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EditorBlog (1424)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaforjulyOn the Fourth of July, celebrate the potential of democracy while acknowledging that the US was founded as an exclusive club of white male voters. (Photo: Bart)

It is July 1, which means that so-called "Independence Day" is just around the corner. It is the season for proponents of "American exceptionalism" to trot out their self-serving, jingoistic rhetoric.

Sure enough, one of my first emails this morning was from an ad hoc group of conservatives promoting an #AmericaProud website and twitter hashtag. Their objective is to "celebrate American exceptionalism" throughout July.

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The email sounds a clarion call to rally around a mythical vision of the founding of the United States. It asserts,

While the progressive left is intent on growing government, eroding man’s natural dignity from God as anchored in the Declaration of Independence, and threatening prosperity and sovereignty, this coalition knows that millions of Americans remain committed to the foundations of American exceptionalism....

American Principles Project in Action, Americans for Limited Government, Concerned Women for America, ConservativeHQ, Eagle Forum, Hillsdale College, NumbersUSA, EAGnews, Tea Party Patriots, and The Heritage Foundation are the first members to join this new and growing coalition, representing millions of Americans.

The #AmericaProud coalition of conservative groups is spreading dangerous misinformation.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

breen25Bree Newsome fearlessly takes down the Confederate flag from South Carolina state capitol grounds. (The Tribe/You Tube)

Years ago, BuzzFlash used to present a "Wings of Justice" award every week to a person who had undertaken a recent act of valor. Although those awards are no longer granted, the "wings of justice" have certainly continued to soar in this country, through the acts of fearless individuals and communities.

Bree Newsome, for example, certainly merits recognition for her wings of justice: On June 27, she literally rose to the occasion, climbing a flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol to take down the emblem of the slave states.

As the South Carolina legislature procrastinates in voting to remove the Confederate Flag from the grounds of the capitol, Newsome's courageous act is a shining light in the state in which nine worshippers were murdered at Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, by a man driven by white supremacy.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaataxbillion34Billionaires and millionaires should pay their fair share in estate taxes. (Photo: Robin Davies)

The consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen just issued a study that analyzes the efforts of billionaire families to - once again - try to repeal the estate tax. According to a June 25 news release by the organization,

Just nine families could dodge $25.7 billion in taxes, and perhaps as much as $54.7 billion, if the estate tax were repealed. Half of these families have spent more than a million dollars apiece lobbying Congress to repeal the tax between 2012 and the first quarter of 2015....

The families behind the eight companies pushing to repeal the tax include the Mars, Wegman, Cox, Taylor, Van Andel, DeVos, Bass, Schwab and Hall families. The Mars and Wegman families alone, who have a combined net worth of more than $63 billion, spent more than $3.5 million to lobby solely for the repeal of the estate tax during the time period studied. 

The avaricious effort is being undertaken even though the minimum tax exemption for the estate tax has risen over the years. It is now over $5 million for an individual. For a couple, the estate tax does not kick in for an inheritance of less than $10.5 million. Most of the wealthiest people in the US do not pay a tax when their wealth is distributed to heirs. According to the Public Citizen study, "Only an estimated 0.2 percent of American estates are subject to the federal estate tax."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaconstSlaveholders enhanced their own political power by advocating for the policy of partially counting enslaved Black people as persons under the US Constitution. (Photo: Kim Davies)

The GOP campaign to deny many people of color the right to vote - which has intensified in recent years - is particularly ironic considering a certain demand of slave-holding states when the US Constitution was drafted. Southern states were implacable in requiring that a slave be counted as a person in the federal census. This demand was made despite the prima facie assumption of slavery proponents that Black people were not persons and thus not able to vote.

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Why would those who regarded Black people as subhuman property be adamant about "classifying" them as people in the Constitution? An article on the Louisiana University at Lafayette website explains:

Of the 55 [Constitutional] Convention delegates, about 25 (almost half!) owned slaves. The delegates from Southern (slave) states wanted to counts slaves as part of their population. This would give the Southern states additional representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives. Delegates from the Northern (Free) states strongly opposed this, arguing that if slaves had no rights to vote (or any other rights of citizenship) then the South should not be given additional representatives in the House. Also, the North feared that counting slaves as part of the South's population would allow the South to have enough representatives in the House to out-vote the North on issues regarding slavery. The South likewise feared that not counting slaves as part of their population would give the South too few representatives in the House, thus allowing the North to out-vote the South on issues regarding slavery. The compromise they reached would arbitrarily count each slave as 3/5 of a person.

Thus, written into the original US Constitution is language that allowed white slave owners to achieve increased political power by - as a result of "compromise" - designating a slave as a 3/5 of a person, for the purposes of enhanced Southern white male political representation in Congress.  

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaconfedThe barbaric legacy of the Confederacy should be confined to a museum, not as active racism in the US in 2105. (Photo: Taber Andrew Bain)

Spare me the ongoing justification of the Confederate flag as a symbol of the "virtues" of the South. The excuses for revering the Confederate flag are sentimental claptrap that distracts from the evil of slavery.

Why is the historical bombast about the Confederate flag representing "a way of life" - including chivalry, God and mint juleps (among other respectable-sounding pastimes and habits) - such a ruse? Quite simply, because the South - in the wake of colonization - would have remained a series of hamlets of rural settlers if not for slavery producing profitable agricultural products, particularly cotton.

Although there were other sources of income in the South - banking, retail shops, etc. - the economic engine of the region was slavery. The "way of life" being romanticized among whites was built upon the foundation of treating people as chattel: buying them, brutalizing them, splitting up families, and killing those who sought their freedom or were defiant, in the most fundamental violation of human rights and liberty. 

Slavery - along with the slave trade, which included perhaps millions of Black people dying during transport from Africa to the US - was a grisly, horrifying practice that played out like passages in Dante's Inferno.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaindianprideLeonard Peltier should be able to enjoy freedom. (Photo: Hamner_Fotos)

Leonard Peltier is still imprisoned at the United States Penitentiary, Coleman in Florida, under harsh scrutiny. To what end?

Who or what is served by Peltier's incarceration? Quite simply, it is the United States government, and this country's deeply embedded racism toward its Indigenous population, bound up with settler colonialism and "Manifest Destiny"-driven expansion across the continent. The incident at Oglala occurred on a reservation, land onto which the survivors of the attempted genocide of Native Americans were forced.

When I interviewed Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United Statesin 2014, she dispelled our grammar-school narratives of prominent US historical figures being great emancipators. She documented how Theodore Roosevelt, Walt Whitman and Andrew Jackson - among many other "benevolent" US leaders and cultural icons - were proponents of Indigenous genocide.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaatorturekilling34(Photo: Justin Norman) 

On Tuesday, the Senate voted to ban the use of torture by the United States military and intelligence agencies. Many of us were befuddled by this development. After all, wasn't the argument for holding Bush administration officials accountable for authorizing torture based on the premise it was illegal at the time?

The answer is yes: It was illegal, but apparently a majority of senators believed that there were loopholes that the Bush White House employed to justify the use of torture. The new bill attempts to eliminate any ambiguity by only allowing interrogation techniques detailed in the Army Field Manual.

An article in Slate by staff writer Joshua Keating, however, points out that even the recently passed bill has, well, loopholes:

The legislation won’t end the debate over interrogation. For one thing, critics, including a U.N. panel that U.S. officials testified before last December, have suggested that the field manual itself may not be up to the standards of international law....

There is also increasing alarm over "proxy detention," the practice of handing detainees over to the custody of third party countries with more permissive detainee treatment laws. Detainees have been subjected to brutal treatment in Afghanistan,Iraq, and Somalia while those countries’ governments were cooperating with the Obama administration’s counterterrorism efforts. CIA Director John Brennan affirmed in March that "There are places throughout the world where CIA has worked with other intelligence services and has been able to bring people into custody and engage in the debriefings of these individuals," raising concerns that the agency has not so much stopped using "enhanced interrogation" as it has outsourced it.

Yes, extraditing "detainees" to other nations who employ torture, who then share their interrogations with the CIA, means that torture still remains effectively legal.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

 aaaacorny24Don't let the smiley face of Big Agriculture fool you. (Photo: David Clow)

Bigger is not always better. As Wall Street banks and big box stores such as Walmart have shown, bigger is often worse. The list of industries that have consolidated into national and global cartels is long and growing, and so is their collateral damage.

In general, this trend - accelerated by trade agreements such as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership - means an increase in the exploitation of labor. It also means an expansion of unregulated practices that lead to global warming, and an elimination of small businesses. (For example, think about the elimination of local pharmacies, office supply stores, banks and bakeries.)

In the case of the financial industry, the consolidation of the money supply in the hands of a few institutions has reverberating global impacts. These institutions engage in predatory lending policies toward individuals and underdeveloped nations. They thrive in these efforts through minimal regulation (in the US and most other G-20 nations), and are abetted by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

This pattern is repeated in other industries, such as agriculture. A column this spring in Dollars & Sense details how Big Agriculture - which includes ancillary industries, such as pesticides and seeds - sells itself as a route to creating more and safer food for a growing population.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaawaterdryWhen the water runs out. (Photo: Marcelo César Augusto Romeo)

Supplies of potable water are being threatened in numerous areas around the world, according to new data released by NASA. Yes, global warming is a culprit, but so are agricultural use and pollution-heavy industries.

In the not-too-distant future, we may see a widespread rationing of drinkable water. Water may then become simply unavailable in some regions. As The Washington Post reported on June 16, "new NASA data show how the world is running out of water":

The world’s largest underground aquifers – a source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people — are being depleted at alarming rates, according to new NASA satellite data that provides the most detailed picture yet of vital water reserves hidden under the Earth’s surface.

Twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers — in locations from India and China to the United States and France — have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water was removed than replaced during the decade-long study period, researchers announced Tuesday. Thirteen aquifers declined at rates that put them into the most troubled category. The researchers said this indicated a long-term problem that’s likely to worsen as reliance on aquifers grows.

Scientists had long suspected that humans were taxing the world’s underground water supply, but the NASA data was the first detailed assessment to demonstrate that major aquifers were indeed struggling to keep pace with demands from agriculture, growing populations, and industries such as mining.

If you are wondering how important aquifers are to maintaining a fresh water supply, just look to California. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaawarrendimon(Photo: AFGE)

Normally elected officials in DC wrap themselves in hackneyed statements when talking about Wall Street. After all, what Washington politician wants to bite the hand that provides a sizable chunk of many candidates' campaign funds?

That's why Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Massachusetts) reaction to a patronizing, sexist remark by JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon was more than a breath of fresh air; it was like a brief release from the prison of "don't-offend-the-finance-industry" beltway jabberwocky.

Earlier this month, Dimon attempted to impugn Warren's knowledge of Wall Street by stating, "I don’t know if she fully understands the global banking system." A number of commentaries rightfully attacked Dimon for "mansplaining." In fact, Dimon - who somehow is still CEO of JP Morgan Chase even though his bank has conceded to several charges of financial wrongdoing in Department of Justice settlements - and his colleagues view Warren as a serious potential threat to their dodgy practices.

By now, you may have likely read Warren's fearlessly frank response to Dimon, as told to The Huffington Post. Warren didn't, like most DC Wall Street pawns, offer a mealy-mouthed statement such as, "I am sure that Mr. Dimon misspoke, and I continue to hold him in high regard."

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