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MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

bigbro11 1Who is watching the watchers?It's not official, and it may never come to pass.

But various press sources are reporting about a growing movement to have NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden testify in Germany.

According to the newspaper that broke the Snowden NSA revelations, The Guardian UK:

Some German politicians and newspaper columnists have backed calls for Snowden to be invited as a witness. The justice minister, Sabine Leuheusser-Schnarrenberger, told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper: "If the allegations build up and lead to an investigation, one could think about calling in Snowden as a witness."

Thomas Oppermann, of the Social Democrats, said: "Snowden's claims appear to be credible, while the US government has blatantly lied to us on this matter. That's why Snowden could be an important witness, also in clearing up the surveillance of the chancellor's mobile."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

oct10 31This actual photo (from the National Archives) has nothing to do with the commentary, but BuzzFlash at Truthout couldn't resist posting it. Then again, maybe it has everything to do with the commentary.

Obama is the great man of reason, one of the smartest presidents we have had. Therefore, he is constantly astonished that Americans don't listen to reason when it comes to public policy.

Well, President Obama welcome to the real world: this is the visual age. Most Americans receive their "news" from television, and that news is largely derived from visual images.

This realization first came into its zenith in politics when the television advisers packaged the actor known as Ronald Reagan for the "television moment." Every appearance during the 1980 campaign was designed for how it looked on television.  That also became the hallmark of his presidency.

In fact, the marketing of his presidency policies were in large part dependent upon the visual frame of Reagan's television appearances.  In those messages to the nation, he also often relied on two techniques: charts and anecdotes.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ainequal10 30Those persons who disparage the Occupy Movement as having been just a failed blip on the radar screen don't understand how uprisings and paradigm shifts are usually the result of a series of events.  It is unfair to judge one stupendously successful movement at getting income inequality on the radar screen of even the mass media by how easily the police literally crushed the public presence of the movement.

Nathan Schneider, author of "Thank You, Anarchy: Notes From the Occupy Apocalypse," shed light on the bum rap the Occupy Movement received (whatever its flaws) in a recent interview with Truthout.

The legacy of the Occupy Movement on the ground has spread across the country, and was most visibly nationally reported on when Occupy supporters became the de facto volunteer FEMA in many locations -- particularly hard-hit areas of Brooklyn -- after Occupy Sandy. But the Occupy-inspired uprisings of activism and volunteerism are spread across the nation -- and continuing to accelerate.  Maybe they are morphing into new forms and new names, but the Occupy Movement was the kindling wood for many of them.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

awhistle10 29Snowden, Manning and WikiLeaks are all gifts to democracy and transparency.  Without them and the countless whistleblowers that the Obama administration is harassing and prosecuting, we would not know the extent to which the US government has become despotic in its assertion of empire through any means possible.

What is in the open is damning enough: we have a president who personally approves a hit list of people chosen to be assassinated, as if he were ordering his courses on a menu.

But what a wide range of whistleblowers has exposed -- extending far beyond the names that have reached worldwide recognition -- reveals that the US government has engaged in corporate espionage, spied on allied world leaders (including their personal cellphones and e-mail), used terrorism as an excuse to advance marketplace dominance through worldwide military policing and control of governments, built up cases against protesters for exercising their First Amendment rights, and oh so much more.

Journalist and author David Cay Johnston wrote in a recent Newsweek article:

[Glenn] Greenwald told me in Rio de Janeiro that governments should be open, the lives of their people private, but NSA surveillance (and other snooping) has turned that on its head. And he said then and in his exchanges with [former New York Times Editor Bill] Keller that too many journalists are too cozy with government, defending official secrecy more than personal privacy.

Buzzflash and Truthout don’t take corporate funding - that means we’re accountable to our readers, not big business or billionaire sponsors. Please support our work by making a tax-deductible donation today - just click here to donate.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

bankrupt10 28The latest in an ever-shifting array of GOP strategies to try and destroy the Affordable Care Act is to, according to Salon, convince young people that they will pay more for insurance.  That part is actually true for a relatively small percentage of the population, because now people are covered regardless of pre-existing conditions, and age ratings will lessen.

This means that given an insurance pool that includes higher-risk patients due to age and chronic and life-threatening illness, the pot of money has to increase to cover care.  But that's in theory, because the Affordable Care Act (ACA) limits insurance company to spending 15% for administrative overhead. The ACA is going to also attempt to limit insurance company profit.  California already does this with a cap on revenues over expenses.

Although the jury is still out, many studies thus far are already predicting -- due to its cost control measures -- that the Affordable Care Act should actually lessen the cost of medical care in the United States.

But here's the BuzzFlash at Truthout challenge, which we have mentioned before: if you are young or on the younger side of middle age, you can be responsible, in cash (without relying on any government assistance whatsoever), when your parents become ill. Right now, one of the chief beneficiary demographics of the Affordable Care Act are people between 50-65.  Without the Affordable Care Act, if they are un- or under-employed, they cannot afford what amounts to approximately $10 - $25,000 in insurance depending on the deductible, network, and out-of-pocket expense.  They may even be paying huge premiums even if they have an employer-sponsored plan.

Buzzflash and Truthout don’t take corporate funding - that means we’re accountable to our readers, not big business or billionaire sponsors. Please support our work by making a tax-deductible donation today - just click here to donate.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

tpp10 26Ever since the current juggernaut of "free trade" agreements began to be negotiated under President George Herbert Walker Bush (which resulted in the signing of NAFTA under President Bill Clinton), jobs have been fleeing America as corporations have become engorged with greater profits.

There is simply no disputing this given the prima facie reality of the current configuration of the US economy.  Workers in the manufacturing sector have seen their jobs and factories shipped overseas. As a result, they have become unemployed.  If they are lucky enough to get a new job, it's most often at a much lower pay with fewer if any benefits.  This is not true of all blue collar workers, but it's the accelerating trend.

Truthout/BuzzFlash staffers are members of the the Newspaper Guild of the Communication Workers of America (CWA), and so issues affecting workers are personally important to us.  

Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) calls what is known of the framework (and there have been a number of leaks as to the contents) of the secretively negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) "a punch in the face to the middle class." Larry Cohen, CWA president, adds that the TPP represents "a race to the bottom and we need a race to the top."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aretire10 24Whenever the elected political tools of the oligarchs trash Social Security, they tout 401(k)-type accounts and voluntary retirement savings programs.

There's many problems with such an Ayn Randian view of retirement (and even Rand hypocritically took advantage of the government mandated retirement programs -- as most of the Tea Party and Right Wing fanatics do despite their "principles"). But an October 23 Washington Post (WP) analysis gets right to the heart of a major flaw in the "everyone's responsible for investing in their own retirement without any government payroll investment programs such as Social Security" sloganeering.

The WP article is entitled, "Most Americans accumulating debt faster than they’re saving for retirement":

A majority of Americans with 401(k)-type savings accounts are accumulating debt faster than they are setting aside money for retirement, further undermining the nation’s troubled system for old-age saving, a new report has found.

Three in five workers with defined contribution accounts are “debt savers,” according to the report released Thursday, meaning their increasing mortgages, credit card balances and installment loans are outpacing the amount of money they are able to save for retirement.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

marij10 23Yes, a new Gallup Poll indicates that a majority of Americans now support the recreational use of marijuana. This is a 10 percentage point increase since a Gallup survey last year.

Remember that this surge in backing is for the unrestricted personal use of marijuana, regardless of medical need.

As BuzzFlash at Truthout readers are aware, Colorado and Washington State have legalized individual use of marijuana through voter initiatives.  Given the rising national tide of support for placing pot in the same category as alcohol, it appears possible that federal policy -- which still classifies marijuana as a narcotic -- will change in the coming years.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

socialsec10Just as Food Stamps stimulate the economy by creating about $1.80 of economic activity for every dollar of Food Stamps spent, Social Secuity pumps up job-generating and business activity by about $2 for every dollar recipients spend.  This is according to a new study by the AARP:

A new report by the AARP Public Policy Institute, "Social Security's Impact on the National Economy," found that Social Security adds more than $1 trillion to the U.S. economy each year. People who receive Social Security benefits are not saving that money for a rainy day. They're spending it on goods and services — pumping it back into the economy. We have to remember that the typical older American has an income of about $22,000 a year, and Social Security accounts for about half of a typical older family's income.

Businesses use the income to purchase more goods and services, to realize profits and to hire more employees. Those employees, in turn, spend their wages on more goods and services, which creates more spending and income for more people. This creates a powerful multiplier effect that benefits the economy, businesses and workers. In fact, our report found that every dollar in Social Security benefits paid out generates about $2 of total output for the U.S. economy.

In short, Social Security is a vital component of a vibrant economy.  Florida is just one example of a state that would be devastated without the delivery of monthly Social Security checks.  However, the entire United States economy would be seriously harmed.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

dimon10 21"So I said, Mr. Attorney General, We Own Washington, Not the Other Way Around." (Fictitious Words Placed in the Mouth of Jamie Dimon by BuzzFlash)The amount sounds gargantuan to a member of the 99%.  JP Morgan Chase, after personal negotiations between US Attorney General Eric Holder and JP Morgan Chief Honcho Jamie Dimon, has -- the New York Times (NYT) reports -- agreed to pay $13 billion dollars in fines to settle a number of US government charges of financial fraud, particularly in the mortgage area.  That is the arena of shady lending, as you may recall, that nearly crashed the US economy in 2008.

Of course, whatever the large "settlement," Dimon is still walking around strutting like a rooster -- an impeccably coiffed one -- with all indications that he has been assured that he and his top execs will not face any prosecution.  Although the Department of Justice (DOJ) has demanded that a criminal investigation of JP Morgan in California continue in Sacramento, even if the bank were charged and found guilty, the NYT speculates, "If criminal charges arise, it could mean additional fines and a deal that requires an independent monitor to keep an eye on the bank."

In short, all JP Morgan would face if charges in Sacramento arise is another big bank basically getting a slap on the wrist as far as criminal accountability.

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