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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

theroadtowealth.jpgThe racial wealth gap is widening in the United States. (Image: Inequality.org)

"Just three years from now... White households are projected to own 85 times more wealth than Black households and 68 times more wealth than Latino households," according to a news release summarizing a report released yesterday by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a progressive Washington think tank, and Prosperity Now, a think tank that focuses on research and solutions for a more equal availability of wealth.

The news release notes,

At a time when households of color make up a growing share of the population and are projected to reach majority status by 2043, their declining wealth is already taking a significant toll on the broader economy. The nation's overall median wealth decreased 20% from 1983 to 2013 ($73,000 to $64,000) -- a period when Black and Latino median wealth went down and White wealth slowly went up.

The report, "The Road to Zero Wealth," released on September 11 is filled with startling findings about the wealth gap between people of color and the nation's white population. It focuses on overall family wealth and assets rather than income:

For several years, politicians, researchers, journalists and the public have focused their attention on growing economic inequality in the United States. Most often, this focus is on income (i.e., the wages earned from a job or from capital gains) rather than on wealth (i.e., the sum of one's assets minus their debts). Income inequality, while stark, pales in comparison to the vast economic divide exposed by examining disparities in wealth. For example, a recent study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that while the top 10% of income earners in United States take in almost 30% of the nation's income, the wealthiest 10% own an astounding 76% of the country's wealth. That means less than a quarter of the nation's wealth is left for the bottom 90% of the American population.

Monday, 11 September 2017 07:12

The Gaping Hole in Trump's Border Wall

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BorderWall 0911wrp optThe US-Mexico border. (Photo: qbac07 / Flickr)How much of our money does Donald Trump want to pour into his xenophobic fantasy of erecting an impenetrable wall on our Mexican border?

The big-businessman-turned-president insists that costs be damned — just build it! That seems to be a very un-businesslike approach — but then, it's not his money, is it? For those of you who do care, one measure of what the total tab might be is that he's now demanding $1.6 billion from Congress to start construction. How much wall will that buy? Seventy-four miles. And how long is the U.S.-Mexican border that he wants to seal off? One thousand, nine-hundred miles long. So, $1.6 billion down, and only 1,826 miles to go!

And let's not even get into the cost overruns, fraudulent billings shoddy materials and other scams that the army of corporate contractors will add to the sticker price of Donald's boondoggle on the border.

All of this reckless spending of our tax dollars for a 1,900-mile barricade of both physical and symbolic ugliness that only an extremist minority of Americans support. Besides being wildly expensive, this Trumpian folly is not needed, won't work, stifles the border economy, crudely tramples on both property rights and sensitive environments, autocratically separates millions of families and communities — and is an insult not only to the people of Mexico, but also to our own people's democratic values.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fist68 0911wrp opt(Photo: Melbourne Street Art Avantgarde / Flickr)The NFL national anthem protests – which have now included white players supporting their African American teammates -- are variations on a theme that hearken back to one of the most iconic images in the history of sports; the picture of Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising black-gloved fists on the victory stand at the 1968 Mexico Olympics. The third man on the victory stand, Australia's Peter Norman is too often cropped out of the picture.

Many people know that Smith and Carlos, after finishing first and third respectively in the 200-meter dash, paid a tremendous price for having the courage to protest racial inequality in the U.S. while on the victory stand during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner. Far fewer know that Peter Norman, the Australian runner who won the Silver medal, also paid a heavy price.

Smith and Carlos were sent home by the U.S. Olympic Committee, criticized by a hostile press, received death threats, and was reviled by a good portion of the nation. For years, they had a hard time making a living. Norman, who finished second in the race, also suffered recrimination and punishment back home in Australia for proudly wearing a small badge that read Olympic Project for Human Rights – an organization opposed to racism in sport -- during the medal ceremony.

Norman, who evidently suggested that Smith and Carlos share one pair of black gloves when Carlos couldn't find his pair, was ostracized by the Australian Olympic Committee and punished for decades. Norman was finally given an official apology from the Australian government in 2012; unfortunately it came six years after his death in 2006.

Friday, 08 September 2017 06:57

Irma Is No Equal Opportunity Hurricane

ALYCEE J. LANE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

HarveyArt 0908wrp opt(Artwork: Daniel Arrhakis)With winds surpassing 185 mph, Hurricane Irma will leave a path of destruction so widespread that people might be moved to proclaim -- as Slate magazine writer Henry Grabar and others were regarding Hurricane Harvey -- that Irma is "an Equal-Opportunity Disaster." Hurricane Harvey "did not discriminate in its destruction," wrote The Associated Press on this theme, for the storm "raged through neighborhoods rich and poor, black and white, upscale and working class. Across Houston and surrounding communities, no group sidestepped" Harvey's "paralyzing deluges and apocalyptic floods." While "Houston's poor and working class" will likely "struggle most to rebuild," opined Juliet Linderman of KWES NewsWest 9, at least for the time being, Houston residents "of all colors and socio-economic statuses find themselves united in their loss, despair -- and resilience."

Though well-intentioned (and perhaps even a much needed narrative after the Nazi hate and violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, just weeks before Hurricane Harvey descended on Texas), this "equal opportunity disaster" argument is nevertheless a subtle form of climate change denial that hopefully will not be repeated as Irma churns through the Atlantic. It certainly should not go unchallenged if it is.

How is this argument a form of climate change denial? First of all, it effectively depoliticized Hurricane Harvey by implying that since all races and classes were harmed by the storm's force and floods, then the storm was merely a natural event, as opposed to a political event.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

devos20179Betsy DeVos sympathizes with those accused of sexual assault on campus. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

If you just read the headline in the September 7 edition of The New York Times, you might think the secretary of education is merely performing a harmless revision of governmental regulations: "Betsy DeVos Says She Will Rewrite Rules on Campus Sex Assault." However, this header hardly represents the immoral action of DeVos in announcing that she will ease up on requiring colleges to thoroughly and consistently investigate allegations of sexual assault on college campuses.

The Times begins the article with this account of a speech DeVos gave to students who belong to the Federalist Society, composed of conservative lawyers and law school attendees:

Saying that the Obama administration's approach to policing campus sexual assault had "failed too many students," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said on Thursday that her administration would rewrite the rules in an effort to protect both the victims of sexual assault and the accused.

Ms. DeVos did not say what changes she had in mind. But in a strongly worded speech, she made clear she believed that in an effort to protect victims, the previous administration had gone too far and forced colleges to adopt procedures that sometimes deprived accused students of their rights.

"Through intimidation and coercion, the failed system has clearly pushed schools to overreach," she said in an address at George Mason University in suburban Arlington, Va. "With the heavy hand of Washington tipping the balance of her scale, the sad reality is that Lady Justice is not blind on campuses today."

The actual government regulation in question is a 2011 letter clarifying Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972.

Thursday, 07 September 2017 08:26

Begging for War in the Korean Peninsula

we have the capacity to understand that the threat posed by tensions with North Korea is a reminder that nuclear disarmament for the whole planet is long overdue. There are no good nuclear weapons.The threat posed by tensions with North Korea is a reminder that nuclear disarmament for the whole planet is long overdue. There are no good nuclear weapons. (Photo: micagoto / flickr)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"There are no good options," Brian Williams said the other night on MSNBC, launching a discussion about North Korea with the implication that war -- maybe nuclear war -- is the only solution to the problem it represents.

We've been cradling our own suicide for seven decades. The baby's eyes open . . .

And Williams was right, though not in a way that he understood. When war -- forceful domination, victory through threat, carnage and, if necessary, annihilation -- is the ultimate limit of one's consciousness, there are no good options. Even the peace negotiated in the context of war is bound to be temporary and grudging and therefore a bad option -- sort of like the "peace" achieved at the end of the Korean War, after which both sides still, as Reuters reports, "have thousands of rockets and artillery pieces aimed at each other across the world's most heavily armed border."

NASA Watching Harvey from Satellites and the International Space StationNASA watches Hurricane Harvey from satellites and the International Space Station. (Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr)TRAVIS MORALES FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"We're here to make sure people like you don't get poisoned. But no, you can't deliver your demands to Arkema's management, and no, we won't take them in for you."

That's what two FBI SWAT team members told me on September 4 at the gates of Arkema's chemical plant in Crosby, Texas -- the plant shown belching billows of dark black smoke for days on national TV.

Three of nine containers holding 500,000 pounds of highly flammable and toxic chemical caught fire when power was lost for their refrigeration, and two exploded. What was Arkema's solution to this environmental and health disaster? A mandatory evacuation order for a 1.5-mile radius around the plant and igniting the six remaining containers!

The flames are out, Arkema's CEO has "apologized" to the people of Crosby, and the company has listed some of the chemicals at its plant, but it is still refusing full disclosure -- even as at least 18 people have been taken to the hospital complaining of problems caused by smoke from the burning chemicals. 

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Apocalypse 0906wrp opt(Photo: Steven Guzzardi)Jim Bakker has always been a huckster. These days, Bakker, the disgraced PTL (Praise the Lord) Club televangelist who fleeced and defrauded his audience out of more than $150 millions, got involved in some juicy sex scandals, and served time in prison, has set up an apocalyptic shop in Blue Eye, Missouri. Located in Stone County, about 30 miles southwest of Branson, Missouri, Blue Eye, according to the 2010 census, had 167 people -- 75 households and 48 families. It is in Blue Eye that Bakker is staging his televangelical and entrepreneurial resurrection, at a 700-acre property called Morningside, which is an intentional Christian community.

"A time of trouble is upon us," Bakker -- a huge supporter of President Donald Trump -- warned his audience during one episode of The Jim Bakker Show.

Whether it's the WannaCry ransomware attack; ISIS; terrorist attacks in the homeland; or devastating flooding in Texas, Bakker and his wife Lori, claim to have the right goods: "'Staying Alive' food - buckets full of freeze-dried products apparently capable of sustaining survivors through the Apocalypse," the Daily Mail's Annette Witheridge, who bought a bucket, sampled some of the food, and found it unappetizing but edible, recently reported.

In mid-May, BuzzFeed's Kelsey McKinney reported that the buckets are "the kind … that might be used to feed slop to pigs on a farm, and inside each are 18 dishes in freeze-dried food packets, making up almost 50,000 calories that, according to the purple labels slapped on their sides, have a 25-year shelf life."

Add a little water, sit back, and survive the apocalypse.

RAFAEL VIZCAÍNO FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Columbus 0906wrp optStatue of Columbus in Ohio. (Photo: Wally Gobetz)As the symbols of the Confederacy have again become the targets of anti-racist social movements since the events in Charlottesville in August, activists are building on the present momentum to call for the removal or replacement of memorials belonging to other controversial figures in US history, from Christopher Columbus to Frank Rizzo. As we approach the 525th anniversary of the so-called "Discovery of America" this October 12, it is an appropriate time to revisit the stakes of what it entails to memorialize the man credited with discovering the existence of another world beyond Europe, Asia and Africa, the so-called "New World."

The key problem raised by the critics of Columbus concerns the uncritical repetition of the colonial mantra that claims Columbus "discovered" this so-called "New World." For not only is it historically documented that Columbus never knew that he had arrived at a landmass that is not "Asia" (Europeans only realized this with Amerigo Vespucci's accounts of his own trips well into the 1500s), but also and more importantly, one should ask oneself what it means to "discover" a region of the world that is not empty, but instead contains several flourishing civilizations in it. The issue is that the mantra that Columbus "discovered" anything presupposes the narrative vantage point of Western European imperialism, at the same time as it invalidates the narrative vantage points of the peoples that were visited upon by these so-called "discoverers" i.e. the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, peoples that far from being ghosts of the past continue to live in the present all around us (70 percent of Native Americans now live in cities, not reservations). If history here is written by the victors, the victims of Columbus have never been fully silenced. The victors simply refuse to hear them.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

wellsfargo555Wells Fargo execs leave consumers in the dust. (Photo: Mike Mozart)

On September 1, Elizabeth Warren sent out an informational email that nailed the federal government for responding to Wells Fargo's serial fraud with a slap on the wrist. In the communication, she recounted three major illegal acts committed by the bank:

Last year, Wells Fargo got caught creating 2.1 million fake bank accounts and credit card accounts using their customers' names and credit information without permission.

Last month, Wells Fargo got caught charging 800,000 people for auto insurance they did not want or need.  

And just yesterday, we've learned that the fake accounts scandal was even worse than we thought. Wells Fargo just "discovered" an additional 1.4 million fake accounts that they had created since 2009. Unbelievable.

For many years after 2008, the Department of Justice (DOJ) fined banks for illicit practices, but did not require any major systemic or personnel changes. The DOJ left consumers vulnerable to another economic implosion by, for the most part, leaving the key leadership of financial institutions in place. What is more galling about the incidents Warren refers to, in relation to Wells Fargo, is that these infractions of the law occurred years after the 2008 debacle. That means the near implosion of the economy didn't compel the DOJ to hold the senior staff of banks personally responsible for fraudulent behavior nearly 10 years later.

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