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Monday, 18 August 2014 05:32

The Carnage of Capitalism

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

caplove(Photo: buridan)

Capitalism is expanding like a tumor in the body of American society, spreading further into vital areas of human need like health and education.

Milton Friedman said in 1980: "The free market system distributes the fruits of economic progress among all people." The father of the modern neoliberal movement couldn't have been more wrong. Inequality has been growing for 35 years, worsening since the 2008 recession, as a few well-positioned Americans have made millions while the rest of us have gained almost nothing. Now, our college students and medicine-dependent seniors have become the source of new riches for the profitseeking free-marketers.


Higher Education: Administrators Get Most of the Money

College grads took a 19 percent pay cut in the two years after the recession. By 2013 over half of employed black recent college graduates were working in occupations that typically do not require a four-year college degree. For those still in school, tuition has risen much faster than any other living expense, and the average student loan balance has risen 91 percent over the past ten years.

At the other extreme is the winner-take-all free-market version of education, with a steady flow of compensation towards the top. Remarkably, and not coincidentally, as inequality has surged since the 1980s, the number of administrators at private universities has doubled. Administrators now outnumber faculty on every campus across the country.

These administrators are taking the big money. As detailed by Lawrence Wittner, the 25 highest-paid presidents increased their salaries by a third between 2009 and 2012, to nearly a million dollars each. For every million-dollar public university president in 2011, there were fourteen such presidents at private universities, and dozens of lower-level administrators aspiring to be paid like their bosses. At Purdue, for example, the 2012 administrative ranks included a $313,000-a-year acting provost, a $198,000 chief diversity officer, a $253,000 marketing officer and a $433,000 business school chief.

Published in Guest Commentary

ARIEL ZEPEDA FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT, WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY REBECCA SOLNIT

10men(Photo: Wolfram Burner)


This is the remarkable and ordinary story of the reactions of the people around a woman who woke up bruised with no memory of how she got that way. Ariel Zepeda lets us see how a campus rape can not just go unreported, but unnamed, how people can choose to smooth it over to spare themselves the difficulty of admitting there’s a rapist in their social circle and that justice might require something be done. Zepeda—who I had the pleasure of working with this spring in a writing seminar—is the voice we haven’t heard from yet: the male peer who’s horrified at the conduct of his fellow students but ambivalent about what constitutes an appropriate response. The New York Times’ cover story a week ago demonstrated yet again how awful can be the consequences for a university student who chooses to report being raped; it’s not a choice you can easily make for someone else.

It’s also worth remembering that from Harvard to Stanford, from Berkeley to Notre Dame to University of Connecticut, our finest universities are apparently graduating a new crop of unpunished rapists every year. I don’t know how this epidemic will be stopped, but I’m amazed and moved by the young women organizing on dozens of campuses to address the situation. They are doing much to change it. And I’m convinced voices like Ariel’s will help us see the nuances, the conflicts, dilemmas, blind spots, and pressures that surround these crimes and criminals. Too,  this is an issue that men must address, because the most misogynist among us don’t listen to women and absorb the idea that rape is cool rather than reprehensible from what we now call rape culture and from their male peers in particular. Which is why the other voices need to be heard. 

-- Rebecca Solnit

She trusted the people at the party. It was her second semester at U.C. Berkeley, at a fraternity party she attended with a group of her sorority sisters. You are vulnerable to new people whenever you try to gain entrance into a society. Some people try to befriend you while others try to take advantage of you. Ultimately, you must be able to trust these strangers. Even if you cannot trust strangers enough to befriend them, you should be able to trust the friends you already have.

The mandatory class on the responsible use of alcohol at U.C. Berkeley consisted of a couple hundred students gathered in an auditorium. We watched a video in which unsuspecting bystanders reacted to a scene in which a man (an actor) attempted to take an intoxicated woman (also an actress) home with him. We were supposed to learn that sex is never okay when drinking is involved, because you cannot fully ensure the other person’s consent. When we discussed the video, a student questioned the usefulness of the exercise, since the actor in the video was vocal about her refusal to leave the bar with the man, while real-life situations are more ambiguous for the bystanders and sometimes the participants.

In a more chaotic environment, like a party, it is nearly impossible to know what people are doing, or to know their intentions. Even if someone were to witness another person engaged in suspicious behavior, most would not get involved or would assume that someone else was responsible for that stranger stumbling away from the party. It is all part of the social experience at universities. You take chances, make mistakes, and try to move on – though this night would be different.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

veterans(Photo: kevin dooley)

 

Despite the July 4 tributes, millions of US soldiers and veterans are in serious trouble.

 

Twenty two veterans kill themselves every day according to the Veterans Administration.   A study by the Los Angeles Times found veterans are more than twice as likely as other civilians to commit suicide.  Suicides among full-time soldiers, especially among male soldiers, are also well above the national civilian rate.  USA Today reported a suicide rate of 19.9 per 100,000 for civilian men compared to rates of 31.8 per 100,000 for male soldiers and 34.2 per 100,000 for men in the National Guard.

 

Over 57,000 veterans are homeless on any given night according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

 

Unemployment is much higher among post 911 veterans than the general population according to the Department of Labor.

 

More than 1.4 million veterans are living below the poverty line according to US Senate report, and another 1.4 million are just above the line.  Of veterans between the ages of 18 and 34, 12.5 percent are living in poverty.

Over 900,000 veterans live in households which receive food stamps reports the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  The use of food stamps by active duty service members appears to be at an all-time high, according to CNN.   In addition, many active duty service families receive a special military supplemental food allowance designed to replace food stamps for low income service families.

 

 

Published in Guest Commentary

JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

gunsgaloreRecent ad insert in Sacramento Bee. (Photo: BuzzFlash)

There was a gun show in San Francisco last weekend and hundreds of people were already lined up at the door and waiting, hours ahead of the opening bell.  Why?  "We want to buy guns, of course, but we also want to buy ammunition."  Of course.  What is the use of having a gun if you don't have any ammunition?

And what is the use of buying just one gun when you can buy two?  Or three or four -- or a hundred.

And what is the use of owning a derringer when you can own a pistol?  And why own a pistol when you can easily trade up and buy a semiautomatic weapon instead?  And why just have a semiautomatic weapon when you can get your hands on an AK-47?  Or a rocket-launcher -- better yet!

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 04 July 2014 18:00

William Rivers Pitt: We Rise

WILLIAM RIVERS PITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaa4th(Photo: A.M. Willard)In all the darkness, the teeth-grinding fury, the disgust, and the desperate temptation to surrender to despair, I remember:

That Black people who were brought here in chains won their freedom, and then more freedom, and then equal status under the law. It was a long and horror-filled road, it should never have happened, but we as a nation fixed it, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

That women have only had the right to vote for 95 of the years this country has existed, which frankly blows my whole mind. We as a nation fixed that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

That growing old used to be a dead-bang guarantee of growing poor. We as a nation fixed that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

That 146 people, mostly women, died in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire because as workers, they had no rights. We as a nation fixed that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

That marriage rights existed in a state of apartheid, to the exclusion of LGTB people, until the dam broke recently. We as a nation are still fixing that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

The curious thought experiment that is the United States of America is built on a lot of mythology, and a lot of greed, and the machinery of that construction was lubricated with an ocean of Native American and African blood...but it has a lot of soul, too, and an astonishing amount of potential.

Published in Guest Commentary

JONATHAN FRANKLIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Dateline: Santiago, Chile

adebtcan(Photo: Saint Huck)A Chilean artist using the name “Fried Potatoes” [Papas Fritas] spent a year as he planned a unique revenge on a notorious for-profit University. Saying he was “collecting material for an art project”, the 31-year-old visual artist, snuck into a bank vault at Universidad del Mar and pilfered original copies of tuition contracts.

“Fried Potatoes” – whose real name is Francisco Tapia - then burned the university documents, making it extremely difficult for creditors to collect. “It’s over. You are all free of debt,” he exclaimed in a 5-minute video released earlier this month. Speaking to indebted students, he said, “You don’t have to pay a penny.”

Tapia’s move is just the most radical of an ongoing 3-year movement by Chilean students to reform Chile’s mediocre public education system. With monthly street marches – and four student leaders elected last November to parliament – the students have built a potent citizen’s movement rarely seen in post-Pinochet Chile.

Recently elected socialist President Michelle Bachelet supports the students and earlier this month increased the corporate tax rate to finance their main demand: free university education for all. On Wednesday, as Bachelet gave her state of the union address that outlined a multibillion dollar educational initiative, students protesting outside the congressional hall scattered ashes from the burned documents in symbolic protest against for-profit educational scams.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acruel(Photo: meophamman)His is a legitimate “rags to riches” story. However, instead of using his millions to improve the lives of the poor, and working people, our protagonist is bullying his way to political power in pursuit of an agenda that benefits the privatizers and the rich and powerful. You probably never heard of him, you wouldn’t know him if you ran into him at a St. Louis Cardinal game at Busch Stadium, or rode in the same elevator to the top of the city’s Gateway Arch. If you live in Missouri – thereby directly effected by the way he wields his wealth -- and if you want to understand how one very wealthy and powerful individual goes about the business of building influence throughout the state, consider the story of Rex Sinquefield.

According to a new report by the Center for Media and Democracy titled, A Reporter’s Guide to Rex Sinquefield and the Show-Me InstituteWhat Reporters, Citizens, and Policymakers Need to Know, since 2008, Sinquefield, a financial tycoon, “has poured tens of millions of dollars into elections and referenda to try to secure legislators and laws to advance his agenda. He has dumped millions into front groups and lobbying entities to massage politicians, spin the press, and try to soften up public opinion toward his personal wish list for changing Missouri law.”

Rex Sinquefield “is one of the top right-wing political funders in the country, and the single top political spender in Missouri, where he has spent at least $31.5 million since 2006 seeking to reshape Missouri laws, legislators, and policies according to his own ideological mold," said co-author Brendan Fischer, General Counsel of the Center for Media and Democracy. "Plus, like the Kochs, he pursues his agenda through a diversity of avenues, including his pet think tank the Show-Me Institute and front groups and lobbying entities, in order to massage politicians, spin the press, and try to soften up public opinion toward his personal wish list for changing Missouri law."

A Reporter’s Guide points out that two years ago, “Sinquefield told the Wall Street Journal that what he had spent so far is ‘merely the start of what he’ll spend to promote his two main interests: rolling back taxes” and what he describes as “rescuing education from teachers unions.’ He has also invested in groups working to thwart fair wages in Missouri, and undermine other long-standing union rights.”

Published in Guest Commentary

JACKIE MARCUS FOR BUFFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaReaganGE(Photo: White House Photographic Office)To some degree it matters who's in office, but it matters more how much pressure they're under from the public. —Noam Chomsky 

Where are the senators and congressional members when it comes to supporting the troops? Currently, USS Ronald Reagan sailors are suffering from radioactive illnesses after they were sent on a humanitarian mission to help Japan’s victims during the 2011 devastating earthquake-tsunami which led to three nuclear meltdowns, the worst catastrophic nuclear power plant explosions in history with no end in sight

The president is fond of presenting honorary medals to soldiers. After all, it makes for a great “Hallmark Moment,” a solemn ceremony of attaching a Medal of Honor around a soldier’s neck for the cameras, but where is the president when things go wrong, terribly wrong with nuclear policy?

No wonder there’s a media blackout. After all, we don’t want to get GE into trouble, now, do we? 

Five of the six nuclear reactors at Fukushima are General Electric Mark 1 reactors. GE knew decades ago that the design was faulty.  Quite a little irony that the company that President Ronald Reagan worshipped, General Electric, was responsible indirectly for nuking the USS Ronald Reagan—as well as the rest of the world.

Nuclear investors must be elated by the fact that you can’t see how immeasurably hot nuclear radiation is— hence the meaning of the word meltdown.  It’s been postulated - but not proven - that three years of radiation released into the atmosphere has accelerated or contributed to the rapid Arctic ice melt, given the detection of radiation as far north as Canada and Alaska.  In fact, Fukushima radiation fallout is being detected globally, levels alternate between high and low depending on location. 

If you were to ask President Obama about the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns, he would most likely give an answer similar to the one he gave about BP’s 2010 Gulf oil catastrophe: It’s a “leak that’s been sealed.” Sure, a leak that left the entire Gulf of Mexico a permanent dead zone.  Incidentally, BP is back in business, drilling away in deep waters of the Gulf as if nothing happened at all. 

Published in Guest Commentary
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acuff
(Photo: derpunk)

David Horowitz, right-wing founder of an organization called the "Freedom Center," argued that blacks should not be paid reparations for the enslavement of their ancestors. Among his reasons are that:

-- There Is No Single Group Clearly Responsible For The Crime Of Slavery
-- Most Americans Have No Connection (Direct Or Indirect) To Slavery
-- Reparations To African Americans Have Already Been Paid

But slavery, in its various forms of physical and mental torment, has been a part of US history from the beginnings of our country to the present day. There are numerous modern-day corporations who profited immensely - themselves or their predecessors - from slave labor. Only token amounts have been paid back, along with a few scattered apologies.

Four eras of abominable abuse can clearly be identified.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acensored33(Photo: Gueretto)

The following are all relevant, fact-based issues, the "hard news" stories that the media has a responsibility to report. But the corporate-owned press generally avoids them.

1. U.S. Wealth Up $34 Trillion Since Recession. 93% of You Got Almost None of It.

That's an average of $100,000 for every American. But the people who already own most of the stocks took almost all of it. For them, the average gain was well over a million dollars -- tax-free as long as they don't cash it in. Details available here.

2. Eight Rich Americans Made More Than 3.6 Million Minimum Wage Workers

A recent report stated that no full-time minimum wage worker in the U.S. can afford a one-bedroom or two-bedroom rental at fair market rent. There are 3.6 million such workers, and their total (combined) 2013 earnings is less than the 2013 stock market gains of just eight Americans, all of whom take more than their share from society: the four Waltons, the two Kochs, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett.

3. News Sources Speak for the 5%

It would be refreshing to read an honest editorial: "We dearly value the 5 to 7 percent of our readers who make a lot of money and believe that their growing riches are helping everyone else."

Instead, the business media seems unable to differentiate between the top 5 percent and the rest of society. The Wall Street Journal exclaimed, "Middle-class Americans have more buying power than ever before," and then went on to sputter: "What Recession?...The economy has bounced back from recession, unemployment has declined.."

The Chicago Tribune may be even further out of touch with its less privileged readers, asking them: "What's so terrible about the infusion of so much money into the presidential campaign?"

4. TV News Dumbed Down for American Viewers

A 2009 survey by the European Journal of Communication compared the U.S. to Denmark, Finland, and the UK in the awareness and reporting of domestic vs. international news, and of 'hard' news (politics, public administration, the economy, science, technology) vs. 'soft' news (celebrities, human interest, sport and entertainment). The results:

-- Americans [are] especially uninformed about international public affairs.
-- American respondents also underperformed in relation to domestic-related hard news stories.
-- American television reports much less international news than Finnish, Danish and British television;
-- American television network newscasts also report much less hard news than Finnish and Danish television.

Surprisingly, the report states that "our sample of American newspapers was more oriented towards hard news than their counterparts in the European countries." Too bad Americans are reading less newspapers.

Published in Guest Commentary
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