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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

439276711 f0dfb6a64c z(Photo: Carlito)

Buzzflash has published many columns about the nationwide war on homelessness: a push to render homeless people invisible by displacing them from economically comfortable residential, business and recreational areas. Increasingly, even feeding those who are hungry has become a crime.

December 10 column in BeyondChron draws attention to "the eviction of what has been called America’s largest homeless encampment: 68 acres of creek-side property inhabited by some 300 men, women, and children residing in tents, shanties, and underground adobe dwellings."

This is occurring in San José, California, and is representative of the expanding attempts to remove homeless individuals and panhandlers from the public view of people with means. This is happening with greater frequency in areas of the country that have more temperate weather, since such cities attract those without money who can live outdoors year round without fear of dying from freezing weather.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

11535767036 89b6e2e409 z(Image: Devendra Makkar)

One of the themes of the superb writing of Henry Giroux is that more and more Americans are becoming "disposable," recognized as either commodities or criminals by the more fortunate members of society. There seems to be a method to the madness of winner-take-all capitalism. The following steps, whether due to greed or indifference or disdain, are the means by which America's wealth-takers dispose of the people they don't need. 

1. Deplete Their Wealth

Recent analysis has determined that half of America is in or near poverty. This is confirmed by researchers Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, who point out: "The bottom half of the distribution always owns close to zero wealth on net. Hence, the bottom 90% wealth share is the same as the share of wealth owned by top 50-90% families - what can be described as the middle class." 

The United States has one of the highest poverty rates in the developed world. It's much worse since the recession, especially for blacks and Hispanics

From 2008 to 2013 the stock market, which is largely owned by just 10% of Americans, gained 18% per year. Well-to-do stockholders get capital gains tax breaks, including a carried interest subsidy that Robert Reich calls "a pure scam." 

The bottom half of America, relying on regular bank accounts, earn about one percent on their savings. 

Friday, 12 December 2014 09:17

Joe Conason | CIA Crimes Without Punishment

JOE CONASON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaChain(Photo: Toni Lozano)With the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the use of torture by the CIA after 9/11, the final defense of the indefensible by its perpetrators, advocates and publicists is falling apart before our eyes.

Not only did "enhanced interrogation," the Nazi euphemism adopted by the Bush-Cheney administration, include methods outlawed and prosecuted by our country for more than a century, such as waterboarding — and not only did those "activities," as Dick Cheney called them, violate American law, the Constitution, the Geneva Conventions and the conventions on torture — but also we now know with great certainty that the CIA executed this secret program with horrific incompetence and that it produced nothing of significant value.

Indeed, the SSCI report concludes — contrary to the boasting of Cheney and many others — that torture was proved "not an effective means of gathering intelligence," let alone saving millions of Americans from jihadi plots, and actually "complicated, and in some cases impeded, the national security missions." The overseers of the torture program, themselves of dubious competence, were unable even to assess the impact or effectiveness of their orders.

As Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations points out, the CIA itself has admitted, in its otherwise aggressive response to the SSCI, that it lacked the "structure, expertise, and methodologies" to "systematically evaluate the effectiveness" of its "covert actions." The CIA didn't know what it was doing. But it was doing grave damage to itself and to us.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

6481958557 dabd470285 o 1The federal spending bill gives most people in the US a lump of coal for the holidays. (Photo: Ladymay)This holiday will bring an odious package of gifts in the form of the omnibus spending bill passed by the House on December 12 - and likely to be approved by the Senate and signed into law by the president by Monday evening.

On the eve of a season of that we commercialize as one of celebrating peace, love and compassion, it looks like Congress and the White House are going to dole out bounties to the oligarchy, financial industry and right wing of the GOP. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has received coverage for her defiant stand against a clause in the bill that rolls back restrictions on the casino derivative trading that was a large contributing factor in the near collapse of the US economy in 2008. This particular feature of the legislation is discussed in an article from PR Watch posted on Truthout, "Congress to Reinstate Taxpayer Subsidies for Reckless Derivatives Trading."

In fact, the Washington Post quotes Warren as calling the trillion dollar bill “the worst of government for the rich and powerful.”

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTaaaFossilFuel(Photo: Chad Teer)

Allow me to ask congressional members in the House and Senate and American voters the following questions:

1. Do you like polluted air that’s so toxic that it’s causing asthma, heart disease and premature death, lung and respiratory-related health problems for you and your family?

2. Do you like it when your water is contaminated with poisons associated with coal, gas or oil drilling? Do you enjoy seeing wildlife killed from toxic pollution?

3. Do you like eating toxic food because safety inspections have been lifted?

No one in his-her right mind would answer ‘yes’ to the above questions unless they’re receiving money from the fossil fuel industries. 

 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afreemarissa3Even though Marissa Alexander has agreed to a plea bargain, she is still not free of the long arm of the judicial/incarceration system. (Image: Daniel Arauz)\

Maya Schenwar, the editor-in-chief of Truthout, has written a book that exposes the egregious injustice and pernicious impact of the prison-industrial complex. Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better is an incisive and moving analysis of how the incarceration system in the United States destroys lives and erodes a civil society.

With the highest rate of imprisonment in the world, the US particularly uses incarceration as a form of social cleansing and bias against people of color, as well as poor people, gender-nonconforming people and people with mental illness. In a sweeping narrative that indicts the institution of imprisonment, Schenwar frequently focuses on individuals – including her own sister, who has been in and out of the prison system. The book offers compelling voices to document the inhumanity of confinement behind bars and the extensive collateral damage of life in prison and trying to build a life after release.

Marissa Alexander is one of the millions who has been ripped from her family. BuzzFlash at Truthout talked with Ayanna Banks Harris, co-organizer of the Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander (CAFMA), on how Alexander's plight represents the egregious wrongs of a system that feeds people into gulags of harsh confinement that take away their lives, break up families and damage communities.

Thursday, 11 December 2014 07:00

The Militarized Divide in This Shattered Nation

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCopSniper(Photo: Jamelle Bouie)This shattered nation.

“Eric Garner was overweight and in poor health. He was a nuisance to shop owners who complained about him selling untaxed cigarettes on the street. When police came to arrest him, he resisted. And if he could repeatedly say, ‘I can’t breathe,’ it means he could breathe.”

And, oh yeah: “You cannot go out and break the law. What we did not hear is that you cannot resist arrest. That’s a crime.”

This is the police counter-narrative, as reported by the Associated Press. Eric Garner’s choking death was mostly his own fault. It’s another standoff: another line of cops in bulletproof vests, ominously gripping their batons, stepping slowly toward the protesters. “He was a nuisance . . .” Get him, boys. Take him down.

The national divide is solid and four-square. Actual human beings congregate only on one side of it, or the other. If Eric Garner is a nuisance and Michael Brown is a thug and Trayvon Martin is a suspicious-looking kid in a hoodie who didn’t belong in that neighborhood . . . then, whoosh, all their humanity vanishes and “upholding the law” justifies every action against them, including killing them. The cries of grief from their families are just irritating noises. The outrage about it is insubordination.

Either we’re united by our common humanity or we live in a broken world, a nation hellishly divided against itself, a roiling stew of privilege and squalor. And no one in such a world is free — that is to say, fully himself or herself, fully human. Fear rules. Hatred rules.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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The US media obsession with how a lower unemployment rate should increase holiday buying is undercut by a rarely discussed reality: while the unemployment rate is falling, so are wages and family income for many earners in the US. This means that there are an increased number of holiday shoppers who actually have less to spend – adjusted for inflation - during the pre-Christmas consumer frenzy than in past years.

A December 8 article in The Guardian describes this trend as an increase in "survivalist" consumers as compared to "selectionists":

Survivalists earn less than $50,000 a year and have to make sure they can afford every purchase. 

Selectionists are more affluent. They may still be “careful”, in PwC’s parlance, but they have more disposable income and don’t insist on waiting for the deepest discounts to kick in before buying.

In each of the last three years, however, the survivalists have become an increasingly important part of the mix, rising from 63% of PwC’s annual holiday shopping poll in 2012 to 65% in 2013 and to 67% this year

This confirms other indicators of a widening income gap that is leading to a race to the bottom in retailing in a society built on consumer spending.

2014.12.10.Watts.BFIt was not long after the events of September 11 that justifications were being written for torture. (Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: amarine88, Bebopsmile, ImageAbstraction, JoesSistah...)AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“Alas, the gates of life never swing open except upon death, never open except upon the palaces andgardens of death. And the universe appears to me like an immense, inexorable torture-garden… What Isay today, and what I heard, exists and cries and howls beyond this garden, which is no more than asymbol to me of the entire earth.” 
― Octave Mirbeau

After years of delays and redactions and even a last minute intervention from Secretary of State Kerry, a man whose recent career seems devoted to destroying the moral legacy of his early years, the executive summary of the Senate Report on CIA Torture has finally been released. Spoiler alert. Torture? We sure did. There’s nothing that is terribly surprising in the report, beyond the endless brutality of the details, so now the game will shift to arguing over and spinning all the facts that we’ve known for so long.

It was not long after the events of September 11 that justifications were being written for torture. Legal opinions were issued, memoranda that defined the outer boundaries of what was acceptable. And we knew it was happening. And now those same memoranda are being used to grant immunity to those who carried out torture. And the predictable voices are lining up to claim that yeah, we tortured, but look at all the neat intelligence we got out of it. Sure we crossed a moral event horizon but we literally saved America from certain destruction.

2014.12.10.Blair.BFFormer British Prime Minister Tony Blair. (Image: Chatham House / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

He has a lifestyle that would make Robin Leach blush; he's crafted deals with scoundrels in a number of countries and does the bidding for huge corporations and investment firms; he still maintains that the War in Iraq was the right thing to do; for several years he has represented the Quartet in the Middle East but doesn't have much to show for it; he gets snippy when talking about how few people pay attention to his political opinions.

One could be forgiven if one didn't think very often about former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. If one did, however, one would probably think back to those crazy-ass days in 2002-2003 when President George W. Bush was having a heck of a time trying to round up support for his impending invasion of Iraq. Bush turned to Blair, and, to perhaps the astonishment of the civilized world, Blair adopted the Bush Administration's "weapons of mass destruction" mantra. And for that decision, the man once thought of as an intelligent, articulate and savvy politician, now has the well-deserved reputation as, well, a first class schmuck. And, to top it off, since that time, he can't seem to shake the "Bush's Poodle" appellation.

With the publishing of the Senate's report on torture, Blair's name is in play once again. While the "report provides reams of uncomfortable details about the CIA's use of torture ... for Britons it leaves one key question unanswered," Peter Foster pointed out in a recent column in The Telegraph. "What did Tony Blair, ... and Jack Straw, then Foreign Secretary, know of a CIA torture programme that was sanctioned at the very highest levels of the US government? And to what extent were they complicit in giving UK assistance to US operations?"

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