Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Homework assignment, anyone?

OK, so I'm sitting here in my flat, and I'm reading an art book. Supposedly an art book. It is titled Mark Lombardi Global Networks. Mark Lombardi was an artist who specialized in researching and diagramming the financial connections of politicans, crime figures and corporations behind the big financial scandals here in the states. He was found hanged in his apartment, apparently a suicide.

Anyway, the connections amount to a lot of 'under the table' dealing and money laundering, and they involve not only US presidents, but heads of state in other countries as well. And on page 30 there is the following discussion of Money Laundering (I'm copying, not pasting, in case you find errors):

"The term "money laundering" was probably first developed in the heyday of Al Capone's crime syndicate, when coin-operated laundries were used to hide illegal gambling profits. Over time, money laundering developed into an international business involving offshore financial institutions, including shell banks, which were estimated in 2002 to house deposits of $5 trillion worldwide, whereeas in 1983 they held only $200 million. Their advantages lie in the secrecy, freedom from taxes, and ready access to cross-border currency that they offer. Offshore accounts can be opened in a few hours, and offshore businesses can be registered overnight. First used during the 1930s by individuals intending to hide funds from the Nazis and by French people wishing to avoid income taxes, then later by mobster Meyer Lansky during the 1950s, these accounts have in recent decades also become tax havens for international corporations and wealthy individuals throughout the world. "
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"Joining this figure in impressiveness is the yearly sum of revenues amassed in the Western world through white-collar crime: $818 Billion, according to U.N. figures."

Mark Lombardi's art took the form of a large chart showing businesses and investors, with lines connecting them, so that you could see for example the business connections of George W. Bush with various Saudi and other Arab personnel and ventures. And the Harken Energy company he invested in was one of Mark's art projects.

So then I remembered that the Taliban had been negotiating a pipeline deal with the White House (Cheney specifically) and bailed out on the deal, just about 2 months before the US decided to invade that country to get Osama. (Strangely, we never found bin Laden, but we put the Taliban out of office in short order.) Then I started thinking - just what might be the connection between the amount of money that was at stake, money laundering on a global scale, and our boys at home starting 2 wars in the Middle East in one year? Given the historical method in that part of the world (I forgot what it's called but there is a name for it) of handling money transfers in cash outside the 'regular' banking system, could our boys have gotten ripped off and gone to war to settle the score?

I don't know the answer. And it would be really hard to prove, but the kind of diagrams Lombardi made would certainly show the connections. I just wish I had the time to research it all and find out. Anybody got time on their hands? You could take it as homework... and you might start with either Harken Energy, or with the Carlyle Group.

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