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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

There is no escaping the salacious Anthony Weiner Internet scandal. Since the mainstream corporate media - for the most part - merged politics, news, entertainment, celebrity personalities and sensationalism, it's been almost impossible to have an informed national discussion on public policy.

One Weiner "confessional" news conference is worth more in advertising revenue than a year of covering our wars that have spanned a decade.

A sizeable percentage of Americans are out of work and without a safety net, Medicare and Social Security are under siege, wars are being fought that receive only sporadic coverage and the disparity in income in America is at its widest point in memory. Yet, these and other pressing issues play a distant second fiddle to a Congressman engaged in sexual titillation over the web and on the phone - however creepy and inappropriate that may be.

The Weiner affair is just the latest example of what Chris Hedges calls "spectacle" coverage superseding the dissemination of news that informs and enlightens.

Weiner - as he noted in his news conference on June 6 - will have to answer to his wife, his constituents and Congress.

The news media that is increasingly evolving into a combination of the National Enquirer, People magazine and "American Idol" has to answer to history, as America descends into a tabloid future in which only the very rich will control the mass media "news" prism.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had an excellent helicopter adventure on the taxpayer's dime, until he reluctantly forked over the expense of the flight to his son's baseball game.

As it turns out, Christie used the state helicopter for other personal trips, and news organizations are still trying to figure out just how much New Jersey residents paid for the governor's non-state related flying.

Christie, known as an outsize figure who isn't timid about profane attacks on his opponents, called a New Jersey state assemblywoman a "jerk" for criticizing the pro-austerity governor's use of the state helicopter:

Christie lashed out at Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle after she joined the chorus criticizing him for using state police choppers to get to his son's high school baseball games.

What really got under Christie's skin was when Vainieri Huttle pointed out that he left during the fifth inning to meet with Iowa businessmen trying to get him to run for President.

"She should really be embarrassed at what a jerk she is," Christie said shortly after he caved to public pressure and agreed to reimburse the state for the chopper rides.

Interestingly, some Republicans are trying to create a Christie for president boomlet.

You've got to wonder how a governor cutting back on those in dire need in his state can be so flippant about indulging himself with personal helicopter rides at the expense of state residents.

When will all these pro-austerity government officials start cutting back on their perks?

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vermont) is a long-time reader and fan of BuzzFlash.  On  June 3, his press secretary sent us the following commentary to post on BuzzFlash at Truthout. For years, Thom Hartmann, also a BuzzFlash friend, has been hosting Bernie Sanders in a Friday morning radio segment, "Brunch with Bernie." Sanders incisively states the case for a budget that benefits all Americans, but is generally ignored by the corporate mainstream media while it crowned the radical Paul Ryan as someone presenting a "bold, courgaeous" budget.

Why is the voice of Bernie Sanders not given at least equal due in the mass media?

"Instead of ending Medicare as we know it and making savage cuts to community health centers and children's health care programs, we must ask the top 2 percent of income earners, who currently pay the lowest upper-income tax rate on record, to start paying their fair share of taxes."

That is a seemingly reasonable statement by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, in a commentary his office submitted to BuzzFlash at Truthout.

Yet, while Sanders is getting a bit more time on cable television to make his case for a budget that recognizes the need for upper-crust tax revenue increases and a reduction in the military budget, he is hardly a regular guest on national Sunday morning political talk shows. It is from these programs that much of the political punditry framework, known as "conventional wisdom," is set for public policy debates.

The corporate mainstream media generally "balances" the Ayn Rand extremism of Paul Ryan, for example, with a so-called "centrist" Democrat.

Sanders has proven himself a powerful voice for an alternative frame to look at America's budget, one that supports the services Americans want, while reducing the deficit by rolling back tax cuts for the wealthy and reining in the military-industrial complex.

In that context, Sanders is straightforward in asserting that enriching the wealthy and corporations through lower taxes is a major contributor to the high deficit:

Amazingly, while the Republican budget writers waged a vicious and unprecedented attack on the needs of working families, they do not ask the wealthiest people in this country, whose tax rates are now the lowest on record, to contribute one dime more for deficit reduction. Nor do they propose to do away with any of the loopholes that enable extremely profitable corporations (like General Electric, Bank of America, Exxon-Mobil, Chevron and many more) to pay little or no federal income taxes. Quite the contrary! The Republican budget actually provides $1 trillion more in tax breaks over the next 10 years for the very rich.

Could it be that the corporate mainstream media generally shies away from Sanders because he threatens the gluttonous incomes of the corporations and people who own most of the mass press in America?

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BuzzFlash at Truthout has posted a lot of commentary over the years about the Republican Party's war on democracy.

It's not an exaggeration, either. All of the current efforts to reduce the number of people who vote are aimed at disenfranchising Americans who are less wealthy, less mobile, less knowledgeable about voting requirements - and, of course - the young, particularly on college campuses.

The Republicans generally believe that we are not a democracy in which everyone has a right to vote: Voting is the ultimate entitlement belonging to those who believe that this is a white, Christian nation run by people of means.

In recent coverage of Republican statewide initiatives to expand voter identification requirements, other new voter suppression strategies are being overlooked by the mainstream media. These include longer residency requirements to keep students from being able to vote on their campuses and reducing - that's right, reducing - the period for advance voting.

One of the six Republican state senators up for recall in Wisconsin adds a new wrinkle to the GOP's dim view of democracy. He wants all the public workers in his district to sleep through the election: "We've got tons of government workers in my district - tons," said GOP state Sen. Dan Kapanke. "From La Crosse to Prairie du Chien and to Viroqua and to Ontario and to Hillsboro, you can go on and on and on. We have to overcome that. We gotta hope that they, kind of, are sleeping on July 12th - or whenever the (election) date is."

BuzzFlash at Truthout imagines that Senator Kapanke was being sarcastic, but if I were a government employee in his district, I wouldn't accept any sample sleeping pills the night before the election.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Here's the conundrum: polls show Americans favor reducing the deficit, but also show that they don't want cuts in services or most safety net programs, including, of course, Medicare - and even Medicaid.

This paradox is, in large part, due to the successful billionaire-funded "message framing" drive about deficit reduction being essential to a sound economy, even though large corporations - which help to fund that message - most often begin with massive amounts of loans in the form of large debt.

One reader sent a commentary to Truthout the other day advocating that our political discussion should be about service cuts, not deficit reduction. Then, Americans will have to choose which services to cut, or force the politicians in DC to look to revenue enhancement strategies, such as raising taxes on the very wealthy. Accompanying this approach, as now seems part of the equation in deciding whether to wind down the war in Afghanistan, is a reduction in the US military and war budget.

By all means, let the national media and political conversation shift from deficit reduction to what services would be cut in a plan like Paul Ryan's.

The first test of that has been the implication of deficit reduction on Medicare - and the polls show that Ryan and his supporters are getting clobbered on that service cut.

Let the discussion begin. What services do you want cut?

That's the question that needs to be asked.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The Main Streets of America represented in the fantasy world of Disneyland have long since become nearly dormant as US consumer commerce moved to malls and big-box stores.

The Republicans and Democrats love to talk about how small businesses are the backbone of America, even as a majority of the DC politicians take their marching orders and campaign contributions from global corporations that shut them down.

As BuzzFlash at Truthout pointed out yesterday, you can't recreate a dynamic economy when your game plan is simply mouthing jingoistic economic cliches from the past.

Perhaps it stretches an analogy to say that the battle between evolution and creationism also represents the two major divergent views of our economy. The latter implies a status quo of greatness that just needs a cross wrapped in a few flags - to paraphrase a deceased prescient thinker - to revive the American empire and standard of living. Evolution, on the other hand, promotes a view that, as times change, our vast pool of ingenuity and innovation must advance to compete and create jobs.

A fundamentalist Christian may feel reassured that, at the Creation Museum, in Kentucky, a dinosaur wears a saddle to show that all life began simultaneously with a divine spark.

But neither the dinosaur nor the saddle are going to ride America into a promising future that understands and rises to the challenge of this critical moment in history.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

On Memorial Day we remember those who gave their lives in battle for the survival of this nation. In doing so, we implicitly honor their sacrifice for upholding the "values" of this nation.

That certainly must have been a heartfelt feeling coming out of World War II, but in recent years while we can sincerely honor our men and women fallen in our nation's wars, it has become increasingly harder to honor those wars themselves.

This bittersweet feeling of seeing a volunteer army - many of whose members join because of lack of other job opportunities - fight largely for the maintenance of empire and the geo-political control of fossil fuels makes it increasingly harder to justify the deaths and horrible injuries of our GIs.

America, it can be argued, is a fighting a losing long-term battle to secure natural resources that are the energy of the past, not the future.

In an insightful and sobering Memorial Day column, E.J. Dionne argues that the rest of the world is leaving the US in the dust in coping with new challenges because "Our imagination deficit is the shortfall we should worry about." Dionne, notes (as just a few examples),

You might recall an observant politician who noted this year that "South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation's infrastructure, they gave us a 'D.'"

We can best honor those who have died in our armed forces by tapping into daring dreams, critical thinking and the technological savvy of the American spirit. Otherwise, the best years of this nation will continue to recede behind us.

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In one state now, it is official: health care is "a right and not a privilege."

Vermont has broken through the barrier set up by those opposed to cost-efficient, single-payer systems and, now, has a law that commits the state to providing health care to all its residents.

According to ThinkProgress, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the legislation today.

Of course, it won't happen immediately - and the state still must receive a waiver from the national health legislation passed last year - but unless the Republicans assume control of both houses of Congress and the White House in the next couple of years, Vermont will eventually provide a model of how "Medicare for all" works.

Once that happens, there will be no turning back. The Republicans will be unable to argue against a system that works and cuts the profits out that the privatized health insurance companies add to the cost of health care.

And the safety and security all Vermont residents will receive in knowing that they will no longer be at risk of losing their employee or private health insurance - or not be able to afford it - will become an attractive option to most Americans.

Vermont may be one of the smaller states in the US, but it has just taken one giant leap for the entire nation.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Apparently, Scott Walker doesn't care much about stopping granny or grandpa from being abused in nursing homes.

BuzzFlash at Truthout is not kidding.

Walker recently signed the euphemistically named, "The Wisconsin Omnibus Tort Reform Act." Provisions in the law would prohibit lawyers from using state investigations of abuse in legal cases. According to Lu Dubose of the Washington Spectator, Walker is also protecting nursing homes from being criminally charged:

Incident reports have also been placed beyond the reach of the Wisconsin Department of Justice, which conducts criminal investigations and prosecutions of nursing homes and assisted living centers.

"This is payback time," Bremer Muggli said. "The governor is settling the score with trial lawyers who didn't support him. And he's taking care of his donors, the for-profit nursing home operators, especially the big ones like Kindred." (Kindred Healthcare is a Fortune 500 company that operates almost 700 health-care facilities across the United States.)

We've heard much talk from the Republicans about death panels, but just a short time ago, Eric Cantor admitted that the Paul Ryan plan for Medicare would lead to health care rationing for seniors.

Now, Scott Walker is giving nursing homes a "get out of jail and court free card" for abusing granny and grandpa.

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Those Truthout/BuzzFlash readers who have seen Bill Moyers on PBS, read his books or seen him speak, know that he is an extraordinary figure in modern journalism. He is a wordsmith who delivers a stem-winder of a speech, for instance, not through emotional histrionics, but through profound conviction and a compelling narrative.

Moyers understands the texture, richness and great possibility of the American experience, and recognizes the dangers of those who would smother democracy out of self-interest.

Now you have a chance to support the vitally important journalism of Truthout and BuzzFlash and read the latest Moyers' book: "Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues." This book is yours with a minimum one-time donation of $35, or a monthly commitment of $10 or more to Truthout. Just click here to order and contribute. It is co-edited and with a co-written introduction by Michael Winship, a writer regularly appearing on Truthout.

In this retrospective look at his recent PBS show, Moyers has written brand-new introductions to interviews with nearly 50 fascinating guests. In a starred review, Booklist writes glowingly: "Each interview is preceded by background on the interview subject and the context of the conversation. In the style for which he's known, Moyers probes with respect, intelligence, curiosity, humor and graciousness."

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