Duck! and Gather

Obama, Fitzgerald, Markopolos, Graham, and Lustrace Laws

Posted on: February 4, 2009

1:51 p.m. | Who is the enemy?: Mr. Ackerman continues blasting the S.E.C. and Mr. Vollmer. “Your contribution to this proceeding is zero,” he says. “We thought the enemy was Mr. Madoff. I think it’s you.”

(Here is the full C-SPAN video of the hearing.)

I have some advice for Mr. Obama. I’m sure he’s listening. 🙂 Here it is: “Barry, please follow the lead of the Germans who took over from the Nazis in the 1940s, and from the Eastern European democracies who took over from the communists after 1989. Implement some lustrace laws.”

Specifically, what I’d like to see is that for substantive appointments in the national government, exclude anyone who held a senior position in the national government since 1984 (i.e. prior cabinet executives, Congressmen, or Senators), and anyone who was a CEO, lobbyist, or board member of a corporation or industry of “significant” size.

Substantive appointments are those for positions that address a specific sector of American life. e.g. The Health Guy, the SEC guy, the envoy for a  specific country (e.g. Iran), etc. What positions does this leave out? General positions like Secretary of State, Chief of Staff, Attorney General, etc.

Lustrace laws like these worked well in the above-mentioned countries. Although these laws were harsh, and rough, they created enough space to allow those nations to break clean with their dark histories, and renew themselves.

We can see that such laws would be painful. For example, George Mitchell would need to be dinged as Mideast envoy (even though most of us think he was a wonderful pick).

But without political honchos and big-swinging-dick business people to pick from, who would that leave? I’ll give you three names:

  1. Patrick Fitzgerald
  2. Harry Markopolos
  3. David Graham

To learn a bit about what Markopolos did today to merit his position on this list, read this page. This page is some live blogging snippets by the New York Times concerning testimony today in Congress about the Madoff scandal. Markopolos is the would-be whistle-blower who was ignored by the SEC for nine years. For nine years, this guy was blowing the whistle on Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. For nine years, the SEC blew him off.

Read that page. Compare the testimony of Markopolos with that of the SEC staff. You will see the clearest sign yet of People vs. Corporations. The former is human; the latter is not. The former speaks for the rest of us; the latter speaks for some alien force that has invaded the body politic.

This People vs. Corporations dynamic in a Congressional hearing is not an unusual one. Over four years ago, an FDA scientist named David Graham got up in front of Congress and blew the whistle on the FDA in the middle of the hearing on Vioxx. Graham told Congress that, in so many words, the Pharmaceutical Corporations own the FDA, rendering the FDA worse than useless. After he spoke, the Corporations in the guise of FDA staff got up and defamed Graham. Nothing came out of it.

Graham was the Markopolos of 2004. Graham on Health; Markopolos on Finance. (Fitzgerald on Criminal Corruption.)

The most importance difference, however, was that in 2004, the Military Industrial Complex still owned the national government. Graham may as well have been speaking to a wall.

But this is 2009. And I still have a strong hunch that Obama is People, not Corporation. That’s why I think — rather hope — that the testimony of Markopolos will go further this time.

How far? Hopefully, toward the lustrace laws this nation badly needs.

With all the trouble Obama has run into these first two weeks appointing tax cheats to substantive roles, I’m hopeful that he’s gone back to the drawing board, working on rejiggering his vetting process.

What a perfect time for Obama to read this post. (Yeah, right.)

Mr. President, if you are looking for a new and better vetting system for your substantive appointments, please consider the lessons from history and implement some lustrace laws. Note that these laws cut across political party. So this would be consistent with your effort to overcome political polarization.

Think about it, man. As a side benefit, your approval rating would jump at least 20 points. You’d be in the territory that Bush was after 9/11. Thnk about it.

for the money has gone too far

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