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EditorBlog (1401)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aanprNational Public Radio headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Josh)

Ira Glass, the man who captivates countless National Public Radio (NPR) listeners with his quirky accounts of daily life around the country, recently asserted that NPR should be supported by free market capitalism and advertising.

Could "This American Life" end up being rebranded "This United Airlines Life"?

If you have been hesitating, Glass just gave you a compelling reason to donate to Truthout (which is advertising-free and free of corporate sponsorships) now.

BuzzFlash isn’t funded by corporate advertising, but by readers like you. Can you help sustain our work with a tax-deductible donation.

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) recently reported how Glass, responding to a deluge of criticism for his remarks in an Ad Age article, tried to clarify his statement, but just dug himself a deeper neoliberal hole, asserting that "public radio is ready for capitalism." According to FAIR:

Last week, Glass wrote a column in the public broadcasting trade paper Current (5/13/15) to “clarify” his comments: He was not suggesting that programmers “chase ratings and destroy everything that makes public radio special.” Instead, he meant he wanted “companies [to] come on our shows and pay lots of money,” and then public radio should use that money for good things–not bad things, as you might have assumed that he meant.

“It feels almost insulting to have to say,” Glass says, that he’s not calling for “turn[ing] public radio into a moronic money-grabbing wasteland of commercial shillery.” Likewise, it feels almost insulting to point out to Glass that noncommercial broadcasting was founded to be an alternative to commercial broadcasting.

In the Ad Age account, Glass was a cheerleader for corporate branding and collaboration with NPR.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abreakbigbank(Photo: sharonkubo)

One of the key strategies of power that perpetuates economic and social injustice is the numbing of all opposition by sanctioning the status quo. This is the technique the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) wield in allowing mega-banks to continue to engage in illegal, deceptive and exploitative practices. 

BuzzFlash isn’t funded by corporate advertising, but by readers like you. Can you help sustain our work with a tax-deductible donation.

There are few subjects that BuzzFlash has covered more than the charade of the DOJ and SEC appearing to punish the big banks, while actually leaving them free to continue their systemic practice of dominating the financial industry - not infrequently through financial practices that are not only unethical and immoral, but also happen to violate the law and banking regulations.

Therefore, we are not surprised that the DOJ recently reached another sham settlement with megabanks over illegal activity, collusion to violate banking regulations and fraud. A May 20 article by The Wall Street Journal - the voice of the US and international financial industry - reports on the five banks involved with the settlement: 

Five global banks agreed to pay more than $5 billion in combined penalties and plead guilty to criminal charges to resolve a long-running U.S. investigation into whether traders colluded to move foreign-currency rates for their own financial benefit.

The settlements largely close the book on the latest industrywide investigation, one of a steady stream of probes into mortgage misdeeds, manipulative trading behavior and tax evasion. The biggest global banks have paid more than $60 billion in penalties over the past two years to resolve allegations of wrongdoing.

Most of these fines are tax-deductible, and many of them amount to less than the profits that the banks made from their law-breaking behavior.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acattlebreederHow can the profits of cattle ranchers trump public health? (Photo:Chris Murphy)

If you take your camera to Wyoming, be careful about the photos you take and with whom you share them. Why? Because if you reveal health hazards or pollution in the natural environment that could lead to enforcement efforts to ensure public health, you could go to jail for up to a year.

According to a May 11 article in Slate,

Why the desire for ignorance rather than informed discussion? The reason is pure politics. The source of E. coli is clear. It comes from cows spending too much time in and next to streams. Acknowledging that fact could result in rules requiring ranchers who graze their cows on public lands to better manage their herds. The ranching community in Wyoming wields considerable political power and has no interest in such obligations, so the state is trying to stop the flow of information rather than forthrightly address the problem.

In other words, the Wyoming ranchers don't want to be stopped from creating dangerous health hazards and environmental pollution because it would cost them money. So what's the solution proffered by the western state whose slogan used to be, "Wyoming Is What America Was"? Jail the messenger.

This encroachment on first amendment rights in order to protect profits (over public health and the environment) has a precedent. The cruel factory animal processing industry has been, over the past years, incrementally enacting laws that make the exposure of its pitiless and often health-threatening practices a crime. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amcprotestSocial justice movements are the vanguard for change. (Photo: Fibonacci Blue)

Expecting that the formulaic horserace process of elections will lead to dramatic social and economic change is a bit like going to a movie about revolution and expecting to walk into a transformed world when you leave the theater.

That's one key takeaway of an incisive May 18 article in Jacobin by Michael Schwartz and Kevin Young. The authors cogently argue that "social movements should focus on targeting corporations and oppressive institutions rather than politicians." Why? Because corporations and large organizations (think of the police, the military and lobbying groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and AIPAC, among many others) pull the strings of most politicians, particularly at the state and national levels.

Schwartz and Young state their case with a clarity that has history on their side:

Activists’ decision to target corporations reflects a growing conviction that the government is unresponsive to popular demands because it is unwilling or unable to stop the abuses of the corporate world (this view is supported by recent statistical findings that “the public has little or no influence” on policy). While these movements can change corporate behavior, we believe that they can also influence government policy in ways that direct pressure on politicians cannot....

Inflicting pain on corporations through disruptive mass activism has historically been the best way to reduce corporate opposition to progressive changes, and in turn, the resistance of the politicians who represent them.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amedship (Photo: Francesco Mazzola Maurizio)

This week, it has emerged that the European Union is considering the use of military force to prevent the massive migration of desperate refugees (particularly on ships from Libya). Representatives from the EU admit that refugees themselves will likely be killed if such action takes place, but they consider the potential deaths to be "collateral damage."

Just last month, we asked in a commentary:

Why is money free to pass through borders in a millisecond-long electronic transaction, while people are forced to die trying?

Given the international trans-border access and preferential treatment that corporations and banks receive from mega-trade accords, why are people in dire need considered so disposable?

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anatparkThe tranquility and beauty of our national parks (pictured is Yosemite) should not be co-branded with a beer company. (Photo: Tom Bricker)

The organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) recently criticized a US National Park Service (NPS) decision to grant "co-branding" rights to Anheuser-Busch in return for a $2.5 million fee. 

In a news release, PEER calls the agreement

a misguided means of reaching out to youth and broadening public support for parks.... To consummate the deal, NPS had to waive its long-standing policy against identifying national parks with "alcohol or tobacco products."

The exclusive "Proud Partner" agreement allows Budweiser to roll-out "patriotic packaging featuring the iconic silhouette of Lady Liberty," in the words of a corporate press release. The authorizing memo signed by NPS Director Jon Jarvis on January 21, 2015 calls for "aligning the economic and historical legacies of two iconic brands…with a corporate entity that has the same goals surrounding relevancy, diversity and inclusion" so as "to distribute our brand across the country." 

The growing corporate branding of the public commons, nonprofit events and just about anything that you can't nail down - in exchange for payment - has become a visual blight. Worse yet, corporate branding has become so omnipresent that businesses become associated with sponsoring the pleasures of public life, thus mitigating the negative perceptions of their exploitative and profiteering practices. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anamtrak2(Photo: Bill Dickinson)

The direct cause of the eight Philadelphia Northeast Corridor Amtrak deaths, which occurred Monday night, will be investigated for some time. Preliminary indications are that the train was traveling at too high a speed when it rounded a curve and derailed.

Most media and policy makers continue to overlook that US transportation policy, in general, has been derailed for years. As The Guardian points out, technology exists that might have prevented the Amtrak accident by automatically slowing the train down before the curve. In fact, The Guardian article charges that the US "lags behind rest of developed world on train safety." However, that is really only a small detail within the larger picture of mass transportation neglect in the US.

The implications of a nation whose politicians - backed by the fossil fuel industry and, literally, an auto-driven economy - disdain mass transportation (except for the for-profit airlines industry) are profound. At least 35,000 people die each year in automobile accidents on the nation's sprawling roadways and little attention is given to the carnage (which includes about 3.8 million injuries resulting in medical care annually, according to the Christian Science Monitor).

Despite approximately one town of people being lost each year to car crashes - and the equivalent of a city larger than Chicago being injured due to automobiles - there is little media coverage or critique of a transportation system dependent upon cars and the resultant loss of lives.

After all, Amtrak is easy pickings for the media. Although it is technically a for-profit corporation due to an act of Congress, it is publicly funded by the self-same legislative body. This means that the media can feed the stereotype of a quasi-government service that is incompetent and dangerous.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aeconomyceo(Photo: seiuhealthcare775nw)

The AFL-CIO just released its executive compensation study covering 2014, and the chasm between workers' and CEOs' pay is rising at an alarming rate.  According to the McClatchy Washington Bureau, the gap continues to "soar":

The ratio jumped to 374-to-one in 2014, up from 331-to-one in 2013, the union report said, noting that back in 1980 it stood at 42-to-one....

[The figures take on new] importance...as economists and policymakers debate the cause of anemic wage growth. Income has been largely stagnant for workers, even as millions of new jobs have been created and the unemployment rate now stands at 5.4 percent.

[The CEO pay] increase of 15.6 percent over the prior year [is] well above the sub-par annual wage growth for workers that’s below 3 percent.

In short, with all the talk of closing the income inequality gap, it is only getting vastly worse, according to the AFL-CIO study.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

atppsecret(Photo: GlobalTradeWatch)

President Obama's patronizing criticism of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's ongoing critique of the still officially secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was as illogical as it was sexist. The president's broadside against Warrenthis past Saturday - in which he called her complaints "absolutely wrong" - was a sign that the TPP fast-track trade authority he covets is in trouble.

Obama's fears of Warren's impact on fast-track TPP legislation were realized on Tuesday when the Senate failed to pass a filibuster-proof vote. According to the Associated Press,

Senate Democrats have dealt President Barack Obama a stinging setback [on May 12] on trade by blocking efforts to begin full-blown debate on his initiatives.

All but one Senate Democrat defied the president Tuesday by voting to prevent consideration of his request for "fast track" trade authority. Such authority would let Obama present trade agreements that Congress could ratify or reject, but not amend.

Proponents needed 60 votes to thwart a Democratic filibuster, but managed only 52 in the 100-member Senate.

It is highly likely that when Obama offered his belittling comments about Warren's position, his advisers had already informed him that virtually the entire Democratic Party Senate caucus was going to vote against granting fast-track TPP authority. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anincomeeq4(Photo: Quinn Dombrowski)

When The New York Times starts posting articles warning of a dystopian future in the United States due to income equality, you know that the alarm bells are starting to sound even in the corporate mass media.

On April 28, the Times posted an analysis by reporter Eduardo Porter in its economy section. Porter bluntly stated:

But when it comes to the health, well-being and shared prosperity of its people, the United States has fallen far behind.

Pick almost any measure of social health and cohesion over the last four decades or so, and you will find that the United States took a wrong turn along the way.

Porter manages to find a glimmer of hope in the grim statistics about the real state of the union. However, his sliver of optimism is only due to the fact that the deterioration of the nation as a community is so bad that he believes it will ultimately force a political solution. "The silver lining in these dismal, if abstract, statistics," Porter writes, "is that they portend such a dysfunctional future that our broken political system might finally be forced to come together to prevent it."

That's not a lot to hang your hat on. 

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