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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

toygunShot to Death for Holding a Toy Gun? (Photo:Tom Simpson)

Many gun laws vary by state, in the absence of strong national gun control. That explains the open carrying of semi-automatic rifles in stores such as Target in Texas without any police intervention. In every photo that I have seen of the gun toters of AK-47s and the like in Texas two realties are apparent: 1) All the defiant military-style gun carriers are white; and 2) there are no police to be seen as the gun fanatics swagger through housewares toting Uzis.

The reason that there are no police to be seen is that it is now legal to tote around handguns and semi-automatic long guns in stores and other public spaces in the longhorn state. Texas is not the only such state: In Ohio, state law allows people to carry firearms in many public spaces (though the NRA Institute for Legislative Action notes that "a person should exercise caution when carrying a firearm in public"). The state generally has loose firearms laws and can be considered a pro-gun-owner state. Nevertheless, a black man, 22-year-old John Crawford III, was shot dead by Beaver Creek, Ohio, police in early August - for holding a toy rifle in the toy section of a local Walmart. Apparently, a customer had called 911 and said a man was holding a rifle, and the police showed up, shouted a few disputed orders and then killed Crawford with real guns, as the toy Walmart rifle fell to the floor. (He did not enter the store with the toy rifle; he happened to pick it up while in the toy section of the store.)

It would be extremely difficult, given the recent events in Ferguson and the long history of racial bias shown by police in shooting black "suspects," to surmise that Crawford's skin color and dreadlocks didn't play any role in the decision of the Beavercreek police officers to murder a young adult holding a toy rifle.

 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

malibubeachMalibu Beach, California (Photo: Michael Clesle)

A battle for public access to the California beaches on the Pacific Ocean is raging.

Although the outcome will impact anyone who wants to partake of the joy of walking on the sand, swimming and viewing the breathtaking natural beauty of the Pacific, the iconic California surfers are taking center stage in the battle to easily reach the beach. In fact, some of the best waves for surfing near Los Angeles are located in the exclusive Malibu area - where members of the 1% are trying to limit entryway to the oceanfront.

Independent LA television station KCET - in an article entitled, "Why California Beaches Are Open to Everyone" - provides background on the issue:

California voters in 1972 passed Proposition 20, also known as the California Coastal Commission Initiative.

The ballot measure called for the temporary creation of the California Coastal Commission, a politically appointed body tasked in part with protecting and preserving the 1,100 miles that make up the Golden State's coast and guaranteeing the public's access to that sea and shore. In 1976, the state legislature passed the California Coastal Act, basically making Prop 20 permanent."These two laws were really instrumental in changing the way Los Angeles, Southern California and the whole state's coastline looks and the ability of people in California to enjoy those resources," says Molly Selvin, associate dean for interdisciplinary programs at Southwestern Law School....

Many super-rich beachfront property owners have found ways to block paths to the beach by taking advantage of poor enforcement. As a result, in June of this year California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that empowered the California Coastal Commission to fine property owners who obstructed access to the ocean and beaches. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF TRUTHOUT AT BUZZFLASH

romneysequel(Photo: DonkeyHotey)Here is a recap of his most infamous and self-revealing statement of the 2012 campaign:

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney said in the video. "All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.

"And I mean the president starts out with 48, 49 percent … he starts off with a huge number," Romney continued. "These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. So he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Romney is the distilled essence of the plutocracy: bloated with a sense of white entitlement and bursting with billions of dollars made, in large part, by lowering the income, benefits and standard of living of the US workforce. He is a guy who quintessentially - and cluelessly - represents the great redistribution of money from the working, middle class and poor to the wealthiest people in the United States. Moreover, a primary characteristic of the oligarchy - a lack of empathy - is a key element of Romney's character and an underpinning of his road to at least $250 million in personal wealth.

MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

studentelderly(Photo: Occupy Posters)

An August 21 Bloomberg Businessweek article raises a shocking dilemma: Money is being garnished from senior citizens' Social Security checks for unpaid student debt.

How is it possible that the elderly may still owe money for college education, and how can anyone live on meager Social Security income, when the federal government is docking – in some cases - thousands of dollars a year?

Ensure an open, uncensored source of information on the Internet! Make a tax-deductible donation to Truthout and BuzzFlash today.

In the article, "Student Debt Threatens the Safety Net for Elderly Americans,"  Bloomberg Businessweek states the facts bluntly:  

Until his Social Security check arrived almost $300 lighter last June, Eric Merklein, 67, didn’t know he had outstanding student debt. He’d taken out a loan about 40 years ago to attend Southern Illinois University and believed it had been repaid by his grandmother after he graduated in the early 1970s. When he contacted the Department of Education to ask why he was getting less in his check, Merklein says he was surprised to learn the government was withholding a portion of his benefit to cover the debt.

Merklein is among the more than 2 million Americans age 60 and older carrying student debt, up from about 700,000 in 2005, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The debts are from old loans like Merklein’s and more recent ones that older Americans take to go back to school or pay for college for their kids. In total, this group has $43 billion in unpaid loans, five times what they owed in 2005. The average debt also has risen by more than 60 percent since 2005, to around $20,000 per borrower older than 60....

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aburgerking(Photo: rob_rob2001)Burger King will, according to the Los Angeles Times and other news outlets, abandon its US corporate citizenship in order to legally evade US taxes. This is a process the largest drugstore chain in the United States, Walgreen, was considering earlier this summer, as recounted in a BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary, "Unpatriotic US Corporations Increasingly Move Headquarters Overseas to Decrease Taxes."

Walgreen, after an onslaught of critical reactions to its plans, decided to maintain its world headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois. Burger King, however, is going ahead and flipping its incorporation to Canada by acquiring and then becoming a subsidiary of the Canadian fast food restaurant chain, Tim Horton's. This process is allowed by US law and called a corporate inversion.

The Los Angeles Times writes of the motivation for the move by the fast food hamburger franchiser: "The combined federal, state and local corporate tax rate in Canada is 26.3%, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The combined U.S. corporate rate is 39.1%."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

dontshoot(Photo: marsmet452)You may have read about the suspension of a Ferguson police officer who aimed his rifle at peaceful protesters in the town and threatened, "I'll F**kin kill you!" last week.

Maybe you also read in The Washington Post this weekend about the past police history of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson who shot Michael Brown to death after ordering him not to walk on the street. According to the Post, Wilson's first police job was in Jennings, Missouri, where the force was so racist and corrupt that the city council voted to rent police services from St. Louis County and disband the city police, which left Wilson without a job. Although Wilson was not formally accused of any major misconduct, the characteristics of the Jennings Police Department sound eerily familiar to those of the Ferguson police force he joined when he was left without a position. Here is how The Washington Post describes Jennings and its relationship to its former town police:

After going through the police academy, Wilson landed a job in 2009 as a rookie officer in Jennings, a small, struggling city of 14,000 where 89 percent of the residents were African American and poverty rates were high. At the time, the 45-employee police unit had one or two black members on the force, said Allan Stichnote, a white Jennings City Council member.

Racial tension was endemic in Jennings, said Rodney Epps, an African American city council member.

"You’re dealing with white cops, and they don’t know how to address black people," Epps said. "The straw that broke the camel’s back, an officer shot at a female. She was stopped for a traffic violation. She had a child in the back [of the] car and was probably worried about getting locked up. And this officer chased her down Highway 70, past city limits, and took a shot at her. Just ridiculous."

Over the weekend, you may have missed the articles about a third Ferguson police officer, Dan Page. In an April speech (that was obtained by the media) to a local chapter of a national pro-gun group of current and former police officers and military personnel called the Oath Keepers, Page didn't even try to code his racism, according to the The Guardian.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bankhighlander2(Photo: Brian Katt)

BuzzFlash at Truthout has written many commentaries on how the Obama administration has been - and continues to be - quite lenient with Wall Street when it comes to financial malfeasance. In particular, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have assiduously avoided, for the most part, any serious institutional or personal criminal responsibility for massive fraud committed by banks too big to fail and other mega-financial institutions. 

The settlement this week between the DOJ and Bank of America for its role in the financial fraud that busted the economy in 2008 (including its acquisition of the scam company it acquired, Countrywide Financial) is yet another example of a large fine that looks like punishment, but amounts to much, much less than meets the eye. Indeed, that is the assessment of an August 21 article in the "Dealmaker" section of The New York Times (NYT):

 

"The real financial cost to the bank could be considerably lower," said Laurie Goodman, a specialist in housing at the Urban Institute. "This is helping consumers, but it may not be costing the bank."

 

The actual pain to the bank could also be significantly reduced by tax deductions. Tax analysts, for instance, estimate that Bank of America could derive $1.6 billion of tax savings on the $4.63 billion of payments to the states and some federal agencies under the settlement. Shares of Bank of America jumped 4 percent on Thursday, suggesting investors believe that the bank could take the settlement in stride.

 

"The American public is expecting the Justice Department to hold the banks accountable for its misdeeds in the mortgage meltdown," said Phineas Baxandall, an analyst with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization. "But these tax write-offs shift the burden back onto taxpayers and send the wrong message by treating parts of the settlement as an ordinary business expense."

Given that we are talking about a dominant Wall Street bank and financial behemoth, the takeaway sentence from The New York Times is: "Shares of Bank of America jumped 4 percent on Thursday, suggesting investors believe that the bank could take the settlement in stride." When a bank's stock goes up after what initially appears to be a huge fine, you know that it is nothing more than a slap on the wrist. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

handsup(Photo: Light Brigading)

In the August 19 Washington Post, Los Angeles police officer Sunil Dutta wrote an op-ed entitled: "I'm a cop. If you don't want to get hurt, don't challenge me." The sub-headline was, "It's not the police, but the people they stop, who can prevent a detention from turning into a tragedy."

The authoritarian belligerence of that statement says volumes about why so many police officers are so dangerous to the public whom they are supposed to be serving. Such a stance presumes that a law enforcement official has absolute powers to stop and detain any person in any fashion at anytime. It reflects the presumptuousness of power and assumes a right to use of force against anyone who contests being detained in a democracy.

Truthout Senior Editor and Lead Writer William Rivers Pitt also took note of Dutta's menacing tone in a recent fundraising e-mail for Truthout and BuzzFlash. Pitt noted, "that mindset, combined with unimaginably lethal weapons, is a threat to the very fabric of our democracy."

Clearly, the precipitating factor for Dutta's warning to citizens is the widespread dismay over the murder of Mike Brown and the use of unnecessary militarized police force in Ferguson, along with the revulsion among many at the bellicose swagger, use of brute force and wave of arrests by police in that city.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AND TRUTHOUT

domviol(Photo: Jeanne Menjoulet & Cle)Boston Globe reporter Yvonne Abraham wrote a shocking article this month revealing the horrifying extent of domestic violence in the Boston area:

It is all there in the police reports, set out in mundane, relentless detail. Globe data visualization reporter Gabriel Florit analyzed more than four years of reports on domestic violence between intimate partners in Boston, up to April 2014....

The reports are a critical record of the evil enacted in homes across the city. Laid end to end, they reveal the massive scale of the problem. And not just its vastness, but its pervasiveness. The potential for violence saturates every minute of a victim’s day.... You can imagine the moments that exploded, at breakfasts and dinners, in kitchens and living rooms. You can see inside the homes where abusers lurk every day, reaching for whatever object is nearby to impose their will.

What is even more dismaying is that the Globe analysis is only of domestic violence incidents reported to the police. Beyond the dots on a map that the Globe posted of the reported domestic violence, Abraham cautions, "lie countless others to whose homes police never come, because the people who would have made the calls were too embarrassed or afraid. Or because they got so used to torment they couldn’t see it for what it was. Or because their abusers promised to make things better, giving a glimpse of what made them attractive in the first place."

Furthermore, many of the police reports analyzed by the Globe are initial calls for help. Many women, due to threats or dependency, later decide to drop charges, only further to be caught up in the cycle of physical and psychological terror.

Clearly the silent epidemic of abuse is not subsiding - if the Boston area is an indicator.  

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTunlearnracism(Photo: Light Brigading)

On August 18, the Pew Center for the People & the Press released a poll that reveals "stark racial divisions in reactions to Ferguson police shooting":

Blacks and whites have sharply different reactions to the police shooting of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Mo., and the protests and violence that followed. Blacks are about twice as likely as whites to say that the shooting of Michael Brown "raises important issues about race that need to be discussed." Wide racial differences also are evident in opinions about of whether local police went too far in the aftermath of Brown's death, and in confidence in the investigations into the shooting.

The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Aug. 14-17 among 1,000 adults, finds that the public overall is divided over whether Brown's shooting raises important issues about race or whether the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves: 44% think the case does raise important issues about race that require discussion, while 40% say the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.

By about four-to-one (80% to 18%), African Americans say the shooting in Ferguson raises important issues about race that merit discussion. By contrast, whites, by 47% to 37%, say the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.

In a summary of the poll, Pew recalls that in its survey after Trayvon Martin was gunned down by George Zimmerman, "60% of whites said race received more attention in that case than it deserved." 

Years ago, I heard a speaker discuss how the history of the United States cannot be viewed through a focused lens unless one considers the legacy of slavery, the suppressive humiliating period of Reconstruction, the plantation ghettos of cities in the north and south, and the criminalization of being a black male. All of these require an open racism among many whites and a sub-conscious racial bias among many persons who think of themselves as liberals.

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