Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Taibbi Tackles the Inequities of America's Two-Tiered Society - Heidi Klum in 'Red-Face'?

Journalist-author Matt Taibbi
As the most unproductive and heartless US Congress in American history gears up to block a Senate bill to restore unemployment benefits to over 3 million members of the long-term unemployed, it's not hard to feel discouraged by the steady un-Democratization of this nation.

This week a private research study shows that in 2013, US corporations held a staggering $2.1 trillion in profits overseas to avoid paying taxes at a time when they're making record profits at home, flailing about the evils of raising the minimum wage and being coy about starting to rehire Americans on a large scale. 

On top of that we discover the cash reserves of the nations largest banks are underfunded by billions of dollars a mere six years after the financial meltdown of 2008 - and we all know who was on the hook for that one - and who was let off the hook.

Lately the conservative members of the Roberts Supreme Court are making it seem less a politically autonomous branch of the Federal government dedicated to interpreting the Constitution, than a disassociated bunch of cranky old farts perpetually stuck in the intellectually-nonsensical ideological bubble of the Fox News world.  

Case in point (bad pun intended): the high court's recent decision to further undermine the Democratic process in this nation by making it more difficult to define political corruption, while simultaneously making it easier for wealthy political donors to pour enormous sums of money into the election process.

And remember, that's after they struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, essentially making it easier for state legislatures to make it harder for citizens to vote.

But just when things look bleak, Matt Taibbi cuts through the fog with his signature blend of relentless hard-hitting journalism. On Monday I heard an interesting interview with Taibbi on NPR as he discussed his latest book, "The Great Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap".

Click the link above and give it a listen if you've got a few minutes. In the past couple years his essays in Rolling Stone have taken on the issues that the mainstream media has totally shied away from; topics like the deep-seated corruption within the US and global financial system, the complexities of the LIBOR scandal, the rigging of commodities markets, the mortgage crisis and the implosion of the housing market and of course, the massive inequities in the US justice system.

Taibbi said after spending years on topics related to the financial meltdown, he was personally struck over how difficult it seemed to be to bring any individual from the corporate or banking sector to trial or jail time; yet it was and is frighteningly easy to jail someone for welfare fraud, possessing small amounts of illegal drugs - or simply for no reason at all beyond an over-zealous police force, lack of access to legal counsel, overwhelmed public defenders' offices and prosecutors seemingly determined to keep US prisons filled with non-violent offenders.

To borrow a quote from the new book cited in the NPR article about Taibbi:
"Poverty goes up. Crime goes down. The prison population doubles. Fraud by the rich wipes out 40 percent of the world's wealth. The rich get massively richer. No one goes to jail."

Don't hold your breath waiting for CNN, NBC, ABC, FOX or CBS to broach that topic on prime-time news. Outside of Frontline and Bill Moyers on PBS and Vice on HBO, mainstream media doesn't see the biggest story in this nation as much of a story at all. That's just sad; and unfortunately not unintentional. Bread and Circuses...

Anyway, to some lighter fare. Now let me just say first that I have no axe to grind with super model turned fashion show host and arbiter of good taste Heidi Klum. I've a seen a few episodes of Project Runway, and she's pretty sharp and has a good sense of humor in a no-nonsense German kind-of-way.

So what the hell was she thinking promoting a Germany's Next Top Model photo shoot featuring hot young German frauleins posing in 'Red-Face' in Native American costumes and scenarios?

As reports Klum is receiving flack on her Facebook page, social media platforms and from a host of Websites and blogs for lending her name, face and reputation to this ill-advised promotional campaign that incorporates Native American stereotypes and imagery.

Given Germany's ongoing struggle to move beyond the dark legacy of the Third Reich and its institutionalized racism before and during World War II that led to millions of deaths, how could Klum not know what a disaster a group of young German girls dressing up as provocative little Indian-sex kittens would be? Och! Heidi!

It really hasn't been a good PR month for Germany.

The April issue of Vanity Fair Magazine features Alex Shoumatoff's brilliant expose article on the recent trove of over 1,280 artworks originally stolen and confiscated from Jewish families, art dealers and collectors (fleeing Germany or sent to the camps from Germany and France) in WWII that ended up in the Munich apartment of a strange German recluse named Cornelius Gurlitt.

Seriously, you really have to read this Vanity Fair article to gain some insight on this monumental art theft. Gurlitt's father was an art dealer for the Nazis and helped to broker the sales of thousands of pieces of art Hitler labeled "degenerate". Gurlitt's apartment was packed with an estimated billion dollars worth of priceless art by a range of master painters including Matisse, Picasso, Gauguin, Dix and more.

One of the most interesting tidbits from the article: cosmetic billionaire Ronald Lauder, who's supported efforts to return looted art to the original Jewish owners for years, claims the German government has housed tens of thousands of pieces of looted art in the basements and vaults of it's museums since the end of the War; knowing full well where they came from. 

It's a rather disturbing read, but an enlightening one as well that lends insight into a crime against humanity which in many ways, is still going on to this day.

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