MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On January 22, Frontline airs a program asking why the executives on Wall Street who oversaw the economic meltdown in 2007 have remain unprosecuted.
According to a Frontline release, "In 'The Untouchables,' premiering Jan. 22, 2013, at 10 P.M. on PBS (check local listings), FRONTLINE producer and correspondent Martin Smith investigates why the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has failed to act on credible evidence that Wall Street knowingly packaged and sold toxic mortgage loans to investors, loans that brought the U.S. and world economies to the brink of collapse."
Frontline asks "asks Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Criminal Division, about his failure to criminally indict Wall Street executives. 'I think there was a level of greed, a level of excessive risk taking in this situation that I find abominable and very upsetting,' says Breuer. 'But that is not what makes a criminal case.'"
Yet, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was designed to prosecute key elements of the kind of activity that Wall Street engaged in prior to the economic breakdown – and of which there is the possibility that they are still engaging in. All the DOJ has done is fine banks (which is merely a cost of their doing business) along with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The lamentable damage to justice is nothing new regarding Wall Street inviolability from a criminal perspective (in regards to financial accountability). In fact, "60 Minutes" aired a compelling, lengthy evidence-filled investigative story on December 4, 2011, in which reporter Steve Kroft begins the segment with this statement:
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Is the GOP brand in trouble?
If the Republicans are moving away from a confrontation with President Obama on the debt ceiling, a just-released NBC/Wall Street journal poll may hold the answer as to why: 49 percent of Americans view the GOP negatively, while only 26 percent view the party positively.
In contrast, the Democratic Party, in the survey conducted January 12-15, had a 44% favorability rating.
Looking toward the 2014 mid-term election, the Republicans (at this moment – and polling can shift like the wind) face the possibility of a wave election that breaks like a tsunami washing over their gerrymandered Tea Party House majority. According to Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
While Republicans still hold the House majority, they lost seats in the 2012 election and acknowledge that they held onto the majority only because of gerrymandering. Majorities of Republican voters reject key proponents of the GOP agenda, including cuts to Social Security and Medicare. In fact, 63 percent of GOP voters say the congressional GOP is out of touch. (That’s a Rasmussen number, by the way.)
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Omerta: Jamie Dimon is a "made man"
On Tuesday, BuzzFlash wrote about how the late Aaron Swartz represented the double standard of the Department of Justice on aggressively prosecuting progressive activists – and demanding jail time – but letting off those in political and financial power. This can also be said about the government's treatment of Bradley Manning and many others versus the unprosecuted number of pro-administration classified leakers who are authorized to talk anonymously to the press on behalf of the administration.
Just think, is anyone getting prosecuted for all the leaks, including a book, about the Osama bin Laden raid? Not a chance.
BuzzFlash, also pointed out, as have numerous others, that the Wall Street bank fraudsters get bonuses and impunity, while the small fish of the financial world get prosecuted with an iron fist so that the Department of Justice (DOJ) can claim that it is enforcing the law. It's the appearance of abiding by the "rule of law," but in reality abandoning that standard for the powerful elite. For them the DOJ observes the ruling managerial class standard of omerta. It is the DC "masters of the universe" code of silence.
Top Wall Street dog and Obama favorite Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase's CEO, recently endured the "punishment" of having his yearly bonus reduced to $10 million dollars for not driving Chase's stock price and profit even higher. (Meanwhile, Chase cut its staff by 1500 last year.)
But the venerable Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel.net recently wrote a commentary that nailed down how the DOJ gives Dimon and bank executives at behemoths like HSBC a legal pass on criminal prosecution, while forcing a small fish in Los Angeles to go to jail for five years for lesser crimes. In this case, it involves the Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Act. Wheeler describes how the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued orders to JPMorgan Chase to comply with the act (which is primarily meant to reduce the illicit money laundering of cash). But JP Morgan Chase continues to flout the law.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF TRUTHOUT AT BUZZFLASH President Obama with VP Joe Biden
Let's not mince words, with his issuance of 23 executive orders related to reducing gun violence, President Barack Obama is putting his life on the line.
The National Rifle Association is in the business, along with other even more fringe gun advocacy groups, of ginning up the base into a froth of hysteria. In this case, the gun lobby – as it is known – has been "warning" the white males psychologically in need of guns that Obama is going to confiscate all their firearms – and this nonsensical but highly incendiary charge has been caroming around the gunner universe since before the president was sworn in.
Timothy McVeigh was no anomaly. He just happened to succeed in killing 168 people in Oklahoma City. There are an unknown, but presumably large, number of pro-gun, "Turner Diary" reading gun fanatics out there who are fueled on high octane paranoia – and believe themselves the valiant patriots of a gun-toting white Christian male America. They are homegrown cousins of the Islamic Jihad movement, imbued with the conviction that killing in order to save the sacred gun culture is an act of martyrdom, not a crime.
On Truthout yesterday, Thom Hartmann wrote a trenchant insight into the Second Amendment and how it was originally crafted to placate Southern states who wanted to maintain armed militias to hunt down slaves and ensure a pro-slavery paramilitary. Hartmann describes the historical context of the Second Amendment:
By the time the Constitution was ratified, hundreds of substantial slave uprisings had occurred across the South. Blacks outnumbered whites in large areas, and the state militias were used to both prevent and to put down slave uprisings. As Dr. Bogus points out, slavery can only exist in the context of a police state, and the enforcement of that police state was the explicit job of the militias.
If the anti-slavery folks in the North had figured out a way to disband - or even move out of the state - those southern militias, the police state of the South would collapse.
Now, we have our first African-American president and the heritage of the "slave patrols" is returning with a vengeance as the gun lobby stirs up white males fearing for their loss of power in society into a frenzy.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT A matter of justice
The status quo managerial elite – consisting of the political and financial masters of the universe – cannot tolerate progressive advocacy that threatens to redistribute power or wealth. That is why police across the nation were instructed to crush the Occupy Movement, to pummel it into dust as a public occupation of space – and more importantly to remove its message of grassroots power and wealth redistribution from the headlines of the media.
Those in the driver's seat of the nation fear empowering activism such as Occupy, as if it were a virulent contagion that might rapidly spread across the population and infect the public with "dangerous" ideas of financial and political justice.
Last week, BuzzFlash at Truthout yet again chastised the Department of Justice (DOJ) for giving a get out of jail free card to the moneyed elite. But that applies to the political elite too, who generally are not prosecuted for war crimes, torture, etc. Those in power protect those in power.
But the DOJ appears to have limitless resources to pursue Internet transparency activists such as Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide the other day at the age of 26. The pursuit only stopped with death, as the DOJ, according to The Hill, formally dropped the charges that appeared to be the precipitating factor in Swartz's taking his own life (in what appears to have been a valley of personal depression):
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Matthew R. Davies is 34 and married with two daughters. He runs a business that reportedly meticulously complies with California regulations and laws. He pays his taxes, providing much needed revenue to the government, and heads a transparent operation that is highly visible and meets a need.
In a New York Times (NYT) article, one of his former staff gushed over Davies's considerate treatment of his employees:
Stephanie Horton, 25, who went to work for Mr. Davies after going to one of his dispensaries to obtain medical marijuana to help her deal with ovarian and cervical cancer, said she was devastated by the arrest of employers she described as among the best she had ever had — not to mention the loss of her job.
“I’d go back and work there in a heartbeat,” Ms. Horton said. “I totally trusted them. We’re not criminals. I’ve never been arrested my whole life. I need that medication, and so do a whole lot of people.”
Now, because he refuses to accept a 5-year sentence in a federal prison for operating a medical marijuana dispensary and growing marijuana plants -- as part of a plea bargain with the Department of Justice (DOJ) -- he faces a trial and, if convicted of violating federal law (even though he is in full compliance with California law), could serve a long stretch in jail.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As the 2010 Tea Party "wave" mid-term election resulted in Republicans controlling the governorships and state legislatures in many states, we saw a national GOP effort to suppress the votes of Democratic voting groups. For the most part, the effort failed. The federal government and some state courts struck down many efforts to legally deny voting, particularly in battleground states.
Yet, many states and many voting obstacles for non-Republican demographic voting groups were still put into place. It is hard to know how many US citizens were inhibited from voting based on such laws and what the presidential vote might have been (along with other races) had there been a system in place nationally that guaranteed the right of a citizen to vote.
But given the redistricting that occurred at the state legislature level after 2010, just as it did in congress, we are likely to see repeated efforts to deny the most basic right of citizenship – the right to vote – based on an utterly false narrative that otherwise there would be massive voter fraud. This effort will likely continue, unless perhaps Democratic governors are elected in states that currently have a GOP government monopoly, until reapportionment occurs in 2021.
Indeed, there have been a number of trial balloons that at least some Republican controlled states -- most notably as articulated by the GOP secretary of state in Ohio – might move to award state electoral votes by congressional district (currently only in effect in Maine and Nebraska). This would have meant Obama, who won the popular vote in Ohio, would have decisively lost the electoral vote to Romney because of the large number of gerrymandered Republican congressional districts in that state. (In the new congress, there will be four Democratic congressional representatives and 12 Republicans from the Buckeye State.)
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
With all the national discussion of improving education, it's always a bit ironic to see how many school districts fail to educate by example.
Take the program that is being implemented in the Northside Independent School District (NISD) in San Antonio, Texas. Students are being required to wear Radio Frequency Identity Chip (RFID) badges so that their locations can be tracked.
According to the BBC, this is allegedly being done to gain a more accurate attendance record:
John Jay High School is one of two schools piloting the program, which eventually aims to equip all student badges across the district's 112 schools with radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips.
The badges reveal each student's location on their campus, giving the district more precise information on attendance.
The daily average of the attendance is related to how much funding each school receives.
However, in an age of an increasing encroachment on our privacy, this appears to be a solution right out of a gulag instead of a democracy that values individual rights.
(Photo: Paradox 56)
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Blowback from the Wall St. Bull
BuzzFlash at Truthout practices journalism, not law, so it would be hard put for us to state categorically that A.I.G. and Goldman Sachs executives should have been found guilty of anything in the Wall Street collapse that cracked the back of the US economy. In any case, that's what investigations and trials are supposed to sort out.
But since the economic meltdown, it is clear that there was plenty of smoke, while the Department of Justice (DOJ) didn't want to hold anyone criminally accountable for the fire. So the DOJ, along with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), assessed a lot of large fines to Wall Street firms at the epicenter of the financial implosion, but clearly weren't interested in serious criminal investigation or prosecution.
What happens when the government gives a get out of jail free pass to executives who run financial entities "too big to fail"? The US taxpayers get the blowback.
The stockholders of A.I.G. -- the company which most came to symbolize egregious arrogance and double standards of banks and hedge funds ("no government financial regulation, but the taxpayers should bail us out when we gamble and lose") -- are in the process of suing the federal government. Furthermore, A.I.G. as a corporate entity is considering joining the shareholder lawsuit whose goal is basically to reclaim profit that the agreed upon taxpayer bailout generated for the US treasury.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Truthout's lead investigative reporter Jason Leopold has broken and covered a large number of stories internationally on the United States torture program (euphemistically called the "enhanced interrogation program" by the government), including the legal pursuit and impending jailing of former CIA agent John Kiriakou.
Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake has an update on the case (including a photo of Leopold interviewing Kiriakou). It's a rather complicated matter with a lot of nuance, but it would be difficult disagree with Gosztola's headline, "The Only CIA Officer Scheduled to Go to Jail Over Torture Never Tortured Anybody."
Gosztola deplores the double standard of the Obama administration's (and before that the Bush administration's) "code of silence":
Scooter Libby gets to move forward and continue to enjoy the fact that he is not in jail for his involvement in leaking Valerie Plame’s name because his sentence was commuted by President George W. Bush. Dick Cheney gets to move forward with the publication of a “memoir” about his heart (the organ and not what makes us capable of discerning right from wrong). Those who authorized and engaged in torture get to continue their upward trajectory on whatever career path in government they have chosen and retire handsomely. And, if you’re Jose Rodriguez, the former head of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, you can keep promoting your book while ensuring the public ignores how you had a role in the destruction of tapes of torture and harsh interrogations and still support waterboarding detainees—a war crime.
Kiriakou, on the other hand, must stop his life. It is not enough that the government already ruined his life with their prosecution. The Obama administration has decided he must walk away from his home and family and go to prison.
Jason Leopold, Truthout's Lead Investigative Reporter, Interviewed John Kiriakou