ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Here in the United States, we celebrate democracy by staying in touch with the lack of it. What better way to honor our ancestors’ struggles to win the right to vote -- and have that vote counted -- than to have to struggle ourselves for the same thing?
Considering that, as I wrote four years ago, "democracy is nothing if not a perpetual nuisance to the powerful," and that apathy is the national curse, I remain amazed that we’re having a presidential race this year that cuts so deeply -- to core human values -- and is worth enduring a sort of bureaucratic totalitarianism to participate in.
This is not the intention of our system’s alleged guardians, of course, and they need to be watched far more carefully than the mainstream media regards as necessary. What we live in is not so much a democratic republic as a sociopolitical free-for-all, not quite in anyone’s control.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
According to Joel Ebert of The Tennessean, this week the Tennessee legislature finalized passage of a bill making the Christian Bible the official state book:
Tennessee is poised to make history as the first state in the nation to recognize the Holy Bible as its official book.
After nearly 30 minutes of debate, the state Senate on Monday (April 4), approved the measure, sponsored by state Sen. Steve Southerland, with a 19-8 vote, sending the legislation to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk.....
If Haslam signs the bill, the Bible would join a list of state symbols such as the raccoon as the state’s wild animal, the Eastern box turtle as the state reptile, the square dance as the state folk dance, milk as the official state beverage and the Barrett M82 sniper rifle as the official state rifle, which lawmakers approved earlier in the session.
Prior to the state Senate vote, the bill had been approved by the Tennessee House of Representatives.
Official state symbols are largely unknown by residents of any state. How many Californians know that the "official state artifact" is the chipped stone bear? Or how many people in the Lone Star State are aware that the "official state amphibian" is the Texas Toad?
BRIAN TRAUTMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
STEFANIE SPEAR OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Constitution Pipeline, a joint venture between Williams Pipeline Companies and Cabot Oil & Gas, would run approximately 124 miles from Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania to Schoharie County, New York. The pipeline would be 30 inches in diameter, and transport natural gas—the equivalent of 4.68 million gallons of oil per day—from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania to New York state.
The rally was organized by Stop the Pipeline, with the support of 60 participating organizations. The event included speeches from prominent environmentalists, including Waterkeeper Alliance president Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and a march from the capitol to the headquarters of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. People whose land has already been taken by eminent domain for the construction of the pipeline led the march, followed by “the spirit of the Susquehanna,” symbolizing the water that nourishes all life.
“FERC is a rogue agency that is captured by the very industry it is supposed to regulate,” Kennedy said. “We need to reclaim our democracy from corporations that routinely pollute our water, and are now taking people’s land for their profit. Governor Cuomo can continue his environmental leadership by denying this 401 water quality certificate.”
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A recent Washington Post article highlighted how the high-tech industry, particularly in Silicon Valley, is fostering income inequality through the use of contract workers for support positions such as bus drivers and custodians, as well as for "white-collar" positions such as secretaries and accountants. The Post focused on a March 2016 study entitled, "Silicon Valley Industries: Contract Workforce Assessment." It was conducted by the Everett Program at the University of Santa Cruz.
The Post focuses on some key findings:
There are also some crucial differences between the people who work at Google without working for Google, or work at Facebook without working for Facebook.
Subcontracted workers make about 70 percent of the salary that in-house workers in similar occupations make, or an average of $40,000 a year, compared to $113,300 for directly-hired tech employees --making it incredibly difficult to find an affordable place to live within a reasonable distance from work. According to Census data, they depend more heavily on food stamps, and 30 percent lack health insurance.
So these contracted workers, the ones who are not directly employed by Silicon Valley companies, save the corporations money at the expense of salary, job security and benefits for the workers. Meanwhile, the corporations continue to roll in exorbitant amounts of money; Facebook recently reached a market value of $340 billion.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTLORRAINE CHOW OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
American organic food producers and advocates, including the CEO of the Organic Trade Association and executives from Honest Tea, Stonyfield Farm and Global Organics, will be traveling to Cuba in May to take a closer look at the country’s unique, pesticide-free agricultural system and developing Cuba’s organic industry for export, POLITICO reported.
The five-day trip is sponsored by the Center for Democracy in the Americas, which promotes a U.S. policy toward Cuba based on engagement and recognition of Cuba’s sovereignty.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
When reading about the Panama Papers it doesn't take long to recognize that it is, as the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity described it, a massive expose of "a cast of characters who use offshore companies to facilitate bribery, arms deals, tax evasion, financial fraud and drug trafficking." By massive, we're talking about some 11.5 million documents from the database of the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca -- the world's fourth biggest offshore law firm – naming numerous political leaders from countries across the globe involved in secreting away bundles of cash, as well as more than 200,000 companies and 14,153 clients of the firm.
As the Guardian pointed out, "The records were obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ then shared them with a large network of international partners, including the Guardian and the BBC."
And, as the Center for Public Integrity noted, "Behind the email chains, invoices and documents that make up the Panama Papers are often unseen victims of wrongdoing enabled by this shadowy industry."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Money, according to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, should be considered merely a tool that facilitates "free speech" under the First Amendment. The decision infamously extended unlimited dark money political spending even to corporations.
In her prodigiously documented and riveting book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Jane Mayer provides an historical account of how Charles and David Koch tenaciously built a network among the wealthiest people in the United States to buy elections and influence public policy.
In just one telling fact, Mayer provides a glimpse into the oligarchical impact on elections that the Koch network and other rich individuals and corporations are having:
The 100 biggest known donors in 2014 spent nearly as much money on behalf of their candidates as the 4.75 million people who contributed $200 or less. On their own, the top 100 known donors gave $323 million. And this was only the disclosed money. Once the millions of dollars in unlimited, undisclosed dark money were included, there was little doubt that an extraordinarily small and rich conservative clique had financially dominated everybody else.
As a "former family friend" of the Koch brothers said of Charles (as quoted by Jane Mayer), "Maybe he confused making money with freedom."
MARK RUFFALO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Many pundits were caught off-guard by the transpartisan fury over America’s trade policy rocking the presidential primary season. But it’s no surprise to me. I grew up in a working class family in Kenosha, Wisconsin. So I know why Americans have had enough of shiny promises, job-killing trade deals and Wall Street bailouts that propel ordinary people into an economic nose dive.
Hard working Americans of all political stripes recognize when the rules have been rigged against them, because they live day-to-day with the results. No doubt revolutionary change is an appealing alternative.
Since the North American Free Trade (NAFTA) and World Trade Organization agreements in the mid-1990s, America has lost more than five million manufacturing jobs net. Millions of service sector jobs also have been offshored.
During the NAFTA era, my home state lost 68,000 manufacturing jobs—one out of seven in the state. Just one example: After Chrysler received billions in a 2009 bailout, it shut its Kenosha Engine facility, cut the last 800 jobs and moved operations to Mexico.
The damage extends beyond those who lose their jobs. They compete for non-offshorable service sector jobs, pushing down wages economy-wide, hurting communities coast to coast.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
aren't paying the state taxes that should be funding our schools. Kids are the victims. So are the average Americans who are forced to pay higher property taxes, sales taxes, and excise taxes to meet educational budgets. Government and media sources would have us believe there's no alternative, for in a market-driven world it's heresy to make demands of big business, even when the companies are flagrantly avoiding their taxes.
Illinois: Schools Held Hostage by Just Six Corporate Tax Avoiders
The mayor and governor of Illinois are blaming each other for the Chicago Public School budget crisis, and Illinois colleges are in danger of being shut down. But Illinois lost over $1.3 billion (more than the $1.1 billion school budget shortfall) in 2015 state tax revenue to just six companies (Abbott, ADM, Boeing, Deere, Exelon, United), which together paid much less than 1% of their profits in state taxes, just pennies on the dollar for the required rate of 7.75%.
Yet it’s the children and the taxpayers of Illinois who bear the burden of reform. Illinois has one of the "Ten Most Regressive State Tax Systems," according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. In Chicago, Mayor Emanuel recently announced another $200 million in education cuts and then raised property taxes by a half-billion dollars, but the mainstream media repeatedly hushes up the corporate tax avoidance.
California: Funding Goes to Charters as Corporations Take Tax Refunds
In California, where depleted public schools are giving way to business-happy 'reformers' and charter schools, Google took a $400 million refund on its $8 billion in U.S. profits. Chevron has over half of its oil and gas wells in the United States, yet the company claimed a loss of nearly $3 billion in the U.S., a foreign profit of $7.7 billion, and a refund on all its U.S. taxes. Intel managed to pay 1/2 of one percent in state taxes, on nearly $9 billion in U.S. profits.