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 (Image: <a href=" https://www.flickr.com/photos/truthout/4401314497/in/photolist-" target="_blank"> Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: daliborlev, Kenneth Hynek</a>) (Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: daliborlev, Kenneth Hynek)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Let's face it, people: Walmart is kicking our collective butts; to the tune of more than $7 billion in taxpayer subsidies. A new report by Americans for Tax Fairness points out that the American taxpayer - read that, you, me and probably everyone you know - "is providing enormous tax breaks and tax subsidies to Walmart and the Walton family, further boosting corporate profits and the family's already massive wealth."

In addition to accruing tax breaks from the rest of us, the report points out that "the Walton family is avoiding an estimated $3 billion in taxes by using specialized trusts to dodge estate taxes – and this number could increase by tens of billions of dollars."

And, the family "also benefits significantly from taxpayer-funded public assistance programs that pump up the retailer's sales. For example, Walmart had an estimated $13.5 billion in food stamp sales last year."

Walmart is the largest private employer in the United States, with 1.4 million employees. The company, which is number one on the Fortune 500 in 2013 and number two on the Global 500, had $16 billion in profits last year on revenues of $473 billion.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

agregorydDavid Gregory, blathering pundit who provides inane filler between commercials (Image: DonkeyHotey)

The Washington Post is so enamored of inside-the-Beltway, self-anointed pundits (which include a great number of WP columnists and reporters) that it published an inadvertently revealing April 20 article about pretentious Sunday morning political talk shows. The Post article implied that the falling ratings of David Gregory on "Meet the Press" could be related to the real objectives of these pustulating programs with blathering poobahs: advertising and DC access for the three major non-cable networks.

The article, curiously posted in the "Lifestyle" section of the Post, begins with a breathless portrait of David Gregory, who infamously asked Glenn Greenwald last year - in an example of the uniform mindset shared by the government and network news - "To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn't you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?" The Post portrays Gregory as follows:

If "Meet the Press" moderator David Gregory were a guest on his own show, he knows the kinds of questions he’d be asked.

Why have your ratings been falling? Is the show in trouble? Is your job in trouble?...

The main problem: The great-granddaddy of Sunday-morning Beltway blabfests isn’t just not No. 1. It’s No. 3 and in the midst of a three-year slide. During the first three months of this year, the NBC program finished behind perennial rivals "Face the Nation" on CBS and "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" on ABC, despite being helped by two weeks of Winter Olympics hoopla. In the final quarter of last year, viewing among people ages 25 to 54, the preferred group for TV news advertisers, fell to its lowest level ever.

The Post later notes about the windbag programs that center on self-inflated discussion of political process, rather than information on public policy: "The relatively large and affluent audiences they attract make them magnets for corporate image advertisers that pay premium prices for airtime. [Tim] Russert’s dominating position helped NBC earn a reported $60 million from 'Meet the Press' in 2007."

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGabriel2(Photo: Jose Lara)Years before I met him, Gabriel Garcia Marquez changed my life.

"One Hundred Years of Solitude" gave me a new way of looking at the world. The label "magical realism" does not begin to capture the poetry of Garcia Marquez's imagination or the evocative power of his prose. Reading his masterpiece was like stepping through a portal into a Technicolor reality where the streets are paved with metaphor and the air is fragrant with dreams.

Garcia Marquez, who died Thursday at 87, was my introduction to modern Latin American literature. I wanted more.

When I got a Nieman fellowship at Harvard -- a year off to study anything I wanted -- the first thing I did was sign up for a literature course taught by the great Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes. I hoped someday to read my favorite authors in their native tongue, so I took a Spanish-language course. The novels I was reading referred to unfamiliar events, so I enrolled in a Latin American history course.

Midway through the academic year, I learned that The Washington Post's South America bureau was coming open. I had prepared myself for the job -- accidentally -- and so instead of returning to Washington in the summer of 1988, I moved with my family to Buenos Aires.

In four years of crisscrossing the continent, I felt as if Garcia Marquez were my constant companion. The name of the fictional town where "One Hundred Years of Solitude" is set -- Macondo -- became shorthand for the bizarre, magical-realist things that happened all the time in Latin America but seemingly nowhere else.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014 06:58

Put the Move in the Movement

REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaExtinction(Photo: Dirk van der Made)Earth scientists are trying to get our attention. Well, that's an understatement – they are apoplectic, waving their arms in the windows of the super mall that our culture has become. Yes, we don't notice them because we're shopping, with iPhones glowing in our faces and white wires in our ears.

The King of the Slow Motion Shoppers is Barack Obama. He's doing the tai chi of total hesitation. He puts off the pipeline. He puts it off until after the apocalypse. In so doing, he encourages all citizens to enter the gradualism of shopping where basic change, structural way-of-life change, is impossible. Shoppers are morphed into Obama-like ditherers, lost in a cloud of alternatives, the product, the packaging, competing prices, warranties, credit, resale value, prestige value, sex life value, status value. Shopping forces upon us its false complexity.

In the last year study after study has been published by a world of natural scientists. The IPCC report from the United Nations is the most famous, but there are many others. These groups of conservation biologists, paleontologists, climatologists, – across the spectrum of disciplines within the natural sciences, add up to an unprecedented gathering of scientists around a single issue, which you might call "Life on Earth."

Each of these learned researchers is reporting the mass death on the island of life that they are studying. Each professor's specialty is dying before her eyes. Thousands of scientists are shouting to us from their coral reefs, wetlands, glaciers, cloud forests and mountain streams, from every conceivable eco-system. They all conclude their reports with the same thundering pronouncements, like a secularized Book of Revelation. "Super storms that will overwhelm economies..." "Migrations from the coastal cities and global south..." "Methane levels like the Permia Extinction of 250 million years ago..."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anevadas(Photo: Thomas Hawk)It is time for politicians to stop enabling domestic white male terrorists. (Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), however, is getting heat for calling them just that.)

The latest incident of domestic white male terrorism was in Nevada, where a veritable make-shift militia presented an armed threat to federal and local law enforcement. Why were they there? Because they were defending the view that Cliven Bundy was being treated unjustly by a US government that was allegedly violating his rights and his beliefs. It sounds like al Qaeda circling a military unit with firepower to defend the beliefs of Osama bin Laden.

Some facts are established: Within the state of Nevada Constitution, much of the former territory's land was ceded to the federal government in return for admission to the union. As a result, several thousand ranchers pay grazing rights for their cattle to make use of federal land. Cliven Brady, who owes the US treasury over a million dollars, says that he is not paying out of principle - since his family, he claims, owned the land before Nevada was a state.

After more than 20 years of Bundy, in essence, cheating other taxpayers by not paying his fair share, the federal government seized his cattle that were living off of federal land.

That is when seditious Americans assembled at his ranch to - reportedly with women and children strategically placed to protect them - threatened US law enforcement and Bureau of Land Management officials with firearms, locked and loaded.

Monday, 21 April 2014 07:27

Five Ways the 1% Are Killing Us

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

agreedwall(Photo: David Paul Ohmer)The trolls have been out blasting BuzzFlash at Truthout for calling the fossil fuel industry "eco-terrorists" for careening the earth into a human-made death spiral, but it's true.

Those who can't smell the carbon dioxide ravaging the earth for hedonistic profit - enabled by federal and many state and local governments - will find out that just because you can't smell global warming does not mean that it is not brewing a cauldron of devastation just over the horizon.

Since 9/11 few Americans have been killed by terrorists, but we have built a multi-billion dollar "anti-terrorist" intelligence, military, surveillance and incarceration state to deal with a threat that pales in comparison to global warming.

Toss in the lurking big bang of devastation to life on earth - climate change - and the 1% are living the last days of Pompeii in at least five different ways that are killing many of the rest of us.

Here they are.

(Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/petrick/70924598" target="_blank"> Perpetual Tourist / Flickr</a>)(Photo: Perpetual Tourist / Flickr)DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

If you read one business book this year, make it Flash Boys by Michael Lewis. The journalist famous for Moneyball and The Big Short takes readers inside the parasitic world of high-frequency trading that is harming the broader economy.

The technical architecture of high-frequency trading is right out of a sci-fi movie - the schemes rely on algorithms that seem artificially intelligent, and the velocity of transaction signals approach light speed. As Lewis recounts, all that technological wizardry is marshaled to let insiders know information before everyone else, which consequently lets those insiders extract wealth from the market.

The good news is that a financial transaction tax can at once raise public resources and disincentivize the most predatory schemes. The even better news is that structural changes in the industry have made such a tax more economically viable than ever.

(Image: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/truthout/4773510477" target="_blank"> Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Azureon2, bayat</a>)(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Azureon2, bayat)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Warren Buffett once claimed that the "genius of the American economy, our emphasis on a meritocracy and a market system and a rule of law has enabled generation after generation to live better than their parents did." The Economist suggested that "people succeed through brains and hard work." Economist Tyler Cowen believes in a "hyper-meritocracy" in which wealth is created by the most intelligent and motivated people.

That all sounds very inspirational. But the super-rich tend to make their money in less meritorious ways.


1. Betting on Food Prices to Rise

Chris Hedges noted that Goldman Sachs’ commodities index "is the most heavily traded in the world. The company hoards rice, wheat, corn, sugar and livestock and jacks up commodity prices around the globe so that poor families can no longer afford basic staples and literally starve." Numerous sources agree that speculation drives up commodity prices. Wheat, for example, rose in price from $105 to $481 in just eight years.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acellapril.jpag(Photo: Miss Millions)Just the other day, BuzzFlash at Truthout posted a commentary on how some banks and employers are now gouging laborers by paying them in electronic transfer cards - or essentially what we commonly know in the form of gift cards.  As we noted, this means profiteering fees are assessed in a variety of ways for workers to access their hard-earned salaries.

The Des Moines Register recently ran an article describing how a similar tactic is looting former prisoners - along with other fees assessed on those who are incarcerated that are excessive and take advantage of their imprisoned (lacking in basic rights) condition:

Perhaps Iowans don't care about what goes on in prisons, let alone about something as seemingly trivial as the fees imposed on inmates. But any of us could have a daughter, mother or brother who is one mistake away from entering an Iowa prison. If that happens, you will care. When you scrape together a little money to send your son to buy dental floss, you will care.

You will also witness how the loss of freedom, lack of basic pleasures and isolation is more than enough punishment for many incarcerated Iowans. You will know many are poor and mentally ill and give up a day's pay just to make a phone call home.

And then you may start to wonder just how many additional ways the Iowa Legislature can make life more of a struggle for inmates - and their families.

The analysis of prisoner fees includes a scam similar to the electronic salary card that is becoming a profitable business for banks and employers.  

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBloodMoon(Photo: Roadcrusher)Harold Camping, the Oakland, California-based preacher who wrongly prophesized the coming of the End Times is now gone, but there's no shortage of End Timers out there in America. Anne Lotz Graham, the daughter of the Rev. Billy Graham, recently wrote a column claiming that the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 could be a sign of the coming of The Rapture; a reboot of the Left Behind movie, based on Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' mega-best-selling Left Behind series of apocalyptic novels, is due in theaters in early October; and now, Pastor John Hagee, the master of his multi-million-dollar domain in San Antonio, Texas, is peddling an End Times book directly linked to "blood moon" eclipses.

Before your head explodes at the thought of yet another story about an End Times-inflamed preacher, consider this. Not only does Pastor Hagee preside over the mega-church, Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, but he also heads a multi-million-dollar medias empire. Not only is he a powerful political player within the Republican Party, but he has established significant political connections in Israel. The faithful have lapped up many of the more than 30 books he has written, including: "Earth's Final Moments," "From Daniel to Doomsday: The Countdown Has Begun," "Can America Survive?: 10 Prophetic Signs That We Are The Terminal Generation" and "Jerusalem Countdown," which was made into a not-very-well-received movie. I think you get the general themes of Hagee's oeuvre!

Perhaps his most significant accomplishment, however, came in 2006, when Hagee founded what is now the largest pro-Israel religious-based lobbying group in the world, the 1.3 million member Christians United for Israel (CUFI).

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