DR. LAWRENCE WITTNER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
State University of New York (SUNY)―the largest university in the United States, with nearly 600,000 students located in 64 publicly-funded higher education institutions―has served an important educational function for the people of New York and of the United States. But its recent "partnerships" with private businesses have been far less productive.The
In the spring of 2013, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, joined by businessmen, politicians, and top SUNY administrators, embarked upon a widely-publicized barnstorming campaign to get the state legislature to adopt a plan he called Tax-Free NY. Under its provisions, most of the SUNY campuses, portions of the City University of New York, and zones adjacent to SUNY campuses would be thrown open to private, profit-making companies that would be exempt from state and local taxes on sales, property, the income of their owners, and the income of their employees for a period of 10 years.
Tax-Free NY, Cuomo announced, was "a game-changing initiative" that would "transform SUNY campuses and university communities across the state." According to the governor, this program would "supercharge" the state's economy and bring job creation to an unprecedented level. Conceding that these tax-free zones wouldn't work without a dramatic "culture shift" in the SUNY system, Cuomo argued that the faculty should "get interested and participate in entrepreneurial activities."
Despite criticism of the program by educators, unions, and even some conservatives, SUNY administrators and local officials fell into line. Reluctant to challenge the governor and oppose this widely-touted jobs creation measure, the state legislature established the program, renamed Start-Up NY and including some private colleges, in June 2013.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Resistance is an imperative response to "Trumpism." However, in addition to pushing back, it is important for individuals, ad hoc advocacy groups, activist organizations and local governments to advance progressive goals in innovative ways.
This week brought us Trump's decision to remove the United States from the Paris Accord. This makes the United States one of only three nations that did not sign the Accord. (The others are Nicaragua, which did not sign it because the political leaders of that country felt it was not strong enough, and Syria, which was in the midst of civil war and whose leaders were hardly in a position to engage in international talks.) Beyond the wholly understandable outrage, can there be positive progressive action to counter Trump's pernicious abandonment of the people of the planet?
The answer that California, New York and Washington have offered is "yes." Yesterday, the three states announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance, which will be composed of states that want to commit to the Paris Accord, bypassing Trump's withdrawal. The alliance was described on the website of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo:
In response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., and Washington State Governor Jay R. Inslee today announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition that will convene U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTHARVEY WASSERMAN OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
That future is rising in Buffalo, and comes in the form of Tesla's massive job-producing solar shingle factory which will create hundreds of jobs and operate for decades to come.
Three Mile Island, by contrast, joins a wave of commercially dead reactors whose owners are begging state legislatures for huge bailouts. Exelon, the nation's largest nuke owner, recently got nearly $2.5 billion from the Illinois legislature to keep three uncompetitive nukes there on line.
In Ohio, FirstEnergy is begging the legislature for $300 million per year for the money-losing Perry and Davis-Besse reactors, plagued with serious structural problems. That bailout faces an uphill battle in a surprisingly skeptical legislature. FirstEnergy is at the brink of bankruptcy, and says it will sell the reactors anyway.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The wound burst open in November. History, suddenly, could no longer be avoided. Reality could no longer be avoided. American democracy is flawed, polluted, gamed by the oligarchs. It always has been.
But not until the election process whelped Donald Trump did it become so unbearably obvious.
Welcome to The Strip and Flip Disaster of America's Stolen Elections, by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, which was released last year and has been newly updated. What I find invaluable about the book is that, while it meticulously pries open the current election process with all its warts and flaws -- the voter suppression games those in power continue to play, the unverifiability of electronic voting machines -- it also delves deep into this country's history and illuminates the present-day relevance of the worst of it: the history we haven't yet faced.
Whatever else delivered Trump to our doorstep, the most undeniable element in his "victory" was the Electoral College. It's hardly adequate to call this institution obsolete; its existence is the manifestation of racist hell.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Trump administration has been eager to fill the office of comptroller in order to pave the way for easing the regulation of Wall Street. However, if Trump had nominated someone directly, his nominee would no doubt have faced contentious confirmation hearings in the Senate. So, the administration needed a plan to bypass that legislative body for the time being. An article this past month in Vanity Fair presents part of the Trump strategy to accelerate the deregulation of Wall Street:
The story begins here: Donald Trump has promised his friends in the banking industry that he will gut financial regulations. But one thing that’s prevented him from doing so, thus far, has been the head of the Office of the Comptroller, Thomas Curry, who was appointed by Barack Obama and was thus a killjoy who made it his job—because it kind of was his job—to impose tough rules and big fines for wrongdoing in the industry. It was clear, given Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Munchkin's pledge to unshackle Wall Street from financial-crisis-era regulations, that Curry not only had to go, but be replaced by someone with a more friendly relationship with the banks, like [Keith] Noreika.
Unfortunately, there was a problem with the longtime financial services attorney: Noreika, who reportedly worked closely with the same Wall Street companies that are overseen by the O.C.C., would have to be approved by the Senate—a process that would involve airing all of Noreika's financial conflicts of interest. So the Trump administration devised a plan to avoid that particular obstacle.
A ProPublica report details how Noreika successfully fought -- on behalf of Wall Street clients -- many strong pro-consumer state regulations.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
These are hard times for America's gold miners. They're struggling to haul wealth out of the land, but seeing their pay dropping further and further down.
Take Bob Mercer, who's been a top miner for years, but last year, (which has been described as somewhere between lackluster and catastrophic) even Bob was down. He pulled in only $125 million in pay. Can you feel Bob's pain?
No, these are not your normal miners. They are hedge fund managers, digging for gold in the Wonderland of Wall Street. If you divided Bob Mercer's pay in his "bad year" among 1,000 real miners doing honest work, they'd consider it a fabulous year. Hedge funds are almost literally gold mines, though they require no heavy lifting by the soft-handed, Gucci-wearing managers who work them. These gold diggers are basically nothing but speculators, drawing billions of dollars from the uber-rich by promising that they are investment geniuses who will deliver fabulous profits for them. But the scam is that Mercer and his fellow diggers get paid regardless of whether they deliver or not.
Their cushy setup, known as 2-and-20, works like this: Right off the top, they take two percent of the money put up by each wealthy client, which the hedge fund whizzes like Mercer keep, even if the investments they make are losers; if their speculative bets do pay off, they pocket 20 percent of all profits; hedge fund lobbyists have rigged our nation's tax code so these Wall Street miners pay a fraction of the tax rate that real mine workers pay.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Since its founding in the early 1940s, the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation has been a mainstay in funding and building conservative institutions, and supporting right-wing projects. A new report by The Center for Media and Democracy’s “Exposed” project, dives into a new “national effort funded by the … foundation to assess and expand right-wing ‘infrastructure’ [in order] to influence policies and politicians in statehouses nationwide.”
According to CMD’s Mary Bottari, documents “linked to one of the Russian hackers alleged to have breached the Democratic National Committee,” were made public in October 2016. They “open a window to the behind-the-scenes workings” of the foundation, which as of June 2016, had $835 million in assets.
For the better part of its existence since its founding in 1942 by the Bradley brothers, Lynde and Harry, the foundation -- a tax-exempt “charitable” foundation under 501(c)(3) of the tax code – has, unlike the Koch Family Foundations and the Scaife Foundations family foundations, operated out of the spotlight Nevertheless, it has been one of the most influential right-wing foundations in the country.
In the late 1980s, after the brother’s Allen-Bradley Company in Milwaukee, which developed early resistors for electrical products, was sold to Rockwell International for $1.65 billion, the foundation’s coffers grew immensely, and it hired Michael S. Joyce to run its operations.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If you, like most people, feel bad if you lose your wallet with a few dollars in it, imagine what it would be like to lose track of more than a billion dollars. The latter is the reality for the Pentagon, which has lost track of at least $1 billion in military equipment and weapons in Iraq. A May 24 article in Mother Jones states:
In June 2014, Iraqi forces dropped their weapons, shed their uniforms, and abandoned their posts as ISIS militants stormed into and captured Mosul. More than a year later, the United States began funneling $1.6 billion worth of new weaponry and other support to the beleaguered Iraqi army. The arsenal included tens of thousands of assault rifles, hundreds of armored vehicles, hundreds of mortar rounds, nearly 200 sniper rifles, and other gear.
What happened to much of it is now a mystery. According to a government audit obtained by Amnesty International, the US Army admits that it failed to accurately track this recent infusion of arms and other military supplies.
The now-declassified Department of Defense audit, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, reveals that efforts to keep track of weapons being sent to Iraq have been plagued by sloppy, fragmented, and inaccurate record keeping. The audit concluded that the Army unit in charge of transferring materiel to the Iraqi government "could not provide complete data for the quantity and dollar value of equipment on hand"—including large items such as vehicles.
This isn't the first time US taxpayer-funded military aid has been unaccounted for. Mother Jones quotes an Amnesty International researcher.
JOHN GEYMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In this time of bitter partisan debate over the future of US health care, the Republican Party is deeply split within its ranks while the Trump administration gives mixed signals as to its goals. On the one hand, President Trump says that the ACA, or Obamacare, is already a dead duck while his selected Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Tom Price, plans to use whatever administrative means are available to kill it altogether. The GOP's American Health Care Act (AHCA), narrowly passed in the House, has little support in the Senate, where secret discussions, likely to take months, are proceeding to develop its own plan to replace the ACA.
Within this confusing debate, there are three basic options to finance our health care system: (1) continue the ACA, with some possible revisions; (2) replace it with the AHCA, as modified within Congress; or (3) adopt a single-payer Medicare for All plan for national health insurance (NHI).
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Donald Trump wants to cut what some call the "highest corporate tax rate in the world." The tax cut will, according to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, "pay for itself with economic growth."
Two delusions in one. The realities are far different for anyone who actually considers the facts. And some of the facts about 2016 tax avoidance are shocking and depressing. For example, two of the big banks (JP Morgan and Bank of America) together underpaid their taxes by more than Trump's proposed $10.6 billion education cuts, which would eliminate or reduce after-school programs, work-study programs, state grants, teacher training, arts programs, and physical education. The two banks combined to DEFER nearly $10 billion.