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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

In a stunning analysis of the "performance artist" known as Herman Cain, Rachel Maddow lays out a devastating argument that we are being "punked" by a "satirical" campaign that has heavily borrowed from the video game Sim City, the kids' movie "Pokemon" and even a quotation from Chris Tucker in "Rush Hour 3."

No, Maddow is not making this up. Last week, at a high-profile meeting of the Koch brothers' America for Prosperity, Cain delivered the crowd-pleasing line: "I am the Koch brothers' brother from another mother." Maddow followed Cain's paraphrased statement with the original line uttered by Chris Tucker in "Rush Hour 3."

Where might Cain's dubious 9-9-9 tax plan have been formed? Maddow makes a strong case it is derived from the tax structure used in the fictional video game Sim City. As for a key section of Cain's closing statement at an Iowa GOP presidential debate, it came verbatim from a song in the animated movie version of "Pokemon."

Maddow points out that Cain pulls Sarah Palins at every turn in terms of being unaware of basic foreign policy and domestic issues that would face a president, baffling even Chris Wallace and John Stossel of Fox with his answers to questions.

One could argue that Cain's high GOP polling numbers are due to the successful Madison Avenue "packaging" of a presidential candidate. That would make the Cain bid consistent with the modern era of national campaigns as detailed in the seminal book by Joe McGinniss on the 1968 Nixon campaign, "The Selling of the President." But Cain's "run for the presidency" is closer to Jerzy Kosinki's, "Being There," a novel about a gardener lacking in knowledge whose simple statements are mistaken for wisdom and who rises to the highest levels of government influence.

Calling Cain's daily gaffes "too perfect" not to be planned, Maddow believes that Cain never expected to be taken seriously, but was just looking for his moment in history as flavor of the month. But the American public, or at least many Republicans, can no longer distinguish between plagiarized entertainment sound bites and effective public policy.

Speaking of "flavor of the month," Maddow notes that Cain asserted that if he were an ice cream flavor that he would be Haagen Dazs black walnut, because it's a flavor, like him, that will always be around - that, according to Cain, "has staying power."

Haagen-Dazs, Maddow clarifies, no longer manufactures the flavor black walnut.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The right-wing American Family Association (AFA) victimizes women twice when it comes to the violence and profound emotional trauma of being raped.

The AFA is vigorously supporting voter approval next week of a Mississippi State constitutional amendment to recognize fertilized eggs as "persons," thus making abortion - and even certain birth control methods - an act of murder.

In an AFA email for their online newsletter, OneNewsNow.com, there is a link for a story exclaiming: "Rape no excuse for abortion." Clicking on the story, one meets Ashley Sigrest of Brandon, Mississippi, who was raped and had an abortion, which she now regrets, 13 years ago. Sigrest held a news conference, at which she stated, according to the AFA:

"My rape was nothing compared to what I did to my child," she stated to the gallery. "What my rapist did to me does not compare to what I chose to do to my baby ... out of shame, out of guilt, out of fear because of what a man did to me. Rape is no excuse for abortion...."

As for the rapist, Sigrest says she prays for him every day. And when asked how she will vote on the amendment next Tuesday? "I am going to vote yes - very proudly and very loudly - on 26 [the number of the ballot initiative]."

It is important to remember that allowing a women - the victim of rape, incest, or otherwise - to have an abortion did not in any way prevent Sigrest from having borne the child that was conceived as the result of a heinous crime. That was and is her choice right now in the State of Mississippi and throughout the United States.

But the Mississippi constitutional amendment would forbid victims of rape who do not want to bear a rapist's child from aborting the violently forced pregnancy.

According to the Feminist Majority Foundation:

"The implications are staggering. By giving constitutional rights to a fertilized egg, the amendment could ban emergency contraception, birth control pills and IUDs as well as all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman or girl. It could eliminate medical choices for women, such as some cancer treatments or in vitro fertilization. It could allow the state to investigate and even prosecute a woman for a miscarriage. Undoubtedly it would lead to many court cases."

The amendment is so egregious that even the conservative, heavily anti-abortion Gov. of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, is expressing his "concerns" about the implications of the initiative.

Legalizing "personhood and constitutional rights for a fertilized egg" is taking away those rights from women.

No one forced Sigrest to have an abortion. It was her own personal choice, as it should be.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BuzzFlash at Truthout was hacked this morning by those who can't stand the truth.

We removed the locked "survey screen" that was maliciously inserted by an outside party that obviously wishes to drive readership away from the site.  BuzzFlash at Truthout has been a vigilant, irreverent watchdog for more than 11 years. The truth will not be stopped.

These type of attacks -- although varying in form -- have also been launched on Truthout, our parent site, in the past year.  It is clear that there are Americans and agendas simply too threatened by fearless sites and bold reporting and commentary.

BuzzFlash and Truthout do not accept any corporate advertising -- in fact, any advertising -- and that is a threat to many, because we can't be bought.

BuzzFlash and Truthout may be hacked again, but we will forge ahead with our mission of getting you the news and opinion that discloses the truth and energizes change.

You can help us overcome those who would prefer darkness to light by encouraging others to read BuzzFlash and Truthout. Sign up for our newsletter at the upper right hand corner of Truthout.org, follow BuzzFlash and Truthout on Facebook, or make a tax-free contribution by going to our donation page.

Trust us. In the end, no hackers will hack away at the truth, however they might try.

Your energized readership and support makes sure of that.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Some Iraq/Afghanistan veterans finally are fighting in a war worth winning: the battle for America's 99 percent.

On Wednesday, in a dramatic display of support for the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, veterans of America's recent wars for oil marched and spoke in support of OWS. They were not the first veterans to back economic democracy at home, in this case with a military precision march through southern Manhattan. Indeed, many of them participated in yesterday's show of support for OWS in honor of Scott Olsen. Olsen is still recovering from a traumatic head injury sustained in last Tuesday's Oakland Police Department assault on Occupy Oakland.

A few weeks ago, a video clip went viral of an Iraq war veteran, in uniform, berating New York Police Department (NYPD) members for their continued attacks on OWS protesters. It was a remarkably dramatic moment, with one former marine facing off against a phalanx of NYPD officers. "Why are you hurting these [unarmed] people?" the former marine exclaimed, "There is no honor in this."

It is speculative, but undoubtedly true, that few of the top 1 percent or their offspring serve as the cannon fodder in our wars for oil, natural resources and geo-positioning for corporate markets. Just look at Mitt Romney's five sons. Not a one of them entered the military.

To see veterans participate in the now-famous human microphone (to avoid the NYPD arresting them for using a megaphone) is to be stirred to a renewed sense of patriotism. To hear them declare that "this is the only occupation [OWS] that I believe in" is to receive a chill down the spine.

As a nation, we sent these volunteer soldiers - many of whom joined the military because they couldn't find jobs elsewhere and came home to unemployment - to fight in wars to largely benefit the interests and finances of the top 1 percent.

The "Masters of the Universe" on Wall Street and the political status quo in DC cannot easily dismiss them.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The dark side of the mayor of New York is blooming.

Yes, in recent BuzzFlash at Truthout commentaries, BuzzFlash has noted that Mayor Bloomberg - who is worth nearly 20 billion dollars - has lately dropped his veneer of being a "sensible centrist" and become a full-out wacko for Wall Street. The normally articulate and poised 12th-richest person in America has started to stumble as he strains to make arguments in defense of the financial industry.

But there is a motivation to Bloomberg's recent ramblings and his strategic and sometimes brutal assault on Occupy Wall Street (OWS); he is embodying crony capitalism. His "third way" veneer of nonpartisan government is giving way to cliched and inaccurate right-wing Republican message points on behalf of the richest Americans.

Take Bloomberg's latest salvo on OWS. The multibillionaire, who made his fortune on a software tool used by the financial industry to assess the risks on their bets, is blaming the federal government for the economic meltdown. This week, he lectured the OWS movement on its alleged "naivete."

According to the web site Capital, Bloomberg told business leaders at a breakfast on November 1:

It was not the banks that created the mortgage crisis. It was, plain and simple, Congress who forced everybody to go and give mortgages to people who were on the cusp....

They were the ones that pushed the banks to loan to everybody. And now we want to go vilify the banks because it's one target, it's easy to blame them and congress certainly isn't going to blame themselves.

Capital also quoted Bloomberg as saying that it was "cathartic" and "entertaining" to blame people (i.e., the "victims" on "Wall Street").

But numerous experts have refuted Bloomberg's "the 1% are guiltless" Republican claim, including Paul Krugman, who notes, that "the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 was irrelevant to the subprime boom, which was overwhelmingly driven by loan originators not subject to the Act."

Media Matters has totally debunked Bloomberg's revisionist exculpation of Wall Street:

Private firms dominated the subprime market boom of 2004-06, and were not even subject to the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act some Republicans vilify. Thanks to decades of financial deregulation, capped by President Bush's decision to appoint Wall Street regulators who believed their job was to help banks rather than curb banking abuses, financial giants were able to turn the mortgage market into a high-stakes casino. As investigative reporters and Congress' Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission have all shown, it was deregulation mixed with irresponsible and potentially illegal practices by private firms on Wall Street that caused both the bubble and the collapse.

In a rambling radio interview a couple of weeks back, Bloomberg claimed that "the protesters are protesting against people who make $40-50,000 a year and are struggling to make ends meet. That's the bottom line."

No, the bottom line is that when push comes to shove, Bloomberg is all about protecting his fellow billionaires on the Forbes list of wealthiest Americans.

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When Timothy Geithner headed the New York Federal Reserve Bank (NYFRB) in 2008, it paid credit-default swaps clients of AIG the full dollar value on their contracts, even though the NYFRB could have almost certainly paid much less.

In essence, according to a November 1 article in The New York Times, that means the likes of Goldman Sachs got a full taxpayer reimbursement for their risky investments gone sour, even though if AIG had been allowed to collapse, the 16 Wall Street AIG "clients" would have likely gotten much, much less - if anything - through bankruptcy proceedings.

Geithner and the NYFRB appeared to treat Wall Street "Master of the Universe" risk takers as deserving of having their bets fully covered by the house - meaning the American taxpayer.

As The New York Times notes about the just-released Government Accounting Office (GAO) report:

Federal Reserve officials in Washington expected that the New York Fed would negotiate discounts with those companies since, without the government's intervention, they might have received far less.

An analysis commissioned by the New York Fed recommended concessions around $1.1 billion to $6.4 billion....

Although the NYFRB offered the GAO many justifications for the generous AIG client payouts under Geithner, "the Fed's actions contrast with the agreement that European governments, led by Chancellor Angela Markel of Germany, secured from some of the same institutions in October to accept discounts of up to 50 percent on their holdings of Greek debt," according to the Times.

Furthermore, even if an AIG client would only have lost 1 percent on the original value of the credit-default swaps, the NYFRB reimbursed that firm 100 percent of that value, according to the GAO.

The GAO report notes, as the Times reports, "the expressed willingness of some of the companies to accept smaller payments. In one case, when a company offered to accept a smaller amount of money, officials at the New York Fed responded that they had decided to pay the full amount of the debt, the report said."

Normally, when a firm can no longer meet its debt obligations, it files for bankruptcy and a judge oversees heavily discounted settlements on the dollar, if there are any remaining assets.

But the GAO report reveals that, once again, under Geithner and Hank Paulsen (Bush's Treasury secretary during the Wall Street crash - and former chair and CEO of Goldman Sachs), if you are a "Master of the Universe" financial firm, your risk is socialized and covered 100 percent by the American taxpayer.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Due to past law enforcement abuses, the Oakland Police Department (OPD) has been operating under the monitoring of a federal judge overseeing a consent decree since 2003.

Although it is difficult to set aside the deplorable record of the OPD in dealing with protesters for a moment - including Occupy Oakland advocates last Tuesday - it has a history of using excessive force on a daily basis. This includes the unnecessary drawing of guns, extortion and framing arrested individuals that is so egregious that the department may be put into receivership by the federal courts.

According to a September 11, 2011 article in the Bay Citizen, just a little over a month prior to the infamous Tuesday assault on Occupy Oakland, the federal judge overseeing the police department lambasted their conduct:

In a hearing that exposed the breadth of the problems facing Oakland, a federal judge blasted the Oakland Police Department Thursday for failing to make court-ordered changes designed to reduce police misconduct and abuse.

Before a courtroom full of city leaders and police department brass, U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson highlighted a series of issues that "indicate to me the city and the department still don't get it."

Shortly prior to the assault on Occupy Oakland, the superintendent of the OPD resigned - after the scathing report by the federal judge - and Howard Jordan was appointed as interim chief of police. What was Jordan's prior role as assistant chief of the OPD? According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Jordan:

has been the Police Department's top authority on bringing the force into compliance with a consent decree ordered after four officers were accused more than a decade ago of systematically beating and framing suspects.

The consent decree is the most critical issue facing the department, as a federal judge warned last week that the city faces the possibility of having its Police Department placed in federal receivership due to its failure to fully comply with the court order. Such a move could result in the city losing control over its police budget, its biggest general fund expense.

Jordan, as interim superintendent, oversaw and directed the police action against Occupy Oakland supporters.

This federal consent decree is separate from the accord that the OPD was compelled to reach in 2004, which prohibits the use of potentially lethal and harmful suppression techniques against peaceful crowds, which BuzzFlash at Truthout pointed out they violated last week.

There's a thin blue line in law enforcement between enforcing the law and breaking the law. It's clear to US District Court Judge Henderson that the OPD keeps crossing that line.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

As the medical condition of Marine Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen appears to have improved, he is becoming the Neda Agha-Soltan - the martyr of the Iranian Green Revolution - of the "Occupy" struggle for economic justice.

What occurred this week in Oakland - including the wounding of Olsen - shouldn't have happened. In June of 2004, the Oakland Police Department reached an agreement to refrain from using the kind of bloody and militarized tactics that they employed earlier this week.

According to a November 2004 San Francisco Chronicle article:

Oakland police will no longer indiscriminately use wooden or rubber bullets, Taser stun guns, pepper spray and motorcycles to break up crowds, under an agreement announced Friday....

The new policy settles part of a federal class-action lawsuit filed by 52 people who claimed their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly were violated as they targeted two shipping companies with contracts tied to the war in Iraq.

"What we've done is create a comprehensive policy that really provides a much more sensible, reasoned approach to managing demonstrations and crowds," said Rachel Lederman of the National Lawyers Guild in San Francisco.

Obviously, as Olsen's situation demonstrates, the Oakland Police did not adhere to the letter or spirit of the 2004 agreement on Tuesday night. Lederman told the San Francisco Chronicle that when the policy was negotiated, "these projectile weapons are very dangerous. It was only a matter of luck that someone wasn't killed on April 7, 2003, in Oakland. That's what we're trying to prevent."

Lederman is referring to a 2003 Oakland police riot against anti-Iraq war demonstrators that resulted in the serious wounding of many protesters. In fact, according to ThinkProgress, "the demonstrators were not without recourse. They took the city to court, and Oakland eventually awarded $2 million to 58 demonstrators for police abuses."

You would think that after signing an agreement and paying out taxpayer money to "compensate" for abusive police practices, the Oakland Police Department would learn how to behave in a civilized fashion when dealing with people exercising their First Amendment rights.

Meanwhile, the Oakland School Board voted on Wednesday night, this week, to close five elementary schools, in large part due to budget constraints. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland school district officials say that the school closings will save about $2 million a year, about what the Oakland Police Department paid out to protesters it abused in 2003.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Perhaps the best way to occupy Wall Street is by pulling our money out of big banks.

Sure, it's a big inconvenience to find a credit union or local bank that then doesn't have thousands of branches around the country. But if the banks that are "too big to fail" collapse because of a lack of consumer confidence in their ability to financially serve the nation, a new system that is based on rebuilding the American economy and customer service might emerge.

In, for instance, dissecting just some of the reasons (ten) to leave Bank of America, Nomi Prins writes for Truthout that we can choose where we keep our money:

Without being broken up via a new, strong Glass-Steagall Act, when banks need to find ways to make money, they resort to extorting it from their sitting ducks, er - customers. Meanwhile, that's where credit unions, which are not-for-profits owned by their members and not by outside shareholders, come in. They generally don't engage in crazy derivatives trades, or charge unnecessary fees for holding your money or for letting you pay bills with it, or for online banking. In terms of personal attention, among other economic reasons, the credit and smaller community banks are a much better bet.

The banks "too big to fail" otherwise have us as hostages. While a pocket park in Manhattan is "occupied," the "Masters of the Universe" who control America's financial system are sitting quite pretty. Washington, DC, is in their pocket from the White House down. In the US, controlling trillions of dollar in money gives one the keys to that kind of power.

As has been pointed out over and over again, the very people who are responsible for the near financial collapse of America are still in charge through a revolving door between Wall Street and the federal government. ProPublica just did an update about all the financial chieftains who cratered the economy and have not been prosecuted. In fact, none of them have been charged with any wrongdoing as individuals.

Although the feds arrested a Goldman Sachs board director the other day, there doesn't appear to be any ongoing Department of Justice investigation to indict the main culprits of the recession. The charges against Rajat Gupta are for insider trading, a narrow range of trading for profit with privileged information.

As BuzzFlash at Truthout noted recently, "Big Banks Don't Want Your Money, Unless You Pay Them to Keep It - for Real."

Prins reminds us that the fastest way to reforming Wall Street may be by proactively moving our dollars to credit unions and banks that cater to Main Street - and where we are treated with respect, and our money is used to invest in the economic infrastructure of our communities.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH FOR TRUTHOUT

Many of the banks "too big to fail" don't want your money if you're one of the 99 percent.

No, it's not a joke, according to The New York Times. Basically, the banks are sitting on so much cash that they don't want more. That is why they are raising the costs of putting money into a bank and accessing your money. In essence, they don't really want your business unless you're in the top 1 percent or are willing to pay "access" fees.

This sounds absurd, but follow the non-job-creating logic of the banks, according to the Times:

Though financial institutions are not yet turning away customers at the door, they are trying to discourage some depositors from parking that cash with them. With fewer attractive lending and investment options for that money, it is harder for the banks to turn it around for a healthy profit....

Normally, banks earn healthy profits by taking in deposits and then investing them or lending them out at substantially higher interest rates than what they pay savers. But that traditional banking model has broken down.

Today, banks are paying savers almost nothing for their deposits.

The result: many Americans get as little as .01 percent interest on their savings; get charged as much as $20 a month for banking services such as checking unless they keep several thousand dollars in some big banks; and are, as BuzzFlash at Truthout has noted, even being assessed a monthly fee at Bank of America for using a debit card to access their own money.

But have interest rates on credit cards fallen as interest on savings accounts have just hovered over going into the negative zone? No, of course not; not only have interest rates on credit cards stayed excessively high, additional charges and increased fines are now being levied on credit card users.

This is almost like an absurdist comedy, except absurdity has become the reality today when it comes to "banks too big to fail."

They don't even want your money anymore; it might cut into their profits that come from putting you into debt. And too many Americans can't even afford loans, so the banks are just churning out dividends and bonuses.

It's enough to make you want to occupy Wall Street. But who would think of an idea like that?

 

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