Facebook Slider
Get News Alerts!

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

handsup(Photo: Light Brigading)

In the August 19 Washington Post, Los Angeles police officer Sunil Dutta wrote an op-ed entitled: "I'm a cop. If you don't want to get hurt, don't challenge me." The sub-headline was, "It's not the police, but the people they stop, who can prevent a detention from turning into a tragedy."

The authoritarian belligerence of that statement says volumes about why so many police officers are so dangerous to the public whom they are supposed to be serving. Such a stance presumes that a law enforcement official has absolute powers to stop and detain any person in any fashion at anytime. It reflects the presumptuousness of power and assumes a right to use of force against anyone who contests being detained in a democracy.

Truthout Senior Editor and Lead Writer William Rivers Pitt also took note of Dutta's menacing tone in a recent fundraising e-mail for Truthout and BuzzFlash. Pitt noted, "that mindset, combined with unimaginably lethal weapons, is a threat to the very fabric of our democracy."

Clearly, the precipitating factor for Dutta's warning to citizens is the widespread dismay over the murder of Mike Brown and the use of unnecessary militarized police force in Ferguson, along with the revulsion among many at the bellicose swagger, use of brute force and wave of arrests by police in that city.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTunlearnracism(Photo: Light Brigading)

On August 18, the Pew Center for the People & the Press released a poll that reveals "stark racial divisions in reactions to Ferguson police shooting":

Blacks and whites have sharply different reactions to the police shooting of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Mo., and the protests and violence that followed. Blacks are about twice as likely as whites to say that the shooting of Michael Brown "raises important issues about race that need to be discussed." Wide racial differences also are evident in opinions about of whether local police went too far in the aftermath of Brown's death, and in confidence in the investigations into the shooting.

The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Aug. 14-17 among 1,000 adults, finds that the public overall is divided over whether Brown's shooting raises important issues about race or whether the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves: 44% think the case does raise important issues about race that require discussion, while 40% say the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.

By about four-to-one (80% to 18%), African Americans say the shooting in Ferguson raises important issues about race that merit discussion. By contrast, whites, by 47% to 37%, say the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.

In a summary of the poll, Pew recalls that in its survey after Trayvon Martin was gunned down by George Zimmerman, "60% of whites said race received more attention in that case than it deserved." 

Years ago, I heard a speaker discuss how the history of the United States cannot be viewed through a focused lens unless one considers the legacy of slavery, the suppressive humiliating period of Reconstruction, the plantation ghettos of cities in the north and south, and the criminalization of being a black male. All of these require an open racism among many whites and a sub-conscious racial bias among many persons who think of themselves as liberals.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

lafolleteProgressive icon, "Fighting Bob" La Follette (Photo: WikipedAllan J. Lichtman, a professor of history at American University, claims a new study confirms - to adapt Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address - "that government of the people, by the people, for the people" is perishing from the United States.

In an August 12 blog entry posted on "The Hill," Lichtman writes:

The new study, with the jaw-clenching title of "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens," is forthcoming in the fall 2014 edition of Perspectives on Politics. Its authors, Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, examined survey data on 1,779 national policy issues for which they could gauge the preferences of average citizens, economic elites, mass-based interest groups and business-dominated interest groups. They used statistical methods to determine the influence of each of these four groups on policy outcomes, including both policies that are adopted and rejected.

The analysts found that when controlling for the power of economic elites and organized interest groups, the influence of ordinary Americans registers at a "non-significant, near-zero level." The analysts further discovered that rich individuals and business-dominated interest groups dominate the policymaking process. The mass-based interest groups had minimal influence compared to the business-based interest groups.

The study also debunks the notion that the policy preferences of business and the rich reflect the views of common citizens. They found to the contrary that such preferences often sharply diverge and when they do, the economic elites and business interests almost always win and the ordinary Americans lose.

The authors also say that given limitations to tapping into the full power elite in America and their policy preferences, "the real world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater" than their findings indicate.

Lichtman warns that unless voters who are less affluent become more organized on behalf of issues benefiting them - and vote in larger percentages as compared to the wealthy - the rein of the plutocracy will become even more firmly entrenched.
Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

mbrownmemorialSigns left after the National Moment of Silence vigil in Chicago on August 14, 2013, commemorate the victims of police killings. (Photo: Joe Macaré)

It is not uncommon for young people of color to be shot by police officers for little other reason than walking down a public sidewalk or street and not being responsive quickly enough when they are told to stop – and the incidents are usually only reported locally. 

But the shooting of Mike Brown took place in Ferugson, Missouri, where there was a perfect storm of combustibles – a majority white police force in a majority black town, a young man with no weapon gunned down by a police officer, follow-up protests in which the racist police force acted as if it was conducting a military campaign, the failure of the police department to disclose public information (including the name of the officer who killed Brown until today), and the ongoing treatment of the black residents of Ferguson as an "enemy" to be abused and arrested. There are even more factors that made Ferguson ignite nationally when other shootings of young male people of color by police have gotten little attention. 

For many older people in the US, the reports and videos of Ferguson evoke anguishing memories of the brutal role of police forces in trying to suppress the civil rights movement of the 1960s. And it's clear that when it comes to police, racist practices are often bound up with political repression. Police powers are still frequently used as a means of such repression - now carried out with advanced military equipment donated or purchased from the Pentagon - as well as occupation of poor areas in cites, particularly large swaths of neighborhoods in which people of color reside who have limited economic means.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Sarah Palin Kuwait Crop2(Photo: Christopher Grammer)It's not a new story that Sarah Palin has always supported one of the most socialistic state financial programs in the USA: the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend.

To refresh your memory, Alaska long ago set up an annual universal payout to state residents, drawn from tax revenue received from oil companies drilling in the state. An Associated Press article from 2011 provides the background:

Most Alaska residents will soon be getting a check for $1,174 [in 2011] simply because they live there.

Each person's share of the state's vast oil wealth was announced with much fanfare in Anchorage Tuesday, with Gov. Sean Parnell ripping open a gold-colored envelope to reveal the number. This day is so widely anticipated in Alaska that the announcement of the Permanent Fund Dividend amount was carried live on television statewide, and dozens tuned in to watch a live webcast by the governor's office.

This year's check is the smallest since 2006 and $107 less than last year's amount, which was $1,281. Parnell warned the amount could diminish more in the future, given market volatilities and the fact that oil production in the state is declining. Nonetheless, he called this year's amount "healthy."

State Revenue Commissioner Bryan Butcher said 647,549 Alaskans were deemed eligible to receive dividends, and about $760.2 million is expected to be paid out. Most Alaskans will get their dividends by direct deposit Oct. 6; the rest will receive checks in the mail.

The only requirement for receiving the payment from the state is proof of residency for at least one year in Alaska, spending at least 72 hours in the state over the prior year and not being classified as a felon [with some other minor qualifications]. The state even helps residents determine these simple prerequisites for receiving the cash on its website.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

cigphoto(Photo: Azrasta)State and local governments who thought they could quickly close budget holes and implement some public projects with a quick infusion of tobbaco settlement money (from a 1998 settlement with state attorneys general) have generally seen their plans go up in smoke. To be precise, an article in Pro Publica predicts "A handful of states promised to repay $64 billion [to Wall Street] on just $3 billion advanced [in settlement funds]."

Wall Street often uses dazzling promises to secure deals such as this one, where they offer upfront cash in return for agreements that have ballooning interest rates. If sounds like the same as the adjustable-rate mortgage scheme before the economic collapse of 2008, that is because it more or less is, according to Pro Publica.  In the case of states and local governments borrowing relatively small amounts of tobaco settlement cash in advance while committing to long-term debt, the finanical vehicle are named capital appreciation bonds (CABs). Pro Publica calls them toxic:

The CABs promise gigantic payouts [to Wall Street financial firms] — as high as 76 times what’s borrowed — because nothing is due on them for decades. Meantime, interest compounds on both the principal and accumulating balance.

Defaults by state and local governments are rare, but rating agencies have been warning that tobacco bonds in general could go under en masse. Moody’s said in May that up to 80 percent of the tobacco issues it tracks are likely to default.

If we look at the cycle of what happened, the financial vulture attack on funds that were set aside for public benefit is clear.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

(Book cover: The New Press)(Book cover: The New Press)It costs about $88,000 a year to incarcerate a young person in a state facility. Journalist and advocate Nell Bernstein reveals this and other shocking statistics and abuses of juveniles in her new book, Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison, the Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week.

That bill for keeping young people in "detention" is far more than most US workers make in a year. ($51,000 was the median household income in 2013 according to the Census Bureau.)

It is indicative of the racism and classism inherent in the US treatment of juveniles of color and the poor that the tax dollars spent to allegedly punish and "rehabilitate" a young person far exceed the stagnant or falling wages of most US families.

What is all that money used for in a system that is euphemistically called "juvenile detention"? Piper Kerman, author of "Orange Is the New Black", writes: "Burning Down the House by Nell Bernstein reveals a shocking truth: what adults do to children behind the walls of America’s juvenile prisons is criminal." It certainly doesn't resemble anything remotely akin to rehabilitation.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

affordablehousing(Photo: Brooke Anderson)

Late last month, Newsweek reported the approval of construction of an apartment building in Manhattan with a separate entrance for renters who pay less than the market price:

New York City has approved a developer’s Dickensian plan to include a “poor door” in a luxury apartment complex in the Upper West Side.

The prospect of a separate entrance for lower-income residents has been circulating for some time, but as the New York Post reported today, plans by company Extell Development to put a separate entrance for affordable housing tenants, who make 60 percent or less of median income, in the 33-story condo have been given the green light. The property will have 219 units, including 55 affordable units overlooking the street. Those renting and buying the apartments at the market-rate will have waterfront views.

The entrance is part of the Inclusionary Housing Program application, under which developers can build larger projects if they also provide low-income housing, either on- or off-site.

In addition, tenants who are paying lower rents mandated by the city will not be able to use building amenities such as the gym and the pool. In short, if you make less than the wealthy tenants, you are banned to a ghetto section of the tony apartment complex.

Newsweek reposted the twitter of Boston Globe writer Amanda Katz, who offered alternative names for the "poor door": "Service entrance. Portal of destitution. The 99% door. Strivers' entry. The debtor gate. The Porte of Serfs."

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

wage(Photo: Light Brigading)

Despite reassurances from the White House about the economy picking up, a recent survey by the Federal Reserve reveals a far bleaker perception among US wage earners.  

According to Reuters, a Federal Reserve study released on August 7 found most of the 99% pessimistic about their personal income status and economic condition:

In its first large-scale study of household finances, the U.S. central bank uncovered lingering effects of the sharpest economic downturn since the Great Depression, with 42 percent of respondents saying they had delayed major purchases and 18 percent saying they put off a major life decision, including buying a home or getting married, due to the crisis.

Thirty-six percent said they now planned to retire later, according to the online survey.

In a finding that could figure into the Fed's monetary policy debate, three-fourths of households said they expected their incomes to be the same or lower over the next year.

Maybe this is a surprise to the Federal Reserve, but BuzzFlash and Truthout have been reporting for years on the decline in wages relative to inflation. This is due to many factors, but much of it began with Reaganomics and the transfer of income and assets from working Americans to the wealthy. This has gone on through various congressionally sanctioned laws - including grossly excessive tax cuts for the rich - that restructured the economic distribution of the nation's income.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

shamirFormer Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir (Photo:Wikipedia)

One person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter.

One of the best examples of that may be the now-deceased former Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Shamir.

Shamir, who died at age 96 of Alzheimer's disease in 2012, was a member of the now-dominant political party in Israel: the Likud. When Shamir passed away, Netanyahu effusively praised him: "Yitzhak Shamir belonged to the generation of giants who founded the state of Israel and fought for the freedom of the Jewish people. As prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir took action to fortify Israel’s security and ensure its future."

In the days of the British Mandate leading up to the independence of Israel in 1948, there was a primary Jewish paramilitary force, the Hagannah. The Hagannah more or less evolved into the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) after statehood was established, and many of the state's military leaders for years were its veterans.

However, for some Jewish fighters, the Hagannah was too traditional in its military approach, too modeled on the British army … and not willing to engage in the assassinations of British soldiers. The British were seen by many Zionists as pro-Arab. They particularly incensed creators of Israel by aggressively limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine during the years of the Holocaust, and in the post-war years when Jewish refugees were seeking a place to live.

As a result, two Jewish terrorist groups were formed: the Irgun, and then an even more notorious offshoot which was nicknamed the Stern Gang. Shamir was a member of the Stern Gang, while former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin eventually headed the Irgun. Their mission was to drive the British out of Palestine, and also drive as many Palestinians out of what was to become Israel. The Irgun and the Stern Gang employed terrorist tactics, killing British military officials (and even the British minister of state for the Middle East) and massacring Arabs. Their most historically noted terrorist action against the British was the blowing up of much of the King David Hotel in 1946, then the headquarters for Britain overseeing Palestine. Around 100 people were killed, including 15 Jews.

Published in EditorBlog
Page 5 of 123