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Friday, 11 February 2011 07:13

Symbol of Wall Street to be Sold to Germany

MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT

While the right wing claims that American capitalism leads the world, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is about to be acquired by new owners in Germany.

That's right, long the symbol of the so-called "free market," the likely sale symbolizes that Wall Street is no longer the center of the financial universe.

As of February 9, a New York Times article predicts, "A merger would potentially let customers trade stocks in New York, options tied to those shares in Paris and derivatives linked to them in Frankfurt."

The NYSE has long offered a favorite photo opportunity for US politicians and presidents, who would ring the famous opening bell of the market, symbolizing their support of the American "free enterprise system."

But it looks like, in the near future, the financial transactions of the global elite will officially be disbursed more and more around the world.

The right-wing nostalgia for the financial might of America that characterized the post-WWII generation is becoming increasingly exposed as a mirage.

The national boundaries of investment are being made ever more negligible by an international marketplace that owes no allegiance to any individual nation.

The NYSE, which was founded in 1792, will no longer be owned by Americans.

This single act won't stop the Tea Party from sipping on its cup of delusions, but at some point the reality will set in.

America's financial destiny is inextricably intertwined with that of the world.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT

The Bush/Obama plan of blaming teachers and principals for economic injustice will not improve education.

As BuzzFlash has noted before, certainly there are public schoolteachers and principals who probably are not up to snuff. But we've also criticized the notion that public schools in poor urban and rural areas should miraculously be able to compensate for chronic conditions of communities with poverty and violence - and very few jobs.

Because, as we've observed, there is not a national educational crisis. There is a problem with schools that are located in areas of limited economic means.

Blaming principals and teachers in a war on public education in poor areas is a diversionary tactic from addressing the real problem: economic injustice and inequality.

You know that something foul is up when George W. Bush is involved. And sure enough, the George W. Bush Institute is backing making principals like "corporate managers." We'll let Laura Bush explain:

Former first lady Laura W. Bush announced a new nationwide initiative today aimed at changing the way America's principals are recruited and prepared - and how they run schools.

Mrs. Bush's announcement at a high school here marks the first major effort of the nonpartisan George W. Bush Institute, located at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas. The institute's newly formed Alliance to Reform Education Leadership will work toward the goal of giving teachers what they say they need most - great principals.

"Strong leaders create a cascading effect of success," she said. "To succeed, we need exceptional leaders in every school district."

Just what we need to improve education, "strong leaders" like George W. Bush.

The only thing that this can lead to is "miseducation."

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT

 

Robert Kuttner just wrote a column in which he stated a point BuzzFlash has been driving home recently: "America's corporations no longer need America's workers."

As BuzzFlash has recently criticized, President Obama's response has been to appoint the CEO of GE, an expert at exporting jobs and avoiding corporate taxes, to be his "jobs czar."

Even more detrimental to those in disproportionate need of work, Obama is going to cut federal assistance for grassroots organizations that aid the impoverished:

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob "Jack" Lew wrote in an opinion article for The New York Times that Obama is willing to cut financing in half, saving $350 million, for community service block grants that cities and towns that allocate to grassroots groups for them to provide basic necessities for poor people.

This is the kind of work Obama did as a community organizer at the outset of his political career, so "this cut is not easy for him," Lew wrote.

Well, imagine how it feels to black males who are experiencing double-digit unemployment. We don't imagine that they feel the president's pain; they feel their pain.

The chronically destitute of urban and rural America have been left so far behind that they are hardly even considered newsworthy anymore.

About the only "free market" capitalism left for them to engage in is selling drugs.

That's entrepreneurial, isn't it?

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT

Reagan led America into the death of Main Street while he championed its glory.

He did that by acting the role of the proud defender of "American exceptionalism" and "moral values," while he implemented a policy and mindset that led to the economic decline of "middle America" - and championed death squads and brutal dictatorships abroad.

But his most detrimental accomplishment was ushering in the age of governance by global corporations - who have an allegiance only to profits and manufacturing at the lowest cost (overseas), not to jobs or decent pay in the United States.

Yesterday, BuzzFlash wrote about how this destructive change in America's political prism was exemplified by GE's launching of Reagan's political career, and how GE is still benefiting in the Obama White House.

Journalist David Lindorff trenchantly analyzes how GE's investment in Reagan is still paying off - in the Obama administration - with the cynical appointment of GE honcho Jeffrey Immelt as "jobs czar":

Between 2005 and 2009, according to GE's own 10-K financial reports, the company shed jobs in the US so fast, and added them abroad so fast, that the US employee share of GE's total workforce dropped from 51 percent to 44 percent, a process of job destruction that has continued apace since then. In 2009 and 2010, according to information compiled by the United Electrical Workers (UE), GE closed down 29 manufacturing plants in North America, 28 of them in the US and one in Canada.... Meanwhile, Immelt recently told Forbes magazine about his company's plans for expanding jobs ... in India.

It gets worse. GE is a master at using offshore tax schemes to avoid paying its fair share to the help cover for the costs of running America. As Lindorff documents,

The company also likes the idea of lower corporate taxes (for the years 2007 to 2009, according to Citizens for Tax Justice's Bob McIntyre, Immelt's GE managed to finagle a tax rate of -14.1%, which is to say the government gave the company an extra 14.1% over and above its profits!), and of course all kinds of tax incentives aimed at increasing hiring, though these measures, while helping corporate bottom lines, have demonstrably failed to lead to significant job creation. GE also opposes measures that would punish companies for outsourcing production, or that would make it harder for it to bring in high-skilled workers from abroad to replace educated but higher-paid American workers.

In short, it is now politically acceptable for a Democratic president to appoint a chief adviser on job creation whose major skill set is closing American plants, sending jobs overseas, and not only avoiding his company (GE) from paying taxes, but actually ending up with a US government subsidy.

On the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birthday, this is his legacy. The myth of "morning in America" will endure in Republican fundraisers and fawning corporate media coverage, but the facts speak for themselves - and they are a damning indictment.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT

As the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan approaches on February 6th, it is hard to escape the Republican voices clamoring for sainthood to be bestowed on the Gipper.

What did Ronald Reagan ever do for non-wealthy Americans beyond becoming the symbol of a belief that being born white and in the U.S. makes one exceptional? Indeed, his game-changing accomplishment - using carefully crafted scripts and symbols developed by aides - was bestowing an acceptance of the inevitability of corporate governance.

As most people know, Reagan was a "B" movie star until General Electric hired him to both host a GE television series and become a corporate spokesperson around the nation. Reagan was so successful as a corporate pitchman that a group of extremely conservative and wealthy backers put up the money to position him as a political candidate who would espouse the corporate ethos.

General Electric is so proud of their role in launching Reagan that they are now advertising an Internet tribute to him, "Rendezvous With Destiny: Reagan's journey from GE to the White House." In fact GE describes the film as depicting "how he rose from GE brand ambassador to 40th president of the United States."

As the recent appointment of Jeffrey Immelt, current CEO of GE, to head President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness -- at a time that GE is a leader in outsourcing jobs and off shoring revenue - shows, GE's investment in Reagan is still paying big dividends. In fact, Immelt, noting that the benefits corporations will have by being dealers inside the government went so far as to say, in 2009, "We're all Democrats now." As progressive journalist David Sirota recently noted, Obama gets the trade-off of a corporate honcho who can help raise money for his re-election.

It's all very cozy, except that Immelt is an expert at shipping jobs overseas, not creating them in the U.S.

The trajectory that GE began when Reagan became its corporate carnival barker is now accepted by both parties: the American government has become a virtual subsidiary of international corporations who just happen to be headquartered in the U.S.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT

Do you want to know "five reasons liberals aren't as happy as Conservatives"?

John Hall of TownHall.com believes that he has the answers to this rather - shall we say - questionable assumption. After all, so many progressives are in a quandary as to what has provoked the bile, bitterness and hate on the right.

But Hall asserts as one of his five arguments in support of his thesis:

Liberalism just doesn't work very well in the real world: If you spend your whole life advocating ideas that make people's lives worse, that fall apart at the first touch of reality, and that rely on a government that's inevitably slow, stupid, and ineffective, it's not going to be conducive to your happiness.

Actually, Mr. Hall, that made me laugh so hard, my happiness still hasn't worn off.

As his final point, Hall declares: "Liberalism has turned into an extraordinarily harsh, divisive, angry ideology: As a political philosophy, liberalism is centered around hatred and divisiveness."

What can I say?

This column on the conservative site, TownHall.com, is so unintentionally humorous that it left a smile on my face the whole day.

Count me one happy liberal.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT

If you wonder what can explain the pathological hysteria of the Tea Party and right-wing whites, one need look no further than the headline from an Associated Press article today, February 3.

"Census estimates show big gains for US minorities," the headline blares.

The white population is declining and minorities are surging, meaning that the notion of a white Christian nation has a short timeline - and the manic, alternative-universe behavior of the right wing has to do with a race against time with racial change.

How big is the minority growth?

Here are some walloping statistics from The AP article:

U.S. racial minorities accounted for roughly 85 percent of the nation's population growth over the last decade - one of the largest shares ever - with Hispanics accounting for much of the gain in many of the states picking up new House seats.

Preliminary census estimates also suggest the number of multiracial Americans jumped roughly 20 percent since 2000, to over 5 million....

Some 40 states show population losses of white children since 2000 due to declining birth rates. Minorities represented all of the increases in the under-18 population in Texas and Florida, and most of the gains in the child population in Nevada and Arizona.

So, those who have a psyche closely aligned with America identified as a white nation, are feeling emotionally imperiled, and follow any Pied Piper who reinforces their world view that a return to the "real" America is the creation of a white, Christian government.

"The new engines of growth in America's population are Hispanics, Asians and other minorities," a demographer quoted in The AP article said. "But it's just the tip of the iceberg. For the under-18 population - potential voters in the not-too-distant future - minorities accounted for virtually all the growth in most U.S. states."

If you are pulling your hair out trying to understand the inexplicable bile and conspiratorial fantasies of many in white America, look no further than this AP article.

This is their nightmare come true.

If you'd like to receive these commentaries daily from Truthout/BuzzFlash, click here. You'll get our choice headlines and articles too!

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT

"You can't be neutral on a moving train," Howard Zinn said. Although he died over a year ago (January 27, 2010), no statement could be more timely considering the upheaval in Egypt.

Perhaps we are so vicariously thrilled by people literally taking democracy into their hands and putting their lives on the line - as we were with the suppressed "Green Revolution" in Iran - because we have largely abandoned large-scale protests in the US. Other nations are doing the heavy lifting of democracy, and it excites us with the possibility that it could happen here, that we could stand up to the plutocracy and the status quo elites.

Zinn said that he would like to be remembered,

for introducing a different way of thinking about the world, about war, about human rights, about equality ... for getting more people to realize that the power which rests so far in the hands of people with wealth and guns, that the power ultimately rests in people themselves and that they can use it. At certain points in history, they have used it. Black people in the South used it. People in the women's movement used it. People in the anti-war movement used it. People in other countries who have overthrown tyrannies have used it.

He was an inveterate optimist that the spark of good in all of us can ignite a powerful force that can bring down the rule of the privileged few.

Zinn was also on the advisory board of Truthout, which embodies his view that:

There was a moment in our lives (or a month, or a year) when certain facts appeared before us, startled us, and then caused us to question beliefs that were strongly fixed in our consciousness - embedded there by years of family prejudices, orthodox schooling, imbibing of newspapers, radio and television. This would seem to lead to a simple conclusion: that we all have an enormous responsibility to bring to the attention of others information they do not have, which has the potential of causing them to rethink long-held ideas.

In tribute to Zinn, on the anniversary of his death, Truthout and BuzzFlash are offering his eye-opening, revisionist history of America: "The People's History of the United States."

It's a special gift premium that will cause you "to rethink long-held ideas." And then pass it on to a friend. Germinate the seeds of truth.

If you'd like to receive these commentaries daily from Truthout/BuzzFlash, click here. You'll get our choice headlines and articles too!

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT

What do Hosni Mubarak and the major United States cable companies have in common?

They have banned Al Jazeera.

That's a shame, because Al Jazeera has great "on the ground" coverage and literally speaks the language of the tumultuous happenings in the Middle East. But in 99 percent or so of America, the only place you can follow Al Jazeera's English channel is on a live feed on the Internet.

According to The New York Times, "cable and satellite companies in the United States have largely refused its requests to be carried."

As you can read in a 2004 BuzzFlash interview with the director of "Control Room," the riveting documentary on the network, Al Jazeera is a Western-style news operation. It is owned by the oil-rich and pro-US Qatar government.

Reporting with the kind of vigor you expect from serious journalism, Al Jazeera takes on all comers. During the invasion of Iraq, the US bombed the Al Jazeera Baghdad bureau from the air and killed a staff member. Currently, the Palestinian Authority claims that Al Jazeera reported on an embarrassing story in collusion with Israel.

Al Jazeera must be doing something right. It is a station that manages to tick off a lot of governments and movements, as well as corporate broadcasting in America.

If you'd like to receive these commentaries daily from Truthout/BuzzFlash, click here. You'll get our choice headlines and articles too!

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT

The courage of convictions is often measured by the number of feet protesting in the streets.

That was the case recently in Tunisia. It is the standard the corporate mainstream media used during the Iranian "Green Revolution" and, now, in Egypt.

But for far too long, the American media has historically discounted progressive protests in the US - although they give plenty of coverage to the Tea Party and the right wing. Go back to the thousands and thousands of people who rallied in DC against the first inauguration of Supreme Court-appointed George W. Bush. You had to search Google for reports and read liberal bloggers to find out about the outpouring of dissent.

And relatively short shrift was given by the mainstream media to large-scale protests against the invasion of Iraq.

In 2006, however, massive numbers of people - in the millions around the nation - who protested draconian measures aimed at immigrants from Mexico and Central America, did get the attention of the press. And the protests worked, delaying ethnically biased federal immigration "reform" to this day.

But it should be noted that Spanish-language media, not the corporate mainstream media, played a large role in boosting the numbers who turned out and had an impact on spillover coverage.

On Sunday, Common Cause led a group of more than 1,000 people, who objected to an American government manipulated for the interest of billionaires. Their presence shed attention on the secret, annual, plutocratic, political planning sessions of the Koch brothers and their super-rich allies, who were meeting in Palm Springs.

As Van Jones warned the protesters who were "uncloaking the Kochs":

There is another threat. And it is in our country a graver threat. And it is the threat that comes from excessive concentrations of economic power. Excessive concentrations of economic power in our country pose as big a threat, and frankly a greater threat than any concentration of political power. What we have to remember is that our republic is founded not just on the question of liberty, but also on democracy and justice.

Social and economic injustice will not be ended because the oligarchy suddenly becomes altruistic.

Power - particularly when fueled by financial wealth - does not yield concessions without counter pressure.

That is something that we can learn from the people of Tunisia and of Egypt - and a small gathering of advocates for democracy in Palm Springs.

If you'd like to receive these commentaries daily from Truthout/BuzzFlash, click here. You'll get our choice headlines and articles too!

Published in EditorBlog
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