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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aclivenbundy(Photo: DonkeyHotey)

Cliven Bundy is such an extreme caricature of egregious hypocrisy - not to mention being a crass racist - that he appears to be the invention of a cynical satirist. Alas, he's not.

Given how quickly the news cycle moves, here's a brief review of the Bundy farce. He's the Nevada rancher that became an icon of defiance of the government when he refused to pay grazing fees for his cattle to the Bureau of Land Management. The Bureau impounded Bundy's cows that were feeding themselves on federal land, because he owed more than a million dollars to the Bureau.

Bundy took to the media, and soon, armed militias - whose members believe government is an evil force that encroaches on their "God-given" rights - swarmed to "protect" Bundy from law enforcement officials and Bureau of Land Management officers. After a brief stand-off, the militarized swat teams and police stood down and essentially abandoned the area to Bundy's supporters, who continued to surround his ranch, acting as a de facto rebel military force. This included the setting up of armed check points. If these forces were in another nation defying US authority, they would be considered “militants” and targeted by drones.

Furthermore, the Bureau of Land Management - in full retreat - released Bundy's herd to again roam freely on federal land.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ajyellen2Janet Yellen (Photo: Public Domain)

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has proven to be just another member of the financial ruling elite living in an alternative universe.

Accordingto the Associated Press (AP), Yellen believes the best approach to address the economic challenges faced by income inequality is to encourage people who are struggling to survive to save more money:

The Great Recession showed that a large number of American families are "extraordinarily vulnerable" to financial setbacks because they have few assets to fall back on, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Thursday

Yellen said a Fed survey found that an unexpected expense of just $400 would force the majority of American families to borrow money, sell something or simply not pay.

"The financial crisis and the Great Recession demonstrated, in a dramatic and unmistakable manner, how extraordinarily vulnerable are the large share of American families with few assets to fall back on," Yellen said in a Washington speech.

She said the bottom fifth of households by income - about 25 million households - had median net worth in 2013 of just $6,400, and many of these families had nothing saved or negative net worth, meaning their debts were greater than their assets.

That is like telling a starving person to set aside a few crumbs of bread for the future.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

alocavore(Photo: thebittenword.com)

The PBS Newshour reports that at least one school district is attempting to implement "locavore" policies, resulting in fresher, healthier and more planet friendly food for students: 

In Oakland, school officials are undertaking an ambitious plan to transform the school lunch menu.  They’re working to source food from local farms, instead of big companies, and provide California food for California kids.

Strikingly, the change was precipitated by research done by the schoolchildren themselves, according to Jennifer LeBarre, director of nutrition for the Oakland schools and a local food advocate:

One of the things that inspired us to do the farm-to-school movement is a class project that Cleveland Elementary School fifth graders did.

On Earth Day, they did the food miles for their particular lunch, and they found out that the asparagus that they served, that we served to them, had traveled 17,000 miles before they ate it.  And so this was a real shocker for me, because asparagus is grown 50 miles from here, maybe 100 at the most.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aminwage(Photo: Spike55151)

Chicago Tribune poll published on September 16 indicates "Illinois voters strongly support the idea of increasing the minimum wage and raising the state income tax on millionaires."

With less than two months before the November mid-term elections, the poll demonstrates that the electorate in Illinois backs two referenda that modestly address the growing income inequality gap in the United States. Based on a survey of 800 registered voters, 69 percent would back a minimum wage increase in the state to $10 by January 1 of 2015; 56 percent would support an additional 3 percent tax on annual incomes of more than $1 million dollars.

The current minimum wage in President Obama's home state is $8.25 (one dollar more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25). In regards to the state income tax, Illinois has a regressive flat state rate of 5 percent; in short, the wealthiest people in Illinois pay no more - as a percentage - than those with lesser incomes.

Monday, 15 September 2014 07:10

The Economist Has a Slavery Problem

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aneconomistslavery(Photo: Internet Archive Book)

The Economist - the famed international magazine that is an inveterate cheerleader for global capitalism and the concept of neoliberal "free markets" - was recently forced by public pressure to remove a book review that posited that slavery was not all bad. Ironically, it ended up apologizing for the unsigned piece (review columns are normally not attributed in The Economist), yet paradoxically including a copy of the original repugnant review in its explanation of why it was no longer posting it.

The target of the review was the book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward E. Baptist, an associate professor at Cornell University.

The Economist asserted:

Mr. Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains. This is not history; it is advocacy.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apalin3(Photo: Wikipedia)

The Palin clan, headed by Momma Grizzly and Papa Todd, were reportedly involved in a drunken brawl a few days ago. Apparently, the family was at a party related to Alaska's famous Tesoro Iron Dog snowmobile race (which Todd has won four times) when fists began to fly.

According to ABC News

Sarah Palin and her family were at the center of a lively party last weekend that erupted into a fight, with daughter Bristol Palin allegedly throwing a right hook, a man who says he was a guest at the party told ABC News.

“She was punching him [another man] in the face like six times; it was an assault if I’ve ever seen one,” Eric Thompson said, adding that he was among 70 guests at the birthday party in Anchorage Saturday.

“It wasn’t a light punch either. She was really hitting him. I’m surprised he just sat there and took it.”

Political blogger Amanda Coyne reported that Sarah Palin, along with husband Todd and kids Bristol, Willow and Track, arrived in a stretch Hummer and that the fighting started as the beer started flowing.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

americanexcept(Photo: Occupy Posters)

The headline for this commentary came from, of all places, a Chris Cillizza Washington Post column analyzing President Obama's Wednesday night speech on his war plans against ISIS:

The closing moments of Obama's speech, which were noticeably free - or close to it - of the sort of soaring oration his allies love and his detractors loathe, was essentially a paean to American exceptionalism. "America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth," Obama said as he began his close. He went on to note the exceptional role the U.S. had played in beating back an ever-aggressive Russia, our country's work to contain Ebola and the U.S.'s key contribution to ridding Syria of chemical weapons. "America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden," Obama insisted, a line - and a sentiment - that Ronald Reagan would have loved.

Cillizza wasn't necessarily being critical in his tone; he simply was stating the reality that Obama was continuing policies marked by the US asserting itself as the military superpower of the world. As with Bush and Reagan and everyone in between, Obama invokes the notion that the US is obligated to enter into war because it has a uniquely moral mission.

Yes, it is true that Obama did not make the decision to begin the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that led to the blowback of ISIS, but much of his White House speech could have easily been delivered by George W. Bush.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

greeda(Photo: See-ming Lee)

Who knows, maybe journalists at CNNMoney are reading BuzzFlash?

On August 8, we posted a commentary, "As the Rich Get Richer, 75 Percent of the Nation Expects Stagnant or Lower Incomes." On September 8, Emily Jane Fox of CNN Money wrote, "Super rich are getting super richer."

However, Fox did not need to read BuzzFlash to arrive at the conclusion of her article. The facts speak for themselves. As the CNNMoney article reports:

The super rich got super richer as the gap between them and the rest of Americans continued to widen over the last few years, according to a new Federal Reserve report.

In its Study of Consumer Finances, released every three years, the Fed found that the wealthiest 3% of American households controlled 54.4% of the nation's wealth in 2013, a slight increase from its last survey in 2010. It's also substantially higher from the 44.8% they held in 1989, showing how quickly the income divide has been growing over the past decade or so.

At the same time, the share of wealth held by the bottom 90% fell to 24.7% in 2013. That's compared to 33.2% in 1989.

By the metrics of the Federal Reserve, 10 percent of the US population controls 75 percent of the wealth in this country. Other analyses of the continued redistribution of wealth upward speculate that the nation's financial assets are being increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few individuals and families.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

armstrade(Photo: fotdmike)According to a new report by the Conflict Armament Research (CAR), which is a project funded by the European Union, a large number of the guns - including high-capacity rifles - used by ISIS were originally supplied to other forces by the US military. "Islamic State forces have captured significant quantities of US-manufactured small arms and have employed them on the battlefield," the report states.

The Conflict Armament Research report and an article in The Independent include a large number of photos indicating the US origin of the weapons. The Independent article states:

James Bevan, CAR director, told [The Independent] that around 30 to 40 per cent of arms his team were able to document were US-made, reflecting the fact that Isis captured most of its weaponry from the Iraqi army when it made stunning territorial gains earlier this year.

Other nations - including Russia and China - were the source of some ISIS weapons, captured as the self-proclaimed caliphate swept across a wide swath of territory in Syria and Iraq and seized arsenals from defeated forces.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

healthhumanright(Photo: United Workers)

Yes, of course single-payer universal health care coverage would be the preferable health coverage program for people in the United States. After all, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) - a.k.a. Obamacare - is a jerry-rigged system that relies on a private insurance market (except for the important Medicaid expansion component) and still leaves many in the US uninsured.

Nevertheless, the Affordable Care Act has, now that it has gone through its growing pains, enabled millions more people to be covered by health insurance. In April of this year, the White House announced that 7.5 million people had signed up on the state exchanges. In addition, another three million people were enrolled in Medicaid in states that accepted federal government funds. It is a demonstrable gain for the health and economic wellbeing of millions of individuals and families in the US, helping many people avert crushing medical debt.

On September 8, Talking Points Memo offered the analysis that the Republican Party had pinned its key electoral strategy on launching a years-long fusillade against Obamacare, including repeated attempts in the House of Representatives to repeal it. However, despite the rocky rollout of the program, it is now viewed fairly favorably, perceived as a vital link to medical and health insurance by the millions of people who are benefitting from it. 

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