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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaJesusRapture(Photo: John Singleton Copley)Christian-themed movies appear to be attracting large audiences these days. While none of the latest crop of religious-themed movies will come close to the box office numbers garnered by Mel Gibson's 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ – over $600 million combined domestically and worldwide -- nevertheless, these films are taking church goers out of the pews, and transporting them to local cineplexes across the country. A post-film-watching goal is to have patrons go and click on the film's website and order up an assortment of merchandise.

This year's successful crop includes Heaven is for Real ($91 million); God's Not Dead ($60 million); and, Son of God ($59 million). Noah, starring Russell Crowe, is a film that stirred controversy amongst some Christians for its lack of fealty to the Biblical tale, but nevertheless brought in nearly $360 million worldwide. According to thewrap.com's Todd Cunningham, "Grassroots and social media campaigns aimed directly at the Christian community had a lot to do with their success."

"Just as there's a whole niche publishing industry that does nothing but Christian books, this is a way to create that niche in the movie-making industry," says Michael Parnell, pastor at Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., and a commentator and film reviewer for APBnews/Herald. Organizers of the 168 Film Festival, which celebrates Christian movies, called the past year, "a stellar year for faith films at the box office ..."

More recently, faith-based films have hit some hard times in the past few months, Cunningham pointed out: "The box-office washout of The Identical made it four straight misfires for faith-based movies after an unprecedented run of success for religious films earlier this year."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

alocavore(Photo: thebittenword.com)

The PBS Newshour reports that at least one school district is attempting to implement "locavore" policies, resulting in fresher, healthier and more planet friendly food for students: 

In Oakland, school officials are undertaking an ambitious plan to transform the school lunch menu.  They’re working to source food from local farms, instead of big companies, and provide California food for California kids.

Strikingly, the change was precipitated by research done by the schoolchildren themselves, according to Jennifer LeBarre, director of nutrition for the Oakland schools and a local food advocate:

One of the things that inspired us to do the farm-to-school movement is a class project that Cleveland Elementary School fifth graders did.

On Earth Day, they did the food miles for their particular lunch, and they found out that the asparagus that they served, that we served to them, had traveled 17,000 miles before they ate it.  And so this was a real shocker for me, because asparagus is grown 50 miles from here, maybe 100 at the most.

2014.9.17.Hightower.BFOn February 8, 2014, the United Workers and Healthcare Is a Human Right campaign - Maryland joined thousands in Raleigh, North Carolina for the kickoff to the 2014 Moral Mondays movement. (Photo: United Workers / Flickr)

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

My father, W.F. "High" Hightower, was a populist. Only, he didn't know it. Didn't know the word, much less the history or anything about populism's democratic ethos. My father was not philosophical, but he had a phrase that he used to express the gist of his political beliefs: "Everybody does better when everybody does better."

Before the populists of the late 1800s gave its instinctive rebelliousness a name, it had long been established as a defining trait of our national character: The 1776 rebellion was not only against King George III's government but against the corporate tyranny of such British monopolists as the East India Trading Company.

The establishment certainly doesn't celebrate the populist spirit, and our educational system avoids bothering students with our vibrant, human story of constant battles, big and small, mounted by "little people" against ... well, against the establishment. The Keepers of the Corporate Order take care to avoid even a suggestion that there is an important political pattern — a historic continuum — that connects Thomas Paine's radical democracy writings in the late 1700s to Shays' Rebellion in 1786, to strikes by mill women and carpenters in the early 1800s, to Jefferson's 1825 warning about the rising aristocracy of banks and corporations "riding and ruling over the plundered ploughman," to the launching of the women's suffrage movement at Seneca Falls in 1848, to the maverick Texans who outlawed banks in their 1845 state constitution, to the bloody and ultimately successful grassroots struggle for the abolition of slavery, and to the populist movement itself, plus the myriad rebellions that followed right into our present day.

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.

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