We had protesters in D.C. getting arrested for protesting the White House's latest stance on torture and the culpability of the Bush administration - the same protesters whose children are most likely to end up in rehab for drug abuse because their parents wouldn't lay down the law at home when their children needed to be disciplined.
We've got TV pundits and op-ed columnists splitting hairs over the legal definition of torture versus the moral implications its use could have on America's oh so white bread image that the more naive amongst us think is accepted as the gospel by those in foreign countries.
None of these people know what torture is.
If you want to know what torture is, call up a GM bondholder. If you live where I live, you'll probably get one of your neighbors on the other end of the line, or maybe even someone in your own household. If you think that living in modest circumstances means you don't know anyone like that, you are wrong - GM and GMAC bonds are a part of the holdings of a significant swath of the mutual funds that manage your 401(k) and retirement funds.
We all rolled our eyes at Bernie Madoff's clients, because deep down inside, we thought that they were greedy people who got what they deserved after enjoying unusually strong investment returns year after year, seemingly without risk. But this is worse. Offering GM's bondholders a paltry handful of common stock without any cash sweetener in exchange for surrendering their bonds may be one of the worst things the president's underlings have dreamed up yet. What's even worse is that President Obama has ostensibly OK'ed this proposal.
Remember Tom, Dick and Harry back on Wall Street, Mr. President, those same Tom, Dick and Harry bankers that you threw money at like it was confetti at a ticker tape parade? Why not extend GM a measly 75 billion Line Of Credit so they can have enough time to actually accomplish what you want? Why is it so hard, Mr. President, to treat one industry like another?
Chinese water torture has nothing on American bailout torture.
Moral righteousness is at the root of the debates filling the airwaves over torture. It is the same sense of morality that should have been employed in the decision making regarding Detroit's automakers, whose sins are no more venal than those of their Wall Street brethren. The plan you and your staffers have come up with, Mr. President, should be footnoted with explanations as to the kind of logic and the type of methodology you used to come up with the numbers in your workout plans for Chrysler and GM. I am especially curious to see who the genius was who had the audacity to equate the government's ten billion dollar stake in GM with a 50% interest in a reorganized company. Maybe his calculator was malfunctioning that day. Or maybe he just figured nobody was going to pay attention.
Why not offer the bondholders the right to the fifty percent stake if they come up with an additional ten billion to take the government out of the equation? If you had a few real deal guys on your squad instead of policy makers, they would have insisted that you include enough possible permutations to actually give your proposal a chance to work. The bondholders themselves want you to know that your stock swap idea is the worst kind of pandering - if bond holders had wanted stock, most of them will tell you, they would have originally bought stock instead of bonds.
Mr. President, the proposals you laid on the table for GM and Chrysler are like the choices Charles Graner and Lynndie England made at Abu Ghraib with the Iraqi detainees - the unconscionable and unnecessary financial torture of your own American citizens. You are treating your constituents as if they are crash test dummies, who are able to withstand fatal impacts and be put back together again as if nothing has happened. If this is the best you think you can do, you have earned this black mark on your presidency.