JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Bush administration’s Iraq war has cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion so far and with interest could swell to more than $6 trillion, according to a study released Thursday.
Meanwhile, Jeb Bush is making his rounds to run for President 2016.
Those who are familiar with Noam Chomsky’s work have learned about the United States’ brutal history of intervention in Latin America for corporate control via the CIA and how the CIA creates havoc and chaos to pave the way for overthrowing democratically elected leaders that have socialistic leanings, i.e. leaders who want to improve conditions for the poor, whose policies strengthen middle-class economies.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Jonathan 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.
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.)
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The brackets are set for the big dance - the dance around tax responsibility. Most of the teams are in the bottom bracket. In this league, the lowest score wins.
Outside the stadium our nation's kids and seniors and low-income mothers may be dealing with food and housing cuts, but on the corporate playing floor new low-tax records are being set again this year. Just as this is a golden age for sports, this is also, as noted by the New York Times, "a golden age for corporate profits."
Corporations have simply stopped paying their taxes, perhaps using the 2008 recession as an excuse to plead hardship, but then never restoring their tax obligations when business got better. The facts are indisputable. For over 20 years, from 1987 to 2008, corporations paid an average of 22.5% in federal taxes. Since the recession, this has dropped to 10% -- even though their profits have doubled in less than ten years.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Why 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.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
One must consider the currently running MSNBC documentary, “How the Bush administration sold the Iraq war” (1), based on a book by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, to be a rather remarkable document, given that it comes to us from an element of the mainstream media (NBC), as relatively liberal as that element may be. Most (if not all) of the readers of this column-series and the journal(s) in which it appears know that the whole premise upon which the invasion was based was totally false. Neither were there Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” nor was there any connection between the Saddam Hussein regime and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda. In approximately 50 minutes of air time, one can hardly expect that all of the details of the Grand Deception and Big Lie can be covered. It is very possible that many of those details that I retell below are to be found in the book. Nevertheless, here a few additional facts and observations.
First, the documentary very justifiably notes the later proved-to-be-false “Tonkin Gulf Incident” that President Lyndon Johnson used to vastly expand the War on Vietnam. That war actually found its origins yeas before in work done by the Dulles Brothers, John Foster (State) and Allen (CIA), to undermine the Geneva Accords of 1954 which had brought the French-Indochinese War to its conclusion. Nationwide elections were to have been held by 1956. “Everyone knew” that the Communist leader, Ho Chi Minh, would win in an overwhelming landslide. The Dulles Brothers, very concerned about that happenstance, in collusion with the reactionary forces in Viet Nam, made sure that the elections were never held. We all know what happened subsequently.
What is not generally acknowledged is that, in terms of the US objective of making sure that there would not be a peaceful, electoral, victory for Communism in southeast Asia, with its implications for the rest of the region (yes, the Domino Theory was real and of real concern), the US did not lose the Viet Nam War. Rather, given what has happened and not happened to Viet Nam and the rest of Southeast Asia since then, in the context of the Dulles’ original goals, the US won it. In contrast, we do not yet know whether the US achieved the primary objective of the Cheney/Bush regime, which was the creation of a state of Permanent War (2).
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Remember 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)
WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Judges who wish to assure that a jury has no outside influence will sequester them.
Legally, a sequestered jury is seized by authority and isolated from all outside influences. The jurors are escorted into and out of the courtroom. They aren’t allowed to read newspapers, listen to radio news, or watch TV news, ’lest they could be influenced by the media. They are escorted to and from meals, and isolated from other customers. They can’t discuss the case with family or friends. They can’t even go home at the end of the day; they’re housed in hotel rooms.
In the summer of 2011, a bipartisan “super-committee” was supposed to come up with a reasonable budget to eliminate $1.2–$1.5 trillion from the national deficit. The Congressionally-mandated sequester went into effect two weeks ago when Congress couldn’t come up with a better idea about the budget. The draconian cuts across all federal programs was supposed to be enacted only as a last-ditch measure. The concept was that Congress and the Administration would be so fearful of the results of the sequester, which the media and elected officials often called a “poison pill,” they would take the time to thoughtfully work out a proper budget, and the sequester would never happen.
But, the Republicans dug in their heels, refused to compromise, and even continued their vacations the last week before the sequester went into effect.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
“Indeed,” writes DavidKorten, “we have become so entranced in the illusion that money is a measure of real wealth and a storehouse of value that we have allowed it to displace life as our object of sacred veneration and become the ultimate arbiter of human priorities.”
As the economy twists downward for most of us — as the politics of money tightens like a noose around everything we love — I think about the disintegration of human values, which insane logic and the Republicans tells us we can no longer afford.
A few days ago, Paul Buchheit wrote on Common Dreams about the poisonous nature of the ongoing privatization process: the inexorable corporate takeover of the human commons. As markets expand, the public domain — physical, social, spiritual — shrinks. It’s not simply that public land is auctioned off or that water rights are taken away from us, but that our right to care for others, to organize society around a modicum of compassion, is being confiscated in the name of “sorry, can’t afford it.”
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Considering the church’s serial obfuscations and cover-ups, it is worth asking what role Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio, now Pope Francis I, might have played during Argentina’s Dirty War.
The election of Argentina’s Jorge Maria Bergoglio, now Pope Francis I, as the first pope from Latin America is a truly historic moment. The purported runner up in 2005 to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (the now-retired Pope Benedict XVI), Bergoglio is now the worldwide leader of the Catholic Church.