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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apeacesign2(Photo: Beth)

Christmastime is the worst.

That's when TV advertising, sappy television shows, holiday music and politicians all parrot the theme of a time of peace and goodwill toward all. Of course, the real national purpose of the end-of-year holiday season is the jingle of cash registers and fattening of corporate profits - along with vacations in tropical settings or skiing for those who can afford them.

Come January 1, however, after the football games are over and the last beer is drunk, the United States is off to another year of waging war.  

The National Priorities Project, which keeps running expenditure tabs on the costs of war, estimates that the US has now spent nearly $1.7 trillion on wars since 2001. A spokeswoman for the National Priorities Project told BuzzFlash that approximately $823 billion has been spent on the Department of Homeland Security since its creation after 9/11. She also mentioned a Washington Post article from 2013 that estimated the CIA budget at $14.7 billion. Pentagon spending alone - which comprises more than half of the US budget each year - rings in at $554 billion for 2015. To be fair, a lot of this funding overlaps, but the behemoth financial interests of the "war industry" are readily apparent from these figures. Furthermore, these estimates do not include agencies such as the State Department and many unknown "black budget" programs and smaller war and surveillance allocations.

The number of people who rely on war and "intelligence gathering" for their incomes and/or profit is enormous.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anincomeineq(Photo: mSeattle)

Wage stagnation has been an ongoing problem for workers. One of the main reasons for this "missing" income rise among the working class - as the stock market continues to break records - is the gargantuan shift of cash and assets upward to the super-rich.

Salaries for low-to-middle-income earners in the US have not only largely stagnated (given adjustment for inflation) since the Reagan "revolution" of tax cuts for the wealthy, they have in many cases gone down, due to the decline in unions, the shift of jobs overseas and the rise of big box retailers. Many people find their wages are actually falling, as they have to accept jobs beneath their skills and previous pay levels.

Progressive journalist Harold Myerson penned a column in the Washington Post on March 11 that analyzes why wages aren't rising even though the stock market is soaring. Although, it's not the exclusive reason for the hardship of the majority of US workers, Myerson pins down a key contributing factor: shareholders of corporations are receiving most of the gains, instead of those who toil to ensure profits.

 

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

bnobleBernard Noble and his daughter. (Image: Public Defenders of Orleans Parish)

You have to crawl down deep into the sewer system and trudge through raw sewage, pinching your nose to try and reduce the stench, to even begin to comprehend the injustice of sentencing a Black 49-year-old father of seven to 13 years in jail for possessing what amounts to two joints worth of marijuana.

The sludge of waste matter on the ignoble side of the US justice system is thick with racism, a perverse "war on drugs" and bias against the poor.

Bernard Noble, a resident of New Orleans, is now in a Louisiana prison because the raw sewage of a morally corrupt "criminal justice" system is still freely flowing in so many parts of the United States.

The Orleans Parish public defenders have been campaigning to free Noble, stating on their website:

Bernard Noble, a 49-year-old native of New Orleans and father of seven children, is currently serving 13.3 years for in the Jackson Parish Correctional Center in Jonesboro, Louisiana.

His crime? Possession of 2.8 grams of marijuana - roughly enough marijuana to roll two joints.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amcdesThe first Ray Kroc McDonald's, preserved as a museum in Des Plaines, Illinois. (Photo: George)

The world's most iconic food chain is facing some dire statistical trends. According to The Guardian, "McDonald's has announced an 'urgent need to evolve' after unveiling another slide in worldwide sales, the ninth month in a row that sales have fallen at the fast-food chain."

McDonald's is so desperate that it has announced that it will cease using chicken treated with antibiotics that are also used to treat humans (because medical advocates have shown that the ingestion of such antibiotics in food helps develop an immunity to them, which negatively impacts their medical use). Alas, as befits the golden arches of cholesterol and fried artery-clogging food, McDonald's commitment is not to be trusted: The company made a similar pledge in 2003 but never came through on its promise. 

It hurts to be betrayed by the omnipresent, global symbol of US fast food; promises, promises.

McDonald's is reeling from trends toward healthy eating, as its fast-food franchise competitors shift from the model of "logo" eating to a model aimed at meeting evolving consumer preferences.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amayoronepercentMayor 1% has an attitude problem. DonkeyHotey)

It might be overreaching to assert that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is running for reelection in Chicago by showing disdain for all the residents of Chicago. After all, he is nicknamed "Mayor 1%," and he certainly represents the "masters of the universe" in the expanding the corporate sector in the Windy City.

The ultra-wealthy who benefit from Emanuel's neoliberal policies hardly comprise enough votes to ensure that Emanuel gets another term. That's one of the reasons he was forced into a runoff election scheduled for April 7, battling against the more progressive Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, who has held a number of elected positions in the city and is currently a Cook County commissioner.

Emanuel holds a slight lead over Garcia in recent polling, but that could be due to Emanuel's enormous campaign treasure chest of more than $30 million, according to The Chicago Sun-Times. Garcia, in denying Emanuel's reelection in the primary (where 50 percent is needed to be elected mayor outright) held Emanuel to 45.4 percent of the vote in a historically low turnout, even though Garcia (who received 33.9 percent of the primary vote) had only raised $1.3 million to run for mayor.

Garcia is returning to a slogan that propelled the beloved Mayor Harold Washington (whom Garcia supported) into City Hall in 1983: "Chicago [under Emanuel] is a tale of two cities." New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also used the slogan in his successful run for mayor of New York in 2013.

Emanuel's egregious assaults on the public commons and the needs of Chicagoans who aren't wealthy are far too many to list in this commentary, as are his instances of blatant crony capitalism. (Progressive author Rick Perlstein touches upon many of them in a February 25 In These Times article.)

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afranleb2(Photoshop Image: LAProgressive Timeline)

A photoshopped image of journalist and author Fran Lebowitz (not to be confused with Annie Leibovitz the famed photographer) has been making its away around the internet. The image may be created on software, but the quotation from Lebowitz is unerringly accurate: "In the Soviet Union, capitalism triumphed over communism. In this country, capitalism triumphed over democracy.

Perhaps one can argue that there is still hope for democracy, the kind of faint pulse that an experienced paramedic detects when others have declared a person found lying in the street dead. Perhaps there is the chance that defibrillation or emergency surgery can yet resurrect an actual robust democracy and not just the appearance of one. In short, the last rites haven't yet been given to democracy in the US, but the priest is hovering near the body.

Lebowitz's quotation suggests the fundamentally overarching reality that a global oligarchical system has, at an accelerated pace, been steering democracies to achieve plutocratic goals. They are an unaccountable force deciding the future of the world's economy - and within that framework - it's political direction. Plutocrats, the likes of those who meet at Davos every year and those whom The World Bank and IMF represents, are the new superseding political force in the world. The plethora of trade agreements give corporations, for example, sovereign powers over certain areas. More significantly, economic issues favoring the ultra-wealthy and corporations are the key focus of governmental entities such as the G8 and G20.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

annypdcarNYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton has been afflicted with Giuliani Syndrome. Symptoms do not include courtesy, professionalism and respect. (Photo: Dirk Knight)

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abibiboehnerThe Dick Cheney of Israel and his co-conspirator, John Boehner. (Image: DonkeyHotey)

House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi was clearly furious in the wake of yesterday's speech by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi). The Washington Post reported:

In a statement, Pelosi said she was "near tears" throughout the speech, "saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States . . . and saddened by the condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran and our broader commitment to preventing nuclear proliferation."

Netanyahu's speech was made before a special session of Congress on Tuesday. Remember that Netanyahu violated protocol by accepting a prearranged invitation from House Speaker John Boehner (normally the Senate jointly issues such an invite - and the president is consulted) to address the session - which many Democrats refused to attend. 

Commentators have offered several reasons for why Netanyahu would make the unprecedented remarks he tossed into his speech - including his assertion that he "was betting the bank" that he could influence US politics and foreign policy, at the cost of alienating the president. Netanyahu was also taking the risk of choosing to side with Republicans as a permanent party allied with Israel, along with an additional pool of Democrats who follow the directives of The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

akochcarnivalThe cancer of the Koch brothers' ideology is metastasizing through the body politic. (Image: DonkeyHotey)

The Koch brothers' philosophy of the consolidation of wealth by the few is spreading like a cancer. Just look at how their hand-picked governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker - who received massive financial backing from the Kochs - is now being touted in the corporate media as a Republican contender for president in 2016.

Walker, who never graduated from college (leaving Marquette University in Milwaukee for mysterious reasons), has mercilessly attacked education in Wisconsin - starting with the teachers unions and recently extending to the University of Wisconsin. 

On February 22, Kevin O'Marah wrote in a Forbes op-ed:

Gov. Scott Walker plans to cut $300M from the budget of the University of Wisconsin and, if he has his way, will alter its mission from a “search for truth” to “meeting the state’s workforce needs.”  These steps are so fantastically at odds with what the business community, economy and state need from its public university system that no synonym for ‘stupid’ is too strong.

It should be no surprise then that the newly inaugurated governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner - a darling of the 1% - is metastasizing the Koch brothers' attack on an educated public

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aflagterror2The United States has a history of terrorism to atone for. (Photo: Petter Duvander)

The United States has some atoning to do when it comes to terrorism. After all, the history of the US is founded on the terrorizing and near annihilation of Native Americans. 

Professor Edward E. Baptist makes the case in a recent book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,that the US relied on slavery - including Northern textile and other industries - to boost the nation into an economic power in the years before the Civil War. Can there be a more sinister form of terrorism than the theft, brutalization and "ownership" of human lives to secure a profit?

One could also argue that bombs, drone killings, endless wars for natural resources and hegemony using advanced lethal technology are forms of contemporary economic terrorism.

Recently, a particularly heinous form of terrorism related to slavery and racism - lynching - has been the subject of a study that indicates that the practice was more widespread than previously thought.

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