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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

asamesong(Photo: bunky's pickle)

BuzzFlash has noted many a time that the Creation Museum in Kentucky has featured dinosaurs with saddles. Holding that evolution is a misguided theory, the creationists behind the museum exhibit attempt to show - by placing the saddles on dinosaurs - that people lived contemporaneously with dinosaurs. This, supposedly, proves that everything on earth was created simultaneously in a divine burst of benevolence.

Charles Pierce took note of this bizarre representation of something akin to a gigantic terrestrial reptile just waiting to be mounted by a cowboy. He told Truthout that it inspired his best-selling book, Idiot America. Indeed, the exhibition would have been a magical presidential visit photo op for Ronald Reagan's iconic image if the museum had been around for his years in office. Skeptics would have called it a dinosaur sitting atop a dinosaur.

However, that hypothetical Reagan-bashing image may now be replaced by another, less easy-to-depict reality: Perhaps, today, it is the two-party system in the United States that is riding the United States back into a social and economic Mesozoic Era. Even if one successfully argues that there are significant, though marginal, differences between Democratic and Republican politicians on social issues and perhaps on the environment, it is difficult to see major distinctions between the two parties on economic and foreign policy issues. (Both fall solidly in the neoliberal camp.)

Granted, the Republicans may often sound more strident and unhinged, but in the end, there is basically a consensus - as far as voting in Congress - on trumped up wars abroad and particularly on neoliberal global free trade and financial policies.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aharvarddiv(Photo: 350.org) 

Recently, Truthout featured Lani Guinier's book The Tyranny of the Meritocracy, which focuses on the need to change the type of students selected by prestigious universities. She encourages the transformation of institutions such as Ivy League schools from factories for the elite status quo into schools that prepare future generations of engaged citizens who can work collaboratively for the common good.

Guinier focuses on how the most competitive universities largely base their admissions' policies on standardized test scores, competitiveness, individual ambition and, of course, likely candidates to perpetuate the economic and social status quo.

In an excerpt from Guinier's book recently posted on Truthout, she writes:

Merit as defined by test-based admissions has harnessed "schools and universities to the task of sieving people" according to a "narrow band of values."  Those values, as it turns out, are the production and reproduction of privilege but without obligation or shame. The rise of the testocratic meritocracy has enabled those already at the top of the heap to continue to preside without a sense of moral or political accountability. The privileged have come to believe that their "advancement comes from their own merits," and thus they are entitled to their power.

Guinier advocates that changes in admissions' policies can alter the impact of institutions in creating a truly robust and socially responsible democracy.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aimmidetArrest at immigration protest at detention center. (Photo: Carrie Sloan)

The for-profit prison system in the United States is not only a major factor in the emergence of "manufactured crime," it also makes money off of a national war on Latino migrants through the "detention" (in other words, incarceration) of persons - including minors - seeking economic and security refuge in the US.

A ministry located in Georgia - Alterna: Love Crosses Borders (El Amor Cruza Fronteras) - that provides compassionate assistance to migrants from south of the Mexican border monitors the nearby Stewart Detention Center, run for profit by the Corrections Corporations of America (CCA). The facility is the largest incarceration complex specifically for migrants in the US, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). 

The ACLU has also conducted a study of Stewart and found rampant violations of human rights:

For purposes of this documentation project, the ACLU of Georgia interviewed 68 individuals who were detained at the Georgia immigration detention facilities, as well as detainees' family members and immigration attorneys. We also toured the detention centers and reviewed documents obtained from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other agencies. The findings in “Prisoners of Profit: Immigrants and Detention in Georgia” raise serious concerns about violations of detainees’ due process rights, inadequate living conditions, inadequate medical and mental health care, and abuse of power by those in charge.

Among the problems we documented: inadequate information about available pro bono legal services, inadequate conditions for attorney visits which raise attorney/client confidentiality issues, and delays in gaining access to the law library.  Detainees also face unreasonable delays in receiving medical care and in the case of detainees with mental disabilities, punitive rather than care-oriented treatment. We also documented numerous concerns about cell conditions including temperature extremes and overcrowding; hygiene concerns including instances where facilities ran out of hygiene items and detainees simply had to go without; used underwear provided to detainees at Irwin; food concerns including unusual mealtimes, insufficient quantity, and poor quality; limited recreation; and a work program at two corporate run detention centers where detainees are paid $1.00 to $3.00 per day and sometimes are coerced to work. Other findings point to a failed grievance procedure where detainees who filed grievances did not always receive responses, verbal and physical abuse, and retaliatory behavior from guards including placing detainees in segregation.

The Alterna ministry's findings concur with the ACLU about the abuses that take place in these facilities, run under contract by companies listed on stock exchanges. They may be euphemistically labeled as "detention centers," but if a person is detained against his or her will, we should really just call it jail.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aborderdrone2US Border Patrol drone. (US Customs and Border Protection)

As BuzzFlash at Truthout has documented many a time, the US war on immigration from Mexico and Central America is cruel, political, fueled by fear of "the other" and inhumane.

BuzzFlash has also provided evidence of how the drumbeat of xenophobia against immigration by Latin Americans of limited means has resulted in large allocations of tax-payer dollars being shifted to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for "securing the Mexican border." Exactly what the hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars spent annually are "protecting" the US from is not clear, but the allocations continue to accelerate for keeping people - who are trying literally to survive - from entering the nation by crossing the Mexican border.

With all the corporate and Wall Street strident denunciation of big government, there is nothing that they love more than billions and billions of dollars in federal defense and "homeland security" spending. The military-industrial-surveillance complex excels at finding a funding spigot and turning it into a torrent. 

Incendiary language designed to create apprehension and panic further constructs the context for increased spending on the military and - in this case – halting the migration of non-whites in need. The gusher of money that results from such pandering is not often effectively spent. Even if the goals are reprehensible, the flood of money often doesn't achieve those unworthy objectives. In short, the policies - in this case denying compassionate shelter to refugees from a situation that the US has largely helped to create south of the Mexican border - are not only bad; vast amounts of taxpayer dollars are spent on enriching corporations and contractors for equipment and strategies that don't even achieve their blameworthy intended purposes.

Such is the case with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) drones - as revealed in a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) analysis.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aneconevery(Photo: seiuhealthcare775nw )

 

If there has been one constant over the coup d'état of the economy by the top 1%, it's been the lowering or stagnation of wages (adjusted for inflation) for most workers in the United States. One doesn't even have to footnote this trend because it is a fact, not even disputed by the cheerleaders for the Milton Friedman school of economics.

This has resulted in - again, a statistical fact - the largest income and asset gap in US history. Indeed, U.S. News and World Report posted a commentary in 2013 that declared in its headline, "Suffering Under the Weight of Inequality: Research shows that income inequality in the U.S. has hit a record high and will stifle economic growth." Written by David Bowden, cofounder of the American Sustainable Business Council, it concludes:

Inequality in the U.S. shows no sign of abating, even as the economy recovers. The decline of unions, the pace of globalization, the abundance of workers in many industries and changes in health care and taxes have combined to staunch the earning power of working Americans, even as the economy grows and productivity increases. There are few options, and none that are consistent with the political climate of the time. But the trend is reaching the point that endangers growth itself, and that should concern everyone, regardless of the size of your paycheck.

Of course, BuzzFlash would contend that there are several options for change, including a restructuring of the economic system to spread out the wealth of the nation more equitably, thus ending the economic caste of exorbitant privilege.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aglwarm(Photo: Mikael Miettinen)

On Wednesday, January 7, The Guardian reported on a just-released analysis that warns (as stated in the article's headline), "Leave fossil fuels buried to prevent climate change: New research is first to identify which reserves must not be burned to keep global temperature rise under 2C, including over 90% of US and Australian coal and almost all Canadian tar sands."

In a stunning series of reports on Truthout, Dahr Jamail has regularly reported on the imminence of catastrophic climate failure if no dramatic steps are taken to prevent it. Other Truthout journalists have also focused on the portentous threat.

The Guardian article based on research from University College London ominously warns:

Vast amounts of oil in the Middle East, coal in the US, Australia and China and many other fossil fuel reserves will have to be left in the ground to prevent dangerous climate change, according to the first analysis to identify which existing reserves cannot be burned.

The new work reveals the profound geopolitical and economic implications of tackling global warming for both countries and major companies that are reliant on fossil fuel wealth. It shows trillions of dollars of known and extractable coal, oil and gas, including most Canadian tar sands, all Arctic oil and gas and much potential shale gas, cannot be exploited if the global temperature rise is to be kept under the 2C safety limit agreed by the world's nations. Currently, the world is heading for a catastrophic 5C of warming and the deadline to seal a global climate deal comes in December at a crunch UN summit in Paris.

One can only imagine the public relations consultants for the fossil fuel industry in full crisis management mode, preparing propaganda to debunk a credible study.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

fds(Photo: USDAgov)

The possibility of implosion persistently looms over the US economy, but a moral disintegration of the nation has been simmering for decades.

The continued reduction in food stamp support is the latest addition to the dismantling of a social safety net that fulfills an ethical obligation to individuals in the US. That obligation is based on the reality that the current financial system is structured with incentives to ensure that full employment is never achieved. Large-scale unemployment is necessary in order to keep corporate profits high by keeping the costs of labor low.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities predicts that in the government's fiscal year of 2016, it is possible that one million adults (without dependent children) who do not have jobs will have lost their food stamp benefits. These are individuals in extreme need of supplemental food support for survival: 

Unemployed, nondisabled childless adults on SNAP [the food stamp program] tend to be very poor. USDA data show that while these individuals participate in SNAP their gross income averages 19 percent of the poverty line - about $2,200 per year for a household of one in 2014 - compared to gross income of 58.5 percent of the poverty line for the average SNAP household overall…. Some 96 percent of them live in households below 100 percent of the poverty line.  

Some 40 percent of this vulnerable population are women. Almost one-third are over age 40. Among those who report their race, about half are white, a third are African American, and a tenth are Hispanic. Half have only a high school diploma or GED.  

The Center estimates that new regulations will result in a loss of $150-$200 a month in food assistance for individuals who have total incomes of just over $2,000 a year.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aenoughblacklives(Photo: Light Brigade/ Black Lives Matter)

Nationally known progressive newscaster, author and daily Truthout commentator Thom Hartmann wrote some time ago about how George Zimmerman's vigilante shooting of Trayvon Martin (for walking while Black) represented the legacy of slave patrols.

Hartmann wrote on Truthout in July of 2013,

George Zimmerman kept close watch over his neighborhood.

When Black men walked or even drove through the area, he alerted the police, over and over and over again.

Finally, exasperated that "they always" got away, he went out on a rainy night armed with a loaded gun and the Stand Your Ground law, looking for anybody who should not be in his largely White neighborhood.

The South has a long history of this sort of thing. Today they’re called Neighborhood Watches. They used to be called Slave Patrols.

A recent BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary contended:

The role of most large urban police forces that aggressively patrol poor communities of color is to remove the "blight" of people of color in poverty by arrest and imprisonment - particularly black males and Latinos, and increasingly women of color. 

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abirdhome(Photo: DavidPronk)

In 2014, BuzzFlash posted periodic commentaries on a national trend of cities prohibiting organizations and individuals from feeding the homeless. Basically, real estate developers and people living in comfortable neighborhoods regard people who are homeless as little more than urban blight, and so municipalities have increasingly been passing ordinances that outlaw providing food to individuals who cannot afford housing. A number of different nefarious strategies have also been implemented by cities to make homelessness illegal in certain areas. It is not surprising that Glenn Beck's right-wing website, The Blaze, touts the "Top 10 Anti-Homeless Measures Used in the United States."

Unfortunately, the last days of 2014 indicate that the war against the homeless will continue on into 2015. During the holiday season - the alleged period of caring, love and empathy - the city officials of Roseville, California (located just northeast of Sacramento), threatened to take action against an organization with the seasonally appropriate name of "What Would Jesus Do" for offering food to homeless individuals.

According to the December 28 The Sacramento Bee, 

For the homeless feeding organization called What Would Jesus Do, it is an act of benevolent defiance.

After a 31/2-month absence, the group is again serving breakfast pastries, hot chocolate and coffee, canned goods and additional staples to homeless and other disadvantaged people at Roseville’s Saugstad Park on Sunday mornings. Volunteers were out once more in the chilly air Sunday after resuming the park program on Dec. 21.

Just four days before Christmas, however, Roseville City Hall was not happy.  

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

obamasantaObama has fostered an economy that showers the rich with gifts. (Photo: Carlos)

The stock market just hit a record high on December 22; the gross domestic product (GDP) is growing at its fastest rate in more than a decade; and the top 1% has received more than 95% of the economic gains since 2008, according to at least two studies (previously discussed on BuzzFlash).

Moreover, these factors, among others, also facilitate an even wider income divide - something akin to an economic Grand Canyon. This is like the jingling of Christmas bells to the plutocracy; it means more concentrated wealth and cheaper labor (because of the increased number of people willing to accept lower wages in order to have employment). The decreasing domestic (and global) labor costs, in turn, increase corporate profits.

In short, the richest have been getting steadily, inordinately wealthier during the two terms of the Obama administration....

If Ronald Reagan were president now, the Republicans would be worshiping him as a God sent down to earth to lead Milton Friedman capitalism into a gilded age of oligarchical triumph - coronating him with a laurel wreath as if he were a Caesar of mammon.

What could be more cheery for millionaires and billionaires than becoming even more bloated with money during this holiday season? They should be hailing Obama as Santa Claus for the well heeled, instead of portraying him as some sort of cross between Lenin and the Antichrist.

Published in EditorBlog
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