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EditorBlog (1481)


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?


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. 


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.


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.


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. 


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. 


abernies(Image: DonkeyHotey)

In case you didn't know it, Sen. Bernie Sanders is a socialist - and he doesn't try to evade the identification if you ask him. That alone makes him an unusual politician: he doesn't try to steer away from his principles in order to climb the political ladder.

Officially, Sanders is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate. Now, he will be running for president as a Democrat, while robustly bringing up systemic problems with the US economic system, corporate media and ongoing injustices. 

Sanders says that he hasn't changed his political positions on fundamental systemic change in the US since he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont years ago. Sanders isn't a politician who watches the polls; he keeps his eye on the prize of social and economic justice.

I know because when BuzzFlash started in 2000, we began interviewing Sanders and working with his press secretary, who was then David Sirota (now a progressive columnist and author). Sanders was also a regular reader of BuzzFlash, as he would tell us when we ran into him at venues such as the first Free Press conferences. The egregious flaws in the current US financial, media and political system were the ones he focused on back when we first talked with him. 


nasandler(Photo: Shinya Suzuki)

According to an April 23 Indian Country Article, "Approximately a dozen Native actors and actresses, as well as the Native cultural advisor, left the set of Adam Sandler’s newest film production, The Ridiculous Six."

Allison Young, a Navajo woman and former film student from Dartmouth, protested the film's demeaning portrayals of Indigenous people. She talked with Indian Country about the situation:

"When I began doing this film, I had an uneasy feeling inside of me and I felt so conflicted," she said. "I talked to a former instructor at Dartmouth and he told me to take this as finally experiencing stereotyping first hand. We talked to the producers about our concerns. They just told us, 'If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.' I was just standing there and got emotional and teary-eyed. I didn’t want to cry but the feeling just came over me. This is supposed to be a comedy that makes you laugh. A film like this should not make someone feel this way."

"Nothing has changed," said Young. "We are still just Hollywood Indians."

"Just Hollywood Indians" is a resounding lamentation, considering the Tinseltown legacy of disseminating negative images of Indigenous people. 


ashelloilcoThe shell that is the logo of Shell should be covered in oil. (Photo: frankieleon)

Newly uncovered documents, disclosed in The Guardian, reveal that Shell has successfully slowed down the growth of renewable energy in Europe.

According to an April 27 article in The Guardian, "Weak renewable energy goals for 2030 [for the EU] originated with [a] Shell pitch for gas as a key technology for Europe to cut its carbon emissions in an affordable way."

Reading news websites, one comes across copious ads claiming that Shell is committed to a sustainable future for the earth. Their intent is to brand Shell as a company working to reduce environmental threats (and, by implication, global warming). Nothing could epitomize the hypocrisy of greenwashing and corporate ads on news content sites more than Shell's Madison Avenue efforts to portray itself as environmentally responsible.

After all, just look on the Shell website, which promotes Arctic exploration for oil and natural gas: 

It is estimated that the Arctic holds around 30% of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13% of its yet-to-find oil. This amounts to around 400 billion barrels of oil equivalent, 10 times the total oil and gas produced to date in the North Sea. Developing the Arctic could be essential to securing energy supplies for the future, but it will mean balancing economic, environmental and social challenges.


arefaThe plight of disposable displaced people extends worldwide, as this protest in Australia shows. (Photo: Takver)

Over the last couple of years, reports have flashed through the news cycles about hundreds of refugees drowning as they flee war and poverty, trying to reach Europe. This is a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions, yet it receives only periodic news coverage. Worse yet, the European Union is providing little more than lip service to prevent more refugees from dying; meet the needs of migrants; and address the postcolonial, neoliberal economic issues causing mass migration.

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The Economist, hardly a bastion of progressivism, chastised the European Union on its generally indifferent response to the plight and deaths of the refugees. Its April 24 editorial, published after more than a thousand migrants drowned in the previous two weeks, stated:

The European Union likes to boast that it is a force for good. But in the past ten days as many as 1,200 boat people have drowned in the waters of the Mediterranean. An unknown number were refugees from Syria, Eritrea and Somalia fleeing war or persecution. They perished in part because the EU’s policy on asylum is a moral and political failure.

In a hastily arranged summit, under way as The Economist went to press, EU leaders set out to do something about the drownings. Before them was a ten-point plan designed to enhance rescues, suppress people-smuggling and spread the burden of taking in refugees. Yet, even if Europe’s leaders embraced the plan in full, it would still fall short.

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