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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

achildjob(Photo: Lady Buffalo)Remember the childhood tale of the Dutch boy who kept trying to stop the leaks in a dam with his fingers until he ran out of them?

That's what workers are facing in trying to survive.  No matter which attempt at turning them into something akin to indentured servants at the service of corporations you look at, the attacks just keep coming.

Yesterday, BuzzFlash at Truthout posted a commentary on a new insidious scheme to shortchange laborers, "Paying Employees With Gift Cards That Have Fees Is a Deplorable Economic Injustice."

When it comes to compensation for laborers today in the US, the scenario playing out is pay decreases by a thousands cuts.

At a time when some cities and states - and the Obama adminsitration and Democrats in Congress - are advocating for an increased minimum wage, which currently is $7.25, other exploitative forces are fighting against it.  

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aatm(Photo: SalFalko)As reported over and over again on BuzzFlash at Truthout, worker wages have essentially remained stagnant - when adjusted for inflation - over more than two decades, while the top 1% have increased their share of the newly growing economy by 95%.

On top of that, many of those who have become unemployed due to the recession caused by banks too big to fail, must now work at miniminum wages jobs - if they are lucky enough to find employment.

Furthermore, it appears businesses and banks are continually coming up with new ways to reduce take home pay - whether it is paying for uniforms and equipment needed on the job or replacing permanent workers with part-time ones or temps.  For a few years now, in addition, there has been a growing trend to pay workers not with checks or direct deposits to their banks, but essentially with what are commonly known as gift cards (but are more generally, in essence, pre-loaded electronic transaction cards).

Of course, while a few companies don't charge extra fees, many do.  The businesses save by not cutting checks, but as with many gift cards, the workers are saddled with paying per transaction and other fees to use their own money because of costs levied on the utilization of electronic pay cards.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ataseRepresentational image of tasering (Photo: Photolibrium)

When The New York Times (NYT) calls the tasering of students as a "disciplinary" measure torture, it is time to take notice that our schools have been infected with the appalling post 9/11 acceptance of harsh interrogation and discipline.

After all, the NYT has long been reluctant to call many abhorrent and internationally illegal measures used by the United States in the wake of 9/11 torture.  The NYT has preferred the euphemism and more publically acceptable term "harsh interrogation techniques."

Therefore, one must take notice when the NYT published an editorial on April 11 entitled, "Torturing Children at School." One can be certain that the NYT, so squeamish about calling waterboarding torture, did not choose that word without much debate, making the implications of the editorial that much more damning and gruesome.

In particular, the NYT editorial board focuses on the practice of tasering even young students in many public schools, sometimes resulting in death.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

8036143615 c34c5348ce m(Photo: origamidon)The war on the homeless - in which some cities have passed laws outlawing giving food to the homeless, not to mention longstanding laws against "vagrancy" - has taken a cruel turn. Now, some municipalities are outlawing living in cars and other vehicles.

People who live in cars are one step above the penury of complete homelessness. Denying them the shelter that an automobile provides is another cruel step in the war against people without economic means. Such actions give the term "the war on poverty" a whole new perspective: punishment for not having enough money to afford increasing rents.

The growing war on car dwellers is featured in an April 8 article in The Wall Street Journal: "Homeless Lose a Longtime Last Resort: Living in a Car: Cities in Silicon Valley, Elsewhere Crack Down on Vehicle Dwellers Driven Out of Apartments by Rents."

Nearly 70 cities are considering such crackdowns on people whose vehicles have become their homes, according to the Journal.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anyttransit(Photo: Wikipedia)As BuzzFlash at Truthout has been beating the drum about the gloomy imminence of the disastrous impact of climate change, it is worth noting that among the larger contributors to global warming are gas-powered vehicles (think cars and trucks). 

It's not just the carbon dioxide emitted by automobiles, it's the fossil fuel nightmare that has been created by expanding urban areas to exurban locations located at great distances from city centers.  This, in turn, requires more inefficient use of energy (most of it still fossil fuel based) and more car use through the building of more expressways.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists:

Passenger cars and light trucks represent the lion’s share of US transportation emissions and collectively produce almost one-fifth of the nation’s total global warming pollution. 

All together, transportation generates nearly 30 percent of America’s global warming emissions, including more than one-third of all US carbon dioxide emissions.

The remaining transportation-related emissions come from medium and heavy-duty vehicles (primarily freight trucks and buses), plus aircraft, shipping, rail, military, and other uses.

Remember, as we just noted, that automobiles actually contribute a greater percentage to climate change, due to the creation of an inefficient energy disbursement structure (housing, office parks, shopping) that the car makes possible.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amethaneMethane bubble (Photo: Nutch Biser)In 1965, a singer-songwriter, Barry McGuire, wrote a song called "The Eve of Destruction." It was inspired by the decade of violent foreign wars and civil rights clashes, but applies to the current acceleration of global warming:

But you tell me
Over and over and over again, my friend
Ah, you don't believe
We're on the eve
of destruction.

Don't you understand what I'm tryin' to say
Can't you feel the fears I'm feelin' today?

Some readers may find the recent BuzzFlash at Truthout commentaries on the devastating climate change that is occurring a bit gloomy and lugubrious.  After all, if US residents turn on the television or listen to the radio, few news outlets are discussing the looming cataclysm.  Also, like carbon monoxide, it is odorless. In the air around us, it is not visible.

More frequently, nonetheless, we are seeing reports of its volatile impact in hurricanes, droughts, deluges and the melting of glaciers and the Arctic ice, among other ominous signs of its growing destructive power. 

Yet, still most people don't believe "we are on the eve of destruction," as fossil fuel plunderers are granted the rights - even subsidized by the US government - to continue their destruction of our ecosphere.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

adrought(Photo: EU Humanitarian Aid)Enviornmental journalist Mark Hertsgaard recently wrote a lamentation to future generations about the legacy of a lethal planet that we are leaving them. In The Daily Beast, he plaintively contemplates what his young daughter will be confronting in the years ahead: 

My daughter Chiara, the central character in HOT [Hertsgaard's 2011 book], is turning nine this weekend....

The grief and fear the [UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] IPCC report triggered in me stems from a central fact of our climate future: Everyone on earth below the age of 25 is already fated to spend much of their lifetime coping with the hottest temperatures our civilization has ever encountered. The laws of physics and chemistry—above all, the fact that carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for many decades after being emitted—mean that even if humans stopped all carbon emissions overnight, global temperatures would nevertheless keep rising for at least 30 more years.

Now apply that calculation to the first great human disaster with a scientifically attributable climate fingerprint: the record heat wave that scorched Europe in 2003. It caused 71,499 excess deaths, considerably more than the number of U.S. casualties in the Vietnam war. But thanks to the physical momentum of climate change, the record heat of 2003 will be routine before Chiara is my age. By 2050, Europeans will experience summers as hot as 2003 one year out of every two.

The higher temperatures locked in for the forthcoming decades will, in turn, unleash climate impacts that will affect every person on earth.

Hartsgaard's gloomy recognition of the reality that runaway industrial civilization has sown is only moderately tempered by the hope of an uprising resulting in immediate action to mitigate the ever-brewing perfect storm of desolation.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ascottwalkerEco-terrorist Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (Photo: DonkeyHotey)The other day BuzzFlash at Truthout ran a commentary that pointed out that it is those industries who are destroying the Earth who are committing acts of eco-terrorism. The just-released United Nations report on the dire future of the planet due to climate change should be pulling the fire alarms in nations across the world, but it's not. The White House is pretty much ignoring it, and Congress will probably be revisiting the farcical debate over Benghazi soon.

It is, therefore, not just the fossil fuel industries who are eco-terrorists, it is also those politicians who support the plundering of the earth, its pollution, and backing industries that one way or another are involved in a process that leads to a faster rate of Earth's destruction.

Take Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, for example.  He is allowing the construction of the "world's largest open-pit iron ore mine" in a pristine wilderness in the northern part of the state.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

akleinNaomi Klein, author of "No Logo" (Photo: Truthout)For those of us who are mystified at the current penchant for self-destruction of the human species in an orgy of corporate and personal greed - aided and abetted by the ruling elite in DC who are part of the oligarchy - it is worth remembering that much of who we are as a species in the developed world is tied to brand names that reflect "aspirational identity."

Naomi Klein brilliantly described this modern global phenomenon in her book "No Logo." We are lured by brands that stimulate over-consumption through advertising and public relations campaigns that make us believe buying a brand will bestow upon us attributes that we desire.

At the time Klein wrote her book, about 15 years ago, the most brilliant company strategy in this area was Nike: "Just do it!" To wear the Nike swoosh - and buy its wildly over-priced products made using exploited labor overseas - was (and is) to assume a certain identity we desire, even if we are unathletic and indecisive.  The purchase and wearing (or use) of the product makes us feel as if we are what we want to be, not what we are.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

3103989161 6503bd6ff3 z(Photo: David Moir)Truthout posted an inspiring article today about two Oberlin College students who were arrested for blocking a road in efforts to stall strip mining expansion in southern Illinois:

Police arrested two activists at a blockade set up on Rocky Branch Road in Harrisburg, Illinois, early on March 28, 2014, to stop Peabody Energy from continuing logging operations as part of the company's strip mine expansion.

Daniel Goering, 20, and Alice Fine, 19, laid down a tarp on the road to block the route to be used for logging that day. Along with other environmental activists and with the support of community residents directly impacted by Peabody's operations, the two tried to forestall and possibly prevent further strip mining and the proposed closure of Rocky Branch Road. 

Peabody is the largest private coal company in the US and world and it "finished the year with a total liquidity of $2.1 billion and $444 million cash, the company's 2013 annual report stated."  It is notoriously anti-union and not particularly welcoming of government safety regulations.

Coal remains a primary energy source in the United States and is also a primary factor in increasing global warming as it is extracted and processed.  Southern Illinois coal has characteristics that cause additional air pollution as it is utilized.  

Published in EditorBlog
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