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PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

adumpster11 24A Dumpster Diving Thanksgiving for Many Americans1. Scrounging to Survive and Heartlessness

Beverly is a middle-aged homeless woman who survives day-by-day on the streets of Chicago. I learned about her from my friend Joe, an advocate for the homeless and a volunteer at a community kitchen on the city's north side. He first noticed Beverly huddled in a theater exitway on a frigid November morning, cup in hand, a pair of crutches leaning against the door behind her. He gave her a little money, and she responded with a smile and a quiet "thank you." They talked a little bit; she seemed eager to share a few minutes of conversation. She mentioned that she hadn't eaten that day. Since they were too far from, and it was too early for, the community kitchen, Joe offered to buy her a meal. Her favorite was chili, at a lunch spot around the corner.

Charles and David Koch are both members of the .00001%. That's a group of twenty individuals who have a total net worth of over a half-trillion dollars, about $26 billion each. One of David's residences is at 740 Park Avenue, in the most exclusive area of Manhattan. The doorman at the 740 building had this to say about David Koch: "We would load up his trucks - two vans, usually - every weekend, for the Hamptons...multiple guys, in and out, in and out, heavy bags. We would never get a tip from Mr. Koch. We would never get a smile from Mr. Koch. Fifty-dollar check for Christmas."


2. Bedbugs and Gluttony

Beverly had made $8 that day, from 8AM to 2PM, a little over a dollar an hour. She needed $22 for a night in a Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotel, where she could shower and have some privacy, and most importantly feel safe for a few hours. The alternative was a local mission, where, she said, "You got to sleep with your stuff under you, so that nobody will steal it from you." She also spoke reluctantly about the bedbugs.

Hamptons home builder Joe Farrell described some of the extravagances: a home ATM machine "regularly restocked with $20,000 in $10 bills"; and a store selling $30,000 bottles of Dom Perignon. A trifle for someone like David Koch, who made $3 million an hour from his investments last year.

Published in Guest Commentary

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

privatepropBuzzFlash at Truthout has, for years, discussed the last great stand of white Americans -- who feel entitled to power -- and the racist origins of the anger that have been building up at the diminishment of white privilege.  This, of course, accounts for the vigorous effort by Republicans to reduce the vote of nonwhites and the poor, because demographically -- as we and others have repeated  -- whites are headed toward minority status in America.

And knowing the history of what whites have done to minorities (including black slaves, Native Americans, Mexicans and Chinese imported to build the railroads just to name a few), the fear of payback has to be included in their bitter hate for "the other."

But, it is also important to remember that one of the key political conflicts playing itself out here also concerns property rights versus citizenship rights when it comes to voting. 

Let's take a trip down America's regrettable heritage of slavery.  Although blacks abducted and sold into servitude and babaric cruelty were needless to say denied the right of citizenship, they were considered property -- and the accumulation of a lot of slaves exemplified a large and powerful property owner (including George Washington).

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

pubschool11 18Right Wing Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast called the public school system a "socialist regime." Michelle Rhee cautions us against commending students for their 'participation' in sports and other activities.

Privatizers believe that any form of working together as a community is anti-American. To them, individual achievement is all that matters. They're now applying their winner-take-all profit motive to our children.


We're Sliding Backwards, Towards "Separate and Unequal"

In 1954, the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education seemed to place our country on the right track. Chief Justice Earl Warren said that education "is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms." Thurgood Marshall insisted on "the right of every American to an equal start in life."

But then we got derailed. We've become a nation of inequality, worse than ever before, worse than during the racist "separate but equal" policy of Plessy vs. Ferguson in 1896. The Civil Rights Project at UCLA shows that "segregated schools are systematically linked to unequal educational opportunities." The Economic Policy Institute tells us that "African American students are more isolated than they were 40 years ago."

The privatizers clamor for vouchers and charters to improve education, but such methods generally don't serve those who need it most. According to a Center on Education Policy report, private schools serve 12 percent of the nation's elementary and secondary students, but only one percent of disabled students. Forty-three percent of public school students are from minority families, compared to 24% of private school students.

Published in Guest Commentary

WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

jbush11 17As William Rivers Pitt recently pointed out in his signature Truthout column, it's ludicrous to begin concentrating on the presidential race in 2016.  Democracy is too valuable and powerful to have its future concentrated in one person.

BuzzFlash contributor Will Durst also ponders the absurdity of handicapping who might run for president in three years in the following column:

What the heck is going on here, people? Did someone drop the flag signaling the start of the 2016 Presidential election race in secret? Was there a furtive whispered “go now” left on the voice mail of all the major players in the 202 area code? 36 months before the election? Is it possible to earn extra credit by skipping this one and moving right on to 2020?

The most recent media-consumed fever dream boils down to Chris Christie versus Hillary Clinton. Although, two weeks ago, Ted Cruz was the presumptive GOP nominee. Didn’t Hillary use up her inevitability card in 2008? When she was destined to face off against Rudy Giuliani? How’d that end up?

Published in Guest Commentary

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

earth11 16As we face a growing catastrpohic crisis in the form of global warming, and economic hardships from policies that benefit billionaires while working Americans struggle to pay for basic necessities, I can’t help thinking about Al Gore and how different things would be under his leadership after Bush followed by years of broken promises.

Let’s remember that Al Gore won the popular vote and the state of Florida if the votes had been fully counted, despite the legal evidence proving that there was plenty of cheating going on for Bush in 2000, and last but not least, let’s not forget how the Supreme Court Justices unjustly ruled to stop counting the votes in Florida. 

Predictably, the industrial oligarchs would never have allowed an Al Gore victory. 

In 2000, we were at the crossroads or as President Clinton liked to say to “building a bridge to the twenty-first century, the New Millennium.”

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 13 November 2013 08:39

TV Violence: America's Dark Night of the Knoll

2013.11.13.TV.BFJANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

I was watching "The Mentalist" on TV recently, where some guy was being tortured, had a finger cut off with pruning shears and his face caressed with an acetylene torch.  Yikes!  And even during that nice little detective show "Castle," you can always count on seeing a whole bunch of blood and guts - not to mention the torture scenes and disemboweling now available on "Elementary" and "Body of Proof" and "Revolution" and "Person of Interest" and "Scandal".  And these are just the milder prime-time television shows.  I'm not even going to get into the nightmare-producing horrors of "Criminal Minds" and "Law & Order SVU" - because I can't even bear to watch those.

And then there are all those currently-popular "undead" shows too.  How many times can you torture a werewolf or drive a stake through a vampire's heart before he or she is truly dead?  Apparently a lot. 

Published in Guest Commentary

2013.11.13.GMO.BFJIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

In last week's elections, the national media focused tightly on the center ring, where two gubernatorial contests and one mayoral race were spotlighted. The most interesting of these to me was the dazzling, out-of-nowhere, high-wire performance of Bill de Blasio, the free-wheeling, six-foot-seven, progressive populist who shocked New York City's establishment with his landslide victory, becoming mayor of America's biggest metropolis.

That was fun, but so was the clown ring, where two performances deserve our attention. First was a bizarre act of political slapstick that played out far from the Big Apple. Coralville, Iowa, with fewer than 20,000 denizens, had the pleasure of publicly kicking the Koch brothers' kiesters on Election Day! Americans for Prosperity, the chief political arm of the multi-billionaire right-wing extremists, suddenly descended from out of the blue to run a high-dollar campaign against the re-election bids of Coralville's mayor and two city council members. The Koch group snidely called the little town "Iowa's version of Detroit." That was hardly a winning strategy — voters roundly rebuked the rich out-of-towners by voting two-to-one to return all three incumbents to office.

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 11 November 2013 07:08

The Stealthy Killer That Is Capitalism

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Anti-capitalism colorThe process is gradual, insidious, lethal. It starts with financial stress in various forms, and then, according to growing evidence, leads to health problems and shorter lives.

Financial stress is brought upon us by the profit motive of capitalism, which offers little incentive to feed hungry children, to treat the sick, to secure us in retirement, to provide job opportunities for middle-class Americans. Some of the steps in the process are becoming more and more familiar to us.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 06 November 2013 06:39

Jim Hightower | Can Wall Street Buy Redemption?

Jersey City: Goldman Sachs TowerJersey City: Goldman Sachs TowerJIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Goldman Sachs churns out enormous profits from its high-rolling, casino investment schemes, while also churning out fat paychecks for its top executives. They literally sack up the gold, even as their speculative gambles have wreaked havoc on our real economy.

But, finally recognizing that their public approval rating has sunk lower than mad-cow disease, Goldman's banking barons now want you to know that they feel your pain and are eager to "give back" to the people. So — ta-da! — they've transformed themselves into philanthropists, having goosed up the bank's foundation in order to flash their "charitable side." Goldman's chief of staff noted that "people said we weren't doing enough" to address the gross inequities created by Wall Streeters, so they've turned their foundation into the fourth largest corporate charity in America. In an orchestrated show that the New York Times dubbed "reputation redemption," the bank's charitable arm doled out $241 million last year, including grants to women in developing nations and small business projects here in the U.S.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

sunkenship11 4As they accumulate more and more wealth, the very rich have less need for society. At the same time, they've convinced themselves that they made it on their own, and that contributing to societal needs is unfair to them. There is ample evidence that this small group of takers is giving up on the country that made it possible for them to build huge fortunes.

1. They've Taken $25 Trillion of New Wealth While Paying Less Taxes

The 2013 Global Wealth Databook shows that U.S. wealth has increased from $47 trillion in 2008 to $72 trillion in mid-2013. But according to U.S. Government Revenue figures, federal income taxes have gone DOWN from 2008 to 2012. Even worse, corporations cut their tax rate in half.

American society has gained nothing from its massive wealth expansion. There's no wealth tax, no financial transaction tax, no way to ensure that infrastructure and public education are supported.

Just how much have the super-rich taken over the past five years? Each of the elite 5% -- the richest 12 million Americans -- gained, on average, nearly a million dollars in financial wealth between 2008 and 2013.

2. For the First Time in History, They Believe They Don't Need the Rest of Us

The rich have always needed the middle class to work in their factories and buy their products. With globalization this is no longer true. Their factories can be in China, producing goods for people in India or Europe or anywhere else in the world.

Published in Guest Commentary
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