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Tuesday, 18 November 2014 10:15

Which Side Are You On?

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaConflictAkira(Photo: Hans Holbein the Younger)Ever get the feeling that things are spiraling out of control? Yes, apocalyptic thinking seems to be a hardwired human impulse, but it’s hard to deny that, of late, events are trending in an ever more unhinged direction. On issue after issue, stark contrasts may be drawn between opposing sides as the rhetoric becomes ever more forceful.

Item: House Republicans have seized upon the “mandate” offered by the recent midterm elections to pass a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline, an enterprise that will support the carbon emissions-heavy extraction of oil from the Alberta tar sands, have little positive impact on domestic energy costs, and create, in the end, a whopping 50 permanent jobs. In an attempt to secure her political legacy, or perhaps a post-political consulting career, the soon to be ex-Democratic senator from Louisiana, Mary Landrieu, is pushing for a vote in the Senate on a similar bill. Meanwhile, the Rosebud Sioux, through whose reservation the pipeline will run, have denounced the authorization as an “act of war.”

Item: President Obama issued an entirely sensible statement calling for net neutrality, something that has been long overdue, and something that enjoys overwhelming public support. Senator Ted Cruz, who I am increasingly convinced is the product of a failed collaboration between a third-rate cloning facility and an adolescent performance artist, immediately denounced net neutrality as the “Obamacare of the internet,” following this fascinating claim with a collection of other words that offered the outward appearance of meaning and coherence while demonstrating little more than a profound lack of understanding of the issue.

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPollingStation(Photo: Man vyi)The leadership of the Republican Party knows that, except in a few very high income neighborhoods, it cannot win elections running on its real program of tax cuts for the wealthy, bread-crumbs (if any) for everyone else, and ending government regulation of every sector of the economy from the banking industry to the production of energy. So ever since Nixon, and most especially since Reagan, they have necessarily engaged in what I have for quite some time described as "The Rightward Imperative." This means attracting voters to the GOP through religious determinism, enhancing bigotry, demonization, and so on and so forth.

However, the true leadership of the GOP, of many of whom we have little or no knowledge, knew that someday this movement would run out of gas. Yes, after Ted "Damn the Law" Cruz has come Joni "Shoot the Law" Ernst, and you have Louie Gohmert and Steve "immigrant children carry bags of dope across the desert" King, not all that many voters are going to go that way in national elections, as especially as the general economy stagnates. And so, the true, big money, leadership knew that they were going to have to go in a different direction. Rove's "Permanent Republican Majority" would never appear. But a "Permanent Republican Government" could.

Which brings us to the Republicans' Grand Plan to achieve that end. It began back in 1992 with the hatching by the then, now defunct, Republican political ally, the Christian Coalition, of something they called "The 15% Solution." (I wrote a book with that title, on the theme of what the GOP/Religious Right would do if they were ever to attain significant power in US government. Originally published in 1996, the current edition is to be found here. "The 15% Solution" itself is to be found on p. 17 of that book). It was a strategy designed to lower voting participation, down to a level where the loyal rightist "15%" could win elections, all by themselves. As Paul Weyrich, one of the creators of the Republican-Religious Right Alliance, a founder of ALEC (see below) and a founder of the Heritage Foundation, famously said: "We don't want everyone to vote. Quite frankly, our leverage goes up as the voting population goes down" (see p. 18).

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aceopay(Photo: binx)

The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) released a study on November 18 entitled, "Fleecing Uncle Sam." The analysis concludes that "a growing number of corporations spend more on executive compensation than federal income taxes."

It's rather astonishing that such an economic betrayal of corporate financial obligations to society exists, but it is even more shocking - according to IPS - that it is growing:

Of America’s 30 largest corporations, seven (23 percent) paid their CEOs more than they paid in federal income taxes last year. 

    • All seven of these firms were highly profitable, collectively reporting more than $74 billion in U.S. pre-tax profits. However, they received a combined total of $1.9 billion in refunds from the IRS.

    • The seven CEOs leading these tax-dodging corporations were paid $17.3 million on average in 2013. Boeing and Ford Motors both paid their CEOs more than $23 million last year while receiving large tax refunds.

Of America’s 100 highest-paid CEOs, 29 received more in pay last year than their company paid in federal income taxes—up from 25 out of the top 100 in our 2010 and 2011 surveys.

“Our corporate tax system is so broken that large, profitable firms can get away without paying their fair share and instead funnel massive funds into the pockets of top executives,” remarked Scott Klinger, Director of Revenue and Spending Policies at the Center for Effective Government and a co-author of the report.

2014.11.17.Ferguson.BFPolice forces in Ferguson, Missouri, August 17, 2014. (Photo: Loavesofbread / Wikipedia )

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

When the Michael Brown grand jury decision is announced, people can expect the police to take at least ten different illegal actions to prevent people from exercising their constitutional rights. The Ferguson police have been on TV more than others so people can see how awful they have been acting. But their illegal police tactics are unfortunately quite commonly used by other law enforcement in big protests across the US.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution promises the government will not abridge freedom of speech or to prevent the right of the people to peaceably assemble or to petition to the government for the redress of grievances.

Here is what they are going to do, watch for each of these illegal actions when the crowds start to grow.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

a2jimrisenJim Risen (Photo: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

In an interview with Truthout just recently posted, New York Times Reporter James Risen was adamant about not revealing a confidential source, even if the Supreme Course orders him to do so:

MARK KARLIN: In regards to your own travails as a journalist, the government is trying to force you to reveal a confidential source relating to the shadow intelligence gathering community. You have stood steadfastly against giving up a source for information contained within your book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. The Obama administration is pursuing its legal case against you to the Supreme Court. You appear as resolute as ever to uphold the journalistic right to shield sources. Would anything change that courageous stance?

JAMES RISEN: No.

Risen revealed the background to the legal persecution that he is enduring - through the Bush and Obama administrations' obsessive disregard for journalistic investigative rights in a free society - in an excerpt posted on Truthout from his new book, PAY ANY PRICE:

As my legal battle against the government dragged on year after year, eventually making its way to the Supreme Court in 2014, I became convinced that I was fighting to protect press freedom in the post-9/11 age. But in the process, I discovered that I was no longer merely a journalist and author covering the war on terror. I had joined the many people whose lives had been upended by its excesses....

[Risen then details how The New York Times, at the request of the Bush Administration, refused to run a story on the NSA warrantless wiretapping that he had co-authored with Eric Lichtblau. It was refused publication twice by The New York Times, with direct presidential influence, and published only after Risen wrote a book that included the information, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration]

2014.11.17.TTIP.BFA flash mob of TTIP protesters at a campaign event for the Christian Democratic Union with Chancellor Angela Merkel, in Hamburg, Germany, May 17, 2014. (Photo: Ulrike Schmidt for campact / Flickr)

ERIC ZUESSE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

On November 14, German Economic News (which this writer has found to be the world’s most honest, non-propagandistic newspaper) published two articles about the first independent study of the likely impacts of the Obama-proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This study, by an American economist, concludes:

“TTIP appears to favor economic disintegration, rather than integration, in Europe. At a minimum, [the] official studies do not offer a solid basis for an informed decision on TTIP …

“TTIP would lead to losses in terms of net exports after a decade, compared to the baseline ‘no-TTIP’ scenario …

“TTIP would lead to net losses in terms of GDP …

“TTIP would lead to a loss of labor income …

“TTIP would lead to job losses …

“TTIP would lead to a reduction of the labor share [and increase in the capital or stockholders’ share] …

“TTIP would lead to a loss of government revenue [less money for infrastructure, law-enforcement, social welfare, etc.] …

“TTIP would lead to higher financial instability [higher risk of economic crashes].”

Monday, 17 November 2014 06:11

Sordid Tales of Selfishness in the Superrich

2014.11.17.Buchheit.BF (Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

If the mainstream media made the effort to analyze and report the facts, the whole country would know about a level of selfishness that has spiraled out of control since the economists of the Reagan era convinced the wealthiest Americans that greed is good for everyone. Here are four extreme examples of that selfishness.


1. Ebola's Not Worth the Money If Only Africans Get Infected

World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Dr. Margaret Chan recently stated: "Ebola emerged nearly four decades ago. Why are clinicians still empty-handed, with no vaccines and no cure? Because Ebola has historically been confined to poor African nations. The R&D incentive is virtually non-existent. A profit-driven industry does not invest in products for markets that cannot pay."

So we turn to philanthropy. But rich donors don't compensate for the flaws of capitalism. The Gates Foundation, among others, may appear noble and praiseworthy for all its charitable giving, but Dr. Chan noted that "My budget [is] highly earmarked, so it is driven by what I call donor interests." Little of that 'earmarking' is toward diseases of the poor. A study in The Lancet of medical products registered in 2000-11 revealed that "Only four new chemical entities were approved for neglected diseases (three for malaria, one for diarrhoeal disease), accounting for 1% of the 336 new chemical entities approved during the study period."

JACKIE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anunendwar(Photo: Tony Fischer)

Recently, Common Dreams ran an article entitled, "As New War Rages, Mainstream Media Silences Debate, Study Finds." Indeed most of the people in the US probably go through the day without ever thinking about the nation's ceaseless wars.

Many US voters are disgusted with both major political parties for reasons that go back a long way.

If elected Republicans think that they have a mandate as a result of the November 4th elections, they are laboring under a grand delusion. 

The fact of the matter is that more than a third of those who voted for a Republican House candidate were dissatisfied or angry with GOP leaders in Congress, according to preliminary exit polls. A quarter of Democratic voters were similarly upset with President Obama.

Over the last decade, many voters have come to believe that going to the polls is an exercise in futility. They intuitively sense that elected officials from both parties work for corporate millionaires and billionaires, and that the oligarchs from the oil and weapon industries will continue to shape foreign and domestic policies in their favor to the detriment of the vast majority of those in the US - no matter who is elected. As a case in point, the economy is backsliding for most workers in terms of pay.

Friday, 14 November 2014 08:47

Shell Oil Loses Arctic Drilling Lawsuit

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaExxon(Photo: EcoWatch)Shell Oil seems to be on a losing streak these days.

In early October it was announced that the Greenpeace campaign to get Danish toy company LEGO to sever its nearly 50-year partnership with the oil giant was successful. Its Arctic drilling has been plagued with misadventures such as a drilling rig running aground on New Year’s Eve 2012. It was forced to abandon its drilling plans for 2013 and 2014, although it has said it plans to try again for 2015.

And yesterday, in a decision sure to be a relief to activist and advocacy groups of all stripes, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a lawsuit brought by Shell that was primarily an effort to block potential lawsuits from environmental groups who opposed its drilling operations in the Arctic.

Two years ago, Shell filed a preemptive lawsuit against 13 environmental, indigenous and community groups to prevent them from possibly suing Shell at some time in the future over its plans to drill for oil in the Arctic. The 9th Circuit Court panel yesterday called the legal maneuver “novel”and said that it was unconstitutional.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

coalminingdisPhoto of graves of miners from another disaster, the Sago Mine explosion in 2006. (Photo: Nancy)

 A member of the oligarchy is finally being held criminally responsible for worker deaths.

Don Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy (King Coal in West Virginia), was just indicted for putting profits above the lives of his company's employees resulting in a 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.

Those are among the charges contained in a federal indictment announced on November 13 by the Department of Justice. According to the West Virginia MetroNews Network,

The 43-page four-count federal indictment of former Massey Energy president and CEO Don Blankenship portrays an operator obsessive about upping production at the cheapest cost. Federal prosecutors allege it was an attitude that led to the deadly explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County that killed 29 miners.

The indictment, announced Thursday by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, alleges Blankenship knew about UBB’s safety problems and the practice of alerting supervisors underground when federal mine inspectors arrived at UBB for inspections. It’s also alleged he lied to the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission about mine safety in the days after the April 5, 2010 explosion in an attempt to help Massey’s stock price.

Blankenship was charged with conspiracy to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards, conspiracy to impede federal mine safety officials, making false statements to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and securities fraud....

The indictment alleges Blankenship was driven by the numbers and in doing so ignored dozens of safety violations at UBB and covered up others. Federal prosecutors said from April 3, 2009, to April 5, 2010, Blankenship received 249 daily safety violation reports from the UBB mines but did very little to correct the problems.

One can read the specific details of Blankenship's alleged culpability in the actual federal indictment.

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