While the headlines scream unemployment is down to 8.6 percent, the fine print tells us it is due in good measure to the 315,000 people too discouraged to look for work last month.

But buried in the back pages (p.21 in the Washington Post last Friday) is a shocker:  American household wealth declined precipitously in the third quarter (July to September).  The average individual loss in 401k pension accounts at Fidelity, the largest such savings plan provider, was $21,000.  The total loss in household wealth was a record $2.4 trillion.  When corporations dispensed with defined-benefit plans in favor of 401K contributions, employees were promised an inexorable march to prosperity riding the stock market bull.  It turned out to be a buckin' bronco that has thrown off all riders.  Of course, corporate cash reserves in the same quarter were up by $2.1 trillion.  It clearly pays to shed your risks to the perennial sucker, the common man.

We are finally able to leave Iraq.  Contrary to the claims made by the Secretary of Defense at the flag casing ceremony, the country is neither stable, nor a unified democracy.  Bombings continue; people vote their religious or ethnic affiliation not for any across the board candidate; and right now there is a dispute between the central government and the de facto autonomous Kurdish authorities as to their rights to sign an oil deal with Exxon.

Quite apart from our terrible losses in lives lost and destroyed, the Iraqis have also suffered, and far worse.  The over 100,000 deaths totaled by Iraq Body Count are directly attributable to war.  But what of the diabetic who could not obtain insulin and lapsed into a coma and died?  Or the one with appendicitis?  Or a woman who needed a Caesarian?  Are there deaths caused by war?  The John Hopkins study published in Lancet included these and calculated excess deaths at over half a million.  Almost every family has suffered a loss.  In addition, over five million have been displaced, their lives devastated.

The most recent study on the cost to us of this war was issued by Brown University this summer.  The total cost for Iraq and Afghanistan was estimated at between $3.2 and $4 trillion.  And the contribution of this administration is an additional three years in each — more in Afghanistan.

The ceremony in Iraq was held in a heavily fortified compound in the heavily fortified green zone.  No public official dare step outside it on to the streets of Baghdad.  So much for winning hearts and minds.  It is the same in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  For wasting all this money and earning nothing but hatred, surely there must be someone somewhere who awards a dunce's cap to policy makers.

By the way, when someone informs the world about gross wrongdoing resulting in the taking of innocent lives, does one correct the wrongdoing or punish the truth teller who brought it to light?  Interesting question and a predictable answer form this administration, which also abstains from investigating and trying bankers.  Professing the innocence of bankers without conducting a proper investigation is like saying a burglar did not break the law because no one investigated the burglary.  Did fraud take place?  Evidently.  Was there a human agent?  Yes.  So who is trying to connect the dots? 

One final note:  According to FBI Deputy Director John Pistole in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 9, 2009, 1000 FBI agents and forensic experts were employed in strike forces in 27 cities to investigate the $160.1 billion (General Accounting Office data) Savings and Loan debacle in the 1980s.  The current banking disaster is an order of magnitude larger.  How many investigating this?  So far none.

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