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EditorBlog (1583)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaabillionChina has trumped the US in having the most billionaires. (Photo: Fry_theonly)

At the next Republican presidential debate, are we going to hear a round of lamentations that the US - according to a study of the world's wealthiest individuals conducted by a Chinese financial publication, the Hurun Report - is no longer number one in billionaires?

An October 15 article in The Chicago Sun-Times states it bluntly:

The United States can no longer claim the title of being home to the world’s most billionaires.

....that distinction now belongs to China, where a reported 596 billionaires reside, surpassing the 537 billionaires the Hurun Rich List claims live in the U.S.

To make the top 100, you’d have to be worth at least $3.2 billion

By the list’s calculations, China produced 242 billionaires through the year ending on Aug. 14, which comes out to about five newly minted mega rich per week.

Will Donald Trump bellow that he is helping to hold onto the fabled notion of "the American Dream" by being a billionaire? After all, he has made China a major target of his campaign rhetoric, claiming the US has allegedly been economically superseded by the Communist nation turned aggressive capitalist economy. Is Trump's obsession with China really a battle over which nation will be the world champion in its number of billionaires?

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaasocialsecIn a specious move, the federal government will deny Social Security recipients an adjusted increase in benefits this coming year. (Photo: 401(K) 2012)

According to an October 15 Associated Press article, the federal government has decided not to increase benefits this year for Social Security recipients:

The government says there will be no benefit increase next year for millions of Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and federal retirees.

It’s just the third time in 40 years that benefits will remain flat. All three times have come since 2010....

The announcement will affect benefits for more than 70 million people - that’s more than one-fifth of the nation’s population.

The total includes almost 60 million retirees, disabled workers, spouses and children who get Social Security benefits.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaacnndebatesAllowing presidential debates to be the exclusive property of a pay-TV channel is another step toward privatizing democracy. (Photo: Mohamed Nanabhay)

CNN aired the first Democratic debate last night, October 13. It also aired two Republican debates (a "main event" and an "undercard" debate) on September 16. On August 6, FOX held the first Republican debates (also televised in separate lower and upper tier candidate - based on polls - segments).

CNN bragged on its CNN Money site that "23 million [viewers] watched [the] GOP debate, a record for CNN." Adweek reported that 24 million viewers watched the first FOX GOP "main event" debate. As CNN Money stated in its article,

Historically the most popular events on TV have been shown by broadcast networks, not cable channels like CNN. According to Nielsen data, Wednesday's debate ranked as the #10 cable program ever, behind 8 college football games on ESPN and the Fox debate last month.

The Democratic debate viewership totals were not in at the time of the writing of this commentary, but an October 14 CNN Money article has already predicted that "preliminary Nielsen ratings indicate that CNN's Tuesday night debate was the highest-rated Democratic debate ever."

So the CNN and Fox cable news channels have enhanced their branding, audience and potential advertising and campaign advertising revenue by burnishing their images as "go-to" television political outlets - with the full cooperation of both major political parties who negotiated details of the debates with the two stations. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaarahmboRahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, dismayingly blames post-Ferguson demand for police restraint as cause of spike in Chicago murders. (Photo: Talk Radio News Service)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the head of the nation's third largest city, is standing by his deadly pronouncement that police officers need to return to "pre-Ferguson" non-transparent and "aggressive” policing. This is the racist policing style that not infrequently results in brutality, the targeting of people of color and law enforcement officers literally getting away with murder.

As reported in The Chicago-Sun Times on October 9, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is blaming a record-setting bloodletting September in Chicago on police officers allegedly becoming less aggressive. Emanuel contemptuously - and puzzlingly - complains that the murder spike among citizens occurred in the wake of the video revelations of police around the nation murdering people of color and harassing them: 

Chicago’s police union is taking exception to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s description of Chicago cops as being “fetal” and not proactively policing because they’re afraid of getting in trouble when citizens post YouTube videos of their interactions with the public.

Emanuel’s comments came as he urged support for police during a private meeting [last] Wednesday with big-city police chiefs, the U.S. attorney general, the head of the FBI and other law-enforcement and elected officials, according to a Washington Post reporter who was there.

“We have allowed our police department to get fetal and it is having a direct consequence,” Emanuel told U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “They have pulled back from the ability to interdict . . . they don’t want to be a news story themselves, they don’t want their career ended early, and it’s having an impact.” 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaahillaryFormer Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has rejected the hard choice of reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act to rein in Wall Street. (Photo: Mike Mozart)

Amidst the announcements by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that she officially opposes the northern sector of the Keystone XL pipeline and has taken a position against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, there has been little discussion of Clinton's announcement that she is opposed to the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall act. 

The infamous repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act occurred during the waning days of the Bill Clinton administration, with his full support. The law, according to Investopedia, was "an act the U.S. Congress passed in 1933 as the Banking Act, which prohibited commercial banks from participating in the investment banking business."

As an analysis of Clinton's position by journalist Dylan Stableford of Yahoo! Politics states:

The Glass-Steagall Act, passed in 1933, prohibited commercial banks from participating in the investment banking business and created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to protect bank deposits from institutional failure. But major provisions of the law were repealed in 1999 under President Bill Clinton, a move some believe contributed to the 2008 global credit crisis because commercial banks - now free to invest in things such as real estate - were saddled with billions of dollars in losses tied to cratering U.S. home prices. Several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for the reinstatement of the law to make "too-big-to-fail" banks much smaller, minimize risk and prevent such a crisis from happening again.

An onslaught of critics have blamed the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act for the 2008 US economic implosion, the bailing-out of banks with billions and billions of taxpayer dollars, and the ongoing fraud and illegal behavior of many large banks. Clinton, however, says that she has a better prescription to cure Wall Street misbehavior.

Thursday, 08 October 2015 08:17

In the US, Is God a White Racist?

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaheritage32

What God would be on the side of racism, violence and white supremacy? (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)

In a Truthout commentary in January 2013, Thom Hartmann asserted that the Second Amendment was inserted in the US Constitution to preserve slavery. Hartmann provides concrete detail and historical context to bolster his claim. He argues that the Southern slave states were fearful that the Northern states would eventually have enough power to end slavery in the newly formed United States. As a result, they wanted concessions in the Constitution to alleviate their "concerns."

These appeasements included counting human slaves as three-fifths of a person (even though they were obviously not allowed to vote) in order to enlarge Southern congressional districts, and allotting two senators to states regardless of population to give relatively sparsely populated slave states equal representation in the Senate to Northern states that were larger in population. 

Hartmann cogently accounts for how important the Second Amendment was to Slave states, to ensure their legal ability - through militarized police actions and groups - to attempt to prevent slaves from escaping or rebelling. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaapeoplefirstWhen profits come before people, more than half of the population of the United States is living on the margins. (Photo: Don Shall)

A recent study by the for-profit website GOBankingRates.com found that just under 50 percent of Americans have no savings socked away. Worse yet, another 13 percent in the US have savings that total under $1000, and 9 percent have just a "minimum [savings] account" balance requirement. Minimum balance requirements vary, but GOBankingRates cites ranges of $500 - $1500.

If you add these three figures together, a dismaying number of Americans - approximately 70 percent - have either no savings or less than around $1500 set aside. 

Commenting on the survey, blogger Jonathan Turley cuts to the chase:

The economic situation in this country is far worse than most people appreciate. We live in economically stratified areas where there is little interaction between distant economic classes. These reports are a startling wake up call for policy makers. The goal of everyone having a few months of cushion for bad times is clearly not occurring - leaving at least half or more of the population on the razor’s edge of poverty.

Another analysis, conducted by America Saves, is more optimistic, but the America Saves survey is based on the desire to save, not the reality of whether or not an individual has the financial ability to set aside money for the future.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaajebb3Jeb and the Bush clan bear some responsibility when "stuff happens." (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

Last week, Jeb Bush went on record as publicly dismissing the need for reining in the lethal legacy of a fanatical gun culture and rampant gun ownership in the United States. He was speaking in response to the Oregon mass shooting at a community college, in which nine students were executed.

As an article in The Washington Post reported,

"We're in a difficult time in our country and I don't think that more government is necessarily the answer to this," he said. "I think we need to reconnect ourselves with everybody else. It's just, it's very sad to see. But I resist the notion -- and I did, I had this, this challenge as governor, because we have, look, stuff happens, there's always a crisis and the impulse is always to do something and it's not necessarily the right thing to do."

Bush was speaking at a forum hosted by The Conservative Leadership Project, a group with ties to South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, who moderated the event. His comments came the day after a shooter at an Oregon community college killed nine before being killed by police. Several others are recovering from injuries.

When a reporter asked Bush whether the remark was a mistake, he replied: "No, it wasn’t a mistake, I said exactly what I said, explain to me what I said wrong."

It would be easy to dismiss Jeb's callous belittling of a mass shooting as a reassurance to the NRA, which is a key financial and voting-block supporter of presidential candidates. After all, when Jeb was governor of Florida, he gave the NRA pretty much whatever it asked for in terms of signing pro-gun legislation.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaatwistedgun32Until we confront and transform our national “heritage" of violence, the shooting will not stop. (Photo: Sébastien Bertrand)

In the wake of the latest mass shooting in the United States - in which 10 died at an Oregon community college - there will again be a clamor for gun control. President Obama, upon being informed of the latest large scale killing field, lamented that we have become "numb" to gun violence.

President Obama challenged the mass media, "I would ask news organizations [to] tally up the number of Americans who have been killed in terrorist attacks in last decade and the number of Americans who've been killed by gun violence."

NBC News responded to the president's request with a startling set of statistics:

    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 153,144 people were killed by homicide in which firearms were used between 2001 and 2013, the last year that data are available (that number excludes deaths by "legal intervention").

    • The Global Terrorism Database — which uses a criteria to determine terrorist attacks but also includes acts of violence that are more ambiguous in goal — estimates that 3,046 people in the U.S. died in terrorist or possible terrorist attacks between 2001 and 2014.

The top number doesn't even include suicides and legal police killings (which boost the number to 394,912). Still, just counting homicides alone, 11,780 Americans were killed by guns a year on average, in that time period, while 219 on average were per year killed by terrorism — although of course the 9/11 attacks are the bulk of the deaths.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaharperCanadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper would feel at home at the GOP presidential debates, standing just to the right of Ted Cruz. (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

If you still think of Canada as sort of a reasonable Scandinavian-style democratic socialist government, you've been living in a time warp.

Without getting into the complicated factions and different regional interests of Canada, suffice it to say that Stephen Harper has been the Prime Minister of Canada since 2006, implementing and advocating many Conservative Party policies that would be right at home in the US House of Representatives. Harper is sort of a cross between Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. He combines the ardent pro-fossil fuel industry position of the Koch Brothers with the appeals to xenophobic fears espoused by Donald Trump.

Harper would fit in well with the current GOP presidential primary appeal to white voters who fear a loss of power in a multicultural society. He also offers an Ottawa version of the anti-government rhetoric that is the mantra of the Republican Party.

If you want a sampling of Harper's right-wing credentials, here are some excerpts from a 1997 speech he gave to members of the elite right-wing US Council for National Policy:

Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term....

In terms of the unemployed, of which we have over a million-and-a-half, don't feel particularly bad for many of these people. They don't feel bad about it themselves, as long as they're receiving generous social assistance and unemployment insurance....

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