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EditorBlog (1154)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

bribe11 22The US Chamber of Commerce ought to change its name to the Pirates of the Americas -- and maybe sponsor a ride at Disneyworld where everyone gets their pocket or purses picked at the end of the boat trip. 

Not only does the Chamber advocate for policies that continue to hamper small businesses, fleece consumers, and increase corporate profits to stratospheric records at the expense of workers, it also wants to pretty much legalize allowing US companies to use bribery abroad.

According to Public Citizen, which authored a recent analysis:

The report, “License to Bribe,” highlights efforts over the past several years by the US Chamber of Commerce to weaken the FCPA. According to the report, the U.S. Chamber’s five proposals “show that the organization either greatly misunderstands many of the FCPA’s enforcement realities, or that it is purposefully oversimplifying how the law is enforced (or both).”

The report also describes responses to these requests, from experts and from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which have joint jurisdiction over FCPA matters and released guidelines seemingly in response to the US Chamber’s requests.

The responses highlight concerns that the US Chamber’s proposals would make the law less effective at curbing bribery and would weaken the health of both the world’s economy and of democratic institutions across the globe. The U.S. Chamber’s request for the FCPA to limit a company’s liability for the acts of its subsidiary, for example, was rebuffed by the DOJ and SEC because that change would give companies an incentive to create subsidiaries for the very purpose of engaging in bribery. The proposal is especially concerning given the fact that so many of the cases in which companies have been found guilty or paid settlements were ones in which this was the mechanism by which the corrupt behavior was taking place.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

chase11 21To hear the number $13 billion dollars as a fine in the much-leaked-but-finally-announced Department of Justice (DOJ) settlement with JPMorgan Chase is meant to imply that the DOJ is getting tough on Wall Street. After all, $13 billion dollars is a jaw-dropping pile of money.

In reality, it is, according to The New York Times only "half the bank’s annual profit." As BuzzFlash at Truthout has pointed out in the past, that still means roughly $6.5 billion dollars in profit for the behemoth financial institution, no apparent cut in the oligarchical compensation of the likes of JPMorgan's chief executive, Jamie Dimon, and no major changes in the salaries or composition of Dimon's executive team.

Furthermore, the NYT reports that "Marianne Lake, JPMorgan’s chief financial officer, emphasized that $7 billion of the settlement was tax-deductible." In addition, as BuzzFlash reported in an earlier commentary, JPMorgan may -- if you can believe this -- may receive several billions of dollars in FDIC insurance that would offset at least a third of the $13 billion fine.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

committeehearing2

In a tacit repudiation of White House interest in reaching a "grand bargain" that would, in effect, cut Social Security, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D - MA) has offered a rousing argument to expand Social Security, not contract it.

As BuzzFlash at Truthout pointed out yesterday, "Average Social Security Check Is $1269, But CEOs With Nest Eggs Worth Tens of Millions Want to Slash the Program":

According to the Social Security Administration, the current average Social Security benefit is a measly $1,269 -- and remember recipients paid into the fund and are being repaid their earnings in the form of barely livable retirement checks.

The economic inequity in the US, as often noted here, is only growing, reaching beyond a Grand Canyon gap.  It's more like an intergalactic distance when CEO advocates of cutting Social Security have accumulated retirement accounts "more than 1,200 times as much as the median retirement savings of U.S. workers near retirement age."

Truthout and BuzzFlash are able to confront the forces of greed and regression only because we don’t take corporate funding. Support us in this fight: make a tax-deductible donation today by clicking here!

On the issue of the Chained-CPI, which Obama is reportedly advocating for, The Nation figures that a conservative estimate indicates that the CPI would "take $15,615 in cumulative benefits from the average senior who lived to 95."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

catfood223Fat Cat CEOs Condemn Seniors to a Life of Cat FoodAccording to a just-released Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and Center for Effective Government report, "Platinum-Plated Pensions: The Retirement Fortune of CEOs Who Want to Cut Your Social Security":

  • Business Roundtable CEOs’ corporate retirement accounts average $14.5 million—more than 1,200 times as much as the median retirement savings of U.S. workers near retirement age.

  • A retirement fund of $14.5 million, combined with Social Security, would generate a monthly retirement check for these CEOs of $88,576. That’s 68 times what a typical U.S. retiree can expect to receive.

  • Ten Roundtable CEOs (including four who are also Fix the Debt members) have retirement plans valued at more than $50 million.

  • Three of these CEOs have retirement assets of more than $100 million:  John Hammergren of McKesson, David Cote of Honeywell, and Mike Duke of Wal-Mart.

  • Duke’s $113.2 million retirement fund is more than 7,500 times as large as his employees’ average 401(k) account balance of $15,000.

But there is nary a voice in Congress or the corporate media advocating austerity for the super-rich.  According to the Social Security Administration, the current average Social Security benefit is a measly $1,269 -- and remember recipients paid into the fund and are being repaid their earnings in the form of barely livable retirement checks.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abrid2

Ah Thanksgiving, that quintessential of US holidays when the warmth of family and appreciation for the bounty of our nation are celebrated.  The tantalizing and comforting aroma of turkey -- with all the trimmings -- lingers as we give thanks and bask in the warmth of those we love.

Some begin the groaning board meal with a prayer; some begin with secular thanks; and some don't have enough money for a proper holiday meal.  But this is the day that symbolizes the harvest, the fruit of one's labor, the emotional recognition of the value of work and life and family and friends.

Except that the creeping consumerism of American society has been encroaching upon Thanksgiving.  Last year some big box stores started "black Friday" by opening up on Thanksgiving eve.  That new retailing strategy is continuing in 2013, with K-Mart breaking a new regrettable milestone by throwing open its doors at 6 AM on turkey day.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

bombtime11 14Climate Change: A Time Bomb for Planet EarthA recent study by the International Forum on Globalization (IFG), provides evidence that the Koch Brothers could earn at least $1 billion from Alberta tar sand land holdings (with additional profit from their processing plants and related products and services).  This is despite the unconvincing Koch Brothers claim that they have no personal interest in the pipeline.

That disconnect reflects a larger problem that befuddles the northern section of the Keystone XL Pipeline decision.  Tar sands oil is already flowing into the US and the Koch Brothers are already profiting from it through its conversion into petroleum coke.

Think Progress recently detailed the toxic pollution caused by coke pilings in Detroit and Chicago.  The owners of the processing facilities that turn the tar sand oil into petroleum coke at these two sites are, you guessed it, the Koch Brothers.  The name of the parent company is, hold your gasp, Koch Carbon.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

bushturkeyGeorge W. Bush Gets Set to Celebrate Thanksgiving/HannukahAfter 9/11, then President George W. Bush spoke of leading a Crusade against Afghanistan and Iraq.  His handlers quickly walked back the use of the word Crusade, given its connotations of endless bloodletting of non-Christians during several journeys of butchery conducted by Christian knights in the Middle Ages. Jews were killed and Muslims in the Holy Land were slaughetered mercilessly.

So it not surprising that Bush is speaking (his spokesperson won't say whether or not he is being paid his usual six digit fee) on November 14 at a Jews for Jesus fundraisier in Dallas.  Of couse, the Bush public relations machine is crying fowl at criticisms, that this is just akin to the many other speeches he gives (and gets paid for) as he avoids the public eye (most of his gigs are closed to the press).

According to The Atlantic: "Bush's chief of staff Josh Bolten previously told the magazine that the Bush family is 'very open to and respectful of faiths of all kind, but particularly Judaism.' This decision, to say the least, complicates that reputation." Did we just hear something like, "some of my best friends are Jewish"?

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

childrenclimate11 12Save Our Children From Climate ChangeWith more than 10,000 estimated to be dead as a result of a typhoon in his homeland, Yeb Sano -- the chief Philippine delegate to the current UN climate change talks in Poland -- vowed to stop eating until serious actions are taken to reduce global warming.

According to The BBC online,

At the opening of the two-week Conference of the Parties (Cop), Mr Sano said he was not just speaking for those who lost their lives but for the thousands who were now orphans.

He told the meeting he would refuse to eat until progress is made.

"In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home, I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate, this means I will voluntarily refrain from eating food during this Cop, until a meaningful outcome is in sight."

"What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness, the climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness right here in Warsaw," he said.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ahealthcare11 11In a recent CNN online article on its "Belief" blog, a scandal about the Affordable Care Act that is rarely written about was explored:

When people talk about the Affordable Care Act, most focus on the troubled launch of its website. But another complication of the law has received less attention: a “coverage gap” that will leave nearly 5 million poor Americans without health care, according to a Kaiser Health Foundation study.

The coverage gap was created when 25 states refused to accept the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. The people who fall into this gap make too much money to qualify for Medicaid and not enough to qualify for Obamacare subsidies in their state insurance exchanges. If they lived elsewhere, they would probably get insurance. But because they live in a state that refused the new health care law, they likely will remain among the nation’s uninsured poor after Obamacare coverage kicks in come January.

In short, Red States adopting the total GOP assault on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) refused to accept federal funda for expanding Medicaid eligibility, leaving many of their citizens without coverage that they could receive under the act.  But the Republican politics of damning anything associated with the ACA as the work of the devil has left many white and minority Americans in healthcare Hell.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

awallst11 7As pointed out in The Huffington Post, the president of the New York Fed said the unmentionable about Wall Street:

After all, collectively these enhancements to our current regime may not solve another important problem evident within some large financial institutions—the apparent lack of respect for law, regulation and the public trust.  There is evidence of deep-seated cultural and ethical failures at many large financial institutions.  Whether this is due to size and complexity, bad incentives or some other issues is difficult to judge, but it is another critical problem that needs to be addressed.

The top New York Federal Reserve Bank official, William Dudley, made this rare allegation among Wall Street insiders and government officials late on in his remarks delivered on November 8 at the Global Economic Policy Forum in NYC.

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