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JOE CONASON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaThomPiketty(Photo: Sue Gardner)It has been a long, long time since Americans accepted the advice of a French intellectual about anything important, let alone the future of democracy and the economy. But the furor over Thomas Piketty's stunning best-seller, "Capital in the 21st Century" — and especially the outraged reaction from the Republican right — suggests that this fresh import from la belle France has struck an exposed nerve.

What Piketty proves, with his massive data set and complex analytical tools, is something that many of us — including Pope Francis — have understood both intuitively and intellectually: namely, that human society, both here and globally, has long been grossly inequitable and is steadily becoming more so, to our moral detriment.

What Piketty strongly suggests is that the structures of capitalism not only regenerate worsening inequality, but now drive us toward a system of economic peonage and political autocracy.

The underlying equation Piketty derives is simple enough: r>g, meaning that the return on capital (property, stock and other forms of ownership) is consistently higher than economic growth. How much higher? Since the early 1800s, financiers and land-owners have enjoyed returns of roughly five percent annually, while economic growth benefiting everyone has lagged, averaging closer to one or two percent. This formula has held fairly steady across time and space. While other respectable economists may dispute his methodology and even his conclusions, they cannot dismiss his conclusions.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acheneyhannitySean Hannity interviewing Dick Cheney (Photo: Wikipedia)

If you have been watching Jon Stewart lately, you have had the pleasure of witnessing a series of withering attacks on Sean Hannity's hypocrisy.  Furthermore, BuzzFlash (for many years) and Stewart have both sniffed the simmering racism of Hannity and FOX. Yes, it's a coded racism, but it's there - lingering in the smirk of his smug lacerating comments about liberals - and is a strong magnet of attraction to the aged, largely white male, viewing base of FOX.

This came to the forefront again with Hannity's strong support for Cliven Bundy, until Bundy openly expressed his racism - thus breaking the tacit understanding of Hannity, FOX and their viewers to never publicly disclose their bigotry.  Racism on FOX (along with its bigotry cousin: "multiculturalism is destroying the United States") is a primary attraction of the program to its watchers who see white entitlement slipping from their hands. However, it is never to be openly acknowleged -- and even officially renounced if necessary, as Hannity did when he had to walk back his embrace of Bundy after the rancher channeled the opinions of a plantation slave owner on video.

As Jon Stewart pointed out, Hannity is always attacking President Obama and liberals for allegedly selectively applying the law, but when it comes to white male gun loving racists like Bundy (and anyone watching what happened before Bundy's followers threatened law enforcement officers with guns knew that racism and anti-big government sedition fit together like a hand in a kid glove), but gives enormous latitude for white males who express anti-government sentiments, even when the firearms are appointed at Hannity's beloved police.

It is important to note, yet again, that the Nevada state Constitution designates as federal property, by law, the land Cliven Bundy has been using for grazing his cattle on.

Protests in Caracas, Venezuela, February 15, 2014. (Photo: <a href=" https://www.flickr.com/photos/marquinam/13252511645/in/photostream/"> MARQUINAM / Flickr</a>)Protests in Caracas, Venezuela, February 15, 2014. (Photo: MARQUINAM / Flickr)JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"No nation has the right to simply grab land from another nation. No nation has that right. And we will never recognize Russia's illegal occupation of Crimea, and neither will the world." —US Vice President Joe Biden

Yes, Joe Biden really did say that—in the aftermath of Iraq. As we all know, the US government launched an illegal, pre-emptive attack on Iraq. That tiny country and its people have been literally annihilated, tortured, imprisoned, and left for dead in a depleted uranium cancer zone where mothers are giving birth to monstrously deformed babies from uranium exposure. Iraqis have been facing a multitude of life-threatening medical atrocities, not to mention the severe poverty that escalated after a decade of US war and occupation. A puppet election was established with a puppet government. There are still thousands of innocent civilians languishing in Iraq's prisons with no sign of due process or trials. If Iraq isn't the most hideous "land-grab for oil" criminal war violation of our constitutional laws and international treaties in recent history, I don't know what is.

Not long ago, after Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez died, I wrote a piece for Buzzflash at Truthout.org titled, "If Democratic Leader Hugo Chávez was a Dictator, as U.S. Media Claims, Why Do Millions of People Love Him?"

Although this essay is about Hugo Chávez, it explains the current civil unrest that is taking place right now in Venezuela: The United States government was, and still is, in the business of overthrowing egalitarian, social democracies to suit the needs of US corporate interests.

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. (Photo: <a href=" https://www.flickr.com/photos/nordique/13997532791/in/photolist-nkSkLc-niVv7h-nk5rgg-njKfQ1-njkfQ9-njHe5R-nk8h4H-nktViE-nhQSSh-niEVKq-nkmisq-nfzRNL-nkeJ1g-nnp7Gw-njV1Qg-nkAv4H-nmGSF4-nmqQLV"> Peter Stevens / Flickr</a>)Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. (Photo: Peter Stevens / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Cliven Bundy has stumbled through the trapdoor of right-wing media-generated celebrity and fallen flat on his face. While many following his story wondered what this government-disdaining Nevada-based rancher -- who has been illegally grazing his cattle on federal land and who marshaled armed militia forces to engage in a standoff with federal agents -- was all about, America's right wing, especially the crew at Fox News, and conservative radio talk show hosts, were quick to brand Bundy a courageous leader of a New Sagebrush Rebellion.

Bundy and his followers forced the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to back down and withdraw. Team Bundy was riding high and feeling cocky. If there were such a thing, Fox News would have immediately conferred upon Bundy a "Man of the Year" award.

Then the shit hit the fan. Now, he has become the symbol of racist right wing ignorance, and fodder for late night comedians. But there is nothing funny about Bundy, his right wing views and the GOP's attempt to hitch its wagon to Bundy's crusade.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abusschool(Photo: loop_oh)
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It bears repeating again and again that the concept of charter schools is a scam and - more significantly - a betrayal of society's obligation to provide communities filled with economic opportunities to all.

recent article in the Huffington Post - "Big Profits in Not-for-Profit Charter Schools" - lays out one of the most basic complaints about charter schools: The primary parties they enrich are the administrators and nonprofits that run them, along with the for-profit consultants who provide services to allegedly "improve" public education. The article notes that some charter school administrators make "very heady profits":

Currently, there are approximately 2.5 million students enrolled in publicly funded charter schools in the United States. These charter schools are operated by both profit-making companies and "not for profit" organizations. In New York City every charter school is operated by what is known as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. In New York State, only 16 out of 209 charter schools are operated by for-profit companies. In other states, particularly Michigan, Florida, and Arizona, for-profit companies dominate the charter school movement. In Michigan, about 65% of the charter schools are run by for-profit educational management organizations

However, operating non-profit charter schools can be very profitable for charter school executives like Eva Moskowitz. Moskowitz earns close to a half a million dollars a year ($485,000) for overseeing school programs that serve 6,700 children, which is over $72 per student. By comparison, New York State Education Commissioner is paid a salary of $212,000 to oversee programs with 2.7 million students or about 8 cents per student. In other words, Moskowitz earns about 100 times more than King for each student enrolled in a Success Academy Charter School. Carmen Farina, New York City School Chancellor is paid $212,000 a year to oversee 1.1 million students or about 19 cents per student.

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSupremeCourt(Photo: Pine)Affirmative action has opened doors for disadvantaged minorities and made this a fairer, more equal society. The Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts apparently wants no more of that.

This week's big ruling -- upholding a Michigan state constitutional amendment that bans public universities from considering race in admissions -- claims to leave affirmative action alive, if on life support. But the court's opinion, ignoring precedent and denying reality, can only be read as an invitation for other states to follow suit.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor's thundering dissent should be required reading. She sees what the court is doing and isn't afraid to call out her colleagues on the disingenuous claim that the ruling in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action is limited in scope. It has implications that go beyond college admissions to other areas, such as voting rights, where majorities seek to trample minority rights.

By "rights," I mean not affirmative action but the principle, upheld repeatedly by the court, that the political process should be a level playing field. In Michigan, with the high court's blessing, anyone who wants to advocate for affirmative action is at a disadvantage. Instead of banning the policy outright -- which would at least be honest -- the court paints it with a bull's-eye and strips it of defenses.

ERIC ZUESSE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaWeThePeople(Photo: Bluszczokrzew)The original intent of the U.S. Constitution can most accurately be determined upon the basis of the debates that occurred at the Constitutional Convention that (after preliminaries during the Convention's opening days of 25-28 May 1787) started on 29 May 1787, and ended nearly four months later, on September 17th of 1787. James Madison transcribed those epoch-making, nation-forming, debates.

These debates began with some members of the Convention, especially Misters Randolph of Virginia, Gerry of Massachusetts, Butler of South Carolina, and Dickenson of Delaware, simply assuming that the existing Articles of Confederation would be improved, not replaced; i.e., that no new and single nation of the United States of America would result from their collective deliberations.

The American Revolutionary war of 1775-83 was at that time a mere four years past, and this Convention had been called together for the purpose of replacing the failed existing Articles of Confederation, by some Constitution that would improve upon that existing governing document.

On May 29th, Mr. Randolph started these historic debates, when he listed what he viewed to be the defects in the existing document, and when he then placed before the Convention his "Virginia Plan," to rectify those perceived deficiencies. Randolph said, "Our chief danger arises from the democratic parts of our [existing state] constitutions." He proposed that what was needed "is yet a stronger barrier against democracy, but they [those existing state models for a constitution] all seem insufficient." He proposed "republican Principles," a key one of which was that "the Rights of Suffrage [the right to vote] shall be ascertained by the Quantum of Property or Number of Souls"; in other words, by considering each "soul," while also granting a higher say to the wealthy than to the poor. He proposed a House "elected by the People," and called "this the democratick Branch"; and he also proposed a Senate or "2d. Branch to be elected out of the first — to continue for a certain Length of Time, etc. To be elected by Electors appointed for that Purpose," instead of "by the People."

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPocketWatch(Photo: Alexander T. Carroll)"We cannot afford to lose another decade."

My God. There's more darkness in this quote than the New York Times intended. I winced when I read these words of Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chairman of the committee that wrote the latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC report, which the Times quoted in a recent editorial headlined "Running Out of Time."

Suddenly, ten years felt vital, alive with possibility. Edenhofer wasn't referring to some abstract decade embedded in the history of the human race, or the history of the planet, but ten years gouged out of our own lifetimes and certainly out of our children's lifetimes. We can't afford to lose . . . ten years of breath and heartbeat.

What Edenhofer meant, of course, was that we can't afford to squander another decade politically, with the governments of the nations that comprise Planet Earth failing to come up with an effective treaty to control greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and other reckless excesses of industrial-growth capitalism, a.k.a., addiction to endless profit. We've got, you know, a fifteen-year window here to act with collective sanity. That's all the time we have left, according to current scientific consensus, to limit planetary warming to 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial era.

"Beyond that increase, the world could face truly alarming consequences." So the Times informs us, then, I fear, yawns, shrugs. Oh yeah, these international conferences are "exercises in futility" that so far have produced just one treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, which didn't accomplish much, which the U.S. Senate never ratified, etc. And greenhouse gas emissions keep escalating. Alas, people just don't care about this as much as they used to, the paper concludes, washing its hands of the matter. This is the limit of official concern.

 (Image: <a href=" https://www.flickr.com/photos/truthout/4401314497/in/photolist-" target="_blank"> Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: daliborlev, Kenneth Hynek</a>) (Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: daliborlev, Kenneth Hynek)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Let's face it, people: Walmart is kicking our collective butts; to the tune of more than $7 billion in taxpayer subsidies. A new report by Americans for Tax Fairness points out that the American taxpayer - read that, you, me and probably everyone you know - "is providing enormous tax breaks and tax subsidies to Walmart and the Walton family, further boosting corporate profits and the family's already massive wealth."

In addition to accruing tax breaks from the rest of us, the report points out that "the Walton family is avoiding an estimated $3 billion in taxes by using specialized trusts to dodge estate taxes – and this number could increase by tens of billions of dollars."

And, the family "also benefits significantly from taxpayer-funded public assistance programs that pump up the retailer's sales. For example, Walmart had an estimated $13.5 billion in food stamp sales last year."

Walmart is the largest private employer in the United States, with 1.4 million employees. The company, which is number one on the Fortune 500 in 2013 and number two on the Global 500, had $16 billion in profits last year on revenues of $473 billion.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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David Gregory, blathering pundit who provides inane filler between commercials (Image: DonkeyHotey)

The Washington Post is so enamored of inside-the-Beltway, self-anointed pundits (which include a great number of WP columnists and reporters) that it published an inadvertently revealing April 20 article about pretentious Sunday morning political talk shows. The Post article implied that the falling ratings of David Gregory on "Meet the Press" could be related to the real objectives of these pustulating programs with blathering poobahs: advertising and DC access for the three major non-cable networks.

The article, curiously posted in the "Lifestyle" section of the Post, begins with a breathless portrait of David Gregory, who infamously asked Glenn Greenwald last year - in an example of the uniform mindset shared by the government and network news - "To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn't you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?" The Post portrays Gregory as follows:

If "Meet the Press" moderator David Gregory were a guest on his own show, he knows the kinds of questions he’d be asked.

Why have your ratings been falling? Is the show in trouble? Is your job in trouble?...

The main problem: The great-granddaddy of Sunday-morning Beltway blabfests isn’t just not No. 1. It’s No. 3 and in the midst of a three-year slide. During the first three months of this year, the NBC program finished behind perennial rivals "Face the Nation" on CBS and "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" on ABC, despite being helped by two weeks of Winter Olympics hoopla. In the final quarter of last year, viewing among people ages 25 to 54, the preferred group for TV news advertisers, fell to its lowest level ever.

The Post later notes about the windbag programs that center on self-inflated discussion of political process, rather than information on public policy: "The relatively large and affluent audiences they attract make them magnets for corporate image advertisers that pay premium prices for airtime. [Tim] Russert’s dominating position helped NBC earn a reported $60 million from 'Meet the Press' in 2007."

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