JONATHAN FRANKLIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Dateline: Santiago, Chile
A Chilean artist using the name “Fried Potatoes” [Papas Fritas] spent a year as he planned a unique revenge on a notorious for-profit University. Saying he was “collecting material for an art project”, the 31-year-old visual artist, snuck into a bank vault at Universidad del Mar and pilfered original copies of tuition contracts.
“Fried Potatoes” – whose real name is Francisco Tapia - then burned the university documents, making it extremely difficult for creditors to collect. “It’s over. You are all free of debt,” he exclaimed in a 5-minute video released earlier this month. Speaking to indebted students, he said, “You don’t have to pay a penny.”
Tapia’s move is just the most radical of an ongoing 3-year movement by Chilean students to reform Chile’s mediocre public education system. With monthly street marches – and four student leaders elected last November to parliament – the students have built a potent citizen’s movement rarely seen in post-Pinochet Chile.
Recently elected socialist President Michelle Bachelet supports the students and earlier this month increased the corporate tax rate to finance their main demand: free university education for all. On Wednesday, as Bachelet gave her state of the union address that outlined a multibillion dollar educational initiative, students protesting outside the congressional hall scattered ashes from the burned documents in symbolic protest against for-profit educational scams.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Maria Bartiromo was a longtime financial market analyst for CNBC who recently left that channel and transferred over to the Fox Business Network. She appeared occasionally on CNBC's pre-market-opening show, "Squawk Box." On one of those occasions, she was engaged in a discussion about the problems that capitalism is facing. I believe that it was in the context of what one of Squawk Box's co-hosts, Andrew Ross Sorkin (also of The New York Times), was saying about the subject. In the course of it, she uttered a quite remarkable phrase, hailing what she termed "the moral imperative of capitalism."
The phrase came to mind in considering the current battle over climate change and what, if anything, to do about it. It is already affecting us. And of course, the degree of potential damage to the Earth as know it, physically, and for many of its species including ours in terms of long-term survival, is accelerating at ever-increasing rate. Indeed, there is a newly discovered major threat, the melting of a significant part of the Antarctic Ice Shelf, about which, apparently, nothing can be done. That is, in this case, even if there were a will, there is no way. For example, major parts of the State of Florida and of New York City, may well eventually be under water. Not fun, I should think. Nevertheless, there are some folks who [view this outcome from different perspective.
Of course, in the United States in particular there is a very large, very well-funded, and therefore very loud chorus that denies that global warming and one of its major consequences, climate change, is even taking place. And if it is taking place, human beings have nothing to do with it, and even if we did, doing anything to moderate the future certain changes, like enacting a "carbon tax" would just "ruin the economy" donchaknow. So where, you might be asking at this point, does the concept of "morality" come into all of this? Well, one kind of behavior that virtually everyone, atheist, theist, and everyone in-between, believes is immoral is stating as fact and truth something that you know to be false. This is where the "tobacco" in the title above comes in.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
What's happening in the Republican primaries is less a defeat for the tea party than a surrender by the GOP establishment, which is winning key races by accepting the tea party's radical anti-government philosophy.
Anyone who hopes the party has finally come to its senses will be disappointed. Republicans have pragmatically decided not to concede Senate elections by nominating eccentrics and crackpots. But in convincing the party's activist base to come along, establishment leaders have pledged fealty to eccentric, crackpot ideas.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who easily won his primary this month against a weak tea party challenger, said Tuesday that there isn't "that big a difference between what you all call the tea party and your average conservative Republican. We're against Obamacare, we think taxes are too high, we think the government's too big."
That doesn't sound so crazy. But is it reasonable for Republicans to keep voting to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act -- more than 50 times, so far -- knowing full well that they have zero chance of success? Does it make sense, if taxes are excessive, to refuse President Obama's invitation to begin serious talks about tax reform?
If Boehner wanted to be honest, he'd have said his party is in favor of posturing and opposed to reality.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A week after a boisterous day of global protests against the financial exploitation of fast food workers in most nations, the rapidly growing movement spread to the annual meeting of McDonald's. With a demand to "McDouble Our Wages," an estimated 500-2000 protesters from around the Midwest gathered at the sprawling headquarter campus of the empire that Ray Kroc built (located in the western Chicago suburb of Oak Brook).
According to The Chicago Tribune, on Wednesday, "138 individuals, including 101 McDonald’s workers, were arrested for trespassing on the company’s property." Workers at the chain of low-cost non-nutritious processed food pit stops put their jobs on the line for a livable salary.
The statement accompanying McDonald's 2013 annual report boasts that while weathering some financial challenges, it generated a healthy bottom line:
Consolidated revenue increase of 2 percent (2 percent in constant currencies)
Consolidated operating income increase of 2 percent (3 percent in constant currencies)
Diluted earnings per share of $5.55, up 4 percent (4 percent in constant currencies)
Return of $4.9 billion to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases
Barry Ritholtz, a BloombergView columnist, recorded some facts about earners making the minimum wage:
Last month, we discussed McDonald's and Wal-Mart as America’s biggest [abusers of welfare]. As it turns out, both giants are the beneficiaries of a surprising amount of federal aid: Their employees receive an inordinate amount of Medicaid, food stamps and other public assistance. This allows them to maintain very low wages, and keep profits relatively robust...
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If you want to know what a difference a municipally owned internet service can make, just look to Chattanooga, Tennessee. In an article on CNNMoney entitled, "Chattanooga's super-fast publicly owned Internet," journalist James O'Toole describes how Chattanooga is providing the gold standard of internet access, while commercial Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are leaving consumers in the dust, in terms of speed and service:
Chattanooga, Tenn., may not be the first place that springs to mind when it comes to cutting-edge technology. But thanks to its ultra-high-speed Internet, the city has established itself as a center for innovation -- and an encouraging example for those frustrated with slow speeds and high costs from private broadband providers.
Chattanooga rolled out a fiber-optic network a few years ago that now offers speeds of up to 1000 Megabits per second, or 1 gigabit, for just $70 a month. A cheaper 100 Megabit plan costs $58 per month. Even the slower plan is still light-years ahead of the average U.S. connection speed, which stood at 9.8 megabits per second as of late last year, according to Akamai Technologies.
"It's really altered how we think of ourselves as a city," said Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. "We're a midsized, southern city -- for us to be at the front of the technological curve rather than at the tail end is a real achievement."
As federal officials find themselves at the center of controversy over net neutrality and the regulation of private internet service; providers; like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Chattanooga offers an alternative model for keeping people connected. A city-owned agency, the Electric Power Board, runs its own network, offering higher-speed service than any of its private-sector competitors can manage.
A November 2013 SlashGear.com article states bluntly: "The vast majority of the US is left with some of the slowest broadband internet speeds in the world. The US ranks 31 on the list of speediest broadband countries according to Speedtest.net."
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Europe has a special worry about a broken, uncaring economy.
Things rip apart. More and more people fall into desperation. Some of them decide it's the fault of immigrants. Or homosexuals. Or . . .
"Today, Nazi influences are growing in Europe for the same reasons they did back then. The social safety nets have been torn, and people are left behind. Left alone. The hopelessness is what comes first, then the hatred. It's never the other way around."
A campaign led by Sweden's Social Democratic Party (quoted above), in the run-up to the European Union elections on May 25 — which features Rainer Hoess, grandson of the commandant of Auschwitz, warning people that democracy and human rights can never be taken for granted — is called: NEVER FORGET. TO VOTE. Its point is that far right politics, including a blatant neo-Nazism bent on rekindling the old agenda of "blood purity," racial solidarity and loyalty to the homeland, is spreading across the EU just as unemployment and austerity are spreading and Europe's economy comes to resemble, more and more, the economy of the 1930s.
In other words, malignant racism combined with a bad economy can still foment social poison. Hatred seeks power and power seeks hatred, and they sometimes find each other. And what we call the "social safety net" might better, perhaps, be called the social immune system — because society is a living organism.
BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Reposted with permission from EcoWatch.
Santa Cruz County in California triumphed Tuesday to become the state’s first county to ban fracking.
The county’s board of supervisors voted 5-0 to prohibit fracking, as well as gas and oil development within its boundaries.
“We congratulate the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors for their historic vote towards protecting California’s air and water, and for setting a positive example for other counties and Gov. [Jerry] Brown,” said Adam Scow, California Director of Food & Water Watch.
Members of Food & Water Watch, 350.org, Environment California, Center for Biological Diversity, Californians Against Fracking, Santa Cruz Sierra Club, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom rallied outside with students from University of California, Santa Cruz and county supervisor John Leopold after the vote to celebrate the victory. The Santa Cruz board voted last September to enact a 10-month moratorium on fracking and all oil and gas drilling. Tuesday’s vote makes that decision permanent.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Even The New York Times is finally taking note of the gluttonous excesses of the plutocracy. On May 20, in the Times' Dealbook section, journalist Alexandra Stevenson penned an article entitled, "After Fed, Bernanke Offers His Wisdom, for a Big Fee":
During his eight years as steward [at the Federal Reserve] of the world’s largest economy, Mr. Bernanke’s salary was about $200,000 a year. Now he makes that in just a few hours speaking to bankers, hedge fund billionaires and leaders of industry. This year alone, he is poised to make millions of dollars from speaking engagements.
Mr. Bernanke is following a well-trodden path that his predecessor, Alan S. Greenspan, and other Washington policy makers have taken. On the speaking circuit, he is putting just one foot through the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street, being paid by financial firms but not employed by one.
Investors are dealing with an economy that is in large part the creature of Fed policies under Mr. Bernanke, and they are willing to pay top dollar for his words of wisdom as a result.
Whether Bernanke is being paid for his "wisdom" is open to question. His multi-million dollar speech marathon has the distinct scent of a combination of buying access and running a victory lap to the applause of the economic masters of the universe. Remember, Bernanke may no longer be chair of the Fed, but you can bet he regularly consults and meets with the Fed insiders, as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other regulators.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Not long his appearance on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher", where he acted in his usual smarty-pants manner -- pulling crap out of his ass, as Maher might say -- right-wing author, commentator, and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza "has struck a deal with prosecutors over charges he used straw donors to give $15,000 more to a U.S. Senate campaign than is allowed under campaign finance laws," according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Instead of going to trial, which was scheduled for this week in New York, D'Souza, who, a few years ago was forced to resign as president of The King's College in New York over apparent marital infidelity, pleaded guilty and could face up to two years in prison when he is sentenced sometime in early fall.
Whether D'Souza will serve any time in prison is anyone's guess, but one thing is absolutely certain: The right has a new martyr on its hands and D'Souza's new film will undoubtedly capitalize on the D'Souza story.
BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Transparency is the least you could hope for if you're against fracking for energy. If North Carolina Republicans get their way, such transparency could result in a felony.
Three state senators introduced a bill late last week that would charge people with a felony if they disclose what chemicals companies are using to extract dirty energy from shale formations. That might even include the officials who respond to the explosions and other emergencies caused by the dangerous process.
"The felony provision is far stricter than most states' provisions in terms of the penalty for violating trade secrets," Hannah Wiseman, a Florida State University assistant law professor who studies fracking regulations, told Mother Jones.
"I think the only penalties to fire chiefs and doctors, if they talked about it at their annual conference, would be the penalties contained in the confidentiality agreement. But [the bill] is so poorly worded, I cannot confirm that if an emergency responder or fire chief discloses that confidential information, they too would not be subject to a felony."
However, Wiseman believes "that appears to be the case" in some sections of the potential legislation.