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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

They are leaving a legacy of injustice: Clarence Thomas and David Prosser.

Already on record as having called the chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court a "bitch" who he vowed to "destroy" last year, now Prosser is accused by another female supreme court justice of trying to strangle her with a choke hold. This allegedly occurred - and appears to have been witnessed by several other state supreme court judges - just before the 4-3 ruling that allowed Scott Walker's legally questionable union-busting budget to be implemented.

Sure enough, right-wing bloggers and even Fox's Greta Van Susteren are not condemning Prosser's act of violence - calling it defensive - but are instead demanding that Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson (the justice Prosser called a "bitch") to resign.

The double standard that the right wing holds in terms of sexual behavior, misogyny, unethical financial reporting, conflicts of interest - and just outright criminally violent behavior - is a threat to respect for our legal system.

On the judicial level, the Republicans have been enormously tolerant of partisan judges who engage in conflicts of interest and ethical lapses. Just look at Thomas, who didn't even report large financial payments that benefited him and his wife, as he ruled on cases that involved the sources of the personal funds. And Antonin Scalia doesn't believe he needs to recuse himself because, as a Supreme Court judge, he believes that he is above having a conflict of interest.

The American judicial system has had corrupt and violent judges on the bench before, but never has one party so sanctioned behavior that violates the very notion of judicial standards - not to mention potentially criminal violence and clear misogyny.

It is hard to get US citizens to respect the courts when judges who show such disrespect for ethics and the rule of law sit on state courts and the national Supreme Court - and one political party comes to their defense, while the other party appears too timid to demand accountability.

Published in EditorBlog

It's white, Christian America's race against what they see as a demographic time bomb.

That is why this Associated Press (AP) headline strikes an anxious fear in so many US citizens who believe in white "American Exceptionalism": "Census Shows Whites Lose US Majority Among Babies."

BuzzFlash at Truthout has commented about this trend before and why it is part of the frenetic offensive against democracy that we see taking place, including an onslaught of state efforts to restrict voting in a way that will disproportionately disenfranchise the elderly, the disabled, the poor, minorities and students.

Many BuzzFlash critics have emailed us about this subject over the years. Most often, their contention is that America is a republic not a democracy. Although this has some implications in the argument over states' rights versus the federal government, it usually is offered in the context of asserting that only certain Americans should elect the government.

"Certain Americans" in this context, we infer, means white, Christian voters with a relatively good income.

That is why the Republicans are trying to offload government programs and power into the hands of "white wealth" as quickly as possible. Otherwise, they will face the power shift implied in the opening of the AP article:

For the first time, more than half of the children under age 2 in the U.S. are minorities, part of a sweeping race change and a growing age divide between mostly white, older Americans and fast-growing younger ethnic populations that could reshape government policies.

... Demographers say the numbers provide the clearest confirmation yet of a changing social order, one in which racial and ethnic minorities will become the U.S. majority by midcentury.

For the hardcore older, white, Christian Republican, democracy that is inclusive of all Americans must be dismantled as quickly as possible, both politically and economically.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Has the South won the Civil War nearly 150 years after its conclusion?

BuzzFlash doesn't ask that question in a technical sense. Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union forces at the Appomattox Court House in 1865.

But culturally and politically, in 2011, the Union of the United States more and more is reflecting the values of the Confederacy, minus the institution of slavery, of course.

Increasingly, states' rights are superseding the federal government, and many of the states are tilting toward the oligarchs (corporations and the rich). But, of course, even the federal government is siding with supporting the plutocracy and enacting policies that result in low-wage labor. Just replace the lack of accountability of corporations and Wall Street with the free hand of plantation owners.

Not that the South believed much in a centralized government that provided a safety net. The poor were poor; the sick were sick; and the wealthy were wealthy; that was the natural order of things.

The South wasn't just built on slavery, as BuzzFlash has pointed out before. Most whites were poor and worked as sharecroppers, indentured servants or plantation hands. Much of their belief in white supremacy came from the feeling that, although the majority of whites were economically poor, they were "superior" to black slaves. But the economy, overall, was built on cheap labor as compared to economic ingenuity and innovation.

Baptist Christianity was central to the South, a deeply religious section of the country. The authoritarian paternalistic hierarchy of the Confederacy was considered sanctioned by divine decree. Plantation owners and their extended "work forces" would be right at home with "creationism," because things didn't evolve in the South. The ultimate value was on preserving "the Southern way of life," not evolving. Progress was, thus, a threat.

If you see some common themes to the modern Republican Party and the conventional wisdom found in the corporate press, it began most recently with the development of the Nixon "Southern strategy" - and the merging of Southern "values" with a corporatist agenda, perfected in the Reagan presidency.

How would one expect the Southern agenda to value labor, when in the South labor was cheap or, in the form of slavery, literally free (except for the initial "cost" to buy a slave)?

So, in 2011, we find ourselves at a point when the Confederacy has risen from the ashes to dominate public policy and economic inertia.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Robert Reich, an economist and the former Clinton administration secretary of labor, has been unrelentingly advocating for financial policies that benefit the middle class - and that work to restore the vitality of the American economy.

That is why his latest book, "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future," is the Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week.

Reich believes that the current American economy is structurally flawed to increase profits for corporations and the assets of the wealthy without necessarily improving the job outlooks for most Americans. He brilliantly explains our financial plight in a two-minute video you can watch by clicking here.

As a result - which even some corporations now realize - there is increasingly reduced consumer demand for products, thus further decreasing the need for additional jobs (not to mention that many of the products are manufactured overseas, so it would take an enormous increase in purchasing dollars to stimulate blue-collar jobs in the US). This has been known as neglect of the "demand" side of the economy, and the demand side is fueled by a strong middle class with decent paying jobs.

Any Truthout or BuzzFlash at Truthout reader concerned about the future of our economy - which has been redistributing wealth upward for decades - should read "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future." It is available with a contribution that supports the vital independent journalism of Truthout.

You can read an excerpt from the book on Truthout here.

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Maybe Michele Bachmann's historical inaccuracies are insignificant to her because such minor facts pale in the shadow of her divine mission.

After all, Bachmann graduated from Oral Roberts Law School, which eventually closed and transferred its library to Pat Robertson's Regent Law School. The Regent Law School Review provides an insight into Bachmann's view on law - and history: "Regent University Law Review seeks to present academically excellent scholarship on relevant issues facing the legal community today from the perspective of a historic Christian worldview. It is committed to a jurisprudence based upon a Higher Law; that is, law based upon the Law of God."

That is why Bachmann, Palin, and others seem to make whatever they want of the Constitution, our legal system and legal precedent. The foundation for the US rule of law in their minds is secondary to whatever might be their interpretation of a "higher law."

Of course, that puts Bachmann in pretty divinely inspired company. According to the Regent Law Review, "Past contributors include United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, Judge Edith H. Jones, Attorney General Edwin Meese III, Robert P. George, George Allen, Charles W. Colson, Charles E. Rice, Phillip E. Johnson, David Barton, Nancy R. Pearcey, and James Bopp."

Proclaiming that God is guiding a person's destiny allows one to feel indifferent to factual accuracy.

According to Christian extremists such as Bachmann, the Good Lord can't be bothered with facts. "He's" too busy putting the final touches on Armageddon and making sure that no gays accidentally get into heaven.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

When Chris Wallace of Fox interviewed Jon Stewart over the weekend, he thought he was scoring a point when he bragged that Fox "news" viewers love the network. Stewart, always quick on the draw, responded that although this may be true, study after study shows that Fox viewers are the most misinformed on television.

BuzzFlash at Truthout encounters this constantly in comments and emails that we receive in response to the BuzzFlash blog columns. Fox viewers often base their statements on Fox "manufactured facts" that are simply not true.

One of these points is that big government is strangling small businesses, which are the backbone of the American economy. But the reality is that large corporations, particularly American-based global corporations, are slowly killing many small businesses, as we have noted before.

Think of small businesses that used to be in abundance: for example, hardware stores, pharmacies, appliance stores and shoe stores, among others.

Now, we have all these small businesses forced into closure by national and international corporations. The inherent goal of corporations is to eliminate the competition, and large companies have done just that by shuttering many small businesses through massive buying power, branding, predatory pricing and marketing.

In turn, these corporations accumulate large amounts of capital and profits, which are then used to yield political power in DC and state capitols, and to expand so that the middle class of ex-small business owners are forced to become low-wage workers at chain stores.

As the Portland Business Journal reports,

"Corporate profits may be at a record high, but businesses on Main Street are still scraping by," said NFIB [National Federation of Independent Business] Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. "Washington is throwing misdirected policies at the problem, offering tax breaks for hiring and equipment investment, but acting surprised when they don't bear any fruit."

So, the Fox viewers watch and listen to propaganda that the federal government is killing small businesses, when it is policies that benefit large corporations that are facilitating the decline of family-run operations.

The Fox fan who excoriates liberals for alleged anti-small business policies no doubt gets his/her hardware supplies from Home Depot, prescriptions from CVS, and appliances and computers from Best Buy, for example.

It makes you wonder how much cognitive dissonance one person can keep inside his/her head before it explodes from the factual contradictions.

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The other day, BuzzFlash at Truthout wrote a commentary entitled, "The Republicans Want a More Ignorant Population, So They Are Cutting Educational Funds for College and Pre-College."

Among the comments on Facebook was an insightful one from a reader named Mario:

This is really an assault on the working class. A good education is the first step towards upward social mobility. An ignorant populace (the Republican dream) is one that is easier to control and convince.

This will leave the road open for the upper classes - and their well-educated children - to place a stranglehold on labor laws and civil liberties in America. If Republicans are successful, we had better prepare our children for the sweatshops, because that is where Wall Street is taking us back to.

One can argue that it is an exaggerated fear to think that American labor would revert to sweatshops, but such a scenario is possible. Many Republicans on Capitol Hill are opposed to the minimum wage and would like to do away with it. Without a legally mandated base - and barely livable - salary, many manufacturers would revert to the lowest possible compensation that would attract employees in the US. Given the severity of the ongoing economic situation, that hourly wage could then indeed drop dramatically to a sweatshop scale.

Furthermore, by decreasing the affordability of public colleges and universities, Republican legislators are creating a cul-de-sac of limited opportunity for most poor, middle- and working-class Americans.

Mario is correct. The Republican war on education is part of an overall strategy to limit the upward social and economic mobility of Americans who are not already wealthy.

While other nations, such as India and China, are broadening educational opportunities for their citizens and developing economies and a labor force for the future, the Republican Party and global corporations based in America are attempting to move the US economy backward.

This will result in a caste system that will create not a "free market," but a relatively closed one. Wealth and economic well-being then become not a result of ingenuity, education and entrepreneurialism, but rather of family inheritance.

This is also called a fossilized economy.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

No one's ever mistaken Prince Charles for the sharpest tool in the shed, but even he understands that man-made global warming is a reality.

In fact, he just recently chastised climate deniers and told Australian businessmen and women to get serious about saving the planet.

To quote the heir to the British throne,

"All the evidence shows that we are living in an increasingly unstable world," Prince Charles told industry figures gathered in Canberra.

"And yet we continue to test it to destruction and to allow the deniers of human-induced climate change to prevent vital action being taken."

However, in the US, the corporate media has accepted the "false equivalency" of airing business and right-wing, think-tank-backed scientists as counterpoints to the settled fact of the planet's deterioration due to unregulated industrial destruction.

The Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week, "Merchants of Doubt," provides an engrossing analysis of how "free market" ideological think tanks, wealthy individuals and Republican politicians in general strategically created a "false science" to insinuate into a mass media that won't take positions on proven facts.

Scientists were found who were willing - induced by either large sums of money or personal ideology - to serve as spokespersons to shoot down firm evidence against toxins like DDT, the danger of nuclear power plants, and - of course - climate change. In fact, Media Matters recently released a study showing that climate deniers dominate television news coverage of whether or not the Environmental Protection Agency should play an aggressive role in regulating industrial activity that leads to global warming.

"Merchants of Doubt" offers a fascinating insight into how we have arrived at this age when the media peddles pseudo-science. It is not an accident.

Our planet is at stake. Read the book.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The Republican effort to privatize Medicare insurance is nothing but a strategy to redistribute wealth upward. It has nothing to do with improving care and cutting costs. In fact, it would decrease access and the quality of health care for seniors, with the exception of the richest Americans.

That is because for-profit insurance companies make money, as BuzzFlash has noted before, by adding overhead (profit) to the cost of health insurance and denying as many medical services as possible to increase net revenue.

Wendell Potter, a former CIGNA vice president, reveals where some of that profit goes:

You might be surprised to learn that more and more of the dollars you pay for coverage are being sucked into a kind of black hole.

It doesn't really disappear, of course. It just doesn't do you a bit of good - unless, of course, you believe it is to your advantage that it ultimately winds up in the bank accounts of a few investors and insurance company executives, including those who have to power to deny coverage for potentially life-saving care.

If you've been paying attention to what health insurance company CEOs have been saying to Wall Street over the past several months, you will know that they are spending more and more of their firms' cash - which comes from you, of course - to "repurchase" their firms' stock. And Wall Street absolutely loves that.

In a just-released report on an effort by GOP Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to privatize the oversight of health care benefits for state workers, the consultants concluded that the state would be paying more in premiums using a for-profit third party. Moreover, this was a report that Jindal commissioned and then tried to unsuccessfully suppress.

The Jindal report concluded, "that a private company would raise premiums to maintain a pre-tax operating margin of 4.5 to 7 percent." The consultants noted that the current state "agency [administering health care insurance] is generating surpluses through lower than expected expenses and cost-saving measures."

So, there you have it, yet again: privatization of health insurance increases costs and, in most cases, reduces care except for those who can afford comprehensive policies with low deductibles.

What privatization is about is not saving money, but making the wealthy insurance companies - including CEOs and shareholders - more profitable, at a higher overall cost to the American economy and a lower standard of care for most citizens.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH FOR TRUTHOUT

When America's young people can't afford public colleges, the US is headed toward a third-rate future.

The Republican Party, particularly the rabid Tea Party-influenced majority in the House, is embarked on a juggernaut to take the public out of everything it can in American life, including libraries, elementary and high schools, government workers, environmental protection, even parks and parking meters.

And the movement is fast succeeding at taking the public out of higher education by cutting - most noticeably at state levels - subsidies to state and community colleges to such an extent that tuition is no longer affordable to many young Americans and their families.

A column in CNNMoney states it bluntly:

"As the out-of-pocket costs of a college education go up faster than incomes, it's pricing low and medium income families out of a college education," said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of financial aid sites FinAid.org and FastWeb.com.

The numbers confirm what most middle class families already know - college is becoming so expensive, it's starting to hold them back.

The crux of the problem: Tuition and fees at public universities, according to the College Board, have surged almost 130% over the last 20 years - while middle class incomes have stagnated. [/indent]

The combination of privatizing public services, and thus making them less affordable to the vast majority of Americans, and lowering the wage scale for workers fortunate to have a job is making this a two-class nation.

When an increasing number of young Americans can't afford higher education, it is grievously harming the nation's future. Remember that much of our corporate intellectual property is built upon public research (just think of the Internet, which grew out of a project at the University of Illinois).

All the poobahs in DC worry so much about a hyped crisis in elementary and high school education (which has more to do with poverty than teachers), but even if magically these schools were to improve, a great many of the graduating students couldn't afford college.

Even a second grader could figure that out.

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