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(Photo: <a href=" http://www.flickr.com/photos/32820257@N06/3360181440/in/photolist-67VNSL-58NNJe-ca426-6kJXLX-dpiNDe-6KX41q-bgCHRa-4sY75x-FeQD1-bdDuJZ-a8dsW-626PKv-cenaT-Jyndv-4PsCEL-4KNJ9Q-65SpkG-5DbZz4-2S4h8N-2S4htS-2RYRH8-aDrE9x-3Ckwq1-aqV1pK-5SviVC-cvGtZS-5xG6CF-j2iq6X-65G8XH-jFtvXg"target="_blank"> B.A.D. / Flickr</a>)(Photo: B.A.D. / Flickr)STEVEN JONAS, MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

On April 8, 2012, our esteemed Editor/Publisher at BuzzFlash at Truthout, my good friend Mark Karlin, published a column entitled "The US War on Drug Cartels in Mexico Is a Deadly Failure". In his column he noted that: "Approximately 50,000 or more Mexicans have been killed since Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched a so-called war on drug cartels. (In a recent appearance in Toronto, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta claimed 150,000 people have died in the drug war in Mexico, but the timeline Panetta was referring to was unclear, as was the origin of the figure he cited.)."

Mark went on to say: "Here is the US policy in a nutshell: we pay Mexicans to kill Mexicans, and this slaughter has no effect on drug shipments or prices." Nor on the use of those drugs in the United States, which has generally not significantly changed over the 40-plus years of the "war".*

Over the years I have written at length on this subject in the academic literature.* The "War on Drugs" has never been such a thing. From its inauguration by President Richard Nixon, it has always been a "War on Certain Users of Certain Drugs", for the most part minority drug users at that, although some non-minorities do get caught up in its tentacles. The so-called War on Drugs was begun shortly after the invention of the race-based "Southern Strategy" that has controlled the fortunes of the GOP and unfortunately the country for most of the time since Nixon installed it.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

atophat(Photo:lokarta)A new book, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," contends that the dramatically increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of a few (in the United States and globally) fundamentally undermines democracy, according to Thomas B. Edsall of the New York Times.

A professor at the Paris School of Economics, Thomas Piketty, is the author of the book (which will be published in English early this spring). 

In a January 28 NYT commentary, "Capitalism vs. Democracy," Edsall writes that Piketty,

...contends that capitalism’s inherent dynamic propels powerful forces that threaten democratic societies.

Capitalism, according to Piketty, confronts both modern and modernizing countries with a dilemma: entrepreneurs become increasingly dominant over those who own only their own labor. In Piketty’s view, while emerging economies can defeat this logic in the near term, in the long run, “when pay setters set their own pay, there’s no limit,” unless “confiscatory tax rates” are imposed.

At the heart of creating the current economic inequality, Piketty points to a key factor. Edsall explains:

The six decades between 1914 and 1973 stand out from the past and future, according to Piketty, because the rate of economic growth exceeded the after-tax rate of return on capital. Since then, the rate of growth of the economy has declined, while the return on capital is rising to its pre-World War I levels.

In short, if the richest individual and institutions have a rate of wealth that increases faster than the overall growth of the US economy, that rise in assets and income (which is what is occurring right now with at least one estimate of 95% of the recent economic recovery is going to the top 10 percent) comes from the pockets of those who laber for a living.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

DanteSatan(Photo: Pantheon Books edition of Divine Comedy)Now that Harold Camping, the failed End Times prognosticator, has left this mortal coil, it is up to other conservative Christian evangelicals to carry on the outrageous. And carrying on the outrageous appears to be one of Pastor Robert Jeffress' major talents, albeit doing it in a much more affable way than many of his comrades.

Jeffress has a new book that claims President Barack Obama is paving the way for the Antichrist.

In addition to Obama paving the way for the Antichrist, according to the Christian Post's Melissa Barnhart, Jeffress' book, Perfect Ending: Why Your Eternal Future Matters Today, also "answers people's most pressing questions about heaven and what the end times will look like to Christians and those who do not believe in Jesus Christ."

Jeffress is not one of your fly-by-night conservative evangelical preachers; he's been around the block more that a few times. He is senior pastor of the 11,000-member First Baptist Church, in Dallas, Texas; hosts a daily radio program called "Pathway to Victory" -- which is broadcast on more than 700 hundred stations; and, his weekly television show is seen on 1,200 television stations and cable systems throughout the nation and in 28 countries around the world, including China. He has written more than twenty books, and is a much sought-after speaker at evangelical Christian events, and is a frequent guest on Fox News.

He briefly attracted the attention of the mainstream media when in October 2011, after introducing Texas Governor Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., he told reporters that Mormonism was a "cult" and maintained that Mitt Romney was opposed to Christianity. A day later, after a Sunday morning service, he stood by his statements: "Mormonism is a false religion," he told Reuters. "It was invented 1800 years after the establishment of Christianity."

Tuesday, 04 February 2014 06:26

Eugene Robinson | We Are Losing This Drug War

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

HeroinOD(Photo: Psychonaught)Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman is yet another victim of the war on drugs. Prohibition is not working. It is time to try something new.

Hoffman, 46, was found dead in the bathroom of his Manhattan apartment Sunday morning, apparently the victim of a heroin overdose. According to widely published reports, there was a syringe in his arm. Police found the place littered with small plastic bags stamped "Ace of Spades" or "Ace of Hearts" -- brand names that street dealers use.

Hoffman had lived through a familiar pattern: experimentation, addiction, rehab, abstinence, relapse, more rehab, more abstinence, another relapse.

Why would a man held in such high esteem, a man with so much going for him and so much to live for, risk it all by buying illegal drugs from a criminal on the street and then injecting them into his veins? For the same reason any addict uses drugs: to get high.

Perhaps this desire was a moral failing on Hoffman's part. Perhaps its origin lies buried in his personal history, with some trauma having triggered it. Perhaps it is written in his genetic code. I doubt we'll ever know for sure.

What we do know is that this need to get high is beyond some people's control. Our drug policy of prohibition and interdiction makes it difficult and dangerous for people like Hoffman to get high, but not impossible -- and makes these tragic overdose deaths more common than they have to be.

Monday, 03 February 2014 09:54

David Sirota | Don't Pity the Billionaire

Venture capitalist Tom Perkins at Techcrunch Disrupt San Francisco, 2013. (Photo: <a href=" http://www.flickr.com/photos/52522100@N07/9728626642/in/photolist-fPFKL7-fPpcDe-fPFJRj-fPpakg-fPFL4f-5tyCE1-pqVrm-pqVmL-pr37B-pr358-pqDc7-pqVoX-pqVvo-pqDfe-pr3cU-48rQ7m-7LhHq4-u75up-7ZsDnx-5uyEa1-5uuhw6-5uuhTa-5uyEd3-5uuhMM-5uuh8a-5uuhQn-5uyEqJ-5uuhJZ-5uuhGg-5uyEn3-9gjga8-jGYNKb-5xuoGx-5xupcH-5xyNaA-5xyMGy-5tywmb-5tumpv-5tuJrH-5tu8kg-5tyAYo-5tyzif-5tyGeG-5tyxPA-5tz5gS-5tyZ7u-5tuzGr-5tuxXM-5tz3s7-5tyTRC-5tyMCq"target="_blank"> Max Morse for Techcrunch / Flickr</a>)Venture capitalist Tom Perkins at Techcrunch Disrupt San Francisco, 2013. (Photo: Max Morse for Techcrunch / Flickr)DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The rich have never been richer and the poor keep getting poorer. The financial Masters of the Universe enjoy indefinite taxpayer-funded bailouts, while the social safety net for the poor is gutted. The ruling class that engineers crushing economic inequality gathers at the World Economic Forum in Davos to pretend to care about said inequality, and then promises no concrete actions to combat the crisis. Many high-income earners pay a lower effective tax rate than low-income earners, and IRS data show that in the last few years the rich have seen a steep decline in the share of taxes they pay.

And if you think there's a problem with any of this, you're a Nazi. At least according to the poor, put-upon oligarchs.

The latest fat cat to compare critiques of inequality to violent National Socialism is venture capitalist Tom Perkins — he of the $150 million yacht and the 5,500-square-foot San Francisco penthouse. In a letter to the Wall Street Journal editor, this Silicon Valley billionaire last week bewailed supposed "parallels" between Nazi Germany's "war on its 'one percent,' namely its Jews" and "the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the 'rich.'" Citing rising angst over inequality, he insisted: "This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent 'progressive' radicalism unthinkable now?"

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ahomeless(Photo:marsmet521)Admittedly, BuzzFlash at Truthout is not the first to break this astonishing story, but Walmart is claiming that its sales dropped in the fourth quarter because the government has cut back on food stamps, also called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

According to the Los Angeles Times:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Friday that U.S. sales figures for its fiscal fourth quarter would probably come in below earlier forecasts when they’re announced Feb. 20 due to the effects of volatile weather and cuts to the federal food stamp program....

But on Friday the company said that sales would likely miss the mark, pushed down from stronger-than-expected pressure from a government reduction in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that went into effect Nov. 1.

In many commentaries, BuzzFlash at Truthout has pointed out that even if one is cruel enough to deny people food, the food stamp program actually adds money to the economy.  How does that happen, you might ask? As we have noted, each SNAP recipient dollar adds an estimated $1.70 to the economy because it impacts the creation of jobs in the entire food distribution system, from farmer to truck driver to shelf stocker and beyond.

Monday, 03 February 2014 06:19

Four Examples of America's Inequality

(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: RLHyde, aresauburn™, Pink Sherbet Photography)(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: RLHyde, aresauburn™, Pink Sherbet Photography)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Inequality is a cancer on society, here in the U.S. and across the globe. It keeps growing. But humanity seems helpless against it, as if it's an alien force that no one understands, even as the life is being gradually drained from its victims.

The recent Oxfam report on global wealth inequality reveals some of the ugly extremes that have divided our world. It also directs our attention to the Global Wealth Report compiled by Credit Suisse, and the companion Databook, which offer a shocking testament to the severity of U.S. and global inequality.

1. The 30 Richest Americans Own as Much as Half of the U.S. Population

The Oxfam report tells us that 85 individuals own as much as half the world. The U.S. is the biggest reason for that, with 5% of the world's population and 30% of the wealth. China, India, and Africa, on the other hand, combine for about half the world's population and just 12% of the wealth.

In the U.S., the richest 30 individuals own about $792 billion, while the bottom half of Americans own 1.1% of our country's wealth, also about $792 billion. That's 30 people owning as much as 157,000,000 people.

This information is derived from the Global Wealth Databook and the Forbes 400 List. More details are provided at Us Against Greed.

NNADMI AKWADA FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aslave234(Photo: Boston Public Library)


Among the 2013 Hollywood motion pictures that are receiving critical acclaim, 12 Years a Slave boasts of three talented African diasporans. Indeed, Hollywood is experiencing a slight fever for the African diaspora and African renaissance with the nominations of African diasporans for various awards. Director Steve McQueen and actors Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Idris Elba, Yaya Alafia, David Oyelowo, and Barkhad Abdi are in the process of becoming household names in the movie industry. These folks are not just getting awards for British accents but for their amazing talents. These recognitions from the birthplace of the notorious Tarzan movies and Ice Cube’s depictions of Africans appear to be a shift away from the racially biased and stereotypical caricatures of the past.

Nonetheless, getting the opportunity to watch the movie 12 Years a Slave about Solomon Northup -- the upstate New York gentleman who was stolen and rendered to the capitalist slavery economic system, the forerunner of industrial societies -- was hard to find. This was largely due to the Tinsel Town distribution mechanisms and the realization that in a “progressive state” like Maryland there are certain pockets of resistance and contempt for historical facts that do not match skewed romanticized narratives. Therefore some movie theaters in counties, cities, and towns, including the largest county in Maryland have gone out of their way to selectively limit the viewing of films like 12 Years a Slave, because it critiques the current world order and makes some folks uncomfortable.

Indeed this epic motion picture stands out because it was able to depict the three S-terminologies which reinforced the physical and mental slavery cycle. The concepts of steal, savagery, and silence were essential in furthering the slavery economic system. Subjects were stolen with brute force (savagery) while labeled as savages, and their kidnappings were effected with strategic precision (silencing of opposition). Moreover, the victims and their survivals were conditioned through social control to remain under the dominance of slavery and other similar formations. The survivors and/or successors of this colonial era have continued to suffer due to past legacies while the elite class from New York to Rio de Janeiro, from London to Abuja, from Dubai to the Cayman Islands is content with mass impoverishment around the globe.  

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTS

awashroom(Photo: mechanikat)Some people are just very touchy about their toileting, enough to make discriminating against transgender students a priority -- and further stigmatizing them in the process.

According to the Provo Utah Daily Herald, Utah State Rep. Mike Kennedy wants to legally force transgender school students to use separately designated washrooms:

The bill looks to define gender under state code. The legislation states gender means the male or female phenotype designated by an individual's birth certificate. If it is not designated on the certificate then the student would need to have a signed document from a physician indicating their gender. The student then would only be allowed to use the bathroom that is the same as their medically designated gender.

The bill specifically states that gender does not mean an individual's own opinion on their gender....

Kennedy, a medical doctor by profession, said it makes sense the he would be the one to run this legislation as he can speak in medical terms as to what gender a person, medically speaking, would be identified as.

Kennedy, in sort, would it make a legal issue as to what students could use which washrooms based on, no doubt, the filing of birth certificates at school.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Cookie(Photo: Ubcule)If you know what's good for America, you will shut your door when the Girl Scouts come a knockin', and you'll "back away from those Girl Scout Cookies," conservative Christian groups are telling their constituents. It has nothing to do with evangelicals adopting gluten-free diets (although there is now a certified gluten-free Chocolate Chip Shortbread cookie), or concerns about eliminating fat from their diets. It's all about right-wingers charging Girl Scouts USA with supporting Planned Parenthood, pro-abortion role models like Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, and organizations like Amnesty International, the ACLU, and the National Organization for Women (NOW).

And, now, thanks to the newly formed CookieCott 2014, Texas' Wendy Davis has been dropped into the middle of this year's ruckus.

None of the anti-GSUSA caterwauling is new to leaders of the 2.3 million member GSUSA or to conservative scolds who have been slamming the organization for years.

What is new, however, is a tweeting controversy which conservatives are trying to gin up in their own inimitable manner. CNSNews.com reported in early January, that during a conversation generated by a Huffington Post article and video panel discussion over possible nominees for Woman of the Year, "The Girl Scouts of America tweeted a link ... that praises pro-abortion politician Wendy Davis (D-Texas.)"

According to CookieCott 2014, "The Girl Scouts recently endorsed pro-abortion politicians Wendy Davis and Kathleen Sebelius as worthy role models for our children. In response, we're asking you to boycott Girl Scout cookies in 2014."

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