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EditorBlog (1443)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abirdhome(Photo: DavidPronk)

In 2014, BuzzFlash posted periodic commentaries on a national trend of cities prohibiting organizations and individuals from feeding the homeless. Basically, real estate developers and people living in comfortable neighborhoods regard people who are homeless as little more than urban blight, and so municipalities have increasingly been passing ordinances that outlaw providing food to individuals who cannot afford housing. A number of different nefarious strategies have also been implemented by cities to make homelessness illegal in certain areas. It is not surprising that Glenn Beck's right-wing website, The Blaze, touts the "Top 10 Anti-Homeless Measures Used in the United States."

Unfortunately, the last days of 2014 indicate that the war against the homeless will continue on into 2015. During the holiday season - the alleged period of caring, love and empathy - the city officials of Roseville, California (located just northeast of Sacramento), threatened to take action against an organization with the seasonally appropriate name of "What Would Jesus Do" for offering food to homeless individuals.

According to the December 28 The Sacramento Bee, 

For the homeless feeding organization called What Would Jesus Do, it is an act of benevolent defiance.

After a 31/2-month absence, the group is again serving breakfast pastries, hot chocolate and coffee, canned goods and additional staples to homeless and other disadvantaged people at Roseville’s Saugstad Park on Sunday mornings. Volunteers were out once more in the chilly air Sunday after resuming the park program on Dec. 21.

Just four days before Christmas, however, Roseville City Hall was not happy.  

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

obamasantaObama has fostered an economy that showers the rich with gifts. (Photo: Carlos)

The stock market just hit a record high on December 22; the gross domestic product (GDP) is growing at its fastest rate in more than a decade; and the top 1% has received more than 95% of the economic gains since 2008, according to at least two studies (previously discussed on BuzzFlash).

Moreover, these factors, among others, also facilitate an even wider income divide - something akin to an economic Grand Canyon. This is like the jingling of Christmas bells to the plutocracy; it means more concentrated wealth and cheaper labor (because of the increased number of people willing to accept lower wages in order to have employment). The decreasing domestic (and global) labor costs, in turn, increase corporate profits.

In short, the richest have been getting steadily, inordinately wealthier during the two terms of the Obama administration....

If Ronald Reagan were president now, the Republicans would be worshiping him as a God sent down to earth to lead Milton Friedman capitalism into a gilded age of oligarchical triumph - coronating him with a laurel wreath as if he were a Caesar of mammon.

What could be more cheery for millionaires and billionaires than becoming even more bloated with money during this holiday season? They should be hailing Obama as Santa Claus for the well heeled, instead of portraying him as some sort of cross between Lenin and the Antichrist.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acolbertwhcorr

Other columnists have remarked on the masterful run of Stephen Colbert as a bloviating blowhard based on Bill O'Reilly, who drenched right-wing zealotry in wry, undercutting irony. With the campy, rousing grand finale of "The Colbert Report" last Thursday, the former "Daily Show" reporter - who will now be the next host of "Late Night" will reportedly jettison his corrosive imitation of O'Reilly and be reincarnated as Stephen Colbert, bedtime talk show host.

Colbert may have indefatigably skewered the pomposity of right wing media pundits, but like all brilliant comedians he never was above indulging in comic shtick that could be traced back to the silliness of vaudeville. His "slaying" of Grimy - a Halloween costume incarnation of the grim reaper - before a non-functioning green screen in the last episode of his show was testament to Colbert's occasional willingness to elicit laughter even if cheezy, in the manner of Johnny Carson's tacky but humorous skits.

Nonetheless, Colbert brought a civility to humor that was distinct. His frequent author interviews were as waggish as they were revealing - and a forum for a much under-appreciated skill in the United States today: literacy. He was always the wittiest person on the set, but also simultaneously a calculatingly caricature. How many people can eviscerate their own assertion of ludicrous right-wing arguments with such unwavering aplomb?

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

astopexec(Photo: Luke)

 

A morbidly twisted controversy is being played out over so-called "botched" executions, in which condemned men and women endure prolonged deaths due to experimentation with lethal drugs. FOX News jumped on the bandwagon of scorning "inefficient" state-sanctioned killings with this headline, "Botched execution of Oklahoma killer raises questions about new 3-drug lethal injection protocol."

FOX joined other national news outlets in detailing the gruesome details of how Clayton Lockett died in April of a heart attack after an ad hoc three-drug combination failed to render Lockett unconscious:

A botched execution using a new drug combination left a convicted killer writhing and clenching his teeth on the gurney Tuesday, leading Oklahoma prison officials to halt the proceedings before the inmate's eventual death from a heart attack....

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acuba(Photo: flippinyank)

An archaic relic of the Cold War - propped up by a literally dying contingent of pro-Batista US citizens of Cuban descent in Florida and conservatives who still think there is a Soviet Union - is about to be demolished by the Obama administration. As The New York Times headline declares: "Obama Announces U.S. and Cuba Will Resume Diplomatic Relations."

Amid ruinous and deadly US foreign policy, the diplomatic shunning of Cuba - along with a congressional boycott of the nation - stands as a singular act of international stupidity. The United States loyally props up dictators, tyrants and neoliberal clones in Latin and South America, often helping maneuver them into power. (This is happening relatively less under Obama, but let's not forget official State Department policy such as his administration's recognition of the Honduran military coup.) Moreover, the US has used a deadly war on drugs to secure the expansion of US-based corporations south of the border.

The State Department and Congress have long been holdouts in politically recognizing the island nation of Cuba, with a population of 11.25 million. European nations have had both diplomatic and economic relations with Havana for years, as does Canada.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

8293879669 5c019705d1 zThe NRA experienced a rare defeat in Congress as surgeon general is confirmed. (Photo: Josh Lopez)

It took a technical parliamentary maneuver by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that backfired, but after long last the National Rifle Association (NRA) has lost a vote.

Vivek Murthy, MD, was confirmed on Monday as the nation's next surgeon general - despite a strong lobbying push against him by the NRA, because he views gun violence as a public health problem. This perspective among many physicians has long been a primal fear of the NRA. The fanatical organization, operating on behalf of the gun industry and armed white males (which is the subtext of its coded appeals to racial fears), is concerned that if gun violence is considered an epidemic, then it might erode the rallying cry of the Second Amendment meme by shifting the focus of the debate on guns.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

439276711 f0dfb6a64c z(Photo: Carlito)

Buzzflash has published many columns about the nationwide war on homelessness: a push to render homeless people invisible by displacing them from economically comfortable residential, business and recreational areas. Increasingly, even feeding those who are hungry has become a crime.

December 10 column in BeyondChron draws attention to "the eviction of what has been called America’s largest homeless encampment: 68 acres of creek-side property inhabited by some 300 men, women, and children residing in tents, shanties, and underground adobe dwellings."

This is occurring in San José, California, and is representative of the expanding attempts to remove homeless individuals and panhandlers from the public view of people with means. This is happening with greater frequency in areas of the country that have more temperate weather, since such cities attract those without money who can live outdoors year round without fear of dying from freezing weather.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

6481958557 dabd470285 o 1The federal spending bill gives most people in the US a lump of coal for the holidays. (Photo: Ladymay)This holiday will bring an odious package of gifts in the form of the omnibus spending bill passed by the House on December 12 - and likely to be approved by the Senate and signed into law by the president by Monday evening.

On the eve of a season of that we commercialize as one of celebrating peace, love and compassion, it looks like Congress and the White House are going to dole out bounties to the oligarchy, financial industry and right wing of the GOP. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has received coverage for her defiant stand against a clause in the bill that rolls back restrictions on the casino derivative trading that was a large contributing factor in the near collapse of the US economy in 2008. This particular feature of the legislation is discussed in an article from PR Watch posted on Truthout, "Congress to Reinstate Taxpayer Subsidies for Reckless Derivatives Trading."

In fact, the Washington Post quotes Warren as calling the trillion dollar bill “the worst of government for the rich and powerful.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afreemarissa3Even though Marissa Alexander has agreed to a plea bargain, she is still not free of the long arm of the judicial/incarceration system. (Image: Daniel Arauz)\

Maya Schenwar, the editor-in-chief of Truthout, has written a book that exposes the egregious injustice and pernicious impact of the prison-industrial complex. Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better is an incisive and moving analysis of how the incarceration system in the United States destroys lives and erodes a civil society.

With the highest rate of imprisonment in the world, the US particularly uses incarceration as a form of social cleansing and bias against people of color, as well as poor people, gender-nonconforming people and people with mental illness. In a sweeping narrative that indicts the institution of imprisonment, Schenwar frequently focuses on individuals – including her own sister, who has been in and out of the prison system. The book offers compelling voices to document the inhumanity of confinement behind bars and the extensive collateral damage of life in prison and trying to build a life after release.

Marissa Alexander is one of the millions who has been ripped from her family. BuzzFlash at Truthout talked with Ayanna Banks Harris, co-organizer of the Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander (CAFMA), on how Alexander's plight represents the egregious wrongs of a system that feeds people into gulags of harsh confinement that take away their lives, break up families and damage communities.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

4302115614 0fb52da183 z(Photo: Max Nathan)

The US media obsession with how a lower unemployment rate should increase holiday buying is undercut by a rarely discussed reality: while the unemployment rate is falling, so are wages and family income for many earners in the US. This means that there are an increased number of holiday shoppers who actually have less to spend – adjusted for inflation - during the pre-Christmas consumer frenzy than in past years.

A December 8 article in The Guardian describes this trend as an increase in "survivalist" consumers as compared to "selectionists":

Survivalists earn less than $50,000 a year and have to make sure they can afford every purchase. 

Selectionists are more affluent. They may still be “careful”, in PwC’s parlance, but they have more disposable income and don’t insist on waiting for the deepest discounts to kick in before buying.

In each of the last three years, however, the survivalists have become an increasingly important part of the mix, rising from 63% of PwC’s annual holiday shopping poll in 2012 to 65% in 2013 and to 67% this year

This confirms other indicators of a widening income gap that is leading to a race to the bottom in retailing in a society built on consumer spending.

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