PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The process is gradual, insidious, lethal. It starts with financial stress in various forms, and then, according to growing evidence, leads to health problems and shorter lives.
Financial stress is brought upon us by the profit motive of capitalism, which offers little incentive to feed hungry children, to treat the sick, to secure us in retirement, to provide job opportunities for middle-class Americans. Some of the steps in the process are becoming more and more familiar to us.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
After all, collectively these enhancements to our current regime may not solve another important problem evident within some large financial institutions—the apparent lack of respect for law, regulation and the public trust. There is evidence of deep-seated cultural and ethical failures at many large financial institutions. Whether this is due to size and complexity, bad incentives or some other issues is difficult to judge, but it is another critical problem that needs to be addressed.
The top New York Federal Reserve Bank official, William Dudley, made this rare allegation among Wall Street insiders and government officials late on in his remarks delivered on November 8 at the Global Economic Policy Forum in NYC.
ERIC ZUESSE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
I covered previously the decades-long Koch-operation that got us to where we are (see those earlier posts here, and here, and here, and here). I shall now describe the money-trail from there to Senator Ted Cruz, who directly headed the shutdown-effort in the U.S. Congress.
The two chief contributors to Cruz's political career donated over a million dollars to it (and no other entity donated as much as $100,000 to it). These two top sources of contributions to Mr. Cruz's political career were Club For Growth, and Senate Conservatives Fund, which together donated over a million dollars to it.
Here now is some background on the two top funders of Cruz's career:
The Club for Growth, which was the top donor ($700,000+) to Cruz, was founded in 1999 by Steve Moore. As Right Wing Watch has noted, "Before founding the Club for Growth, Moore was the director of fiscal policy at the Cato Institute, and has stayed on as a Senior Fellow." Here is how iron the Koch's control over the Cato Institute was, and is: David Weigel at slate.com bannered on 25 June 2012, “Ed Crane Steps Down to End Koch Brothers’ Attempted Coup at Cato,” and Weigel reported that the Kochs were firing Crane (who by that time was America’s longest-serving think-tank CEO), because he wasn’t doing a good enough job to “provide intellectual ammunition that we can then use at Americans for Prosperity and our allied organizations” in order to oust Barack Obama and the Democrats, and replace them with Republicans.
As the Right Wing Watch report also noted regarding the leadership of the Club For Growth: "Board Members: CFG President Pat Toomey; Vice President Chuck Pike [who was Toomey's long-time buddy]; Richard Gilder, formerly Chairman of the Manhattan Institute; and Thomas Rhodes, President of National Review magazine," and the CFG is "associated with a variety of right-wing organizations, including the Heritage Foundation." Each one of those entities and persons has been the recipient of much Koch "charitable" cash, even besides the payments for leadership in the CFG. Club for Growth was also overwhelmingly the largest direct donor to Jim DeMint's political career during 2007-2012 ($157,067 as compared to the #2 direct donor, Scana Corp., which is a S.C. energy company, $49,475); Koch Industries itself was #6 (at $22,000); Club for Growth was also the largest direct donor to DeMint's entire political career.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Overshadowed by the recent budget and deficit grand farce in DC, Washington State and Colorado have promulgated the regulations under which marijuana will be sold. This comes in the wake of 2012 referendums that legalized the private growth and use of pot in the two states.
The Seattle Times reported in mid-October that the state Liquor Control Board -- without controversy -- adopted guidelines for cultivation and sales in Washington. Colorado had already set up a framework for implementing the de-criminalization of pot there.
Beyond the social and cultural issues -- and polls -- trending toward the legalization of pot use, the two states will become national models on whether or not the sale of marijuana will lead to sizable increased tax revenue for barebones public budgets.
It is worthy of note that in Washington the Liquor Control Board is in charge of overseeing marijuana legalization. The alcohol industry has generally worked against ending marijuana prohibition. It fears that events such as the Super Bowl will become a pot fueled munchy fest instead of the traditional downing of beer and shots of whiskey and bourbon.
In short, given a pot of consumer money to spend on getting high, marijuana is likely to cut into liquor industry sales.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The movie "12 Years a Slave" is described in a Wikipedia entry presumably written by its makers as an "historical drama film." It is a British-American production based on the book by the same name published in 1853 by the African-American man, Solomon Northrup, who endured this agony. It received a limited release in the United States last month, and will be released in Great Britain in January, 2014.
It will be very interesting to see how wide a release it eventually gets in the U.S. It hardly likely to be shown in very many, if any, theaters in the South, except possibly in those catering almost exclusively to African-American audiences. It would certainly not be well-received by those Southerners (and others) who refer to the First American Civil War as, for example, the "War of Northern Aggression" (a term used by the new President of the National Rifle Association, a man who refers to President Obama as a "fake President" and to Attorney General Holder as "rabidly un-American"), nor to those who refer to it as the "War for Southern Independence."
It is fascinating that the first reference cited in the latter document is: "How Should 12st [emphasis added, and yes, that is exactly how it appears in that document] Century Americans Think about the War for Southern Independence?" In that particular article, the author, a Professor of History appropriately enough at the University of the first Secessionist state, South Carolina, calls the First Civil War "Lincoln's War to Prevent Southern Independence."
Of course, at its center was the struggle by the Slave Power to preserve slavery in the states in which it already existed and to expand the "peculiar institution" to all of the then-remaining Western Territories. This is a movie that shows the full horror of slavery. Horror, that is, to those who view what was done to one group of human beings by another as a horror. Presumably those who characterize the war as one for "Southern Independence" or whatever, don't see it that way.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Another crazed, furious loner shocks the world. This time I'm a little too close to the edge of the chaos.
I gape at the TV in disbelief: I'm supposed to fly out of Los Angeles Airport — Terminal 3, no less — that afternoon, but all I see is footage of scrambling police and snarled traffic. If I'd booked an earlier flight, I could have been sitting there when the 23-year-old gunman shot the TSA agent at the foot of the escalator, then wandered through the gate area with his rifle and his grievances.
There are worse things in life than having to reschedule a flight. I postponed my return to Chicago for two days. Now that I'm back, I'm still thinking about last week's killer-rampage spectacle, which culminated in the wounding and arrest of the suspect, Paul Ciancia. Afterward came the media's smattering of sound-bite psychology.
"There were few people that kept to themselves, and he was definitely one of them," a high school classmate told ABC News.
Good enough. As the headline of the story proclaimed: He was a loner. This is the extent of our official understanding. Loner is the new race card, you could almost say — the catch-all bin that separates bad-guys-with-high-powered-rifles from the rest of us. The important thing is their differentness. Even though mass murder has been on a wild upswing since the 1960s, having increased, by some estimates, as much as fourteenfold since then (well exceeding the rise in population), the people who do these things are different from us. They're loners. That's what matters, according to the superficial media.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
BuzzFlash has known David Cay Johnston for many years. He is a Pulitzer Prize winning financial journalist and author-- with a specialty in tax policy analysis -- formerly on the staff of the New York Times among other publications.
Johnston is unusual for someone who used to be published by the "paper of record": he analyzes financial data and lets the numbers lead him to the logical mathematical conclusions. That means he doesn't start from a preconceived perspective about how to measure the economy; for instance, that the official government unemployment rate is the basic criteria to determine if we are becoming more prosperous as a nation.
Instead, Johnston drills down into arcane reports and figures, such as what trends in Social Security payroll taxes reveal. The other day, he wrote an article, "Median wage falls to lowest level since 1998," on Al Jazeera America using just such numbers to reconfirm that the working person is getting the short end of the financial stick:
Last year the median wage hit its lowest level since 1998, revealing that at least half of American workers are being left behind as the economy slowly recovers from the Great Recession.
But at the top, wages soared — the latest indication in a long-running trend of increasing inequality, with income gains going to top earners while the majority of workers see stagnant or falling wages.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Goldman Sachs churns out enormous profits from its high-rolling, casino investment schemes, while also churning out fat paychecks for its top executives. They literally sack up the gold, even as their speculative gambles have wreaked havoc on our real economy.
But, finally recognizing that their public approval rating has sunk lower than mad-cow disease, Goldman's banking barons now want you to know that they feel your pain and are eager to "give back" to the people. So — ta-da! — they've transformed themselves into philanthropists, having goosed up the bank's foundation in order to flash their "charitable side." Goldman's chief of staff noted that "people said we weren't doing enough" to address the gross inequities created by Wall Streeters, so they've turned their foundation into the fourth largest corporate charity in America. In an orchestrated show that the New York Times dubbed "reputation redemption," the bank's charitable arm doled out $241 million last year, including grants to women in developing nations and small business projects here in the U.S.
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Last Sunday, on NBC's Meet the Press, David Alexrod and Bob Woodward were invited to the "roundtable" to discuss Obama's low approval ratings. Alexrod replied:
Well, you know, I'm having flashbacks when I hear that number, David, because I remember when I was in the White House in the spring of 2010, and we had the oil leak in the Gulf, and Washington was in a twitter about that. And our numbers were damaged by that. And it was, you know, "Why can't they get it done? Why didn't he know what was going on in the mineral and mine service? This is Obama's Katrina."
And then we plugged the leak, got reparations for the people in the Gulf, helped repair the Gulf. And, you know, it wasn't mentioned in the 2012 campaign. So I think it's very hard to make judgments in the midst.
Bob Wooward responded to Axelrod:
It's a good framing of the question. Obviously we don't know. And you're right, health care is not the BP oil spill, it's something that's going to go on for years and decades.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As our numerous commentaries on Fukushima and its perilous implications to life on planet earth have indicated, the nuclear industry is high-risk. Anti-nuclear advocate Harvey Wasserman warned again of the nuclear power threat in a BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary posted today, "Pro-Nuke Scientists Should Go to Fukushima."
Now The Independent UK reports that an island of trash, some of it presumed toxic from the Fukushima radiation leaks, is floating across the Pacific, headed toward North America:
An enormous floating island of debris from Japan’s 2011 tsunami is drifting towards the coast of America, bringing with it over one million tons of junk that would cover an area the size of Texas.
The most concentrated stretch – dubbed the “toxic monster” ... - is currently around 1,700 miles off the coast, sitting between Hawaii and California, but several million tons of additional debris remains scattered across the Pacific.