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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ahsbcbank(Photo: Michael Fleshman)

Since the great Wall Street bank and financial firm swindle that led to a crash of the US economy in 2008, BuzzFlash has published many an article about the failure of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to criminally charge banks or executives for practices that led to the economic meltdown.

Yes, the Department of Justice has levied several of the "too big to fail banks" with large fines. But these fines, even if they are over a billion dollars in some cases, are written off by the banks as the cost of doing business - and in many cases, they are literally written off as tax-deductible expenses for the year that they are paid in. Although the Department of Justice has also negotiated companion agreements to curtail harmful banking practices (in addition to the fines), it is not yet clear how vigorously it will enforce them.  

In addition, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has levied fines against Wall Street banks in relation to the economic crash and ongoing violations of banking regulations, but the SEC is limited by law to civil - and not criminal - enforcement.

In short, Wall Street emerged from the 2008 near-collapse of the US economy more profitable than ever as a result of a taxpayer bailout - and then what amounted to a financial slap on the wrist from US government enforcement agencies.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aclimatedenialThings don't go better with Koch. (Image: Wolf Gang)

The Koch Brothers, the most noted billionaires in the crusade to corral US democracy into an oligarchy, are back in the news for their funding of climate-denial flummery. In this case, according to The Guardian, they are making news for not revealing how much money they have invested in trying to debunk the reality of global warming:

The Koch brothers’ conglomerate Koch Industries has refused to comply with an investigation by three Senate Democrats into whether the company has funded groups or researchers who deny or cast doubt on climate change.

In response to a request from senators Barbara Boxer, Edward Markey and Sheldon Whitehouse for information about Koch Industries’ support for scientific research, Koch general counsel Mark Holden invoked the company’s first amendment rights.

Notice how the Koch Brothers attorney stresses "first amendment rights" for Koch Industries. This claim of corporate personhood echoes the plutocratic majority opinion in Citizens United: the opinion that companies have the same rights as individuals in elections. Only in this case, the notion of businesses being persons is applied to the funding of propaganda to elevate climate denial into a scientific theory.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amemorialA memorial to the three men lynched in Duluth, Minnesota, erected in 2003. (Photo: Sharon Mollerus)

The concept that the North of the United States is less racist than the South should be regarded as a relative judgment only. After all, racism afflicts the history of the United States and is institutionalized into its social hierarchy. The US was built on racist cruelty and barbarism - most notably in the near extermination of Native Americans by Whites and the in the ineffably gruesome and ignoble institution of slavery and all the horrors that accompanied it. 

As BuzzFlash has pointed out before, the North was hardly entirely abolitionist during the ante-bellum period. Many lucrative northern businesses - such as textiles and ship building - profited from the processing of cotton picked by slaves and from the illicit transport of slaves (many of whom died in what was known as the "middle passage") from Africa to the Western Hemisphere. Other industries in the North also prospered from slavery, including banks.

The North also shared many racist attitudes with the South, just not always as visibly. Certainly one could easily see racism in action in large Northern cities as most Blacks were confined to living in segregated parts of cities and attending segregated schools, among other denials of rights and economic opportunity.

There is no dearth of historical evidence attesting to racism in the North. One example are the years 1919-20 when racial riots spread across the Northern US (and the South) following WW II. The "red summer" of 1919 carried over into 1920, and on June 15, three Black "roustabouts" for a circus performing in Duluth, Minnesota, were lynched by a White mob estimated in the thousands by the Minnesota Historical Society.

According to the Historical Society: 

In the early morning of June 15th, Duluth Police Chief John Murphy received a call from James Sullivan's father saying six black circus workers had held the pair at gunpoint and then raped Irene Tusken. Little evidence would be found to corroborate these claims. An examination of Tusken that morning by Dr. David Graham, a family physician, showed no physical signs of rape or assault.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apeacesign2(Photo: Beth)

Christmastime is the worst.

That's when TV advertising, sappy television shows, holiday music and politicians all parrot the theme of a time of peace and goodwill toward all. Of course, the real national purpose of the end-of-year holiday season is the jingle of cash registers and fattening of corporate profits - along with vacations in tropical settings or skiing for those who can afford them.

Come January 1, however, after the football games are over and the last beer is drunk, the United States is off to another year of waging war.  

The National Priorities Project, which keeps running expenditure tabs on the costs of war, estimates that the US has now spent nearly $1.7 trillion on wars since 2001. A spokeswoman for the National Priorities Project told BuzzFlash that approximately $823 billion has been spent on the Department of Homeland Security since its creation after 9/11. She also mentioned a Washington Post article from 2013 that estimated the CIA budget at $14.7 billion. Pentagon spending alone - which comprises more than half of the US budget each year - rings in at $554 billion for 2015. To be fair, a lot of this funding overlaps, but the behemoth financial interests of the "war industry" are readily apparent from these figures. Furthermore, these estimates do not include agencies such as the State Department and many unknown "black budget" programs and smaller war and surveillance allocations.

The number of people who rely on war and "intelligence gathering" for their incomes and/or profit is enormous.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anincomeineq(Photo: mSeattle)

Wage stagnation has been an ongoing problem for workers. One of the main reasons for this "missing" income rise among the working class - as the stock market continues to break records - is the gargantuan shift of cash and assets upward to the super-rich.

Salaries for low-to-middle-income earners in the US have not only largely stagnated (given adjustment for inflation) since the Reagan "revolution" of tax cuts for the wealthy, they have in many cases gone down, due to the decline in unions, the shift of jobs overseas and the rise of big box retailers. Many people find their wages are actually falling, as they have to accept jobs beneath their skills and previous pay levels.

Progressive journalist Harold Myerson penned a column in the Washington Post on March 11 that analyzes why wages aren't rising even though the stock market is soaring. Although, it's not the exclusive reason for the hardship of the majority of US workers, Myerson pins down a key contributing factor: shareholders of corporations are receiving most of the gains, instead of those who toil to ensure profits.

 

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

bnobleBernard Noble and his daughter. (Image: Public Defenders of Orleans Parish)

You have to crawl down deep into the sewer system and trudge through raw sewage, pinching your nose to try and reduce the stench, to even begin to comprehend the injustice of sentencing a Black 49-year-old father of seven to 13 years in jail for possessing what amounts to two joints worth of marijuana.

The sludge of waste matter on the ignoble side of the US justice system is thick with racism, a perverse "war on drugs" and bias against the poor.

Bernard Noble, a resident of New Orleans, is now in a Louisiana prison because the raw sewage of a morally corrupt "criminal justice" system is still freely flowing in so many parts of the United States.

The Orleans Parish public defenders have been campaigning to free Noble, stating on their website:

Bernard Noble, a 49-year-old native of New Orleans and father of seven children, is currently serving 13.3 years for in the Jackson Parish Correctional Center in Jonesboro, Louisiana.

His crime? Possession of 2.8 grams of marijuana - roughly enough marijuana to roll two joints.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amcdesThe first Ray Kroc McDonald's, preserved as a museum in Des Plaines, Illinois. (Photo: George)

The world's most iconic food chain is facing some dire statistical trends. According to The Guardian, "McDonald's has announced an 'urgent need to evolve' after unveiling another slide in worldwide sales, the ninth month in a row that sales have fallen at the fast-food chain."

McDonald's is so desperate that it has announced that it will cease using chicken treated with antibiotics that are also used to treat humans (because medical advocates have shown that the ingestion of such antibiotics in food helps develop an immunity to them, which negatively impacts their medical use). Alas, as befits the golden arches of cholesterol and fried artery-clogging food, McDonald's commitment is not to be trusted: The company made a similar pledge in 2003 but never came through on its promise. 

It hurts to be betrayed by the omnipresent, global symbol of US fast food; promises, promises.

McDonald's is reeling from trends toward healthy eating, as its fast-food franchise competitors shift from the model of "logo" eating to a model aimed at meeting evolving consumer preferences.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amayoronepercentMayor 1% has an attitude problem. DonkeyHotey)

It might be overreaching to assert that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is running for reelection in Chicago by showing disdain for all the residents of Chicago. After all, he is nicknamed "Mayor 1%," and he certainly represents the "masters of the universe" in the expanding the corporate sector in the Windy City.

The ultra-wealthy who benefit from Emanuel's neoliberal policies hardly comprise enough votes to ensure that Emanuel gets another term. That's one of the reasons he was forced into a runoff election scheduled for April 7, battling against the more progressive Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, who has held a number of elected positions in the city and is currently a Cook County commissioner.

Emanuel holds a slight lead over Garcia in recent polling, but that could be due to Emanuel's enormous campaign treasure chest of more than $30 million, according to The Chicago Sun-Times. Garcia, in denying Emanuel's reelection in the primary (where 50 percent is needed to be elected mayor outright) held Emanuel to 45.4 percent of the vote in a historically low turnout, even though Garcia (who received 33.9 percent of the primary vote) had only raised $1.3 million to run for mayor.

Garcia is returning to a slogan that propelled the beloved Mayor Harold Washington (whom Garcia supported) into City Hall in 1983: "Chicago [under Emanuel] is a tale of two cities." New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also used the slogan in his successful run for mayor of New York in 2013.

Emanuel's egregious assaults on the public commons and the needs of Chicagoans who aren't wealthy are far too many to list in this commentary, as are his instances of blatant crony capitalism. (Progressive author Rick Perlstein touches upon many of them in a February 25 In These Times article.)

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afranleb2(Photoshop Image: LAProgressive Timeline)

A photoshopped image of journalist and author Fran Lebowitz (not to be confused with Annie Leibovitz the famed photographer) has been making its away around the internet. The image may be created on software, but the quotation from Lebowitz is unerringly accurate: "In the Soviet Union, capitalism triumphed over communism. In this country, capitalism triumphed over democracy."

Perhaps one can argue that there is still hope for democracy, the kind of faint pulse that an experienced paramedic detects when others have declared a person found lying in the street dead. Perhaps there is the chance that defibrillation or emergency surgery can yet resurrect an actual robust democracy and not just the appearance of one. In short, the last rites haven't yet been given to democracy in the US, but the priest is hovering near the body.

Lebowitz's quotation suggests the fundamentally overarching reality that a global oligarchical system has, at an accelerated pace, been steering democracies to achieve plutocratic goals. They are an unaccountable force deciding the future of the world's economy - and within that framework - it's political direction. Plutocrats, the likes of those who meet at Davos every year and those whom The World Bank and IMF represents, are the new superseding political force in the world. The plethora of trade agreements give corporations, for example, sovereign powers over certain areas. More significantly, economic issues favoring the ultra-wealthy and corporations are the key focus of governmental entities such as the G8 and G20.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

annypdcarNYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton has been afflicted with Giuliani Syndrome. Symptoms do not include courtesy, professionalism and respect. (Photo: Dirk Knight)

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