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JoePa Gets Fired

You watch. Now that they've canned Joe Paterno, they'll pull the statue down at Penn State. And once they do, moralizing media folk will up and stomp all over it, just like the Iraqis did to Saddam Hussein.

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What is it that rankles me about Penn State firing the 84 year old Nittany Lions head coach? Why should it even register? I don't know anything about college football, and had you asked me a month ago who Joe Paterno is, I would have drawn a blank. That is, until he became national villain of the week....the top, if not the only, news story for that short time. Then everybody knew who he was, even me.

It was Gunsmoke's Matt Dillon, believe it or not, who put this all into focus for me. ME TV runs that old show locally for the benefit of those steadily closing in on geezerhood... guys like me. A recent episode features a “strict, but honest” agent from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, who has stirred up all kinds of mischief toward local Indians. At show's end, however, he has an epiphany. Why... he's been wrong all along....the Indians are in the right! Full of remorse, he tells Marshall Matt Dillon that he'll tender his resignation to the Bureau tomorrow. But Matt replies something like.....get this....."I don't think that will be necessary. It takes a big man to admit he was wrong, and it looks to me that you're just the right man for this job.”

That would never happen today. Back when that show was filmed you could blunder for the longest time, yet be redeemed in a second by heartfelt repentance. Today it's the exact opposite. You can serve nobly for the longest time, yet be trashed without redemption for a single misstep. Isn't that why nobody knows anything today? One mistake in word or deed, and it's “off with his head!” leaving only inexperienced clods running the show.

Now, Joe Paterno's decades-long performance as Penn State's head coach has been impeccable, without blemish. Nobody says otherwise. In a world routinely rocked by scandal and exploitation, he's kept his program clean. A few excerpts on the man, from the website GoPSUSports.com:

"He's putting together this winning program, but meanwhile he's teaching 17-, 18-, 19-year olds how not to screw their lives up, how important education is, how important it is to have social acumen," All-America linebacker Greg Buttle told the San Antonio Express-News in 2007.Joe_Paterno_Sideline_PSU-Illinois_2006

Obviously not a person of misplaced priorities, Paterno always has concentrated on seeing that his student-athletes attend class, devote the proper time to studies and graduate with a meaningful degree. He often has said he measures team success not by athletic prowess but by the number of productive citizens who make a contribution to society.

He is, simply put, the most successful coach in the history of college football -- a fact that was validated during the 2001 season when he moved past Paul "Bear" Bryant to become the leader in career wins by a major college coach. He also is one of the most admired figures in college athletics, an acknowledged icon whose influence extends well beyond the white chalk lines of the football field.

In an exceptional display of generosity and affection for Penn State, Paterno; his wife, Sue, and their five children announced a contribution of $3.5 million to the University in 1998, bringing Paterno's lifetime giving total to more than $4 million. The gift was believed to be, Penn State Vice President for Development Rod Kirsch said, "the most generous ever made by a collegiate coach and his family to a university.

 

Okay. Got it? He's a good guy. A role model. A name you could fling back at smart-alecks when they tell you smugly that “nice guys always finish last.” What could possibly cause a man like this to be sacked in disgrace?

Joe's sin is that he heard an allegation of child sexual abuse nine years ago and reported it to his bosses, as he was legally obligated to do. But now, nine years later, the report appears to be true. An assistant coach running a separate private charity is accused of abusing seven children....maybe more. As though Joe should have foreseen this, the charge is made: why didn't he do more? Why didn't he go straight to the police with the allegation, Surely.....hang whatever the law says.....going just to his bosses was not enough!

Today in the United States, tracking down pedophiles has become a national obsession, if not hysteria. They're not easy to track. Pedophiles don't drool or act perverted. They fit right in with respectable society. And they are seemingly everywhere. Now one has been found right among Penn State's own staff. So Joe is out. He should have known, he should have acted, he should have gone beyond the law, so the feeling goes.

What of his sterling record? USA Today calls him a “man who set the standard for ethical behavior in the tawdry world of college football,” and  “he kept the program's reputation clean — remarkably so for a program that made its home in the national ranking” for all of his 46 year tenure. Doesn't mean a thing.

What of his remorse? "This is a tragedy," he's said. "It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more." Doesn't cut it, Joe. This is not a Matt Dillon Gunsmoke world. This is a new “gotcha” world, where folks delight in taking down public figures.

What of loyalty for past service? Not a bit of it. Tolerance for human error or weakness? Nope.

 What of this verse? Doesn't it apply somehow: "Why, then, do you look at the straw in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the rafter in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Allow me to extract the straw from your eye’; when, look! a rafter is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First extract the rafter from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to extract the straw from your brother’s eye."  (Matt 7:3-5)  No, it doesn't apply. Not anymore. People do nothing but point fingers today, totally ignoring (as everyone's mother used to say) that when you point a finger, three fingers are pointing back at you.

When news broke that Joe had been fired, those who knew him best, those who'd been most positively influenced by his lifelong integrity...namely, the Penn State student body....responded in a quite predictable way: they rioted. Mobs of kids took to the streets shouting “We want Joe!” They pulled down lampposts. They overturned a TV truck, thinking (probably correctly) that it represented those hoping to turn local events into a national circus. It took cops in riot gear to send everyone home.

 

Now, the other side of the coin is the ongoing battle to stamp out child abuse. And don't get me wrong. It's a worthy battle. No one's saying that those who molest children ought not be punished. No one's saying that those legally obligated to report allegations ought not be called to account if they fail to do it. Joe acquits himself well here. His flaw is not legal, for he did everything legally required. His flaw is said to be “moral,” since the legal answer didn't take the alleged pedophile out of circulation. Moreover you run a huge risk defending anyone who's perceived to have fallen short in any way in the fight against child sexual abuse. “So you approve of child sexual abuse yourself, do you, Sheepandgoats?” they'll say. “Are you also a pervert?” Or, what about the people you hang out with? Do they approve of perverts?” I tell you, it's risky. The media certainly took no such risks. They scolded Joe at every turn, overlooking his irreproachable career, overlooking the three fingers pointing back at themselves.

But there's a reason you turn a “moral” obligation into a legal one. It's because the “moral” course to take is often highly subjective. People don't reach identical conclusions. Harping on one's “moral” obligation allows for Monday morning quarterbacks to attribute motives...invariably bad ones....though they know nothing of the actual circumstances. All Joe did was fail to relate an inspecific allegation directly to the police. I don't like to assume that when someone does that it betrays that they don't give a hoot about protecting kids. After all, people routinely ignore warnings when their own lives are at stake...evacuation orders in the face of impending natural disaster, for instance. God help us if we someday decide automatically notifying police is the gold standard in other arenas of life, say in the event of a traffic accident. It won't be enough to assume one of the ten cars already stopped will have called 911. You'll also have to stop and do it yourself, or else fail your “moral” obligation and have your license revoked.

Anyone my age remembers when you never ever heard of child sexual abuse, and thus assumed it didn't happen. And how within ten years, proven allegations had vaulted it to chief national evil, eclipsing any other wrongdoing. I mean, it took a staggeringly short time to go from unheard of to #1. Now, I don't disparage it's newly revised status...I really don't, but people don't turn on a dime. And the older the person is, the more time the pivot takes. I can readily picture Joe saying “Look, I'm not a pervert. I don't like perverts. I don't hang out with perverts. I never knew there were many perverts. And yet now all of us are on “pervert alert,” with everybody under suspicion!” Now, as it turns out, we are on pervert alert here, but it takes an 84 year old awhile to get his head around it. For crying out loud, Joe remembers (as do I) when you swam nude in the YMCA pool, boys and men alike, with no thought of impropriety whatsoever. A letter (11/16/11) to USA Today states: I'm sure my father would have done exactly as Paterno did [being a product of his time], notifying only his superiors, and he also probably would be as dumbfounded about the outcome of events as Paterno might be.” Yep. Same with my dad.

The times they are a changing, and you'd better keep up. That's Paterno's real sin: being a relic of the past. Seething with moral outrage, USA Today asks searing (in their opinion) questions, such as “Why didn't Paterno notify law enforcement of the 2002 shower-room incident? Was he protecting his saintly image as "JoePa"...." [No you moralizing idiots! If he was protecting his saintly image, he would have reported it, for nothing is more saintly these days then turning in a molester. And he did turn him in, so he likely thought, by relating it to the ones with legal responsibility.]

The newspaper continues: "Or was he blinded by a 30-year friendship with Sandusky and unable to believe he could do such a thing?” Notice here how friendship is portrayed as a flaw, as if life would be so much better if we dropped that antiquated custom and treated everyone as a suspect. Look, sometimes friendship can blind one to the faults of another, perhaps it did so in this case, but it will be a sad [though predictable] day if we fail to cut a person slack for that shortcoming.

But the thinking that prevails today is expressed in another letter (also 11/16/11) to USA Today: “I find it heartbreaking that those college kids reacted to finding out that their hero inadequately addressed allegations of child abuse by rioting in support of him instead of rising up against him. [rising up against him! Why not also lynch him?] As a base human reaction, that is disgusting.” Another source says that, instead of defending Joe, they should have been aghast for the seven victims. Yes, that's how people think today.

But it's just possible that those students, the ones who knew Joe best, realized 1) that Joe's role in the abuse was zero, and his role otherwise, if he even had one, was very limited, 2) that he apologized sincerely, 3) that he has four and a half decades of sterling service to his credit, plus 4) he's given millions of dollars to both university and community in his lifetime, 5) that tens of thousands of people die each day, butchered or starved through human depravity, with no one at all held accountable. And perhaps even 6) that they themselves will graduate tens of thousands of dollars in debt with few job prospects in sight, victims of a worldwide fraud, also with no one being held accountable, fraud aided and abetted by today's leaders. In other words, those seven victims, bad as the crimes against them are, are hardly the only ones victimized by human wickedness, so as to be the undisputed focus of national attention.

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Starting with Prince, a fierce and frolicking defense of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A riotous romp through their way of life. “We have become a theatrical spectacle in the world, and to angels and to men,” the Bible verse says. That being the case, let’s give them some theater! Let’s skewer the liars who slander the Christ! Let’s pull down the house on the axis lords! Let the seed-pickers unite!

 

 

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Inside Job ....the Movie

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! Matt damonMatt Damon wants to interview me. ME! He'll autograph one of his pictures, and (blush) he'll probably want one of my own. After all, he's reached the top of his field and I've reached the top of mine.
 
 But wait! Matt Damon is interviewer for a movie called Inside Job. Inside Job
About root causes of the 2008 financial collapse! [the one replaying in Europe at this writing] Aren't you worried he may ask embarrassing questions?
 
Nah! He's just a dumb actor. What does he know? I'll razzle-dazzle him. He may be good at pretending to be a successful person, but I'm the real thing! He'll be thrilled to meet me. Not a problem. I'll generously grant him a few minutes of my time.
 
But it turns out that Mr. Damon's not so dumb after all. Plus he's a quick study. Plus he's been coached by the best. It's just my guess, but I think the filmmaker used him as bait, to lure in unsuspecting hotshots. You never see his face, just like in the old days when you never saw a newspersons's face....before they immodestly decided that they themselves were also news and so had to have their mugs on screen. But with Mr. Damon, it's back to the old ways...you never see him, you only hear his voice.
 
And if Glenn Hubbard [chief economic adviser to the Bush administration, and Dean of Columbia Business School] fell for the Damon bait, I've no doubt he's lived to regret it! “This is not a deposition, sir,” the cornered Hubbard huffs, getting hot under Damon's unrelenting questions. “I was polite enough to give you time, foolishly, I now see. But you have three more minutes. Give it your best shot!”
 
I knew he was toast the moment he said it! If only I could have warned him! Words like that don't work. I know, because years ago I used those exact same words on Mrs. Sheepandgoats when she was ragging on about some shortcomings she imagined I had. It's amazing what a woman can do in three minutes!
 
But Mr. Hubbard is not the film's villain. Not by any stretch. He has a role, but it's only a tiny one. He's in a cozy “you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours” society, that's all, which nets him a good chunk of change. ($100,000 to testify in defense of a couple hedge fund managers, who were nonetheless convicted of fraud) But that's very small potatoes compared to the massive misdoings that Inside Job lays bare. All the really big fish were smart enough to lay low...they weren't taken in by any 'oh boy!....lets talk to Matt Damon!' ploy. They have enough dough to buy and sell a hundred Matt Damons.
 
With patient clarity, Inside Job lays out what led up to financial disaster in 2008. “This crisis was not an accident,” the film asserts. “It was caused by an out-of-control industry. Since the 1980s, the rise of the U.S. financial sector has led to a series of increasingly severe financial crises. Each crisis has caused more damage, while the industry has made more and more money.”
 
Back in the day, the film explains, if you wanted to buy a house, you approached a bank for a loan. That's what I did. And then for the next 'what seemed a lifetime' you'd pay off your mortgage. The bank was careful loaning you money, because it was their money. They wouldn't loan it if they thought you might not pay it back. Isn't that simple? It had been that way forever.
 
But starting in the 1980's investment banks went public, raising millions from the stock market, and came up with new ideas to make money. Since Americans had never defaulted on their mortgages....I mean, who wants to lose their home?...even in times of crisis, it was the absolute last expense one would renege on......why not buy those mortgages from whoever wrote them, then sell them to investors in the stock market, reaping a fat commission on the way? Of course, no investor's going to buy a single mortgage, but if you bundled them up several thousand at a time, then it became something people would invest in! Brilliant! Profitable! A win-win! Well.....maybe not that last adjective. Does anyone see the flaw?
 
See, the mortgage writer held that mortgage for only a short time. He sold it to an investment bank straight away, who also held it only a short time. The bank put it on the stock market for individual investors to purchase. So, in time, it occurred to these two middlemen that they needn't worry too much about whether the mortgage could be repaid, so long as they could stick it to some investor further down the line, who was removed from the original translation and might just assume it was sound investment! Especially if outside authorities....call them rating agencies....like Moody's, Fitch, and S&P....assured them that those investments were absolute rock-solid. Rating agencies did just that! After all, they drew their fees from those very same investment banks bundling the mortgages, and money blinds people. If they ever came to have misgivings as the mortgage quality deteriorated, they chose to look the other way. Such investments enjoyed the highest ratings right up until they crashed.
 
And crash they did. Enticed by fat commissions, and over the span of two decades, it became easier and easier to get a mortgage. People could do it with limited income, sometimes even with no income, since it got so that oftentimes nobody bothered to check if the applicant was creditworthy or not. Home prices began rising so quickly that people would buy one, even if they couldn't quite afford it, with the notion that they could flip it for a big profit in just a few months!
 
Here's Alan Sloan, senior editor of Fortune Magazine, interviewed by Inside Job:
 
“A friend of mine, who, who's involved in a company that has a big financial presence, said: Well, it's about time you learned about subprime mortgages. So he set up a session with his trading desk and me; and, and a techie, who, who did all this – gets very excited; runs to his computer; pulls up, in about three seconds, this Goldman Sachs issue of securities. It was a complete disaster. Borrowers had borrowed, on average, 99.3 percent of the price of the house. Which means they have no money in the house. If anything goes wrong, they're gonna walk away from the mortgage. This is not a loan you'd really make, right? You've gotta be crazy. But somehow, you took 8,000 of these loans; and by the time the guys were done at Goldman Sachs and the rating agencies, two-thirds of the loans were rated AAA, which meant they were rated as safe as government securities. It's, it's utterly mad.”
 
They were called CDOs, “collateralized debt obligations.”
 
Didn't I write here back in 2008 about a couple of “douchebags” (not my word) who made a fortune writing “toxic” mortgages like this? Eventually, word got out that, contrary to the theorists, that people were defaulting in droves, and the entire market crashed.
 
But there's more. By 2006, the big investment banks realized the CDOs they sold were risky and might fail, so they began buying insurance, called credit default swaps, (CDS) from AIG Insurance, so that they would reap a profit if the CDO's really did go bust. Obviously, they stopped selling those toxic CDOs, right? Nope. All the while they continued to market CDOs as a high-quality investment! Meanwhile, they continued to buy CDSs till it dawned on them that AIG itself might go bust (which did happen). So they insured against even that! Is it any wonder I launched my ill-fated service presentation about “big-time bankers?”
 
But wait! Could all this possibly happen under the watchful eye of regulators? Again and again, Inside Job reveals how regulators saw all this developing....and did nothing. One such regulator, a former Fed banker, is convulsed with the worse case of the stammers I've ever seen trying to explain his role to Matt Damon:
 
“So, uh, again, I, I don't know the details, in terms of, of, uh, of, um – uh, in fact, I, I just don't – I, I – eh, eh, whatever information he provide, I'm not sure exactly, I, eh, uh – it's, it's actually, to be honest with you, I can't remember the, the, this kind of discussion. But certainly, uh, there, there were issues that were, uh, uh, coming up.”
 
 
 
There's not just bad guys in the film. There's good guys too. And one of the good guys is someone we've long thought was a bad guy, after initially thinking him a good one! Elliot Spitzer! SpitzerI have a whole blog category about him, which I was about to phase out, until this movie hit the screens. He was New York's governor for a short time, the state's potential saviour (and does it ever need one). Almost single-handedly, as New York's attorney general, he took on these defrauders himself. He had to do it almost single-handedly, because nobody else would co-operate. Says he in the film: “The regulators didn't do their job. They, they had the power to do every case that I made when I was state attorney general. They just didn't want to.” It arguably was not even Spitzer's business, or at least not his mainline business, for Wall Street dealings came first under the scrutiny of the Securities and Exchange commission. (SEC) But they so glaringly neglected the job, that Elliot Spitzer stepped in.
 
“There is a sensibility that you don't use people's – uh, personal vices in the context of Wall Street cases, necessarily, to get them to flip. I think maybe it's, after the cataclysms that we've been through, maybe people will reevaluate that. I'm, I'm not the one to pass judgment on that right now.”
 
There's also Kristin Davis, Kristin daviswho ran a prostitution ring from her high rise apartment. She details the “personal vices” of her thousands of Wall St clients, so that we see Mr. Spitzer's carrying on was by no means unusual for the culture he was operating in. But he was the “good guy,” and I suppose you do expect the good guys to be good. Ms Davis also emerges as a good guy, since she spills the beans on the collasol debauchery of the Street.
 
 
The top investment bank execs all steered clear of Matt Damon, correctly smelling a rat, but they couldn't really avoid Congress. The film provides footage of these big-time bankers being grilled by various legislators. Watch em squirm! It's lots of fun. But don't kid yourself. They only squirm to a point. And a little squirming can be endured if you're nonetheless walking off with a personal profit of millions, even billions of dollars.
 
Another aspect of them film which has a curious effect: Whenever you see a picture of some people and one of them is the United States President, and the camera begins to zoom in, you know it's going to zoom in on the President, until presently the other nobodies fall of the frame. Inside Job zooms in on the other guys, all high-powered banking types who, the inference is clear, are really running the show. Here is footage of Ronald Reagan and his Treasury Secretary, former Morgan Stanley CEO Donald Regan, and it is Regan who is the focus. There is Bill Clinton side by side with his Secretary Treasurer, then Goldman Sachs CEO Robert Rubin, and it is Rubin who takes the spotlight. Ditto for George W Bush and later Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson; the same for Barack Obama and Tim Geithner, former President of the New York Federal Reserve branch. Who isn't reminded of Amschel Rothschild's words almost two centuries ago: "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who makes its laws." Democrats in power? Republicans? Doesn't matter. “It's a Wall Street government,” says Robert Gnaizda, former director of the Greenlining Institute, with no reform in sight.
 
 
 
Does the movie really end with a call to arms?
 
“They [the investment bankers] will tell us that we need them, and that what they do is too complicated for us to understand. They will tell us it won't happen again. They will spend billions fighting reform. It won't be easy. But some things are worth fighting for,” the film concludes.
 
…...............................................
 
Fast forward three years later. The investment firm MF Global has just failed, in exactly the same fashion as Lehman, Bear Sterns, etc, demonstrating no one's learned anything since 2008. The movement Occupy Wall Street spreads from it's Manhattan home base to cities the world over, over a thousand at last count.
 
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The movement began only two months ago.
 
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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)