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JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Dollar 0811wrp optAlan LevineThe self-described "Geniuses of Wall Street" are being stupid. Again.

In 2007, their stupid schemes and frauds crashed our economy, destroying middle-class jobs, wealth and opportunities. Far from getting punishment, however, these financial scofflaws were bailed out by their Washington enablers — so the moral lesson they learned was clear: Stupid pays!

Sure enough, only a decade later, here they come again! Rather than investing America's capital in real businesses to generate grassroots jobs and shared prosperity, Wall Street is siphoning billions of investment dollars into speculative nonsense — such as high-profit securities "secured" only by rickety bundles of subprime auto loans.

Car dealers, eager to goose up sales, have been hawking new vehicles to lower-income people, offering quick credit approval. Banks — eager to hook more people on monthly car payments — have been approving these subprime car loans without verifying the buyer's ability to pay. Then, a Wall Street bank's investment house buys up thousands of these iffy individual loans, bundles them into multimillion-dollar "debt securities," and sells them to wealthy global speculators. Last year alone, banks sold $26 billion-worth of these explosive bundles of car loans.

This is just another paper-shuffling con game, a repeat of Wall Street's subprime mortgage scam a decade ago. It generates fast, easy money at the start for superrich speculators and greedy banksters — but as more and more low-income buyers are unable to make their car payments, defaults build up and the whole financial bubble pops.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

nycsubwayWhy shouldn't the rich be taxed to improve public transportation? (Photo: Josh Hallett)

When Elizabeth Warren was running for her Massachusetts Senate seat in 2012, she made the telling point that corporations are subsidized by government services. They benefit from public education, highways and other government-run programs, while also securing tax breaks. In urban areas, one of the most significant government financial outlays that aids businesses is mass transit, which is paid for by the public through tax expenditures and user fees. In significant-size cities, private enterprise would be dramatically curtailed if public transportation became unreliable and insufficient.

New York City, which is highly dependent upon its public train system, is currently experiencing a breakdown of its subway infrastructure, including mechanical failures and power outages, among other serious problems. These issues have developed after many years of deficient funding for repairs. As a result, riders are not infrequently facing long delays in getting to and from work.

New York City Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio has an idea for a long-term boost to the ailing mass transit system. According to NBC Channel 4 in New York,

The mayor of New York City wants to tax the wealthiest 1 percent to fund repairs and improvements to the beleaguered subway system….

"Instead of searching for a quick-fix that doesn't exist, or simply forking over more and more of our tax dollars every year, we have come up with a fair way to finance immediate and long-term transit improvement," de Blasio said in a statement Sunday. 

The tax would increase the top income tax rate from about 3.9 percent to 4.4 percent for married couples who make more than $1 million and individuals making more than $500,000, city officials said. It would affect about 32,000 of New Yorkers filing taxes in the city, or just less than 1 percent, officials said.

"Rather than sending the bill to working families and subway and bus riders already feeling the pressure of rising fares and bad service, we are asking the wealthiest in our city to chip in a little extra," de Blasio said.

De Blasio says the plan would generate about $800 million a year.

 

 

Not only does he have no patience with a military stalemate in Afghanistan -- "we aren't winning, we're losing" -- but he can't stand the fact that the shattered country's mineral wealth isn't in our hands.Not only does Trump have no patience with a military stalemate in Afghanistan, but he can't stand the fact that the shattered country's mineral wealth isn't in our hands. (Photo: US Army)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Donald Trump stands cluelessly at the edge of history, exemplifying everything wrong with the past, oh, 10,000 years or so.

The necessity for fundamental change in humanity's global organization is not only profound, but urgent.

Trump's latest outburst about North Korea's nukes -- threatening that country "with fire, fury, and frankly power the likes of which the world has never seen before" -- creates a comic book Armageddon scenario in the media, except, of course, his power to launch a nuclear war on impulse is real.

What this makes clear to me is that no one should have the authority -- the power -- to declare any war whatsoever. The fact that this is still possible, so many decades into human awareness of war's utter insanity, reveals the paradox that civilization remains economically tied to its own destruction.

Thursday, 10 August 2017 06:45

How Do We Get Our Voting Rights Back?

If enough states constituting a majority of the electors -- 270 -- sign on, it would guarantee the presidency goes to the candidate winning the most popular votes nationwide.If enough states constituting a majority of the electors -- 270 -- sign on to the National Popular Vote bill, it would guarantee the presidency goes to the candidate winning the most popular votes nationwide. (Photo: Keith Ivey)PATRICIA JACKSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Voter suppression is cloaked in many forms. Rev. William Barber, of the Moral Mondays Movement in North Carolina, understands voter suppression, "Voter suppression hacked our democracy long before any Russian agents meddled in America's elections." In 2013, the conservative-led Supreme Court eviscerated the 1965 Voting Rights Act and opened the gates for states to enact their own voter suppression laws. In a 5-to-4 vote, the Court gave nine states, mostly in the South, the power to change their election laws without prior advance federal approval. The approval clause in the act countered "Jim Crow" state and local laws. Since the 2013 Supreme Court ruling, a total of 34 states have laws requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls. It takes us back to the "Jim Crow" days.

Additional voter suppression came with closures of early voting, the elimination of voting places, breakdowns in voting machines, and long waiting lines. On election day, 2016, states like Arizona, Texas, and North Carolina had 868 fewer polling places. Thirty-two new voter identification laws were in force by 2016, the first presidential election after the major change in our Voting Rights Act. Prior to the 2016 election, Samer Khalaf, the president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, expressed concern. "We are concerned that this year (2016) is going to be the worst year ever when it comes to voter suppression at the polls for Arab-Americans, Muslim Americans and those perceived to be either Arab or Muslim."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

guamcoatofarmsGuam is at the center of a nuclear standoff, but its US citizens cannot even vote for president. (Photo: Seal of Guam)

Guam made worldwide news on Wednesday when North Korea threatened to envelop it in fire in response to Donald Trump's threat to attack North Korea with "fire and fury." Guam is a US territory that serves as a massive military base. It has about 160,000 US residents who are American citizens. However, even though they are currently the focus of North Korea's destructive missile threats, people born on Guam are not able to vote in US presidential elections unless they move to a US state.

Thus, even though Guam may today be ground zero for a US nuclear standoff, its people have no say in electing a president who may make the decision to launch a preemptive nuclear attack on North Korea. In turn, North Korea is threatening a return nuclear strike on Guam.

According to an August 9 article in the Los Angeles Times,

It wasn't the first time the island has been on the receiving end of Pyongyang's threats. There was similarly ominous talk from North Korea in 2013, making specific note that Guam's sprawling Andersen Air Force Base, among other Pacific territories, lay within target range.

Still, many residents were worried about the unpredictability of North Korea's leader, and by the warnings of "enveloping fire" emanating from Kim's capital.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

AltRight 0809wrpFascist pro-Trump grafitti. (Photo: Om1cron)Emboldened by the presidency of Donald Trump, and railing against the removal of memorials to the Confederacy, hundreds of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, Alt-Rightniks, bloggers, podcasters, shock jocks, militia types, and KKK members are going to gather in Charlottesville, Virginia's Emancipation Park (formerly called Lee Park) for a "Unite the Right" rally, on Saturday, August 12. The Southern Poverty Law Center has called the rally possibly "the largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States." David Straughn of Black Lives Matter told a local TV station that "The Unite the Right rally … is just the tip of the iceberg of the white supremacy" movement.

According to Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, "Earlier this year, … the Charlottesville City Council voted to sell the statue of Robert E. Lee." White nationalist groups, including the Virginia chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, challenged that decision in court, resulting in a circuit court judge issuing a six-month injunction temporarily stopping the removal.

The event is not the first of its kind. According to itsgoingdown.org, "On Saturday, May 13th, a coalition of neo-Nazi groups organized a daytime march in Charlottesville, VA, which essentially was a protest of a local cultural festival."

There are many organizations involved in organizing the event and amongst the most notable speakers listed on a promotional flyer are: Richard Spencer, Matt Heimbach, and Mike Enoch [Peinovich].

KEN LEVY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Escalator1 0809wrpGoing up? (Photo: Degi Hari)Since 1980, the rich have gotten much richer. The top 1 percent earn an average annual income of $1.3 million, which is collectively more than 20 percent of all income, 40 times what the bottom 90 percent earn, and 81 times what the bottom 50 percent earn. Even worse, the top 0.1 percent earn 198 times the income of the bottom 90 percent.

For decades, as the left increasingly protested this obscene inequality, the right shut them down by accusing them of stoking "class warfare" and promoting communistic "redistribution of wealth." Equality of opportunity, they always said, does not guarantee equality of results. In a capitalist system, people more or less get what they deserve. If they choose to work hard, they'll make more; if they choose to be lazy, they'll make less. So stop begrudging the top 1 percent their millions and billions. They just worked -- and still work -- a lot harder than the bottom 99 percent.

There are at least two flaws in this ideology. First is the right's notion that wealth is a reliable result and indicator of merit. While many people are born into wealth, many more people are born into poverty. Likewise, while many lazy, less talented people make high incomes, many more hardworking, highly talented people have to work several low-wage jobs just to get by. What supposed "self-made men" fail to realize is just how significant a role luck played in their -- and everybody else's -- lives.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

sleepapneatrainUnder the Trump administration, riding a train could be lethal. (Photo: lOaD sToNe0

When you ride a train, be aware that, due to the Trump administration rolling back a key regulation, that a train may be operated by a drowsy engineer who could fall asleep at the wheel. Unfortunately, this life-threatening action received little coverage, and was largely drowned out by the ongoing Trump farces. The Associated Press reported yesterday:

U.S. officials are abandoning plans to require sleep apnea screening for truck drivers and train engineers, a decision that safety experts say puts millions of lives at risk.

The Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said late last week that they are no longer pursuing the regulation that would require testing for the fatigue-inducing disorder that's been blamed for deadly rail crashes in New York City and New Jersey and several highway crashes.

The agencies argue that it should be up to railroads and trucking companies to decide whether to test employees. One railroad that does test, Metro-North in the New York City suburbs, found that 11.6 percent of its engineers have sleep apnea.

The article noted the real risks of allowing trains to be driven by sleep-deprived drivers.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

evangelicalberkThe evangelicals cannot get enough of Trump. (Photo: cthoyes)

Neither daily lies, hyperbolic rhetoric, wild tweeting, the Russian scandal, politicizing the Boy Scouts, nor endless White House chaos, has dissuaded Donald Trump’s ultra-loyal conservative Christian evangelical from wholeheartedly embracing the president. As Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin recently pointed out, Christian conservatives "have not let religion or values get in the way of their support."

These days, the president’s Christian base are one heck of a happy bunch: Tony Perkins, head of the Washington, DC-based Family Research Council, has been a guest at the White House so many times, he might just as well move in; Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, claims he has found the fighter he has been yearning for; and, for Richard Land, former head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, it’s all about "unprecedented access" and having an "impact on policy."

Last month, about two dozen evangelical leaders, including Perkins, Land, Reed, mega-church preacher John Hagee, "prosperity gospel" preacher and longtime Trump ally Paula White, Gary Bauer, Robert Jeffress, Rodney Howard-Browne, Land, and Tony Suarez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, prayed with Trump during a day-long "listening session" with the Office of Public Liaison. Johnnie Moore, a former senior vice-president at Liberty University, told CBN News that "It shows a substantive relationship between the evangelical community and this administration."

Over the past several weeks, Trump has been feeding his conservative base what they want: an aggressive re-launching of the culture wars. "We’re under siege. You understand that," Trump told the audience at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual gathering in Washington. "But we will come out bigger and better and stronger than ever."

Monday, 07 August 2017 07:25

The Forest That Overwhelms Trump Tower

REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

RumpTower 0807wrp opt(Photo: Lorie Shaull)It always starts with the vulnerability of risking arrest.  The activism is the purest citizenship.  We enter Trump Tower.  We walk through the submachine guns and dogs, the body armor and the golden name of the white supremacist president that hovers in space above the door.  

We are only doing what tourists do.  Ta-Nehisi Coates would say that we are walking into The Dream.  Trump Tower’s public area, where we are welcome as long as we show signs of being willing consumers of The Dream, is a 5 story high vertical mall, with gold-plated escalators zig-zagging upwards.  The hanging garden of Trump.  Fake plants on gold pillars!  We walk across the threshold of The Dream carrying the intention to subvert it and replace it with our Earthalujah!

Let’s call The Dream what it is – The Nightmare.  We have here in this building in concentrated form exactly what most Americans have everyday – the complex of responses to state-sanctioned violence on behalf of race and property and profit.  We feel the manufacture of fear, the itching-the-imagined-wound of Trump nation.  As we walk by the silent staring Secret Service we feel the fantastic imagination made by American fear – the conspiracy theories, the deadly tribalism of police, the scandal of alternative love, the remake of everyone everywhere into a monstrous "Other."

Our destination is on the 5th floor.  There is a legal never-never-land called a "Privately Owned Public Space" or POPS, and the upshot is that in 1979 Trump agreed in exchange for height variances to keep a garden open to the public.  And by the time we get to the glass door of the garden we are ready to shout.  We have such a need to re-establish our own body.  It is real and direct.  We’ve been coming back here a lot since the election, releasing our personal arts in this garden, our songs, outlandish costumes, dancing, lecturing with the lurid statistics of species extinction and climate chaos.

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