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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aboehnerunemploy(Photo: Gory M. Grenier)

 

BuzzFlash at Truthout has often asserted that without systemic changed to the economic system, the notion that a lowering unemployment rate means workers are living better is highly flawed. That is because corporations and other employers are reducing the pay and benefits to hourly workers through a variety of means. These include lowering wages, decreasing or eliminating raises, turning full-time jobs into two part-time jobs to avoid providing benefits, creating temporary jobs to replace more expensive permanent employees, converting employee hires into consultant relationships (to eliminate benefits and payroll taxes for the companies), charging workers for items such as uniforms and instituting "work irregular hours at the will of the company" policies, among other employee exploitation tactics.

Combat the epidemic of misinformation that plagues the corporate media! Make a tax-deductible donation to Truthout and BuzzFlash today.

On Sunday, November 23, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune profiled a college-educated single mother of two who is representative of the new wave of underemployed workers who require government assistance just to survive:

Finding a job in Southwest Florida that pays well enough to support two children as a single mother has been a challenge for Ceci Linton.

The $20-an-hour, part-time position doing substance abuse prevention education in Manatee County schools came close, but Linton was laid off earlier this year. Her new job pays substantially less — $14.50 an hour — and it’s also part time.

Most of Linton’s paycheck from her new position in retail sales goes toward rent. The irregular hours add to her child care costs, and she relies on the government to help with food and health care expenses.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anotfrack(Photo: Daniel Lobo)

The oil company Citadel Exploration didn't like that the citizens of San Benito County, California, passed a fracking ban this November. (The county is ironically located just west of a town called Bittersweet.)

Citadel Exploration believes that the right to frack away - with all its destructive impact - supersedes the passage of Measure J, which prohibits future fracking in San Benito. So Citadel filed a lawsuit that would require the county to pay it $1.2 billion in lost profits.

KSBW.com of Monterey California summarized the Citadel legal extortion:

Citadel owners claim they could have extracted 20-40 million barrels of oil [in San Benito county], a value they believe equals $1.2 billion.

"$1.2 billion. That's like asking for the moon. The county will file for bankruptcy and reorganize. He’s not going to get anything,” San Benito County Supervisor Jerry Muenzer said.

"We don’t have that kind of money ever, ever," supervisor Muenzer said. Such a judgement would leave the county broke....

The company is arguing that Measure J constitutes "regulatory taking," meaning, government regulation limits on the use of private property.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT


annsaliftoff(Photo: Tjebbe van Tijen)

(Photo: Tjebbe van Tijen)

Putting aside for the moment the entire issue of the exponentially growing lead government Big Brother agency - the National Security Agency (NSA) - and all of the valid objections to most of what the agency does, the collection of data on citizens and others in the United States (first revealed in detail by Edward Snowden) is symbolic of an egregious evasion of the privacy of the people who elect the government.

Combat the epidemic of misinformation that plagues the corporate media! Make a tax-deductible donation to Truthout and BuzzFlash today.

The NSA has been challenged by many as being an agency out of control, like a virulent cancer that self-perpetuates its own inexorable expansion. Many critics contend that the assertion of spying powers, including on US citizens, has yielded little in terms of results - and that some of the information is ending up in the hands of other US agencies to be used for purposes that have nothing to do with the so-called war on terrorism.

As The Guardian recounted on November 19:

Nearly 18 months after Edward Snowden's disclosures upended the secret world of US surveillance, the US Senate has rejected the most politically viable effort to rein in the National Security Agency in almost four decades.

The USA Freedom Act, a bill introduced last year that sought to end the NSA's ongoing daily collection of practically all US phone data, failed to reach a 60-vote threshold to cut off debate and move to passage...

Although the domestic phone data dragnet has not thwarted any terrorist attacks, in the lead up to the vote critics savaged the bill as a gift to terrorists[Italics added by BuzzFlash.]

The bill defeated on November 18 - through a passive filibuster by Republicans (only one Democrat voted against it) - was a watered-down one to begin with.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aceopay(Photo: binx)

The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) released a study on November 18 entitled, "Fleecing Uncle Sam." The analysis concludes that "a growing number of corporations spend more on executive compensation than federal income taxes."

It's rather astonishing that such an economic betrayal of corporate financial obligations to society exists, but it is even more shocking - according to IPS - that it is growing:

Of America’s 30 largest corporations, seven (23 percent) paid their CEOs more than they paid in federal income taxes last year. 

    • All seven of these firms were highly profitable, collectively reporting more than $74 billion in U.S. pre-tax profits. However, they received a combined total of $1.9 billion in refunds from the IRS.

    • The seven CEOs leading these tax-dodging corporations were paid $17.3 million on average in 2013. Boeing and Ford Motors both paid their CEOs more than $23 million last year while receiving large tax refunds.

Of America’s 100 highest-paid CEOs, 29 received more in pay last year than their company paid in federal income taxes—up from 25 out of the top 100 in our 2010 and 2011 surveys.

“Our corporate tax system is so broken that large, profitable firms can get away without paying their fair share and instead funnel massive funds into the pockets of top executives,” remarked Scott Klinger, Director of Revenue and Spending Policies at the Center for Effective Government and a co-author of the report.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

a2jimrisenJim Risen (Photo: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

In an interview with Truthout just recently posted, New York Times Reporter James Risen was adamant about not revealing a confidential source, even if the Supreme Course orders him to do so:

MARK KARLIN: In regards to your own travails as a journalist, the government is trying to force you to reveal a confidential source relating to the shadow intelligence gathering community. You have stood steadfastly against giving up a source for information contained within your book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. The Obama administration is pursuing its legal case against you to the Supreme Court. You appear as resolute as ever to uphold the journalistic right to shield sources. Would anything change that courageous stance?

JAMES RISEN: No.

Risen revealed the background to the legal persecution that he is enduring - through the Bush and Obama administrations' obsessive disregard for journalistic investigative rights in a free society - in an excerpt posted on Truthout from his new book, PAY ANY PRICE:

As my legal battle against the government dragged on year after year, eventually making its way to the Supreme Court in 2014, I became convinced that I was fighting to protect press freedom in the post-9/11 age. But in the process, I discovered that I was no longer merely a journalist and author covering the war on terror. I had joined the many people whose lives had been upended by its excesses....

[Risen then details how The New York Times, at the request of the Bush Administration, refused to run a story on the NSA warrantless wiretapping that he had co-authored with Eric Lichtblau. It was refused publication twice by The New York Times, with direct presidential influence, and published only after Risen wrote a book that included the information, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration]

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

coalminingdisPhoto of graves of miners from another disaster, the Sago Mine explosion in 2006. (Photo: Nancy)

 A member of the oligarchy is finally being held criminally responsible for worker deaths.

Don Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy (King Coal in West Virginia), was just indicted for putting profits above the lives of his company's employees resulting in a 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.

Those are among the charges contained in a federal indictment announced on November 13 by the Department of Justice. According to the West Virginia MetroNews Network,

The 43-page four-count federal indictment of former Massey Energy president and CEO Don Blankenship portrays an operator obsessive about upping production at the cheapest cost. Federal prosecutors allege it was an attitude that led to the deadly explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County that killed 29 miners.

The indictment, announced Thursday by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, alleges Blankenship knew about UBB’s safety problems and the practice of alerting supervisors underground when federal mine inspectors arrived at UBB for inspections. It’s also alleged he lied to the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission about mine safety in the days after the April 5, 2010 explosion in an attempt to help Massey’s stock price.

Blankenship was charged with conspiracy to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards, conspiracy to impede federal mine safety officials, making false statements to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and securities fraud....

The indictment alleges Blankenship was driven by the numbers and in doing so ignored dozens of safety violations at UBB and covered up others. Federal prosecutors said from April 3, 2009, to April 5, 2010, Blankenship received 249 daily safety violation reports from the UBB mines but did very little to correct the problems.

One can read the specific details of Blankenship's alleged culpability in the actual federal indictment.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

asunkshipofstateIs the US ship of state sinking due to a grossly imbalanced distribution of wealth? (Photo: Donna)

Another study (published last month) confirms the startling imbalance of wealth in the United States.

According to The Guardian, the analysis "shows how the top 0.1% of families now own roughly the same share of wealth as the bottom 90%." If a ship had that disproportionate distribution in terms of weight, it would list to one side and sink. That is, perhaps, what the analogy portends for a functioning democracy in the US: the ship of state is taking on water and is unable to right itself.

Professors of economics Emmanuel Saez (University of California, Berkeley) and Gabriel Zucman (London School of Economics and Politics) based their findings on "evidence from capitalized income tax data" since 1913 combined with an analysis of the "flow of funds" during that period. In the abstract for their research paper, they conclude:

The bottom 90% wealth share first increased up to the mid-1980s and then steadily declined. The increase in wealth concentration is due to the surge of top incomes combined with an increase in saving rate inequality.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

atarsandscanada(Photo: Peter Blanchard)

 

While activists trying to save the planet from global warming are trying to prevent construction of a new northern leg to the Keystone XL pipeline, Canada faces the retrofitting of what would could become North America's largest oil capacity tar sands pipeline – running from Alberta to Quebec and Nova Scotia.

Maude Barlow, chairperson of the Council of Canadians, recently wrote about TransCanada Corp's effort to create the Energy East project for tar sands oil by converting an existing natural gas pipeline. In Toronto's Globe and Mail, Barlow details three myths about the potentially ruinous Energy East proposal. She concludes:

More to the point, it's past time for our governments to strongly commit to seeing through a just transition off of fossil fuels.

There are already examples of communities and countries making great strides in reducing fossil fuel dependency. Investing in public transit, energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors generates far more jobs than pipeline and fossil fuel development....

This is where our future actually lies, not in picking our poison – or in the case of Energy East, shouldering the risk and enabling someone else's poison.

It is vital to remember that this is not just Canada's challenge. Approval of the Energy East project by the conservative government in Ottawa would have perilous implications for accelerating global warming on a massive scale.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amoneycorrupts(Photo: Light Brigading)

An analysis of the 2014 election results, according to a "Morning Line" email from the PBS NewsHour, reconfirms that the torrent of money unleashed by Citizens United is continuing the trend of selling democracy to the highest contributors.

According to PBS "Morning Line" email received by BuzzFlash at Truthout:

We already know that the $4 billion spent on this midterm election was more than any other midterm in history. It was the most on congressional elections ever, including during a presidential year. What do the numbers really tell us? These two stats jumped out at us from a post-analysis done by the Center for Responsive Politics:

- 94 percent of biggest spenders in House races won, up slightly from 2012
- 82 percent of biggest spenders in Senate races won, up from 76 percent in 2012

What that means is, as one of us noted on NewsHour Monday night money, more specifically who spends the most, is about as good a predictor that there is of who will win a race.

Of course, there were other factors at work in the 2014 Republican rout, including ongoing voter suppression of non-whites and the poor, questionable electronic voting software and a seventy-two year record low turnout.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abushdisaster(Photo: Nathan Collins)

BuzzFlash started publishing online in May of 2000, so the site was ready to pounce in outrage when five infamous justices of the Supreme Court stole the presidency for George W. Bush in the late winter of that year. 

The passion of opposition to the illegitimate presidency of Bush - and the commencement of the never-ending war in Iraq, opposition to social and economic equality, increased voter suppression and the continued packing of the federal courts with right wing ideologues, among other egregious assaults on democracy – ignited a simultaneously furious and dismayed response among progressives. At that time – up to around 2003 - there were not many daily internet sites that focused on the politics of the United States from a progressive perspective, and it was like picking low-hanging fruit to expose the lies, hypocrisy and manipulation of the US public by the Bush administration. That, of course, includes the still many unanswered questions about why Bush personally ignored warnings - including a CIA briefing - about the potential for 9/11 occurring.

In 2014, there are an untold number of sites breaking political stories about the truth behind covert government actions and the backstory behind public relations tales from the White House, Pentagon and the CIA. But in the first years of the new millenium, there were just a small number of sites like BuzzFlash (including Truthout) daily focused on exposing the dishonesty of the unelected White House. It wasn't that difficult: the corporate mainstream media - such as the megaphone for White House claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Judith Miller of The New York Times - transmitted Bush administration assertions much as stenographers would. 

For sites such as BuzzFlash and Truthout, all one had to do was go to secondary sources outside of the United States or articles in smaller papers to shed light on the truth: simply read from a lot of sources that were not part of the incestuous DC media-government collusion and connect the dots. The reality was the primary sources used by the likes of The Washington Post and The New York Times were echoing misinformation, while the secondary sources available from blogs and news sites throughout the world were more reliable than our own mass media.

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