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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaacorinthianThe for-profit Corinthian college corporation went bankrupt, leaving students billions of dollars in debt. Everest College was one of the Corinthian "brands." (Photo: Jeramey Jannene)

If you doubt that for-profit education is generally a scourge on students seeking knowledge and skills at the college level, just look at the example of what was one of the largest exploiters of higher education: Corinthian Colleges. The Corinthian corporation recently collapsed under the weight of bankruptcy.

According to a November 9 Chicago Tribune article, the demise of Corinthian left a massive number of former students with large college debts to pay off:

Closed by regulators for deceptive practices and dissolved through bankruptcy, for-profit Corinthian Colleges left tens of thousands of former students with dubious degrees and billions of dollars in debt.

A national movement to provide those students with debt relief is underway....

For students left holding the bag, that relief can't come too soon.

"I was ripped off," said Dawn Thompson, a divorced Springfield mother of two who is seeking forgiveness of $150,000 in federal student loans. Most of her debt was amassed through the online paralegal studies program offered by for-profit Everest University, a Corinthian brand.

The damage, however, goes far beyond those students who now owe money for degrees that are tarnished in the job marketplace. For example, many students who were still in their pre-degree studies when Corinthian went belly up accumulated large debts and now have neither a degree nor credits that are transferable to most colleges (given the now questionable quality of a Corinthian "education").

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaafaith344Faith is not the property of a religion. (Photo: Steve Evans)

A website that labels itself Faithdrivenconsumer.com recently sent BuzzFlash an email announcing a new "Faith Equality Index (FIE)." According to the website, the rating system of corporations, calculated on "faith-based" criteria, will help a religious Christian consumer become "a missionary in the marketplace," allowing them to base their shopping on "faith-driven" values.

One fundamental flaw in the website is associating faith with a specific - fundamentalist Christian - religious outlook. The concept of "faith" is not limited to fundamentalist Christians, or even to those who believe in God; faith can be present without invoking a divinity. If only people who have a "respect for and compatibility with biblically orthodox teachings" - as described on the website – have faith, then most residents of earth are relegated to being "infidels."

In the email announcing the so-called Faith Equality Index, rhetoric is employed that co-opts a more progressive language of diversity and embracing of the human spirit. 

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaastandyourgroundThe NRA is lobbying to make it easier to have a legal license to kill in Florida. (Photo: Daniel Oines)

The murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, was a lethal example of the racist and mortally flawed "stand your ground" laws. 

If you recall, a "stand your ground" law allows individuals to shoot and, in some cases, even kill other people based on the claim that the shooter "perceived" that their life was being threatened. Technically, the lawyers for Zimmerman (who has since his shooting of Trayvon Martin been involved in several acts of violence and repeatedly tweeted racist comments) argued his case on the basis of what might be called standard self-defense law.

However, the "stand your ground" law was lurking in the background of both the trial and, likely, also the minds of those sitting on the jury that acquitted Zimmerman in 2013. Furthermore, Zimmerman's murder of Martin - after stalking Martin because he was guilty of walking while being a teen Black male - became associated with the deadly and racially charged intent of the "stand your ground law," even if it was not technically at issue in Zimmerman's acquittal.

In an ironic tragedy, it was Trayvon Martin - to whom Zimmerman represented a bodily threat by trailing him and confronting him as an armed vigilante - who would have been able to invoke the "stand your ground" law, because he appropriately feared Zimmerman. However, Martin only had a package of Skittles in his hand, while Zimmerman had a handgun in his.  

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakochdefendThe American Dream of white privilege is a nightmare. A congressman at a Koch brothers summit. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

On October 31, Marc Fisher of The Washington Post attempted to explore the appeal of the Donald Trump slogan "Make America Great Again." Of course, the notion of "Make America Great Again" is closely related to the shibboleth of "the American Dream."

The concept of a dream that can be realized in reality is fascinating. After all, dreams, in actuality, are a cauldron of images and broken narratives that occur during sleep. Dreams visit us and present suggestive visuals and stories that we - at least, our conscious selves - do not control.

So, when politicians appeal to our "dream" of "Making America Great Again," they are evoking something in us which is a hybrid of conscious desires and a foggy notion of of the subconscious to make the nation - and our lives - "better." That second aspect of the aspirational dream is often vague and visceral, difficult to articulate, something akin to the dreams we experience when we are asleep.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaabencarsonRetired neurosurgeon Ben Carson still knows how to stimulate the part of the brain that induces fear. (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

Internationally acclaimed pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson, now retired, is clearly an expert on how the brain functions. After all, the Republican presidential aspirant was the director of pediatric neurosurgery at the renowned Johns Hopkins Medical Center from 1984 to 2013, and received much acclaim for his skills in the operating room.

That is why it is safe to assume that Carson is well aware of the role of one part of the brain in stimulating fear: the amygdala. The website About Education describes one major role of the amygdala:

The amygdala is involved in autonomic responses associated with fear and hormonal secretions. Scientific studies of the amygdala have led to the discovery of the location of neurons in the amygdala that are responsible for fear conditioning. Fear conditioning is an associative learning process by which we learn through repeated experiences to fear something. Our experiences can cause brain circuits to change and form new memories. 

Opportunistic politicians are well aware of the use of fear in attracting voters who are predisposed to latch onto the invocation of alarmist threats.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaapaulryanSpeaker of the House Paul Ryan will likely continue to champion his war on the poor. (Image: DonkeyHotey)

The corporate media is generally touting Paul Ryan's election as Speaker of the House as a triumph of Republican centrism. Paul Krugman, however, rebuked that notion in an October 10 New York Times commentary, in which he notes that Ryan is,

more or less unique among extreme right-wingers in having the approbation of centrists, especially centrist pundits. That is, he’s a big man within the GOP because people outside seem to approve of him....

And it has been a stunningly successful act. In his heyday, Ryan was the object of an immense, indeed embarrassing, media crush — the word “love” came up a lot....

So Ryan’s current stature is really quite curious, and I’d argue quite fragile. He has been a highly successful con artist, pretending to be the reasonable conservative centrists desperately want to see; he has become a power within his party because of that external achievement. 

The con job of which Krugman speaks involves couching extreme right wing positions in a veneer of budgetary wonkishness. This is particularly true when Ryan claims that he wants to "help" the poor when he is actually conducting a war on the poor that is based on the tacit premise that they are disposable people. Ryan is, indeed, obsessed with reducing government aid to the poor, including assisting them in finding jobs.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaceoretire345Economic injustice benefits the few at the expense of the many in retirement years. (Image: Institute for Policy Studies)

A just-released study on the enormous gap between retirement assets and benefits for the wealthy as compared to the rest of Americans - "A Tale of Two Retirements" - blames the divide on "a shift in the rules to favor corporate executives over other working people."

Key findings of the report, which was authored by Sarah Anderson and Scott Klinger for the Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Effective Government, include:

  • The company-sponsored retirement assets of just 100 CEOs add up to as much as the entire retirement account savings of 41% of American families (50 million families in total).

  • The 100 largest CEO retirement accounts are worth an average of more than $49.3 million—enough to generate a $277,686 monthly retirement check for each executive for the rest of their lives.

  • David Novak of YUM Brands had the largest retirement nest egg in the Fortune 500 in 2014, with $234 million, while hundreds of thousands of his Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC employees have no company retirement assets whatsoever. Novak transitioned from CEO to Executive Chairman in 2015.

Meanwhile, as BuzzFlash pointed out in an October 15 commentary, US "seniors face year of increased hardship as Social Security benefits stagnate." We pointed out that the government is denying seniors on Social Security a cost-of-living increase next year, even though their costs for food, medical care and rent are increasing. 

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaatblairProtestors at a UK Iraq War inquiry in 2010 respell Tony Blair's last name to emphasize that he is a liar. (Photo: Chris Beckett)

In a highly qualified "apology" for the Iraq War - offered in an interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN - Tony Blair grudgingly admitted that the war may have been partially responsible for the unleashing of ISIS. 

Many British news outlets, such as the Guardian US, speculate that Blair was savvily using preemptive public relations to insulate himself from the expected criticisms of the upcoming publication of the UK Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War:

Did Tony Blair’s statements about taking Britain to war in Iraq constitute an apology? As far as Britain’s national newspapers were concerned, they certainly did not.

Most of the editorials and commentaries view his CNN interview as a spin operation ahead of the publication of the Chilcot report, which is expected, wrote the Guardian’s Richard Norton-Taylor, to be "damning."

The Daily Mail accused the former prime minister of weasel words in "an apology of sorts." The Daily Mirror thought he had delivered a "half-hearted apology" that "will bring no comfort to families whose loved ones never came home."

Blair, while acknowledging that the accusations that Iraq's Saddam Hussein was amassing weapons of mass destruction were false, doesn't concede that he knew that they were false as the Bush administration and the UK used the lie to feverishly market the war.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaabeng666The House of Representatives GOP promotes one of the endless Benghazi Committee "hearings." (Photo: House GOP)

One need not support Hillary Clinton's hawkish foreign policy (including her lamentable advocacy of the Libyan invasion in the first place - which most Congressional Republicans vigorously supported), her candidacy, or even her veracity to challenge the use of Congress by Republicans to hijack the legislative process and turn it into a junkyard dog. 

Yahoo Finance reported about Thursday's marathon Benghazi hearing:

After questioning Hillary Clinton for 11 hours in Congress, the head of the House Select Committee investigating the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya didn't have a concrete answer about whether he'd learned anything new. 

Even the corporate mainstream media, which usually loves to report on the sparks that fly from the manufactured spectacle of such "hearings," is beginning to take note of the real motive of the Benghazi Committee. An October 22 USA Today editorial offered this opinion:

The situation raises any number of questions about the wisdom of U.S. involvement in Gadhafi's removal, the lack of follow-through and the right strategy to fight the spread of ISIL in the region. 

But, as former secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s marathon appearance Thursday before the Select Committee on Benghazi made clear, these questions are not being asked. Instead, an insular and hyperpartisan Washington is focused on just one aspect of the Libyan drama: Clinton’s actions around the time of a 2012 raid on a diplomatic compound that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Thursday’s hearing was hardly a sober and thorough effort to find fact. That work has already been done in seven prior inquiries by Congress and one by a State Department review panel (which found that department personnel made misjudgments in a confusing situation). 

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaagreed324It is greed that is shameful, not poverty. (Photo: See-ming Lee

Robert E. McDonald, the mayor of Lewiston, Maine, recently wrote a commentary in his local paper in which he advocates for shaming public aid recipients by listing their names and addresses on a website. Consistent with this proposal, he also suggests that harsh restrictions should be applied to those in poverty who receive financial aid from the government:

We will be submitting a bill to the next legislative session asking that a website be created containing the names, addresses, length of time on assistance and the benefits being collected by every individual on the dole. After all, the public has a right to know how its money is being spent.

Along with this bill, we will be resubmitting HR 368, which will bring local General Assistance into compliance with federal laws that limit General Assistance to a 60-month total lifetime benefit. 

Additionally, we will be submitting a bill similar to one in Massachusetts, prohibiting the state from paying benefits for any additional child born after the recipient has been accepted into General Assistance.

McDonald doesn't call his idea for publicly listing government financial recipients an act of "shaming," but that surely is his intention. It also may be a perverse strategy to deter families in need from seeking financial assistance in the first place, out of fear that they may be harassed. 

Published in EditorBlog
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