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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ascottwalkerEco-terrorist Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (Photo: DonkeyHotey)The other day BuzzFlash at Truthout ran a commentary that pointed out that it is those industries who are destroying the Earth who are committing acts of eco-terrorism. The just-released United Nations report on the dire future of the planet due to climate change should be pulling the fire alarms in nations across the world, but it's not. The White House is pretty much ignoring it, and Congress will probably be revisiting the farcical debate over Benghazi soon.

It is, therefore, not just the fossil fuel industries who are eco-terrorists, it is also those politicians who support the plundering of the earth, its pollution, and backing industries that one way or another are involved in a process that leads to a faster rate of Earth's destruction.

Take Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, for example.  He is allowing the construction of the "world's largest open-pit iron ore mine" in a pristine wilderness in the northern part of the state.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

akleinNaomi Klein, author of "No Logo" (Photo: Truthout)For those of us who are mystified at the current penchant for self-destruction of the human species in an orgy of corporate and personal greed - aided and abetted by the ruling elite in DC who are part of the oligarchy - it is worth remembering that much of who we are as a species in the developed world is tied to brand names that reflect "aspirational identity."

Naomi Klein brilliantly described this modern global phenomenon in her book "No Logo." We are lured by brands that stimulate over-consumption through advertising and public relations campaigns that make us believe buying a brand will bestow upon us attributes that we desire.

At the time Klein wrote her book, about 15 years ago, the most brilliant company strategy in this area was Nike: "Just do it!" To wear the Nike swoosh - and buy its wildly over-priced products made using exploited labor overseas - was (and is) to assume a certain identity we desire, even if we are unathletic and indecisive.  The purchase and wearing (or use) of the product makes us feel as if we are what we want to be, not what we are.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

3103989161 6503bd6ff3 z(Photo: David Moir)Truthout posted an inspiring article today about two Oberlin College students who were arrested for blocking a road in efforts to stall strip mining expansion in southern Illinois:

Police arrested two activists at a blockade set up on Rocky Branch Road in Harrisburg, Illinois, early on March 28, 2014, to stop Peabody Energy from continuing logging operations as part of the company's strip mine expansion.

Daniel Goering, 20, and Alice Fine, 19, laid down a tarp on the road to block the route to be used for logging that day. Along with other environmental activists and with the support of community residents directly impacted by Peabody's operations, the two tried to forestall and possibly prevent further strip mining and the proposed closure of Rocky Branch Road. 

Peabody is the largest private coal company in the US and world and it "finished the year with a total liquidity of $2.1 billion and $444 million cash, the company's 2013 annual report stated."  It is notoriously anti-union and not particularly welcoming of government safety regulations.

Coal remains a primary energy source in the United States and is also a primary factor in increasing global warming as it is extracted and processed.  Southern Illinois coal has characteristics that cause additional air pollution as it is utilized.  

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

4543884606 2e9421d584 zThe United States and North Korea lead the world in imprisoning people. (Photo: Mark Kwakman)

In a recent New York Times (NYT) column, Nikolas Kristof used a 12 question test to point out some of the tragic absurdities of posturing by the big powers and claims to moral legitimacy. He entitled it, "Do You Speak Dictator?"

For instance, if the United States is number one in anything, it is literally the first in the world in the percentage of its population incarcerated.  Kristof, in one of his questions, points out, however, that North Korea probably comes in second or maybe even a tie in this dubious distinction award (exact numbers of those imprisoned in North Korea are not available). That's a rather horrifying ranking to possibly share with the world's most isolated dictatorship.

President Obama and all of his predecessors are always claiming that we go to war and aid pro-democracy movements (as a guise for securing free market hegemony), so why then, as Kristof asks, "Equipment from which country is primarily used to suppress the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain?" The answer of course is the United States. Why? Because Bahrain has oil, large deposits in US banks, and is a "moderate" Arab nation. Therefore, democracy is dispensable there.

In fact, historically, democracy is fine with US foreign policy only if the results of an election lead to a pro-free market economy.  Democracies in this hemisphere and in countries throughout the world have been overthrown if they threaten US commerce or access to natural resources.  We only support democracies that allow US corporations open access to their markets, fossil fuels and the maintenance of an oligarchy. 

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apreckwinkleA recent poll indicates Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle could defeat Rahm Emanuel for mayor of Chicago.  (Photo: Wikipedia)Although the Chicago Democratic mayoral primary is a little less than a year off (February of 2015), already the polls have begun to test how he would fare against a Democratic opponent. Emanuel is widely viewed by progressives as a corporatist mayor with an anti-union, pro charter schools, privatization, pro-wealth bias.  

Paying relatively little attention to neighborhoods in need in a city that is now an international service and financial hub, Emanuel has largely been considered to be invincible for reelection due to his alleged $6 million political war chest -- and his unstinting support from the business community.

The first public poll (released last week) indicates that he would lose next year's primary to County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.  Preckwinkle is a progressive who would represent the 99% against Emanuel's 1% backing and political viewpoints.  The poll results, for whatever they are worth at this point, conclude that Preckwinkle would win by 40 percent to 32%, with a large undecided vote at this time.

Chicago mainstream media is questioning the credibiity of the poll based on it being conducted by a lesser-known firm -- and the distance in time to the actual race.  Both of these are valid points, and isolated polls -- without others to establish trending -- should be judged with caution.

Furthermore, Preckwinkle is running for re-election as Cook County Board President in November. She has indicated that she wants to (given that her re-election is a lock-in) fill out her next four-year term.

However, as Chicago's ABC television affiliate notes online, Preckwinkle "has not ruled out challenging Emanuel in February 2015."

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

5396283920 1afc9b137b z(Photo: Liquefied Natural Gas tanker Paul Johnston)

In a BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary yesterday, "The Major Reason There Will Be No War With Russia: They Are Rasputin Capitalists Now," we speculated that there would be no armed conflict between the United States and Russia, because Moscow under Putin has become a full-fledged gangster capitalist nation -- a country Wall Street can love and admire for its brashness in being openly proud of its thuggishness oligarchy.  

However, that does not mean that there is not competition within the pantheon of titan capitalists.  Such is the case occurring in the United States using the Ukarine-Crimea "crisis" to launch an all out fossil fuel face-off with Russia's Gazprom, the number one natural gas supplier in the world. Europe and the Ukraine and many other nations depend upon Gazprom for a good percentage of their natural gas supply.

The United States may now be, or so the government claims, the largest producer of oil and natural gas combined, but the production frenzy of the US (and Canadian) fossel fuel industry is reaching a grand finale of maximum Earth destroying extraction, before global warming will force a possible too-late reduction of oil and gas production ravaging of the Earth.

So, what are US politicians doing in response to Russian incursion into Crimea? Why, crying for undercutting Russian natural gas exports by increasing US shipments to Europe and former Soviet Union republics, now independent nations.  

In fact, President Obama is encouraging not only increased shipment of natural gas overseas, but more fracking in Europe -- all destined to ratchet up the Earth's climate change, putting residents of the planet in perilous risk.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

149739864 8174b36b57 o(Photo: bws front)All this talk of a new cold war is just a lot of political blather coming out of DC due to the re-emergence of the neocons.

The reality is that there will be no war with the Russian Federation because Russia is now a raffish capitalist nation. Let us just remember Vladimir Putin was a lieutenant colonel in the KGB (for 16 years) at a time that they might have surpassed the CIA for lacking scruples, although probably not by much.

Since Putin assumed power in Russia in 2000, he has served as either president or prime minister of the Russian Federation, effectively being the most powerful man in the nation for the past 13 years.

There is no ideological conflict with Russia now, no wall to bring to down, no communism to overthrow.  Under Putin, the Russian Federation has become a full-fledged member of the global capitalist system, only with the sleight variation that the Russian mafia plays an open role in the free market system. Instead of bankers crushing people with financial maneuverings, the Russian oligarchs allegedly prefer using their friends "Smith and Wesson" to resolve business disputes.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR AT BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

6870878979 159c7e6104 m1(Photo: 401K 2012)Lost in the coverage of America's tale of two economies (the 1% who have recieved 95 percent of the financial gains since they busted the economy in 2008 -- and the rest of us), is that seniors are especially hard hit by the disparity between so-called savings account interest (currently .01 percent at most banks) and inflation.

Yes, there still is inflation. It is relatively modest, but is still there and has a palpable impact on those on low fixed incomes - such as Social Security.  According to a website that covers inflation:

Over the longer period from December 2012 to December 2013, the US inflation rate rose 1.5 percent. That increase compares to the 1.2 percent advance in the 12 months ended November. Inflation in 2012, as another comparison, rose 1.7 percent. Noted specifically by the Labor Department, it is the first time that inflation has been under 2 percent for consecutive years since 1997-98.

Wrapping everything up, core annual inflation in 2013 rose 1.7 percent, which is the same 12-month increase noted in each of the prior three CPI reports. The total in 2012 was 1.9 percent.

Yes, it is true that Social Security recipients received a 1.7 percent increase in 2013 payments. But given that the banks (ostensibly based on the overnight interest charged by the Federal Reserve) are only paying - in general - .01 percent interest on what are falsely called "savings accounts," seniors  are losing money.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aclimatejust(Photo: Rainforest Action Network)The fossil fuel companies commit so many egregious crimes against life and the planet - and the federal government is so complicit in playing down the damage - that a numbing sets in for most of the United States population.  In an age of riding the surf of pulsating news, it is hard to recall the seemingly unending incidents of fossil fuel company pollution and ravaging of the Earth - from minor spills to massive despoiling of the planet.

Even the largest offshore oil spill in US history -- the BP Gulf blowout -- is now pretty much forgotten (or is only vaguely remembered) by the average American.

However, the devastation caused by the fossil fuel drilling frenzy now being sanctioned by the federal - and most state governments - will have the long term impact of destroying our planet and causing untold deaths. Furthermore, in the short term, it is reaping a death knell to many species on earth, including causing cancer and other terminal illnesses in humans. 

That includes the disappearance of many species on Earth, as detailed in Truthout's Progressive Pick of the Week: The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert.  Even if a species is not already eradicated, the toxic impact of oil spills is extremely wide-ranging. The Washington Post yesterday posted an article, "Deepwater Horizon oil left tuna, other species with heart defects likely to prove fatal." It is one of the kinds of stories that doesn't get a lot of mileage other than the original post because it is a small piece in a big puzzle of an incremental catastrophe, lost amidst wall-to-wall coverage of a sensationalistic story, such as the mystery of what happened to Malayasin Airlines Flight 370.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aflameretarda(Photo: PressReleaseFinder)It's really not an unusual occurence in our world of corporate influence on public policy: A man or woman expert in a field gets a consulting fee from an industry accused of causing harm -- and just "coincidentally" the credentialed individual testifies before legislative bodies in support of a specific corporate position.

After all, just look at the climate-denying scientists who have received some sort of economic gain from the fossil fuel industry.  

These relatively few members of the scientific community provide a tremendous public relations tool to corporations emitting carbon dioxide.  That is because the mainstream media presents almost all issues as a point/counterpoint debate, even if the vast majority of scientists have established that climate change is an established fact and threatens an ecospheric catastrophe.

The Chicago Tribune exposed one small part of "the expert for sale" scam a couple years back in an investigative report on a state of Washington surgeon. In a follow-up story last week, The Tribune reported:

In a stern rebuke of a noted surgeon, the state of Washington has issued disciplinary charges against Dr. David Heimbach, who told lawmakers misleading stories about fatally burned babies while testifying in favor of flame retardants.

Medical licensing authorities allege that Heimbach, whose activities were exposed in a 2012 Tribune investigation, fabricated testimony, failed to disclose his ties to the chemical industry and falsely presented himself as an unbiased burn expert when he was in fact collecting $240,000 from flame retardant manufacturers.

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