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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aendincome(Photo: quinn.anya)The US economy shrunk (according to just released revised figures) for the first time in three years. TIME online reports:

The U.S.' Gross Domestic Product contracted by 1 percent in the first quarter of 2014, marking the first contraction in years as government economists revised earlier figures by taking stock of additional glum measures

The U.S. economy shrunk by 1% in the first quarter of 2014, according to government data released Thursday, marking the first economic contraction in three years.

The figure, from revised estimates released by the Commerce Department, was revised downwards from an earlier estimate of 0.1% growth in gross domestic product, as government economists took stock of additional glum measures. The Commerce Department noted that on top of a winter wallop to retail and construction, real GDP was dragged down further by a rise in imports and a marked decline in inventory growth. The last time real GDP contracted was in the first quarter of 2011 at the tail end of a punishing recession.

Even though many mainstream media reports quote "analysts" who claim that the downturn was an anomaly - and that consumer demand should increase in the second quarter - the anemic performance of the Gross Domestic Product has implications for an increase in equality.

That is the outlook if you agree with the one of the basic tenets in economist Thomas Piketty's widely discussed new book: "Capital in the Twenty-First Century."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apinochetOur man in Chile, Augusto Pinochet.(Photo: Wikipedia)New revelations about the Chilean military overthrow of the popularly elected Salvador Allende regime in 1973 once again confirm that the US is supportive of democracies that enhance US economic interests, but it is the enemy of those that don't.

According to a May 23 article on the History News Network website:

Covert U.S. planning to block the democratic election of Salvador Allende in Chile began weeks before his September 4, 1970, victory, according to just declassified minutes of an August 19, 1970, meeting of the high-level interagency committee known as the Special Review Group, chaired by National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. "Kissinger asked that the plan be as precise as possible and include what orders would be given September 5, to whom, and in what way," as the summary recorded Kissinger's instructions to CIA Director Richard Helms. "Kissinger said we should present to the President an action plan to prevent [the Chilean Congress from ratifying] an Allende victory and noted that the President may decide to move even if we do not recommend it."

The document is one of a compendium of some 366 records released by the State Department as part of its Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series. The much-delayed collection, titled "Chile: 1969-1973," addresses Richard Nixon's and Kissinger's efforts to destabilize the democratically elected Socialist government of Salvador Allende, and the U.S.-supported coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power in 1973. 

The placement of Pinochet in power led to a brutal reign that resulted in the imprisonment, torture and murder of thousands of Chilean citizens considered Allende supporters.

In addition, Henry Kissinger (in his roles as National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State) oversaw US support for the heinous and barbaric Operation Condor.  This was a US-approved (although Kissinger denies it, of course) backing of military governments in the Southern Cone nations in South America. The result was a murderous purge of anyone suspected of sympathizing with alternative economic systems to capitalism or even of populist governments that were run by the non-ruling elite.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anationalsec(Photo: DonkeyHotey)Once again, the media pundits and spineless politicians are wearing somber faces about the misogynistic Isla Vista shootings and deaths. Once again, there are the cries for gun control. However, in the flow of news cycles, the issue of taking on the gun lobby will wash away like the tide until the next white male mass killing with firearms.

The failure of US law enforcement to arrest armed and threatening militia members during the Cliven Bundy standoff - and to stop them from commandeering roads - only reinforces white male entitlement when it comes to guns. Contrast that to Occupy movement protesters who were arrested, beaten and sent to jail (consider the case of recently sentenced Cecily McMillan as an example).

Yes, there are threats to national security, but the biggest ones aren't those we spend hundreds of billions of dollars on against a relatively small number of terrorists.  The most significant peril to our ability to live peaceful and comfortable lives comes from menaces that the DC politicians do little or nothing about.

You can start with allowing the NRA to impose an Ayn Rand vision of guns unlimited on the nation and its resulting toll in about 30,000 deaths a year (homicides, suicides and accidents) and the rippling psychological impact of insecurity on the nation. If al-Qaeda wanted to create the death toll of 10 9/11s each year, they might have gotten better bang for their buck by just financing the gun lobby.

Add to that the scientific validation that we may have passed the threshold on reversing impending catastrophic climate change, as DC elected officials throw campaign fundraising events while the world's environment is deteriorating rapidly. What could be a graver risk to the nation than a sixth mass extinction on this planet? Yes, we have a military-surveillance-intelligence-industrial complex that is a beast that feasts on our tax dollars - but killing civilians in a faraway land with drones is not only a hideous act of murder, it represents the triumph of the self-interest of the so-called defense establishment over what the pressing priorities of ensuring national security really are.  

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

obamawartruth(Photo: Susan Melkisethian)

Okay, okay, yes, it was an accidental error that the White House released the name of the Afghanistan CIA chief to the pool reporter for the Washington Post (WP) this weekend. According to National Public Radio (NPR), the station chief was among a list of people briefing the president while he was on a surprise Memorial Day weekend visit to the troops in that still-festering war zone:

When it realized the error, the White House issued a new list — but by then, the original had been circulated to foreign and domestic news agencies. The information was included in a pool report that was emailed to thousands of recipients Sunday night.

The White House has asked that the CIA official's name not be reported because of safety concerns; NPR and other major U.S. news organizations are abiding by that request.

When the name of a CIA station chief is sent out to thousands of recipients, it is no longer a secret, even if mainstream publications choose to go along with the charade that not publishing the name will keep it one. The reality is that although this particular leak was indeed likely made by mistake, administrations - including the current White House - leak classified information on a regular basis when it is deemed to be in their interests.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amcdseiu(Photo: SEIU))

A week after a boisterous day of global protests against the financial exploitation of fast food workers in most nations, the rapidly growing movement spread to the annual meeting of McDonald's. With a demand to "McDouble Our Wages," an estimated 500-2000 protesters from around the Midwest gathered at the sprawling headquarter campus of the empire that Ray Kroc built (located in the western Chicago suburb of Oak Brook).

According to The Chicago Tribune, on Wednesday, "138 individuals, including 101 McDonald’s workers, were arrested for trespassing on the company’s property." Workers at the chain of low-cost non-nutritious processed food pit stops put their jobs on the line for a livable salary.

The statement accompanying McDonald's 2013 annual report boasts that while weathering some financial challenges, it generated a healthy bottom line:

  • Consolidated revenue increase of 2 percent (2 percent in constant currencies)

  • Consolidated operating income increase of 2 percent (3 percent in constant currencies)

  • Diluted earnings per share of $5.55, up 4 percent (4 percent in constant currencies)

  • Return of $4.9 billion to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases

Barry Ritholtz, a BloombergView columnist, recorded some facts about earners making the minimum wage:

Last month, we discussed McDonald's and Wal-Mart as America’s biggest [abusers of welfare]. As it turns out, both giants are the beneficiaries of a surprising amount of federal aid: Their employees receive an inordinate amount of Medicaid, food stamps and other public assistance. This allows them to maintain very low wages, and keep profits relatively robust...

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ainter455(Photo: hdzimmermann)If you want to know what a difference a municipally owned internet service can make, just look to Chattanooga, Tennessee. In an article on CNNMoney entitled, "Chattanooga's super-fast publicly owned Internet," journalist James O'Toole describes how Chattanooga is providing the gold standard of internet access, while commercial Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are leaving consumers in the dust, in terms of speed and service:

Chattanooga, Tenn., may not be the first place that springs to mind when it comes to cutting-edge technology. But thanks to its ultra-high-speed Internet, the city has established itself as a center for innovation -- and an encouraging example for those frustrated with slow speeds and high costs from private broadband providers.

Chattanooga rolled out a fiber-optic network a few years ago that now offers speeds of up to 1000 Megabits per second, or 1 gigabit, for just $70 a month. A cheaper 100 Megabit plan costs $58 per month. Even the slower plan is still light-years ahead of the average U.S. connection speed, which stood at 9.8 megabits per second as of late last year, according to Akamai Technologies.

"It's really altered how we think of ourselves as a city," said Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. "We're a midsized, southern city -- for us to be at the front of the technological curve rather than at the tail end is a real achievement."

As federal officials find themselves at the center of controversy over net neutrality and the regulation of private internet service; providers; like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Chattanooga offers an alternative model for keeping people connected. A city-owned agency, the Electric Power Board, runs its own network, offering higher-speed service than any of its private-sector competitors can manage.

A November 2013 SlashGear.com article states bluntly: "The vast majority of the US is left with some of the slowest broadband internet speeds in the world. The US ranks 31 on the list of speediest broadband countries according to Speedtest.net."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abennyBen Bernanke (Photo: Medill DC)

Even The New York Times is finally taking note of the gluttonous excesses of the plutocracy. On May 20, in the Times' Dealbook section, journalist Alexandra Stevenson penned an article entitled, "After Fed, Bernanke Offers His Wisdom, for a Big Fee"

During his eight years as steward [at the Federal Reserve] of the world’s largest economy, Mr. Bernanke’s salary was about $200,000 a year. Now he makes that in just a few hours speaking to bankers, hedge fund billionaires and leaders of industry. This year alone, he is poised to make millions of dollars from speaking engagements.

Mr. Bernanke is following a well-trodden path that his predecessor, Alan S. Greenspan, and other Washington policy makers have taken. On the speaking circuit, he is putting just one foot through the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street, being paid by financial firms but not employed by one.

Investors are dealing with an economy that is in large part the creature of Fed policies under Mr. Bernanke, and they are willing to pay top dollar for his words of wisdom as a result.

Whether Bernanke is being paid for his "wisdom" is open to question. His multi-million dollar speech marathon has the distinct scent of a combination of buying access and running a victory lap to the applause of the economic masters of the universe. Remember, Bernanke may no longer be chair of the Fed, but you can bet he regularly consults and meets with the Fed insiders, as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other regulators.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

atowerofcap(Photo: Industrial Worker)

MARK KARLIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amarcorub(Image: DonkeyHotey)
Now, it is getting personal: Someone is enabling circumstances that might result in my death, your death and the death of countless people around the world.

I am referring to an infamous statement Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) statement made in a May 11 interview with This Week: 

Rubio - who expressed deep skepticism about whether man-made activity has played a role in the Earth's changing climate - told [ABC news reporter Jonathan] Karl he doesn't believe there is action that could be taken right now that would have an impact on what's occurring with our climate.

"I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it … and I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy," he said.

Given ongoing major reports, including last week, that we may have crossed the threshold into a catastrophic cauldron of brewing and already-present climate change, Rubio is condemning much of the earth to catastrophe and death.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

peduc(Photo: Sean MacEntee)

In an Op-Ed published in Time this week, 16-year-old Kenyatta Collins argues that the education that she receives in a New Orleans charter school more closely resembles a prison than a place that advances her knowledge and creativity.

"Is my high school, Lake Area New Tech, a prison or school?" Collins asks. Her response is a withering indictment of the white elite push to privatize education:

Students arrive ready for school every morning, but unfortunately must wait outside the building until security guards unlock the doors at 7:30 a.m. It could be raining, hailing, or sleeting, but they will NOT open the doors until then. Once the doors are unlocked, it takes the guards 15 to 20 minutes to search each student and check for uniform violations. That leaves us with just a few minutes to eat breakfast before class starts at 8 a.m. That’s not enough time for 600 students to make it through the cafeteria line. On a typical morning, we are treated like prisoners, which causes students to react in a variety of negative ways.

As for the prevailing attitudes among many whites - and some wealthy people of color - that discipline is the cure for presumed violent and economically depressed urban areas - Collins has a response: 

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