Facebook Slider
Optional Member Code
Get News Alerts!

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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.

ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTexasFracking(Photo: Joshua Doubek)Yesterday Texas Gov. Abbott signed HB 40 into law. Written by former ExxonMobil lawyer Shannon Ratliff, the statute forces every Texas municipality wanting common sense limits on oil and gas development to demonstrate its rules are “commercially reasonable.” It effectively overturns a Denton ballot initiative banning fracking that passed last November.

“HB 40 was written by the oil and gas industry, for the oil and gas industry, to prevent voters from holding the oil and gas industry accountable for its impacts,” said Earthworks’ Texas organizer Sharon Wilson. Wilson, who played a key role in the Denton ballot initiative, continued, “It was the oil and gas industry’s contempt for impacted residents that pushed Denton voters to ban fracking in the first place. And now the oil and gas industry, through state lawmakers, has doubled down by showing every city in Texas that same contempt.”

By a 59-41 percent vote, including 70 percent of straight ticket Republican voters, the residents of Denton banned hydraulic fracturing within city limits. The ban was a last resort after more than five years of fruitlessly petitioning oil and gas companies, the city and the state for help. “By signing HB40 into law, Governor Abbott just declared that industry profits are more important than our health, our homes and our kids,” said Adam Briggle, president of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group and a leader in the Frack Free Denton effort. He continued, “The letter of Texas law now says no city can ‘effectively prevent an oil and gas operation from occurring,’ no matter the threat to families’ health and safety or damage to private property.”

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAK(Photo: Erik Gregg)Twenty years ago, the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people caused law enforcement to pay much more attention to right wing domestic terrorists. After 9/11, however, attention quickly shifted to focusing on Muslims – both American born and/or those coming from outside the country.

According to a former Department of Homeland Security official, the DHS basically put the kibosh on analyzing homegrown terrorist threats by white supremacists, militias, the patriot movement, and anti-abortion fanatics. "[T]oday, while the number of violent incidents committed by domestic extremists is actually increasing, the holes in the net to catch them are growing larger," the Kansas City Star discovered during its extraordinary one-year investigation of domestic terrorism published this year.

Right-wing domestic terrorists have killed more than 50 people since 9/11, the Kansas City Star reported. The list includes police officers in Arkansas and Nevada, a sheriff's deputy in Florida, two sheriff's deputies in Louisiana, law enforcement officials in Oregon, three police officers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a teenager and his grandfather in Overland Park, Kansas, and two West African immigrants murdered in Brockton, Massachusetts.

Especially discouraging is that "the focus and some funding for preventing terrorism at home have dissolved," the Star's report pointed out, either because of a change in focus, and/or in some cases, the result of aggressive right-wing campaigns critical of government reports on the dangers of domestic terrorism.

The most blatant example of the latter occurred in 2009, after a government report "warned that the economic downturn, combined with the election of America's first African-American president and the potential passage of new firearms restrictions, could trigger a surge in extremist violence, particularly in the white supremacist and militia movements," the Star noted.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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?

2015.18.5 BF ECO(Photo: Benjamin Jakabek)ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

California is entering its fourth year of drought, with high temperatures, water shortages and increased wildfires. The state has taken some steps to address the impacts of that, including addressing greenhouse gas emissions and rationing its diminishing water supply. But there are signs that the impacts of drought on the state could get even worse.

1. A new study shows that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at current rates, some parts of Los Angeles area could be experiencing temperatures over 95 degrees for periods as long as two to three months by the end of the century, up from about 12 days now. Researchers at UCLA’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences found that downtown Los Angeles could see many many as 54 such days, up from an average of four, while desert areas could see many more. And in the surrounding mountainous areas, days with temperatures below freezing could be cut in half.

2. Fewer freezing days in mountainous areas will certainly impact the snow pack which is currently at record lows. Its April assessment set a record for the lowest level in the state’s history, triggering Gov. Jerry Brown’s order that residents and governments cut water use by 25 percent. Shuttered ski resorts are the least of the resulting problems. The runoff from the snow pack melting in the spring replenishes the state’s rivers, streams and reservoirs—but not so much anymore. In an L.A. Times editorial, NASA scientist Jay Famiglietti warned that California reservoirs have only a year’s supply of water left in them. With the rate of replenishment dropping, that spells trouble.

2015.18.5 BF Buchheit(Photo: Gordon Mei)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

An emotional response to any criticism of the Apple Corporation might be anticipated from the users of the company's powerful, practical, popular, and entertaining devices. Accolades to the company and a healthy profit are certainly well-deserved. But much-despised should be the theft from taxpayers and the exploitation of workers and customers, all cloaked within the image of an organization that seems to work magic on our behalf.

1. Apple Took Years of Public Research, Integrated the Results and Packaged it as Their Own

Apple's stock market value of over $700 billion is about twice the value of any other company. It is generally regarded as innovative, trendy, and sensitive to the needs of phone and computer users all around the world. Many of us have become addicted to the beautifully designed iPhone. But the design goes back to the time before Apple existed.

Steve Jobs once admitted: "We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas." And reaping most of the benefits. As economist William Lazonick put it, "The iPhone didn't just magically appear out of the Apple campus in Cupertino. Whenever a company produces a technology product, it benefits from an accumulation of knowledge created by huge numbers of people outside the company, many of whom have worked in government-funded projects over the previous decades."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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. 

MORGAN SINCLAIRE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDivestUW(Photo: EcoWatch)“If it’s wrong to wreck the planet, then it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.”

This quote by Bill McKibben has become the mantra of the fossil fuel divestment movement, the campaign which has sprouted up on hundreds of college campuses across the country with one simple goal: to get universities to stop investing in the same fossil fuel industry that is accelerating us all towards planetary catastrophe.

Here at the University of Washington in Seattle, Divest UW has gotten one of the biggest victories of the movement so far, with the Board of Regents voting to divest from coal today.

Founded in 2012, back when the fossil fuel divestment movement was just starting to spring up on college campuses, Divest UW has been pushing for this for a long time. We have shown that students here would like to see their school get its money out of dirty energy, with our divestment resolutions passing overwhelmingly in both the undergraduate and graduate student senates, but not until this week was our administration moved.

And that is why today’s victory is all the more significant: it validates all the work our group has put into this over the past three years, and we are proud to see our university recognize the growing power of the student movement to tackle climate change. With its $2.8 billion endowment, the UW is largest public university to divest from this destructive industry.

HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBombCloud(Photo: US DoE)For the third time in a decade, a major fire/explosion has ripped apart a transformer at the Indian Point reactor complex.

News reports have taken great care to emphasize that the accident happened in the “non nuclear” segment of the plant.

Ironically, the disaster spewed more than 15,000 gallons of oil into the Hudson River, infecting it with a toxic sheen that carried downstream for miles. Entergy, the nuke’s owner, denies there were PCBs in this transformer.

t also denies numerous studies showing serious radioactive health impacts on people throughout the region.

You can choose whether you want to believe the company in either case.

But PCBs were definitely spread by the last IP transformer fire. They re-poisoned a precious liquid lifeline where activists have spent decades dealing with PCBs previously dumped in by General Electric, which designed the reactors at Fukushima.

Meanwhile, as always, the nuclear industry hit the automatic play button to assure us all that there was “no danger” to the public and “no harmful release” of radiation.

But what do we really know about what happened and could have happened this time around?

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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.

Page 3 of 1358