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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaasocialsecIn a specious move, the federal government will deny Social Security recipients an adjusted increase in benefits this coming year. (Photo: 401(K) 2012)

According to an October 15 Associated Press article, the federal government has decided not to increase benefits this year for Social Security recipients:

The government says there will be no benefit increase next year for millions of Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and federal retirees.

It’s just the third time in 40 years that benefits will remain flat. All three times have come since 2010....

The announcement will affect benefits for more than 70 million people - that’s more than one-fifth of the nation’s population.

The total includes almost 60 million retirees, disabled workers, spouses and children who get Social Security benefits.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaahillaryFormer Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has rejected the hard choice of reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act to rein in Wall Street. (Photo: Mike Mozart)

Amidst the announcements by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that she officially opposes the northern sector of the Keystone XL pipeline and has taken a position against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, there has been little discussion of Clinton's announcement that she is opposed to the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall act. 

The infamous repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act occurred during the waning days of the Bill Clinton administration, with his full support. The law, according to Investopedia, was "an act the U.S. Congress passed in 1933 as the Banking Act, which prohibited commercial banks from participating in the investment banking business."

As an analysis of Clinton's position by journalist Dylan Stableford of Yahoo! Politics states:

The Glass-Steagall Act, passed in 1933, prohibited commercial banks from participating in the investment banking business and created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to protect bank deposits from institutional failure. But major provisions of the law were repealed in 1999 under President Bill Clinton, a move some believe contributed to the 2008 global credit crisis because commercial banks - now free to invest in things such as real estate - were saddled with billions of dollars in losses tied to cratering U.S. home prices. Several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for the reinstatement of the law to make "too-big-to-fail" banks much smaller, minimize risk and prevent such a crisis from happening again.

An onslaught of critics have blamed the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act for the 2008 US economic implosion, the bailing-out of banks with billions and billions of taxpayer dollars, and the ongoing fraud and illegal behavior of many large banks. Clinton, however, says that she has a better prescription to cure Wall Street misbehavior.

Published in EditorBlog
Thursday, 08 October 2015 08:17

In the US, Is God a White Racist?

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaheritage32

What God would be on the side of racism, violence and white supremacy? (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)

In a Truthout commentary in January 2013, Thom Hartmann asserted that the Second Amendment was inserted in the US Constitution to preserve slavery. Hartmann provides concrete detail and historical context to bolster his claim. He argues that the Southern slave states were fearful that the Northern states would eventually have enough power to end slavery in the newly formed United States. As a result, they wanted concessions in the Constitution to alleviate their "concerns."

These appeasements included counting human slaves as three-fifths of a person (even though they were obviously not allowed to vote) in order to enlarge Southern congressional districts, and allotting two senators to states regardless of population to give relatively sparsely populated slave states equal representation in the Senate to Northern states that were larger in population. 

Hartmann cogently accounts for how important the Second Amendment was to Slave states, to ensure their legal ability - through militarized police actions and groups - to attempt to prevent slaves from escaping or rebelling. 

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaapeoplefirstWhen profits come before people, more than half of the population of the United States is living on the margins. (Photo: Don Shall)

A recent study by the for-profit website GOBankingRates.com found that just under 50 percent of Americans have no savings socked away. Worse yet, another 13 percent in the US have savings that total under $1000, and 9 percent have just a "minimum [savings] account" balance requirement. Minimum balance requirements vary, but GOBankingRates cites ranges of $500 - $1500.

If you add these three figures together, a dismaying number of Americans - approximately 70 percent - have either no savings or less than around $1500 set aside. 

Commenting on the survey, blogger Jonathan Turley cuts to the chase:

The economic situation in this country is far worse than most people appreciate. We live in economically stratified areas where there is little interaction between distant economic classes. These reports are a startling wake up call for policy makers. The goal of everyone having a few months of cushion for bad times is clearly not occurring - leaving at least half or more of the population on the razor’s edge of poverty.

Another analysis, conducted by America Saves, is more optimistic, but the America Saves survey is based on the desire to save, not the reality of whether or not an individual has the financial ability to set aside money for the future.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaajebb3Jeb and the Bush clan bear some responsibility when "stuff happens." (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

Last week, Jeb Bush went on record as publicly dismissing the need for reining in the lethal legacy of a fanatical gun culture and rampant gun ownership in the United States. He was speaking in response to the Oregon mass shooting at a community college, in which nine students were executed.

As an article in The Washington Post reported,

"We're in a difficult time in our country and I don't think that more government is necessarily the answer to this," he said. "I think we need to reconnect ourselves with everybody else. It's just, it's very sad to see. But I resist the notion -- and I did, I had this, this challenge as governor, because we have, look, stuff happens, there's always a crisis and the impulse is always to do something and it's not necessarily the right thing to do."

Bush was speaking at a forum hosted by The Conservative Leadership Project, a group with ties to South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, who moderated the event. His comments came the day after a shooter at an Oregon community college killed nine before being killed by police. Several others are recovering from injuries.

When a reporter asked Bush whether the remark was a mistake, he replied: "No, it wasn’t a mistake, I said exactly what I said, explain to me what I said wrong."

It would be easy to dismiss Jeb's callous belittling of a mass shooting as a reassurance to the NRA, which is a key financial and voting-block supporter of presidential candidates. After all, when Jeb was governor of Florida, he gave the NRA pretty much whatever it asked for in terms of signing pro-gun legislation.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT 

aaaaaaaaaawarren32Elizabeth Warren took on a corporate-funded study by a Brookings think tank fellow and won. (Photo: AFGE)

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) continues to pierce the veil of how the DC professional class of "experts" is frequently corrupted by financial gain. In this case, a fellow for the Brookings Institution received $40,000 from an investment firm to write a study that was critical of a proposal supported by Warren and the White House.

The regulation in question would simply compel transparency by financial advisors, requiring them to disclose to investors if they or their firms would monetarily benefit from advice given to clients.

According to a September 29 article in Boston.com, Warren tenaciously pursued the exposure of a financially compromised report co-author by writing a letter to Brookings:

On Tuesday morning, the Washington Post reported that Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote a letter to the Brookings Institution, a prestigious Washington think tank, over a study that criticized a proposed Labor Department regulation on financial advisors.

Warren wrote that the report’s co-author Robert Litan—who was commissioned nearly $40,000 by an investment firm that also reviewed the report—was “highly compensated and editorially compromised work on behalf of an industry player seeking a specific conclusion.”

On Tuesday afternoon, The Hill reported that Litan, Brookings’ nonresident senior economic fellow, will resign....

It [the study] was also funded by the Capital Group, a investment firm that manages $1.4 trillion in American funds and had “made opposition to Labor’s rule one of its top priorities,” according to the Post.

Brookings is often described by the corporate mass media as a “liberal” think tank. However, in reality, Brookings is not particularly "liberal."

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaachristcolPlaque dedicated to Christopher Columbus in Washington State asserting in self-justifying Eurocentric arrogance that he "gave to the world a continent." (Photo: C Hanchey)

September 25 article in The Huffington Post by Julian Brave NoiseCat identifies a linchpin essential to understanding the legal framework that allowed the US slaughter and conquest of Native Americans.

The precedent begins with legal Papal Bulls that sanctified - prior to the landing of Columbus in the Caribbean in 1492 – the subsequent brutal Spanish and Portuguese seizure of South America and the Caribbean. It was the Vatican's assertion of a divine right to lands occupied by “heathens” that ultimately became the legal basis for the ruthless United States expansion westward through the theft of land occupied by Indigenous peoples.

Based on what is known as the Doctrine of Discovery, the Vatican issued a series of decrees in the 15h Century, providing so-called divine authority for the beginning of slave trafficking, among other merciless acts of empire expansion, carnage and profiteering. Eventually, the Papal Bulls condoned - “in God's name” - the seizure of the Americas by European Christians, for exploitation of their mineral and agricultural riches - and for the brutalization, torture, killing and enslavement of Indigenous peoples in the name of Christ.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaatrickledAfter more than three decades of "trickle down economics," facts show that the money is only flowing in one direction: up. (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

An analysis of data by David Cooper of the Economic Policy Institute reveals some startling statistics:

As of 2014, only two states - North Dakota and Colorado - have poverty rates at or below their 2007 values, before the Great Recession....

The lack of improvement in state poverty rates echoes the trends we’ve seen in household income. However, the data suggest that the lack of real income growth over the past decade and a half has been even more pronounced for households at the bottom of the income scale. As of 2014, 38 states had lower median household income than in 2000, yet 47 states—nearly the entire country—had higher poverty rates in 2014 than in 2000. [Italics inserted by BuzzFlash.]

Cooper attributes this stunning increase in poverty and decrease in median incomes, in part, to stagnant wages. Of course, there are other failures, such as the lack of employment - any employment - for many in the United States. Even with jobs, however, those with minimum wage work are often living in poverty - with their families - while employed.

As the economy is booming for the economic elite in the United States, Cooper's analysis represents the catastrophic failure of the trickle-down theory of Reaganomics. However, this has not prevented the likes of Jeb Bush and GOP economic policy point person Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) from continuing to advocate tax cuts for the wealthy.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaabigotry32Bigotry is fueling the flames of the GOP primary. (Photo: Travis Wise)

It's appalling to watch so many of the GOP presidential candidates try to outdo each other in trolling for racist and xenophobic votes by using the low-hanging fruit of bigotry.

Their basic message is that if one is not white, one is part of that great "threatening" mass that so many whites fear: "the other." This morphs into Republican presidential aspirants throwing out molotov cocktail soundbites, announcing in thinly veiled language that "the other" - in whatever guise - is both an existential and lethal threat to whites in the US.

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One particular "off to the races" moment for the 2016 fusillade of vile appeals to whites - and particularly white Christians - who feel that their white privilege and religious "values" are under siege was Donald Trump's demagogic statement about Mexican-American refugees, unleashed during his candidacy announcement:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists....

But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people. 

 

Published in EditorBlog
Tuesday, 22 September 2015 06:13

Colorado Marijuana Tax Revenues Are Soaring

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaacolorfulcol34Will the decriminalization of marijuana be the first small step toward ending the ruinous "war on drugs"? (Photo: Kent Kanouse)

September 21 article in the Guardian US reports that marijuana sales in Colorado are exceeding state tax-revenue expectations:

Legal marijuana tax revenues have been breaking records in Colorado this summer, nearly doubling monthly numbers from last year and on pace to exceed projections of legal sales that bring revenue back to the state.

Through the first seven months of this year, Colorado has brought in nearly $73.5m, putting the state on pace to collect over $125m for the year.

As the article notes, the new estimate of $125 million in state tax revenue far exceeds the previous projection of $70 million.

Truthout and BuzzFlash combat corporate power by bringing you trustworthy, independent news. Join our mission by making a donation now! Join our mission by making a tax-deductible donation now!

Why are marijuana sales increasing at such a rapid rate in Colorado? The Guardian US offers a couple of possible explanations:

Tim Cullen, CEO of Colorado Harvest Company, said: "People who would never have considered pot before are now popping their heads in." His company has three dispensaries in the Denver area and plans for a fourth. He noted that in his stores, where customers are primarily Colorado residents purchasing recreational marijuana, sales have been averaging 8% to 12% growth month over month for much of this year.

Published in EditorBlog
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