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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aholdermoleUS Department of Education

The website Wall Street on Parade has been tenacious in uncovering misdeeds in the nation's financial capital, as well as various levels of government that enable the malfeasance. On September 23, it reported on an intriguing speech by Attorney General Eric Holder in an article entitled, "Eric Holder Says Justice Department Has Moles on Wall Street":

Avoiding detection as a mole becomes so much more challenging when the highest law enforcement officer in the land, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, comes to New York to address Wall Street’s lawyers and tells them, flat out, that he’s got moles stationed inside his Wall Street targets. (There were likely 100,000 text messages flying about Wall Street before Holder got to the next paragraph of his speech.)

The revelation by Holder came on September 17, not in off the cuff remarks, but in a carefully prepared speech delivered at NYU School of Law in Manhattan.

Wall Street on Parade points out that the moles are called "undercover cooperators" by the Department of Justice.

No doubt Holder's on the record objective in his speech was to warn Wall Street that they were being watched from the inside by an army of informers – and that this might dissuade them from wrongdoing. However, a more cynical perspective would posit that the attorney general was giving notice to Wall Street financial firms to be more careful about disclosing their legally questionable behavior to too many staffers - and alerting them not to leave any paper trails that indicate intent to commit illegal acts.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apoverty2(Photo: Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!)

The website of the Annie E. Casey Foundation makes clear that the well-being of children and families in the United States, regardless of income, is a key focus of its philanthropy. A important tool in focusing on this issue is providing up to date data and information. The goal is to provide policy makers and citizens with the tools to understand the extent of childhood and family poverty in the US. 

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On one of the foundation's web pages, it states the alarming reality that, "The United States continues to have one of the highest relative child poverty rates among all developed countries":

In order to compare rates of poverty across countries many researchers use “relative” poverty rates, which examine a family’s income relative to the average family in the country. A recent report by UNICEF found that the United States had more children living in relative poverty - defined as living in a household in which disposable income is less than 50 percent of the national median – than all but one other economically advanced countries, Romania.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aearthna(Photo: NASA Goddard)

As more than 300,000 people marched in New York on Sunday to advocate a dramatic change in strategies to reduce global warming, it should not be forgotten that the groundwork for the destruction of our atmosphere - as far as the US role in the looming catastrophe is concerned - began with the near annihilation of Native-Americans.

It is generally accepted by Native American historians that Native religions and worldviews have long been grounded in the premise that the earth is sacred. An abstract of a research paper by J. Baird Callicott, a professor of philosophy and environmental ethics at the University of North Texas, sums up the contrast between the conquered and the conquerors:

A generalized traditional Western worldview is compared with a generalized traditional American Indian worldview in respect to the practical relations implied by either to nature. The Western tradition pictures nature as material, mechanical, and devoid of spirit (reserving that exclusively for humans), while the American Indian tradition pictures nature throughout as an extended family or society of living, ensouled beings. The former picture invites unrestrained exploitation of nonhuman nature, while the latter provides the foundations for ethical restraint in relation to nonhuman nature.

It may appear simplistic to summarize these two worldviews as the difference between respecting our environment and exploiting it, but in general, these trends hold true.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aclivenbundy(Photo: DonkeyHotey)

Cliven Bundy is such an extreme caricature of egregious hypocrisy - not to mention being a crass racist - that he appears to be the invention of a cynical satirist. Alas, he's not.

Given how quickly the news cycle moves, here's a brief review of the Bundy farce. He's the Nevada rancher that became an icon of defiance of the government when he refused to pay grazing fees for his cattle to the Bureau of Land Management. The Bureau impounded Bundy's cows that were feeding themselves on federal land, because he owed more than a million dollars to the Bureau.

Bundy took to the media, and soon, armed militias - whose members believe government is an evil force that encroaches on their "God-given" rights - swarmed to "protect" Bundy from law enforcement officials and Bureau of Land Management officers. After a brief stand-off, the militarized swat teams and police stood down and essentially abandoned the area to Bundy's supporters, who continued to surround his ranch, acting as a de facto rebel military force. This included the setting up of armed check points. If these forces were in another nation defying US authority, they would be considered “militants” and targeted by drones.

Furthermore, the Bureau of Land Management - in full retreat - released Bundy's herd to again roam freely on federal land.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ajyellen2Janet Yellen (Photo: Public Domain)

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has proven to be just another member of the financial ruling elite living in an alternative universe.

Accordingto the Associated Press (AP), Yellen believes the best approach to address the economic challenges faced by income inequality is to encourage people who are struggling to survive to save more money:

The Great Recession showed that a large number of American families are "extraordinarily vulnerable" to financial setbacks because they have few assets to fall back on, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Thursday

Yellen said a Fed survey found that an unexpected expense of just $400 would force the majority of American families to borrow money, sell something or simply not pay.

"The financial crisis and the Great Recession demonstrated, in a dramatic and unmistakable manner, how extraordinarily vulnerable are the large share of American families with few assets to fall back on," Yellen said in a Washington speech.

She said the bottom fifth of households by income - about 25 million households - had median net worth in 2013 of just $6,400, and many of these families had nothing saved or negative net worth, meaning their debts were greater than their assets.

That is like telling a starving person to set aside a few crumbs of bread for the future.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

alocavore(Photo: thebittenword.com)

The PBS Newshour reports that at least one school district is attempting to implement "locavore" policies, resulting in fresher, healthier and more planet friendly food for students: 

In Oakland, school officials are undertaking an ambitious plan to transform the school lunch menu.  They’re working to source food from local farms, instead of big companies, and provide California food for California kids.

Strikingly, the change was precipitated by research done by the schoolchildren themselves, according to Jennifer LeBarre, director of nutrition for the Oakland schools and a local food advocate:

One of the things that inspired us to do the farm-to-school movement is a class project that Cleveland Elementary School fifth graders did.

On Earth Day, they did the food miles for their particular lunch, and they found out that the asparagus that they served, that we served to them, had traveled 17,000 miles before they ate it.  And so this was a real shocker for me, because asparagus is grown 50 miles from here, maybe 100 at the most.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aminwage(Photo: Spike55151)

Chicago Tribune poll published on September 16 indicates "Illinois voters strongly support the idea of increasing the minimum wage and raising the state income tax on millionaires."

With less than two months before the November mid-term elections, the poll demonstrates that the electorate in Illinois backs two referenda that modestly address the growing income inequality gap in the United States. Based on a survey of 800 registered voters, 69 percent would back a minimum wage increase in the state to $10 by January 1 of 2015; 56 percent would support an additional 3 percent tax on annual incomes of more than $1 million dollars.

The current minimum wage in President Obama's home state is $8.25 (one dollar more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25). In regards to the state income tax, Illinois has a regressive flat state rate of 5 percent; in short, the wealthiest people in Illinois pay no more - as a percentage - than those with lesser incomes.

Published in EditorBlog
Monday, 15 September 2014 07:10

The Economist Has a Slavery Problem

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aneconomistslavery(Photo: Internet Archive Book)

The Economist - the famed international magazine that is an inveterate cheerleader for global capitalism and the concept of neoliberal "free markets" - was recently forced by public pressure to remove a book review that posited that slavery was not all bad. Ironically, it ended up apologizing for the unsigned piece (review columns are normally not attributed in The Economist), yet paradoxically including a copy of the original repugnant review in its explanation of why it was no longer posting it.

The target of the review was the book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward E. Baptist, an associate professor at Cornell University.

The Economist asserted:

Mr. Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains. This is not history; it is advocacy.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apalin3(Photo: Wikipedia)

The Palin clan, headed by Momma Grizzly and Papa Todd, were reportedly involved in a drunken brawl a few days ago. Apparently, the family was at a party related to Alaska's famous Tesoro Iron Dog snowmobile race (which Todd has won four times) when fists began to fly.

According to ABC News

Sarah Palin and her family were at the center of a lively party last weekend that erupted into a fight, with daughter Bristol Palin allegedly throwing a right hook, a man who says he was a guest at the party told ABC News.

“She was punching him [another man] in the face like six times; it was an assault if I’ve ever seen one,” Eric Thompson said, adding that he was among 70 guests at the birthday party in Anchorage Saturday.

“It wasn’t a light punch either. She was really hitting him. I’m surprised he just sat there and took it.”

Political blogger Amanda Coyne reported that Sarah Palin, along with husband Todd and kids Bristol, Willow and Track, arrived in a stretch Hummer and that the fighting started as the beer started flowing.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

americanexcept(Photo: Occupy Posters)

The headline for this commentary came from, of all places, a Chris Cillizza Washington Post column analyzing President Obama's Wednesday night speech on his war plans against ISIS:

The closing moments of Obama's speech, which were noticeably free - or close to it - of the sort of soaring oration his allies love and his detractors loathe, was essentially a paean to American exceptionalism. "America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth," Obama said as he began his close. He went on to note the exceptional role the U.S. had played in beating back an ever-aggressive Russia, our country's work to contain Ebola and the U.S.'s key contribution to ridding Syria of chemical weapons. "America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden," Obama insisted, a line - and a sentiment - that Ronald Reagan would have loved.

Cillizza wasn't necessarily being critical in his tone; he simply was stating the reality that Obama was continuing policies marked by the US asserting itself as the military superpower of the world. As with Bush and Reagan and everyone in between, Obama invokes the notion that the US is obligated to enter into war because it has a uniquely moral mission.

Yes, it is true that Obama did not make the decision to begin the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that led to the blowback of ISIS, but much of his White House speech could have easily been delivered by George W. Bush.

Published in EditorBlog
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