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EditorBlog (1457)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaglasssThe repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act unleashed the big banks to go on a gambling spree. (Photo: theglobalmovement)

The odd couple of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) have teamed up to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act, a piece of legislation that would essentially split commercial banks from investment banking institutions. A July 7 article in The Hill provides some background:

Glass-Steagall was first passed in 1933 but repealed during the Clinton administration, leading many progressives to argue that it contributed to the 2008 financial collapse.

Warren and McCain, along with their cosponsors, Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), said in a statement that the legislation would make big banks that are "too big to fail" smaller and safer and minimize the likelihood of a government bailout.

The bill, which they first introduced in the last Congress, would separate traditional banking with checking and savings accounts from financial institutions that offer services such as investment banking, which are riskier.

The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in Bill Clinton's second term has become symbolic of the sharp neoliberal economic turn that made DC Republicans and Democrats fairly indistinguishable on the financial front, with both parties trumpeting laissez faire policies in relation to Wall Street. By the beginning of the new century, both parties supported the practice of unleashing Wall Street to engage in rash risk-taking, with very little accountability.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaawallstgreed45Santa Cruz County, California, won't do business with Wall Street banks engaging in illegal practices.

Santa Cruz County, California, recently figured out a way to hold big banks who engage in illegal and destructive behavior accountable: Don't do business with them.

According to AllGov California, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors,

acting on a request from Supervisor Ryan Coonerty, voted to “not do new business for a period of five years with Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS as specified, and further direct that the County unwind existing relationships with these five banks to the greatest extent feasible.”

That means the county won’t buy the banks’ commercial paper or investment services, and will withdraw whatever funds it can from them.

Coonerty, and others, are not happy with the way big banks savaged the global economy and paid a pittance for their misdeeds.

As BuzzFlash documented yesterday, the Department of Justice under Eric Holder chose to only go through the motions of appearing to punish egregiously errant "banks too big to fail" without legally mandating structural or executive changes.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaarevolvingdoorThe revolving door: The list of financial giants that Holder's Department of Justice - and his Covington & Burling bench team – have treated with kid gloves is exhausting. (Photo: Nick Amoscato)

Eric Holder just rejoined the gilded DC law firm of Covington & Burling, after a few week's of hiatus between his stint as attorney general and his new job, in which he'll cash in on the status gained through his former position.

Covington & Burling - an elite law office that specializes in white-collar defense of banks and corporations – maintained a chokehold on the Department of Justice during Holder's tenure as attorney general. Indeed, when Holder became attorney general, he appointed Covington & Burling law partners to head both the civil and criminal divisions of the Justice Department. When the head of the criminal division, Lanny Breuer, stepped down and returned in early 2013 to Covington & Burling with a salary exceeding $4 million a year, he was replaced by Mythili Raman. Raman, in turn, stepped down from overseeing the DOJ criminal division in 2014 to become a partner at, yes, Covington & Burling. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaabnewsomeconfBree Newsome boldly seized the Confederate flag, taking direct action for freedom. (Image: Reposted with permission of the artist, Rebecca Cohen)

Subsequent to Newsome's arrest when she reached the bottom of the Confederate soldier memorial flagpole on South Carolina capitol state grounds, she released a statement to Blue Nation Review. In part, she wrote:

I realized that now is the time for true courage the morning after the Charleston Massacre shook me to the core of my being. I couldn’t sleep. I sat awake in the dead of night. All the ghosts of the past seemed to be rising....

This was real.

This was—this is—still happening....

It is important to remember that our struggle doesn’t end when the flag comes down. The Confederacy is a southern thing, but white supremacy is not. Our generation has taken up the banner to fight battles many thought were won long ago. We must fight with all vigor now so that our grandchildren aren’t still fighting these battles in another 50 years. Black Lives Matter. This is non-negotiable.

It is understandable why the July 4th ritual of filling the dark skies with glittering light, exploding sounds and whistles is so exciting to so many. However, watching fireworks is not enough to advance freedom in a nation that is madly in love with so many myths about liberty, instead of actively advancing it.

Thank you, Bree Newsome, for reminding us of that.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaairaqwar55Early 2003 vigil in Washington DC against the Iraq War. (Photo: Elvert Barnes)

One of the most recent destructive legacies of the Bush administration's war with Iraq - launched on the foundation of choreographed lies - is the creation of ISIS. Add to that the implosion of Iraq in sectarian violence, the deaths and displacements of millions of people, and countless more negative consequences of the US invasion.

This autumn, two of the war's key proponents - Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby - will teach a one-week course called "The War in Iraq: A Study in Decision-Making" in late October at the Hertog Foundation in Washington, DC.

According to The Hill, it doesn't seem like Wolfowitz, for one, is about to engage in any mea culpas:

In August [of 2014], Wolfowitz told The Hill the U.S. had 'won' the Iraq War in 2009.

He also said the Obama administration did not try hard enough to secure an agreement with Iraq to leave U.S. forces there after 2011.

It is likely that, in the course, Wolfowitz and Libby will adopt the Dick Cheney posture of blaming the bloody disintegration of Iraq and emergence of ISIS on President Obama for not continuing a large-scale military occupation of the country. 

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.

This BuzzFlash commentary could not have been published without the support of readers like you. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation and fund more stories like it!

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.

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