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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aritzcarltonLobby of the New Orleans Ritz-Carlton, where Brian Williams stayed during his "coverage" of Hurricane Katrina. (Photo: Britt Reints)

Brian Williams has taken a hiatus from being an anchor for NBC Nightly News due to the fallout from his embellishing a tale of reporting in Iraq. His evolving story of "stolen valor" was clearly used to enhance the image that he was an intrepid, courageous journalist. Now, he and the NBC brass are waiting to see if Williams can ride out the storm he created by "disappearing him" for a couple of weeks.

As television critic Mary McNamara of The Los Angeles Times writes, Williams represents the contemporary conflation - ironic because that is what Williams claims happened with memories of helicoptering around in Iraq more than a decade ago - of purported journalist anchor and image branding. The two are generally mutually reinforcing in this age of news as both entertainment and revenue source for corporate broadcasting - as long as tall tales are not exposed. McNamara writes:

Williams is stepping aside because this time the news is bad. In telling that story, he chose to bolster the Brian Williams brand at the expense of the "NBC Nightly News." 

Modern journalism is beset by many challenges, logistical and fundamental, but none are as potentially dangerous as its growing cultivation of and reliance on personal brand...

Indeed, we now expect our journalists to be personalities, to exist outside the confines of their day jobs in exciting and entertaining ways. It's not enough to deliver the news, star journalists need to tweet humorously and/or with special insight. They need to make cameos in comedies, appear on talk shows and in magazines, to share their style secrets and personal lives, and offer across-the-board commentary.

McNamara's analysis is devastatingly incisive, but BuzzFlash at Truthout would disagree that Williams "chose to bolster the Brian Williams brand at the expense of the 'NBC Nightly News.'" NBC - which is now owned by the predatory Comcast - was delighted that Williams could banter with Letterman or Jon Stewart. When Williams was bolstering his brand with riveting narratives that may have sometimes been at variance with the facts, it helped buttress an audience for the legacy broadcast networks that have been under siege from cable news programs and the internet for years.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acompassion(Photo: Mike Gifford)

For most people with means, adult life is a routine that is built to ensure a life that is lived within a comfort zone. For people without economic means - or individuals and groups struggling with issues of survival or discrimantion and political dominance - it's not a question of living in a comfort zone; it's a question of survival.

For years, BuzzFlash at Truthout has posted commentaries on how many people who live comfortable lives of routine - and have economic means - not only want to reduce or eliminate a social safety net for those who are disabled, can't find jobs, are paid less than survival wages, or in dire need of assistance for a variety of factors not of their choosing. In addition, BuzzFlash has noted, even the presence of homeless people or those in need of food in public spaces visually violates the "comfort zone" of those of economic means. As a result, many municipalities are passing laws that limit the feeding of people in public who have no permanent residences.

To some people, compassion comes as part of their behavioral and genetic makeup. To many others, compassion is a nurtured quality, requiring practice and tools to suppress more selfish instincts. For those in comfort zones that are built like defensive bunkers - to ward off any disruption of routine or challenge to a narrative of personal entitlement - empathy and compassion are unwanted, demanding and violations of privilege.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

LivoniaKnightThe Crusaders. Killing in the name of religion appears hotwired into the human species.(Photo: Wikipedia)

How many people have died, are dying now and will continue to die in the name of religion?

Extremely few religions can claim bragging rights that other religions have been more brutal. Look at history, even the tamest of religious followings have historically had their benighted moment of barbaric conquest.

Mark Morford of The San Francisco Chronicle recently spoke to how religion, which is revered by most societies (as long as it is the dominant religion of that nation or social order) will, according to Morford, "be the death of us":

The main reason we’re on the fun train to self-extermination, and can’t/won’t get off.

It’s not climate change. Not overpopulation. Not war, or disease, or resource abuse. Those are all very real, but they’re also merely the consequence, the end result of centuries of blind, dogmatic adherence to, well, to God.

With this book I thee rule and control. Like, forever.

That’s right, the biggest problem humanity faces – and has faced for just about ever – is religion. Rabid tribalism, delusory moral laws and aggressive, antagonistic superstition that pits us against each other, against nature, against science, against anyone who might have invented a different god (or gods than ours).

Add race, tribalism and nationality to religion and you've got a historical bloodbath that has left bodies in its wake that could probably be piled to the moon.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

6886069226 c51dae64e0 zMigrants from Cental America Riding harrowing "The Beast" train (from south to north in Mexico) to try and make it to the US. (Photo: Peter Haden)

One day after BuzzFlash at Truthout posted an interview about how the draconian US migration policies across the Mexican border are causing countless deaths in the Sonoran Desert, The Guardian ran an article entitled, "Mexico deports record numbers of women and children in US-driven effort: Tens of thousands fleeing violence and poverty deported to Central America after pressure from the US to prevent migrants reaching American border."

Unfortunately, these two facets of US brutal enforcement of brutal immigration enforcement toward Mexican and Latin Americans who are struggling to survive are only a small part of the bigger picture. It is estimated that more than 800,000 men, women and children have been deported annually in recent years, kept from entering or dying trying to get into the United States during the peak of militarized and kangaroo court deportations and border turnbacks.

What the Obama administration has done is the least of the setbacks for generally poor Latinos fleeing poverty, in large part caused by NAFTA, and violence that has been, in great part, a byproduct of the sham US "war on drugs" and the deportation of violent criminals back to their home countries. In essence, the US policy of cruel rejection of Mexico and Central America migrants in dire need and under threat of violence from gangs, the police and the military is tossing them back into a cage in which barely surviving or violent death are two of the most dire alternatives.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

annypdNYPD commissioner wanted a special paramilitary police unit to patrol protesters with machine guns and sniper rifles. (Photo: Stig Nygaard)

In an age when shows like "The Daily Show" and the late "Colbert Report" use irony to make the horrifying and ludicrous convincingly humorous, sometimes it is hard to believe that reality is not its own parody.

Consider a recent news conference given by New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Bill Bratton, in which he proudly announced that a new police unit would prevent terrorist attacks and patrol protests with machine guns. The NYPD commissioner went out of his way to essentially equate terrorists with protesters (implying that the latter group included the recent wave of protesters who publicly condemned the killing of Eric Garner).

According to the January 29 Gothamist:

Police Commissioner Bratton made the announcement earlier today at an event hosted by the Police Foundation at the Mandarin Oriental. He said that the new 350 cop unit, called The Strategic Response Group, will be dedicated to "disorder control and counterterrorism protection capabilities" against attacks like the hostage situation in Sydney, which the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence John Miller said was an inevitability in NYC.

This new squad will be used to investigate and combat terrorist plots, lone wolf terrorists, and... protests. "It is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests, or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris," Bratton said....

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amittromking(Image: Donkey Hotey)

Mitt Romney and some other renowned Republicans are now attempting to rebrand themselves as "anti-poverty" fighters.

This is a bit like the Koch Brothers waking up one day, calling a press conference and announcing that they are beginning a campaign to end personal, corporate, PAC and organizational giving to political candidates and affiliated support groups.

The GOP is great at disseminating and emphasizing top-down Frank Luntz-style memes. That's in large part due to the authoritarian nature of the Republican Party, which is a well-disciplined machine of candidates, media and political stunts. A bit like the military or police, Republicans, in general, follow the chain of command. 

That is why the new Republican emphasis on the so-called elimination of poverty extends down from Romney to two local Wisconsin legislators. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,

Two influential Republican lawmakers proposed a plan Wednesday to fight poverty in Milwaukee's inner city by pushing big changes in the state's schools, tax code and regulations.

Many of the proposals are controversial, including creating urban zones without corporate taxes, typical union rules and state markup requirements on retail sales, and a plan to convert struggling public schools in Milwaukee into independent charter schools answering to a new board....

"People all over the place are hurting, but particularly in these neighborhoods, people are hurting," Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) said as he introduced the proposals.

"It's trying to invite new people to the table and try new approaches," Kooyenga said of the agenda he put forward with Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills).

The pattern is clear: Word has come down from the Republican pollsters and sloganeers on high that the GOP must repackage Bill Clinton's "I feel your pain" empathy strategy to position itself for 2016.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abringbaIt is racist just to be concerned about violence against whites. (Photo: Michael Fleshman)

One can deplore and be appalled by the loss of life that occurred on 9/11, at the ghastly destruction of families and grief that rippled across the nation, as BuzzFlash was and is. One can also feel horror for the staff at Charlie Hebdo who were gunned down in a summary execution, as well as the killings that occurred in the Kosher supermarket in Paris. We at BuzzFlash felt the grief of lives cut short by such appalling premeditated murders.

It is an injustice, however, to confine the outpouring of public mourning for victims of violence to those of white European identity.

It is human nature, in general, to associate with the identity group that an individual feels is most like him or her. That may be one exlanation why so many in the Eurocentric nations and their white colonialized offshoots - including the US and Canada - are aghast at the killings of people like themselves, but hardly appear to notice or grieve for people of other colors and backgrounds who suffer horrible massacres.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apopeonincomein(Image: Devendra Makkar)

It is rare for a corporate media outlet to focus on those killed by the grindstone of economic inequality. That is why a profile of the final hours of 32-year-old Maria Fernandes's life, chronicled in The New York Times last year, still stands out. The victims who die from economic inequality are not abstract collateral damage in public policy debates; they are real people.

BuzzFlash and Truthout depend on reader support - click here to make a tax-deductible donation. Help independent reporting and analysis survive in 2015!

The cause of death among those struggling to survive might be stress, punishing manual labor, inadequate diet or a variety of other factors. In the case of Maria Fernandes, The New York Times' headline observed, "For a Worker With Little Time Between 3 Jobs, a Nap Has Fatal Consequences."

No one directly killed Fernandes, but she died as a result of the circumstances of living on a minimum-wage income that forced her to often live out of her SUV in order to juggle part-time jobs at three different Dunkin' Donuts in and around the Newark, New Jersey, area. The Times described the precipitating factor of her fatality:

Ms. Fernandes slept in her running S.U.V. so often that she started keeping a container full of fuel in the back. Mr. Carter [her boyfriend] warned that this wasn’t safe, but Ms. Fernandes brushed aside his concerns. She couldn’t run the risk of waking up to an empty tank.

Last summer, a convenience store employee noticed Fernandes slumped over in her car.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anypd(Photo: longislandwins)

In a revealing informal survey conducted in late 2014, Reuters found that, among a random sampling of Black New York Police Department (NYPD) officers, almost all had experienced racial profiling by other police when off duty.

According to Reuters:

From the dingy donut shops of Manhattan to the cloistered police watering holes in Brooklyn, a number of black NYPD officers say they have experienced the same racial profiling that cost Eric Garner his life….

Reuters interviewed 25 African American male officers on the NYPD, 15 of whom are retired and 10 of whom are still serving. All but one said that, when off duty and out of uniform, they had been victims of racial profiling, which refers to using race or ethnicity as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed a crime.

Some of these incidents involved harrowing physical threats. 

Published in EditorBlog

2015.1.27.BF.COMMFaced with the facts presented by "Le Petit Journal," Fox not only apologized, but did it three times: for the mischaracterizing of embracing Paris communities; its use of a faulty poll; and its baseless claim of government-recognized "no-go zones" for non-Muslims. (Photo: Le Petit Journal via Facebook)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"Le Petit Journal," A French comedy show akin to "The Daily Show," used facts and satire to force Fox News to apologize for three "errors" the Murdoch network disseminated in its effort to whip up anti-Islamic hysteria through its "reporting."

Specifically, Fox had claimed that there were neighborhoods in Paris that were dangerous to non-Muslims; that there was a poll taken that showed a significant number of French young people supported ISIS; and that there were official "no-go zones" for persons who are not of the Islamic faith (this included baseless accusations that such "no-go zones" also existed in England, an assertion echoed by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in a Fox interview).

You can watch the host of "Le Petit Journal," Yann Barthès, bask in satisfaction at the Fox admission of "errors" as he munches on popcorn and sips from a drink, here. The segment doesn't have subtitles, but you will understand most of it even if you don't speak French; the clips of Fox anchors admitting their Islamophobic claims about Paris (and England) were false are, of course, in English. It will also help to know three French expressions: La Carte (the map); Les Sondages (opinion polls); and Les No-Go Zones (the no-go zones).

Published in EditorBlog
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