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EditorBlog (1313)

Stereotyping groups and thus disregarding the opinions and characteristics of individuals within that group is what leads to wars and genocide. This is what happened in World War II and the Holocaust, what happened in Cambodia and what happened in Rwanda, to name but a few of the horrifying examples of unfathomable human nightmares.

Therefore, it is wrong of those Arabs who stereotype Israeli Jews (there are also Israeli Arabs) as evil - and it is equally detestable that some Israeli and American Jews view all Arabs and Palestinians as killers and murderers who want to destroy the Jewish State.

There certainly are groups of Muslims who are committed to eliminating Israel, but most Muslims go about their daily business - and Israel now has official diplomatic relationships with a number of Muslim and Arab nations, and back channel relationships to many more. In fact, Israel is tacitly seen as a stabilizing influence against Iran by many Arab nations that the US supports.

That is why it is a bit horrifying to see the State Department issue an "alert" to Americans who are now in Greece hoping to ride on a boat - named "The Audacity of Hope" - stocked with nonmilitary humanitarian aid to the civilians of Gaza. The US State Department warned these American citizens, some of them proudly Jews, that they possibly faced death by trying to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza:

The U.S. State Department earlier this week issued a travel warning advising U.S. citizens "against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea."

"Previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and deportation of U.S. citizens," the State Department statement said. "U.S. citizens participating in any effort to reach Gaza by sea should understand that they may face arrest, prosecution, and deportation by the government of Israel."

The role of the US State Department should be to prevent other governments from killing, arresting and prosecuting US citizens for humane acts, not sanctioning their possible deaths.

Furthermore, as noted by three of the ship's passengers from Illinois, their senator, Republican Mark Kirk, is actually encouraging the US to militarily assist Israel in attacks on boats such as The Audacity of Hope, which is sailing under the American flag.

This is a shocking US green light to have another sovereign state attack an American ship, with many Americans aboard (including US military veterans). It is, on a rational level, incomprehensible, like potentially committing an act of terrorism against US citizens by claiming to be preventing terrorism.

And Mark Kirk would have the US Navy participate in a military operation against his own constituents.

The Likud government in Israel could no doubt easily reach an agreement to peacefully board and search ships for arms and then let them be on their way, but that would be too reasonable. The Likud policy is to provide collective punishment to all the citizens of Gaza because of the relatively small minority who are actively fighting Israel.

But for the American State Department, and thus the White House, to be - in essence - condoning a Netanyahu government military attack on The Audacity of Hope and the Americans on board is a lethal precedent and threat to US citizens performing acts of humanity.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

In an era of petitioning our grievances via email, it is hard to remember that people have, in the past, put their lives on the line for justice in America. They changed the course of the US by making history, not by expecting politicians to do it for them.

That is the magnificently inspiring story of the documentary "Freedom Riders" directed by Stanley Nelson. "Freedom Riders" tells a complex political story about a simple goal: desegregating interstate buses and bus stations in the deep South.

Blacks and whites from around the United States signed their last wills and testaments 50 years ago this past May to board segregated Greyhound and Trailway buses through Alabama and Mississippi. All they traveled with was their moral authority, because the federal government wouldn't - for days - protect them from attempts to burn them to death in a bus, brutal beatings, arrests and nearly deadly attacks by mobs.

The Kennedy brothers, both the president and attorney general, didn't want to alienate what was then still the Democratic segregationist South. The Freedom Riders were an annoyance to them, and they worked through Martin Luther King, among others, to try and discourage the "agitators" from "stirring up" the racist white thugs, KKK and hostile police departments.

But the Freedom Riders rode on, greeted by lead pipes and Molotov cocktails. As one group would give up, more would follow, led - at a crucial point - by a young female student from Fisk University who taught the president of the United States and his attorney general the meaning of justice enshrined in our Constitution.

The power of the Freedom Riders came from their conviction and their determination - black and white - to be willing to die for a cause greater than themselves: the equality of all men and women in the United States.

In the end, after horrifying violence and imprisonment that affected around 400 Freedom Rider volunteers from across America, Robert F. Kennedy (on behalf of the president) reluctantly relented and had a regulation implemented that banned segregation on interstate bus lines and in bus station waiting rooms.

Anyone who wants to see how a relatively small group of committed people can force the president of the United States to take a stand on behalf of justice should see this documentary.

You can obtain it with a contribution to Truthout and BuzzFlash at Truthout by clicking here.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

They are leaving a legacy of injustice: Clarence Thomas and David Prosser.

Already on record as having called the chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court a "bitch" who he vowed to "destroy" last year, now Prosser is accused by another female supreme court justice of trying to strangle her with a choke hold. This allegedly occurred - and appears to have been witnessed by several other state supreme court judges - just before the 4-3 ruling that allowed Scott Walker's legally questionable union-busting budget to be implemented.

Sure enough, right-wing bloggers and even Fox's Greta Van Susteren are not condemning Prosser's act of violence - calling it defensive - but are instead demanding that Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson (the justice Prosser called a "bitch") to resign.

The double standard that the right wing holds in terms of sexual behavior, misogyny, unethical financial reporting, conflicts of interest - and just outright criminally violent behavior - is a threat to respect for our legal system.

On the judicial level, the Republicans have been enormously tolerant of partisan judges who engage in conflicts of interest and ethical lapses. Just look at Thomas, who didn't even report large financial payments that benefited him and his wife, as he ruled on cases that involved the sources of the personal funds. And Antonin Scalia doesn't believe he needs to recuse himself because, as a Supreme Court judge, he believes that he is above having a conflict of interest.

The American judicial system has had corrupt and violent judges on the bench before, but never has one party so sanctioned behavior that violates the very notion of judicial standards - not to mention potentially criminal violence and clear misogyny.

It is hard to get US citizens to respect the courts when judges who show such disrespect for ethics and the rule of law sit on state courts and the national Supreme Court - and one political party comes to their defense, while the other party appears too timid to demand accountability.

It's white, Christian America's race against what they see as a demographic time bomb.

That is why this Associated Press (AP) headline strikes an anxious fear in so many US citizens who believe in white "American Exceptionalism": "Census Shows Whites Lose US Majority Among Babies."

BuzzFlash at Truthout has commented about this trend before and why it is part of the frenetic offensive against democracy that we see taking place, including an onslaught of state efforts to restrict voting in a way that will disproportionately disenfranchise the elderly, the disabled, the poor, minorities and students.

Many BuzzFlash critics have emailed us about this subject over the years. Most often, their contention is that America is a republic not a democracy. Although this has some implications in the argument over states' rights versus the federal government, it usually is offered in the context of asserting that only certain Americans should elect the government.

"Certain Americans" in this context, we infer, means white, Christian voters with a relatively good income.

That is why the Republicans are trying to offload government programs and power into the hands of "white wealth" as quickly as possible. Otherwise, they will face the power shift implied in the opening of the AP article:

For the first time, more than half of the children under age 2 in the U.S. are minorities, part of a sweeping race change and a growing age divide between mostly white, older Americans and fast-growing younger ethnic populations that could reshape government policies.

... Demographers say the numbers provide the clearest confirmation yet of a changing social order, one in which racial and ethnic minorities will become the U.S. majority by midcentury.

For the hardcore older, white, Christian Republican, democracy that is inclusive of all Americans must be dismantled as quickly as possible, both politically and economically.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Has the South won the Civil War nearly 150 years after its conclusion?

BuzzFlash doesn't ask that question in a technical sense. Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union forces at the Appomattox Court House in 1865.

But culturally and politically, in 2011, the Union of the United States more and more is reflecting the values of the Confederacy, minus the institution of slavery, of course.

Increasingly, states' rights are superseding the federal government, and many of the states are tilting toward the oligarchs (corporations and the rich). But, of course, even the federal government is siding with supporting the plutocracy and enacting policies that result in low-wage labor. Just replace the lack of accountability of corporations and Wall Street with the free hand of plantation owners.

Not that the South believed much in a centralized government that provided a safety net. The poor were poor; the sick were sick; and the wealthy were wealthy; that was the natural order of things.

The South wasn't just built on slavery, as BuzzFlash has pointed out before. Most whites were poor and worked as sharecroppers, indentured servants or plantation hands. Much of their belief in white supremacy came from the feeling that, although the majority of whites were economically poor, they were "superior" to black slaves. But the economy, overall, was built on cheap labor as compared to economic ingenuity and innovation.

Baptist Christianity was central to the South, a deeply religious section of the country. The authoritarian paternalistic hierarchy of the Confederacy was considered sanctioned by divine decree. Plantation owners and their extended "work forces" would be right at home with "creationism," because things didn't evolve in the South. The ultimate value was on preserving "the Southern way of life," not evolving. Progress was, thus, a threat.

If you see some common themes to the modern Republican Party and the conventional wisdom found in the corporate press, it began most recently with the development of the Nixon "Southern strategy" - and the merging of Southern "values" with a corporatist agenda, perfected in the Reagan presidency.

How would one expect the Southern agenda to value labor, when in the South labor was cheap or, in the form of slavery, literally free (except for the initial "cost" to buy a slave)?

So, in 2011, we find ourselves at a point when the Confederacy has risen from the ashes to dominate public policy and economic inertia.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Robert Reich, an economist and the former Clinton administration secretary of labor, has been unrelentingly advocating for financial policies that benefit the middle class - and that work to restore the vitality of the American economy.

That is why his latest book, "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future," is the Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week.

Reich believes that the current American economy is structurally flawed to increase profits for corporations and the assets of the wealthy without necessarily improving the job outlooks for most Americans. He brilliantly explains our financial plight in a two-minute video you can watch by clicking here.

As a result - which even some corporations now realize - there is increasingly reduced consumer demand for products, thus further decreasing the need for additional jobs (not to mention that many of the products are manufactured overseas, so it would take an enormous increase in purchasing dollars to stimulate blue-collar jobs in the US). This has been known as neglect of the "demand" side of the economy, and the demand side is fueled by a strong middle class with decent paying jobs.

Any Truthout or BuzzFlash at Truthout reader concerned about the future of our economy - which has been redistributing wealth upward for decades - should read "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future." It is available with a contribution that supports the vital independent journalism of Truthout.

You can read an excerpt from the book on Truthout here.

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Maybe Michele Bachmann's historical inaccuracies are insignificant to her because such minor facts pale in the shadow of her divine mission.

After all, Bachmann graduated from Oral Roberts Law School, which eventually closed and transferred its library to Pat Robertson's Regent Law School. The Regent Law School Review provides an insight into Bachmann's view on law - and history: "Regent University Law Review seeks to present academically excellent scholarship on relevant issues facing the legal community today from the perspective of a historic Christian worldview. It is committed to a jurisprudence based upon a Higher Law; that is, law based upon the Law of God."

That is why Bachmann, Palin, and others seem to make whatever they want of the Constitution, our legal system and legal precedent. The foundation for the US rule of law in their minds is secondary to whatever might be their interpretation of a "higher law."

Of course, that puts Bachmann in pretty divinely inspired company. According to the Regent Law Review, "Past contributors include United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, Judge Edith H. Jones, Attorney General Edwin Meese III, Robert P. George, George Allen, Charles W. Colson, Charles E. Rice, Phillip E. Johnson, David Barton, Nancy R. Pearcey, and James Bopp."

Proclaiming that God is guiding a person's destiny allows one to feel indifferent to factual accuracy.

According to Christian extremists such as Bachmann, the Good Lord can't be bothered with facts. "He's" too busy putting the final touches on Armageddon and making sure that no gays accidentally get into heaven.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

When Chris Wallace of Fox interviewed Jon Stewart over the weekend, he thought he was scoring a point when he bragged that Fox "news" viewers love the network. Stewart, always quick on the draw, responded that although this may be true, study after study shows that Fox viewers are the most misinformed on television.

BuzzFlash at Truthout encounters this constantly in comments and emails that we receive in response to the BuzzFlash blog columns. Fox viewers often base their statements on Fox "manufactured facts" that are simply not true.

One of these points is that big government is strangling small businesses, which are the backbone of the American economy. But the reality is that large corporations, particularly American-based global corporations, are slowly killing many small businesses, as we have noted before.

Think of small businesses that used to be in abundance: for example, hardware stores, pharmacies, appliance stores and shoe stores, among others.

Now, we have all these small businesses forced into closure by national and international corporations. The inherent goal of corporations is to eliminate the competition, and large companies have done just that by shuttering many small businesses through massive buying power, branding, predatory pricing and marketing.

In turn, these corporations accumulate large amounts of capital and profits, which are then used to yield political power in DC and state capitols, and to expand so that the middle class of ex-small business owners are forced to become low-wage workers at chain stores.

As the Portland Business Journal reports,

"Corporate profits may be at a record high, but businesses on Main Street are still scraping by," said NFIB [National Federation of Independent Business] Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. "Washington is throwing misdirected policies at the problem, offering tax breaks for hiring and equipment investment, but acting surprised when they don't bear any fruit."

So, the Fox viewers watch and listen to propaganda that the federal government is killing small businesses, when it is policies that benefit large corporations that are facilitating the decline of family-run operations.

The Fox fan who excoriates liberals for alleged anti-small business policies no doubt gets his/her hardware supplies from Home Depot, prescriptions from CVS, and appliances and computers from Best Buy, for example.

It makes you wonder how much cognitive dissonance one person can keep inside his/her head before it explodes from the factual contradictions.

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The other day, BuzzFlash at Truthout wrote a commentary entitled, "The Republicans Want a More Ignorant Population, So They Are Cutting Educational Funds for College and Pre-College."

Among the comments on Facebook was an insightful one from a reader named Mario:

This is really an assault on the working class. A good education is the first step towards upward social mobility. An ignorant populace (the Republican dream) is one that is easier to control and convince.

This will leave the road open for the upper classes - and their well-educated children - to place a stranglehold on labor laws and civil liberties in America. If Republicans are successful, we had better prepare our children for the sweatshops, because that is where Wall Street is taking us back to.

One can argue that it is an exaggerated fear to think that American labor would revert to sweatshops, but such a scenario is possible. Many Republicans on Capitol Hill are opposed to the minimum wage and would like to do away with it. Without a legally mandated base - and barely livable - salary, many manufacturers would revert to the lowest possible compensation that would attract employees in the US. Given the severity of the ongoing economic situation, that hourly wage could then indeed drop dramatically to a sweatshop scale.

Furthermore, by decreasing the affordability of public colleges and universities, Republican legislators are creating a cul-de-sac of limited opportunity for most poor, middle- and working-class Americans.

Mario is correct. The Republican war on education is part of an overall strategy to limit the upward social and economic mobility of Americans who are not already wealthy.

While other nations, such as India and China, are broadening educational opportunities for their citizens and developing economies and a labor force for the future, the Republican Party and global corporations based in America are attempting to move the US economy backward.

This will result in a caste system that will create not a "free market," but a relatively closed one. Wealth and economic well-being then become not a result of ingenuity, education and entrepreneurialism, but rather of family inheritance.

This is also called a fossilized economy.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

No one's ever mistaken Prince Charles for the sharpest tool in the shed, but even he understands that man-made global warming is a reality.

In fact, he just recently chastised climate deniers and told Australian businessmen and women to get serious about saving the planet.

To quote the heir to the British throne,

"All the evidence shows that we are living in an increasingly unstable world," Prince Charles told industry figures gathered in Canberra.

"And yet we continue to test it to destruction and to allow the deniers of human-induced climate change to prevent vital action being taken."

However, in the US, the corporate media has accepted the "false equivalency" of airing business and right-wing, think-tank-backed scientists as counterpoints to the settled fact of the planet's deterioration due to unregulated industrial destruction.

The Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week, "Merchants of Doubt," provides an engrossing analysis of how "free market" ideological think tanks, wealthy individuals and Republican politicians in general strategically created a "false science" to insinuate into a mass media that won't take positions on proven facts.

Scientists were found who were willing - induced by either large sums of money or personal ideology - to serve as spokespersons to shoot down firm evidence against toxins like DDT, the danger of nuclear power plants, and - of course - climate change. In fact, Media Matters recently released a study showing that climate deniers dominate television news coverage of whether or not the Environmental Protection Agency should play an aggressive role in regulating industrial activity that leads to global warming.

"Merchants of Doubt" offers a fascinating insight into how we have arrived at this age when the media peddles pseudo-science. It is not an accident.

Our planet is at stake. Read the book.

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