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2015.1.12.Buchheit.BF"In the mindset of big business, the best education is in learning how to make money off the children," writes Buchheit. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

In fact, except for the debilitating effects of poverty, our public school system may be the best in the world.

The most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reveal that the U.S. ranked high, relative to other OECD countries, in reading, math, and science (especially in reading, and in all areas better in 4th grade than in 8th grade). Some U.S. private schools were included, but a separate evaluation was done for Florida, in public schools only, and their results were higher than the U.S. average.

Perhaps most significant in the NCES reading results is that schools with less than 25% free-lunch eligibility scored higher than the average in ALL OTHER COUNTRIES.


The Obvious: Reduce Poverty and Improve Education.

What should be obvious to our legislators is apparently not. K-12 funding declined in 2011 for the first time since the Census Bureau began keeping records. A 2014 study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that "States' new budgets are providing less per-pupil funding for kindergarten through 12th grade than they did six years ago — often far less."

Friday, 09 January 2015 09:59

The Suicide of Capitalism

STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFlood(Photo: Kingbob86)"Suicide" means, literally, killing oneself. Most often, suicide is voluntary. However, by definition, it can be involuntary as well, as in accidentally killing oneself while cleaning a loaded handgun (which apparently people do from time-to-time). Capitalism, the world's dominant socio-economic system, is in the process of killing itself. Like the cleaner of a loaded hand-gun, capitalism thinks that there is absolutely nothing to worry about, that whatever its doing will result in no harmful outcomes, and that anyone who tells it not to do such a thing is a hoaxer of the worst order. Inadvertently killing oneself with a loaded handgun is bad enough. What capitalism is doing of course is far worse. Not only will it kill itself as a system, but it will likely take our species along with many others right along with it.

Most readers of these pages are familiar with the mountain of data dealing with global warming/climate change and its increasingly negative projected outcomes. As the cited article by Justin Gillis says: "Failure to reduce emissions, the group of scientists and other experts found, could threaten society with food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, mass extinction of plants and animals, and a climate so drastically altered it might become dangerous for people to work or play outside during the hottest times of the year."

Currently, 2100 has been cited as the "tipping point" year, if no major policy changes in terms of carbon (to say nothing of methane) emissions are undertaken. However, a recent projection by the organization Green Physicists moves the "tipping point" year up to 2050. By then they estimate that: atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will have risen to twice the pre-industrial level; the global average surface temperature of our planet will have increased 2.5 degrees Centigrade [the current projected "tipping point" for irreversible catastrophe is 2.6 Deg. C.]; the temperature rise in the Arctic has been about twice that of the global mean, so that the permafrost has been melting rapidly, with the release of enormous quantities of methane (which adds to the global warming effect of CO2); the Greenland ice sheet will be virtually gone, with a likely resulting sea level rise of more (39"); and so on and so forth.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aneconevery(Photo: seiuhealthcare775nw )

 

If there has been one constant over the coup d'état of the economy by the top 1%, it's been the lowering or stagnation of wages (adjusted for inflation) for most workers in the United States. One doesn't even have to footnote this trend because it is a fact, not even disputed by the cheerleaders for the Milton Friedman school of economics.

This has resulted in - again, a statistical fact - the largest income and asset gap in US history. Indeed, U.S. News and World Report posted a commentary in 2013 that declared in its headline, "Suffering Under the Weight of Inequality: Research shows that income inequality in the U.S. has hit a record high and will stifle economic growth." Written by David Bowden, cofounder of the American Sustainable Business Council, it concludes:

Inequality in the U.S. shows no sign of abating, even as the economy recovers. The decline of unions, the pace of globalization, the abundance of workers in many industries and changes in health care and taxes have combined to staunch the earning power of working Americans, even as the economy grows and productivity increases. There are few options, and none that are consistent with the political climate of the time. But the trend is reaching the point that endangers growth itself, and that should concern everyone, regardless of the size of your paycheck.

Of course, BuzzFlash would contend that there are several options for change, including a restructuring of the economic system to spread out the wealth of the nation more equitably, thus ending the economic caste of exorbitant privilege.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPistolPile(Photo: Joshuashearn)Before I heard about the horrific terrorist attack on the offices of the Paris-based humor magazine, Charlie Hebdo, which resulted in the deaths of at least twelve people and the wounding of many more, I was reading a report in the Washington Examiner about a poll taken by McLaughlin & Associates that found "74.2 percent of likely voters said they fear terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State will strike U.S. targets if they aren't stopped." Now that cable television's news networks are covering the Paris events twenty-four/seven, it is likely that a similar poll taken today might reveal even higher numbers.

Joel C. Rosenberg, in an apparently self-serving move aimed at promoting his new book titled "The Third Target," commissioned the McLaughlin & Associates poll and has been touting the results at his blog. "The Third Target," according to Rosenberg is about "ISIS broadening its attacks outside of Syria and Iraq." Rosenberg, who years ago worked for current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and who currently runs a charity called The Joshua Fund, is the author of a series of best-selling novels dealing with the Middle East.

While Rosenberg's novels consistently deal with terrorist plots in the Middle East, radical Islamists, and his own apocalyptic visions, he steers clear of writing about white, homegrown, Christian-based anti-government radicals in the United States.

In actuality, there are more than enough domestic terrorist incidents to write about.

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNYPDbadge(Photo: SGT141)Oh, the moral force of a snub.

Several hundred cops turn their backs on New York's mayor as he eulogizes one of their own, killed in the line of duty, and the media have another us-vs.-them story to report. Bill de Blasio's in trouble, accused of playing politics with the lives of heroes. And, of course, the story goes no deeper than the dramatic accusation.

As the sign of a lone protester at the officer's funeral proclaimed: "God bless the NYPD: Dump de Blasio."

There's nothing like a good, righteous condemnation to stop a national discussion. Criticizing police tactics means contributing to an anti-police atmosphere. End of debate.

Personally, I view the snub, by some New York police, as de Blasio's red badge of courage more than his moral condemnation. He stood for something outside the zone of official righteousness. He met with protesters. He ended stop-and-frisk, the tactic of warrantless street searches that primarily targeted blacks and Hispanics. He told his biracial son to "take special care in any encounter he has with police officers," in other words, refused to sugarcoat a pragmatic truth.

And he has eulogized about attaining peace other than through brute force: "As we start a new year, a year we're entering with hearts that are doubly heavy, let us rededicate ourselves to those great New York traditions of mutual understanding and living in harmony. Let us move forward by strengthening the bonds that unite us, and let us work together to attain peace."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aglwarm(Photo: Mikael Miettinen)

On Wednesday, January 7, The Guardian reported on a just-released analysis that warns (as stated in the article's headline), "Leave fossil fuels buried to prevent climate change: New research is first to identify which reserves must not be burned to keep global temperature rise under 2C, including over 90% of US and Australian coal and almost all Canadian tar sands."

In a stunning series of reports on Truthout, Dahr Jamail has regularly reported on the imminence of catastrophic climate failure if no dramatic steps are taken to prevent it. Other Truthout journalists have also focused on the portentous threat.

The Guardian article based on research from University College London ominously warns:

Vast amounts of oil in the Middle East, coal in the US, Australia and China and many other fossil fuel reserves will have to be left in the ground to prevent dangerous climate change, according to the first analysis to identify which existing reserves cannot be burned.

The new work reveals the profound geopolitical and economic implications of tackling global warming for both countries and major companies that are reliant on fossil fuel wealth. It shows trillions of dollars of known and extractable coal, oil and gas, including most Canadian tar sands, all Arctic oil and gas and much potential shale gas, cannot be exploited if the global temperature rise is to be kept under the 2C safety limit agreed by the world's nations. Currently, the world is heading for a catastrophic 5C of warming and the deadline to seal a global climate deal comes in December at a crunch UN summit in Paris.

One can only imagine the public relations consultants for the fossil fuel industry in full crisis management mode, preparing propaganda to debunk a credible study.

Thursday, 08 January 2015 07:10

You Are Not Your Beliefs

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCharlieH(Photo: Aftermath of 2011 Charlie Hebdo firebombing. Photo by Pierre-Yves Beaudouin)It has been a day since I woke to the news that the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo had been attacked by armed gunmen, leaving 12 dead. The magazine had last made international headlines back in 2011, when its office was firebombed after publishing an issue featuring cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, but it has a long and rich history of attacking pretty much anyone within reach.

It would be nice to imagine that the response to this will not follow a far too predictable pattern. The attacks will be, rightfully, deplored all around. Islam will be denounced. Radical Islam will be denounced. Richard Dawkins will shoot his mouth off. The entirely reasonable claim that the actions of two individual extremists do not represent the totality of the faith will be made. Charlie Hebdo will be attacked as racist and insensitive, and defended as a shining exemplar of free speech and satire.

And meanwhile 12 people are dead because offense was taken when someone’s beliefs were attacked.

Wednesday, 07 January 2015 08:10

Fracking Ban Bill Introduced in Florida

2015.1.7.Everglades.BFMany Floridians don't think fracking belongs anywhere near the delicate ecology of the Everglades - or anywhere else in their state. (Photo: Chauncey Davis / Flickr)

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

There may not be any actual fracking going on in Florida yet. But some legislators there are taking no chances, introducing bills to ban the process in the state, just as New York did in mid-December. Yesterday state representative Evan Jenne introduced HB 169 which “prohibits well stimulation treatments for exploration or production of oil or natural gas.” His bill enumerated the problems caused by fracking: use of carcinogenic chemicals, heavy use of fresh water when many communities are facing water scarcity, threats to protected wildlife species, the potential to damage the surrounding environment and the emission of climate change-driving greenhouse gases.

It follows on the heels of similar legislation, SB 166, filed by state Senators Darren Soto and Dwight Bullard last month. All the bills have been introduced for consideration in the upcoming legislative session.

“Florida is home to scenic beaches, wonderful springs and the legendary Everglades,” said Soto. “This natural beauty in turn fosters a strong tourism industry, annually attracting many new residents to our shores. It must be preserved. We Floridians also get the vast majority of our water supply from ground water through the Floridan Aquifer. This critical water source must be protected from pollution to assure ample, clean water for future generations.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

fds(Photo: USDAgov)

The possibility of implosion persistently looms over the US economy, but a moral disintegration of the nation has been simmering for decades.

The continued reduction in food stamp support is the latest addition to the dismantling of a social safety net that fulfills an ethical obligation to individuals in the US. That obligation is based on the reality that the current financial system is structured with incentives to ensure that full employment is never achieved. Large-scale unemployment is necessary in order to keep corporate profits high by keeping the costs of labor low.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities predicts that in the government's fiscal year of 2016, it is possible that one million adults (without dependent children) who do not have jobs will have lost their food stamp benefits. These are individuals in extreme need of supplemental food support for survival: 

Unemployed, nondisabled childless adults on SNAP [the food stamp program] tend to be very poor. USDA data show that while these individuals participate in SNAP their gross income averages 19 percent of the poverty line - about $2,200 per year for a household of one in 2014 - compared to gross income of 58.5 percent of the poverty line for the average SNAP household overall…. Some 96 percent of them live in households below 100 percent of the poverty line.  

Some 40 percent of this vulnerable population are women. Almost one-third are over age 40. Among those who report their race, about half are white, a third are African American, and a tenth are Hispanic. Half have only a high school diploma or GED.  

The Center estimates that new regulations will result in a loss of $150-$200 a month in food assistance for individuals who have total incomes of just over $2,000 a year.

Wednesday, 07 January 2015 06:45

Why Are the Police More Valued Than the People?

2015.1.7.Watts.BFPresident Obama shakes the hand of Chuck Canterbury, President of the Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police at the 32nd Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service. (Photo: James Tourtellotte / Flickr)

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“I’m not against the police; I’m just afraid of them.”

- Alfred Hitchcock

A funny thing happened on Monday: Chuck Canterbury, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, issued a call for federal hate crime laws to be expanded to protect law enforcement officers. I’ll return to this statement shortly – it contains a level of idiocy and entitlement that is seldom seen – but first let’s take a brief walk through some related events of the past few weeks.

To start with, the New York Police Department threw a bit of a temper tantrum. In the wake of the killing of two NYPD officers, head of the city’s Patrolman’s Benevolent Association Patrick Lynch made a number of interesting logical leaps and drew a connection between the officers’ murders and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s rather restrained criticisms of the NYPD. Apparently, de Blasio’s statement about warning his biracial son to take special care in interactions with law enforcement was simply too much for Lynch to bear, and he declared that de Blasio had “blood on his hands.”  And this was followed by the spectacle of officers turning their backs on de Blasio at the funerals of the slain policemen, and police cadets booing the mayor when he spoke at their graduation ceremony.

On a somewhat lighter note, the NYPD has taken the additional step of drastically reducing their rate of arrests and ticketing for lower level offenses. It is notable that this action, or rather inaction, has not resulted in widespread looting and chaos, and that New York City has yet to burn to the ground. This might suggest that, if the intent of the slowdown is to demonstrate the indispensability of the police force, a rethinking of strategy might be in order.

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