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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaincome inequality 2 ratio(Chart: SmartAsset)

According to an analysis conducted by SmartAsset.com, the only time the widening income gap narrowed in recent years - and then only slightly - was when the federal minimum wage was increased during the years from 2007-2009.  However, as the chart above from SmartAsset.com indicates, once the initial impact of the rise in the minimum wage had its effect, the income inequality gap started to rise again. The study focused on average management pay as compared to average food service worker pay.

In using statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, SmartAsset.com found:

While the federal minimum wage has been raised twice in the past 18 years, many states have enacted and raised their own minimum wages to keep pace with inflation and the rising cost of living. The impact of those state laws is evident in the state measurements of the income inequality ratio.

Of the 21 states with a minimum wage either at or below the federal limit (as of 2013), including the five states with no minimum wage law, six rank among the top ten states with the largest disparity between management and foodservice earnings in 2013. On the other hand, none of the seven states that had a minimum wage at least one dollar higher than the federal minimum in 2013 were among the top ten for highest inequality between management and foodservice workers.

The widespread national protests for a $15 minimum federal wage, as well as increased wages in general for the working poor, thus would move toward providing a livable wage to those in the most underpaid jobs. However, the reduction in the inequality gap is only temporary, if the minimum wage doesn't continue to rise. Why is that? Because the salaries of managers, in the comparison provided in the chart above, rise much faster than minimum wage jobs. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

130275552 c44efdbbcb z(Photo: kyle rw)

If you want another indicator of how much the United States has devalued education, take a look at college adjunct instructors. These are essentially part-time professors who are often paid so little, they need government financial assistance to survive.

Given cutbacks in government funding of higher education, increasing top college administrator salaries, recruitment of top professors with higher salaries to help universities compete in a corporatized academic environment and other economic pressures, institutions of higher learning are relying more on part-time faculty who are frequently paid penurious wages.

According to an April 15 article in Marketwatch.com,

A quarter of the growing number of part-timers who are teaching college students need some government help to get by, according to a study from the University of California Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education.

Nearly 100,000 of these part-time faculty, generally known as adjuncts, benefit from the earned income tax credit and, to a lesser extent, Medicaid and the CHIP health-care program for children, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, previously known as food stamps, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, according to the study.

“It’s shocking, but it’s the reality,” said Carol Zabin, research director at the Center for Labor Research and Education. “Universities are depending much more on part-time and adjunct faculty.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ahillaryhardchoiceWhat about Hillary's Chipotle moment? (Photo: Mike Mozart)

If you haven't read about Hillary Clinton's alleged moment of anonymity in a Chipotle franchise the other day, then you need to google the name of the national fast food chain. On Google's news feed, more than 10,000 articles were archived about it as of 9:30 AM EST on April 15.

What purportedly happened to merit such humongous coverage (not to mention television and radio reports galore)? As most of the corporate media reports would have it, the narrative goes something like this: As the former secretary of state and senator was driving in a black van - preciously nicknamed "Scooby" - from Chautauqua, New York, to Iowa (site of the first primary, actually a caucus) on a "meet the people" campaign, she and her trusted aide Huma Abedin stopped for lunch in Maumee, Ohio (just south of Toledo) around 1 PM EST on Monday, April 13. 

Wearing sunglasses, the two ordered their own food (no Secret Service or lackeys to carry the food in site), ate and left. They otherwise went unnoticed, as the news accounts "report."

Despite the fact that some pundits mocked Clinton for not being identified in the Chipotle, the reality is that the early campaign stunt produced enormous publicity that made Clinton look like an everyday citizen of the US buying and carrying her own lunch in a restaurant far different that the usual dining spots of a person paid $200,000 per speech. With just one public relations stunt, Clinton's campaign was able to portray her as an everyday person.

With the tsunami of coverage of Clinton's "Where's Waldo?" moment, why does BuzzFlash at Truthout speculate that the incident was all planned, down to the sunglasses and determined effort to remain unnoticed.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aendwagethef1t(Photo: torbakhopper)

The Union City Patch (in the East Bay Area north of San Jose) recently reported that a case of wage theft has been decided on behalf of workers. Among evidence of employer exploitation of nursing home and residential care employees was proof that some of them had been paid as little as $5 per hour.

As the local Patch reported:

Officials with the U.S. Department of Labor have recovered more than $6.8 million in wages for more than 1,300 Bay Area workers who weren’t paid according to labor laws between 2011 and 2014, labor department officials said...

Wage and Hour Division officials investigated hundreds of individual care homes and a majority was in violation of labor laws....

Among the violations officials found were the failure to pay workers for overnight work. Non-monetary violations included failing to provide adequate sleeping accommodations. Some workers had to sleep on the floor. Some workers worked 10 to 14 hours a day and were paid for only eight hours. Other employers paid workers a weekly salary regardless of the hours a person worked and consequently these employers denied workers overtime pay. 

Some employers intimidated or retaliated against their employees or told them not to cooperate with Wage and Hour Division investigators.

It is highly likely, based on anecdotal reports from advocates for low-wage and undocumented workers across the nation – and occasional government investigations - that the wage theft and squalid working conditions found in the Bay Area are not an isolated incident.   

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

awaterbaltshutTurning off the water of life (Photo: Tom Raftery)

Last year, Truthout and BuzzFlash wrote a slew of articles and commentaries about the injustice of the bankrupt City of Detroit systematically shutting off the water of the poor. 

Now this denial of a basic human right - after all, one cannot live without water - is being implemented in Baltimore as it follows Detroit precedent. Although some businesses in Baltimore with money owed on water bills will also be shut off - if the debt to the city is not paid off - the burden will primarily fall on residents of limited means.

According to an article in the April 7 Baltimore Sun:

The city began shutting off service this week to customers at least six months and $250 behind on their bills, she said. About 25,000 delinquent customers owe a combined $40 million in long-overdue bills....

Mitch Jones of the consumer rights group Food & Water Watch, said shutting off service denies Baltimore households access to the "basic human right to water" and also poses a public health risk.

Jones said the city, which has a history of water billing errors, should target businesses with past-due accounts before households. Business accounts make up about 370 of the past-due customers and $15 million of the outstanding debt, officials say.

"The city must act to ensure universal access to safe and affordable water service," Jones said.

The poor are being forced to go without water to drink or shower with as the well-off continue to pump up the profits of the bottled water industry.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

awarrenreagan2Senator Elizabeth Warren (Photo: Edward Kimmel)

Are you old enough to remember the rugged cowboy individualism Madison Avenue creation of the Marlboro Man? The ads became an iconic symbol of the widespread US myth of tough, masculine independence from others in society. 

In many ways, the Marlboro Man merged with the carefully crafted image of Ronald Reagan. Just think about all the photos of him horseback riding on his ranch, for example. This Marlboro Man resonance was captured by BuzzFlash in a photo taken at the entrance to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California (see full text of column), included in a 2008 commentary.

What is ironic, in a tragic way, is how at least three of the men who posed, over the years, as the Marlboro Man died of lung cancer and lung disease, as The Guardian revealed in a 2014 article.

The Marlboro Man ad campaign; the creation of a mythic champion - Ronald Reagan - of a United States where only the individual and wealth counts; and the deaths of millions and millions of people in the US over the years, lured to smoking by the Madison Avenue "Mad Man" image of a virile male who relies on no one but himself: These pieces of the puzzle of US cultural and political history - when assembled together - reveal a tragic narrative that still guides so many people in the US. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

3003262167 958cc14c22 zHow will you feel if your vote doesn't count in the next presidential election? (Photo: kirstencan)

In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote by at least 450,000 votes, but lost the election due to an unprecedented Supreme Court decision

The GOP is strategizing on how to ensure the election of a Republican president in 2016, even if he or she receives a minority of the popular vote - but this time through a legal legislative strategy. 

First, here is the background to what legislatures in some key electoral states, such as Michigan, are considering making into law.  It begins with understanding gerrymandering, the creation of congressional districts in states every 10 years.  In 2010, the Republicans, with a strong boost from the Tea Party, swept many state legislatures and governorships. State legislatures, not the federal government, determine congressional districts - and it has always been a highly partisan affair.

With precision software that can slice districts up in such a way that one party can win a state vote for Congress by a wide margin, gerrymandering allows for concentrating a disproportionate vote of one party in certain districts, while creating other districts where the margin of victory by the other party is smaller, but still virtually assured.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anarmyspecial(Photo: The US Army)

For a "3-Day All Access Pass," it will only cost a defense industry corporate or consulting firm $1795 to attend the Special Operations Summit & Warfighter Expo at Fort Bragg from June 22 to June 24. The expense, of course, can be deducted from a company's taxes because it's the cost of doing business after all.

Of course, the entry ticket to the Army Warfighter Expo is a pittance compared to the potential profit return from meeting government employees who can offer contracts - financed by taxpayer dollars - as part of the trillion dollar plus so-called "war on terror." In fact, federal employees can attend the conference free because they are the financial decision makers who attract the paid attendees who are marketing military wares. The firm sponsoring the conference, the innocuously named Institute for Defense and Government Advancement, promotes that:

All Federal Employees, to include Military Personnel, will be granted free admission to our event. Online pre-registration is required as on-site registration will not be permitted. VIP pass includes entry to all conference sessions (including Focus Day), breakfast, lunch, warfighter expo and cocktail reception.

It would appear from the conference sponsor's website that members of the US Special Operations Command (USSOC) will be in abundant presence. Representing the revolving door between the Defense Department and privatized military contractors is one Command Sergeant Major James C. Faris. Retired from the Army Special Operations division, he is now employed as the liaison to the Special Operations Command, in which he served for 27 years of his 31-year military career.

After all, the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement is itself a profiteer off of warfare dollars. It is a division of the even more elusively named International Quality and Productivity Center - a for-profit company - which describes itself on its website as having "an entrepreneurial edge, leading edge research, and a passion for excellence.

Monday, 06 April 2015 08:55

I Won't Drink No Frackin' Water!

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afrackingwasFracking wastewater (Photo: Faces of Fracking)

Last Friday, we mentioned the story of Patrick Moore, a science denier who runs a consulting firm whose clients benefit from his false claims. Moore refused to drink a glass of glysophate - the key toxic ingredient of Monsanto's Roundup - after asserting in an interview with French television station Canal+ that "you can drink a whole quart of it [glysophate] and it won't hurt you." 

In fact, he refused to drink the glysophate twice after claiming it was harmless - and then stormed off the television set, last heard proclaiming, "I'm not an idiot" and calling the interviewer "a complete jerk." (You can watch the interview by clicking here.)

It was a bit difficult to understand some of the reader comments over the weekend in response to our piece. One reader reacted to the BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary by pointing out that there is a difference between Roundup being safe for agricultural use (which is scientifically contested in and of itself) and for being safe for drinking.

Is this reader implying that when Moore asserts, "You can drink a whole quart of it [glysophate] and it won't hurt you," he is merely indulging in some sort of bizarre metaphor? Moore's expertise is supposed to be his self-proclaimed knowledge of science, chemicals and the environment. He is not a poet, as far as his biographical details reveal. When he is on a television program, weighing in on whether or not an essential ingredient in the Monsanto herbicide is harmful to humans, he is not offering symbolic statements. When Moore states that "You can drink a whole quart of it [glysophate] and it won't hurt you," there is no wiggle room to take his statement as anything other than a literal assertion by a man who says that he makes conclusions on the basis of "facts."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT


arounduptox

If you haven't been dozing on your keyboard for the last few days, you may have come across this deliciously ironic clip of an avid GMO advocate who refused to drink a glass of Monsanto's allegedly cancer-causing Roundup.

The interview with Dr. Patrick Moore, a vocal public proponent of genetically modified crops, took place on French television, likely in response to a French-based World Health Organization report that glysophate - the key herbicide ingredient in Roundup likely causes cancer. Moore told French Canal + that "You can drink a whole quart of it [glysophate] and it won't hurt you."

According to a widely read Truthout article:

The very same day, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that they had concluded the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, the most widely sold agricultural and household herbicide in the world, billed as one of the most benign herbicides ever manufactured, was a "probable carcinogen." The WHO elaborated that their biggest concern was for occupational exposure, but that the evidence was "convincing" that glyphosate caused cancer in lab rats and mice....

About 90 percent of the world's high volume grains are now "Roundup Ready." Glyphosate residues cannot be removed by washing and they are not broken down by cooking. They remain in food for a year or more, even if the foods are frozen, dried or processed. Eating strictly organic doesn't protect you. Several studies have shown that it is even present in the air we breathe, water we drink and rain that falls from the sky.  Essentially, no one on earth has been spared. A recent study of non-farmworker, urban dwellers in Germany found glyphosate in the urine of every person tested, and at levels five to 20 times the legal limit for drinking water.

Website GMWatch provides the context to Patrick Moore's refusal to drink a glass of Roundup, which he had paradoxically declared completely safe to humans, during the French interview. 

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