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2014.6.11.Climate.BF(Photo Illustration: Troy Page / truthout; Adapted From: d-b and Natalie Johnson / flickr)MICHAEL MANN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Reposted with permission from EcoWatch.

Paul Krugman has an interesting op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times entitled “Interests, Ideology & Climate.” In this commentary, Krugman argues that the current campaign to deny climate change is steeped more in political ideology than in industry-funded opposition.

I’m a big fan of Krugman’s work, and he makes a number of very good points in this latest commentary. I agree with him that the current campaign to deny the reality and threat of climate change does indeed feed off a very large, ideologically-driven partisan divide that is grounded in anti-regulatory beliefs and libertarian principles.

But I take issue with Krugman’s argument that the massive funding of climate change denial by monied interests like the Koch Brothers doesn’t play an equal role. The fallacy in Krugman’s thesis, in my view, is that the ideological divide that exists with regard to climate change is somehow independent of the massively-funded disinformation campaign. It isn’t.

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBulletsNRA(Photo: Snowjackal)For awhile, it appeared the NRA leadership committed an act of sanity. But, a few hours later, the pills wore off.

The story begins with a group called Open Carry Texas (OCT). This fringe group rubbed both its brain cells together, wrapped itself in what it erroneously believes is the Second Amendment, and decided it would be great theatre to bring semi-automatic carbines into family restaurants. Waving the yellow "Don't Tread on Me" flags, a common sight at Tea Party rallies, OCT members handed out leaflets, proclaimed their rights to carry weapons and confronted citizens who had little desire to be in a place where civilians were carrying weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, any one of which could shred any one of their internal organs.

Openly carrying handguns in Texas is illegal, but the law permits anyone to openly carry long guns, from BB guns to semi-automatic military weapons.

Almost all OCT members are white men, but there are a few white women who also believe in their "right-to-carry." Among them was a woman in Dallas who openly carried her 10-month-old twins and a semi-automatic assault weapon.

When Chipotle, Jack in the Box, Starbucks, and other coffee shops, restaurants, and department stores told these thugs, who can even make the rural folk of "Deliverance" appear to be civilized, they were welcome to eat, shop, and browse—but leave the weapons at home—Open Carry Texas escalated its public demonstrations.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ainvestneig(Photo: sierraromeo [sarah-ji])The Washington Post is not known for exposing the greed, gluttony and financial exploitation of the masters of the universe who run our economy. However, last week, it did focus on an important engine for the growth in the white elite's supercharged drive to privatize public education through charter schools: hedge funds.

Yes, BuzzFlash and Truthout have extensively detailed the flaws behind the concept of charter schools somehow magically changing the urban educational landscape - without resolving the decades-old economic abandonment of large expanses of cities, as well as the incarceration-industrial complex that feeds on minority imprisonment. We've detailed studies that show a lot of money is being made off of shortchanging students in charter schools and pocketing profit (or paying high administration salaries in nonprofit charter schools, as well as their politically connected subcontracting to for-profit consultants and vendors.) We've shown that many analyses find that charter schools perform well in their first year, but then actually trail behind public schools in the Washington DC ultimate measure of education: test results.

An abundance of evidence reveals charter schools are largely a sham that benefits the white ruling elite while destroying the public education that has been the foundation of this nation.

Add a June 4 Washington Post column entitled, "Why Hedge Funds Love Charter Schools," to the journalistic case of the people vs. charter schools. Overall, the commentary adds to the larger charge that charter schools are making a lot of people a lot of money. However, it emphasizes that the radioactive sector of the runaway financial sector, hedge funds, are in on profiting from the charter school racket. 

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEmbeddedJournalist(Photo: Staff Sgt. Michael L. Casteel)Close to ten years ago Frank Rich, formerly of The New York Times, presently of New York Magazine, wrote one of the best books on the Bush/Cheney War on Iraq. Entitled The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth in Bush's America, it definitively took the cover off the Bush/Cheney lies that led the United States into what to date has been the most disastrous war the nation has ever been engaged in.

In a recent issue of the New York Magazine, Rich visits the role of the so-called "liberal media" in making the BushCheney initiative a "go." In a side-bar, he summarizes his overview of the initiative: "The massive blunder of Iraq remains the nation's inescapable existential burden two and a half years after our last troops departed." Now, one must say that in terms of Bush/Cheney's true objectives, that is the establishment of permanent war or at least the permanent preparation for permanent war, that objective has been achieved. True, President Obama has announced that most U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by 2016.

However, one never knows A) what war or wars "of necessity" might pop up in the interim, B) what would happen were a Republican of the neocon persuasion (Ted Cruz, anyone?) were to win the Presidency in 2016. Why there might be just the smallest of gaps in the Permanent War sequence, and certainly the Permanent Preparation for Permanent War would be fully restored. (And even President Obama seems to be moving in the latter direction.) But for our nation as a whole, Rich is right: it was a "massive blunder."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afracsand2A frac sand excavation in Wisconsin. (Photo: uwex)

An essential resource needed in the fracking extraction process is a relatively rare sand - and Illinois has one of the largest supplies in the United States. As a result, once again the fossil fuel industry is forcing destructive changes in nature that threaten, in this case, farming in the United States heartland: the nation's breadbasket. This is because the sand exists in deposits under rich Illinois agricutural land.

In a June 8 article, the Chicago Tribune spelled out the financial stakes at play:

Dallas-based Eagle Materials Inc., poised to start operating in LaSalle County, estimates it would sell at least 900,000 tons of sand a year from a single mine on 564 acres. At $110 a ton, the company estimates the mine will generate $99 million a year over the next 45 years, according to a state permit application. Analysts who follow Eagle Materials say about $40 of the $110-per-ton price is pure profit.

"Mining frac sand is a lot like mining regular sand except it's wildly profitable, and that's why everyone wants to do it," said Todd Vencil, managing director of equities research at Sterne Agee, a privately owned brokerage firm based in Birmingham, Ala.

The company paid $8 million to buy the land, according to property and state records, and it expects to invest $25 million to $50 million to get the mine running, according to company filings.

The rolling corn and soybean fields near Starved Rock State Park, 95 miles southwest of Chicago, are coveted by multinational corporations for the fine-grain sand deep below the rich soil. Known as Ottawa white, the sand is uniformly circular — perfect for drillers who pump a mixture of sand and chemicals into fracking wells across the nation.

"In the world, there are not that many — geographically speaking — deposits of very high quality northern white sand that has the technical specifications that are in greatest demand. One of those areas is in Illinois, and it's close to the surface of the earth," said Robert Stewart, executive vice president of strategy, corporate development and communications at Eagle Materials.

Cities in LaSalle County, in north central Illinois, are exempt from a county ban on new sand excavation, and many are cutting deals for royalties that are being paid to towns from the frac sand mining companies.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNazis(Photo: German Federal Archive)In late May, the BBC reported that "Eurosceptic and far-right parties have seized ground in elections to the European parliament, in what France's PM called a 'political earthquake'." Aftershocks from the far-right's European "political earthquake" are being felt in the United States, as America's White supremacists are celebrating like it's 1999.

It takes an experienced researcher and writer with an international perspective to dissect the recent European parliament elections and try and understand what it means to, and for, the far right in the United States. And, Devin Burghart is the perfect person for the job. In a recent post at the website of the Institute For Research & Education On Human Rights (IREHR), Burghart pointed out that for the most part, America's far right is rejoicing over the results of the elections.

"Many on the American far right, from the Tea Party to hardened white nationalists, paid close attention to the European results," Burghart, vice president of IREHR, wrote in a story titled, American Far Right Jubilant Over European Election Results. "Looking at these votes for nationalist, anti-immigrant, racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-European Union political parties — the American hard right saw hope for the future here at home."

Burghart pointed to several emergent themes including: "1) nationalist, anti-globalist arguments in the age of austerity and financial turmoil, 2) anti-immigrant politics as a winning message, and 3) the necessity of a white electoral strategy here at home."

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPOW(Photo: James Pollock)Last week, President Obama gave an emotionally stirring announcement with Sergeant Bergdahl's grateful parents by his side in the White House Rose Garden concerning the return of their beloved son, Sgt. Bowe Berghahl, who's been held in captivity for five years in Afghanistan. Obama explained that they "made a deal to bring home the longest-held American captive of America's longest war."

It didn't take long for Republicans and the right-wing media to attack President Obama for doing something that was morally right for a change: for taking ethical action that brings us closer to shutting down Guantanamo Bay Prison, as I wrote in my last Buzzflash-Truthout commentary, a prison widely known for its illegal practice of indefinite detention, and for its CIA horrors of physical torture and psychological abuses.

Democrat Dianne Feinstein, prosecutor of ethical whistleblowers' Julian Assange (founder of Wikileaks) and Edward Snowden (whistleblower on NSA's surveillance abuses), joined angry Republicans' crazy John McCain, Ted Cruz, and other moral midgets to instigate a bully attack, insisting that the exchange of the Taliban prisoners for Mr. Bergdahl puts American lives at risk, a statement meant to stir up the pit bulls at the corporate media, to block any hope of shutting down GITMO.

After all, most Republicans think GITMO is a symbol of unlimited power to the world, and most Bush-Cheney Republicans have turned a blind eye to torturing human beings in the most sickening, gruesome ways, including raping males with harsh instruments—at GITMO.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ajudgesec(Photo: stockmonkeys.com)On Wednesday, June 4, an appeals court overturned an earlier ruling by Federal District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff that would have required the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to crack down harder on Wall Street banks that egregiously violate regulations and the law.

In a 2011 decision, Rakoff prohibited an SEC settlement with Citigroup from proceeding. His objections included that the SEC let Citigroup "off with little more than a slap on the wrist," according to The New York Times. Rakoff admonished the regulatory agency, saying that it could not continuously "punish" serious and massive financial wrongdoing with financial fines without requiring the banks to admit wrongdoing.

The Rakoff 2011 ruling was one of few on the federal level that challenged the SEC's and Department of Justice's (DOJ) practice of allowing Wall Street financial institutions to get away with malfeasance by levying fines that become merely the cost of doing business. In short, as BuzzFlash at Truthout has detailed many times, the primary enforcement institutions over the integrity of our financial system enable prodigious wrongdoing.

DR DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaOceanTrash(Photo: NOAA)June 8 is World Oceans Day. It's a fitting time to contemplate humanity's evolving relationship with the source of all life. For much of human history, we've affected marine ecosystems primarily by what we've taken out of the seas. The challenge as we encounter warming temperatures and increasing industrial activity will be to manage what we put into them.

As a top predator, humans from the tropics to the poles have harvested all forms of marine life, from the smallest shrimp to the largest whales, from the ocean's surface to its floor. The staggering volume of fish removed from our waters has had a ripple effect through all ocean ecosystems. Yet the ocean continues to provide food for billions of people, and improved fishing practices in many places, including Canada, are leading to healthier marine-life populations. We're slowly getting better at managing what we catch to keep it within the ocean's capacity to replenish. But while we may be advancing in this battle, we're losing the war with climate change and pollution.

In the coming years, our ties to the oceans will be defined by what we put into them: carbon dioxide, nutrients washed from the land, diseases from aquaculture and land-based animals, invasive species, plastics, contaminants, noise and ever-increasing marine traffic. We once incorrectly viewed oceans as limitless storehouses of marine bounty and places to dump our garbage; now it's clear they can only handle so much.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

trickledown345(Photo: Bankenstein)If someone insists that it is not raining when it is, you might think that you can persuade him or her by taking the denier to a window and showing him or her the downpour, with drops splattering against the glass.

When the person insists that the drenching rain is really only due to a sprinkler being on - even though the sky is filled with lightning and booming with thunder - you know that you have a reality denier in your midst.

The upholders of the reigning economic policy in the US - trickle-down economics - are once again taking issue with data that disproves that the concentration of wealth will benefit the economy as a whole. Such is the case in financial media criticism of Thomas Piketty's data in Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which Piketty has already refuted. (You can watch a highly informative conversation between Piketty and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), in which he handily dismisses challenges to his book.)

Aside from periodic economic studies that debunk the idea that the concentration of capital in the hands of the few improves the US gross domestic product and expands jobs and wages - as BuzzFlash at Truthout discussed in a commentary last week - there is a more compelling refutation of the notion that letting the rich get richer benefits everyone: reality.

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