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Wednesday, 31 May 2017 08:02

What Is Worse Than Being Poor?

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JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

GoldMining 0531wrp optA stripped gold mine. (Photo: AlaskaMining)These are hard times for America's gold miners. They're struggling to haul wealth out of the land, but seeing their pay dropping further and further down.

Take Bob Mercer, who's been a top miner for years, but last year, (which has been described as somewhere between lackluster and catastrophic) even Bob was down. He pulled in only $125 million in pay. Can you feel Bob's pain?

No, these are not your normal miners. They are hedge fund managers, digging for gold in the Wonderland of Wall Street. If you divided Bob Mercer's pay in his "bad year" among 1,000 real miners doing honest work, they'd consider it a fabulous year. Hedge funds are almost literally gold mines, though they require no heavy lifting by the soft-handed, Gucci-wearing managers who work them. These gold diggers are basically nothing but speculators, drawing billions of dollars from the uber-rich by promising that they are investment geniuses who will deliver fabulous profits for them. But the scam is that Mercer and his fellow diggers get paid regardless of whether they deliver or not.

Their cushy setup, known as 2-and-20, works like this: Right off the top, they take two percent of the money put up by each wealthy client, which the hedge fund whizzes like Mercer keep, even if the investments they make are losers; if their speculative bets do pay off, they pocket 20 percent of all profits; hedge fund lobbyists have rigged our nation's tax code so these Wall Street miners pay a fraction of the tax rate that real mine workers pay.

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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Hammer optA claw hammer (Photo by Evan-Amos)Since its founding in the early 1940s, the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation has been a mainstay in funding and building conservative institutions, and supporting right-wing projects. A new report by The Center for Media and Democracy’s “Exposed” project, dives into a new “national effort funded by the … foundation to assess and expand right-wing ‘infrastructure’ [in order] to influence policies and politicians in statehouses nationwide.”

According to CMD’s Mary Bottari, documents “linked to one of the Russian hackers alleged to have breached the Democratic National Committee,” were made public in October 2016. They “open a window to the behind-the-scenes workings” of the foundation, which as of June 2016, had $835 million in assets.

For the better part of its existence since its founding in 1942 by the Bradley brothers, Lynde and Harry, the foundation -- a tax-exempt “charitable” foundation under 501(c)(3) of the tax code – has, unlike the Koch Family Foundations and the Scaife Foundations family foundations, operated out of the spotlight Nevertheless, it has been one of the most influential right-wing foundations in the country.

In the late 1980s, after the brother’s Allen-Bradley Company in Milwaukee, which developed early resistors for electrical products, was sold to Rockwell International for $1.65 billion, the foundation’s coffers grew immensely, and it hired Michael S. Joyce to run its operations.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

pentagonbudgetMost Americans have to keep a tight budget, why not the Pentagon? (Photo: David B. Gleason)

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If you, like most people, feel bad if you lose your wallet with a few dollars in it, imagine what it would be like to lose track of more than a billion dollars. The latter is the reality for the Pentagon, which has lost track of at least $1 billion in military equipment and weapons in Iraq. A May 24 article in Mother Jones states:

In June 2014, Iraqi forces dropped their weapons, shed their uniforms, and abandoned their posts as ISIS militants stormed into and captured Mosul. More than a year later, the United States began funneling $1.6 billion worth of new weaponry and other support to the beleaguered Iraqi army. The arsenal included tens of thousands of assault rifles, hundreds of armored vehicles, hundreds of mortar rounds, nearly 200 sniper rifles, and other gear.

What happened to much of it is now a mystery. According to a government audit obtained by Amnesty International, the US Army admits that it failed to accurately track this recent infusion of arms and other military supplies.

The now-declassified Department of Defense audit, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, reveals that efforts to keep track of weapons being sent to Iraq have been plagued by sloppy, fragmented, and inaccurate record keeping. The audit concluded that the Army unit in charge of transferring materiel to the Iraqi government "could not provide complete data for the quantity and dollar value of equipment on hand"—including large items such as vehicles.

 This isn't the first time US taxpayer-funded military aid has been unaccounted for. Mother Jones quotes an Amnesty International researcher.

It has become clear that neither the ACA nor the AHCA can ever make health care accessible and affordable for all as long as they rely on a multi-payer, profiteering market-based system, and that either approach will leave out increasing numbers of Americans.It has become clear that neither the ACA nor the AHCA can ever make health care accessible and affordable for all as long as they rely on a multi-payer, profiteering market-based system, and that either approach will leave out increasing numbers of Americans. (Photo: Pixabay)JOHN GEYMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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In this time of bitter partisan debate over the future of US health care, the Republican Party is deeply split within its ranks while the Trump administration gives mixed signals as to its goals. On the one hand, President Trump says that the ACA, or Obamacare, is already a dead duck while his selected Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Tom Price, plans to use whatever administrative means are available to kill it altogether. The GOP's American Health Care Act (AHCA), narrowly passed in the House, has little support in the Senate, where secret discussions, likely to take months, are proceeding to develop its own plan to replace the ACA.

Within this confusing debate, there are three basic options to finance our health care system: (1) continue the ACA, with some possible revisions; (2) replace it with the AHCA, as modified within Congress; or (3) adopt a single-payer Medicare for All plan for national health insurance (NHI).

2017.30.5 BF buchheit Corporations make billions from US research and education, but then they turn around and cheat us on taxes. And Republicans think corporations should get a tax break. (Photo: Fibonacci Blue)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Donald Trump wants to cut what some call the "highest corporate tax rate in the world." The tax cut will, according to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, "pay for itself with economic growth." 

Two delusions in one. The realities are far different for anyone who actually considers the facts. And some of the facts about 2016 tax avoidance are shocking and depressing. For example, two of the big banks (JP Morgan and Bank of America) together underpaid their taxes by more than Trump's proposed $10.6 billion education cuts, which would eliminate or reduce after-school programs, work-study programs, state grants, teacher training, arts programs, and physical education. The two banks combined to DEFER nearly $10 billion.

BRIAN TRAUTMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

veteranspeace The Veterans for Peace will remember fallen soldiers this year by calling for an end to US wars. (Photo: Courtesy of Brian Trautman)

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The United States is the most militarized and jingoistic nation on earth. Its foreign policy is guided by imperialist militarism, neoliberal capitalism and racial xenophobia. For more than sixteen years now, three presidential administrations have carried out a so-called “War on Terror” (GWOT), a perpetual state of war that is waged globally, under the depraved reasoning that “the world is a battlefield,” to quote investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill. As demonstrated by the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the GWOT is conducted through conventional warfare. More often, however, it is executed through covert or “dirty” wars, against groups and individuals in many other nations.

The U.S. has the financial and logistical capacity to wage these illegal wars. Its bloated military budget is larger than the next seven countries combined. It is by far the largest operator of military installations abroad, maintaining nearly 800 bases in around 70 countries. The ever-growing military-industrial complex, which President Eisenhower warned about in his farewell address, permeates every facet of our society – from an economy largely dependent on the war industry, to military recruiting in our public schools, to police militarization. This toxic culture of war is underscored on different national holidays, particularly Memorial Day.

Memorial Day – a day originating in 1868 (Decoration Day), on which the gravesites of the Civil War dead were decorated with flowers – has morphed into a day that conflates the memorialization of killed soldiers with the glorification of war. The perennial flag-waving, ultra-nationalist speeches, garish street parades and hyper-consumerism of Memorial Day do not honor these soldiers. What might, however, is working to prevent future war and nurture peace – honoring their memory by not sending more men and women into harm’s way and to kill and maim in wars based on lies. To have any chance at being effective, however, this work must include efforts aimed at increasing public awareness about the many causes and costs of war.

US President Donald J Trump visit to Israel. Meeting of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with President Trump in JerusalemPresident Donald Trump meets with the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on May 23, 2017. (Photo: The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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When President Donald Trump arrived in Israel on Monday, he was greeted by billboards, proclaiming: "Trump is a Friend of Zion," and requesting "Trump Make Israel Great." In a Haaretz story titled "Who's Behind the Dozens of pro-Trump Billboards Around Jerusalem?" Judy Maltz pointed out that the "42 billboards featuring intertwined Israeli and American flags" are sponsored by Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem, an enterprise founded by Christian Zionist Mike Evans.

The Friends of Zion Museum honors the Jewish people and those Gentiles who protected them from persecution.

In a November Jerusalem Post story, Jeremy Sharon called Evans "one of the most prominent Christian Zionist leaders in the world today." He is a well connected, if not-so-well-known Christian Zionist, who has written numerous books, produced more than a dozen documentaries and one of the entities he heads up is called the Jerusalem Prayer Team. According to Right Web, which maintains at its website that it is "an independent online publishing project that assesses the work of prominent organizations and individuals—both in and out of government—who promote aggressive or militaristic U.S. foreign and defense policies, with a special focus on the 'war on terror' and the Middle East," the Jerusalem Prayer Team aims to "enlist one million people in America to pray daily and 100,000 houses of worship praying weekly for the peace of Jerusalem."

War, which is to say, dehumanization and murder, remains not only morally acceptable but financially rewarding when we and our friends wage it. War, which is to say, dehumanization and murder, remains not only morally acceptable but financially rewarding when we and our friends wage it. (Photo: Alyson Hewett)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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A suicide bomber inflicts hell at a concert hall in Manchester, England that's full of children, as though that was the point -- to murder children.

The horror of war . . . well, terrorism . . . doesn't get any worse.

And the media, as they focus on the spectacle of what happened, as they cover the particulars of the tragedy -- the suspect's name and ethnicity and apparent grievances, the anguish of the survivors, the names and ages of the victims -- quietly tear the incident loose from most of its complexity and most of its context.

Yes, this was an act of terror. That piece of the puzzle is, of course, under intense scrutiny. The killer, Salman Abedi, age 22, was born in England to parents of Libyan descent and had recently traveled to Libya (where his parents now live) and Syria, where he may have been "radicalized." He likely didn't act alone.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

epa33The proposed Trump budget would slash the funds available to the EPA. (Photo: mccready)

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget will still be slashed by nearly a third, from $8.2 billion to $5.65 billion, under President Trump's fiscal 2018 budget proposal released Tuesday.

The EPA, which has long been targeted by the Trump administration, is the hardest hit federal agency under the new plan. Opponents say it "endangers Americans" and cripples an institution charged with protecting their health and safety.

As detailed by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, notable components of the anticipated budget include a 30 percent cut in federal grants to state and local air pollution control agencies; a 39 percent cut in EPA's Science and Technology budget; a 35 percent cut in EPA's Environmental Program and Management budget (the agency's overall operating budget); and the elimination of funding several regional programs, including restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes and Puget Sound.

The Washington Post noted that "dozens of other programs also would be zeroed out entirely, including funding for radon detection, lead risk reduction, projects along the U.S.-Mexico border and environmental justice initiatives." Additionally, less money will be allocated to enforcement of environmental crimes and climate change research.

PATRICK T. HILLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

saudiarabiacoatSales of weapons to Saudi Arabia (symbol above) often end up inflicting unjustifiable violence. (Image: Wikipedia)

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Amidst a range of domestic controversies and the pushback against his agenda and actions, President Trump went back to one of his default personas, that of a self-proclaimed dealmaker “strongly protecting American interests.” During his trip to Saudi Arabia, President Trump signed an almost $ 110 billion arms deal supposedly in support of Saudi Arabia’s defense.

A May 20, 2017 press release “Supporting Saudi Arabia’s Defense Needs” from the U.S. State Department outlines the framework. How $110 billion worth of killing machinery such as tanks, artillery, helicopters, combatant ships, and other weapons systems reflect the State Department’s slogan “Diplomacy in Action” is a mythological stretch of imagination. More importantly though, this deal is the continuation of global arms trade practices that are sustained by several myths which are driven by a militarist consensus and acceptance of war profiteering regardless of who is President. With the help of historian Paul Holden and colleagues’ 2016 book Indefensible: Seven myths that sustain the global arms trade, it is now possible to shed new light on what we are led to believe such deals achieve.

The myth of increased security: According to the State Department, this deal supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia in the face of malign Iranian influence and threats. That’s unlikely, given that Holden and colleagues demonstrated that increased weapons spending leads to arms races, increases security threats due to ill-conceived usage, and under-sources important non-military action. Looking at the bloodshed in the region, we now can say with certainty that the continued influx of weapons makes civilians caught in violent conflict less secure.

The myth of a sound national security analysis: More weapons provided by the United States into a volatile region will not only add fuel to the many regional fires, it will also undermine successful diplomatic initiatives such as the Iran Nuclear Deal. It is more likely that such deals are driven by economic considerations – that is, corporate profits or flat out corruption. In fact, the State Department does not hide the fact that this deal presumably expands opportunities for American companies in the region.

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