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BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

Law students across the country are learning a very tough lesson in justice these days: If you go up against powerful institutions in the courtroom, you'd better be prepared to do it without public funds.

This Sunday's New York Times profiled several law school clinics across the country that are involved in suits against powerful factory farms, lax government regulators, the oil and gas industry and local developers. Each of the schools is being threatened by local Republican politicians with the loss of public funding directly because of the lawsuits in which they are involved.

In one example, Maryland lawmakers nearly stripped $500,000 of the University of Maryland's law school funding after it became involved in a lawsuit against chicken producer Perdue and a farm that contracts with the corporation. The suit was brought by environmental groups Assateague Coastkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance after the farming operations were found polluting local waterways with agricultural waste at limits exceeding state law.

Perdue appealed to lawmakers by insinuating that this was an attack on family farms. But the reality is that processors like Perdue contract with what they call "family farms" and turn them into concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) or mini factory farms.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

President Obama frames his decision to allow increased offshore drilling, new nuclear power plants and the pursuit of "clean" coal technology as a type of a stopgap measure to fill American demands for cheap energy while renewable sources of energy are developed. But is this a case of sleeping with the enemy?

The CEOs of big energy corporations, who rely on coal, gas and nuclear plants to create the bulk of their energy, nod alongside the administration. But on the local level, they appear willing to block these developing industries through a combination of lobbying and monopoly. Two recent stories illustrate how traditional energy companies are keeping wind and solar energy companies from gaining a local foothold.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

National Public Radio's economic show Marketplace is often host to conservative commentators arguing against consumer protection or payday loan elucidating the evils of Keynesian theory. But I've never heard them kowtow so low to Wall Street as they did Wednesday evening.

In a commentary titled, "Don't Subject Payday Lenders to Reform," Darrin Andersen -- president of QC Holdings, one of the biggest payday lenders in the country -- insists that "Main Street's search for short-term credit, like payday loans, played no part in the economic meltdown."

Whether or not that's true is hard to know, because the "Main Street" that utilizes the *ahem* "services" of payday lenders is not a Main Street that most public radio listeners would recognize.

Let's take BuzzFlash's backyard for example. In some Chicago neighborhoods, the only businesses you'll see are payday lenders and liquor and convenience stores. Those concerned with healthy eating habits call these places "food deserts." But they're also financial deserts.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

When I was a kid it was "cool" to scrawl the anarchy symbol everywhere, especially on school property. Our developing brains didn't seem capable of anarchy symbolgrasping the irony that, if we actually lived in an anarchic society, there would be no school to deface. In fact, these same scrawny "cool kids" would likely have to abandon graffiti in favor of scrounging for food or goods with which to pay off the local strongman.

This is what I thought of when I read that seven of the eight Hutaree members who appeared in federal court Monday requested legal representation via public defender. The group was charged with plotting to wage war against the government, illegal firearms possession, teaching the use of explosives and attempting to use weapons of mass destruction in the form of homemade bombs. According to the Associated Press, at least one of the defendants blamed the government for his need for publicly-funded representation:

One defendant expressed anti-tax views during his Monday court hearing. Thomas W. Piatek, a truck driver from Whiting, Ind., told a federal judge he could not afford an attorney because he was "getting raped on property taxes."

It sounds like Piatek is blaming taxes for the fact that he is forced to access a service paid for by... taxpayer money. Which is presumably an argument against collecting taxes..?

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

Curled up on the couch with The New York Times this past Sunday, I could almost hear the superhero theme song emanating from the White House. Or maybe it was "Macho Man"? This front page piece trumpeted the president's "muscular show," which "suggests a newly emboldened president who is unafraid to provoke a confrontation."

The president, frustrated by months of Republican obstructionism on dozens of his nominees, used executive powers to install 15 of them to work temporarily without Senate confirmation until the end of 2011.

The predictable blowback from the GOP got a fair share of eye-rolls from those who remember recent administrations' usage of the recess appointment and who recognize what Salon.com termed the "underreported fact that huge amounts of the federal government remain dramatically understaffed."

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

The Southern Legal Resource Center (SLRC) announced a write-in campaign on the 2010 Census' race question. So-called Confederate Southern Americans should check "other" on the race query (question number nine) and write in the space provided “Confed Southern Am” to indicate their "race."

"Now is the time to let the government know that millions of Americans are proud of and revere their Confederate national origin status," said Kirk Lyons, the group's founder and chief legal counselor, in a video announcing the effort. "We can start the process to give the southern community here in America a voice again so that our concerns will be heard."

And what concerns might those be?

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

There are a lot of elements to President Obama's healthcare reform bill that are complete and total hand-outs to megacorporations that feed off of the misery of the American people.

Now that the ping-pong-like process of legislative action on the measure is finally complete, I thought I'd look at one element of the bill that does not smell of sellout. Unfortunately, it also has nothing to do with healthcare.

Democrats added in direct student loan reform, a budget priority of President Obama's, in the healthcare reform bill when it became clear to them that no Republican would be voting for the legislation anyway, and that reconciliation would be necessary to get past the Senate filibuster.

Starting July 1, the U.S. Department of Education will be solely responsible for issuing government-backed student loans (though private companies will still be able to service and collect on such loans). The way it works now is that even though loans are backed up by government guarantees (making them a no-risk proposition for lenders) private companies can actually make the "direct" loans, and thereby charge massive fees and exorbitant interest rates.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

I'm having trouble deciding whether or not I'm shocked by the death threats and vandalism being visited upon those who voted for healthcare reform. On the one hand, it's hard to imagine that such a watered-down bill containing so little real change in the way we do business in this country could inspire so much violence.

On the other hand, what do you expect when one of the GOP's rising stars publishes a map targeting Democrats in the crosshairs of a gun barrel, urging her supporters to "RELOAD"?

After outlining all the ugly rhetoric being spewed by the GOP over the passage of healthcare reform, Timothy Eagan asks these questions in The New York Times today:

Do Republicans really want to campaign in favor of insurance companies’ right to drop people when they get sick? Do they really want to knock the 25-year-old graduate student, living on Top Ramen and hope, off his parents’ health care? Are they going to deny tax credits for small businesses?

Yes, it may not be politically expedient to oppose what may become a very popular change to American healthcare. But there's another question going unasked by the mainstream media:

Do Republicans really want the blood of their colleagues on their collective hands?

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

The collective giggle-fest over Vice President Joe Biden's true but censorable comment at the president's signing of healthcare reform struck me as pretty sophomoric. But then again, that's not very fair to sophomores.

Meanwhile, right in my own backyard, real sophomores (and other high schoolers) have successfully organized to change the way more than 400,000 individual stomachs are treated each day.

Thanks to the actions of student protesters at a Chicago Public School (CPS) Board meeting this week, "a major nutritional overhaul of menus" is planned, according to the Chicago Tribune. The students who are forced to feed themselves from these "menus" were quoted as calling the current food available "sickening."

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

Ordinarily, angry people threatening to leave the U.S. over political matters rethink their dramatic plans. I know; I was one of them.

I was disappointed by the first nation-wide electoral "victory" handed to George W. Bush. But, especially after his first year or two in office, I knew he couldn't get reelected. I was so certain of this that I vowed to leave the country if he did.

Guess what? I'm still here!

Being in the midst of writing my thesis was a sufficient excuse to remain. But deep down I knew that I wouldn't abandon my country in its hour of need, no matter how dumb it looked. My parents taught me that "love it or leave it" is as stupidly intolerant as it sounds.

"Oh, honey. I was around your age when Reagan was reelected, and we thought it was the end of the world too," my mom told me at the time. "But if all the people like you leave, this country will never be like you want it to be."

Little did she know, my mother planted the seed for the tumultuous times we're experiencing today. I was convinced that the only way to save my country was to elect a president that would drive out the crazy, racist conservatives. And I'm proud to report it's working.

Published in Analysis
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