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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ademocracyGerrymandering may sink representative democracy (Photo: Filippo Minelli)

The negative impact of the process known as gerrymandering congressional districts was most evident in the 2012 election. As of March of 2013, Bloomberg News concluded:

A majority of Americans disapprove of the Republicans in Congress, yet the odds remain in the party's favor that it will retain control of the House [as it did in 2014]. One big reason the Republicans have this edge: their district boundaries are drawn so carefully that the only votes that often matter come from fellow Republicans.

The 2010 elections, in which Republicans won the House majority and gained more than 700 state legislative seats across the nation, gave the party the upper-hand in the process of redistricting, the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional seats. The advantage helped them design safer partisan districts and maintain their House majority in 2012 -- even as they lost the presidential race by about 5 million votes. Also nationwide, Democratic House candidates combined to win about 1.4 million more votes than Republicans, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

In the 2012 congressional election, the Democrats beat the Republicans in the popular vote for Congress (48.8 percent to 47.6 percent), but the GOP ended up with 234 seats and the Democrats only 201.

Bloomberg News explains how devastating strategic gerrymandering can be to undermining the will of the majority of voters. In analyzing results of the 2012 congressional election, Bloomberg provides examples of inequitable representation impact from two states where Republican legislatures gerrymandered congressional districts after the 2010 GOP wave election:

In Pennsylvania, where Democratic votes are concentrated in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Republicans won 13 of 18 House seats while losing the statewide congressional vote, 2.8 million to 2.7 million. In North Carolina, Republicans drew three districts to be overwhelmingly Democratic and won nine of the other ten, even as House Democratic candidates won the statewide vote, 2.2 million to 2.1 million.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anincomegap(Photo: Doran)

BuzzFlash at Truthout has written about major studies which show the income gap widening almost every year since 2008 - at an exponentially faster pace than when the great redistribution of wealth upwards began in the Reagan administration.

There are other indicators in economic reports that confirm the trend of wealth becoming more consolidated with each passing year. Even though the nation's economy added more than 300,000 jobs in November, it is not an indication that workers are getting paid more.

The Guardian, in an article - "CEO pay rises at double the rate of workers" - points out that job growth is not a metric of resolving lopsided income disparity:

The Fed's beige book predicts a mere 0.2% increase in hourly wage growth this month, which is only a modest 2% boost from the previous year....

According to a the 2014 CEO compensation strategy report by Equilar, an executive compensation and corporate governance data firm which conducted the report in association with compensation consultant firm Meridian, the median income of CEOs of S&P 500 companies was $10.1m at the end of 2013. This reflects a 9.5% increase year on year and a staggering 43% jump from 2009. 

These figures may understate the case. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abountyAdvocates of justice for Michael Brown gathered in Minneapolis (Fibonacci Blue)

David Parkman reported the other day that unnamed sources claim that Darren Wilson, a former Ferguson police officer who murdered Michael Brown, was paid somewhere in the range of $500,000 for his exclusive "first" post-killing interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News. ABC News and Wilson both deny the reports of a fee, but it wouldn't be the first time that a major news network has paid big bucks for a grand spectacle sensationalist interview if Parkman is correct.

In addition, The Root recounted reports that more than one millions dollars was raised from supporters, as of November 30, for Wilson. If both these figures are approximately accurate, then it means that Wilson has financially benefitted to the tune of about $1.5 million, with more donations and "celebrity fees" no doubt to come.

It is worthy of note, as Parkman , that Stephanopoulos conducted a soft ball interview with Wilson. It was as much a dereliction of journalistic professional standards as the non-cross examination of Wilson before the grand jury by St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch was a perversion of prosecutorial legal practices.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

brokenwindowsPeople are not broken windows (Photo: eliz.joy22)

An excellent piece in Colorlines by Kai Wright, "The Ugly Idea That Killed Eric Garner," focuses on the "broken windows" policing policy - applied in cities across the nation - but most prominently in New York City as a "vaunted" law enforcement policy:

NYPD brass had ordered the 120th precinct to make a priority out of interrupting the sale of untaxed cigarettes, according to a Daily News report just after Garner's death. It was a recurring "quality-of-life" issue, a spokesperson told the paper. Garner had been arrested for violating New Yorkers' quality of life in this way eight times. So Pantaleo and his colleagues were doing their job and doing it well. And when Garner pushed back on their outsized response to his petty crime, they escalated further. After all, that is the oxymoronic premise of broken windows policing: the cops should escalate things in order to keep things under control, and that will keep us all safe.

The contradictions within this idea beg unpleasant questions: Who is us and what is danger? Commissioner Bill Bratton gave some indication of the us and them of New York City crime and safety not long after he took the department's helm. In a March speech at the Waldorf-Astoria, Bratton reassured business leaders that he'd stand firm behind broken windows policing.

"We will be focusing on ensuring that aggressive begging and squeegee pests, all those activities that create fear and destroy neighborhoods, graffiti, all those seemingly minor things that were so much in evidence in the '80s and early '90s here, don't have the chance to come back." He vowed a late-night tour of the subway with criminologist George Kelling, one of the intellectual fathers of broken windows. "George and I are going to go out, kind of like old times for us, riding the rails and getting a sense." But don't worry, he insisted, their Old West posse would treat New York City's terrifying "pests" - also known as poor people - "respectfully" and "compassionately."

This policy is nothing more than - as it was in the Garner case - a license to imprision or kill people of color and poor people in the name of the state, simply because they are "undesirables." Garner is like a broken window in Bratton's analogy. By extension, the policy of law enforcement in NYC and many other cities is to fix the "window" by harassing, arresting, prosecuting and killing people who are annoying to the comfortable lifestyles of those with financial assets.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abillythanksRev. Bill Talen leads a protest at Monsanto world headquarters on Thanksgiving (Photo:Erik McGregor)

Led by the indefatigable minister of anti-consumerism Billy Talen, protesters assembled at the Monsanto world headquarters in St. Louis on Thanksgiving. 

Talen pointed out that Monsanto represents ruinous global domination of agricultural toxic chemicals and products that contribute to global warming. It is a company that symbolizes what people in the US and around the world should not be thankful for, according to a news release by Talen and his Stop Shopping Choir:

Known by millions as the most environmentally destructive corporation on the planet, Monsanto, for nearly two decades, has been controlling political campaigns and affecting the regulatory process of agricultural systems all over the world. In the U.S. alone, more than 90 percent of soybeans and 80 percent of corn are grown with seeds containing Monsanto-patented genetics.

"Monsanto must be stopped," said Reverend Billy, who has been jailed more than 50 times protesting social and environmental injustices. "Monsanto is the devil and what better day than Thanksgiving to remind the world that eating local, organic food is one way to stop this profit-mongering, biodiversity-destroying monopoly."

Industrial agriculture and the entire globalized food system, which is becoming more large-scale and centralized every day, destroys biodiversity, soils and local food systems, and is responsible for accelerating climate change by contributing more than 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The protesters, many dressed as Pilgrims, partook of an organic meal near the Monsanto complex. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

asunshinestFlorida government says no to stimulating solar energy (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

Florida's state slogan - emblazoned on its license plates and welcome signs - may be "The Sunshine State," but the fossil fuel industry just got the state Public Service Commission to eliminate a household solar energy rebate program to stimulate use of the free and abundant energy source.

The sun may be a source of prodigious clean and free power, but even in a state where the sun is often hot enough to cook an egg on the hood of a car, the dinosaur polluting power companies have gotten their way. At stake were rebates to households to install rooftop solar units which would generate free - once constructed - energy that would be sold back to a for-profit utility grid. The fossil fuel giants - in this case including Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric, and Florida Power & Light, according to Clean Technica - lobbied the energy oversight agency in Florida and won a vote on November 25. The Tampa Bay Times writes of the triumph of greed and environmental degradation,

State regulators on Tuesday approved proposals to gut Florida's energy-efficiency goals by more than 90 percent and to terminate solar rebate programs by the end of 2015, giving the investor-owned utilities virtually everything they wanted....

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aburnabyprotestRally against Kinder Morgan oil pipeline on Burnaby Mountain, British Columbia (Photo: Mark Klotz)

As reported on November 19 (via EcoWatch), Native-Americans led the way in bearing witness and protesting a US Senate vote on the Keystone XL pipeline (which fortunately did not pass). However, some of the protesters were arrested for standing up in the Senate visitors' gallery and chanting a native hymn. According to EcoWatch:

One of the protesters was Greg Grey Cloud of the Rosebud Sioux tribe."Grey Cloud, who wore a headdress, continued singing as he was knocked to the floor and pulled to the wall of the hallway," said Red Power Media. "Protesters were handcuffed with plastic zip-ties while standing shoulder to shoulder, facing the wall. They were then paraded down a corridor and one of the protesters began singing again. The group was arrested for 'disrupting Congress.'"

BuzzFlash at Truthout has reported in the past on the courageous and often unheralded and unreported non-violent resistance of Native Americans (in the US and Canada) to the transportation of tar sands oil over their lands and also to pollution of their ancestral territory in general.

Another victory has been won by First Nations' resistance - along with supportive environmental groups and local residents - in Canada. The Council of Canadians/Le Conseil des Canadiens - whose slogan is "Acting for Social Justice/Agir Pour la Justice Sociale" - announced on December 1 that a large protest in British Columbia has temporarily halted a tar sands pipeline that is planned to run from Alberta through British Columbia to Pacific Ports.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amyththanksPuncturing the myth of Thanksgiving (Photo: Mr. Tin DC)

Many progressives face a quandary of mixed emotions on Thanksgiving. Although the day mythologizes a peaceful banquet celebrated by Native Americans and pilgrims together, whatever fellowship there might have been was short lived. The European decimation of the indigenous population was soon to begin, as conquering settlers - primarily from Britain (after all, the Eastern seaboard eventually became an English colony) - claimed land on the basis of "the doctrine of discovery." 

Native Americans were deemed disposable people and were nearly annihilated.

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Thanksgiving then, as a national holiday (if one sets aside its gross commercialization and association with corporate professional and exploitative college football), is a way of “turkey-washing” the theft of the vast expanse of land that became the current United States from the indigenous population that was here first. If property rights are enshrined in US law to the extent that you can kill someone for trespassing, then the deadly violation of the ownership of land by Native Americans was, on the basis of that doctrine, a genocidal crime.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aunlearnracism(Photo: Light Brigading)

The unfolding of daily events – both mundane and sensational - takes place within a larger context of history. Such, of course, is the case with the abominable killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

The fact that Wilson would not be indicted was foreshadowed when Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) did not replace St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch to present the case to the grand jury. McCullough has been accused by critics of being unrelentingly pro-police and evidencing prosecutorial excess against Blacks.

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McCulloch did nothing to allay these concerns in a contemptuous, disdainful statement prior to announcing the grand jury decision not to indict Wilson. The Monday night - curiously prime time – McCulloch's announcement was more of a personal indictment of anyone who has argued on behalf of justice for Michael Brown - and anyone who has condemned police targeting of Black people (particularly males in modern urban plantation communities). It was a blend of derisive rhetoric - beginning, however, with a blatantly insincere expression of condolence to Michael Brown's family - blended together with a laundry list of self-serving legal mumbo jumbo.

The sleight of hand of a prosecutor in the vast majority of grand jury findings is that the grand jury is a completely independent decision-making body, with McCulloch in this case just serving as a "presenter of fact" and witnesses. However, as the saying goes (and as Philip Bump wrote in the Washington Post this morning), "grand juries would return an indictment against a ham sandwich." 

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.

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