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.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Bill 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.”
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
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.)
JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Jane Stillwater
My friend Gordon Lau works for a charitable foundation in Jakarta that tries to help the poorest of the poor -- and so he decided to see exactly what his clients are going through by being "Poor for a Day" himself.
I wanna be poor for a day too -- and have just been given the perfect opportunity to do so. My housing co-op is being re-habbed and I have to be out of my apartment for three weeks while they do everything to it except install a new chimney for Santa Claus to come down.
(Photo: Courtesy of Jane Stillwater)
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The modern Republican Party finds its origins in the first post-Mexican War election, that of 1848 (1). The victory in the Mexican War had brought the nation a huge amount of new territory. The question of “what to do” about the potential expansion of the institution of slavery into the new states that might be created from the conquest came very much, and very quickly, to the fore. The South, of course, which had seen limits placed on the expansion of slavery west (and north west) by the Missouri Compromise of 1820, wanted unlimited expansion. Opposed were two major forces: those that simply wanted to prevent the expansion into the territories and those that wanted not only the former but also wanted the abolition of slavery in the states in which it already existed.
Starting with the said election of 1848, both major national parties, the Democrats and the Whigs, were beginning to come apart at the seams over the above question. For 1848, the Whigs nominated a general, Zachary Taylor, who was a Southerner and who owned slaves. However, he did not own much of a public record on the major political question of the time. He won. Once in office, Taylor surprised just about everyone by taking a free-soil position for the Territories. However, by the 1854 mid-terms, out of the by-then accumulated Whig wreckage the Republican Party had been born. The history is very complex, which much movement backwards and forwards, but the Republican Party picked up four other pieces of the political pie of the time that eventually led to its victory in the four-way election of 1860.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
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)