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Tuesday, 10 February 2015 12:24

Why the Attack on Tenure?

STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBooks(Photo: Dr. Marcus Gossler)Tenure for K-12 teachers has been under attack from the Right for a long time. In many states, like Virginia, it does not exist. But now a new attack is being mounted by an ex-news anchor named Campbell Brown. Brown claims that THE cause of bad education in bad schools is bad teachers. And then she goes on to claim that THE solution to getting rid of bad teachers is to end tenure. Of course, the substitute for no tenure would presumably mean no protections of any kind for teachers, against arbitrary firings. They could be done by whomever would then be in charge of the firings. However, details on the latter do not seem to be on Brown's agenda for description.

But critics of the Brown type, and the Joe Klein type, don't often get into the programs that they propose to substitute for the programs they wish to eliminate (like the Repubs. on Obamacare, but that's another matter.) Joe Klein, you may remember, is the businessman that Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York City first put in charge of the city schools. He did prove one thing: someone with no background in education other than his own is unlikely to be able to effectively lead the nations' largest school system (and one of the world's largest, to boot).

The main argument here is that indeed there are bad teachers in every school system whether they have tenure protections or not. Of course there are bad news anchors who cannot hold a job and there are businessmen who cannot effectively run a school system, but that's another matter too. Not that there are that many bad teachers, possibly up to 5 percent. But, and this is the big BUT, getting rid of tenure would in no way ensure that bad teachers would be gotten rid of.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abillbrattonDoes NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton want to head a police force or a paramilitary unit? (Photo: Policy Exchange)

New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton is a danger to the public.

A short time ago, BuzzFlash at Truthout posted a commentary, "NYPD Commissioner Backs Off Idea of Police Patrolling Protests With Machine Guns." In the column, BuzzFlash noted how the NYPD commissioner was well on his way to granting police additional brutal tactics to suppress democracy and physically harm citizens:

Consider a recent news conference given by New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Bill Bratton, in which he proudly announced that a new police unit would prevent terrorist attacks and patrol protests with machine guns. The NYPD commissioner went out of his way to essentially equate terrorists with protesters (implying that the latter group included the recent wave of protesters who publicly condemned the killing of Eric Garner).

Bratton, under pressure from various fronts backed down the next day from his plan to employ a new SEAL type police unit to be employed in protests. This unit - called The Strategic Response Group - will be equipped with machine guns and sniper rifles (what Bratton euphemistically called "long rifles"). A spokesperson did the walk back by "clarifying" that the unit would only be used to oppose "terrorism." That still was not entirely reassuring since Bratton had conflated hypothetical terrorist plots and advocacy protests the day before.

Around the same time last week that he made his initial dismaying announcement about The Strategic Response Group, Bratton was testifying before a New York State Senate committee and did not object to the suggestion that resisting police arrest could be re-classified as a felony.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCatholicPrayer(Photo: ProtoplasmaKid)During the one and only debate between Republican candidate Ronald Reagan and President Jimmy Carter in the presidential campaign of 1980, Carter went off on Reagan about his record on Medicare. With one superbly delivered line – "There you go again" – Reagan disarmed and deflated Carter, and pretty much won the debate; all the while forever etching a phrase into the political lexicon.

Instead of Reagan's "There you go again," one couldn't help but think "There they go again," while reading reports that the conservative Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, is demanding that his archdiocese's Catholic High School teachers adhere to Catholic doctrine in their professional and private lives. Across the Bay, Bishop Michael Barber, who plowed similar ground last year -- to great consternation amongst faculty, staff and parents -- issued a new contract with a little bit of kinder, gentler language.

Cordileone's twenty-first century culture war crusade comes in the form of the archdiocese's new handbook -- aimed at faculty and staff at four Catholic high schools: Riordan and Sacred Heart in San Francisco, Marin Catholic in Kentfield and Serra High School in San Mateo – which, the San Francisco Chronicle's Heather Knight reported, declares that "sex outside of marriage, homosexual relations, the viewing of pornography and masturbation are 'gravely evil.'"

"The document," Knight pointed out, "notes that while not all staff at the schools are Catholic, they are 'required to stand as effective and visible professional participants and proponents of truly Catholic education.' Those who are not Catholic 'must refrain' from participating in organizations that 'advocate issues or causes contrary to the teachings of the church.'"

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aritzcarltonLobby of the New Orleans Ritz-Carlton, where Brian Williams stayed during his "coverage" of Hurricane Katrina. (Photo: Britt Reints)

Brian Williams has taken a hiatus from being an anchor for NBC Nightly News due to the fallout from his embellishing a tale of reporting in Iraq. His evolving story of "stolen valor" was clearly used to enhance the image that he was an intrepid, courageous journalist. Now, he and the NBC brass are waiting to see if Williams can ride out the storm he created by "disappearing him" for a couple of weeks.

As television critic Mary McNamara of The Los Angeles Times writes, Williams represents the contemporary conflation - ironic because that is what Williams claims happened with memories of helicoptering around in Iraq more than a decade ago - of purported journalist anchor and image branding. The two are generally mutually reinforcing in this age of news as both entertainment and revenue source for corporate broadcasting - as long as tall tales are not exposed. McNamara writes:

Williams is stepping aside because this time the news is bad. In telling that story, he chose to bolster the Brian Williams brand at the expense of the "NBC Nightly News." 

Modern journalism is beset by many challenges, logistical and fundamental, but none are as potentially dangerous as its growing cultivation of and reliance on personal brand...

Indeed, we now expect our journalists to be personalities, to exist outside the confines of their day jobs in exciting and entertaining ways. It's not enough to deliver the news, star journalists need to tweet humorously and/or with special insight. They need to make cameos in comedies, appear on talk shows and in magazines, to share their style secrets and personal lives, and offer across-the-board commentary.

McNamara's analysis is devastatingly incisive, but BuzzFlash at Truthout would disagree that Williams "chose to bolster the Brian Williams brand at the expense of the 'NBC Nightly News.'" NBC - which is now owned by the predatory Comcast - was delighted that Williams could banter with Letterman or Jon Stewart. When Williams was bolstering his brand with riveting narratives that may have sometimes been at variance with the facts, it helped buttress an audience for the legacy broadcast networks that have been under siege from cable news programs and the internet for years.

2015.2.9.Durst.BFNBC’s Brian Williams addresses the Iraq RPG helicopter story. (Screen grab via Michael Rusch / YouTube)

WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Big bad brouhaha over at NBC with anchor Brian Williams misremembering being shot down in a helicopter on a trip to Iraq, when the facts seem to indicate that although he did fly in a helicopter, and was over Iraq, he was not shot down. Well, come on; the guy was close. Got 2 out of 3. They keep you in the bigs with a .667 batting average, right? Well, this time around… maybe not.

Easy to see how this could happen, though. Self-aggrandizement is a tool centermost in the desk drawer of every show business aspirant. Especially pretty boy anchors with a tendency to read every story in a patented stentorian melodramatic “crisis averted, but barely” voice.

In Hollywood, resumes are so routinely full of baloney, they should be printed on the back of old deli menus. But even in the real world, who hasn’t fudged the particulars of an exciting incident to make oneself a more central character? The only difference here is he did it on television. In front of the entire world. For 12 consecutive years.

Monday, 09 February 2015 06:18

New Evidence That Half of the US Is Broke

2015.2.9.Buchheit.BFThe argument for a barely surviving half of the US has been made before, but important new data is available to strengthen the case. (Image: photosteve101 / Flickr)

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Happy Monday! S&P 500 now up 10% for year --CNN Money
Third-quarter U.S. economic growth strongest in 11 years --Reuters
The U.S. economy is on a tear --Wall Street Journal

Half of our nation, by all reasonable estimates of human need, is in poverty. The jubilant headlines above speak for people whose view is distorted by growing financial wealth. The argument for a barely surviving half of America has been made before, but important new data is available to strengthen the case.


1. No Money for Unexpected Bills

A recent Bankrate poll found that almost two-thirds of Americans didn't have savings available to cover a $500 repair bill or a $1,000 emergency room visit.

Friday, 06 February 2015 10:22

Jim Hightower | A Corporate Coup d'Etat

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAntiTPP(Photo: Neil Ballantyne)When I was a tyke, Momma warned me not to eat anything unless I knew where it came from. That advice is so sensible that even Congress acted on it in 2002, passing a straightforward law called Country Of Origin Labeling. COOL requires meat marketers to tell us whether the meat they sell is a product of the USA, China or Whereintheworldistan.

This useful information empowers us consumers — which is why global agribusiness giants hate it and are trying to get a secretive, autocratic, plutocratic, private court in Switzerland to kill it.

This can't be, you say? But it is. Unbeknownst to most Americans, when the U.S. joined the World Trade Organization in 1999, we surrendered a big chunk of our sovereignty to this corporate court.

Here's what's happening: (1) American consumers have a basic right to know where their meat comes from, but (2) that right has been pitted against American corn flakes and ketchup in a "trade war" that (3) is being forced upon us by a handful of corporations that produce, slaughter, butcher and package meat outside of our country but (4) are allowed under trade agreements to challenge a U.S. law that had been duly enacted for the people inside our country, so (5) America was sued in an obscure, autocratic, private organization created by and for corporate interests and headquartered in Switzerland. Then (6) that corporate "court" did indeed rule that the "profit right" of foreign meat packers is superior to our people's basic right of self-determination.

Holy Tom Paine, this is corporate tyranny! But it's about to get worse, for President Obama and Congress intend to hang another bad trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, around our necks this spring.

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCow(Photo: EcoWatch)The ice cream giant Breyers announced yesterday it will stop using milk from cows treated with the controversial hormone rBST. The artificial growth hormone, which stands for recombinant bovine somatotropin, is a genetically engineered hormone that farmers inject into cows to increase milk production. It’s controversial because it’s been linked to a slew of health problems in cows, and consequently, humans who drink the cows’ milk.

Bovine somatotropin (BST) is a protein hormone naturally produced in the pituitary glands of cows. Monsanto and other companies developed a recombinant version, rBST, by using a genetically engineered E. coli bacteria, according to Organic Valley. The hormone has been banned in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel and the European Union.

Many U.S. companies, such as Ben & Jerry’s, also owned by Unilever, went rBST-free long ago. The conscientious ice cream company made the move back in 1989. Other socially conscious companies like Chipotle have opted to go rBST-free, as well as Wal-MartHaagen DazsYoplait and Dannon yogurts that only source milk from farmers whose cows are hormone free.

Breyers plans to have most of its milk rBST-free by March. In addition to sourcing non-rBST milk, Breyers will only purchase vanilla that is certified by the Rainforest Alliance, ensuring it meets the rigorous standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network and the Forest Stewardship Council.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acompassion(Photo: Mike Gifford)

For most people with means, adult life is a routine that is built to ensure a life that is lived within a comfort zone. For people without economic means - or individuals and groups struggling with issues of survival or discrimantion and political dominance - it's not a question of living in a comfort zone; it's a question of survival.

For years, BuzzFlash at Truthout has posted commentaries on how many people who live comfortable lives of routine - and have economic means - not only want to reduce or eliminate a social safety net for those who are disabled, can't find jobs, are paid less than survival wages, or in dire need of assistance for a variety of factors not of their choosing. In addition, BuzzFlash has noted, even the presence of homeless people or those in need of food in public spaces visually violates the "comfort zone" of those of economic means. As a result, many municipalities are passing laws that limit the feeding of people in public who have no permanent residences.

To some people, compassion comes as part of their behavioral and genetic makeup. To many others, compassion is a nurtured quality, requiring practice and tools to suppress more selfish instincts. For those in comfort zones that are built like defensive bunkers - to ward off any disruption of routine or challenge to a narrative of personal entitlement - empathy and compassion are unwanted, demanding and violations of privilege.

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMonsantoSpray(Photo: EcoWatch)Yesterday on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show, Diane Rehm and her guests discussed the race against pests and weeds, and the recent approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Dow AgroSciences’ herbicide Enlist Duo, a new combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate meant to fight chemical-resistant “superweeds.”

This new herbicide has many in the environmental and health communities concerned because of the dangerous impacts to human health and the environment. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other groups sued to block the EPA’s approval because they don’t think the EPA considered all of the environmental and health impacts of the new herbicide. Many have joined the NRDC in calling for a new approach to pest and weed control that doesn’t wreak havoc on human health and the environment.

Rehm starts the discussion by talking about the most common herbicide, Monsanto’s Roundup, which she says, “is steadily becoming less effective.” Erik Olson, director of the health program for the NRDC explains why that is...

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