Daily Archives: August 10, 2015

Tax Dodging Corporations Are Destroying Public Education


Ring of Fire Radio

Published on Aug 10, 2015

Our education system is starved for cash, and this is a direct result of the Republican policy of letting corporations get away without paying taxes.

A recent article on Alternet explains the problem this way: Corporations operating in states are required to pay state taxes, which are then used to fund public education, among a host of other state programs.

Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins discusses this.

Global Climate Change
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The Establishment: Trash Bernie, Promote Hillary


thomhartmann

Published on Aug 10, 2015

Thom Hartmann points out how the insiders in the media only publish negative stories about Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders.

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Ban Killer Robots before They Become Weapons of Mass Destruction – Scientific American

We need an international agreement to prevent the development of autonomous weapons before they threaten global security

By Peter Asaro | August 7, 2015

A Forum is an invited essay from experts on topical issues in science and technology.

Last week the Future of Life Institute released a letter signed by some 1,500 artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and technology researchers. Among them were celebrities of science and the technology industry—Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak—along with public intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky and Daniel Dennett. The letter called for an international ban on offensive autonomous weapons, which could target and fire weapons without meaningful human control.

This week is the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, together killing over 200,000 people, mostly civilians. It took 10 years before the physicist Albert Einstein and philosopher Bertrand Russell, along with nine other prominent scientists and intellectuals, issued a letter calling for global action to address the threat to humanity posed by nuclear weapons. They were motivated by the atomic devastation in Japan but also by the escalating arms race of the Cold War that was rapidly and vastly increasing the number, destructive capability, and efficient delivery of nuclear arms, draining vast resources and putting humanity at risk of total destruction. They also note in their letter that those who knew the most about the effects of such weapons were the most concerned and pessimistic about their continued development and use.

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Nuclear

For College Students, Divestment Is a Means of Dissent – NYTimes.com

Aram Ghoogasian is a fourth-year English and History student at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has served as an opinion columnist for the university’s daily newspaper, the Daily Bruin, since 2013. He is on Twitter.

Updated August 10, 2015, 10:53 AM

Three decades ago, a student-led movement that had been demanding for years that colleges and universities divest from companies doing business in apartheid South Africa, began to succeed in getting the schools to eliminate their investments in companies doing business in the country. With this, pressure on the apartheid government increased. By the early 1990’s white minority rule in South Africa came to an end.

Though divestment may not always exert significant financial pressure, it can, at the very least, exert a good deal of social pressure on corporations and contribute to large-scale change. Communicating disagreement this way is an effective, and public, means of dissent.

University students should have the power to speak out against injustice, at least by having a say in the way their universities invest money.

The push to divest from fossil fuel companies, for example, is gaining momentum on college campuses. Thirty-four universities worldwide have already taken steps to divest from such companies, and the campaign, more broadly, is growing faster than all other divestment campaigns to date.

And divestment can be a protest for more issues than climate change alone. One of the strategies of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, for example, is to pressure universities to divest from companies doing business in Israeli-occupied Palestine, with the goal of ending the illegal occupation there. The companies range from weapons manufacturers to tech companies, whose products are used for surveillance and to restrict the movement of Palestinians.

College students don’t want to see the enormous sums of money they pay toward their overpriced tuition fees fund companies complicit in actions that are harming the world. University students should have the power to speak out against injustice, at the very least by having a say in the way their universities invest money.

…(read more).

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College Divestment Is an Empty Political Move – NYTimes.com

Rachelle Peterson is a research associate for the National Association of Scholars.

Updated August 10, 2015, 10:52 AM

Divesting from fossil fuels doesn’t make renewable energy more affordable or reliable. It tackles none of the presumed causes or effects of global warming.

Those who advocate for divestment say shareholder advocacy has failed to change the fossil fuel industry’s behavior, so schools should sell their stocks. The first part of that statement is true: Shell and Exxon are not going to quit drilling because some shareholders tell them to stop. But if the aim is to persuade the industry to convert to renewables, divestment is a worse strategy. Capital markets aren’t punishing fossil fuel companies — they have plenty of investors — and corporations have no incentive to heed ex-investors.

It is one of those campaigns that stir up people who want to feel like they are doing something, when, in truth, they are doing nothing.

So why has a call to divest achieved traction on some college campuses? Emotional appeal. Divestment is one of those campaigns that stir up people who want to feel like they are doing something, when, in truth, they are doing nothing.

This hard truth is insulated by activist rhetoric about political momentum. Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, characterizes divestment as “revoking the social license” of fossil fuel companies by turning public opinion and policy against them. Naomi Klein, in her book “This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. the Climate,” characterizes the movement as “just the first stage of this deligitimization process” that starts with stigmatizing the industry and ends with liquidating fossil fuel companies and reinvesting their capital into “solutions.”

…(read more).

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Pitching Divestment as a “Moral” Crusade is Misguided

Robert Stavins, the Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, is a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and was a lead author on the third, fourth and fifth assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Updated August 10, 2015, 10:52 AM

Students are right to be concerned about climate change, but the focus of the divestment movement is fundamentally misguided. Students, faculty and staff can be effective by acting in ways that will make a real difference, but the symbolic action of divestment — and the fight to convince universities to do so — has opportunity costs: It diverts us from focusing on what really matters.

Divestment doesn’t affect the ability of fossil fuel companies to raise capital: For each institution that divests, there are other investors that take its place. As long as the world still continues to rely on fossil fuels, and consumes them at current rates, the companies that supply them will have a ready market for their products.

Don’t exacerbate the ideological divide and political polarization that has paralyzed Washington on climate change.

What really matters for addressing climate change is enlightened public policy at the international, national and sub-national levels. In particular, it will take serious, economy-wide, carbon-pricing regimes – either carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems – to bring about meaningful reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

At Harvard, where I teach, the student leaders of the divestment movement themselves acknowledge that divestment would not have a financial impact on fossil fuel companies. For them, divestment is a “moral strategy.” This, to me, presents another problem.

Pitching divestment as a moral crusade will play into and exacerbate the ideological divide and political polarization that has paralyzed Washington on climate change (and other issues), diminishing even further the prospects for effective climate policy in the United States. Whatever moral statement divestment might make is not worth risking further disintegration of the climate-policy process.

…(read more).

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Universities Must Divest from the Fossil Fuel Industry

Naomi Oreskes, a professor of the history of science at Harvard University, is the co-author of “The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future” and “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming.” She is on Twitter.

Updated August 10, 2015, 10:51 AM

Academic life is dedicated to the creation and dissemination of knowledge, so academics should be particularly offended by organized efforts to undermine knowledge. Yet this is exactly what the fossil fuel industry has done for more than two decades.

Scientists reached consensus in the late 1970s that burning fossil fuels would likely lead to anthropogenic climate change, and since the early 1990s their predictions have been coming true. Yet virtually as soon as scientists began to say so publicly, the fossil fuel industry began to work to challenge it. Following a strategy honed by the tobacco industry, they insisted that the science was too unsettled and uncertain to justify policy action, and have launched highly personal — arguably defamatory — attacks on individual scientists.

Some of the leading fossil fuel companies claim that they no longer promote disinformation, but nearly all of them are members of trade organizations that do. Why should universities invest in an industry that has deliberately sought to undermine the knowledge that we have produced?

…(read more).

Global Climate Change
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