Monthly Archives: December 2014

The True Costs of Corporate Welfare

By The Daily Take Team, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed mirrored from TruthOut

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Walmart, a corporation that made $16 billion in net profits in 2013, is getting some $2.66 billion in government subsidies each year. (Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: daliborlev, Kenneth Hynek )

Who should we really be drug testing?

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed a series of bills into law that will require some welfare recipients in Michigan to be drug-tested.

Meanwhile, other states are considering following in Rick Snyder’s footsteps.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is on the record saying that he also wants to make drug testing welfare recipients and applicants a law.

And, according to ThinkProgress, “In 2014, at least 18 states introduced proposals or addressed bills that would require some form of drug testing or screening for applicants for or recipients of public assistance.”

One of the main reasons why conservatives across the US are trying to pass welfare drug-testing laws is to shame and punish poor people. It’s really that simple. But they rationalize it by saying they need to “control government costs.”

Welfare programs in the United States include programs like the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) and food stamps.

And, as Lou Colagiovanni over at Examiner.com points out, in 2012, a married person with one child making $50,000 per year paid just over $36 in taxes for “food and nutrition assistance” programs like food stamps and WIC.

That’s just 10 cents per day!

While conservatives will never admit it, welfare is a mind-bogglingly small expense and a very small piece of the pie.

Continue reading The True Costs of Corporate Welfare

Greed Kings of 2014: How They Stole from Us

by Paul Buchheit, mirrored from Common Dreams

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As schools and local governments are going broke around the country, companies who built their businesses with American research and education and technology and infrastructure are paying less in taxes than ever before. It’s not just greed, it’s theft. (Image: file)

 

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘steal’ is to take the property of another wrongfully and especially as a habitual or regular practice. Much of our country’s new wealth has been regularly taken by individuals or corporations in a wrongful manner, either through nonpayment of taxes or failure to compensate other contributors to their successes.

1. The Corporations 

As schools and local governments are going broke around the country, companies who built their businesses with American research and education and technology and infrastructure are paying less in taxes than ever before. Incredibly, over half of U.S. corporate foreign profits are now being held in tax havens, double the share of just twenty years ago. Corporations are stealing from the nation that made them rich.

Continue reading Greed Kings of 2014: How They Stole from Us

This City Eliminated Poverty, And Nearly Everyone Forgot About It

by Zi-Ann Lum, Huffington Post

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An aerial view of the city of Dauphin, Manitoba. Forty years ago, a groundbreaking experiment provided checks to Dauphin’s poorest to raise their incomes to a livable wage. (Photo: Dauphin Economic Development/Facebook)

 

On a December afternoon, Frances Amy Richardson took a break from her quilting class to reflect on a groundbreaking experiment she took part in 40 years earlier.

“Well, that was quite a few years ago,” she said. “There was a lot of people that really benefitted from it.”

Between 1974 and 1979, residents of a small Manitoba city were selected to be subjects in a project that ensured basic annual incomes for everyone. For five years, monthly checks were delivered to the poorest residents of Dauphin, Manitoba –- no strings attached.

And for five years, poverty was completely eliminated.

The program was dubbed “Mincome” — a neologism of “minimum income” — and it was the first of its kind in North America. It stood out from similar American projects at the time because it didn’t shut out seniors and the disabled from qualification.

The project’s original intent was to evaluate if giving checks to the working poor, enough to top-up their incomes to a living wage, would kill people’s motivation to work. It didn’t.

But the Conservative government that took power provincially in 1977 — and federally in 1979 — had no interest in implementing the project more widely. Researchers were told to pack up the project’s records into 1,800 boxes and place them in storage.

A final report was never released.

Richardson is now 87 and still lives in Dauphin. She says only three or four of the city’s original Mincome recipients remain among the prairie community’s 8,251 residents.

During the program’s heyday in the mid-1970s, Richardson was a mother of six – three of her children lived at home.

To earn money, she ran a small salon out of her home called Fifth Avenue Beauty Chalet. Whatever cash she could make styling hair contributed one stream of the family’s income; her husband Gordon provided the other with his job at the local telephone company.

Continue reading This City Eliminated Poverty, And Nearly Everyone Forgot About It

The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus

by L. Frank Baum, published April 12, 1902

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YOUTH

1. Burzee
Have you heard of the great Forest of Burzee? Nurse used to sing of it when I was a child. She sang of the big tree-trunks, standing close together, with their roots intertwining below the earth and their branches intertwining above it; of their rough coating of bark and queer, gnarled limbs; of the bushy foliage that roofed the entire forest, save where the sunbeams found a path through which to touch the ground in little spots and to cast weird and curious shadows over the mosses, the lichens and the drifts of dried leaves.

The Forest of Burzee is mighty and grand and awesome to those who steal beneath its shade. Coming from the sunlit meadows into its mazes it seems at first gloomy, then pleasant, and afterward filled with never-ending delights.

For hundreds of years it has flourished in all its magnificence, the silence of its inclosure unbroken save by the chirp of busy chipmunks, the growl of wild beasts and the songs of birds.

Continue reading The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus

12 Days of Christmas Apologies

by Paul Buchheit, mirrored from Common Dreams

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“To Americans without a place to live, we apologize for a society that allows almost all of its new wealth to be redistributed to people who are already rich.” (Photo: Scott Fiddelke/flickr/cc)

 

If Christmas magic were real, America’s political and business leaders — the people with power and money — would speak on behalf of the nation they’ve debased:

1. To Our Most Neglected Citizens

By the time the Koch brothers wake up on Christmas morning, the wealth the two men will have accumulated throughout the night could get a room for the night for every one of the 633,000 homeless Americans.

To Americans without a place to live, we apologize for a society that allows almost all of its new wealth to be redistributed to people who are already rich.

2. To Our Most Vulnerable Citizens

Eight years ago 2 out of every 100 children were homeless. Now it’s over 3 out of 100, a stunning 50% increase.

At the other end of society, elderly people are the most unequal group among us. Even though almost all the new wealth from 1989 to 2007 went to people 55 and older, almost half of retirees report less than $10,000 in savings.

3. To the “Broken Windows” Victims

The rationale is that punishment for trivial offenses will discourage more serious crimes. In New York City in 2012, the most common offense was drinking alcohol in public, and 85 percent of the citations were given to Blacks and Latinos.

Continue reading 12 Days of Christmas Apologies

The 6-Step Process to Dispose of the Poor Half of America

by Paul Buchheit, mirrored from Common Dreams

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Inequality and poverty are getting worse. (Photo: PressTV)

One of the themes of the superb writing of Henry Giroux is that more and more Americans are becoming “disposable,” recognized as either commodities or criminals by the more fortunate members of society. There seems to be a method to the madness of winner-take-all capitalism. The following steps, whether due to greed or indifference or disdain, are the means by which America’s wealth-takers dispose of the people they don’t need.

1. Deplete Their Wealth

Recent analysis has determined that half of America is in or near poverty. This is confirmed by researchers Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, who point out: “The bottom half of the distribution always owns close to zero wealth on net. Hence, the bottom 90% wealth share is the same as the share of wealth owned by top 50-90% families – what can be described as the middle class.”

The United States has one of the highest poverty rates in the developed world. It’s much worse since the recession, especially for blacks and Hispanics.

From 2008 to 2013 the stock market, which is largely owned by just 10% of Americans, gained 18% per year. Well-to-do stockholders get capital gains tax breaks, including a carried interest subsidy that Robert Reich calls “a pure scam.”

The bottom half of America, relying on regular bank accounts, earn about one percent on their savings.

2. Strip Away Their Income

Earnings due to workers for their years of productivity have been withheld by people in power. Based on inflation, the minimum wage should be nearly three times its current level. An investor report from J.P. Morgan noted a direct correlation between record profits and cutbacks in wages.

Continue reading The 6-Step Process to Dispose of the Poor Half of America

Around the World: 14 Beautiful Libraries [Photos]

Reprinted courtesy of: Truth Inside of You and ilovelibraries.org

By: James W.P. Campbell

Photo credit: Will Pryce

Man Reading Book and Sitting on Bookshelf in LibrarySome book collectors do not care very much about where they store their books. The English King Henry VIII, had a fine collection of books, but when visitors came to view them they were horrified by the conditions they were stored in, commenting on how they were stacked randomly on the floor and in untidy heaps covering every available surface. Thankfully, since Roman times, if not before, others have cherished books and wished to show them off to their best advantage.

Incredibly, until now, there has been no single volume tracing the history of library buildings through the ages. For the last three years, I have been traveling the world together with Will Pryce the architectural photographer, visiting and photographing 85 of the world’s greatest libraries in 21 countries. The result is The Library: A World History (Chicago University Press), the most complete account of library buildings to date.

It is impossible to show all the magnificent libraries we have seen on our travels, but here are some of our favorite images from the book (all photos taken by Will Pryce).

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The Biblioteca Marciana in Venice, Italy
The first-floor entrance lobby to the Biblioteca Marciana (completed in 1564) in Venice is reached by a dramatic and richly decorated staircase from an outside doorway in the center of the grand facade facing the Doge’s Palace. Since 1596 the vestibule has housed the Grimani Collection of sculpture. Beyond is the reading room, one of the finest rooms in Venice. The ceiling roundels were painted by the leading artists of the day. It was originally furnished with 38 long wooden lecterns, 16 down each side of the room, arranged like desks in a school classroom. They displayed the priceless volumes left to Venice by Cardinal Bessarion in 1472, each volume secured to the desk by a long iron chain.

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The Library of the Chapter of Noyon Cathedral in France
Libraries have been ravaged by wars and destroyed in fires throughout the ages. We came across these evocative scarred books in the library of the Chapter of Noyon Cathedral in France. Noyon is an unusual survival from the early 16th century– a timber-framed library. Wooden library buildings were probably quite common in the late Middle Ages, but wherever possible when money became available they were rebuilt in stone or brick to reduce the risk of fire. Here it is the effects of war that has caused the damage, the shrapnel from a bomb ripping through the bindings and embedding itself in the exposed pages behind.

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The Biblioteca Malatestiana in Cesena, Italy
The Biblioteca Malatestiana in Cesena, near Rimini in Northern Italy is without doubt the best-preserved example of what a late medieval library looked like. Constructed in 1452 for Malatesta Novello, it was designed by the otherwise unknown architect Matteo Nutti. It still contains the books that Malatesta commissioned to be painstakingly copied out by hand. Each has been preserved in its original position, chained to the desks to prevent theft. In libraries such as this one, the readers went to the desk where the book was situated rather than requesting for the books to be brought to them. The brick vaults, covered in green painted plaster, were designed to resist fire. Continue reading Around the World: 14 Beautiful Libraries [Photos]

A Model School Library Program in Colorado

Reprinted courtesy of  ilovelibraries.org

nslpy-winners--220If you are seeking an exemplary school library, look no further than the one at Eaglecrest High School in Centennial, Colorado.

The library at the high school, which is a part of the Cherry Creek School District in the southeast Denver area, earned the 2014 National School Library Program of the Year (NSLPY) Award, which is awarded by the American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA) and sponsored by the Follett Corporation.

The school librarians at Eaglecrest seamlessly support, and in many cases take the lead on, integrating education and technological initiatives that best serve the students.

“The Eaglecrest High School library program is exemplary” said Sabrina Carnesi, NSLPY chair. “The committee was blown away by how the entire building is in agreement on the research process. Collaboration consistently occurs. Teachers work with the librarians on locating resources and the school librarians pull a variety of books at different reading levels and interests to meet a variety of learners. Both school librarians and teachers instruct students on the use of tech tools. This approach has resulted in double the amount of checked out books and students who are engaged and motivated to learn.”

Continue reading A Model School Library Program in Colorado

2014: The Year of the Hypocrites

by Paul Buchheit, mirrored from Common Dreams

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There are too many examples to possible count, but the Susan G. Komen foundation must take a special prize for accepting money from oil giant Baker Hughes and painting fracking drill bits pink in the name of fighting cancer.

There were countless candidates, from individuals to corporations to government officials, all of whom combine the capitalist sense of me-first entitlement with a disdain for the needs of others.

Individuals: The Public is Blocking My Freedom To Take from the Public 

AIG’s Hank Greenberg, who saved about $300 million when his high-risk insurance company was bailed out by our tax money, sued the federal government because he felt cheated by the bailout, even though without the bailout his stock would have dropped to zero.

Next is Cliven Bundy, who refused to pay grazing fees for the use of our public land, then turned around and blamed government for not maintaining the fences on the land when one of his cattle strayed onto the highway and caused an accident.

Finally we have Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, who criticized fracking regulations for “holding back the American economic recovery,” and then protested when a fracking water tower was to be built near his home.

Corporations: Sure We Don’t Pay Our Taxes, But We Want Tax Relief Anyway

Tax avoidance is reaching new levels of hypocrisy. Caterpillar, which complained that government failure to spend on infrastructure impedes its business, is recognized as a leading avoider of the federal taxes that could pay for infrastructure.

Pfizer had 40% of its 2013 sales in the U.S., but claimed all of its profits overseas.

Medtronic is one of the biggest names in the so-called inversions that allow companies to desert the country that provided decades of publicly funded research in technology and medicine.

As a further insult to the American taxpayer, much of the untaxed corporate foreign income is actually held in U.S. banks and stocks and other assets. Microsoft, for example, at one point held 93 percent of its offshore profits in U.S. assets.

Continue reading 2014: The Year of the Hypocrites

BFP Exclusive- Interview with Andrew Kreig: The CIA, Global Empire & the U.S. Presidency

by Mark Mondalek, January 10, 2014, published at the Boiling Frogs Post

“Uncovering the Puppet Master Class of the Mega-Corporations”

1129_PresPupIn this exclusive interview with Andrew Kreig, author of Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters (Eagle View Books, June 2013), we discuss the findings behind his most recent research into President Obama’s contentious past, the current and historical impact of the intelligence services on American politics, and the Mitt Romney, Mormon-inspired presidency that might-have-been.

Boiling Frogs Post: Early on in Presidential Puppetry you talk about your visit to the National Archives with Wayne Madsen, a fellow investigative reporter, who showed you a New York Times article from 1977 asserting that Business International Corporation, President Obama’s first job after graduating from Columbia University in 1983, was, at one point, a CIA front company. Did that discovery form the early inspiration for your book?

Andrew Kreig:  Yes, it did. Wayne Madsen, the former Navy intelligence officer and national security analyst, took me over to the National Archives in February 2009 to show me how to look up de-classified documents, and like most people right at that time we thought we had a whole new big change from the Bush administration. In fact, I’m based right in downtown Washington, right across the street from the National Archives; the parade came right by my office on Pennsylvania Avenue in late January. So this was quite a jolt to see this New York Times article. It started the unraveling of mysteries that did result in the book, as you pointed out.

BFP: It’s interesting because, on the one hand, working for the CIA obviously doesn’t automatically implicate a person. Your own mother, for example, would occasionally brief the agency as a globetrotting author/editor in the 1960s, and you also note that informants, in many cases, aren’t always aware of what their research is really being used for in the first place. With that said, if a former intelligence asset winds up president of the United States one day, do you believe that that one aspect of his or her life is really grounds for throwing their entire biography into question?

Continue reading BFP Exclusive- Interview with Andrew Kreig: The CIA, Global Empire & the U.S. Presidency