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JIM BLOCK FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afreespeech(Photo: Will Jabsco)

This past weekend was the 50th reunion of the Free Speech Movement at the University of California at Berkeley. At the beginning of the fall term of 1964, the university administration imposed a series of strict regulations limiting the right of students to engage in political soliciting on campus. Berkeley students had for several years been active in anti-H.U.A.C., pro-labor, and anti-racism protests and demonstrations throughout the Bay area. This picture of the university as a hotbed of political activism was undermining the carefully honed image being disseminated by the state of California as the leader in public higher education: in the conservative post-war period, Berkeley was being touted as not only a world class research university but at the forefront of preparing a modern elite meritocratic student body primed for corporate and governmental leadership.

What the university administration failed to consider was the fact that many activist Berkeley students had embraced new levels of commitment to political organizing by participating in Freedom Summer, an initiative by radical civil rights organizations in the South to mobilize black Americans to challenge segregation and demand voting rights. After resolutely confronting white segregationists and racist – often violent – local public officials as full-fledged democratic activists, a university administration seeking to curtail their political expression and ignoring their insistence on the urgency of social change struck these battle-tested students as demeaning and even infantilizing. Even more decisively, these acts implicated the new model university as the central institution in integrating younger generations into the corporate, hierarchical, expansionist values increasingly driving American society. It suddenly became clear that the degree was being marketed not for any educational value but as a ticket punched to the higher levels of this post-war order and to material success, social status, and a suburban lifestyle widely being identified as the American dream.

Once the university intervened, in other words, the political dynamic shifted. What had begun as an effort to support other movements for social equity and integration quickly shifted before everyone’s eyes to a demand for the liberation of students and youth and the democratization of the institutions shaping their lives as a prelude to broader social transformation. This is the F.S.M. whose message spread throughout the U.S. and beyond, catalyzing and exposing generational tensions and revealing the compliance-oriented program of American socialization. I came to Berkeley as a neophyte, a completely apolitical and uninformed undergraduate, just days before the campus controversies began. And because the events of the next couple of years became the defining experience of my life about which I have written and taught ever since (trying to make sense of it), this reunion gave me an unparalleled opportunity to reflect on and rethink that experience in conversation with this unique community of participants in this defining moment.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014 07:27

The Power to Solve Climate Change

FRED KRUPP OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaClimateMarchEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)What’s it going to take to turn the corner to a safe and stable climate? People power and market power. That was my main takeaway from a whirlwind week in New York City.

That pairing may seem odd, since some have fallen into the habit of dividing the climate community into “outsiders,” grassroots activists who demand action, and “insiders,” policy advocates who seek to correct market failures (such as the absence of a price on carbon) in order to harness the power of the marketplace to drive change. But many climate change advocates, myself included, were busy doing both last week—and both are absolutely essential to the climate solutions we need.

I began the week at the People’s Climate March, one of an estimated 400,000 Americans who took to the streets of New York City to make an urgent call for climate action. It was thrilling to see so many people—including Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) members and staff from around the country—gather for a demonstration that was both peaceful and passionate. Tuesday morning my EDF colleagues and I hosted a meeting of officials and experts from China and the U.S., and later that day I spoke at the United Nations about the urgent climate threat posed by unchecked methane pollution, then shared ideas for restructuring global energy incentives with international leaders.

It was fitting that all of this began with a protest march, since motivating the public to demand action is absolutely necessary if we are going to prevail against the opponents of climate action. It was, by all accounts, the largest rally in the history of the climate change movement—even before you include the 2,600 smaller gatherings taking place in 166 countries around the world.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afeudal(Photo: david_shankbone)

Since 2008, the disproportionate growth in money flowing to the top 10 and 1 percent has exponentially increased - and the wages of the bottom 90 percent of the population have, in general, either fallen or stagnated.

This has created, according to Irwin, an astonishing statistic:  

But in the first three years of the current expansion, incomes actually fell [according to the Tcherneva data] for the bottom 90 percent of earners, even as they rose nicely for the top 10 percent. The result: The top 10 percent captured an impossible-seeming 116 percent of income gains during that span. [Italics inserted by BuzzFlash.]

In short, as 90 percent of the US population loses ground, 10 percent - and particularly the top 1 percent - are actually drawing in more than 100 percent of the economic gains since 2008. This is due to adjusting figures to reflect the decrease in income for 90 percent of earners in the US.

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAmericanFlags(Photo: Lipton Sale)Sunday night President Obama made an appearance on 60 Minutes to talk about the ongoing efforts against ISIS. The quote that everyone is focusing on, of course, is Obama’s admission that they “underestimated ISIS.” The right is predictably working itself into a fine froth over this. Had we only carpet bombed everything back in 2013, the Middle East would now be a virtual utopia and nothing would ever go wrong in the region again. Personally, I don’t find the president’s admission to be a huge shock. Given that our last president had a bit of trouble thinking of a single mistake that he might have made, ever, it is refreshing to hear Obama utter words along these lines. I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the actions we have taken, as we try to correct for our underestimation, what with the unforeseen consequences crawling out of the woodwork, but still, it’s nice to hear some acknowledgement of our fallibility.

Which is why the bit that does irk me is the following gem:

“America leads. We are the indispensable nation. We have capacity no one else has. Our military is the best in the history of the world. And when trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don't call Beijing. They don't call Moscow. They call us.”

If that statement were a vehicle, it would be a Hummer with chrome-plated bumper nuts. It’s belligerent. It’s remarkably tone-deaf, coming from a man whose words are typically finely crafted. And it is, yes, stupid. There is a truth in it – no denying that. Given the amount of money we pour into our military, it certainly has the capacity to bomb, shoot, and generally wreck vast swathes of the world. We have enough nuclear weapons to ignite the Earth’s atmosphere. Our capacity is huge.

We are freaking awesome.

Monday, 29 September 2014 09:18

The Climate Change Deniers Hall of Infamy

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGlacier(Photo: Luca Galuzzi)The science of anthropogenic global warming/climate change is quite clear, and has been for quite some time. It is supported by observational evidence, such as the massive melting of sea ice, Antarctic ice, and the glaciers. Indeed, the data and reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, supported by 97% of the scientists world-wide concerned with the wide variety of related matters, has concluded, and reported with an ever-increasing sense of urgency, that massive, anthropogenic changes in our climate, due to global warming and the associated acidification of the world's oceans, are underway. If they not reversed, soon, major irreversible changes in life on Earth will take place over the next century or so, with many species, including possibly our own, either not surviving or being reduced greatly in numbers. That is, in a century or so the Earth will be frying and drowning at the same time. At the same time, we are told by the vast majority of scientific opinion that the process can be significantly slowed down and then hopefully stopped --- if major actions to reduce the anthropogenic production of Greenhouse Gases and related pollutants are taken now.

But right now, that seems unlikely, unlikely at least at the levels at which such actions would need to be taken in order to be effective. And who is standing in the way of that process? Why the Global-Warming/climate-change Deniers, of course, virtually all of whom are or were or will be connected to the fossil fuels and related industries in one way or another. They are a tough bunch. And so, I should think that, even if they are wrong (and they most surely are), they will want the world then to know who they were now. If the frying/drowning process does occur, I am sure that they would want to be known far and wide as the folks who were responsible for those outcomes. And so, I propose that they be given their very own Hall of Infamy, so that down the road, whoever is left can readily identify those who were responsible for their plight.

HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPeoplesClimateMarch(Photo: Kingdebater)Okay, so we had this historic march a little while ago.

It was....

...joyous, beautiful, exhilarating, inspiring, life-confirming...and in many ways turning point.

Now that the dust has settled a bit, we can see that it will change things for a long time to come.

It proved to ourselves and the world that we have a huge, diverse, broad-based movement. And that we can put aside our differences and all get along when we have to.

We are our species' ever-evolving immune system. We are the survival instinct that must defeat the corporate profit motive.

We are also part of a mighty activist stream that's campaigned for peace, civil rights, social justice, workers' rights, women's rights, gay pride, election protection, No Nukes and so much more.

We've endured the circular firing squad and want it abolished.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aewarrenporch(Photo: mdfriendofhillary)

In the wake of the release of 46 hours of secretly recorded tapes revealing that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York consciously backed off regulating Wall Street, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is calling for the Senate to investigate. The tapes were released to NPR's "This American Life" host Ira Glass, and unveiled on a show that aired September 26.

BuzzFlash and Truthout are accountable to our readers, not big business or billionaire sponsors. Will you make a tax-deductible donation now to sustain independent journalism?

In a September 27 entry on her official Facebook page, Warren wrote:

When regulators care more about protecting big banks from accountability than they do about protecting the American people from risky and illegal behavior on Wall Street, it threatens our whole economy. We learned this the hard way in 2008. Congress must hold oversight hearings on the disturbing issues raised by yesterday's whistleblower report when it returns in November - because it's our job to make sure our financial regulators are doing their jobs.

Carmen Segarra, the whistleblower who revealed the tapes, was subsequently fired from her job at the Fed. Segarra has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the Federal Reserve. One of the major reasons she believes that she was dismissed from her job, according to ProPublica, was that she would not comply with the New York Fed's deference to Goldman Sachs.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

alec(Photo: watchingfrogsboil)

While systemic changes in the United States and global economic system remain a vital goal, it is somewhat reassuring to know that there are businesses that promote progressive causes such as internet neutrality, the reversal of the Citizens United decision, divestment of funding in the fossil fuels industry and efforts to reduce global warming.

BuzzFlash and Truthout are accountable to our readers, not big business or billionaire sponsors. Will you make a tax-deductible donation now to sustain independent journalism?

Indeed, the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) just issued a news release praising companies who have canceled their American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) memberships. David Levine, co-founder and CEO of the Sustainable business group, said:

Recently, several major companies including Google and Facebook have distanced themselves from the American Legislative Exchange Council over ALEC’s obstruction of America’s transition to a renewable energy economy. These announcements mark a continuation of an awakening that started when Apple and PG&E parted ways with the U.S. Chamber over the Chamber’s climate position.

We commend those companies that recognize that their true long-term interest is aligned with the imperative to combat climate change. They understand that the global economy cannot prosper in the face of trillions of dollars of economic damage that will result from rising seas and extreme weather.

JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSugar(Photo: Lauri Andler)Despite all of its vivid past history of enlightened protests in favor of Truth and Justice, my home town of Berkeley hasn't been very radical at all lately.  In fact, the city has pretty much turned into a Yuppie paradise and a developer's dream.  But, boy, Berkeley has still managed to somehow put its foot in the lion's mouth! 

And all that we did to raise this huge nation-wide brouhaha was to simply propose a new November ballot measure wherein a small tax would be levied on sodas -- then suddenly all Hell has broken loose here.  Suddenly we woke up one morning to find that the American Beverage Association was staging a full frontal assault on our town. 

The ABA has taped "Vote No on Measure D" posters on almost every one of our lamp posts, has hired friendly ladies to hand out "Vote No on Measure D" fliers at our flea market -- and has begun distributing large numbers of "Vote No on Measure D" T-shirts, fliers, billboards, push-polls and mailers that follow us everywhere we go.

The American Beverage Association has spent $300,000 on its campaign against Measure D so far -- and apparently has another $200,000 more yet to spend.  Its minions come and bang on our doors.  I dare not even answer the phone any more! 

The American Beverage Association has gone total beast-mode on Berkeley.

Thursday, 25 September 2014 10:02

Climate Reckoning: My Family’s Coal Story

JEFF BIGGERS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCoalEagleCreek(Photo: Jeff Biggers)Four years after the publication of my memoir/history, Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland, I found myself sitting in the front row of an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency hearing in southern Illinois. It was a historic evening in Harrisburg, only a few miles from where Peabody Energy sank its first coal mine in 1895, and a few blocks from where I had sat on the front porch as a kid and listened to the stories of my grandfather and other coal miners about union battles for justice. For the first time in decades, residents in coal country were shining the spotlight on issues of civil rights, environmental ruin and a spiraling health crisis from a poorly regulated coal mining rush.

The total destruction of my family’s nearby Eagle Creek community from strip-mining was held up as their cautionary tale. The takeaway: Strip-mining more than stripped the land; it stripped the traces of any human contact.

“We have lost population, we have lost homes and we have lost roads,” testified Judy Kellen, a resident facing an expanded strip mine in Rocky Branch. “We have lost history. We have to endure dust, noise levels to the pitch you wanted to scream because you couldn’t get any rest or sleep, earth tremors, home damages, complete isolation of any type of view to the north, health issues, a sadness in your heart that puts a dread on your face every day, and an unrest in the spirit that we knew nothing of.”

A lot has changed in these four years—much of it troubling, and much of it inspiring.

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