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Thursday, 17 April 2014 07:08

OK, Humanity, It's Time to Grow Up

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEvolutionEarth(Photo: NASA)OK, mankind, it's time to grow up, and I see a good way to start: Change the wording of Genesis 1:26.

Change one word.

Last week, I quoted that Bible verse in a column about the increasing velocity of climate change: "And God said . . . let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air," etc. Dominion! Nature belongs to us, to suck dry and toss away. And thus we moved out of the circle of life and became its conquerors, an attitude at the core of the Agricultural Revolution and the rise of civilization. The momentum of this attitude is still driving us. We don't know how to stop, even though most people now grasp that we're wrecking the environmental commons that sustains life.

Addressing the verse and the idea of "dominion," Phil Miller, a minister, wrote: "Some of us understand that word to mean 'stewardship' or 'responsibility.'"

And David Cameron wrote: "One has to wonder what would have ensued had the translation said 'stewardship' rather than 'dominion'? Almost incomprehensible that our future and the future of so many and so much may have hinged on that one word."

If in one of the most defining religious-political texts of the human species we'd been charged with stewardship of the natural world, not some sort of adolescent, consequence-free control over it, what sort of spiritual understanding would have evolved over the millennia? What sort of technology? What would our civilizations look like if we believed in the depths of our beings that they were not distinct from but part of nature? What if, instead of organizing ourselves around the concept that we have enemies to subdue — "survival of the fittest" — we explored the complexity of our connectedness to one another and the whole of creation, even when the connections were barely visible?

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

achildjob(Photo: Lady Buffalo)Remember the childhood tale of the Dutch boy who kept trying to stop the leaks in a dam with his fingers until he ran out of them?

That's what workers are facing in trying to survive.  No matter which attempt at turning them into something akin to indentured servants at the service of corporations you look at, the attacks just keep coming.

Yesterday, BuzzFlash at Truthout posted a commentary on a new insidious scheme to shortchange laborers, "Paying Employees With Gift Cards That Have Fees Is a Deplorable Economic Injustice."

When it comes to compensation for laborers today in the US, the scenario playing out is pay decreases by a thousands cuts.

At a time when some cities and states - and the Obama adminsitration and Democrats in Congress - are advocating for an increased minimum wage, which currently is $7.25, other exploitative forces are fighting against it.  

Wednesday, 16 April 2014 07:52

Jim Hightower | NSA Spying Is Here to Stay

(Image: <a href=" https://www.flickr.com/photos/freepress/7204041778/in/photolist-6fXit2-dnPTse-h6vsLW-mf5D8k-jsTyrY-8zVKYB-Ve81-h6vhnD-5961SS-buHp1F-a5KGQ4-h6vdj9-n4Te9S-5SW6XM-h6wohF-bYAACS-2d9vB-51mWNq-8ZVEoY-6eGaZF-gXAr3c-9nrtoa-8yJPNw-5EAZev-buhxXc-4CCNE9-gn2JL8-bvfkSa-d9XtRE-6yoLQ-85j8xZ-9M9XY8-5R4LVT-cR8337-9GRXE9-6fJJ5y-twENW-dyGtR6-85j8ig-85j8cn-9w1gnw-9uJ17P-bXj2Uf-5pbcGr-eZohaG-dYjn1K-5ppck5-fLJw7e-cR82Hs-cR82t3" target="_blank"> Free Press / Flickr</a>)(Image: Free Press / Flickr)JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

On Monday, April 14, the The Washington Post and The Guardian US newspapers received the Pulitzer for Journalism Public Service for their reports on NSA spying. In light of their hard work, let's recap events of the last year.

Embarrassed and irritated by Edward Snowden's leaks, Obama charged last year at a press conference that Snowden was presenting a false picture of NSA by releasing parts of its work piecemeal: "Rather than have a trunk come out here and a leg come out there," he said, "let's just put the whole elephant out there so people know exactly what they're looking at. ... America is not interested in spying on ordinary people," he assured us. The government, he went on, is not "listening in on people's phone calls or inappropriately reading people's emails."

Six days later, a Washington Post headline declared: "NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year." In an internal audit in May 2012 of its DC-area spy centers, the agency itself found 2,776 "incidences" of NSA overstepping its legal authority. As the American Civil Liberties Union noted, surveillance laws themselves "are extraordinarily permissive," so it's doubly troubling that the agency is surging way past what it is already allowed to do. The ACLU adds that these reported incidents are not simply cases of one person's rights being violated - but thousands of Americans being snared, totally without cause, in the NSA's indiscriminate, computer-driven dragnet.

(Image: <a href=" https://www.flickr.com/photos/truthout/7328214492/in/photolist-asUn64-caz1RJ-8Bp9vn-81KDZd-aoCFSk-7aaXLR-8LrRjT-79eX4D-caz4zj-7TP8vs-898z4a-7jRXMJ-7TC27b-8JTEUL-898z64-8inZQE-7aeLVU-7bkQ7T-7bkQ8t-7bCjcn-7jN5xT-8esuCY-78SRhs-8ETevd" target="_blank"> Jared Rodriguez / Truthout</a>)(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"[B]ecause of dramatic and sustained cuts in mental health funding, we have criminalized mental illness in this country and county jails and state prison facilities are where the majority of mental health care and treatment is administered." -- Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

More than ten times the number of mentally ill people are in prisons across the United States then are under treatment in mental health facilities. As of 2012, according to a new report, there were an estimated 356,000 prisoners with severe mental illness – including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other acute forms of brain disease -- in prisons and jails, while state psychiatric hospitals contained approximately 35,000 patients with severe mental illness.

The combination of the rise in poverty, the lack of housing, and the lack of community support for people with mental illness, has resulted in the increased criminalization of the mentally ill.

In the twenty-first century, jails and prisons have become the new gulag for the mentally ill.

Profile of Adam Smith. (Photo <a href=" http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AdamSmith.jpg" target="_blank"> via Wikimedia Commons</a>)Profile of Adam Smith. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)ERIC ZUESSE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"The affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many." -- Adam Smith, guru economist for the gluttonous takers of wealth

According to the most comprehensive analysis ever done of secret, virtually entirely untaxed, offshore wealth, it's "well in excess of US $21 trillion." That was as of July 19, 2012. A subsequent and far less scientific study by Oxfam, on May 22, 2013, said "At least $18.5 trillion is hidden by wealthy individuals in tax havens worldwide."

The $21+ trillion estimate was part of a report by James Henry for a team of experts on tax-evasion and avoidance, Nicholas Shaxson, John Christenson, and Nick Mathiason, which was done for the Tax Justice Network (TJN), a nonprofit that is the opposite of libertarians: Instead of saying that tax-cheats are heroes who are "anti-big-government" who should be admired and celebrated by the public, they say tax-cheats are the crooks who steal trillions from the public, and who are the chief source for the impoverishment of billions of people worldwide.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aatm(Photo: SalFalko)As reported over and over again on BuzzFlash at Truthout, worker wages have essentially remained stagnant - when adjusted for inflation - over more than two decades, while the top 1% have increased their share of the newly growing economy by 95%.

On top of that, many of those who have become unemployed due to the recession caused by banks too big to fail, must now work at miniminum wages jobs - if they are lucky enough to find employment.

Furthermore, it appears businesses and banks are continually coming up with new ways to reduce take home pay - whether it is paying for uniforms and equipment needed on the job or replacing permanent workers with part-time ones or temps.  For a few years now, in addition, there has been a growing trend to pay workers not with checks or direct deposits to their banks, but essentially with what are commonly known as gift cards (but are more generally, in essence, pre-loaded electronic transaction cards).

Of course, while a few companies don't charge extra fees, many do.  The businesses save by not cutting checks, but as with many gift cards, the workers are saddled with paying per transaction and other fees to use their own money because of costs levied on the utilization of electronic pay cards.

JACKIE MARCUS FOR BUFFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaReaganGE(Photo: White House Photographic Office)To some degree it matters who's in office, but it matters more how much pressure they're under from the public. —Noam Chomsky 

Where are the senators and congressional members when it comes to supporting the troops? Currently, USS Ronald Reagan sailors are suffering from radioactive illnesses after they were sent on a humanitarian mission to help Japan’s victims during the 2011 devastating earthquake-tsunami which led to three nuclear meltdowns, the worst catastrophic nuclear power plant explosions in history with no end in sight

The president is fond of presenting honorary medals to soldiers. After all, it makes for a great “Hallmark Moment,” a solemn ceremony of attaching a Medal of Honor around a soldier’s neck for the cameras, but where is the president when things go wrong, terribly wrong with nuclear policy?

No wonder there’s a media blackout. After all, we don’t want to get GE into trouble, now, do we? 

Five of the six nuclear reactors at Fukushima are General Electric Mark 1 reactors. GE knew decades ago that the design was faulty.  Quite a little irony that the company that President Ronald Reagan worshipped, General Electric, was responsible indirectly for nuking the USS Ronald Reagan—as well as the rest of the world.

Nuclear investors must be elated by the fact that you can’t see how immeasurably hot nuclear radiation is— hence the meaning of the word meltdown.  It’s been postulated - but not proven - that three years of radiation released into the atmosphere has accelerated or contributed to the rapid Arctic ice melt, given the detection of radiation as far north as Canada and Alaska.  In fact, Fukushima radiation fallout is being detected globally, levels alternate between high and low depending on location. 

If you were to ask President Obama about the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns, he would most likely give an answer similar to the one he gave about BP’s 2010 Gulf oil catastrophe: It’s a “leak that’s been sealed.” Sure, a leak that left the entire Gulf of Mexico a permanent dead zone.  Incidentally, BP is back in business, drilling away in deep waters of the Gulf as if nothing happened at all. 

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaACA(Photo: Pete Souza)It's all over but the shouting: Obamacare is working.

All the naysaying in the world can't drown out mounting evidence that the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature domestic achievement, is a real success. Republican candidates running this fall on an anti-Obamacare platform will have to divert voters' attention from the facts, which tell an increasingly positive story.

A new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that, despite all the problems with the HealthCare.gov website launch, 12 million people who previously lacked insurance will obtain coverage this year. By 2017 -- the year Obama leaves office -- the CBO predicts that an additional 14 million uninsured will have managed to get coverage.

Why was the Affordable Care Act so desperately needed? Because without it, 54 million Americans would presently have no health insurance. Within three years, according to the CBO, Obamacare will have slashed the problem nearly in half.

We should do better, and perhaps someday we will. Most industrialized countries have some kind of single-payer system offering truly universal coverage. But if you have to work within the framework of the existing U.S. health care system -- which involves private health insurance companies and fee-for-service care -- the Affordable Care Act reforms are a tremendous advance.

Many Republican critics of Obamacare know, but refuse to acknowledge, that the reforms are here to stay. Does the GOP propose to let insurance companies deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions, as they could before the ACA? Does the party want to reimpose lifetime caps on the amount an insurer will pay? Tell young adults they can no longer be covered under their parents' policies?

I didn't think so.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ataseRepresentational image of tasering (Photo: Photolibrium)

When The New York Times (NYT) calls the tasering of students as a "disciplinary" measure torture, it is time to take notice that our schools have been infected with the appalling post 9/11 acceptance of harsh interrogation and discipline.

After all, the NYT has long been reluctant to call many abhorrent and internationally illegal measures used by the United States in the wake of 9/11 torture.  The NYT has preferred the euphemism and more publically acceptable term "harsh interrogation techniques."

Therefore, one must take notice when the NYT published an editorial on April 11 entitled, "Torturing Children at School." One can be certain that the NYT, so squeamish about calling waterboarding torture, did not choose that word without much debate, making the implications of the editorial that much more damning and gruesome.

In particular, the NYT editorial board focuses on the practice of tasering even young students in many public schools, sometimes resulting in death.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acuff
(Photo: derpunk)

David Horowitz, right-wing founder of an organization called the "Freedom Center," argued that blacks should not be paid reparations for the enslavement of their ancestors. Among his reasons are that:

-- There Is No Single Group Clearly Responsible For The Crime Of Slavery
-- Most Americans Have No Connection (Direct Or Indirect) To Slavery
-- Reparations To African Americans Have Already Been Paid

But slavery, in its various forms of physical and mental torment, has been a part of US history from the beginnings of our country to the present day. There are numerous modern-day corporations who profited immensely - themselves or their predecessors - from slave labor. Only token amounts have been paid back, along with a few scattered apologies.

Four eras of abominable abuse can clearly be identified.

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