April 16, 2017 – The “Trump pay your taxes/tell us what you paid” protests around the country on Tax Day April 15th matter only if they are the beginning of a movement by the Berniecrats (since the Clintonites have finessed the issue) to deal with the institutionalized tax cheating effected by open scams such as the carried interest fraud which says that people who run hedge funds should pay a lower rate on their personal profits than anybody else. Why do they get that? Because they have paid off members of Congress to allow it. The Dems and Trump have said they are against it, but if you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you.
March 24, 2017 – I just saw a fascinating film, “The Pastor’s Children,” in which I learned to some astonishment that during World War II, Protestant pastors in Germany collected iron church bells for Hitler so he could make bombs from them. After the war, 50,000 bells were left over, because there were so many, that the military production couldn’t use them all. It illustrates dramatically how supportive the Protestant (as well as the Catholic) churches were of the Nazis.
March 20, 2017 – Robert Silvers, editor of the New York Review of Books, just died. You will read the expected hagiographies.
You won’t read how he censored comments on his neocon vision of Russia. He had run an article by Anne Applebaum replete with falsehoods about Russia. (She is a big fan of the corrupt Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.) After I talked about it with him, and he said to send my comments, I did. He refused to print them in the magazine but agreed to post them on line! Instead, he ran a comment saying people could find my views on my website — without even a link! So what does that mean? Either my comments were valid or not. Pretty tacky of him, I thought. Even sneaky. Lacking integrity.
Nov 20, 2016 – My neighborhood: Sunday night, and the meeting room of a community center on West 13th Street in the Village was jammed with hundreds of people, standing room only, all quite passionately opposed to what President-elect Donald Trump threatens to do to the country – especially hurting various identity groups and entrenching extremists in a space for the newly powerful to which (nobody mentioned it) the Clintons and Obama had opened the door, put in plush rugs, etc.
Sept 29, 2016 – Tony Blair was in town for the opening of the United Nations, which draws heads of state, foreign ministers, and people who think they ought to travel in those circles. Former British Prime Minister Blair was one of the latter. One of the architects of the Iraq War, he came to attempt to reinvent himself as a humanitarian. He has set up the Tony Blair Faith Foundation to work with education programs to deal with extremism across the world. To help stop it. (Do you know the meaning of chutzpah?) He has also reinvented himself as a very rich guy, selling his services to various Gulf sheiks and the president-for-life of Kazakhstan.
Blair had the help of the Council on Foreign Relations, which helped his PR offensive by pairing him in a meeting with UNESCO head Irina Bokova to discuss “the role of education and civil society in preventing global extremism and raising awareness among governments.” It was a surreal event, not likely to change any
June 3, 2016 – Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel prize-winning former chief economist of the World Bank, says that the way to solve corruption and money-laundering facilitated by offshore banks that run secret accounts is to “shut them down.” And the way to do that is to ban non-transparent banks from US correspondent accounts. He spoke at a Council on Foreign Relations meeting today.
At the breakfast on “Is U.S. Finance Hurting Growth?”, he addressed an aspect of banking that was not on the agenda, asking, “Why do we have offshore banking?
April 26, 2016 – A drumbeat of the Troika that ended Greek sovereignty last year was that the government wasn’t collecting taxes. The Troika was the European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank. That charge came from a collection of states that includes some of the world’s worst tax evasion enablers, including the Luxembourg of EC President Jean-Claude Junker, whose country is a world class tax haven. Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis revealed for the first time how days after he resigned, the Troika effectively abolished a unit he had set up to combat tax evasion.
April 14, 2016 – Bernie Sanders supporters came to my Greenwich Village neighborhood April 13th, filling Washington Square Park for a rally that raised the issues he has made the focus of his campaign – how the super-rich have taken over the country’s politics in their interests.
April 7, 2016 – Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker appeared at the Council on Foreign Relations a few days ago and treated the members to misinformation about the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, which is being promoted by President Obama and corporate America as a free trade benefit. Opposition to TPP has swelled as the public found out the details of the treaty which was negotiated in secret, with input only from corporate representatives, and not even made available to members of Congress. Much of it was revealed by Wikileaks. Pritzker said in her remarks at the April 4th event that critics were “not telling an accurate story or telling part of the story and blaming trade for something that’s larger.” So, in a question, I pointed out that “I heard a lot of facts that I thought were misstated from your presentation.”
Feb 4, 2016 – Art as politics reaches new intensities in the Whitney Museum’s disturbing and powerful new exhibit of film maker Laura Poitras’ selection of videos and documents to define the U.S. government’s threats to liberty after 9/11. The exhibit opens in New York Feb 5 and continues till May 1, 2016.
Feb 2, 2016 – At the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday, I pointed out to Stanley Fischer, Vice Chairman, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, that the current low unemployment rate he cited in his talk doesn’t mean what it did when workers had good manufacturing jobs – when now the employed are often working for the minimum wage and need government aid. Shouldn’t the Fed put out those numbers? He avoided answering the question.
Sept 21, 2015 – Before the refugee crisis exploded in September, there were already people seeking help in Germany. On August 19th, I visited a reception center in Berlin, taken there by Karsten Voigt, who as a Social Democratic member of parliament had for decades led SPD foreign policy there.
Longtime friends since I first reported about Germany in 1979, I had had lunch with him. And after that he said, “I want to take you someplace.”
So we walked along Turmstrasse in Moabit, the neighborhood where he lives. We arrived at “Lageso,” acronym for Landesamt für Gesundheit und Soziales. Office for Social and Health Services. It was originally a place where people got health services.
April 18, 2015 – German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday. With a politician’s practiced spin, he declared that Germany didn’t owe any money from billions it had extorted from Greece during its World War II occupation, because for a period after the war, it had no sovereign government. WHAT!
March 30, 2015 – In a talk to the Council on Foreign Relations Thursday, Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, spoke of the international drug trade and grand corruption damaging his country. He said: “The global criminal economy is 1.7 trillion [dollars] a year. Afghanistan is certainly among the 20 top contributors to this because of the heroin trade. But heroin has been sidelined as a phenomenon and its impact.
We have at least 15—or 35 people who are worth $10 to $20 billion, and they have yearly income from this trade, it’s 300 to $500 million. We—they fuel insecurity. So, that, again, needs to be understood.”
And, “The first problem is grand corruption. Corruption is the system.” He emphasized that “corruption has become very deep and entrenched and we have to break it.”
So, I asked him this: You talked a number of times about the grand corruption and also about the international drug trafficking that has a number of billionaires in your country.
To what extent do you think that this is facilitated especially by the big players, by the international offshore bank and corporate secrecy system, where they can stash their money in accounts that do not have their names?
March 16, 2015 – You don’t expect the CIA director to give away the crown jewels, but you do expect him to take seriously a question about the offshore bank and corporate secrecy system. That is the opaque system of bank accounts and shell companies set up in banking centers and networked islands and mini-states and used by terrorists, criminals, arms traffickers, corporate crooks, tax evaders and the like.
But when I asked him about it at a Council on Foreign Relations meeting, that was later broadcast on the Charlie Rose show Friday, he evaded and waffled.
Jan 29, 2015 – Even out of office, U.S. officials evade crucial questions about U.S. policy. Here is Janet Napolitano, former head of the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security, 2009-13, also former Gov. of Arizona, at the Council on Foreign Relations Jan 29th evading a crucial question about U.S. policy in the era of cyber-war.
She spoke at a Home Box Office History Makers Series “on the contributions made by a prominent individual at a critical juncture in international relations.” Given her answer to this question, which measures intellectual and political honesty, we have to think, “maybe not so much.”
Jan 15, 2015 – Anne Applebaum wrote an article about Putin’s Russia in the Dec. 18, 2014 issue of the New York Review of Books that was filled with distortions. When I saw NYRB editor Robert Silvers at a Dissent magazine party in New York Dec. 5th, I told him my opinion. He said to send him my comments. But then he declined to print those comments and said that he would run this editorial statement:
Lucy Komisar has written to us that she has a statement to make about the article by Anne Applebaum in our December 18, 2014 issue. This statement is available on her website, The Komisar Scoop. — The Editors.
Oct 6, 2014 – Mikhail Khodorkovsky is “doing” the U.S. He appeared on big-time celebrity TV and I saw him today at the Council on Foreign Relations. After some dicey years as a Russian “oligarch” (a euphemism for a corrupt guy who loots the Russian patrimony), he became a “reformer” and was jailed by Vladimir Putin, serving ten years for tax evasion and related crimes. (Other oligarchs did the same crimes, but they got a pass, because they didn’t challenge Putin.)
Yes, he was targeted for political reasons, but what about what he actually did? Siphon profit out of his companies via offshore shell companies, thereby cheating minority shareholders and (via tax evasion) the Russian people. (details below). How does he deal with it?
Sept 29, 2014 –
Last week (Sept. 22), I went to a Metropolitan Museum of Art event about a new exhibit, Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age.
It included a talk by Secretary of State John Kerry and some speeches by art experts. A theme was the destruction that the “bad guys” have wrecked on historic art and archeological places in the Syria-Iraq region.
Sept 10, 2014 – I went to hear Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Charles Johnson at the Council on Foreign Relations today at a lunch speech positioned to precede the President’s TV address tonight to say what he is to do (beyond “don’t do something stupid”), to deal with the threat of ISIS.
Johnson’s speech included reference to the danger posed by Islamic militants inside the country. So at question time I asked, “How do you deal with the problem posed by militants in the U.S. who can easily go to states that sell them guns and assault weapons with virtually no regulation – weapons they can carry to public places including airports. Isn’t this a hole in homeland security that allows militants to get lethal weapons with which they can harm us all?”
July 25, 2014 – Anyone who had read the two-part series published here, “Fees for our friends: the scandal that taints Andrew Cuomo” and “Fees for our friends, Andrew Cuomo’s vendetta,” both published in 2006 — eight years ago — and ignored by the mainstream media, would not be surprised about the Cuomo corruption just revealed by the New York Times. “Cuomo’s Office Hobbled Ethics Inquiries by Moreland Commission.”
Too bad reporters and readers didn’t focus on my story detailing Cuomo’s corruption. The candidate for governor was an attractive guy with a good-looking girlfriend and an articulate ex-governor father. So why look further? Why even do an internet search? But better late than never. (For the corporate press, it’s usually later.)
May 20, 2014 – Rudolf Elmer is a Swiss whistle blower who has been persecuted by the Swiss justice system for revealing tax evasion facilitated by the Julius Bär Bank in Zurich. He comments on the Justice Department deal with Credit Suisse, whose egregious money-laundering for 22,000 U.S. tax-evading accounts was exposed by Senate hearings led by Sen. Carl Levin. The settlement requires Credit Suisse to pay $2.6 billion in penalties, with no requirement that it turn over the names of U.S. tax evaders. The U.S. could have withdrawn the bank’s license to practice in America. It declined to use that leverage.
March 6, 2014 – Last October, my mother was notified by her credit card company that there was a suspicious charge for $800 on her card. Her card was replaced and she lost nothing. She thought one of the clerks at Sally Beauty Supply was responsible. That was the last purchase she had made on that card. After that she used cash at the store. (Sally’s is a national chain and Mom likes to shop there.)
Today’s NY Times mentions Sally’s in a story about credit card theft.
What it does not mention is that this (apparently) was going on for many months without a fix or public notice. The theft of Mom’s card info happened nearly five months ago. It is clear that the card issuer (Citibank) did not follow up (adequately or at all) when put on notice about this problem.
Gigantic sums of money may be being stolen from banks in this manner. The federal law that limits individual losses to $50 per card protects the banks, but hides the real losses that the banks pass on without scaring customers out of using their cards.
Aug 28, 2013 — Since it’s the 50th anniversary, I’m writing a brief remembrance about the March on Washington. I’d been in Jackson, Mississippi, for a year, editing the “Mississippi Free Press,” a civil rights weekly. In August 1963, I took a bus home to New York, stopping at the March, which friends of mine had helped organize.
April 8, 2013 – Amidst the wide-ranging hagiographic praise of film critic Roger Ebert, who died last week, I can add a remembrance of another type. I knew Roger from National Student Association conferences of the 1960s. I liked him. In 1970, he invited me and a friend, Nanette Rainone, both of us strong feminists, to appear at a Russ Meyer Film Festival at Yale Law School. We accepted partly as a lark, partly because we thought that Yale Law students might seriously consider our views.