Facebook Slider
Optional Member Code
Get News Alerts!

EditorBlog (1504)


aaadairycow(Photo: Kabsik Park)

Michelle Chen reports in The Nation that the wholesome, feel-good, socially conscious image of Ben & Jerry's ice cream is tainted by the exploitation of many dairy workers. These laborers are employed by dairy farmers that Ben & Jerry's contracts with for the milk used in its ice cream.

Ben & Jerry's was started in 1978 by the eponymous Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in a converted gas station in Burlington, Vermont. The bright cartoonish pints, the innovative flavors and the company's opposition to the use of Bovine Growth Hormone and GMOs catapulted the brand into grocery stores across the nation. The ice cream's popularity made Cohen and Greenfield multi-millionaires when they sold Ben & Jerry's to Unilever, a global corporation based in Holland and England, in 2000.

However, there is something rotten in a pint of Cherry Garcia. According to Chen,

Labor advocates say the ice-cream empire’s socially minded branding is greased with the sweat of an exploited workforce, rotten with poverty wages, squalid housing, and abusive bosses. So immigrant workers are barnstorming Vermont’s dairy industry to demand Milk with Dignity....

According to Migrant Justice’s survey of 172 dairy workers, about 40 percent earned less than the state minimum wage of about $9. Roughly a third observed that they were treated worse than US-born workers. And with workweeks averaging about 60 to 80 hours and frequent injuries, the labor conditions were not only harsh but also hostile, with some reporting verbal abuse and being denied medical care or even a break for the bathroom or eating.


aaaaiowacaucusPassion for a candidate, not a tentative preference, is key to turnout in caucus states such as Iowa. (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

This past weekend, the self-described newspaper "of record" decided that Bernie Sanders might possibly be a "credible challenge" to Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses. That was the verdict of a Sunday article in The New York Times (NYT).

In fact, the NYT - some eight months before people assemble in gyms and rooms throughout Iowa to decide the Democratic nominee for president - gave an official green light to the mass media (which had generally been ignoring Sanders as a candidate) to state that the senator from Vermont is "gaining momentum."

It's key to remember how important horse-race-like coverage of presidential campaigns is to generating viewership and profit for major media outlets. It would not be difficult to conflate ESPN with CNN in this regard: Sports and elections are covered very similarly.

How significant is the transition from the dominant media mostly ignoring Bernie Sanders as a presidential candidate to now taking him somewhat seriously, as indicated by the NYT article? To gain perspective on that, it is worthwhile to revew a key dynamic in the mass media coverage of the last presidential race Hillary Clinton in which Hillary Clinton ran. 


atoxhaz(Photo: eek the cat)

Why would a nonprofit organization need to launch a website that provides the public with data on exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace? Quite simply, because the US government isn't doing a good job of it.

In a recent news release, PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) states, "Workplace chemical exposures are the nation’s eighth leading cause of death but the US lacks any strategy for preventing the more than 40,000 premature deaths each year." PEER goes on to note:

"More Americans die each year from workplace chemical exposure than from all highway accidents, yet we have no national effort to stem this silent occupational epidemic," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that allowed chemical exposure on-the-job is roughly 1000 times higher than in the general ambient environment. "In the US, environmental protection stops at the factory door."

As a result, PEER has established a web resource that does the work that the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) should be offering online. The database is called, "Put the H back in OSHA."


8260830302 00bb81341d zStrengthen the US by investing in education, not Wall Street and government profits on student loans. (Photo: Michael Fleshman)

As college tuition rises in the US, the government and private profiteers are making more money at the expense of students. This hits economically disadvantaged students particularly hard. Higher education is becoming increasingly unaffordable for them, even with loans. Indeed, all young people who think about attending college - except for the scions of the richest families - face an increasing deterrent to receiving a degree: years and years of indebtedness.

Why? Because the potential high debt of going to college versus the uncertainty of financial returns is now a high-risk decision for many young people. This is particularly true in an economy in which even many of those with college degrees face an uncertain and volatile job market.

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

A recent article by Susanne Soederberg posted at Dollars and Sense makes the point that the United States is severely weakening its future educational capital, as the government and private sector rake in profits while sacrificing advanced educational opportunities. Soederberg also writes that "educational debt has become a ticking time bomb." 


astatueofleninstLenin statue in St. Petersburg (located in front of the House of the Soviets), formerly Leningrad. His name has been defaced from the pedestal. (Photo: haikus)

On May 1, which is known as International Workers' Day in the former Soviet Union and still celebrated by many in the working class around the world, my wife and I arrived in St. Petersburg (formerly known as Leningrad until the dissolution of the USSR, when it reverted to its original name).

Upon exiting customs in the stunning new modern St. Petersburg Pulkovo International Airport terminal, we thought that we han mistakenly taken the wrong plane and landed in a US airport. After leaving customs, the first thing I saw was a large Starbucks on my right, followed by a McDonald's. Then I strolled over to get a bottle of juice from a Hudson News store, also located within the sleek terminal waiting area.

In fact, while waiting for our luggage, illuminated rotating posters advertised a French oil aaatotalAdvertisement for French fossil fuel corporation working in partnership with Russia. Posters rotate in luggage area of St. Petersburg's international airport. (Photo: Terry Soto)company, TOTAL, that the Putin government has been working with in Siberia. The posters - - like Shell or BP - promised a bright clean energy future, and the entire lugguage conveyor belt was branded with advertisements for TOTAL.

We boarded a public bus that took us to the first metro stop into St. Petersburg, since the central city was some distance from the airport. As the bus made its way down a wide boulevard, condos (built by investors for private unit purchases) loomed on the horizon. Meanwhile, there were car dealer showrooms - the likes of Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Land Rover and more - lining the street. (On another day, I passed a Rolls Royce dealership not far from central St. Petersburg). To add to the capitalistic blight, fast-food franchises such as Kentucky Fried Chicken dotted the periphery of the main road into the city.

When we exited the Nevsky Prospekt Metro station in the bustling center of St. Petersburg, the ghosts of May 1 celebrations no longer lingered in this now-capitalistic city.


aaaanpr(Photo: Alyson Hurt)

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.


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.


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. 


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.


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?

Page 8 of 108