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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Welfare has always been a code word to Republicans, denoting to them unworthy recipients of taxpayer dollars. It's carried more than a whiff of racism to boot, even though many Americans on welfare are white.

On, May 16, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) spoke to the Economic Club of Chicago in what his PR staff billed as an important defense of a proposed budget so harsh that even Newt Gingrich disowned it.

The sage blogger Digby pointed out that Ryan used the "W" word to disparage Medicare and other entitlement programs. As Digby observes, "Ryan just keeps digging. If he think that calling Medicare 'welfare' is going to endear him to senior citizens, I think he's more than a little bit out of touch."

Talking Points Memo described in more detail the absurdity of Ryan's thinking behind his budget that would further enrich the wealthy at the expense of the poor, seniors and the middle class:

Though billed as an effort to revamp his widely criticized budget, Ryan avoided describing his health care plans in specific detail, eschewing even the friendly terms he and other Republicans have used to explain it since he first unveiled it earlier this year. Instead, Ryan reframed the entitlement cuts in his budget as "strengthen[ing] welfare for those who need it," and accused Democrats who have attacked his budget as engaging in class warfare.

Like many politicians of recent times, Ryan has crossed into the Orwellian zone of claiming to "strengthen" the public safety net by cutting holes in it. Of course, Ryan's efforts to give more money to the top 5 percent of Americans by claiming any criticism of this goal is class warfare is vintage GOP brush back. Common sense indicates that the diversion of the country's wealth to the richest citizens is class warfare at its most basic actualization.

As Digby points out, you know the Republicans are in trouble when their chief budget "architect" implies that "Grandma is a welfare queen."

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH FOR TRUTHOUT

Sex, lies and the "C Street" family; how quickly we forget.

In the wake of the resignation of Sen. John Ensign - followed by a scathing Senate ethics report that referred its findings to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution - there has been rather understated corporate media discussion of the role of the "C Street" family in the infamous sexual activities of Ensign.

"C Street," to which Ensign belonged, is a residential Christian fellowship. The senators and Congressmen who live at the controversial house were revealed as believing that they were chosen by God to lead America, as described in "C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy" by journalist Jeff Sharlet.

It would be a challenge to describe how grossly tawdry Ensign's adulterous affair - with the wife of his top aide - was. But as information emerged awhile back about the ongoing sexual relationship - amid charges of payoffs and other ethical violations and illegalities - evidence also strongly suggested the role of Ensign's "C Street" "Christian colleagues" in helping him cover up the affair.

Most notably, arch-conservative and "family values" "C Street" resident Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn is alleged to have advised Ensign on paying off his mistress's husband to keep him quiet. And then Rick Santorum, the fundamentalist former senator from Pennsylvania exploring a presidential run, is said to have tipped off Ensign that his mistress might start telling the press about the affair.

Other members of the "C Street" house that is part of the cult known as "The Family" also played roles in covering up the Ensign sexual scandal. Included in this group were the sons of Douglas Coe, the guru founder of "The Family."

When those in power who belong to "The Family" believe that they have a divine mandate to lead the masses, it apparently gives them a license to participate in a cover-up of what appears to be, according to the Senate Ethics Committee, both illegal and unethical behavior of the most "disturbing" kind. According to Politico:

John Ensign, a one-time rising GOP star and potential presidential aspirant, violated federal law and Senate rules by a series of brazen actions meant to cover up a nine-month extra-marital affair with a campaign aide, Senate investigators charged Thursday.

In an explosive 68-page report presented to the Senate, the Select Committee on Ethics revealed new details about a sex scandal that torpedoed Ensign's career and brought a federal criminal indictment against a former top aide, Doug Hampton, the husband of the senator's mistress and campaign aide, Cindy.

Along with Ensign's hideous actions, we should not forget the sex, lies and alleged accomplices in the "C Street" family.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fox "News" sears the red-hot poker of racism into the heart of white Americans who emotionally need a scapegoat for the nation's economic collapse - and the erosion of the US Empire.

If some people wonder why racism still has such a strong appeal, remember that the poor and merchant-class whites of the Confederacy were as racist as the plantation owners. Having slaves to look down upon as sub-human creatures allowed even the poorest of white sharecroppers and indentured servants to feel a privileged psychological sense of social position in comparison to blacks.

That is why there is no way other than racism to view the unrelenting attack on the invitation of the rapper Common to the White House. In his usual brilliant takedown of Fox, Jon Stewart nailed the absurdity of the obsessive Fox vitriol, but danced around the motive: the stoking of racism in viewers who might otherwise start thinking about how the plutocracy is picking their pockets.

In a documentary done some time ago by Robert Greenwald, he detailed just some of the overt racism on Fox "News" over the years. But most of the insidious and dangerous fanning of the flames of race is done through coding on Fox, such as in the fusillade on Common and Obama. Coding race was inherent in the Fox nurturing of the "birther" movement, and in most of its cheerleading for the Tea Party.

It's no wonder that so many Republican officials, in particular, have been caught making racist remarks or sending racist emails. It was no surprise to receive a tip from a BuzzFlash reader that, recently, a Republican West Virginia candidate for governor referred to President Obama as "Sambo."

Republicans and the right-wing media echo chamber have never let their foot off the gas pedal of Dick Nixon's "Southern strategy." They know that emotional appeals to the core sense of identity of insecure whites in America's social structure put up an incendiary road block to an appeal to facts and reason.

There's no way to soft sell what Fox is up to: they promulgate the vision that America is a white nation, and that "taking back America" means wresting it from the control of a black man.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The right-wing assault on American education is in full swing.

The Koch brothers are buying up professors to disseminate the gospel of greed in higher education across America. Right-wing funded think tanks, GOP politicians and even the White House are pushing privatized schooling, which means that the educational motive and context will be corporate profit, not the development of inquiry and knowledge.

And among other efforts to undermine the American educational system and replace it with a system that values students for their profitability, we have seen public education spending slashed across the land. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, for instance, "The price of attending California State University could soar to $7,400 next spring - more than twice what it cost just three years ago."

The governor of Michigan is slashing $2 billion from the state's education budget, and the Pennsylvania governor is urging state universities to sell off their land for toxic "fracking" to offset subsidy losses.

A large part of the intellectual capacity, research and innovation that made America a formidable nation of creative ingenuity came from the resources and educational skills developed in public schools and universities - along with nonprofit educational facilities.

When education becomes just another corporate profit center, the loss on the bottom line will be the future of the United States.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

May 11, marks the 11th anniversary of BuzzFlash, now a proud member of the Truthout family.

A period of 11 years is eons in terms of Internet history. In fact, BuzzFlash launched months before the Supreme Court anointed George W. Bush as president.

Our mission has always been to advance progressive ideas that benefit the common good and democracy. We have done that for 11 years without any corporate sponsorship or ads, while fostering progressive writers, filmmakers and artists through gifts that come with contributions.

That has been quite a feat in an economy that has for-profit "corporate branding" on everything from television news to sports stadiums to the clothes we wear.

So, BuzzFlash is excited to celebrate its 11th anniversary as a part of Truthout, which also does not accept advertising. Together, we are free to deliver the truth, without any external financial influence, 24 hours a day.

If you want to send an anniversary gift that is an investment in democracy, please click here. Your donations to Truthout/BuzzFlash are deductible to the extent provided by law. Truthout/BuzzFlash is a nonprofit, unionized, journalistic publication, as it should be.

Some BuzzFlash readers have been with us for the full 11 years. We thank you and honor you, and look forward - with you - to the many exciting enhancements coming down the pike at Truthout and BuzzFlash at Truthout.

Mark Karlin
Editor, BuzzFlash at Truthout

 

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NEWS ALERT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The following are recent remarks made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

"Saving money requires a lot of difficult choices.  Which programs do we cut in tough times?  Which priorities are more important than others?  As we've seen here in the Senate and across the country over the last few months, a lot of people have a lot of different answers to those questions.

"Then there are the choices that aren't so tough at all.  There's clear waste in the federal budget and the tax code.  And then there's Big Oil.  We're giving billions and billions of dollars every year - $4 billion to be exact - every cent of it taxpayer money - to oil companies that already are more than successful.

"These oil companies made $36 billion in profits during the first quarter of this year alone.  Exxon made 70 percent more this year than last year.

"The industry's $36 billion in quarterly profits means it's making $12 billion a month.  That's $4 billion a week.  And yet the U.S. government is giving these companies $4 billion a year in corporate welfare?

"Why are taxpayers on the hook for oil companies that are doing just fine on their own?

"If we're serious about reducing the deficit, this is an easy place to start.  It's a no-brainer.  Let's use the savings from these taxpayer giveaways to drive down the deficit, not drive up oil company profits.

"Let's make one thing clear: wasteful subsidies have nothing to do with gas prices.  These oil handouts have existed for decades.  Prices have continued to rise.  Oil executives' paychecks have gone up too.  The $4 billion a gallon Americans are paying at the pump are not related to these subsidies - but those profits are proof enough that they don't need them.

"Even Big Oil CEOs like the head of Shell, and Republicans in Congress including the Speaker of the House, have admitted that these subsidies aren't necessary.

"Some of our conservative colleagues have a hard time stomaching giving a hand to those who need it the most.  We should all agree - in the interest of fairness, common sense, and saving taxpayer money - that we can cut out corporate welfare to those Big Oil firms who need it the least."

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The Koch brothers pretty much own the Tea Party; they pretty much own a lot of right-wing think tanks that have steered the nation toward a radical Ayn Rand vision of the world; and now they are buying up professors and dictating extreme right-wing ideology.

Yes, ThinkProgress reports that the Koch Foundation reached an agreement in 2008 to fund professors at Florida State University, as long as they would teach right-wing economic theory. In fact, the Koch Foundation had to approve any faculty hires who were paid with its "donated" funds.

The Saint Petersburg Times reports:

A foundation bankrolled by Libertarian businessman Charles G. Koch has pledged $1.5 million for positions in Florida State University's economics department. In return, his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting "political economy and free enterprise."...

Under the agreement with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, however, faculty only retain the illusion of control. The contract specifies that an advisory committee appointed by Koch decides which candidates should be considered. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it's not happy with the faculty's choice or if the hires don't meet "objectives" set by Koch during annual evaluations.

In short, what is happening at a public university in Florida is the sellout of open inquiry by replacing it with corporate control of the faculty and the curriculum - and an extremist one at that.

If this is a harbinger of things to come in our cash-starved public institutes of higher learning, it may signal the end of academic freedom at institutes of higher learning. They could become nothing more than propaganda diploma mills.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bill Maher is, well, politically incorrect, so he at times even ticks off progressives. But, generally, he is on the side of facts, and therefore proves that truth has a liberal bias.

Given the power of television, as Jon Stewart - among others - has shown, even a short "comic" television segment can be a devastating, sweeping indictment of hypocrisy and failure.

On his HBO show this past weekend, Maher took down the Republican shibboleths in a five-minute irreverent, profane tour de force. Beginning by debunking the "frames" that the GOP is strong on defense and budget reduction, Maher nailed the party as "packaging" that is contradicted by the facts.

The GOP ran up the deficit under Bush after Clinton had balanced the budget; 9/11 happened on their watch, even though Bush was warned of Osama bin Laden planning hijackings in the US (and Bush did nothing); it ran up the deficit further with unending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and ran up the deficit even further by twice increasing tax cuts for the most wealthy, even though we are in wars in two nations.

As BuzzFlash at Truthout has repeatedly noted, the GOP and its echo chamber, particularly on TV and radio, creates false information and scare tactics by repetition.

But occasionally, someone such as Maher manages to condense the counter argument to the Republican mistruths with a devastating monologue that is a tightly wrapped indictment. Maher doesn't get off just a few one-liners; he reveals the failed reality that is the underside of bombastic GOP propaganda.

Take a five-minute break and watch Maher slice and dice the Republican "brand." It will be well worth your time.

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Friday, 06 May 2011 12:59

Five Republican Myths About Medicare

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

There are more than five assertions that the right wing gets wrong about Medicare, but five is a start.

As with many embedded falsehoods in the corporate/wealthy choir book, the Medicare claims by the right are often inconsistent and even contradictory, depending upon which demographic group is parroting them.

BuzzFlash at Truthout noted yesterday that it is imperative that the US discuss public policy issues based on facts, not "factoids" that have no basis in fact.

1) "Medicare is socialist" (often asserted by pre-Medicare age Tea Party members and the vestige of the John Birch Society right wing). Medicare is not socialist. It is a government insurance program that cuts the cost of senior health care by cutting out the profit of private insurers. No health care providers are employed by the federal government for Medicare, as is the case in England, where health care is socialized.

2) "Medicare is not run by the government, so it is not socialized" (sometimes claimed by Republican seniors, who then can argue against "socialized medicine" for the rest of Americans). Medicare is an insurance program administered by the American government through a fund paid into by workers and employers. There are private supplementary insurance policies available for gaps in coverage.

3) "Members of Congress receive the same benefits as Medicare recipients" (occasionally used by supporters of Paul Ryan's Medicare voucher program to "prove" that Republicans in Congress will receive the same care that they are proposing for seniors). Members of Congress receive generous health care insurance through private providers and most of the coverage is paid for by the taxpayer. It is similar to being an employee in a company that provides private health care insurance. It has nothing to do with Medicare coverage.

4) "Medicare is a waste of taxpayer dollars on the poor" (at times used by "poorly informed" Republicans, who don't know the difference between Medicare and Medicaid.) Medicaid is a government insurance program for the very poor; it has nothing to do with Medicare and is funded through the general federal budget, not through employee/employer contributions.

5) "Medicare costs can only be reduced through a voucher program" (frequently used by advocates of Ryan's budget). As Eric Cantor recently admitted, any savings that a voucher program would have would come from rationing care through private insurance. Medicare is not currently rationed. Medicare costs can be reduced through eliminating supplementary private insurance (thus saving seniors money) ; cutting payments to providers, hospitals, medical equipment vendors and pharmaceutical companies (big pharma is making billions from taxpayers because the Bush Administration ensured that Medicare could not negotiate for prescription costs in Medicare Part D); reducing Medicare fraud; raising employer and or employee premium contributions; and raising taxes on for-profit health corporations among other possibilities. None of these would likely lead to rationing, but a voucher program would, according to Cantor, as a result of the inability of less wealthy seniors to pay for supplemental insurance (because the vouchers would cover only a small portion of private insurance premium costs for an elderly person) and, thus, be denied needed care.

These are only five of the Republican message points on Medicare that are factually wrong or misleading. Imagine if Congress and Americans were debating Medicare and health care as a whole based on fact instead of manufactured partisan "factoids."

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