superiors. In this regard, he bears a striking similarity to Bill Clinton.

4. From a vaguely scientific standpoint, the question is: What explains Obama's unbroken pattern of saying one thing to the public and doing another in private, of caving to power and wealth (if it really is caving, as opposed to Obama carrying out what was always his intended program).

5. Unlike Matt Taibbi and Robert Kuttner, I have almost no confidence that a social movement will rise up to force change. The US is a strange combination of the beaten down peasantry of 18th Century Eastern Europe and the violently jingoistic nationalism of Russia, China, Israel and (of course) the US itself. Dissent, especially public assembly, is — de facto — being criminalized in the US. Rights guaranteed us by the Constitution are being taken away by the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, by police forces and local policies across the country, by ever-growing and oppressive surveillance of our daily activity. We have a Supreme Court and a lower court structure that systematically rules in favor of power at the expense of The People.

The US is in very serious trouble. It really cannot be overstated. And this says nothing of equal or greater troubles on the environmental front, where Obama is also failing terribly.

My feeling is that the US is exiting its Age of Democracy. In the future, people will think of the US as a "Constitutional Democracy" in much the way we today speak of Britain being a Constitutional Monarchy. The US will be a democracy in a minimally legal sense, but it will be an oligarchy in practice and fact. Arguably, this is already the case.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Our Place in the Universe

Great visualization of our place in the universe developed by the Hayden Planetarium and The American Museum of Natural History.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Recent Web Bites

"If you're so rich, how come you're so dumb." — Paul Samuelson

"The Wall Street shenanigans are much worse" than in the Great Depression. "Fiendish, financial Frankenstein monsters." — Paul Samuelson

A key problem in US politics: Fear & ignorance (commom in dictatorships) are deemed standard political tools, esp by rightwing.

Another Bicyclist Killed in New York: DJ Reverend Soul (Solange Raulston) Killed in Greenpoint, Struck by Truck http://bit.ly/6WmmyT

US talks endlessly re 'responsibility.' -> neocon/neolib newspeak for "poor, middle class & disadvantaged pick up tab for rich & big biz"

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Power concedes nothing w/o a demand. It never did & it never will. — Frederick Douglass

The US blathers about Iraq et al 'stepping up to the plate.' Will the US do so on climate or is it just more American hot air? @whitehouse

Brooklyn - School bus runs crosswalk in front of school while kids are crossing. Driver is on cellphone. [8:20 Monday morning, 14 December]

Pentagon asssumes the worst treating climate change as security threat. Conservatives assume worst on war, Why not on climate?

US says it won't sign on at Copenhagen unless there're binding rules for developing nations. Funny, US always wants voluntary for Big Biz.

On 60 Minutes, Obama said he'd know by end of 2010 if his Afghanistan plan is working.... around about Tuesday, Nov. 2nd.

Outraged Brits want Blair Prosecuted 4 War Crimes: http://bit.ly/8RMGLX Bush's poodle admits he'd have supported war knowing Iraq had no WMD

RT @NYTimeskrugman Disaster and Denial: "I actually believed that influential people could be moved by evidence." http://bit.ly/8VGFrC

AlterNet Robert Reich: How a Few Private Health Insurers Are on the Way to Controlling Health Care http://bit.ly/8fDvWU

doctorow Open Colour Standard http://tinyurl.com/y8hnlyb has wide-reaching consequences for what we wear, what we see, what we pay

haaretzonline Jewish town won't let Arab build home on his own land http://bit.ly/6F0Xxs

US response to Amanda Knox verdict = A vicious, xenophobic attack on Italian justice | Marcel Berlins http://bit.ly/7uqXiw via @GuardianUSA

World to be Protected from Knowledge of Tony Blair's War Crimes! http://bit.ly/6cYyuM Bush's Poodle Will Give Evidence in Secret.

Hopenhagen? Ha! The folks in Europe don't have a friggin' clue about Obama. (photo) http://tinyurl.com/ycdaygt

NYTimeskrugman Paul Samuelson, RIP http://bit.ly/6I8Gir

seasonothebitch "To be 'realistic' in dealing with a problem is to work only among the alternatives which the most powerful in society put forth." — Zinn

@MargaretAtwood Sobering Monsanto exposé, preview of DNA-based capitalism: http://bit.ly/61mBir /better livin thru Frankenseeds

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Haves Arm Themselves

Barack Obama's good friends at Goldman Sachs are picking up handguns to "defend themselves if there is a populist uprising against the bank." Evidently, Michael Moore and the public whose views Moore's captures have the US-endorsed robber barons spooked.

Seriously, this extraordinary in a city in which the mayor has repeatedly railed against guns, especially handguns.

Here, the essay from Bloomberg News:
“I just wrote my first reference for a gun permit,” said a friend, who told me of swearing to the good character of a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker who applied to the local police for a permit to buy a pistol. The banker had told this friend of mine that senior Goldman people have loaded up on firearms and are now equipped to defend themselves if there is a populist uprising against the bank.

I called Goldman Sachs spokesman Lucas van Praag to ask whether it’s true that Goldman partners feel they need handguns to protect themselves from the angry proletariat. He didn’t call me back. The New York Police Department has told me that “as a preliminary matter” it believes some of the bankers I inquired about do have pistol permits. The NYPD also said it will be a while before it can name names.

While we wait, Goldman has wrapped itself in the flag of Warren Buffett, with whom it will jointly donate $500 million, part of an effort to burnish its image -- and gain new Goldman clients. Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein also reversed himself after having previously called Goldman’s greed “God’s work” and apologized earlier this month for having participated in things that were “clearly wrong.”

Has it really come to this? Imagine what emotions must be billowing through the halls of Goldman Sachs to provoke the firm into an apology. Talk that Goldman bankers might have armed themselves in self-defense would sound ludicrous, were it not so apt a metaphor for the way that the most successful people on Wall Street have become a target for public rage.

Pistol Ready

Common sense tells you a handgun is probably not even all that useful. Suppose an intruder sneaks past the doorman or jumps the security fence at night. By the time you pull the pistol out of your wife’s jewelry safe, find the ammunition, and load your weapon, Fifi the Pomeranian has already been taken hostage and the gun won’t do you any good. As for carrying a loaded pistol when you venture outside, dream on. Concealed gun permits are almost impossible for ordinary citizens to obtain in New York or nearby states.

In other words, a little humility and contrition are probably the better route.

Until a couple of weeks ago, that was obvious to everyone but Goldman, a firm famous for both prescience and arrogance. In a display of both, Blankfein began to raise his personal- security threat level early in the financial crisis. He keeps a summer home near the Hamptons, where unrestricted public access would put him at risk if the angry mobs rose up and marched to the East End of Long Island.

To the Barricades

He tried to buy a house elsewhere without attracting attention as the financial crisis unfolded in 2007, a move that was foiled by the New York Post. Then, Blankfein got permission from the local authorities to install a security gate at his house two months before Bear Stearns Cos. collapsed.

This is the kind of foresight that Goldman Sachs is justly famous for. Blankfein somehow anticipated the persecution complex his fellow bankers would soon suffer. Surely, though, this man who can afford to surround himself with a private army of security guards isn’t sleeping with the key to a gun safe under his pillow. The thought is just too bizarre to be true.

So maybe other senior people at Goldman Sachs have gone out and bought guns, and they know something. But what?

Henry Paulson, U.S. Treasury secretary during the bailout and a former Goldman Sachs CEO, let it slip during testimony to Congress last summer when he explained why it was so critical to bail out Goldman Sachs, and -- oh yes -- the other banks. People “were unhappy with the big discrepancies in wealth, but they at least believed in the system and in some form of market-driven capitalism. But if we had a complete meltdown, it could lead to people questioning the basis of the system.”

Torn Curtain

There you have it. The bailout was meant to keep the curtain drawn on the way the rich make money, not from the free market, but from the lack of one. Goldman Sachs blew its cover when the firm’s revenue from trading reached a record $27 billion in the first nine months of this year, and a public that was writhing in financial agony caught on that the profits earned on taxpayer capital were going to pay employee bonuses.

This slip-up let the other bailed-out banks happily hand off public blame to Goldman, which is unpopular among its peers because it always seems to win at everyone’s expense.

Plenty of Wall Streeters worry about the big discrepancies in wealth, and think the rise of a financial industry-led plutocracy is unjust. That doesn’t mean any of them plan to move into a double-wide mobile home as a show of solidarity with the little people, though.

Cool Hand Lloyd

No, talk of Goldman and guns plays right into the way Wall- Streeters like to think of themselves. Even those who were bailed out believe they are tough, macho Clint Eastwoods of the financial frontier, protecting the fistful of dollars in one hand with the Glock in the other. The last thing they want is to be so reasonably paid that the peasants have no interest in lynching them.

And if the proles really do appear brandishing pitchforks at the doors of Park Avenue and the gates of Round Hill Road, you can be sure that the Goldman guys and their families will be holed up in their safe rooms with their firearms. If nothing else, that pistol permit might go part way toward explaining why they won’t be standing outside with the rest of the crowd, broke and humiliated, saying, “Damn, I was on the wrong side of a trade with Goldman again.”

(Alice Schroeder, author of “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life” and a former managing director at Morgan Stanley, is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Alice Schroeder at aliceschroeder@ymail.com.