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.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Finally, an authentic scandal: incompetence and deception at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Given what we know so far, more heads need to roll — and a criminal investigation should be launched.
Republicans have accused the Obama administration of so many faux scandals that it's hard to recognize the real thing. Yes, the Internal Revenue Service seems to have given extra scrutiny to conservative organizations, but it gave extra scrutiny to liberal groups, too. Yes, Operation "Fast and Furious" was a mistake, but it wasn't some kind of sinister plot. No, it doesn't matter whether the evil people who took four American lives in Benghazi , Libya, are called terrorists, militants or simply killers.
The VA situation, however, looks more serious day by day. If VA hospitals really are falsifying records to disguise lengthy waiting times — and if veterans are dying as a consequence — then President Obama needs to bring in new management to fix the problems and fast.
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, speaking Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation," described Obama as "madder than hell" about the VA scandal. By now, we should all be used to the fact that Obama is never what you would call demonstrative with his anger, at least publicly. No frothing, no foaming, no gnashing of teeth. I take McDonough at his word that the president is royally steamed.
MARK KARLIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Now, it is getting personal: Someone is enabling circumstances that might result in my death, your death and the death of countless people around the world.
I am referring to an infamous statement Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) statement made in a May 11 interview with This Week:
Rubio - who expressed deep skepticism about whether man-made activity has played a role in the Earth's changing climate - told [ABC news reporter Jonathan] Karl he doesn't believe there is action that could be taken right now that would have an impact on what's occurring with our climate.
"I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it … and I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy," he said.
Given ongoing major reports, including last week, that we may have crossed the threshold into a catastrophic cauldron of brewing and already-present climate change, Rubio is condemning much of the earth to catastrophe and death.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Many wealthy Americans believe that dysfunctional behavior causes poverty. Their own success, they would insist, derives from good character and a strict work ethic. But they would be missing some of the facts. Ample evidence exists to show a correlation between wealth and unethical behavior, and between wealth and a lack of empathy for others, and between wealth and unproductiveness.
The poor, along with a middle class that is sinking toward them, make up the American meritocracy. Here is some of the evidence.
1. The Poor Don't Cheat As Much
An analysis of seven different psychological studies found that "upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals." A series of experiments showed that upper-class individuals were more likely to break traffic laws, take valued goods from others, lie in a negotiation, and cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize.
And this doesn't even begin to examine the many, many significant cases of fraudulent behavior in the banking industry. Or private equity firms that cheat their investors over 50 percent of the time. Or the many unscrupulous corporate tax avoidance strategies.