MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
To refresh your memory, Alaska long ago set up an annual universal payout to state residents, drawn from tax revenue received from oil companies drilling in the state. An Associated Press article from 2011 provides the background:
Most Alaska residents will soon be getting a check for $1,174 [in 2011] simply because they live there.
Each person's share of the state's vast oil wealth was announced with much fanfare in Anchorage Tuesday, with Gov. Sean Parnell ripping open a gold-colored envelope to reveal the number. This day is so widely anticipated in Alaska that the announcement of the Permanent Fund Dividend amount was carried live on television statewide, and dozens tuned in to watch a live webcast by the governor's office.
This year's check is the smallest since 2006 and $107 less than last year's amount, which was $1,281. Parnell warned the amount could diminish more in the future, given market volatilities and the fact that oil production in the state is declining. Nonetheless, he called this year's amount "healthy."
State Revenue Commissioner Bryan Butcher said 647,549 Alaskans were deemed eligible to receive dividends, and about $760.2 million is expected to be paid out. Most Alaskans will get their dividends by direct deposit Oct. 6; the rest will receive checks in the mail.
The only requirement for receiving the payment from the state is proof of residency for at least one year in Alaska, spending at least 72 hours in the state over the prior year and not being classified as a felon [with some other minor qualifications]. The state even helps residents determine these simple prerequisites for receiving the cash on its website.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Ah, August — that time of year when the going gets tough ... and Congress gets going.
On vacation that is. And, to be fair, maybe Congress needs a vacation. All the stress of not passing laws and constantly thwarting any attempt by President Obama to fix America's problems seems to be straining their sanity.
For starters, if you thought that, surely, partisan posturing by far-right congress critters couldn't get any nuttier, you'd be wrong. Last month, the GOP claimed that all the talk about impeaching President Barack Obama is being led by — guess who? — Barack Obama!
If you'll recall, the top Republican leader, John Boehner (having discovered that the larger public is appalled that his party would even consider wasting time on such extremist nonsense) tried to do a political backflip. Impeachment talk, he fumed, is "a scam started by Democrats at the White House." No Republican lawmakers, he barked to the media, are even discussing it.
Boehner, Boehner, Boehner! Apparently he didn't hear Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who's No. 2 on his own GOP leadership team, tell Fox News that he refuses to rule out impeachment. Or Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan, exult that "it would be a dream come true" to impeach Obama, and that he has pursued advice from experts on how to proceed. Or Iowa's Rep. Steve King, saying flatly, "We need to bring impeachment hearings immediately." How about Randy Weber of Texas, who put it unequivocally: "The president deserves to be impeached, plain and simple." And Georgia's Jack Kingston confirmed that: "Not a day goes by when people don't talk to us about impeachment."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
article in Pro Publica predicts "A handful of states promised to repay $64 billion [to Wall Street] on just $3 billion advanced [in settlement funds]."State and local governments who thought they could quickly close budget holes and implement some public projects with a quick infusion of tobbaco settlement money (from a 1998 settlement with state attorneys general) have generally seen their plans go up in smoke. To be precise, an
Wall Street often uses dazzling promises to secure deals such as this one, where they offer upfront cash in return for agreements that have ballooning interest rates. If sounds like the same as the adjustable-rate mortgage scheme before the economic collapse of 2008, that is because it more or less is, according to Pro Publica. In the case of states and local governments borrowing relatively small amounts of tobaco settlement cash in advance while committing to long-term debt, the finanical vehicle are named capital appreciation bonds (CABs). Pro Publica calls them toxic:
The CABs promise gigantic payouts [to Wall Street financial firms] — as high as 76 times what’s borrowed — because nothing is due on them for decades. Meantime, interest compounds on both the principal and accumulating balance.
Defaults by state and local governments are rare, but rating agencies have been warning that tobacco bonds in general could go under en masse. Moody’s said in May that up to 80 percent of the tobacco issues it tracks are likely to default.
If we look at the cycle of what happened, the financial vulture attack on funds that were set aside for public benefit is clear.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Not since Oscar hooked up with Felix in Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple" are we seeing such an unusual pairing: Pope Francis, a man who has expressed deep concern for the poor, the downtrodden, and issues of social inequality, and two controversial televangelists who have rarely seemed interested in anything other than building their ministries into huge money-making empires.
Over the past several months, Pope Francis' outreach efforts have included Protestant evangelicals. In late July, he became the first pope to visit a Pentecostal church in Italy. "Among those who persecuted and denounced Pentecostals, almost as if they were crazy people trying to ruin the race, there were also Catholics," Francis said, referencing Mussolini's fascist regime. "I am the pastor of Catholics, and I ask your forgiveness for those Catholic brothers and sisters who didn't know and were tempted by the devil."
The attempt at reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants is nothing new, often been fueled by conservative politicians pursuing a right-wing social agenda. During its heyday, Ralph Reed, the executive director of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, attempted to launch a Catholic auxiliary. In 1994, conservative Catholics and evangelicals in the U.S. created Evangelicals and Catholics Together, an ecumenical document signed by leading Evangelical and Roman Catholic scholars in the United States.
WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
More fun than fourteen barrels of flunkies watching our elected officials exit Washington like scared rats streaming out of a sewer to escape Godzilla. And really, who can blame them. Anybody who's ever spent a summer in DC can tell you the climate is real similar to Hell. With humidity. Then again, not sure even Hell has winged insects the size of footstools. It's not called Foggy Bottom because that's the first thing that springs to mind when Diane Feinstein walks away, you know.
Funny thing is, this is the same Congress that lies on the verge of breaking all previous records for complete and utter futility. The Zero Zip Zilch Crew. Who have ridden lethargy into the ground and taken loitering to bold new heights. Or is it depths? Folks who would need hydraulic mechanical assists to raise their attitudes from stuporous to torpid. From the lair of the drugged slugs. Debi Does Drowsy.
In essence, they're taking a vacation from nothing. Which is a lot like waking up to take a nap. Topping breakfast off with a sleeping pill. Floating off to a loafing, lay- about layoff. Playing hide and seek with the mirror. And losing.
The 113th Congress is destined to go down in history as the most Do- Nothingest Congress of all time. Accomplishing less than all the other Do- Nothing Congresses combined. Which is saying something, because there were plenty.
"Proud to Put the Nothing in the Do- Nothing Congress." Enshrined as the undisputed heavyweight champion of Indolence. The Friends of Inertia. Slouching towards SlouchVille. The Slacker Congress.
REV. STEPHEN H. PHELPS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
I asked a White House correspondent from the Middle East what would happen if during a press conference with the POTUS someone put this question:
Mr. President, given that since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, any non-nuclear nation which we treat as an adversary may be reasonably terrified that the U.S. will invade it too, and perhaps on false pretexts; and given that no nation in possession of a nuclear weapon has ever been attacked by any of its foes; and given that you have declared that Iran must never be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon; what is the U.S. doing to give Iran absolute confidence that neither the U.S. nor any other nation will ever attack it "preemptively," if it agrees to abide without a nuclear defense?
"What would happen?" the correspondent shrugged. "The questioner would never put another question in the White House briefing room. His editor would take him off the desk, maybe fire him. You cannot get an answer to a question like that."
Regardless the accuracy of the correspondent's surmise, it corresponds with a feature of American policy toward other nations: Their pursuit of their self-interest is a priori excluded from the foreign-policy calculus—if they are considered enemies. Like seven-year-olds in a playground fight, our media and masters claim that the motives of foes are malign and ours benign; that they started it, and we only defend ourselves. The fact that Americans believe these constructions has tragic consequences in violence. The fact that leaders who know it is spin spin it anyway can best be explained by the seductions of power that dance in the heads of those who prepare for more war.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison, the Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week.It costs about $88,000 a year to incarcerate a young person in a state facility. Journalist and advocate Nell Bernstein reveals this and other shocking statistics and abuses of juveniles in her new book,
That bill for keeping young people in "detention" is far more than most US workers make in a year. ($51,000 was the median household income in 2013 according to the Census Bureau.)
It is indicative of the racism and classism inherent in the US treatment of juveniles of color and the poor that the tax dollars spent to allegedly punish and "rehabilitate" a young person far exceed the stagnant or falling wages of most US families.
What is all that money used for in a system that is euphemistically called "juvenile detention"? Piper Kerman, author of "Orange Is the New Black", writes: "Burning Down the House by Nell Bernstein reveals a shocking truth: what adults do to children behind the walls of America’s juvenile prisons is criminal." It certainly doesn't resemble anything remotely akin to rehabilitation.
BOB FITRAKIS AND HARVEY WASSERMAN ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Richard Nixon was a traitor.
The new release of extended versions of Nixon's papers now confirms this long-standing belief, usually dismissed as a "conspiracy theory" by Republican conservatives. Now it has been substantiated by none other than right-wing columnist George Will.
Nixon's newly revealed records show for certain that in 1968, as a presidential candidate, he ordered Anna Chennault, his liaison to the South Vietnam government, to persuade them to refuse a cease-fire being brokered by President Lyndon Johnson.
Nixon's interference with these negotiations violated President John Adams's 1797 Logan Act, banning private citizens from intruding into official government negotiations with a foreign nation.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Late last month, Newsweek reported the approval of construction of an apartment building in Manhattan with a separate entrance for renters who pay less than the market price:
New York City has approved a developer’s Dickensian plan to include a “poor door” in a luxury apartment complex in the Upper West Side.
The prospect of a separate entrance for lower-income residents has been circulating for some time, but as the New York Post reported today, plans by company Extell Development to put a separate entrance for affordable housing tenants, who make 60 percent or less of median income, in the 33-story condo have been given the green light. The property will have 219 units, including 55 affordable units overlooking the street. Those renting and buying the apartments at the market-rate will have waterfront views.
The entrance is part of the Inclusionary Housing Program application, under which developers can build larger projects if they also provide low-income housing, either on- or off-site.
In addition, tenants who are paying lower rents mandated by the city will not be able to use building amenities such as the gym and the pool. In short, if you make less than the wealthy tenants, you are banned to a ghetto section of the tony apartment complex.
Newsweek reposted the twitter of Boston Globe writer Amanda Katz, who offered alternative names for the "poor door": "Service entrance. Portal of destitution. The 99% door. Strivers' entry. The debtor gate. The Porte of Serfs."
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Funny, in a sad sort of way.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) gets respect from the mainstream because it speaks for the money interests. To many of those outside its golden circle, the commentary of its writers is generally suspect, occasionally frightening, and often unintentionally humorous.
Delusion: Middle-class Americans have more buying power than ever before.
WSJ compares the present day to the 1950s, ignoring changes in education costs, health care expenses, debt repayment and financial fees. The Journal built on the delusion by printing the insensitive headline What Recession? and by counseling its readers, Don't be alarmed by high rates of "economic insecurity."
The Journal's "prosperity for all" fantasy includes their assurance that cutbacks in food stamps don't hurt children, even though in real life almost half of food stamp recipients are children.