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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

atowerofcap(Photo: Industrial Worker)

MARK KARLIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Now, it is getting personal: Someone is enabling circumstances that might result in my death, your death and the death of countless people around the world.

I am referring to an infamous statement Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) statement made in a May 11 interview with This Week: 

Rubio - who expressed deep skepticism about whether man-made activity has played a role in the Earth's changing climate - told [ABC news reporter Jonathan] Karl he doesn't believe there is action that could be taken right now that would have an impact on what's occurring with our climate.

"I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it … and I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy," he said.

Given ongoing major reports, including last week, that we may have crossed the threshold into a catastrophic cauldron of brewing and already-present climate change, Rubio is condemning much of the earth to catastrophe and death.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

peduc(Photo: Sean MacEntee)

In an Op-Ed published in Time this week, 16-year-old Kenyatta Collins argues that the education that she receives in a New Orleans charter school more closely resembles a prison than a place that advances her knowledge and creativity.

"Is my high school, Lake Area New Tech, a prison or school?" Collins asks. Her response is a withering indictment of the white elite push to privatize education:

Students arrive ready for school every morning, but unfortunately must wait outside the building until security guards unlock the doors at 7:30 a.m. It could be raining, hailing, or sleeting, but they will NOT open the doors until then. Once the doors are unlocked, it takes the guards 15 to 20 minutes to search each student and check for uniform violations. That leaves us with just a few minutes to eat breakfast before class starts at 8 a.m. That’s not enough time for 600 students to make it through the cafeteria line. On a typical morning, we are treated like prisoners, which causes students to react in a variety of negative ways.

As for the prevailing attitudes among many whites - and some wealthy people of color - that discipline is the cure for presumed violent and economically depressed urban areas - Collins has a response: 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afastgoodburger(Photo:SteFou!)Today, according to a Truthout article, fast food strikes and protests are going global, as they should:

Workers around the world are emulating the fast-food protests that started in New York in 2012. Their fight for dignity at work, better wages, stable hours, opportunities for advancement and no more wage theft has gone global.

On Thursday, May 15, in the largest job actions in the industry's history, fast-food workers in over 30 countries on 6 continents will participate in protests over poverty wages, lack of full-time positions, poor working conditions and management retaliation. US workers will protest in over 160 cities throughout the country, the tenth and largest round of strikes since the first actions in NYC in November 2012. Fast-food workers participating in the "Fight for 15" include those in Alabama, the Carolinas and other states not known for their labor activism....

While companies try to hide behind the franchise system and the rhetoric of "small business owners," fast-food employers are global corporations with billions of dollars in annual profits. Fast-food workers must fight for decent wages and conditions on a global level.

At a time when corporations are becoming increasingly global, to a great degree they are starting to supercede national boundaries in terms of their labor policies and impact. Yes, it's true that each nation has different laws regarding wages, employment policies, etc., but the overall global capitalist approach to pay workers as a little as possible lessens the impact of isolated national strikes. (It should be noted that according to the Truthout report, a few nations do have wage laws that require a fair salary for fast food workers – but not many and not the US.)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

 

apublicschool(Photo: TheeErin)On Tuesday, May 13, Newark elected Ras Baraka (with 54% of the vote) as its new mayor, filling the vacancy left by Cory Booker. Booker had recently won a special election to fill the vacancy in the US Senate left by Frank Lautenberg, who died in June 2013.

 

Ras Baraka, son of the late poet and activist Amiri Baraka, is a public high school principal. A key plank of his campaign was an attack on the privatization of K-12 education. The Star-Ledger (New Jersey’s main newspaper) ran a pre-election article in which Baraka scathingly criticized a state plan to convert public schools to charter schools in Newark:

 

Newark mayoral candidate and South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka blasted the school reorganization plan released by State Superintendent Cami Anderson earlier this week, calling it "radical" and "disruptive" and predicting it will damage the city’s school system.

 

"They say this is about choice, but it is about anything but choice. They are saying we’re going to get rid of your neighborhood schools," Baraka said today. "This is a dismantling of public education. It is an irresponsible and radical plan. It needs to be halted...."

 

"The buildings are the property of the taxpayers of Newark. They are not the state superintendent’s property, they are not the governor’s property," he said. "We don’t want to sell them. We want to repair them."

 

"We will not stand idly by and let this happen," he continued, listing the meetings and rallies by parents and alumni in response to the proposal. "We want to say to parents, we are with you."

 

The Baraka victory in Newark provides a significant boost to opponents of the abandonment of public education in poor communities of color.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aloanstudOccupy PostersOne of the masterful characteristics of Elizabeth Warren is her discipline when it comes to progressive advocacy. She knows how to stay on point.

Of course, progressives rightfully love Bernie Sanders. He is the professor of underscoring the narrative of economic injustice in the United States with facts. His multi-hour filibuster of the Senate in December of 2010 was a tour de force, offering up a true State of the Union address. Bernie is the progressive Jeremiah, the articulator of a righteous public policy path.

Warren may or may not be more progressive than Sanders (we really don't know a lot of her positions on issues that are non-economic, particularly foreign policy), but she is a figure who is focused, disciplined, passionate and has a compelling narrative. On television, Sanders looks like a rumpled liberal professor with whom you nod your head in agreement, but it is not clear that he is breaking through to the middle and working classes. (It should be noted that Sanders was a regular BuzzFlash reader in our early years and always receptive to interviews.)

Warren, however, is a radiant media presence. She has the ability to convey a confidence in her convictions that makes her assertions all the more credible to the viewer. On the verge of finishing up an extensive media exposure tour for her new book, A Fighting Chance, Warren brings a frame to the conversation of economic injustice that is compelling not really because of her academic background, but due to her common-sense phrasing of financial struggles experienced by the 99%.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acancerpill(Photo: erix!)Big Pharma regularly employs a frayed justification for expensive drugs, particularly for new specialty medications: Monumental research costs must be recouped through sales. In addition, the pharmaceutical industry employs a more emotionally compelling argument that verges on a threat: "If you want to live longer, we can't make a profit on disease-controlling medications unless you pay for us to recoup our development expenses."

In short, a person with a serious illness is confronted with a variation on "your money or your life." This is true even for people who have insurance, given growing copayment requirements on specialty medication.

The May 2014 AARP Bulletin, however, contains a commentary that credibly debunks "the most famous industry-sponsored estimate ... that it costs on average $1.3 billion to develop a new drug and get it approved." The authors of the opinion piece, Donald W. Light and Hagop Kantarjian (both professors of medicine), particularly focus on cancer drugs. Light and Kantarjian charge that the development of a new cancer drug doesn't actually cost Big Pharma more than a billion dollars; the figure, they say, is closer to $125 million. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aconstconvUS no longer looks exclusively like the white male founding fathers. It shouldn't. (Photo: Visit Wikipedia)

The facts of the US Constitution speak for themselves: However lofty and noble the document, the US was founded as a democracy for propertied white males.

 

This is fact.

 

After all, women were not even granted the right to vote until the beginning of the last century. Slaves were each considered three-fifths of a person for the purposes of allowing slaveholder states larger representation in Congress, but obviously, "chattel" was not granted a vote. Native Americans, whose land was confiscated by the expanding states, were not US citizens. There are more examples, but suffice it to say, the white males who pretty much ran the colonies under King George were the same white males, more or less, who ran the newly "emancipated" nation of the United States.

 

The most important contribution of the US to world governance was hardly who was running it. Yes, the country broke away from the reigning concept of monarchal rule by bloodline, but it did not change the principle of governance exclusively by propertied white males. However, the so-called "founding fathers" did do something differently: They created an elastic, resilient Constitution that was subject to amendment and allowed for the evolution of democracy to become more inclusive over time.

 

When Antonin Scalia and the Federalist Society speak of "strict constructionism," they are referring to the Constitution without its amendments. They are also evoking what the governance of the nation looked like when it was founded: white, male and predominantly Christian (although actually many of the revolutionary leadership were deists). Scalia's concept of originalism is as much a historical longing for the gender, religion and race of people who governed and owned property in the US's first couple of centuries as it is an attempt to justify regressive policies, using legal rants that take the shape of twisted pretzels.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aguncst(Photo: Poster Boy NYC)A little more than a week ago, a man who baited two teenagers to burglarize his house so he could shoot and kill them was convicted by a Minnesota jury of premeditated murder. That will not bring back the lives of the two teens he had plotted to shoot to death. However, it does at least indicate a jury somewhere in the United States values lives over the growing NRA-sponsored laws that provide a license to kill.

According to an Associated Press account of the killings carried out by Byron Smith, the shooter even taped the murder:

Ted Sampsell-Jones, a criminal law professor at William Mitchell College of Law, said the audio recording was devastating to the defense, noting that Smith's taunts to the victims don't show a man in a panic. 

"It was very powerful, and it makes it very clear that ... he didn't do this because he had to. He did it because he wanted to. And that is not what self-defense is about," Sampsell-Jones said.

The recording captured the sounds of Smith shooting Brady as he came down the stairs. Brady groans after the first and second shots, but is silent after a third shot, and Smith can be heard saying, "You're dead." 

In short, what happened in Minnesota was like baiting two cub bears, only they were real teenagers with real names: 7-year-old Nick Brady and 18-year-old Haile Kifer.

The emergence of the "stand your ground" laws as a legislative initiative of the NRA, of course, reached prominence when George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin, who was guilty of nothing more than walking while black. (One of the tragic ironies is that Martin was staying with his father in the very complex that Zimmerman claimed to be protecting from criminals as a one-man armed vigilante squad.)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Beirutbarr(Photo: Wikipedia)Republicans and the right wing are adept at turning untoward incidents into multi-year propaganda tools to wound the effectiveness of Democratic presidents. This was the modus operandi with the effort to impeach Clinton - which began in concept before he was even inaugurated - and it is the case with the never-ending strategically obsessive focus on Benghazi.

This is a partisan plan to use the media to taint Democratic initiatives and accomplishments. It is abetted by a media ravenous for the whiff of scandal - even if the Benghazi attack (which occurred on September 12, 2012) had been thoroughly examined long ago. What the Republicans do - and what Boehner is continuing to do with the announcement of yet another investigative committee on Benghazi - is a detriment to resolving the grave issues facing the nation.

Suppose we create this analogy: The Republicans are your doctors. You visit your general practitioner and he or she thoroughly examines you and puts you through diagnostic tests. The next week you return for the results.

The doctor says, "I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that you have a hangnail that is going to require aggressive long-term treatment by a team including me and my colleagues. The good news is that you have pancreatic cancer that will go away without any medical intervention. So we will immediately begin a multi-year medical effort to get to the bottom of your hangnail." (Please note that the hangnail analogy is not meant to diminish the loss of four lives in Benghazi; it is meant only to symbolize its relativity to the other solemn issues raised.)

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