MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
With all the national discussion of improving education, it's always a bit ironic to see how many school districts fail to educate by example.
Take the program that is being implemented in the Northside Independent School District (NISD) in San Antonio, Texas. Students are being required to wear Radio Frequency Identity Chip (RFID) badges so that their locations can be tracked.
According to the BBC, this is allegedly being done to gain a more accurate attendance record:
John Jay High School is one of two schools piloting the program, which eventually aims to equip all student badges across the district's 112 schools with radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips.
The badges reveal each student's location on their campus, giving the district more precise information on attendance.
The daily average of the attendance is related to how much funding each school receives.
However, in an age of an increasing encroachment on our privacy, this appears to be a solution right out of a gulag instead of a democracy that values individual rights.
(Photo: Paradox 56)
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Blowback from the Wall St. Bull
BuzzFlash at Truthout practices journalism, not law, so it would be hard put for us to state categorically that A.I.G. and Goldman Sachs executives should have been found guilty of anything in the Wall Street collapse that cracked the back of the US economy. In any case, that's what investigations and trials are supposed to sort out.
But since the economic meltdown, it is clear that there was plenty of smoke, while the Department of Justice (DOJ) didn't want to hold anyone criminally accountable for the fire. So the DOJ, along with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), assessed a lot of large fines to Wall Street firms at the epicenter of the financial implosion, but clearly weren't interested in serious criminal investigation or prosecution.
What happens when the government gives a get out of jail free pass to executives who run financial entities "too big to fail"? The US taxpayers get the blowback.
The stockholders of A.I.G. -- the company which most came to symbolize egregious arrogance and double standards of banks and hedge funds ("no government financial regulation, but the taxpayers should bail us out when we gamble and lose") -- are in the process of suing the federal government. Furthermore, A.I.G. as a corporate entity is considering joining the shareholder lawsuit whose goal is basically to reclaim profit that the agreed upon taxpayer bailout generated for the US treasury.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Truthout's lead investigative reporter Jason Leopold has broken and covered a large number of stories internationally on the United States torture program (euphemistically called the "enhanced interrogation program" by the government), including the legal pursuit and impending jailing of former CIA agent John Kiriakou.
Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake has an update on the case (including a photo of Leopold interviewing Kiriakou). It's a rather complicated matter with a lot of nuance, but it would be difficult disagree with Gosztola's headline, "The Only CIA Officer Scheduled to Go to Jail Over Torture Never Tortured Anybody."
Gosztola deplores the double standard of the Obama administration's (and before that the Bush administration's) "code of silence":
Scooter Libby gets to move forward and continue to enjoy the fact that he is not in jail for his involvement in leaking Valerie Plame’s name because his sentence was commuted by President George W. Bush. Dick Cheney gets to move forward with the publication of a “memoir” about his heart (the organ and not what makes us capable of discerning right from wrong). Those who authorized and engaged in torture get to continue their upward trajectory on whatever career path in government they have chosen and retire handsomely. And, if you’re Jose Rodriguez, the former head of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, you can keep promoting your book while ensuring the public ignores how you had a role in the destruction of tapes of torture and harsh interrogations and still support waterboarding detainees—a war crime.
Kiriakou, on the other hand, must stop his life. It is not enough that the government already ruined his life with their prosecution. The Obama administration has decided he must walk away from his home and family and go to prison.
Jason Leopold, Truthout's Lead Investigative Reporter, Interviewed John Kiriakou
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Working Class Gets Pushed Off Cliff
In "The Financial War Against the Economy at Large" on Truthout, Michael Hudson of "Naked Capitalism" argues that debt has become the new tool of the oligarchy to turn workers into virtual indentured servants, or would that be indebted servants?
The tactic is to load economies (governments, companies and families) with debt, siphon off their income as debt service and then foreclose when debtors lack the means to pay. Indebting government gives creditors a lever to pry away land, public infrastructure and other property in the public domain. Indebting companies enables creditors to seize employee pension savings. And indebting labor means that it no longer is necessary to hire strikebreakers to attack union organizers and strikers.
Workers have become so deeply indebted on their home mortgages, credit cards and other bank debt that they fear to strike or even to complain about working conditions. Losing work means missing payments on their monthly bills, enabling banks to jack up interest rates to levels that used to be deemed usurious. So debt peonage and unemployment loom on top of the wage slavery that was the main focus of class warfare a century ago. And to cap matters, credit-card bank lobbyists have rewritten the bankruptcy laws to curtail debtor rights, and the referees appointed to adjudicate disputes brought by debtors and consumers are subject to veto from the banks and businesses that are mainly responsible for inflicting injury.
Mike Royko, the deceased legendary Chicago humorist of the working class, once said "If work is so wonderful, why do you have to pay people to do it?" Or nowadays, that might be updated to mean "If work is so meaningful, why are working people paid so little that they must go into debt?"
The argument on behalf of certainly meaningful but relatively small tax cuts for the so-called middle class family earning $100,000 is to a great degree a farce. This is largely due to the end of the Payroll Tax Holiday. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, "a worker who grosses $50,000 a year will take home $1,000 less," as a result. Welcome to what is largely a charade of a tax cut for the true middle class.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Tom DeLay's Actual Mugshot
Whenever you get despairing that a minority of the nation and media has been on an accelerating free-fall into Dante's Inferno – dragging the rest of us through the flames -- remember that even the mightiest of the evil doers can be brought to justice.
You can't get anymore joyful than hearing that Tom DeLay, a firm believer in the health benefits of Dioxin and last seen publicly shimmying his booty in satin bolero pants on "Dancing with the Stars," has just been sentenced to three years in prison. As The Huffington Post reports:
Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, once considered among the nation's most powerful and feared lawmakers, was sentenced to three years in prison Monday for a scheme to influence elections that already cost him his job, leadership post and millions of dollars in legal fees.
The sentence comes after a jury in November convicted DeLay, a Houston-area Republican, on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering for using a political action committee to illegally send corporate donations to Texas House candidates in 2002.
DeLay will remain a free man, pending appeal. But he was already been seen exchanging likely prison survival tips with the infamous Jack Abramoff on December 12 in DC, as reported by The Washington Post:
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT The NRA'S Wayne LaPierre, King of the Gun Cult
An Australian, Nick Adams, who is a gun fanatic sans gun in his home country, claims:
Nothing, Ladies and Gentlemen, nothing-is more emblematic of the exceptionalism of America than the Second Amendment. Without the second Amendment, there are no other Amendments: the rest of the Constitution is a recommendation. It defines what America is about. It speaks to the character of America and to the mentality and philosophy of the American. It reflects why America came into being and the success of its human experiment. Civilian disarmament is based on the assumption that people are irresponsible (unless they work for the government). America was founded on the opposite premise.
Just as there is no greater moral imperative than keeping America strong, there is no greater moral imperative than supporting and advocating the Constitutional right to bear arms.
You take away the guns of America, you take away America.
Let’s set the record straight here.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The legislation that just was passed by the House last night has as much to do with the US facing a "fiscal cliff" as a train careening off a non-existent mountain in the flat earth state of Oklahoma.
We have a president who was elected twice on a vow to keep expiring tax cuts for those earning less than $250,000. The United States Senate passed a bill awhile back to maintain the "middle class" cuts , after the so-called "grand scheme" failed and the clean, straight forward $250,000 bill should have been the one voted upon by the House.
Of course, John Boehner didn't bring it to a vote. He could have lost his Speakership post to the lean and cunning Eric Cantor in the GOP caucus vote on Thursday as the new Congress resumes, given the ship he sails is full of brigands from the enclaves of America's paranoid and master's of selfish delusion.
In the end, Obama got bragging rights that some taxes on a small percentage of the wealthy are going up. But those who are middle class clock punchers will see their take home pay go down because the holiday on the payroll tax reduction (Medicare and Social Security payments) has expired and is not being renewed.
Sure there are lots of other good progressive things regarding the Alternative Minimum Tax, extension of unemployment benefits and so on.
Yet, there is the nagging reality that before President Obama is even sworn in for a second term, he is once again the guy who is one of the best campaigners of all time, while being one of the worst negotiators.
Take the two-month agreement that accompanies this legislation. Come the end of winter, DC will return to a GOP renewal campaign on behalf of "austerity" and gutting Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, healthcare for veterans and whatever program that benefits the public good that they can, all based on the unspoken premise that the United States ran up a high credit card bill due primarily to these very tax cuts instituted by George W. Bush and two unfunded wars -- after he inherited a balanced budget from Bill Clinton – and then crashed the economy.
This is what the GOP bequeathed to Obama, and then blamed him for the mess that they made.
(Photo: Intel Photos)
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT A teacher in every gun store? (Photo: Paljoakim)
Wayne LaPierre is the number one example of why there is no such thing as a "good gun owner," only over-the-top zealots who appear overdosed on out of date anti-psychotics. One of the great ironic paranoid fixations of the FOX cult is that they are victims: victims of the government, victims of minorities, victims of Hollywood, victims of transmissions from Mars for that matter.
Of course, it's all some fantastic Gothic psychosis. After all, what is the federal or local government telling any of these wingers to do? What is so oppressing them? Tell us about it, but we want a psychiatrist and an armed teacher on hand just in case one of the LaPierre "good guy" nut jobs goes whacko and with an AK-47.
I remember many years ago one particular incident that occurred when traveling the circuit debating on gun control. An incident that occurred appears in retrospect to be emblematic of the "good guys" that we are up against. After the discussion was held before a couple of hundred people (most of whom booed me before I uttered a word) a guy came up and asked me to "take back" my statement that almost any person with a gun has threshold moments when they are capable of using the firearm to harm innocent people in moments of rage. This is particularly true in the United States where many gun owners – particularly the LaPierre acolytes -- see themselves as victims and harbor deep resentment and often a thirst for vengeance toward anyone not in their cult.
Not one to be intimidated, I repeated my statement. At that point the "good gun owner" became unhinged, flung himself forward and began to try and strangle me as he yelled, "You are saying that I am insane." Another guy with him (in a red flannel shirt, I swear) pulled him back and protectively advised him to "ease up," as I kept the "good guy's" hands from throttling me. In a few moments it was over, and the friend hustled the "responsible" gun owner out of the room.
I bring this up not just because this has been a week of writing commentaries on the gun lobby, gun culture, and gun control (which I invested 25 yours of mostly volunteer time in as a national leader), but because whatever gun control we pass needs to be accompanied by a change in America's gun culture – which is fueled by an infected pustule of self-reinforcing corrosive claptrap.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT The NRA is a religious institution for gun worshippers
You might think that the National Rifle Association (NRA) is the most extreme gun advocacy group in the nation. After all, the NRA is behind the infamous "shoot first" license to murder laws in many states. They have successfully lobbied for the right to carry guns into bars, churches and hospitals – well let's just say anywhere – in a number of legislatures. They defeated an extension of the assault weapons ban and support the continued sale of military sniper rifles that could be used to take down a plane when landing or taking off.
Today, the NRA shooter-in-chief, Wayne LaPierre, indignantly brushed aside calls for more gun control. As reported on NBC online:
LaPierre, who was interrupted by Code Pink protesters twice during a statement (during which he refused to answer questions), said that the students in Newtown might have been better protected had officials at Sandy Hook Elementary been armed. He said that putting a police officer in every single school in America might make schools safer.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," he said, asking Congress to immediately appropriate the money to put a police officer in every single school in the country.
The NRA executive's statement was nothing short of defiant in the face of mounting discussion of the need for tighter restrictions on guns — including renewing a ban on assault weapons — in the wake of last week's shooting.
The NRA has even held up an international treaty to stem the flow and profiteering from small arms traffic to war lords and rogue regimes, falsely claiming that it would lead to gun confiscation in the United States. According to The New York Times, "The treaty’s backers say it will stem the flow of arms to abusive regimes and warlords in conflict zones and reduce the level of violence in a world where one person dies every minute as a result of armed violence."
(Photo: Chris Waldeck)
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Clint Eastwood berating an empty chair
There was Clint Eastwood pulling the last plug on a sinking Mitt Romney Republican convention. There's no easier debate opponent to knock down than fatuously chastising an empty seat. Of course, when the chair gets the best of you, it might be time to hang up your spurs.
Eastwood is the iconic image to many gun owners as the man who can "make your day" with the wide barrel of a .357 Magnum cocked to your head.
Of course, that's the movies – and the .357 Magnum is now surpassed in lethality by semi-automatic handguns and assault rifles to name a few, as the gun industry ramps up its high-tech appeal to gun fetishists. But it's still a powerful symbol to the John Wayne cult of virility, the guys who comprise the firearm defense league against the hordes of non-white, non-male aliens psychologically threatening their maleness.
Nate Silver analyzed figures the other day in the New York Times and discovered that more Republicans than Democrats own guns – and the gap is increasing:
Gun ownership has declined over the past 40 years — but almost all of the decrease has come from Democrats. By 2010, according to the General Social Survey, the gun ownership rate among adults that identified as Democrats had fallen to 22 percent. It remained at about 50 percent among Republican adults.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Playgrounds Not Burial Grounds
In a former life, I worked at a physical medicine and rehabilitation hospital in Chicago, Schwab, as executive vice president. In that capacity, among other responsibilities was my overseeing public affairs, government affairs and advocacy. Professionals who specialize in rehabilitation care are most often optimistic, caring people who take great pleasure in the small progress patients make after strokes, head trauma, and spinal injuries.
Even when so many children and teenagers came through the hospital with devastating injuries for care after being shot, the rehab staff looked at the possibilities for regaining and adapting to a new physical condition. Life wasn't going to stop for a disability.
But for me, a non-medical professional, seeing the young people in wheelchairs, the teens with head wounds, the former athletes on crutches would hit me in the gut. It was the inexplicable malicious underside of the American dream; its flip side was the American nightmare.
Because of a gutsy CEO who was a former rehabilitation nurse, Schwab became a leader in the late '80s and early '90s on behalf of reducing gun violence. The hospital was involved in everything from doing two events with President Bill Clinton to getting hospitals to adopt gun control as part of their mission. Elected officials and community leaders regularly held news conferences at the hospital – and even a couple in the Cook County morgue.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT The killing grounds of America
In front of me on my desk is a March 19, 1992, copy of Newsweek. The cover photograph shows a student who had been shot being rushed to emergency care underneath the headline, "Kids and Guns: A Report From America's Classroom Killing Grounds."
It quotes me, since I was a leader in the national movement to reduce gun violence for more than 20 years, and was often sought out for comments on the latest mass kilings or daily shootings. This is my quotation:
"The school setting is almost impossible to police without tyrannical dictatorship," says Mark Karlin, President of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. "At what point do we create such a hostile environment that these are no longer schools?" The schools, Karlin says, "are in an impossible situation…we expect them to do what the rest of us cannot."
That was more than 20 years ago, but nothing really has changed, including the cycle of mass murders and the routine garden variety killings at home, in the workplace, in bars…at just about any setting in America. In those 20 years, more United States citizens have been killed with guns to the point that the death toll on 9/11 looks like a footnote in the annals of murder.
There was an assault weapons ban for 10 years, but the NRA made sure that it was phased out during the Bush administration. The shooter in Newtown used a Bushmaster semi-automatic assault rifle, a favorite among mass killers (including the DC sniper and narcos in Mexico).
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT HSBC is an accessory to murder
What a hyperbolic, over the top headline many readers must think: "The New 007 License to Kill: HSBC and Big Banks. "
Has BuzzFlash gone scampering up the hill of reason and madly fallen into a pit of pathological paranoia and knee-jerk conspiratorialism?
Not really, not really at all.
Yesterday, BuzzFlash at Truthout wrote about the largest fine levied against a bank – in this case HSBC – for money laundering on behalf of narcos and nations that the United States government in DC considers a threat to the national security. Not a person at HSBC will be indicted or prosecuted, as we noted, and the Department of Justice defended its actions by, you guessed it, basically saying that HSBC is too big too fail, and that prosecution might lead to the bank's activities being disrupted.
As BuzzFlash noted in its commentary yesterday:
Recently, Truthout posted an article on the strong possibility that intentional homicides in Mexico (most related to the so-called war on drugs, and many committed by Mexican military and police) will rise to more than 120,000 during the just-ended (December 1) six-year reign of ex-Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
HSBC didn't just launder countless dollars and pesos for profit by accident. According, to the Department of Justice report, it played an active and knowing role in facilitating the money laundering, which allows the narcos to safely bank – and move around -- their billions of dollars in sales.
(Photo: 401(K) 2012)
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT If you are too big to fail, you don't get prosecuted
A December 11 headline in the The Guardian UK blared, "HSBC's record $1.9bn fine preferable to prosecution, US authorities insist."
According The Guardian:
The bank processed cash for Mexico's Sinaloa cartel, regarded as the most powerful and deadly drug gang in the world, among others. At least $881m in drug trafficking money was laundered throughout HSBC accounts. In order to handle the "staggering amounts of cash", the bank even widened the windows at some branches to allow tellers to accept larger boxes of money.
HSBC also helped rogue states including Libya, Sudan, Burma and Iran to work around US rules banning them from using US financial system in a scheme that went on for decades.
Truthout published a ten-part series this spring on the failed, cynical show war on drugs that the US is sponsoring in Mexico. One of the installments began with a discussion of the profits banks make – blood money. Many of the largest banks appear to willingly welcome drug money with a wink and a nod:
A recent article in The Guardian UK offers evidence that "while cocaine production ravages countries in Central America, consumers in the US and Europe are helping developed economies grow rich from the profits."
According to The Guardian UK story, [a] study by two Colombian professors found that "2.6% of the total street value of cocaine produced remains within the country [Columbia], while a staggering 97.4% of profits are reaped by criminal syndicates and laundered by banks, in first-world consuming countries."
(Photo: 401(K) 2012)