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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

wave(Photo: Today is a good day)

As the corporation-backed and religious fundamentalist climate-change deniers continue to receive widespread mainstream media credibility, signs of global warming continue to sweep across the earth.

However, science has a way of having facts on its side, so it is no surprise that the formerly frozen Arctic Ocean is now experiencing high-wave activity. According to the Daily Digest News, "Waves as high as 29 feet [were recently] recorded in a normally waveless Beaufort Sea." (The Beaufort Sea is a section of the Arctic Ocean.):

When most people think of the Arctic, they usually imagine things like polar bears and Santa Clause. What they don’t picture are waves the size of a one-story house, because most of the Arctic Ocean is typically frozen and you can’t have big waves in frozen water. Well, tell that to the scientists from the University of Washington and the Naval Research Laboratory, who recently published their 2012 observation of big waves in the Arctic’s Beaufort Sea: During peak times, the waves averaged around 16 feet high.

The highest single wave was measured at 29 feet. Researchers fear that the waves, enabled after decades of expanding ice retreat thanks to global warming, will even further accelerate the ice breaking process in the Arctic region.

“The observations reported here are the only known wave measurements in the central Beaufort Sea,” they wrote in the report, “because until recently the region remained ice covered throughout the summer and there were no waves to measure.”

The study referred to by the Daily Digest News concludes:  "This suggests that further reductions in seasonal ice cover in the future will result in larger waves, which in turn provide a mechanism to break up sea ice and accelerate ice retreat."

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ggiffordsPolice gather around site where Cong. Gabby Giffords was shot and others killed on January 8, 2011. (Photo: SearchNetMedia)

Larry Pratt, long-time head of the Gun Owners of America (GOA) - which is to the NRA what the Tea Party is to the GOP - believes United States representatives should live in dread of being shot.

According to Right Wing Watch,

Prominent gun lobbyist Larry Pratt is doubling down on his insistence that members of Congress should have a “healthy fear” of being shot, lecturing a congresswoman who felt threatened by one of his group’s members that she just doesn’t understand the Constitution.

Right Wing Watch first reported Pratt’s comments in a March interview with radio host Bill Cunningham. Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, told Cunningham that a member of his group had spoken to a congresswoman who told him, “you want to shoot me, don’t you.”

“Well, that’s probably a healthy fear for them to have,” Pratt said. “You know, I’m kind of glad that’s in the back of their minds. Hopefully they’ll behave.”

Since that veiled threat, Pratt has slyly retreated into translating his words into a disclaimer: “I have never encouraged, or even suggested, that anyone harm anyone.” Then he went on to explain that the fear of being shot is a tool to educate elected representatives about gun rights.

Yet, educating elected officials apparently includes once again implying that the bullet box may replace the ballot box. According to Pratt:

Should you attempt to disarm Americans the way the British crown tried 240 years ago, the same sovereign people who constituted this government using the cartridge box someday may need to reconstitute it, as clearly anticipated by the Declaration of Independence.

Larry Pratt is a spokesperson for the enemy within the United States – and what is more unnerving is that he is not even the most radical zealot of gun extremists.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

tax1(Photo: darya-mead)

It would be an understatement to assert that The New York Times (NYT) was never sympathetic to the Occupy Movement. NYT reporting on Occupy and income inequality has generally served as a mini-me transcript of former Mayor Michael ("I'm with the titans of Wall Street") Bloomberg

Yes, The New York Times does post Paul Krugman and occasional op-eds on income inequality, but usually, its coverage of economic issues leans heavily toward the financial interests of the top percentage earners - the people who buy the luxury goods and services advertised in the paper. When it comes to the economy, the NYT is not the paper of record; it is the paper promoting the interests and lifestyles of the rich.

That was why I was surprised to see buried in the July 26 edition, in a section called Business Day, an article with this headline: "The Typical Household, Now Worth a Third Less." Now, that is a blunt headline, merited by the opening two paragraphs of the story:

Economic inequality in the United States has been receiving a lot of attention. But it’s not merely an issue of the rich getting richer. The typical American household has been getting poorer, too.

The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. Those are the figures for a household at the median point in the wealth distribution — the level at which there are an equal number of households whose worth is higher and lower. But during the same period, the net worth of wealthy households increased substantially.

When it comes to economic inequality, it doesn't get any more telling than a study that proves that the "typical" US household has decreased in net worth by a third since 2003. As BuzzFlash has noted, many analysts speculate that 95 percent of the economic rebound from the 2008 crash of the economy has ended up in the hands or offshore accounts of the top 1 percent of US households.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

fairshare(Photo: Michael Fleshman)

It took six years, but President Barack Obama finally used his bully pulpit to chastise US corporations who abandon this country to save taxes.

On June 30, BuzzFlash at Truthout posted a commentary, "Unpatriotic US Corporations Increasingly Move Headquarters Overseas to Decrease Taxes." As BuzzFlash noted then:

According to [The Chicago] Tribune, "Walgreen joins a small but growing number of U.S. multinationals contemplating inversions to lower their tax burden." The Tribune includes a chart of businesses that have moved their headquarters to other countries for tax avoidance purposes (on the second page of the Internet article) - and it is a legal net revenue increasing strategy. It is also noted that "fresh waves of companies have moved or are considering moving to avoid taxes."

....Among the many hypocritical ironies, given this trend of US companies becoming technically non-US companies, are the implications for the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling. How can a non-US company have the rights of a US citizen if it is incorporated in another country?

Apparently the president, who has been rather cozy with Wall Street and US corporations for six years, felt a rare gust of populist disdain for businesses that abandon the US to decrease their taxes. He robustly expressed his scorn on July 24, first in a speech at a technical college in Los Angeles and then in a CNBC interview. 

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT 

hitech(Photo: Toban B.)

Technology has advanced exponentially in the last few decades. In terms of news, it means that we can learn as quickly about an event thousands of miles away as we can about the sudden death of a neighbor.

A couple centuries ago, wars were only learned about when ships came into port from far-away lands with letters, local newspapers and eyewitness accounts. Now, we see the murderous invasion that is occurring in Gaza in real time, including four children obliterated on a beach by an Israeli government gunboat.

We hear immediately of an Israeli attack on a UN “safe zone” shelter that killed 15 Gazans.

We learn all this - and view it - strolling down the street with a smartphone, or on a computer screen, or watching television. If there were an expectation at one point - and there was among some - that technological advancements would bring the peoples of distant lands closer together in harmony, we are now dismayed at how naive such a thought was.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

waterfaucet(Photo: kiranghata)

The privatization of municipal water services is a potential looming reality in Detroit.

According to a June 14 Detroit Free Press article, the emergency manager appointed to administer a state-mandated bankruptcy of the city has been actively exploring turning pubic water services into private profit: 

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr’s office is studying several bids to privatize the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and could have a selection process completed within two weeks, a spokesman said Monday.

But Orr spokesman Bill Nowling would not release any information about which companies submitted bids by Sunday’s deadline to operate and manage the system relied on by millions of people in southeast Michigan. Nowling said the bids are considered confidential under a federal mediation order.

It hasn't happened yet, in part due to legal, political and PR positioning - including the 15-day temporary reprieve in residential water shut-offs resulting from large protests last week in Detroit.

One reason you can be almost certain that the residential shut-offs will resume is a point made on Next City, a website focusing on "inspiring better cities": "As activists point out, DWSD [Detroit Water and Sewerage Department] is a much more appealing purchase if it loses its debt." In short, by cutting off residents with growing unpaid water bills, the DWSD becomes a more attractive acquisition to the private market. 

Political protests, negative media coverage and ongoing activism could cause the bankruptcy court to force a different outcome than complete privatization: a public-private partnership (in which DWSD would pay a management firm to run the agency) or - the least unlikely given the pro-corporatism statements and actions of Emergency Manager Orr - keeping DWSD a public non-profit service for residents and area businesses.

That Orr would have directed or permitted the DWSD to cruelly accelerate water shut-offs during the Detroit summer heat speaks to the indifference of those running the bankruptcy process toward the people of limited income actually living in Detroit.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

dignityandequal(Image: riacale)

Unfortunately, there are those people in the world who lust for revenge, whose souls are boiling with the toxic and barbaric notion of bloodletting in the name of a perceived "just" grievance. That is the case of Thane Rosenbaum, who The Wall Street Journal describes as "a novelist, essayist and professor at the New York University School of Law [and] the author, most recently, of Payback: The Case for Revenge."

Rosenbaum's "Payback" book argues for the legitimacy of revenge. According to the University of Chicago Press, publisher of Rosenbaum's screed, "What, if anything, distinguishes punishment at the hands of the government from a victim’s individual desire for retribution? Are vengeance and justice really so very different? No, answers legal scholar and novelist Thane Rosenbaum in Payback: The Case for Revenge - revenge is, in fact, indistinguishable from justice."

We admittedly have not had time to read the book since becoming aware of it in an incendiary and barbaric Wall Street Journal commentary written by Rosenbaum yesterday, but the book apparently contends that legal systems should be more active in carrying out revenge on behalf of those who feel wronged.

If that is the case, Rosenbaum runs far afield of any notion of vengeance-best-served-cold when he "argues" in his Wall Street Journal column that - in essence - there can be no civilian deaths caused by the Israeli attack and invasion because, he speciously and abhorrently claims, there are no civilians in Gaza:

On some basic level, you forfeit your right to be called civilians when you freely elect members of a terrorist organization as statesmen, invite them to dinner with blood on their hands and allow them to set up shop in your living room as their base of operations. At that point you begin to look a lot more like conscripted soldiers than innocent civilians. And you have wittingly made yourself targets.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

criminalminds(Photo: bridget_willard)

The Center for Effective Government offers some astonishing examples of corporations that withheld information about products that are dangerous to consumers, resulting in death, injury and illness. For instance, consider a profitable pharmaceutical drug being sold even though its potentially deadly side effects were known to the company: In 2008, it was revealed that, "Merck withheld information on the risks of the painkiller Vioxx from doctors and patients for more than five years, resulting in an estimated 88,000 to 139,000 heart attacks, approximately 30 to 40 percent of which were fatal."

Of course, the more recent examples of deaths that resulted from corporations keeping consumers in the dark about dangerous products were exemplified by GM and other auto industry giants. According to the Center for Effective Government:

[There are] multiple cases of corporate misconduct that [lead] to serious injuries and deaths. A recent example involved General Motors' (GM) recall of millions of automobiles with defective ignition switches. For over a decade, GM withheld information about the defective switches from regulators and the public. The company recently conceded that faulty switches are responsible for at least 13 deaths over the past several years, and some regulators believe the actual death toll may be much higher. GM has moved to settle more than 300 claims related to these deadly ignition switches.

On May 16, the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration slapped GM on the wrist with a $35 million civil fine, amounting to less than a day's revenue for the company. Although GM executives were aware of the defects and even asked employees to conceal the safety concerns from the public, not one of them will have to pay a criminal fine or face time in prison.

The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards adds, "Toyota intentionally concealed information from the public about defects in their automobiles that caused them to accelerate even as drivers were trying to slow them down, leading to at least five deaths and resulting in no criminal penalties for individual Toyota executives."

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

cal(Photo: Ken Lund)

Not too long before "Independence Day," US citizens in Murrieta, California, rowdily assembled on July 1 to block buses carrying mostly children seeking refuge from violence and poverty, according to USA Today:

More than 100 people waving American flags and holding signs that opposed "new illegals" waited in the hot sun for the three charter buses to arrive at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection station in Murrieta, about an hour north of San Diego...

Tensions in the crowd increased as it grew in number. Shouting matches ensued as protesters clashed with immigration reform supporters like Lupillo Rivera, who was among those trying to launch a counter-protest.

"We are your baby-sitters, we clean your hotels, we baby-sit your kids," screamed Rivera.

Those on the buses fleeing for their lives and for food to survive were mostly youth and primarily from Central America. The protests in Murietta continued, with the support of the mayor, for days, even though the individuals in humanitarian need were just temporarily being processed in Murietta and then being moved on to other facilities.

As part of a series for Truthout that I have been working on, I have been researching the origins of anti-immigrant mania in the US and its relationship to colonization. After all, one of the egregious ironies of a fever-pitched cry to "secure the border with Mexico" to keep out non-US citizens is that the United States is composed of land seized from its original inhabitants – Native Americans. Moreover, as the US pursued its drive across the continent, its lodestar was a philosophy of "Manifest Destiny," born of a belief in the superiority of the white race.

It is ironic that a nation that annually celebrates its independence from the most expansive colonizer of the 1700's and 1800's - Britain - used its newfound nationhood to become a colonizer of North and South America (the latter through military intervention in governments that were not amenable to de facto US interests).

Returning to Murietta, a brief history of the people who inhabited and had inhabitant rights to that particular area is in order. First, there were the Native Americans who have lived in the West for thousands upon thousands of years (for some, dating back to approximately 17000 BC, and including some 500 tribes).  

Then the colonization started.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

bankdetrup(Photo: jonathan mcintosh)

Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and a leader of the Moral Mondays movement, recently pronounced: "We're in a time where corporations are treated like people and people are treated like things."

We are witnessing a glaring example of this injustice in Detroit, where water is being cut off to residents who have not been up to date in paying their bills for a basic human survival need: water. The New Scientist recently reported on warnings that this may lead to a public health crisis:

The decision by the bankrupt city of Detroit to cut off the water supply to 80,000 homes with outstanding water bills is a public health disaster in the making, says the largest professional association of nurses in the US.

National Nurses United has called for an immediate moratorium on the shut-offs, and is leading a march in Detroit on Friday to make its demands clear.

The policy has been condemned by the United Nations as an international human rights violation.

"Nurses know the critical link between access to water and public health," said NNU co-president Jean Ross in a statement released by the organisation. "Lack of water, like unsafe sanitation, is a major health disaster that can lead to disease outbreaks and pandemics. The city must end this shut-off now."

A July 15 Truthout Op-Ed, "A National Call: Come to Detroit, Link Arms to Stop the Water Shut Offs and Fight for Democracy," by Ben Ptashnik excoriates the neoliberal attack on the most basic rights of humans:

The pawns in this crisis, the impoverished residents of Detroit, have already suffered the globalization of this rust belt region, as corporations took their production south, and then abroad. They are underemployed and struggling just to feed their families. The last thing they need is to be viciously set upon by the governor and his Darth Vader-like "manager" who now threaten their health by shutting off the water, the essential basis of civilized life. This attack would never see the light of day in an all-white community. The water shut-off preys most viciously on the poor and sick, elderly, children and pregnant women.

While they are being cut off, millions of dollars are still owed to the city water department by a golf course, corporations, businesses and by thousand of homes foreclosed and now owned by banks or corporations. All of these have not been subjected to shut off, even when their bills are months or years overdue. It is obvious that the African-American community is disproportionately targeted by the governor's emergency manager, who has hired a private company (a wrecking crew) to perform the shut-offs, often without notice, of any resident who is overdue 60 days, on as little as $75.

Ptashnik's commentary on Truthout covers much more expansive ground than just the inhumane water shut-offs; it witheringly criticizes the neoliberal abandonment of Detroit and the current efforts to make a profit off of destroying the city's neighborhood infrastructure.

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