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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

There's a simple reason that President Obama will not invoke the 14th Amendment to resolve the debt-ceiling crisis: the Supreme Court.

Yes, there is speculation that Obama is too risk averse to assert that the Constitution gives him the power to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling - and that may be true.

But Obama and his advisers know that if he bypasses Congress by using the 14th Amendment, it will immediately be challenged in the federal courts - which are loaded with partisan Republican judges - and fast tracked to the Supreme Court.

With Scalia having led a partisan majority time and time again - including his stopping of the State Supreme Court-ordered presidential recount in Florida in 2004 so as not to harm the reputation of the presumed winner, George W. Bush, (Scalia wrote in justification of his infamous opinion) - it is a given that five members of the Supreme Court have no compunction about leaving the Constitution in the dust.

As BuzzFlash has argued before, despite calling themselves "strict constructionists," the five majority votes on the Supreme Court are anything but. In fact, they often interpret the Constitution to justify their political outlook as they did in Bush v. Gore and Citizens United, and a host of other rulings that have dramatically affected the direction of this nation.

Thom Hartmann views the 5-4 majority record as being so significant that they have become a de facto arm of the Republicans in Congress. Hartmann calls the GOP majority on the court the "Five Kings."

The 14th Amendment is pretty clear when it comes to the debt ceiling: "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned."

That's about as strict constructionist as you can get in prohibiting Congress from limiting the debt ceiling, even though it has been their tradition to vote on increasing it - as they frequently have done under Republican and Democratic presidents alike.

But the "Supreme Court Five" aren't going to really enforce the Constitution as it is written, should Obama invoke the 14th Amendment. They will rule against presidential authority and side with the Republicans in Congress. Because their motivation in high-stakes partisan issues like this is not the law as it is written; it is scoring a victory for their political beliefs and sponsors.

That is why President Obama will ultimately not assert the 14th Amendment to resolve the debt-ceiling crisis. The "Five Kings" won't allow him, in the end, to do so.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BuzzFlash read this headline and thought that it was refreshing that God was becoming more selective in his choice of Republican candidates for president: "God Urges Rick Perry Not To Run For President."

Except that it was from the satirical web site, The Onion.

Thus far, among the GOP primary candidates for the White House, we have been led to believe that God has indicated to just about all of them that they should run.

This rather promiscuous urging of several Republican candidates to run - based on their claims that God is backing them - leads one to believe that the GOP aspirants are either lying or God likes a good political donnybrook.

Back in the '60s, Bob Dylan understood the hypocritical power to do evil simply by claiming that God is on your side:

In a many dark hour
I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.

After invoking all the wars America has engaged in with "God on its side," Dylan wonders whether the great betrayer of Christ also had "God on his side."

That's something to think about when evaluating candidates who claim that they have been divinely chosen to run.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

I never thought that I might be contributing to a possible ecological implosion in our oceans because of the kinds of fish that I eat.

That is, until I saw the eye-opening documentary "The End of the Line," which dramatically details how massive industrial fishing is endangering the viability of an increasingly large number of fish species.

"Overfishing is the great environmental disaster that people haven't heard about," said the documentary's producer George Duffield. This is not merely an indictment of mercenary corporate fishing, it is also exposes how consumers choose to ignore the impact of eating endangered fish. In fact, as supplies of certain fish dwindle, they become more expensive and, therefore, more of a delicacy.

It's not just specific fish that are being depleted beyond the point of no return, but overfishing contributes to creating an ecosystem change in the oceans that will not be to the benefit of the residents of the planet. Not to mention that many people in poorer nations rely on fish to survive, but are seeing a diminishing supply because of huge fishing fleets off their shores from developed nations. They are floating factories that use high-tech tools to relentlessly sweep the oceans of endangered fish and fish that are becoming threatened.

Thursday, 21 July 2011 03:55

Tea Party Conundrum: China Owns Our Butt

China is concerned about the possibility of an US default, due to a possible failure to raise our debt ceiling.

It might come as a bit of surprise to all the Tea Party members who buy Chinese manufactured products - which used to be made by American workers like themselves - that the Communist government of China is America's biggest lender.

Given the Washington, DC, procrastination over the debt ceiling, China is taking the position that a Wall Street investor would take. It wants to be assured that its loans to the US government will be paid back.

According to The Associated Press:

China, the biggest holder of U.S. Treasury debt, appealed to Washington on Wednesday to take steps to boost confidence in the dollar and protect its investors....

China held some $1.15 trillion in Treasury debt as of the end of April, according to U.S. government data. Chinese leaders have repeatedly appealed to Washington to avoid measures that might erode the value of the dollar and those holdings.

"We hope the U.S. government concretely takes responsible policy measures to increase the confidence of international financial markets and respects and safeguards investors' interests," the State Administration of Foreign Exchange said in a statement.

So, China is acting just like any capitalist lender; it just wants to protect its investment.

And wouldn't members of the Tea Party and the corporate wing of the GOP laud China for acting like any US bank that is "too big to fail" would?

After all, it's the American way. Let's just hope China doesn't start foreclosure proceedings.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Cutting taxes doesn't mean lowering expenses for the middle class and the poor.

That's because, as BuzzFlash at Truthout has pointed out before, with declining income taxes and decreased state spending, the costs that used to be covered by government pop up elsewhere. In many cases, depending upon the needs of a family, the rise in costs and "user fees" - as two examples - outweigh the middle-class income tax decreases that were extended from the Bush years.

A July 17 San Francisco Chronicle article gets to the heart of the matter:

With college tuition increasing again last week at the UC and CSU systems because of state budget cuts, many other Californians were crushed by the cumulative costs of daily life in a "no new taxes" world. CSU's $1,032 tuition increase means that a family sending a child there will see its tax windfall evaporate all at once.

"It's politics," Renwick said. "They can say we had no new taxes but we really did. They just put it in a bunch of places we don't notice."

Public transportation users are being hit with repeated fare hikes across the country, not only resulting in a hidden "user tax," but also pushing America in the wrong direction on efficient fuel use for moving people from one place to another. This "user tax" also discourages the growth of mass transportation that would reduce global warming.

"You're starting to see the anger," one analyst told the Chronicle. "You can let your roads collapse, you close fire stations or watch your library permanently shut down."

The rich will always be able to afford the higher "user fees" and flat taxes that result from declining income and corporate taxes, but many "anti-tax" crusaders in the middle class don't realize that they are biting off their noses to spite their faces.

 

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH FOR TRUTHOUT

Is the Tea Party just another name for an anarchy party?

Granted, given that the Tea Party was financially turbo-charged by the Koch Brothers (Americans for Prosperity) and Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, it's a challenge to define members of the loose-knit group. It's clear, for instance, that a significant segment of the party consists of individuals who are venting their racist gripes with President Obama.

But if you look at the corporate media conventional wisdom perception of how the Tea Party impact plays out on Capitol Hill, it is an uber anti-government force that believes taxes of any kind are akin to theft.

This is not just an eccentric BuzzFlash at Truthout theory; there is indeed a school of libertarian economic theory known as anarcho-capitalism. In fact, the son of Milton Friedman - the guru of the Reagan-era school of economics, which now seems liberal compared to the Cantor/Bachmann/Tea Party theories - is one of its foremost adherents. David Friedman believes in the primacy of the individual and property, without the interference of any governmental entity, including laws.

As excerpted from "Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism," by Peter Marshall, the extremity of what is being played out by the GOP Tea Party wing is a bit chilling:

Anarcho-capitalism has recently had a considerable vogue in the West where it has helped put the role of the state back on the political agenda. It has become a major ideological challenge to the dominant liberalism which sees a role for government in the protection of property. The anarcho-capitalists would like to dismantle government and allow complete laissez-faire in the economy. Its adherents propose that all public services be turned over to private entrepreneurs, even public spaces like town halls, streets and parks. Free market capitalism, they insist, is hindered not enhanced by the State....

Anarcho-capitalists, according to "A History of Anarchism," "maintain that even the minimal state is unnecessary since the defense of person and property can be carried out by private protection agencies."

The major area that anarcho-capitalists (and Ayn Rand adherents) would have a falling out with most Tea Party adherents is over social issues, in which anarcho-capitalists have no interest. For example, without a government of laws, it would be hard to legislate against gays, immigrants etc. In short, the government dreaded by the Tea Party could not be used by them to establish authoritarian, moralistic control over people.

But when it comes to economic theory, Eric Cantor, for example, certainly sounds a lot like an anarcho-capitalist.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"The tax collector cometh" could have been the headline for Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign launch in Waterloo, Iowa - her hometown - awhile back, but it wasn't.

Although Bachmann refers to her "experience as a tax attorney" in her official House of Representatives biography, she doesn't mention that her primary employer as a tax attorney was the Internal Revenue Service - public enemy number one of the Tea Party, after President Obama.

In a Wall Street Journal article entitled "Bachmann's Tax Attorney Job Was Collector for the IRS," it states bluntly:

"Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann touts one job as her primary professional experience before entering politics. On the campaign trail, she describes it as being a "federal tax litigation attorney." Others might call it tax collector.

"Ms. Bachmann spent four years with the Internal Revenue Service district counsel office in St. Paul, Minn., from 1988 to 1992."

But such revelations have done little to dampen the enthusiasm of anti-tax crusaders for Bachmann.

That's because progressives sometimes forget that politicians today market a brand, and television is their primary vehicle for promoting their brand. And visuals are perhaps more important - as Reagan's communications team proved - than what facts come out of the "liberal press." (Although it is hard to imagine the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal being part of such a "leftist conspiracy.")

Sometimes, we are so caught up with battles over survival issues - such as jobs, Medicare, Social Security and health insurance - that we forget that the larger frame of political conversation is being shaped elsewhere.

Rupert Murdoch's Fox "News" in America not only serves as the farm team for GOP presidential and other Republican contenders, but it is also the most powerful news force in shaping the terms of our national political debate. Through a combination of "catapulting the propaganda" (thank George W. Bush for that phrase), contributions to US politicians, and targeted media attacks on "opposition" political figures - among other nefarious strategies - Murdoch has done more to bolster the current climate of plutocracy in the US than any other individual.

Murdoch specializes in using the media to deceive a primarily white, middle and working class into hot button, emotional perceptions of reality, based on false information and disciplined message points.

In the UK, the current prime minister is calling for all sorts of investigations into Murdoch's media behemoth. But it seems a little disingenuous given that the former editor of Murdoch's now shuttered tabloid, News of the World, served as the prime minister's press secretary until recently. The former press secretary, Andy Coulson - the link between Murdoch and Prime Minister Cameron - was just arrested based on his alleged illegal conduct while editor of News of the World.

Yesterday, BuzzFlash posted a quotation from FDR that "government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob."

Murdoch is the Orwellian 1984 vision of our time, who makes a mockery of democracy by controlling the political process and conversation through the power of his discredited and dishonest media empire.

He is a direct threat to the great experiment of self-governance by a majority of the population. He has already proven that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The hacking of phones and invasion of privacy by the Rupert Murdoch tabloid press has been the subject of articles for years, but it took the unconscionable and illegal extracting and deleting of messages from the mobile phone of a dead British girl to bring the Murdoch empire to its knees.

Murdoch, it appears now, had bought off police, politicians, and who knows who else, as he swaggered across the Western world, creating a false, angry, populist worldview through a vast media empire. The sole purpose of this emotional, incendiary and deceptive narrative was to create governments that supported the plutocracy, not the "rabble" of democracy. The tool to accomplish this was the manipulation of the mass media to ignore facts and create a fictional "frame" that pushed populations toward acceptance of an authoritarian state, one that existed for the benefit of the wealthy.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew the danger of a Murdoch controlling, in an Orwellian fashion, the media, and the danger of the likes of the Koch Brothers financing propaganda - through lavish support of think tanks and front "activist" organizations - as well as a government run by corporate lobbyists. Whether it is ownership of the media, concentrated control of the assets of a nation by a few, or de facto corporate governance through campaign contribution leverage on Congress and the White House, Roosevelt warned:

The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group.

In his second inaugural speech FDR declared:

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace - business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me - and I welcome their hatred.

How little has changed since those remarks were made in 1936, except there is no FDR in the White House to champion the cause of democracy for those 99 percent of Americans who are not part of "organized money."

One American's tax subsidy (or loophole) is another American's tax burden.

Take the money out of the middle-class taxpayers' pockets and put it into the super wealthy hands of the oil companies or hedge fund managers, for example.

In essence, people of limited means who work by the hour are paying higher taxes in order to make wealthy people wealthier. Why? Because someone has to pay taxes for the services provided by the government.

ThinkProgress noted this in terms of the tax subsidy we all pay to hedge fund managers:

The top 25 hedge fund managers in the United States collectively earned $22 billion last year, and yet they have their own cushy set of tax rules. If they operated under the same rules that apply to other people - police officers, for example, or teachers - the country could cut its national deficit by as much as $44 billion in the next ten years.

So, you and I are taxed at a higher rate than hedge fund managers for their personal gain on behalf of customers. Middle-income earners are subsidizing billionaires.

Of course, taxpayers also subsidize oil companies that have been making record profits, including ExxonMobil, which recorded the highest corporate quarterly profit in history awhile back. As the Center for American Progress reports, the middle class is paying indirect taxes to the oil companies: "In effect, U.S. taxpayers wrote a collective $7 billion bonus check to the oil industry when they filed their taxes last month [for 2010]."

Mainstream media euphemistically calls these taxpayer-subsidized profits by hedge fund managers and oil companies "loopholes."

That's like a pickpocket saying that he didn't steal a wallet, it just jumped into his hand.

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