PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
There are so many candidates. But the people included here stand out in their various areas of nefarious behavior: warmaking, tax avoidance, consumer gouging, environmental destruction, and criminal arrogance.
1. Charles Koch: Fighting for Prison Reform (So He'll Never Have to Go to Jail)
The "scariest man in America" appeared suddenly sympathetic to the plight of the disadvantaged, advocating for criminal justice reform. But the bill supported by the Koch-funded Heritage Foundation would make it more difficult to charge executives guilty of financial fraud, environmental damage, and other high-level crimes. It's all based on the argument that the guilty party doesn't know he's committing a crime.
Heritage defends "morally blameless people who unwittingly commit acts that turn out to be crimes and are prosecuted for those offenses." Perhaps, in this comical viewpoint, years of oil pollution and years of mortgage lending fraud shouldn't be held against the CEOs who claim they didn't know what their employees were doing.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
For-profit college companies' first priority is reaping a financial windfall, not providing a quality education. Recently, BuzzFlash reported on the bankruptcy of one such higher-education company, which left students saddled with billions of dollars in federal debt after the investors had made money off of billions of dollars in federal tuition loans.
There has been some renewed White House interest in reining in for-profit colleges - but in the absence of congressional action, little can be done.
Recent analysis by The Century Foundation has found that some inventive college corporations - in an attempt to preempt a crackdown on for-profit college schemes - have found a new way to reap the financial rewards of luring students into substandard colleges: convert themselves into IRS-approved nonprofit organizations. Once they receive nonprofit status, these companies then reconfigure themselves to channel a large chunk of their educational functions to the for-profit providers with whom they are linked:
Unfortunately, the conversion to nonprofit status is susceptible to abuse by covert for-profits—schools that obtain the nonprofit label yet continue operating like for-profit institutions—leaving consumers and taxpayers more vulnerable than ever.
Covert for-profit colleges can exist because while the Department of Education relies on the Internal Revenue Service’s judgment of which institutions are and which are not valid nonprofits, the IRS rests its determination on the declarations and self-regulation by the trustees of these nonprofits, based mostly on an honor system. As with other taxpayers, the IRS relies on the honesty of the individuals and corporations that file tax returns, an honesty that is tested only in case of an audit, which often takes place years afterward.
The report, however, notes that the IRS examines less than a percent of nonprofits annually, therefore leaving a high probability that for-profit colleges seeking to escape scrutiny by becoming officially non-profit - in terms of IRS status - can function without government oversight indefinitely.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It’s too easy to reduce acts of kindness to an “aw, isn’t that nice?” sort of irrelevance. What if we thought about them, instead, as templates for foreign policy?
For one thing, if we did, there would be no such thing as “foreign” policy — no segregation of most of humanity behind borders and labels, to be controlled and, most of all, feared. There would only be getting-to-know-you policy, not in a simplistic sense but with a deep and courageous curiosity . . . because our survival depends on it.
Another way to say this is: War doesn’t work. Bombing ISIS doesn’t work. Closing our border to Syrians — or Mexicans — doesn’t work. Yet “we,” by which I mean the whole world, or at least its community of nation states and terrorists (a single entity, as far as I can tell), go back to this suicidal behavior again and again and again. “France is at war.” We greet terror with revenge. It accomplishes nothing except to make matters worse — infinitely worse — but somehow it feels right at the time, so we keep doing it.
Why are we violent but not illiterate?
I ask this question all the time. It was originally posed some years ago by Washington Post columnist Colman McCarthy. The answer is obvious, of course. We’re taught to read; originally, we taught ourselves to read. We invented written language. The human species is now in the process of inventing something just as crucial: how to love itself, how to engage with itself nonviolently. We’ve been organized for far too long in a state of only partial connection, relying on the presence of enemies to stay in solidarity with our neighbors. We’ve expended, especially in recent millennia, far more of our intelligence and treasure on the means to fortify ourselves from — and kill — the enemy than we have, perhaps, on anything else. Think nuclear weapons.
TOM WEIS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Future generations may look back on November 6, 2015 as the day the climate tide started to turn. For that was the day when people power trumped corporate greed in a historic climate win.
After years of fierce grassroots resistance, pipeline fighters everywhere are celebrating a historic victory over the northern leg of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The president’s denial of a cross-border permit to build Keystone North is a monumental win for the climate justice movement and a stirring testament to the power of the people united. For his part, President Obama is to be commended for finally taking this stand, even if belatedly and with tar sands already flowing through the new leg of the Keystone XL southern pipeline that he approved. (More about that hugely significant qualification toward the end of this commentary.)
Echoing sentiments expressed by famed biologist Sandra Steingraber at a victory party celebrating New York state’s historic fracking ban, everyone who blockaded, went to jail, bird-dogged the president, led a nonviolent direct action training, filed a lawsuit, erected a spirit camp, held a vigil, attended a public hearing, wrote a report, organized a press conference, marched, rallied, submitted a public comment, wrote a letter, made a phone call, signed a petition, or otherwise took a stand against Keystone XL is part of this win.
JONATHAN FRANKLIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Santiago, Chile – Medical marijuana advocates won a huge victory in Chile in November as the regional agriculture authority approved a 6,900-plant marijuana farm and a team of volunteers planted 20 strains of high-potency marijuana seeds.
The cannabis farm, located in central Chile near the town of Colbun was placed under tight security from Chileancarabinerosand oversight from government agricultural authorities. The exact location of the plantation was kept secret as activists await the harvest next April when the marijuana buds will be converted to cannabis oil and then distributed to an estimated 4,000 patients throughout Chile.
Under an agreement between the Daya Foundation, the University of Valparaiso and the prestigious Knop Laboratory, the oils will also be used in longer-term clinical trials.
“This is Latin America’s largest ever” medical marijuana plantation said Ana Maria Gazmuri, a former soap opera star and president of the Daya Foundation which spearheaded the campaign to obtain permission for the legal cannabis farm. “We are very pleased and moved that we have been able to transform the perception…and the citizen’s understanding of things cannabis,” said Gazmuri. “Behind all this work and effort is the absolute commitment to be active agents in the relief of human suffering.”
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Corporate World is experiencing a surge in the urge to merge.
Control of market after market — from cable TV to chickens, banking to washing machines — has been seized by less than a handful of enormous corporations. Rather than compete, they collude to set prices, cut quality, shrink service and squeeze out any would-be competitors.
There was a time, not that long ago, when monopolies, duopolies and oligopolies were not only frowned upon by our public officials and watchdog agencies but also aggressively challenged and busted up. In recent years, however, corporate giants feel free to get ever-gianter by gobbling up their competitors, knowing that the watchdogs will barely bark, much less bite. In fact, now that the Supreme Court has turned corporate campaign donations into legalized bribes, our so-called "public" officials — including congress critters, governors, judges and even presidents — have become tail-wagging accomplices to the amalgamation of corporate power.
The Bush-Cheney regime was infamous for cheerleading this consolidation, including allowing the merger of AT&T and Verizon to capture 70 percent of all wireless phone subscribers. But this is not just a Republican phenomenon. Obama's Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission and Federal Aviation Administration genially waved through American Airline's takeover of US Airways and United's consumption of Continental, effectively leaving air travelers to the brutish mercy of one or two bullies in every major airport — and no service at all in smaller cities.
Now come dominant health-care giants Aetna, Humana, Anthem and Cigna, as well as Walgreens and Rite Aid, demanding to merge into behemoths that would control the availability of health insurance and essential medicines to millions of Americans. Ironically, the very lawmakers, corporate lobbyists and pundits who push and praise each of these mergers are also the noisiest preachers of the virtue of competitive markets, small business and consumer choice.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Despite the ongoing scrutiny of income inequality and a plethora of advocacy efforts aimed at reversing the trend, the redistribution of wealth upward continues at a dizzying pace.
That's the conclusion of an analysis released today of the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans. Conducted by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), the report indicates that the net worth of the top 0.1 percent of the US population continues to swell:
The United States is becoming, as the French economist Thomas Piketty warns, a hereditary aristocracy of wealth and power....
The level of U.S. wealth inequality has grown so lopsided that our classic wealth distributional pyramid now more resembles the shape of Seattle’s iconic Space Needle.
The bulge at the top of our wealth “space needle” reflects America’s wealthiest 0.1 percent, the top one-thousandth of our population, an estimated 115,000 households with a net worth starting at $20 million. This group owns more than 20 percent of U.S. household wealth, up from 7 percent in the 1970s. This elite subgroup, University of California-Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez points out, now owns about as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent of America combined.
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As a follow-up to the Paris Climate Change Talks - the following commentary examines four alarming reports that received very little coverage in the media relating to the ongoing crisis at Japan’s Fukushima:
U.S. Navy sailors sue TEPCO for Fukushima radiation exposure: Rare cancers, blindness, paralysis of limbs, and deaths
The report came and went like a blip in the daily coverage of headline news over CBS network, KPIX, San Francisco, November 2014. It didn’t make the national news. Indeed, the worst nuclear disaster in history at TEPCO’s (Tokyo Electric Power Company) Fukushima has been hushed up and swept under the media radar as if it never happened that horrific day in May, 2011.
The media blackout on Fukushima is chilling to say the least because it’s a life-threatening crisis that has no ending, no solution, and yet no one is aware of the predicament due to the censorship of it. Not only has Fukushima been deleted in the newsrooms, nuclear power has been raised during the U.S. Presidential debates as a “safe, clean, alternative energy to address global warming.” Shamefully, the explosions at Fukushima were not even mentioned once or questioned. When Democratic candidate, Jim Webb, for instance, raved about the wonders of nuclear power, CNN’s Anderson Cooper experienced a convenient moment of amnesia of his extensive reports at Fukushima when the plants were exploding concrete walls before his very eyes. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders also drew blanks on Fukushima.
Fukushima’s nuclear hydrogen explosions, which occurred after the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated Japan, blasted the strongest cement concrete containment facilities that could possibly be built into a pile of hot radiated ash. Radiation is immeasurably hot in terms of temperature. Mechanical robots that were sent into the blasted facilities melted in seconds. The hydrogen explosions that blew apart those buildings were the equivalent of four nuclear bombs, one after another, that released massive amounts of radioactivity.
STEFANIE SPEAR OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
2,300 events spread across 175 countries took place this weekend prior to the Paris climate talks, which begin Monday. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets demanding world leaders take urgent action on climate change.More than
The Global Climate March—including marches, concerts, rallies, workshops, bike rides and film screenings—had one clear message: “Keep fossil fuels in the ground and finance a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.”
“The scale and diversity of today’s events are astounding,” said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org. “Worldwide people are ready for the end of fossil fuels and the dawn of renewables. World leaders can no longer ignore this urgent call for action as the climate crisis continues to unfold. It is time for them to stand on the right side of history.”
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"Since the people are sovereign under our Constitution . . ."
Ralph Nader writes in a recent essay that we should demand acknowledgement of this fact from our presidential candidates and ask what they will do to restore this sovereignty to the American people, in their various manifestations as voters, taxpayers, workers and consumers.
"Regardless of their affiliation with either of the two dominant parties," he writes, "politicians are so used to people being spectators rather than participants in the run-up to Election Day that they have not thought much about participatory or initiatory democracy."
"Spectator," "participant" . . . these are trigger words for me. I deeply fear the reckless ascendance of that first word in our cultural and political structures, as world events are increasingly reduced to reality TV mélanges of celebrity and violence. Meanwhile, the second word shrivels. This is America the superpower, its management the province of a shadowy consensus of corporate militarists.
"It's hard to run for President as an opponent of the permanent U.S. security state," writes Jeffrey Sachs. "Being a card-carrying member of the U.S. security establishment is the mainstream media's definition of a 'serious' candidate."