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Thursday, 13 October 2016 08:00

Bullying Is Not Just a Problem in Schools

Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

8208077880 b823b7647d z 1Bullying is systemic in the United States. (Image: Ken Whytock)

So frequently the media and people in social and political leadership positions focus on reforming problems on a micro-level, when the problems are actually part of a larger institutional structure. For instance, take the repeated focus on school bullying as an issue. The authors of Bully Nation: How the American Establishment Creates a Bullying Society -- this week's Truthout Progressive Pick, which you can obtain with a donation by clicking here -- helped me understand that if we isolate school bullying from the larger US economic, military, political and cultural systems, efforts to combat it will be doomed to fail. Bullying in our schools is not an exception to our society; it is a consequence of it.

My interview with the authors of the book -- Charles Derber and Yale R. Magrass -- will be published on Sunday on Truthout. In it, the authors trenchantly lay out the conundrum of trying to halt the societal context in which this odious behavior occurs:

Bullying has been a means of controlling people, putting them in “their place,” for perhaps as long as there have been humans. Until about twenty years ago, it was dismissed as “normal,” a rite of passage that children and adolescents must go through and “get over.” Some endure relatively little of it – perhaps they are bullies themselves- and it leaves little long-term impact. For others, it is a trauma that leaves lifelong scars...

We live in militarized capitalism. Capitalism assumes competition -- winners and losers. Militarism requires violence, aggression and submission to authority. Bullying builds these very traits. Psychology is inadequate to understand the cause and power of bullying. Indeed, bullying is about power, and psychology hardly has a concept of power. It is all about individuals changing their attitudes. Sociology and politics are much better at understanding power. 1950s sociologist C. Wright Mills spoke of the “sociological imagination,” where he argued you cannot separate “personal troubles” from “public issues.” We need the sociological imagination to understand bullying -- how are children raised to blend into militarized capitalism? What kind of school system does militarized capitalism need? How do school authorities encourage a student culture which prepares for militarized capitalism and sees bullying as a “normal” part of life?

When you combine extreme capitalism with hyper-militarism, you end up with a culture that is very conducive to bullying. There should be no surprise that schoolchildren and teenagers pick up their cues from the culture at large. This also makes marginalized young people particularly vulnerable to bullying and violence in schools: The bullying of LGBTQ students, for instance, is an especially urgent problem. It is born of a larger cultural context that, in essence, values bullying in how its infrastructure works, even while denouncing it among young people.

2016.13.10 BF Hightower(Photo: Mike Mozart)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Just when you thought that Big Banker greed surely bottomed out with 2008's Wall Street crash and bailout, along comes Wells Fargo, burrowing even deeper into the ethical slime to reach a previously unimaginable level of corporate depravity.

It's one thing for these giants of finance to cook the books or defraud investors, but top executives of Wells Fargo have been profiteering for years by literally forcing their employees to rob the bank's customers. Rather than a culture of service, executives have pushed a high-pressure "sales culture" at least since 2009, demanding that front-line employees meet extreme quotas of selling myriad unnecessary bank products to common depositors who just wanted a simple checking account. Employees were expected to load each customer with at least eight accounts, and employees were monitored constantly on meeting their quotas -- fail and they'd be fired.

That's why the bosses' sales culture turned employees into a syndicate of bank robbers. The thievery was systemic, and it was not subtle: Half a million customers were secretly issued credit cards they didn't request; fake email accounts for online services were set up without customers' knowledge; debit cards were issued and activated without telling customers; depositors' money was moved from one account to another; signatures were forged -- and, of course, Wells Fargo collected fees for all of these bogus transactions, boosting its profits.

2016.13.10 BF Koehler(Photo: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Values the size of Planet Earth are at stake, as the American presidential election grows ever smaller, ever pettier, ever more certain that rancor triumphs over relevance.

Can you imagine, let us say, an issue the size of global nuclear disarmament emerging in this race, somewhere between the groper tapes and the hacked DNC emails? What if -- my God -- we lived in a country in which such a matter were seriously and publicly discussed, not shunted off to the margins with a grimace and a smirk? The only thing that has mainstream credibility in this country is business as usual, which comes to us wrapped in platitudes about strength and greatness but in reality is mostly about war and profit and the destruction of the planet.

Meanwhile it's three minutes to midnight.

And the Republic of the Marshall Islands has lost its case in the International Court of Justice. On a technicality, no less! Phon van den Biesen, lead attorney for the tiny island nation, which had sued the world's nine nuclear powers -- the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, France, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea -- to begin real nuclear disarmament negotiations, said the case was dismissed earlier this month on a "microformality," which in my layman's grasp of the matter might be called, instead, a desperate legal copout.


Paris 1012wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Earlier this summer, Paris quietly passed a new law encouraging residents to help green the City of Light by planting their own urban gardens.

Although the measure was adopted on July 1, the news has only recently made headlines in France and on U.S. sites such as Inhabitat and Condé Nast Traveler.

The initiative, "permis de végétaliser" (or "license to vegetate"), is part of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo's 2020 target of adding 100 hectares (247 acres) of vegetation on the city's walls and roofs, with a third dedicated to urban agriculture.

To encourage citizens to become "gardeners of the Parisian public space," any resident can now apply for a renewable three-year permit to start their own urban garden project. Participants can green the capital in various ways, from planting fruit trees to creating living walls to a rooftop garden. Upon request, the city will also provide a planting kit that includes topsoil and seeds.

Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

21016octprescripFor many Americans, Big Pharma profiteering is a matter of life and death. (Photo: Thomas Hawk )

In spite of the recent scandals regarding predatory drug pricing for many vital medications, pharmaceutical companies and their CEOs are still engaging in wanton profiteering, as I noted a couple of months ago. If people have the money, they are going to pay whatever medication costs are necessary to save their lives, unless they are fortunate enough to have rare coverage for costly prescriptions. For individuals in medical need, it may be a matter of life or death, but for the drug industry it's just a matter of price-gouging to increase shareholder profits and the excessive compensation of CEOs.

That's the conclusion reaffirmed in a report, "Outrageous Fortunes: Big Pharma Executives Cash-In on High Drug Prices," conducted by the Institute for Health & Socio-Economic Policy (IHSP), a research arm of National Nurses United. An October 10 news release from Nurses United summarized key findings:

Top pharmaceutical executives are making billions of dollars in compensation while implementing skyrocketing price increases for essential medications, according a new research report released today by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.

In “Outrageous Fortunes,” the report finds that pharma executives were handed over $11 billion in compensation the past five years. In 2015, the most recent year for which the data is available, the ten highest paid pharma chief executive officers (CEOs) made $327 million....

The report finds a direct connection between executive pay, profiteering – through pay for performance arrangements based on profits and stock prices – and escalating drug prices that increasingly block patient access to affordable medication.


Woodley 1012wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Shailene Woodley, star of The Fault in Our Stars and the Divergent series, was arrested Monday morning while protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in Sioux County, North Dakota.

Woodley was streaming live on her Facebook page Monday during a peaceful protest at Standing Rock. The protest was in response to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on Monday that lifted a temporary injunction on the pipeline, allowing construction to resume.

The actress and environmental activist was trying to head back to her RV to go back to camp, when she noticed it was surrounded by police and a riot vehicle. As she approached her RV, she was stopped by police dressed in riot and military gear. After speaking with them, she was told on camera that she was being arrested for criminal trespassing. A spokesman for the Morton County Sheriff's Department said she was also arrested for engaging in a riot. Her mother was with her at the time.

When she asked why she was being arrested and no one else, and whether it was because people know who she is, the officer who appeared to be in charge said it was because she was identified.


With a month left before the November general election, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are trash-talking each other in a financial race to the White House.

According to the latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, Clinton has raised about $516.8 million for her campaign. Total spending by outside groups and SuperPacs supporting her was an additional $31.7 million; the total spent opposing her was about $40.2 million.

Trump has raised about $205.9 million. About 45 percent of his income is from individual contributors; one-third is from Trump himself. Total spending by outside groups and superPACs supporting Trump is about $69 million; opposition spending is about $139.7 million.

Both Clinton and Trump are spending heavy on TV ads. Clinton and pro-Clinton outside groups have spent about $190 million, and Trump and pro-Trump outside groups have spent about $50 million, according to data compiled by Advertising Analytics. However, Trump has mitigated the difference by a barrage of Tweets to 12 million followers, and by constant calls to TV stations. In Pennsylvania, one of nine "swing states," Clinton has outspent Trump, $17 million to $6 million.

2016.11.10 BF Berkowitz(Photo: Gage Skidmore)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

With one salacious video, Donald Trump filled up his deplorable basket to the brim. The latest Trump revelations, regarding his predatory and sexual attacks claims toward, and vulgar thoughts about women, raise numerous questions, one of them being: Will white conservative Christian evangelicals continue to support him? The answer, as of this writing, is that evangelical Christian leaders that have supported him are not backing away.

Kermit Zarley, writing for patheos.com, described the scene: "In this conversation, Trump is very lewd in the characterization of himself as a philanderer. He uses sexual language in his narrative of attempting to have sex with a named married woman. It is not only a tape recording, but a video showing the bus traveling along with Trump and [Billy] Bush [host of "Access Hollywood"] in it while they were having this conversation.

In a short video, Trump issued a classic non-apology saying, "I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize," before quickly pivoting to Bill and Hillary Clinton, claiming Bill's actions were much worse, and that Hillary "bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims."


Mush 1008wrp opt(Photo: United States Department of Energy)A hard rain is falling on the tin roof of Trump Tower this morning, and many across the land call it a joyful noise. Paul Ryan has kicked Donald to the curb, an ever-increasing number of Republicans are calling on him to drop out, and if he actually summons the courage to show his face at the Town Hall on Sunday, he will know the trials of Sisyphus before he reaches the far shore.

I can summon no smiles today, however. While I am pleased this dangerous man's campaign has absorbed what appears to be a mortal blow, it does not change the fact that he happened, he happened to all of us, and nothing will ever be the same again. "Do what you want to them" and "Grab them by the pussy" have entered the political lexicon. Our children will read those lines in their History textbooks someday. My daughter will see that and rightly ask, "Why?"

Why? The phenomenon of the angry Tea Party voter is only a partial, facile explanation. The truth is harder: The media did this, with our help. They knew who this guy really was - everyone in the industry knew - and still they protected and coddled him for a year because he makes for good television. Geraldo Rivera is on Fox News at this moment tsk-tsking about how unsettling this must be for the Trump family. His concern is as ersatz as fake rain on a movie set. This recording did not fall out of the sky; someone has been safeguarding it as their retirement fund for 11 years, and someone else knew, which means everyone knew.

He was who the industry wanted, and they arranged to get him, and get him they did with our active assistance. Their ratings have never been higher, because we are the yeast that makes this rotten bread rise. Admit it: At some point you tuned in with the thought in your head, "I wonder what he said today." Millions and millions have done just that. I sure did, and I accept my portion of responsibility. If a Trump falls in the forest and no one watches, does it tweet? The media gambled on people watching, they won, and here we are.

Friday, 07 October 2016 07:48

Is the Media to Blame for Climate Inaction?


Heat 1007wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)For years climate reporting had two strands: climate science got more alarming as we got closer and closer to exceeding various warming thresholds, and climate diplomacy and public policy were a relatively unbroken saga of disappointment and delay.

The media flocks to bad news, conflict, grid-lock, failure. Both strands of the pre-2014 climate story nourished this appetite. Since 2014, however, the climate story grew more complex, hopeful—but harder for the media to summarize. Greenhouse gas concentrations continue to grow at an alarming rate; projections of the risks of these concentrations become steadily graver, more bad news. So this week we were told that the planet was hotter than it has been in the last 100,000 years.

Current climate commitments fall far short of what is needed to avoid catastrophe—which causes concerned observers to argue that the world is not taking the problem seriously.

But on the solutions front, progress is accelerating. Climate diplomacy and public policy are not only galloping ahead at an unprecedented speed, their pace is increasing. We are in danger of not realizing that.

The media doesn't know how to cover a story that is headed in two directions, so it's unlikely that this week will be reported as a huge turning point in the fight for climate protection—but it was.

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