JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
What a Christmas little Bastrop had! It's still a mystery how Santa Claus got it down the chimney, but Bastrop got a nifty present that most children could only dream about: a big honkin', steel-clad, war toy called MRAP.
But Bastrop is not a 6-year-old child, and an MRAP is not a toy. Bastrop is a Texas county of some 75,000 people, and MRAP stands for "Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected." It's a heavily armored military vehicle weighing about 15 tons — one of several versions of fighting machines that have become the hot, must-have playthings of police departments all across the country.
Are the good people of Bastrop facing some imminent terrorist threat that warrants military equipment? No, it's a very pleasant, laid-back place. And while the county is named for a 19th century land developer and accused embezzler, it's never been a haven for particularly dangerous criminals — indeed, the relatively few crimes in Bastrop today don't rise above the level of routine police work.
WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It's been about two weeks since the news media began smothering the nation with stories about UPS and FedEx delivering packages late during the holiday season.
A short shopping season of less than 30 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, combined with extraordinary numbers of deliveries and extreme weather problems caused thousands of packages not to be delivered by Christmas. For some media, this was the top story.
FedEx says it delivered more than 275 million packages in that one month period. UPS doesn't say how many it delivered or how many were late. But it does say that if customers sent their packages by ground and hoped they would arrive by Christmas, the cut-off date was December 11. For air service, UPS temporarily added 29 planes to its fleet.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The fear of running out of money in retirement is America's greatest financial concern. It's a fear greater than death.
But the American workers who have paid all their lives for retirement security are being cheated by wealthy individuals and corporations who refuse to meet their tax obligations, and who have found other ways to keep expanding their wealth at the expense of the middle class.
1. Federal Tax Avoidance Is the Biggest Threat to Social Security
Conservatives say that Social Security is too expensive, and that cutbacks and a later retirement age are necessary. But they refuse to acknowledge the facts about missing revenue. Annual tax avoidance by wealthy individuals and corporations is in the trillions of dollars, over double the cost of Social Security.
BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Swaddled in Baby Gap, little Jesus appears to be crying. Mary tries to gently rock him in her hands, certainly a great moment to remind viewers that you are in good hands with Allstate.
The carpenter Joseph is trying to protect Mary and Jesus; he could certainly use the system he just won from our sponsor ADT. The cow you see behind them is brought to you by ConAgra, the donkey by Halliburton. The angels on high in the sky, magnificent 3D computer generated imagery, are from Pixar. Walt Disney has remixed the angel songs so they sing praise to the shopping opportunities this event has created.
Earlier, there were reports of shepherds in the area but ICE agents stopped and frisked them and are now herding them on your right into the Fox News freedom of expression fenced off area. Some appear to be singing a protest song about peace on earth. Over on the left, a panel of MSNBC experts are talking about the shepherds and talking about the shepherds and talking about the shepherds.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
At a time of year when we're inclined to show empathy for people less fortunate than ourselves, some of our top business leaders are notable for comments that show their disdain for struggling Americans. Their words may seem too outlandish to have been uttered, or inappropriately humorous, but all the speakers were serious.
1. Environmental Wisdom from Exxon and Monsanto
Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon, which has used tobacco industry tactics to cast doubton climate change, summed up the whole environmental issue with his own unique brand of logic: What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?
Monsanto has no such moral compunctions over corporate social responsibility. A company director once said, Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. While Monsanto, according to Food & Water Watch, has "wreaked havoc on the environment and public health" with PCBs, dioxin, and other dangerous chemicals, the company reported in its most recent financial report to the SEC: We are committed to long-term environmental protection.
2. The Art of Delusion: How Business People Fool Themselves
This starts, fittingly, at McDonald's, where a company representative vigorously defended his burgers and nuggets: We don't sell junk food...We sell lots of fruits and veggies at McDonald's...And we are not marketing food to kids.
Next, on to a company that hides overseas earnings, avoids federal & state taxes, makes $400,000 per employee, pays its store workers an average of about $12 per hour, pays its CEO $143 million a year, and operates overseas factories with working conditions that, according to the Economic Policy Institute, "reflect some of the worst practices of the industrial era." Their CEO Tim Cook says, Apple has a very strong moral compass.
Such delusional heights are also reached in the financial industry, where Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein is doing God's work, his colleague Brian Griffiths feels that we have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all, and Ponzi Scheming JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon is not only not embarrassed to be a banker, but also proud of the company that he works for.
3. Talking Down to the Down & Out
It's hard to choose the most insensitive and condescending remark from people who seem to lack empathy for the less fortunate. Perhaps hedge fund manager Andy Kessler, who addressed the issue of why these homeless folks aren't also working. Ignoring the National Coalition for the Homeless conclusion that homelessness is caused by (1) a shortage of affordable rental housing, and (2) a lack of job opportunities, Kessler suggests they're homeless because someone is feeding, clothing and, in effect, bathing them.
E.J. DIONNE JR. ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Politicians talk about family values but do almost nothing to help families. They talk about parental responsibility but do almost nothing to help parents. They talk about self-sufficiency but do precious little to make self-sufficiency a reality for those who must struggle hardest to achieve it.
How often can we hear that government should be more responsive to the problems Americans face now? But the vogue for simply assuming that government cannot — or should not — do much of anything about those problems leads to paralysis. This, in turn, further increases disaffection from government.
DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Though they are important, let's be honest: Municipal budget figures can be mind-numbingly boring. Even in high-profile, high-stakes dramas like Detroit's bankruptcy, the sheer flood of numbers can encourage people to simply tune it all out for fear of being further confused.
Thus, in the interest of not putting you to sleep or further perplexing you, here are three painfully simple questions about Detroit's bankruptcy. Though these questions have mostly been ignored, continuing to ask them can at least highlight the fact that something nefarious is happening right now in the Motor City.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Tax-avoiding, consumer-exploiting big business leaders are largely responsible for these abuses. Congress just lets it happen. Corporate heads and members of Congress seem incapable of relating to the people that are being victimized, and the mainstream media seems to have lost the ability to express the views of lower-income Americans.
1. Corporations Profit from Food Stamps
It's odd to think about billion-dollar financial institutions objecting to cuts in the SNAP program, but some of them are administrators of the program, collecting fees from a benefit meant for children and other needy Americans, and enjoying subsidies of state tax money for that could be performed by the states themselves. They want more people on food stamps, not less. Three corporations have cornered the market: JP Morgan, Xerox, and eFunds Corp.
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
How rich will we be when we have converted all our forests, our soil, our water resources, and our minerals into cash? —Jay Norwood Darling, conservationist, artist
In case you haven't heard the latest news from the White House, the president chose to unleash the fossil fuel industry all across America. That's right. They're proudly calling the United States "the new Saudi Arabia." President Obama told his oil friends that "America the Beautiful" is all theirs for the profits.
I don't know what Obama got in exchange for this unconscionable plan to drill, pollute and frack in our farming, ranching, wilderness lands and oceans, including the fragile Arctic, I don't know what kind of filthy oil money they waved in front of him like a bunch of sleazy drug gangsters, or how many multimillion dollar homes they offered him in the package of threats, I can only assume that he wouldn't sell the whole country out to the fossil fuel industry unless there was an enormous retirement payback for the Obama family in return.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
MSNBC's Chris Matthews has been doing an over-the-top job of self-promoting his new book, Tip and the Gripper: When Politics Worked. Matthews has been with MSNBC for quite some time but in this past year he has become a true attack dog against the Tea Party/GOP (and regular readers of mine know that I see no fundamental differences between them on policy, just on style). And for that, for me it is fun to watch him, which I do on a fairly regular basis. But as for this book, ah well, that is another story.
Matthews could not have been too happy with the review his book received in the Sunday New York Times Book Review, by one David Greenberg. To quote from it:
"Ever since our national politics dissolved into a miasma of polarization and strident punditry — which means either the Clinton pseudo-scandals or the John Adams administration, depending on your historical reference point — Washington pontificators have waxed wistful for gentler times. In the glow of nostalgia, even ideologues and scoundrels come to resemble civic-minded statesmen who put aside partisanship to broker compromises. This romantic tendency usually makes for bad history. . . . The 1980 elections made Ronald Reagan the most conservative American president since before the New Deal . . . . Protecting Social Security, the progressive tax code and other fixtures of the postwar economy fell above all to O'Neill, a corpulent, old-style, steaks-and-cigars Boston Irish pol. The conceit of 'Tip and the Gipper' is that for all their ideological differences, Reagan and O'Neill liked each other enough to put politics aside at 6 o'clock . . . and strike deals in everyone's interest. It's a nice idea for a book, if only it were true."