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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ajobs(Photo: Jobs With Justice)BuzzFlash at Truthout isn't breaking any new economic theory in stating that corporations and the 1% -- incuding the increasingly dominant Wall Street financial stranglehold on the economy -- are actually quite happy with permanently high (as long as it doesn't cause political de-stabilization) unemployment.

1) The most important value to high unemployment to the 1% is in the ever-increasing profit margin that comes from lowering the cost of labor by decreasing salaries and benefits.  This result from competition for jobs among a group of desperate employment seekers is that they have no choice but to accept low-paying jobs.  

Therefore, while the media likes to use the benchmark unemployment statistics as a sign of the economy "improving" if the government figure goes down, the 1% actually sees its lopsided share of US assets increase when the unemployment figures are higher and wages lower.

This reality, largely ignored by the mainstream media, is of course facilitated by the trade partnership agreement globalization of jobs to lower cost settings, devaluing the US labor market even further.

Charles Fillmore receives the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Computational Linguistics. (Screen grab via <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTrHQjkGmz0" target="_blank"> ICSIatBerkeley / YouTube</a>)Charles Fillmore receives the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Computational Linguistics. (Screen grab via ICSIatBerkeley / YouTube)GEORGE LAKOFF FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Charles J. Fillmore, one of the world's greatest linguists — ever — died last Thursday, February 13, at the age of 84 in San Francisco. He was the discoverer of frame semantics, who did the essential research on the nature of framing in thought and language. He discovered that we think, largely unconsciously, in terms of conceptual frames — mental structures that organize our thought. Further, he found that every word is mentally defined in terms of frame structures. Our current understanding of "framing" in social and political discourse derives ultimately from his research, whose importance stretches well beyond linguistics to social and political thought — and all of intellectual life. The world has lost a scholar of the greatest significance.

"Chuck," as he was known throughout the linguistics world, got his PhD from the University of Michigan in 1961 and taught at Ohio State University until 1971, when he came to the University of California at Berkeley. Chuck's wife of 40 years, Lily Wong Fillmore, put herself through college and then through graduate school at Stanford, winding up as Professor of Education at Berkeley. She was his constant companion, sounding board, alter ego, the greatest cheer in his life, and much more.

Chuck taught at Berkeley for 23 years until his retirement in 1994. As a Professor Emeritus, he ran a research project on Frame Semantics called FrameNet at the International Computer Science Institute at UC Berkeley for 18 years until 2012, when he became ill.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Chicanos(Photo: z2amiller)It was late-2011, and with the presidential election a little more than a year away, Daniel Garza, a former staffer in George W. Bush's White House public liaison office, was pretty darned optimistic. Garza had established a project called the Libre Initiative, and he was having success hunting around for funding.

Garza hoped to raise $1 million by the end of the year. According to The Center for Public Integrity, high on Garza's list of prospects was "representatives of the Koch family." Ultimately, "Garza declined to say ... whether Koch interests ... committed any funds yet to the initiative, a 501 (c) (4) which is permitted to keep donors names secret."

Flash forward to the early days of this year, and with control of Congress at stake in November, the Koch Brothers, GOP officials and its surrogates and campaign funders, once again has their eyes on the Hispanic vote.

And, that's where Daniel Garza and his Mission, Texas-based Libre Initiative comes into play. And, as might be expected, he is again bubbling with optimism.

Veteran journalist Chris Moody recently reported in Yahoo News that "A group of Hispanic conservatives is ramping up an aggressive campaign to attract Hispanic voters as part of an ongoing effort on the right to bring more minorities into the fold."

Monday, 17 February 2014 05:59

How Privatization Perverts Education

PAUL BUCHHEIT ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Profit-seeking has victimized Americans. Now it's b5526523815 f634af844d b(Photo: Marctasman)eginning to happen in education, with our children as the products.

There are good reasons - powerful reasons - to stop the privatization efforts before the winner-take-all free market creates a new vehicle for inequality. At the very least we need the good sense to slow it down while we examine the evidence about charters and vouchers.

1. Charter Schools Have Not Improved Education

The recently updated CREDO study at Stanford revealed that while charters have made progress since 2009, their performance is about the same as that of public schools. The differences are, in the words of the National Education Policy Center, "so small as to be regarded, without hyperbole, as trivial." Furthermore, the four-year improvement demonstrated by charters may have been due to the closing of schools that underperformed in the earlier study, and also by a variety of means to discourage the attendance of lower-performing students.

Friday, 14 February 2014 06:53

Eugene Robinson | The GOP's Health Crisis

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

HealthMachine(Photo: Neoflash)Oh dear. The Republican Party's worst nightmare is coming true. Obamacare is working.

The news that nearly 1.2 million people signed up last month for insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges is highly inconvenient for GOP candidates nationwide. It looks as if the party's two-word strategy for the fall election -- bash Obamacare -- will need to be revised.

Wednesday's status report on the health insurance reforms was by far the best news for Democrats and the Obama administration since the program's incompetent launch. January was the first month when new enrollments surpassed expectations, as the balky HealthCare.gov website began functioning more or less as intended.

Cumulatively, 3.3 million people had chosen insurance plans through the state and federal exchanges by the end of January. That is fewer than the administration originally hoped, but well above the predictions of critics who believed -- or hoped -- that the program would never succeed. The Congressional Budget Office now projects that 6 million people will have chosen plans through Obamacare when the initial enrollment period ends March 31, down from a pre-launch estimate of 7 million. Not bad at all.

The numbers are even more encouraging when you look more closely. The proportion of young people -- from 18 and 34 -- who chose insurance plans through the exchanges increased slightly to 27 percent, compared with an average of 24 percent in previous months. This is important because premiums would have to rise if not enough young, healthy people enroll.

Thursday, 13 February 2014 07:28

Asphyxiating Education

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ClassDesks(Photo: Malate269)"The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy."

This is how we talk about learning, growth and the human future?

Things are getting worse in the American classroom, not better. The experts and the special interests purporting to fix the educational system are continuing, instead, to asphyxiate it.

The grandiose quote, above, in which "our young people" show up as abstractions needing to be prepped for some simplistic, highly competitive imaginary future (fully understood by the experts), is part of the mission statement of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the Obama administration's showcase education reform initiative.

Just like the disastrous No Child Left Behind Act of the Bush era, in whose wake it follows, it's all about testing and uniform standards and the "rigorous" evaluation of schools and teachers; and it's clueless about the nature of childhood development, not to mention reality. Its primary mission, as with NCLB, is to pull education out of the hands and hearts of teachers and turn its administration over to politicians and their corporate sponsors. It both defunds and belittles the learning process.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014 06:29

Jim Hightower | The Mobsters of Wall Street

(Photo<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ari/6196621322/"target="_blank">Steve Rhodes / Flickr</a>)(Photo: Steve Rhodes / Flickr)JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Assume that you ran a business that was found guilty of bribery, forgery, perjury, defrauding homeowners, fleecing investors, swindling consumers, cheating credit card holders, violating U.S. trade laws and bilking American soldiers. Can you even imagine the kind of punishment you'd get?

How about zero? Nada. Nothing. Zilch. No jail time. Not even a fine. Plus, you still get to stay on as boss, you get to keep all the loot you gained from the crime spree, and you even get an $8.5 million pay raise!

Of course, you and I would never get such outrageous, absurd, kid-glove pampering by legal authorities. But, then, we're not the capo of JPMorgan Chase, America's biggest bank and a crime syndicate that apparently is too big to jail.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014 06:08

Nuclear Submarines, Whales and Tourists Don't Mix

USS Greeneville returns from deployment. (Photo<a href=" http://www.flickr.com/photos/usnavy/5549870793/"target="_blank"> by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ronald Gutridge for the Official U.S. Navy Imagery / Flickr</a>)USS Greeneville returns from deployment. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ronald Gutridge for the Official U.S. Navy Imagery / Flickr)ANN WRIGHT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

It looks like the U.S. Navy is playing fast and loose with the new military exercise regulations in areas with a concentration of marine mammals that it has received from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

One seldom sees a nuclear submarine on the surface of the ocean except when they are going into homeports, such as Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. But, this weekend I saw three U.S. nuclear submarines on the surface with crewmen sunning themselves on the deck—in a protected national marine sanctuary, no less!

I was whale watching off the Hawaiian island of Maui, Sunday, February 9, 2014 and was shocked to see three U.S. Navy nuclear submarines surface and remain about a mile offshore from the town of Lahina in the shallow waters of the protected Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

CellJail(Photo: Andrew Bardwell)Last April, in a column titled Debtors Prisons, Once a 19th-Century Relic, Again Wreaking Havoc in US, I wrote: "The jailing of people unable to pay fines and court costs is no longer a relic of the 19th century American judicial system. Debtors' prisons are alive and well in one-third of the states in this country." Last week, I received a Press Release from the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union that appeared to strike a blow against this appalling phenomenon.

The release stated that "the Supreme Court of Ohio distributed a new 'bench card' to all of the state's judges, giving much needed instructions to avoid the unconstitutional practice of sending people to jail when they owe the court fines and are unable to pay. The Ohio Supreme Court's "bench card" was a definite blow to what had become the routine jailing in several states of people who were not able to pay fines imposed for a relatively minor crime committed."

Now, however, a new report by Human Rights Watch has revealed another way that poor people are being unduly financially burdened and, in many cases, imprisoned for not having enough money to pay their court-imposed fines. According to Profiting from Probation: America's 'Offender-Funded' Probation Industry, privately owned companies handling the probation of offenders are "routinely jailing probationers" for not being able to pay fees owed to those companies.

Private companies are Profiting from Probation

"Every year, US courts sentence several hundred thousand people to probation and place them under the supervision of for-profit companies for months or years at a time," Profiting from Probation points out. "They then require probationers to pay these companies for their services. Many of these offenders are only guilty of minor traffic violations like speeding or driving without proof of insurance. Others have shoplifted, been cited for public drunkenness, or committed other misdemeanor crimes. Many of these offenses carry no real threat of jail time in and of themselves, yet each month, courts issue thousands of arrest warrants for offenders who fail to make adequate payments towards fines and probation company fees."

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BorderNotice(Photo: Makaristos)The Republican Party was supposed to be getting its act together for the midterm election. Instead, judging from the disarray on immigration reform, things may be getting even messier.

I'm referring to House Speaker John Boehner's embarrassing climb-down. After vowing for months that the House would finally take action on immigration, last week he surrendered. The bitterly divided Republican majority cannot agree on how to proceed. Apparently, this is supposed to be President Obama's fault.

If Boehner spilled gravy on his tie, he'd probably blame Obama. The fact is, Obama has done everything humanly possible to make it easier for Republicans to support sensible reform.

You know a party is dysfunctional when it can't take yes for an answer. Ostensibly, the GOP's big objection was to a sweeping, comprehensive bill such as the one passed by the Senate. Last fall, the Obama administration signaled its willingness to take a piecemeal approach, if necessary, in order to move forward. So what's the problem?

Um, Obama. And the Affordable Care Act. And, I don't know, maybe Jupiter and Saturn are in astrological misalignment.

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