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Wednesday, 11 May 2016 07:19

Louisiana Number One in Incarceration

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Chain1 0511wrp(Photo: Toni Lozano)In 2014, the US Department of Justice confirmed Louisiana remained number 1, among the 50 states, with 38,030 in prison, a rate of 816 per 100,000 over 100 points ahead of next highest state Oklahoma.  Because the US leads the world in incarcerating its people, this means Louisiana is number one in the world.  Compare Louisiana’s rate of 816 people per 100,000 with Russia’s 492, China with 119, France with 100, and Germany with 78.

Louisiana first became number 1 in the nation in 2005 when it was imprisoning 36,083 people.  Louisiana remained number 1, in 2010 with 35,207 in prison, an incarceration rate of 867 per 100,000 people, over 200 points head of the next highest state Mississippi.

It was not always so.  In 1965, Louisiana ranked 13th nationally in putting its citizens in jail with a rate of 109 prisoners per 100,000 people.  In 1978, Louisiana only held 7,291 people behind bars.  By 1986, Louisiana was 5th highest in the nation in putting its own citizens in prison, with 14,580 behind bars, a rate of 322 per 100,000, according to the US Department of Justice.   In 1990, Louisiana rose to 3rd highest in the nation, putting 18,599 behind bars, a rate of 427 per 100,000.  In 2000, Louisiana moved to 2nd highest in the nation, imprisoning 35,047 behind bars, a rate of 801 per 100,000.

The number of prisoners expanded nation-wide as a result of the “war on drugs” which was conducted in a racist way to target blacks.  But in Louisiana, the prisons also backed up when the practice of releasing prisoners for good behavior after 10 years and 6 months of their life sentences was ended in the 1970s.

Louisiana has been much more severe in sending black people to prison than whites, at least after black people were no longer slaves.   In 1860, when the Civil War started, the population of the Louisiana penitentiary was two-thirds white.  But by 1868, the population of Louisiana’s penitentiary was two-thirds black.

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 09 May 2016 07:55

The Collapse of the Middle-Class Job

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Class2 0509wrp(Photo: Phillies1fan777)Our middle-income jobs are disappearing. That fact may be disputed by free-market advocates, who want to believe Barack Obama when he gushes, "We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job creation in history."

But the evidence shows that living-wage, family-sustaining positions are quickly being replaced by lower-wage and less secure forms of employment. These plentiful low-level jobs have padded the unemployment figures, leaving much of America believing in an overhyped recovery.

The Incredible Shrinking Job

New research is beginning to confirm the permanent nature of middle-income job loss. Based on analysis that one reviewer calls "some of the most important work done by economists in the last twenty years," a National Bureau of Economic Research study found that national employment levels have fallen in U.S. industries that are vulnerable to import competition, without offsetting job gains in other industries. Even the Wall Street Journal admits that "many middle-wage occupations, those with average earnings between $32,000 and $53,000, have collapsed."

Productive Workers, but Less of Them

High-salaried jobs in technology still exist, but they're available to fewer people as machines become smarter. Netflix, for example, serves 57 million customers with less than 2,200 employees, who have a median salary of $180,000. Google is worth $370 billion but employs only about 55,000 workers (50 years ago AT&T was worth less in today's dollars but employed about 750,000 workers). Facebook's messaging application WhatsApp has 55 employees serving 450 million customers.

As jobs are downsized, profits are maximized. Apple makes over $500,000 per employee; Facebook and Google are both over $300,000; Exxon and Phillips 66 are both well over $250,000; Merck and Allergan and Pfizer are all significantly over $100,000. Just 25 years ago GM, Ford, and Chrysler generated a combined $36 billion in revenue while employing over 1,000,000 workers. Today Apple, Facebook, and Google generate over a trillion dollars in revenue with 137,000 workers.

Researchers at the University of Chicago have estimated that half of the labor decline in this century is due to the replacement of people with computers and software. Oxford University researchers forecasted that half of all jobs will be performed by machine by the 2030s.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Solar 0506wrp opt(Photo: BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT)The price of solar power dipped to another record low on May 1 when five international companies bid as little as 2.99 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to develop the latest phase of work at Dubai’s enormous Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park, which will be one of Earth’s largest solar plants when complete.

At less than 3 cents per kWh, that’s 15 percent lower than the previous record-low bid of 3.5 cents per kWh from Italy’s Enel Green Power for a solar project in Mexico, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The latest bid is also nearly 50 percent cheaper than last year’s winning bid of 5.84 cents per kWh for developing the 200-megawatt second phase of the same solar park, which already broke records then, The National pointed out.

“This not only marks the lowest cost ever for solar power, but also easily beats all available fossil-fuel options in Dubai on cost,” explained Dr. Moritz Borgmann, a partner at of the cleantech advisory group Apricum.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Target 0504wrp opt(Photo: Mike Kalasnik)Thus far, the only problems with Target’s new policy of allowing transgender people to use restrooms and dressing rooms that correspond with their gender identity, are being caused by a number of conservative Christian activists --several of whom are being sent out with video cameras by the American Family Association -- rushing into Target stores to test the policy.

Not a big fan of Target stores. Shopped there occasionally over the years. Have a Target REDCard, and to the best of my knowledge it wasn’t hacked in 2013. However, now that Target is under attack by the American Family Association, the Christian Right’s boycott-launching king, I may consider doing some REDcard damage in the near future.

The dust-up over the Minneapolis-based Target began in mid-April, when the company’s management decided that employees and customers who are men according to their birth sex could use women's bathrooms and dressing rooms. A statement posted on the company’s website on April 19, under the headline “Continuing to Stand for Inclusivity” read: "[W]e welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity. ...Everyone deserves to feel like they belong."

By making this decision, Target jumped into what has become this year’s number one wedge and fundraising issue for the Christian Right; Keeping transgender people out of bathrooms.

As of this writing, Christian Right groups are claiming that more than 1 million people have signed an American Family Association-initiated petition.

pledging a boycott over the store’s bathroom policies. At the AFA website, the headline reads “Sign the Boycott Target Pledge!”

Published in Guest Commentary

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Ammunition 0504wrp opt(Photo: Department of Defense)I’ve been thinking about Mother’s Day—and all the mothers that will never receive flowers and cards again from their beloved children that were unnecessarily killed in the U.S. pre-emptive invasion of the Middle East.

I vaguely remember presidential candidate Barack Obama during the 2008 primary. So many different masks on this man that it’s hard to recollect that he argued for “peaceful negotiations,” and that “sending our troops into combat should be our very last resort…”

However, President Obama not only expanded instability throughout the Middle East by allowing the CIA to play havoc with Libya and Syria, which led to the deaths of tens of thousands of families, including the bombing of hospitals with wounded children under Doctors without Borders care (Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria), his decision led to eight million refugees pounding the doors of neighboring European countries.

As I explained in my last Buzzflash-Truthout commentary, dictators or no, before the Bush-Obama administrations invaded these countries, the majority of families had homes, water, food, jobs, sewer systems, electricity, and even if they didn’t like their leaders, and even if conditions may have been challenging in Syria, they at least had their families and homes and food on the table.

Like the U.S., Europeans have been financially struggling since the Wall Street banksters’ “unregulated” greed reached a 2008 global crisis. In addition to the suffering in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen, Obama and his CIA advisors decided to make the lives of Libyans and Syrians go from difficult to unbearable. Europeans are also desperate—and they don’t know how they’re going to support millions of starving people when their own families are in dire straits much like middle-class Americans that are being crushed beneath the corporate oligarchic wheel.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Orca 0429wrp opt(Photo: Mike Baird)At a press conference held Wednesday in San Diego, Jean-Michel Cousteau, oceanographic explorer and president of the Ocean Futures Society, urged SeaWorld to free its current population of captive orcas.

“They need to be released and put back into a place where we can keep an eye on them and they can reconnect with nature,” Cousteau, who is the son of legendary underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau, said.

On March 17, the scandal-plagued ocean theme park made a dramatic shift when it announced the end of it orca breeding program and that its current population of killer whales will live out their lives at the company’s habitats instead of in the wild or ocean sanctuaries. SeaWorld explained that the orcas were born under human care and have never lived in the wild, they “could not survive in oceans that include environmental concerns such as pollution and other man-made threats.”

SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby also explained in a Los Angeles Times op-ed published on the same day of the announcement that marine animals born in captivity would “likely die” if they were released.

But at the PETA-hosted conference, Cousteau argued against this reasoning seeing as how he and his team personally worked with Keiko after filming. Keiko was rehabilitated and moved to a seaside sanctuary in Iceland where he lived in ocean waters for more than five years.

Published in Guest Commentary

MAX PHILLIPS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

RiverFire 0427wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)The Greens New South Wales mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham called on governments today to stop the spread of coal seam gas (CSG) and for the true impact of fugitive emissions to be independently assessed after the video of methane gas burning through the Condamine River in Queensland, Australia went viral with millions of views and global media coverage.

“The methane gas bubbling through the Condamine River could be just a very visible tip of the iceberg when it comes to fugitive emissions and huge quantities of gas that could be venting into the atmosphere because of unconventional gas extraction,” said Greens MP Buckingham.

“The Greens want a ban on unconventional gas, but at the very least, government should stop the expansion of unconventional gas until the true extent of fugitive emissions is understood. Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas, so significant fugitive emissions caused by coal seam gas extraction could undo efforts to reduce emissions in Australia.

“Depressurizing the coal seams to allow the gas to flow may well be causing gas to migrate up natural or fracked pathways, or water bores or abandoned wells, to seep out of the ground. Farmers complain of gas in their water bores, while people living near gas fields report health complaints,” Buckingham continued.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

PrincePhilanthropy 0427wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)The Purple One was secretly Green. In an emotional interview on CNN, political commentator Van Jones revealed that his close friend Prince wasn’t just a musical icon but also a major philanthropist.

One of his many initiatives included helping Oakland, California residents go solar.

“He worked for something called Green for All,” Jones told CNN host Don Lemon. “I was the public face of that, but he helped put the money in. There are people who have solar panels on their houses now in Oakland, California, that don’t know Prince paid for [them].”

“[Prince] did not want it to be known publicly, but I’m going to say it because the world needs to know that it wasn’t just the music,” Jones said. “The music was one way he tried to help the world. But he was helping every day of his life.”

Green for All helps create green jobs in disadvantaged communities and is also behind such initiatives as the #PollutersPay campaign which demands that Gov. Rick Snyder rebuild the lead-poisoned city of Flint, Michigan.

The campaign has been supported by scores of environmental advocates including actor and eco-activist Mark Ruffalo.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Gyre 0425wrp opt(Photo: Stephen Codrington)As the Solar Impulse 2 made its historic 62-hour flight from Hawaii to California without fuel, pilot Bertrand Piccard personally saw the horrific amount of plastic in our oceans.

While flying above the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Piccard sent out a tweet to Boyan Slat, the 21-year-old founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup.

“I flew over plastic waste as big as a continent,” Piccard wrote. “We must continue to support projects like @BoyanSlat Ocean Cleanup,” referring to Slat’s ambitious project of ridding the world’s oceans of plastic trash.

he Ocean Cleanup describes itself as the “world’s first feasible concept to clean the oceans of plastic” and has garnered widespread public admiration and support especially for Slat, a former aerospace engineering student who proposed the concept when he was only 17.

Piccard and Slat also spoke on Friday as the solar-powered plane made its risky journey.

t’s no surprise that the pilot and the young inventor linked up—both are using innovative technology to promote the greater good of the planet.

Piccard and the Solar Impulse team plan to fly around the world using only the power of the sun to promote clean transportation and other environmental causes.

“We have demonstrated it is feasible to fly many days, many nights, that the technology works,” fellow pilot Andre Borschberg told the Associated Press.

“I think innovation and pioneering must continue,” Piccard added. “It must continue for better quality of life, for clean technologies, for renewable energy. This is where the pioneers can really express themselves and be successful.”

Slat has spoken before about the necessity to protect our oceans.

Published in Guest Commentary

HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Jackson 0425wrp opt(Photo: Paul Boyer)The decision to remove Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill is long overdue. So is the movement to remove the name of Lord Jeffery Amherst from that college town in western Massachusetts. 

Let’s start with Jackson, our most racist major president next to Woodrow Wilson

Jackson was our first president from west of the Alleghenies, and the first to not wear the powdered wigs favored by Virginia plantation owners. 

Andy’s parents were Irish immigrants who died early. He had a brutally impoverished childhood. One of his fourteen duels left a bullet permanently lodged near his heart. (Teddy Roosevelt also had one of those.) 

Jackson is most revered as the “Common Man” who fought Alexander Hamilton’s national bank. He later personally profited from kickbacks paid him by cronies who owned smaller banks that benefitted. 

A vicious racist, Jackson also made a fortune in the slave trade, and from stolen Indian land, leaving him with a slave plantation of his own. 

At the 1814 Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Jackson enlisted Cherokee warriors to fight their rival Creeks. Then he brutalized his “allies” as well as his defeated enemy. His troops took slices of the dead Creeks’ noses for a body count, and used their skin to make bridles.

Published in Guest Commentary
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