MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Driving the GOP off the Fiscal Cliff
In the '90s, Newton Leroy "Newt" Gingrich tried playing a game of chicken with Bill Clinton to see who would blink first – and Gingrich lost badly.
The federal shutdown precipitated by a GOP effort to cut Medicare benefits, among other austerity measures, resulted when Clinton vetoed a Republican budget that would impose hardships on public services and the earned benefits of seniors, among others. The federal government general closure occurred during two periods in late 1995 and early 1996.
The so-called "fiscal cliff" (although it differed in details from the current one) was eventually resolved with Bill Clinton's popularity soaring, while Gingrich was generally perceived as playing a losing hand. Clinton went on to easily win a second term against GOP candidate Bob Dole in 1996. In 1998, when the House Republicans lost seats in a mid-term election – the first time in more than 50 years that the party not holding the presidency lost House seats in an off-presidential year election – a GOP House coup occurred and Gingrich (who had other ethical issues weighing him down) resigned amidst, ironically, the Clinton impeachment.
Clinton completed his second term after the Senate rejected the impeachment effort; meanwhile, Gingrich was not only no longer the Speaker of the House, he was gone from Congress.
That's something to keep in mind as John Boehner wrestles with a split caucus while vowing to, in effect, close the government down over keeping tax cuts for the rich and imposing an austerity agenda, along with increasing payments on those Americans with earned benefits (given the negative name of "entitlements" by the DC insiders who passively accept the Republican "frame").
But Barack Obama, even if he is allegedly willing to increase Medicare burdens to those who have earned it, has Boehner in a bit of a box. The tax cuts on the rich expire on their own at the end of 2012. No vote needs to be taken. But with their demise, the tax cuts on the working class also expire.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Has Rupert Murdoch Doomed Us?
Many Americans don't know that the newspaper heritage handed down to Rupert Murdoch from his father has been largely built upon tabloids, an appeal to the basest sensational instincts of readers (and now television viewers). It is only in recent decades, as Murdoch expanded his fortunes that he branched out into respectable publications such as the Wall Street Journal and the Times of London. He also extended his holdings into expanding the FOX empire (including the film studio 20th Century FOX and the FOX entertainment cable channel; FOX News is really only a relatively small portion of his revenue empire). Then there is DirectTV and BskyB, among other holdings. Murdoch even owns the book publishing giant Harper Collins.
But Murdoch's first big purchases in the UK around 1970 were the now infamous hacking tabloid, News of the World, and The Sun, famous for its page three photos of bare-breasted women.
All of Murdoch's media ventures have been inextricably intertwined with his "friendships" with prime ministers, presidents, and leaders of any nation in which he holds a media stake. The investigation of the News of the World hacking scandal revealed that current UK Prime Minister David Cameron was both a social friend and professional ally. Yesterday, BuzzFlash at Truthout wrote about the ease with which FOX is willing to insert itself even into the selection process of Republican candidates for president, let alone employing GOP political farm team members on its television staff as consultants.
In 1976, Murdoch bought the lurid money-losing tabloid The New York Post, whose most telling sensationalistic headline, among a treasure trove of blaring seedy front pages, is generally regarded as "Headless Body in Topless Bar."
This week, however, Murdoch's Post (which is still hemorrhaging money, but Rupert keeps it for the pedestal it provides for influencing politics in New York and in DC) moved from sensationalism to the "snuff photo" genre when it posted a shot of a man about to be killed (he was) by an MTA train running him over. The headline on the front page was "Pushed on the subway track, this man is about to die: DOOMED."
Who took the photo? A New York Post photographer who happened to be in the subway when an altercation resulted in the soon-to-be dead man being thrown into the path of the train.
(Photo: World Economic Forum)
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Petraeus and Ailes Outfoxed
As revealed by Bob Woodward in The Washington Post and discussed by Rachel Maddow on December 4, FOX is now on record as having become directly involved in trying to recruit a Republican candidate for president.
As Woodward reported:
So in spring 2011, Ailes asked a Fox News analyst headed to Afghanistan to pass on his thoughts to Petraeus, who was then the commander of U.S. and coalition forces there. Petraeus, Ailes advised, should turn down an expected offer from President Obama to become CIA director and accept nothing less than the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military post. If Obama did not offer the Joint Chiefs post, Petraeus should resign from the military and run for president, Ailes suggested.
The Fox News chairman’s message was delivered to Petraeus by Kathleen T. McFarland, a Fox News national security analyst and former national security and Pentagon aide in three Republican administrations. She did so at the end of a 90-minute, unfiltered conversation with Petraeus that touched on the general’s future, his relationship with the media and his political aspirations — or lack thereof. The Washington Post has obtained a digital recording from the meeting, which took place in Petraeus’s office in Kabul.
McFarland also said that Ailes — who had a decades-long career as a Republican political consultant, advising Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush — might resign as head of Fox to run a Petraeus presidential campaign. At one point, McFarland and Petraeus spoke about the possibility that Rupert Murdoch, the head of News Corp., which owns Fox News, would “bankroll” the campaign.
“Rupert’s after me as well,” Petraeus told McFarland.
Not long after the conversation between the FOX news emissary/analyst, Petraeus accepted the position of director of the CIA because he apparently thought that the role had become as important as the being named head of the Joints Chiefs of Staff.
Make 2013 a year of peace!
It's one of the great ironies of human nature that so many citizens of the United States believe in religions that preach peace, but advocate policies that promote war.
There is a battle within the human spirit between our past as creatures of violence and our potential future of living in harmony.
You can be reminded of the spirit of peace each day with the ever-popular 2013 Peace Calendar offered with a minimum contribution by Truthout and BuzzFlash.
This year's calendar is dedicated to the idea of occupying the future . Different months focus on progressive ideals such as "End Patriarchy," "Bradley Manning Whistleblower," "Emancipation Proclamation," and "Together We Are Strong." Each month of this wall calendar includes a page of four-color original art work. In addition, there are over 200 people's history annotations on the days of the year, where you can write in special appointments and events.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Will the Rich Push Us Off the Cliff?
Remember the old adage about looking at a glass that is half-filled with water? The pessimist decries that it is half empty, and the optimist enthusiastically asserts that it is half full.
That reminds me of the whole notion of the "fiscal cliff," a term that derives from the GOP and corporatist/Wall Street mantra that we have a deficit problem from excess spending and not a revenue shortfall from those who don't pay their fair share for democracy. Of course, it's a little more complicated than that, such as having a military-industrial complex that is bloated with government dollars. It was Eisenhower, the Midwest mainstream iconic Republican – and war hero -- before wealthy plutocrats and Hollywood scripting turned Ronald Reagan into the patron saint of the GOP, who warned us about the Pentagon and big business collaborating the nation into bankruptcy.
Reagan's 1965 autobiography is entitled "Where's the Rest of Me?" That is an apt metaphor for what is going on in the Republican Party now as they have remained silent about an alternative to a deficit reduction plan set forth by the White House.
(Photo: Dennis Barnes)
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT The Rich Get Richer
Most people associate inequality with the income gap. As distorted as the distribution of income may be, our wealth distribution is even more extreme. Americans are beginning to realize that years of preferential tax treatment for the rich, under the guise of "supply-side job creation" nonsense, have bloated the fortunes of the super-rich to a level that would make Rockefeller and Carnegie envious.
1. We're close to being the most unequal country in the world.
Among countries with at least a quarter-million adults, only Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon are more unequal, according to the most recent figures from Credit Suisse Research.
An earlier report by the same research team had indicated that Denmark and Switzerland were more unequal than the United States. While Switzerland is still high in the new data listing, ranking 18th, Denmark is actually rather equal relative to other countries, and received its dubious earlier position due to its own accurate reporting of household debt, as will be noted in Fact 5 below.
2. Wealth accumulation has been rigged for the rich.
The richest quintile of Americans owns 93% of non-home wealth. For Americans with incomes over $10 million, nearly half of their income comes from capital gains and dividends, on most of which they pay only a 15% tax. From 2002 to 2007, two-thirds of all income went to the richest 1%. Then, in the first year after the recession, a startling 93% of all new income went to the richest 1%.
Massive wealth holdings have accumulated for the richest Americans not only because of their appropriation of income, but also because of their manipulation of the tax code. The 15% capital gains tax is their proudest accomplishment. Other ploys include carried interest, performance-related pay, stock options, and deferred compensation.
The imaginary 'work' of financial gain gets taxed at a much lower rate than real work. Through the years, as the rich have fattened up on stocks and other financial assets, the stock market has grown three times faster than the GDP. Yet American workers have not benefited from their own productivity. Their wages have flatlined while the fruits of their labor have gone to investors.
(Photo: Tax Credits)
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Arctic Glacier
On November 29th the Christian Science Monitor and multiple news outlets reported that there is yet again evidence of increasing environmental degradation due to global warming. According to the Monitor, "Fueled by global warming, polar ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are now melting three times faster than they did in the 1990s, a new scientific study says."
Meanwhile, an August New York Times (NYT) article is headlined "Satellites Show Sea Ice in Arctic Is at a Record Low": "The amount of sea ice in the Arctic has fallen to the lowest level on record, a confirmation of the drastic warming in the region and a likely harbinger of larger changes to come."
There is hardly a sliver of hope to be taken in the accelerating devastation of the planet. “It’s hard even for people like me to believe, to see that climate change is actually doing what our worst fears dictated,” Jennifer A. Francis, a Rutgers University scientist who studies the effect of sea ice on weather patterns told the NYT. “It’s starting to give me chills, to tell you the truth.”
But a faster pace in destructive planetary climate change means likely increased profits for the fossil fuel behemoth corporations and their natural resource extraction cousins.
In fact, on September 19 the NYT ran a candid account of the riches to be made off of global warming entitled "Race Is On as Ice Melt Reveals Arctic Treasures"
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Colin Powell
On February 5, 2003, then Secretary of State Colin Powell gave a largely fabricated speech to the UN Security Council that played a key role in providing the Bush administration with credibility to launch the ill-fated Iraq War. His "testimony" bolstered the trumped up charges that Iraq had amassed a large arsenal of weapons of mass destruction – and was an imminent nuclear threat. Powell's remarks also included the soon to be infamous accusation that Saddam Hussein had acquired yellow cake uranium from Niger.
The latter accusation resulted from a forged document operation run out of Dick Cheney's shop that eventually resulted in the White House outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame and the exposure of her intelligence network. It was an issue that BuzzFlash, along with David Corn (now of Mother Jones, but then working at The Nation), bird dogged until the CIA formally requested a criminal inquiry as to who damaged the national security of the United States by naming Plame to the late Robert Novak. On a number of occasions, BuzzFlash interviewed Plame's husband, Joe Wilson, who was the real target of a Rove/Cheney/Libby vendetta, because Wilson had exposed the yellow cake Niger charge as a fabrication.
Powell's UN speech was vital to the Neocon campaign to invade Iraq – pushed forward by Bush war hawks and the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) zealots, principally Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Advocates for the war included members of both parties, but John McCain and Lindsay Graham were at the head of the line. In fact, both supported the Bush "surge" in Iraq and even have traveled to Iraq together in recent years backing a continued US presence there.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT John Kerry
On Tuesday night, Rachel Maddow laid out a compelling narrative for speculation that has been caroming around the Internet: why John McCain, Lindsay Graham and their new member of the three amigos -- Senator Kelly Ayotte (R- NH), replacing Joe Lieberman – are so virulently attacking Susan Rice. Is it to give the GOP a shot at picking up John Kerry's senate seat in Massachusetts?
To put it quite simply, if Obama backs down from appointing Rice due to the Republican Benghazi brigade, conventional wisdom has it that he is likely to appoint John Kerry to become Secretary of State. If that were to be the case, Kerry's seat would become vacant. A temporary replacement would be selected by Democratic Governor Deval Patrick (Kennedy family favorite Paul Kirk was chosen as a place holder senator after Kennedy's death), but the seat would then be contested in a special election.
Enter Republican Scott Brown, who remains personally popular in Massachusetts after being dislodged from Ted Kennedy's former senate seat by Democrat (now Senator-elect) Elizabeth Warren in the November election. Warren fought hard to defeat Brown, who voted with the GOP basically whenever they needed him, but tossed a few social progressive bones out to make him acceptable to many Massachusetts Democratic voters. Against a candidate with less savvy, gumption, campaign contributions and progressive credentials than Warren, Brown could conceivably pick up the seat presently held by Kerry.
Yesterday, BuzzFlash at Truthout dissected the hypocrisy of the Republican three amigos unrelenting buzz saw attack on Susan Rice. On Thursday, we will further explore the GOP double standard in relation to Colin Powell's infamous "yellow cake" UN speech that gave false cover for launching the war on Iraq.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Susan Rice
NBC reports today that "GOP senators not satisfied with Rice explanation of Benghazi aftermath",
and after a "candid" meeting with Ambassador Rice, McCain claims that he is "significantly troubled" with her answers.
BuzzFlash has been around for 12 years, and we remember quite well that when Condi Rice was George W. Bush's National Security Advisor, both she and Bush ignored warnings of possible impending Al Qaeda hijackings in the US. This, we remind you, was prior to the fateful day of 9/11, as a result of which more than 3000 people have died due to the attacks on the Twin Towers.
For a while after 9/11, Bush and Rice denied receiving any alerts. Then, after months passed and a pre-September 11th CIA intelligence briefing was disclosed that warned Al Qaeda was determined to strike in the US, Bush and Rice changed their tune by parsing their responses to indicate that they were never informed of hijackings that would be flown into buildings. This became the so-called rationale for their not doing anything to prevent the attacks -- nothing at all.
The unearthed memo, which was the most sensational made public (while other warnings were revealed even in the relatively whitewashed 9/11 hearings), was dated August 6, 2001. It was the daily presidential intelligence briefing and was seen by both Bush (who blew off the CIA liaison who presented it to him at Bush's ranch in Texas) and Rice.
Journalist Kurt Eichenwald wrote an op-ed in the September 10, 2012 New York Times that reveals how the White House was virtually defiant in not taking any preventive action against Al Qaeda prior to 9/11. Eichenwald received access to written warnings in the hands of the White House that preceded the August 6 memo: