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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

horsesImpatient with a virtual US ban on slaughtering horses for meat, a worker for Valley Meat Company in Roswell, New Mexico, shot a horse in the head and posted it on You Tube to express his contempt for animal advocates.  In fact, he swore at humane society members as he pulled the trigger the other day.  

(If you have the stomach for it, you can watch the unedited video here, but be prepared for barbaric graphic cruelty.)

The stunning act of defiant brutality is the entryway into a far bigger and ominous story about slaughtering horses.  According to a local television news station in New Mexico:

In the video, an employee at the Valley Meat Company out of Roswell, NM - which is working with the USDA to get a horse slaughter plant in the area - brings a horse out of its pen, swears at activists and then kills the horse with a single gunshot.

“To all you animal activists, f**k you,” Tim Sappington, a maintenance contractor with Valley Meat Company, said in the video.

He then shoots the horse point blank in the head. The horse falls to the ground and dies.

The owner of Valley Meat Company condones the execution of the horse, but told NBC News, he wouldn't have posted it on the Internet.

"De Los Santos [the owner of Valley Meat Company] said the contract worker, Tim Sappington, shot the video on his own time and at his own home.

"He shot a horse. That's what he eats. It's not against the law to slaughter your own horse," De Los Santos said. "Now, putting it on YouTube, I would not have done that."

And this is where the story breaks wide open.  According to a February 28 New York Times article, De Los Santos and his Valley Meat Company have sued the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to open a fully operational horse slaughterhouse in Roswell.  If the USDA approves Valley Meat Company's request – which has already invested in equipping the abattoir plant – it would become the first US horse slaughterhouse since 2007:

(Photo: stophorseslaughter.com)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

yaleIn an interview by Kathrin Lassila for the Yale Alumni Magazine a short time back, outgoing Yale President Richard Levin sat for a Q and A justifying corporate and pharmaceutical funding of research at the university.

Levin admits that the university is, in essence, engaging in a corporate partnership with one research investor, Gilead Sciences, in which Yale would license back to Gilead any patented findings that would be profitable.  The Gilead investment (which is what it is, despite the euphemisms from New Haven) brings the total of corporate research funding to $20 million at Yale, but that appears to be just the beginning of a growing direct relationship between corporations and the prestigious Ivy League institution.

Indeed, the magazine interview is entitled, "Corporate funding for medical science."  Granted, the rapidly developing relationships between corporations seeking profitable research outcomes and universities is complex, including how the grants can often piggyback on government funding that is providing, indirectly, subsidies for the private sector backed academic research.

Levin, however, unapologetically endorses such creeping for-profit intrusions into the Ivory Tower. In his interview with Lasilla, who is the editor of the Yale publication for alumni, Levin, a PhD economist, rebuffs a pointed question with some academic administrator jabberwocky:

[Lasilla]: A Yale medical school professor, Cary Gross, has found that drug studies are 3.6 times more likely to be favorable when they’re company funded. Yale, like many universities, does some of these studies.

[Levin]: Yes, but you’re talking now about clinical trials, as opposed to research and discovery partnerships like the Gilead and Pfizer arrangements. Clinical testing of drugs for safety and efficacy is essential, and Yale has processes to ensure that conflicts of interest are eliminated or managed. It’s important for the public interest that we learn which drugs work and which don’t, and which have unacceptably toxic side effects. Besides, these tests can provide useful scientific information that will help scientists advance towards the next set of discoveries. As long as there is appropriate oversight, clinical trials are a good thing.

Going back to research and discovery activities, I don’t see much problem there.

But when asked by Lasilla, "What’s a recent proposal that was turned down?", Levin responds:

Very few get turned down today, because we have well-established ground rules on corporate funding. Nonetheless, we did have a recent case where we turned down corporate support because the faculty investigator proposing to do the work had a substantial consulting contract with the sponsoring company.

Heavens to Betsy!  At least the line is drawn somewhere!

(Photo: CanWeBowlPlease)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

slaughterhousefinalThom Hartmann points the finger squarely at the infamous ALEC for new laws being proposed – and some already enacted – that would make it a criminal act to document animals cruelly treated and slaughtered by the meat and poultry processing industries.  

As Hartmann wrote on Truthout the other day,

ALEC is now parading around bills in six states that would make it a crime to film animal abuse at factory farms, or lie on job applications in order to get a job in a factory farm with the goal of taking pictures. All of this is to stop animal rights activists who infiltrate slaughterhouses to expose their deplorable conditions.

The bill proposals pushed by ALEC require all evidence of animal abuse at factory farms be turned over to law enforcement authorities within 48 hours, or those who took the pictures face a financial penalty.

The proposals also make it a crime to lie on slaughterhouse job applications, which activists commonly do in order to get documentation of animal abuse.

Right now, according to the Associated Press, the bills to block animal rights activists are under consideration in California, Nebraska, Tennessee, Indiana, Arkansas and Pennsylvania.

Three other states – New Mexico, Wyoming and New Hampshire – have already rejected similar bills this year.

And several states already have laws similar to what ALEC is currently pushing. Utah has a law that bans unauthorized photography in farms, and Iowa has a law that makes it a crime to lie to gain access to a farm's staff.

ABC News gets down to the grisly details of what goes down at some factory animal farms,

An undercover video that showed California cows struggling to stand as they were prodded to slaughter by forklifts led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history. In Vermont, a video of veal calves skinned alive and tossed like sacks of potatoes ended with the plant's closure and criminal convictions.

Now in a pushback led by the meat and poultry industries, state legislators across the country are introducing laws making it harder for animal welfare advocates to investigate cruelty and food safety cases….

ALEC has labeled those who interfere with animal operations "terrorists," though a spokesman said he wishes now that the organization had called its legislation the "Freedom to Farm Act" rather than the "Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act."

"At the end of the day it's about personal property rights or the individual right to privacy," said [ALEC] spokesman Bill Meierling. "You wouldn't want me coming into your home with a hidden camera."

But Meierling is using a logical fallacy here that is breathtaking in its deceit.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

cannabis1959The Drug Policy Alliance just released a study that provides further evidence that big city police resources are being used on victimless marijuana crime arrests, when that time could be allocated to violent offenses. In its press release, the Drug Policy Alliance reveals:

A new report released today documents the astonishing number of hours the New York Police Department has spent arresting and processing hundreds of thousands of people for low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests during Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure. The report finds that NYPD used approximately 1,000,000 hours of police officer time to make 440,000 marijuana possession arrests over 11 years….

The report was prepared by Dr. Harry Levine, Professor of Sociology at Queens College and recognized expert on marijuana possession arrests, at the request of members of the New York City Council and the New York State Legislature.

Additionally, the report estimates that the people arrested by NYPD for marijuana possession have spent 5,000,000 hours in police custody over the last decade.

The full report indicates both a public safety misallocation of resources and racial bias:

  • New York City has made more marijuana possession arrests under Mayor Michael Bloomberg than under mayors Koch, Dinkins and Giuliani combined.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

vault22Jonathan Weil, a Bloomberg columnist, understands the multiple-dangers (to the financial system, to the rule of law, and to creating an elite bubble of impunity) that is posed by Eric Holder's -- as attorney general for President Obama -- granting a right to commit corporate and financial crimes card.

In what has become a multi-year unprosecuted crime spree by banks too big to fail, Weil recently reported on one of the most bollixing failure of the DOJ to prosecute an almost certainly culpable bank – and undetermined senior staffers.  What makes it so flummoxing is the transparent statement of the US prosecutor in charge of the case, who comes off sounding like a state investigator in China or some other dictatorship.  

Here's the background to the case, as Weil reported it on Bloomberg.com:

Dennis Lerner, a former tax director at Commerzbank AG (CBK) in New York, isn’t too big to jail. But the bank he once worked for may well be, along with the other executives there who made his crimes possible.

Lerner, 60, pleaded guilty this week to public-corruption charges. Commerzbank hired him from the Internal Revenue Service in 2011 while he was an examiner responsible for negotiating a tax-fraud settlement with the bank, according to the criminal complaint that prosecutors filed in September. Commerzbank paid the IRS $210 million one day before offering Lerner the job, which he accepted immediately. The figure was 62 percent of the potential taxes due. Bank employees later told federal investigators it had been willing to pay much more money to settle the audit.

“We will not tolerate corrupt government employees and will prosecute and punish them to the full extent of the law,” Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a March 12 news release. Notably, Bharara said nothing about prosecuting the people and companies that participate in corrupting them.

Why hasn’t the Justice Department charged Commerzbank or anyone else who worked there? That is a mystery, but perhaps only partly. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last week told the Senate Judiciary Committee, in essence, that some financial institutions are indeed too big to prosecute, because of the damage to the U.S. and world economy that might ensue.

So Big

Commerzbank is certainly big. The company had 636 billion euros ($839 billion) of assets on its Dec. 31 balance sheet, making it Germany’s second-largest bank.

BuzzFlash at Truthout believes that the statement by the DOJ US attorney prosecuting the former IRS agent merits repetition: "'We will not tolerate corrupt government employees and will prosecute and punish them to the full extent of the law,'" Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a March 12 news release." (Italics inserted by BuzzFlash at Truthout.)

(Photo: Wikipedia)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ericholdersecond454Why has BuzzFlash at Truthout been writing a steady stream of commentaries documenting how the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been enabling fraudulent and likely criminal activity on Wall Street?   

Well, you need look no further than the abundance of stories on how the multi-billion dollar JP Morgan Chase "whale" loss has just been exposed as the product of a systemic corporate culture at JP Morgan, all the way up to the White House "hero" of Wall Street, Jamie Dimon.

When the reckless, dishonest so-called JP Morgan Chase "whale" loss was first exposed, the business writers and politicians accepted Jamie Dimon's flippant dismissal of the financial fraud as a bump in the road, the irresponsible action of one trader.  Dimon has the luminescent protective coating of being Obama's alleged model of Wall Street propriety, so the media did not doubt Dimon's reassurances for a moment.

But on March 14, the New York Times portrayed another side of the story, courtesy of a blistering United States Senate report, on the "whale" trading irregularities and cover-up. The report revealed evidence of the same kind of behavior that led to the collapse of the US economy.  The NYT article is entitled, "JPMorgan Faulted on Controls and Disclosure in Trading Loss,"

JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s biggest bank, ignored internal controls and manipulated documents as it racked up trading losses last year, while its influential chief executive, Jamie Dimon, briefly withheld some information from regulators, a new Senate report says.

The findings by the Congressional investigators shed new light on the multibillion-dollar trading blunder, which has claimed the jobs of several top executives and prompted an inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The 300-page report, released a day before a Senate subcommittee plans to question bank executives and regulators at a hearing, will escalate the debate over how to police complex risk-taking on Wall Street. It may also foreshadow a criminal case against employees at the heart of the troubled wager.

A spokeswoman for the bank said on Thursday, “While we have repeatedly acknowledged significant mistakes, our senior management acted in good faith and never had any intent to mislead anyone.”

Mr. Dimon, whose reputation as an astute manager of risk has been undercut by the trading losses, comes under the harshest criticism yet from the Senate investigators. The chief executive signed off on changes to an internal alarm system that underestimated losses, seemingly contradicting his earlier statements to lawmakers, according to the report.

He is also accused of withholding from regulators details about the investment bank’s daily losses — and then raising “his voice in anger” at a deputy who later turned over the information.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

elderlyfinalRemember that Bush inherited a balanced budget from Bill Clinton?  Dick Cheney's dummy, George W., then went on to rack up a multi-trillion dollar US debt by declaring wars of empire – based on lying to the US public – and cutting taxes on the rich at the same time.  It was a combo deal guaranteed to sink the economy – and with a big dollop of help from Wall Street, it did.

As the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War nears on March 19, the Associated Press reports on a new study by the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

It provides the stark financial impact of the Bush/Cheney wars on the United States taxpayer,

The U.S. war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest, a study released on Thursday said….

The report, the work of about 30 academics and experts, was published in advance of the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

It was also an update of a 2011 report the Watson Institute produced ahead of the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks that assessed the cost in dollars and lives from the resulting wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

The 2011 study said the combined cost of the [Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan] wars was at least $3.7 trillion, based on actual expenditures from the U.S. Treasury and future commitments, such as the medical and disability claims of U.S. war veterans.

Now, even President Obama has accepted the GOP "frame" of a nation mired in debt, when it was the Republican Party under Bush – many of them still in Congress – who wrapped themselves in the flag and cheered on the shock and awe of multi-trillion dollar debt and death.  And any subsequent growth in the debt is in large part due to the unemployment and loss of productivity resulting from the financial crash.

(Photo: Tim & Selena Middleton)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

bankfailfinalBill Moyers and Michael Winship wrote recently about the revolving door syndrome regarding prosecution and financial regulatory agencies in DC. They began their commentary by focusing on President Obama's nomination of Mary Jo White to head the Securities and Exchange Committee (SEC):

In our last episode of that ongoing Washington soap opera, “As the Door Revolves,” we introduced you to former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White, pursuer of drug lords and terrorists, who left government to become a hot shot Wall Street lawyer defending such corporate giants as JPMorgan Chase, UBS, General Electric and Microsoft. Oh yes — and former Goldman Sachs board member Rajat Gupta, currently appealing his insider trading conviction.

The New York Times reports that White and her husband, who’s also a corporate litigator, have a net worth of at least $16 million and investments that might be valued as high as $35 million. Now, courtesy of President Obama, Mary Jo White’s been named to head the SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission — the very agency that regulates her clients and everyone else doing business in the stock market.

But as they say on late night TV, wait — there’s more! Join us for our latest episode of “As the Door Revolves” in which the door spins even faster between the SEC and big business. According to a major new report from the nonpartisan watchdog POGO – the Project on Government Oversight — hundreds of the agency’s former employees have done or are doing business with the SEC on behalf of the corporations the agency is supposed to regulate.

This is the revolving door between regulators and corporate lawyers and lobbyists that Obama promised to end, but the door is still rotating at a rapid pace – and the incestuous mutually beneficial relationships between regulators and the regulated continues unabated.

In a commentary in the business section of the Seattle Times, Jon Talton criticizes White's nomination as the same-old, same-old:

White is a classic example of the revolving door between government and Wall Street. She was a federal prosecutor during the Clinton administration and then went to work for Debevoise & Plimpton, a prestigious New York law firm. It was instrumental in defending the Too Big to Fail Banks after they helped bring on the near collapse of the world financial system and the Great Recession, ultimately being rescued by your tax dollars. White acted as a lawyer for former Bank of America Chief Executive Ken Lewis, JPMorgan Chase, Deloitte & Touche, and former Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta, who was sent to prison for conspiracy and securities fraud. Other clients of the firm include Morgan Stanley, UBS, General Electric, HCA and Siemens.

The list of cases she would have to recuse herself from is potentially long. The social circle in which she has moved for a decade — and no doubt wishes to return to — is not conducive for curiosity or holding the powerful to account. Indeed, her husband, John White, is a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore,  another powerful Wall Street law firm representing clients facing SEC scrutiny. John White also sits on the advisory council of the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which in 2009 allowed the big banks to value their assorted hustles however they wished.

Not only that, but Mary Jo White will be collecting $42,000 a month in retirement pay for life from Debevoise & Plimpton. As Bloomberg reported, “This means she has a direct interest in Debevoise’s future profits, and therefore an incentive to help make sure only good things come the firm’s way. Debevoise’s partner-retirement plan is unfunded, meaning the firm pays benefits from its continuing business operations.”

(Photo: DoctorTongs)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT     elizabethwarrenmarchfinal

What a desert it has been for those who are concerned about justice, democracy, income fairness and the Constitution.  So many hopes have soared on the wings of politicians promising change and an end-to-business as usual in DC, only to have expectations dashed as the candidates are elected, take office and conform to the status quo rather than change it.  It has been a dismaying and enervating slog, sinking in the quagmire of political moral corruption to be limply reassured by the begrudging outlook "that it could be worse."

The danger is that dismay can lead to hopelessness and withdrawal from the great struggle for summoning our better angels.

For years, we have seen with few exceptions (Bernie Sanders, Paul Wellstone, etc.) political figures head to the seat of the US government only to become compromised by corporate control through campaign contributions, the media cult of "conventional wisdom," and co-option by the "reality" of power.

But Ms. Smith has come to Washington, and her name is Elizabeth Warren. In just a couple of months she has taken a fierce tenacious stand for accountability and fairness in regards to Wall Street.   This contrasts with US Attorney General Eric Holder, who represents the dismal disappointment of the Obama promise of change on many fronts, including Holder's failure to criminally prosecute even one Wall Street executive.  

BuzzFlash at Truthout most recently wrote about this in a commentary, "Holder Admits That Department of Justice Believes Big Bankers Are Above the Law. " (The Holder article includes links to many of the numerous pieces we have written on the failure to hold the executives of big banks and financial institutions accountable for real crimes.)

(Photo: Wikipedia)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT  supremecourtfinal35

The Republicans long ago figured out that the way to have legislative control over the United States is to pack the federal courts.  This is a theme that BuzzFlash at Truthout has harped upon since the site began in May of 2000.

Recently, we noted how Antonin Scalia's withering disdain for Congress erupted into open contempt and dismissal of the legislative branch in oral arguments over the Voting Rights Act.  As we noted then:

During oral arguments yesterday about whether or not the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is constitutional, partisan judicial thug Antonin Scalia revealed a new facet of his personality; he is a clairvoyant.

Congressional support for reauthorizing the VRA was overwhelming, even in 2006 when the vote was taken during Bush's second term: the Senate reauthorized it by a vote of 98 to 0. In the House, the vote was 390 to 33.

But Scalia, who has made his trademark being a self-proclaimed "strict constitutional constructionist" who scorns liberal judges who allegedly legislate from the bench, came out of the closet in heaping contempt and derision on Congress for passing the VRA.  Although Scalia has long been perhaps the stellar example of a judge who legislates from the bench (on behalf of the right wing), he's usually coded his usurpation of congressional and other legislative powers in legal mumbo jumbo.

Yesterday, however, the Washington Post editorial board chastised Scalia for openly claiming:

"THIS IS NOT the kind of a question [the VRA, particularly Section 5] you can leave to Congress,” Justice Antonin Scalia pronounced during a Supreme Court argument Wednesday….

We also noted a short time back how the Republicans control the DC Court of Appeals and have now since the Reagan administration.  Because the DC Court of Appeals hears many of the most important federal cases, it has made a very large number of benchmark decisions that have been essentially legislating from the bench and creating an imbalance of power between the three branches of government (something the majority of 5 on the Rehnquist and Roberts Supreme Courts have excelled at).

In that BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary, we focused on DC Court of Appeals Judge David Sentelle, as we have often done over the years: "Republican Federal Judge David Sentelle: [An Example of] How the GOP Has Packed the Courts With Partisan Hacks."

Currently the DC Court of Appeals is short four judges because the Republicans won't allow most of Obama's appointments through (holding up some lower court appointments for literally years).  Then they pack the federal benches when there is a Republican president, and the Democrats only rarely block GOP appointments. 

(Photo: Mark Fischer)

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