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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aminwage(Photo: Spike55151)

Chicago Tribune poll published on September 16 indicates "Illinois voters strongly support the idea of increasing the minimum wage and raising the state income tax on millionaires."

With less than two months before the November mid-term elections, the poll demonstrates that the electorate in Illinois backs two referenda that modestly address the growing income inequality gap in the United States. Based on a survey of 800 registered voters, 69 percent would back a minimum wage increase in the state to $10 by January 1 of 2015; 56 percent would support an additional 3 percent tax on annual incomes of more than $1 million dollars.

The current minimum wage in President Obama's home state is $8.25 (one dollar more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25). In regards to the state income tax, Illinois has a regressive flat state rate of 5 percent; in short, the wealthiest people in Illinois pay no more - as a percentage - than those with lesser incomes.

Monday, 15 September 2014 07:10

The Economist Has a Slavery Problem

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aneconomistslavery(Photo: Internet Archive Book)

The Economist - the famed international magazine that is an inveterate cheerleader for global capitalism and the concept of neoliberal "free markets" - was recently forced by public pressure to remove a book review that posited that slavery was not all bad. Ironically, it ended up apologizing for the unsigned piece (review columns are normally not attributed in The Economist), yet paradoxically including a copy of the original repugnant review in its explanation of why it was no longer posting it.

The target of the review was the book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward E. Baptist, an associate professor at Cornell University.

The Economist asserted:

Mr. Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains. This is not history; it is advocacy.

2014.9.15.DFW.BFDavid Foster Wallace. (Photo: Steve Rhodes / Flickr)AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"The so-called 'psychotically depressed' person who tries to kill herself doesn't do so out of quote 'hopelessness' or any abstract conviction that life's assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise." -- David Foster Wallace

This piece doesn't have a hook. It reacts to nothing that's happened out there in the news, either nationally or internationally. It's a bit more personal than that. At 39, I seem to have entered the phase of my life in which those around me start dying off. I've buried more than a few people over the past couple of years, but two of them sting more than the others. Both took their own lives. One did it with pills, and spent twelve agonizing hours slowly dying. The other was more efficient and used a gun. Both are dead and both suffered from mental illness.

And both might still be alive, had they not been caught in the grips of an utterly wretched mental health care system. New Mexico doesn't do all that well, when it comes to mental health, and our governor, Suzanna Martinez, has been doing her damndest to destroy the few bits of a functioning system that remains. And that leads to a particularly neat phenomenon that has been observed elsewhere: the criminal justice system has become a de facto wing of the mental health care system. New Mexico is no exception, and both of my friends bounced from mental health care providers to prisons and nowhere did they receive the anything that actually helped. For them, their illnesses proved terminal.

Friday, 12 September 2014 08:29

Mitch McConnell Threatens the United States

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMcConnellRifle(Photo: Gage Skidmore)Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate minority leader, is not a happy man.

He didn’t like it when Barack Obama was elected president. Just about the first thing McConnell said was that his main responsibility was to make sure that Mr. Obama was a one-term president.

That vow drove McConnell’s and the Tea Party’s politics. They didn’t worry about the nation or the people. They worried about how to make Barack Obama a one-term president.

They failed.

But, in the past six years, McConnell managed to block almost all constructive legislation in the Senate.  And it’s not even a fair fight. McConnell manipulated and wheeled and dealed so that the majority no longer can do anything. It now takes 60 votes to pass almost anything in the Senate. That’s because the Republican obstructionists have threatened to filibuster anything of substance.  Important bipartisan legislation that would normally pass with a majority of 51 to 59 votes out of the 100 possible are now scuttled by backroom politics and the blind hatreds that some have for this nation’s president who was elected by the people and by the Electoral College—twice.

And now comes Mitch McConnell to again obstruct the people and the government. He vows if the Republicans win the Senate in November, he will shut down the government if President Obama doesn’t agree with the Republicans.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apalin3(Photo: Wikipedia)

The Palin clan, headed by Momma Grizzly and Papa Todd, were reportedly involved in a drunken brawl a few days ago. Apparently, the family was at a party related to Alaska's famous Tesoro Iron Dog snowmobile race (which Todd has won four times) when fists began to fly.

According to ABC News

Sarah Palin and her family were at the center of a lively party last weekend that erupted into a fight, with daughter Bristol Palin allegedly throwing a right hook, a man who says he was a guest at the party told ABC News.

“She was punching him [another man] in the face like six times; it was an assault if I’ve ever seen one,” Eric Thompson said, adding that he was among 70 guests at the birthday party in Anchorage Saturday.

“It wasn’t a light punch either. She was really hitting him. I’m surprised he just sat there and took it.”

Political blogger Amanda Coyne reported that Sarah Palin, along with husband Todd and kids Bristol, Willow and Track, arrived in a stretch Hummer and that the fighting started as the beer started flowing.

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaStatuePlaque(Photo: melanzane1013)After a long and inert struggle, resembling nothing so much as two elderly crocodiles trying to gum one another to death, Obama has declared that no action on immigration reform will be taken until after the fall elections. On the one hand, this makes perfect political sense. The chances of getting the House to pass a bill proclaiming that 2+2=4 would be close to nil, were said bill favored by the president. And a bill on so sensitive a topic as immigration reform? Unlikely. And addressing the issue with executive orders would, as the prophets of conventional wisdom proclaim, only hand Republicans further ammunition in an already grim looking mid-term election.

On the other hand, come on, really? Immigration reform has been under discussion for years. The latest iteration of the battle has seen Obama repeatedly put off action, to give the Republicans in the House a chance to act, which they seized upon by doing, um, nothing. And of course, since assuming office, Obama has been deporting undocumented immigrants at a record rate, apparently under the assumption that, once he has passed a certain threshold of anti-immigrant toughness, perhaps by biting off the head of a Guatemalan infant on live TV, his political opponents would have no choice but to sit down and actually hammer out some sort of deal.

But that hasn’t quite worked out, has it? As with most every other area of debate in which the president has attempted to meet his adversaries halfway, the end result has been that the terms of discourse drift rightwards whilst his opponents screech and little of consequence occurs. And in this particular case, we are now left to wait until, at the very earliest, November for any action. And perhaps, post mid-terms, the notion of political capital will come up and Obama will opt to spend his dwindling stores of it on something exciting, like a few more million tons of bombs in Iraq and/or Syria. So then the can gets kicked ever further down the road and oh no! Here’s the 2016 elections and we certainly can’t be doing anything to upset that, can we?

Thursday, 11 September 2014 09:06

A GOP Senate: Good News or Bad News?

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSenate(Photo: US Senate)Just the other day I received the following communication from the GOP (and that’s how they referred to themselves in this particular email):

Subj: GREAT polls for Republicans:

“Steven, Just wanted to update you on the state of play in the critical battleground races: This weekend, there were a number of positive polls released for Republicans. One forecast showed Republicans holding “at least a nominal lead in eight states held by Democrats, more than the six they need to retake the chamber.” One leading forecaster predicted Republicans have a 65.1% chance of winning a Senate majority this November — up from 63.5% two days prior. And another forecasting model gave Republicans a 61% chance of taking back the Senate — up from 58% since a wave of new data was released. The momentum is growing, and the odds are on our side. But every single one of these Senate battleground races is just too close for comfort. With less than two months until Election Day, we can’t afford to leave the odds making to the pollsters. It’s up to us whether we clear the path, seize the lead and deliver a victory in each battleground state.”

Then they go on to ask for money. What? They don’t get enough from the Koch’s et al? But that’s another story.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

americanexcept(Photo: Occupy Posters)

The headline for this commentary came from, of all places, a Chris Cillizza Washington Post column analyzing President Obama's Wednesday night speech on his war plans against ISIS:

The closing moments of Obama's speech, which were noticeably free - or close to it - of the sort of soaring oration his allies love and his detractors loathe, was essentially a paean to American exceptionalism. "America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth," Obama said as he began his close. He went on to note the exceptional role the U.S. had played in beating back an ever-aggressive Russia, our country's work to contain Ebola and the U.S.'s key contribution to ridding Syria of chemical weapons. "America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden," Obama insisted, a line - and a sentiment - that Ronald Reagan would have loved.

Cillizza wasn't necessarily being critical in his tone; he simply was stating the reality that Obama was continuing policies marked by the US asserting itself as the military superpower of the world. As with Bush and Reagan and everyone in between, Obama invokes the notion that the US is obligated to enter into war because it has a uniquely moral mission.

Yes, it is true that Obama did not make the decision to begin the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that led to the blowback of ISIS, but much of his White House speech could have easily been delivered by George W. Bush.

Thursday, 11 September 2014 06:12

The Quick-Draw Morality of Violent Police Force

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBadge(Photo: Scott Sanchez)“So you want to disarm cops LOL yeah that’s an intelligent thing to do the gang bangers would love that surely they will unilaterally disarm too.”

I’m used to semi-anonymous sarcasm by now, like this Huffington Post comment beneath a recent column I wrote on the militarization of the police and the possibility of disarmament, and I have no interest in “fighting it out” with the guy. But there it is, perfectly preserved: an impulse homage to Big Fear, wrapped in unexamined certainty. This is fast-draw morality, made in Hollywood.

I take this moment to highlight it because it’s so typical and, for that reason, the first line of defense of the status quo of violence: this instant acceptance of the idea that our enemies are continually stalking the perimeter of our lives, waiting to invade, to commandeer our way of life the moment we lower our weapons.

This instant reaction to any questioning of the use of armed force to maintain safety and “peace” not only shuts down the discussion but hides all the consequences of violent self-defense, including the creation of the very enemies we fear (e.g., the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and the hemorrhaging of sanctioned, official violence backwards into our own lives.

Violent force and temporary dominance of a situation may occasionally serve a larger end, but the permanent maintenance of this mindset has us stalled in a state of endless embattlement, both at home and abroad. Fear has us locked into a bad story: that violent dominance over our enemies is our only hope. In actuality, our only hope is embracing a larger story: that all humanity, and all of life, is connected. Finding that connection is often what requires courage.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

greeda(Photo: See-ming Lee)

Who knows, maybe journalists at CNNMoney are reading BuzzFlash?

On August 8, we posted a commentary, "As the Rich Get Richer, 75 Percent of the Nation Expects Stagnant or Lower Incomes." On September 8, Emily Jane Fox of CNN Money wrote, "Super rich are getting super richer."

However, Fox did not need to read BuzzFlash to arrive at the conclusion of her article. The facts speak for themselves. As the CNNMoney article reports:

The super rich got super richer as the gap between them and the rest of Americans continued to widen over the last few years, according to a new Federal Reserve report.

In its Study of Consumer Finances, released every three years, the Fed found that the wealthiest 3% of American households controlled 54.4% of the nation's wealth in 2013, a slight increase from its last survey in 2010. It's also substantially higher from the 44.8% they held in 1989, showing how quickly the income divide has been growing over the past decade or so.

At the same time, the share of wealth held by the bottom 90% fell to 24.7% in 2013. That's compared to 33.2% in 1989.

By the metrics of the Federal Reserve, 10 percent of the US population controls 75 percent of the wealth in this country. Other analyses of the continued redistribution of wealth upward speculate that the nation's financial assets are being increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few individuals and families.

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