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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
 
deptofjusticeDepartment of Justice (Photo: Wikipedia)In a recent breathlessly written "we have the inside scoop" article, The New York Times would have you believe that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is finally getting serious about filing criminal charges against a couple of banks.

Technically, the Times may prove to be right, but on a practical level, the actions it is predicting would be more of the same kid-glove treatment of too-big-to-fail banks we’ve seen in the past. As BuzzFlash at Truthout noted in commentaries last year, Attorney General Holder has officially stated his concern that prosecuting the largest banks would have adverse affects on our economy. As The New York Times reports about the possibility of looming criminal charges against two foreign banks (emphasis on foreign - Credit Suisse and BNP Paribas, not US):

Federal prosecutors are nearing criminal charges against some of the world’s biggest banks, according to lawyers briefed on the matter, a development that could produce the first guilty plea from a major bank in more than two decades.

In doing so, prosecutors are confronting the popular belief that Wall Street institutions have grown so important to the economy that they cannot be charged. A lack of criminal prosecutions of banks and their leaders fueled a public outcry over the perception that Wall Street giants are “too big to jail.”

Addressing those concerns, prosecutors in Washington and New York have met with regulators about how to criminally punish banks without putting them out of business and damaging the economy, interviews with lawyers and records reviewed by The New York Times show.

That last paragraph is devastatingly revealing.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amissourMissouri State Capitol (Photo: JeromeG111)If you want to see how just one Wall Street robber baron can squash democracy for the sake of greed and privatization, just look to the Missouri legislature.

According to The Progressive magazine, that's where Rex Sinquefield, a man who made his fortune off of trading in index funds, is spending millions of dollars to forward his personal agenda. Sinquefield has combined personal political giving with backing nonprofit organizations, much like the Koch brothers have done on the national level. The Progressive notes: "Sinquefield and his wife spent more than $28 million in disclosed donations in state elections since 2007, plus nearly $2 million more in disclosed donations in federal elections since 2006, for a total of at least $30 million."

That total does not include the indirect millions spent backing third-party organizations, as The Progressive details:

The jewel in [Sinquefield's] privatization crown is the Missouri-based Show-Me Institute, a rightwing think tank that receives just shy of $1 million every year from the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation. Its tag line is a mouthful: "Advancing Liberty with Responsibility by Promoting Market Solutions for Missouri Public Policy."

Rex Sinquefield is the institute's president, and his daughter is also employed there (and spends her time tweeting rightwing talking points).

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

asunkoch(Photo: Atmospheric Imaging Assembly)If you thought the fossil fuel industry was content to profiteer off of the earth's destruction by not supporting alternative energy, you would be wrong. That is because - as The New York Times editorial board recently pointed out - they are not just passively ignoring alternative energy sources; they are actively opposing them.

In particular, The New York Times chastises the Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for financing lobbying in state legislatures to impose taxes on homeowners who install solar energy:

For the last few months, the Kochs and other big polluters have been spending heavily to fight incentives for renewable energy, which have been adopted by most states. They particularly dislike state laws that allow homeowners with solar panels to sell power they don’t need back to electric utilities. So they’ve been pushing legislatures to impose a surtax on this increasingly popular practice, hoping to make installing solar panels on houses less attractive.

Oklahoma lawmakers recently approved such a surcharge at the behest of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative group that often dictates bills to Republican statehouses and receives financing from the utility industry and fossil-fuel producers, including the Kochs. As The Los Angeles Times reported recently, the Kochs and ALEC have made similar efforts in other states, though they were beaten back by solar advocates in Kansas and the surtax was reduced to $5 a month in Arizona.

But the Big Carbon advocates aren’t giving up. The same group is trying to repeal or freeze Ohio’s requirement that 12.5 percent of the state’s electric power come from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2025. Twenty-nine states have established similar standards that call for 10 percent or more in renewable power. These states can now anticipate well-financed campaigns to eliminate these targets or scale them back.

The coal producers’ motivation is clear: They see solar and wind energy as a long-term threat to their businesses. 

Given that our lives and the lives of future generations are in jeopardy due to climate change - largely caused by fossil fuels - the formidable effort to make renewable energy more expensive prioritizes profit over safeguarding the future of our species. 

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acheneyhannitySean Hannity interviewing Dick Cheney (Photo: Wikipedia)

If you have been watching Jon Stewart lately, you have had the pleasure of witnessing a series of withering attacks on Sean Hannity's hypocrisy.  Furthermore, BuzzFlash (for many years) and Stewart have both sniffed the simmering racism of Hannity and FOX. Yes, it's a coded racism, but it's there - lingering in the smirk of his smug lacerating comments about liberals - and is a strong magnet of attraction to the aged, largely white male, viewing base of FOX.

This came to the forefront again with Hannity's strong support for Cliven Bundy, until Bundy openly expressed his racism - thus breaking the tacit understanding of Hannity, FOX and their viewers to never publicly disclose their bigotry.  Racism on FOX (along with its bigotry cousin: "multiculturalism is destroying the United States") is a primary attraction of the program to its watchers who see white entitlement slipping from their hands. However, it is never to be openly acknowleged -- and even officially renounced if necessary, as Hannity did when he had to walk back his embrace of Bundy after the rancher channeled the opinions of a plantation slave owner on video.

As Jon Stewart pointed out, Hannity is always attacking President Obama and liberals for allegedly selectively applying the law, but when it comes to white male gun loving racists like Bundy (and anyone watching what happened before Bundy's followers threatened law enforcement officers with guns knew that racism and anti-big government sedition fit together like a hand in a kid glove), but gives enormous latitude for white males who express anti-government sentiments, even when the firearms are appointed at Hannity's beloved police.

It is important to note, yet again, that the Nevada state Constitution designates as federal property, by law, the land Cliven Bundy has been using for grazing his cattle on.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abusschool(Photo: loop_oh)
)

It bears repeating again and again that the concept of charter schools is a scam and - more significantly - a betrayal of society's obligation to provide communities filled with economic opportunities to all.

recent article in the Huffington Post - "Big Profits in Not-for-Profit Charter Schools" - lays out one of the most basic complaints about charter schools: The primary parties they enrich are the administrators and nonprofits that run them, along with the for-profit consultants who provide services to allegedly "improve" public education. The article notes that some charter school administrators make "very heady profits":

Currently, there are approximately 2.5 million students enrolled in publicly funded charter schools in the United States. These charter schools are operated by both profit-making companies and "not for profit" organizations. In New York City every charter school is operated by what is known as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. In New York State, only 16 out of 209 charter schools are operated by for-profit companies. In other states, particularly Michigan, Florida, and Arizona, for-profit companies dominate the charter school movement. In Michigan, about 65% of the charter schools are run by for-profit educational management organizations

However, operating non-profit charter schools can be very profitable for charter school executives like Eva Moskowitz. Moskowitz earns close to a half a million dollars a year ($485,000) for overseeing school programs that serve 6,700 children, which is over $72 per student. By comparison, New York State Education Commissioner is paid a salary of $212,000 to oversee programs with 2.7 million students or about 8 cents per student. In other words, Moskowitz earns about 100 times more than King for each student enrolled in a Success Academy Charter School. Carmen Farina, New York City School Chancellor is paid $212,000 a year to oversee 1.1 million students or about 19 cents per student.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anevadas(Photo: Thomas Hawk)It is time for politicians to stop enabling domestic white male terrorists. (Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), however, is getting heat for calling them just that.)

The latest incident of domestic white male terrorism was in Nevada, where a veritable make-shift militia presented an armed threat to federal and local law enforcement. Why were they there? Because they were defending the view that Cliven Bundy was being treated unjustly by a US government that was allegedly violating his rights and his beliefs. It sounds like al Qaeda circling a military unit with firepower to defend the beliefs of Osama bin Laden.

Some facts are established: Within the state of Nevada Constitution, much of the former territory's land was ceded to the federal government in return for admission to the union. As a result, several thousand ranchers pay grazing rights for their cattle to make use of federal land. Cliven Brady, who owes the US treasury over a million dollars, says that he is not paying out of principle - since his family, he claims, owned the land before Nevada was a state.

After more than 20 years of Bundy, in essence, cheating other taxpayers by not paying his fair share, the federal government seized his cattle that were living off of federal land.

That is when seditious Americans assembled at his ranch to - reportedly with women and children strategically placed to protect them - threatened US law enforcement and Bureau of Land Management officials with firearms, locked and loaded.

Published in EditorBlog
Monday, 21 April 2014 07:27

Five Ways the 1% Are Killing Us

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

agreedwall(Photo: David Paul Ohmer)The trolls have been out blasting BuzzFlash at Truthout for calling the fossil fuel industry "eco-terrorists" for careening the earth into a human-made death spiral, but it's true.

Those who can't smell the carbon dioxide ravaging the earth for hedonistic profit - enabled by federal and many state and local governments - will find out that just because you can't smell global warming does not mean that it is not brewing a cauldron of devastation just over the horizon.

Since 9/11 few Americans have been killed by terrorists, but we have built a multi-billion dollar "anti-terrorist" intelligence, military, surveillance and incarceration state to deal with a threat that pales in comparison to global warming.

Toss in the lurking big bang of devastation to life on earth - climate change - and the 1% are living the last days of Pompeii in at least five different ways that are killing many of the rest of us.

Here they are.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aref(Photo: ItzaFineDay)An email came to BuzzFlash at Truthout the other day with a blazing red warning of five national security threats: "Cyber Attacks • Counterintelligence • Terrorism • Weapons of Mass Destruction • Counterspace."

The organization sending the email, the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA), primarily enriches itself off of defense and national security industry conferences in which vendors market their services and hardware to government buyers. (It is a subsidiary of a larger conference firm, IQPC.) The IDGA meetings have  a veneer of top military, surveillance and prison industry speakers, but the real action for contracts is in the exhibition areas.

Upcoming conferences include:
 
Homeland Security Conference - April 2014
Big Data for Government and Defense - April 2014
Border Management Southwest 2014 - May 2014
Arctic Patrol and Reconnaisance - May 2014
Armored Vehicles Latin America - May 2014
Prisons and Correctional Facilities - June 2014
Mission Command - June 2014

 

Published in EditorBlog

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.  

Published in EditorBlog

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.

Published in EditorBlog
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