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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016 May24cpdpatchChicago's contract with the Fraternal Order of Police union has many provisions that obstruct investigations of misconduct. (C. Holmes)

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According to an article in the Chicago Tribune this past Sunday, for decades the City of Chicago has negotiated contracts with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) that grant cops special rights to avoid accountability for misconduct and violence committed against citizens:

From the moment Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police started negotiating its first contract with City Hall 35 years ago, the union identified an issue that would prove key to its members: ensuring officers had robust protections when they were investigated for misconduct.

City Hall had its own focus: money.

Since that first contract, mayors from Jane Byrne to Rahm Emanuel have routinely fought to hold tight on the bottom line, while the union that represents thousands of rank-and-file officers has worked to, among other things, build layers of insulation from scrutiny.

One product of that bargain between the city and the FOP has been a flawed system in which officers are rarely held accountable for misconduct. 

The special contract concessions allow Chicago police officers special rights during internal investigations of their conduct, which the police do not afford to civilians. According to the Tribune,

Critics say the provisions provide police the opportunity to collude and even formulate a favorable version of events after an incident such as a shooting. They say, too, that they can create a chilling effect that keeps some victims from coming forward for fear of retaliation. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016 May20malheurMalheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, where armed anti-federal land militants occupied the site and demanded the public land from the US government earlier this year. (Photo: John Matthews)

During the armed occupations of the Cliven Bundy ranch in 2014 and of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge this year, the "sovereign citizen" militants carrying out the occupations were seizing federally owned lands and demanding their privatization. The unjust irony of these demands was that -- in both cases -- the militants were descendants of white colonialist settlers trying to claim personal ownership of land that is the rightful property of Indigenous peoples.

The occupations of the Bundy ranch area and Malheur were covered by the mainstream media as a standoff between law enforcement officials on the federal and local levels versus the militia occupiers. A vital public policy issue that the confrontations raised is to what extent are public lands under threat in the West.

A new report, "The Disappearing West," by the Center for American Progress offers an ominous analysis of the diminishing Western lands open for public use. "Every 2.5 minutes, the American West loses a football field worth of natural area to human development," the study states. The report, conducted in conjunction with Conservation Science Partners, warns of the looming peril:

From governors’ mansions to the halls of Congress, questions about land and wildlife conservation command relatively little attention today. The conventional wisdom seems to hold that the most consequential battles over America’s wild places are already settled. President Theodore Roosevelt, Sierra Club founder John Muir, and the environmental activists of the 1960s won protections for national parks, national forests, and wilderness areas. In the eyes of some politicians, the West’s open spaces are not only well protected, but too well protected. An anti-parks caucus in the U.S. Congress, for example, wants to block new national parks and sell off the West’s national forests to private owners....

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016may17 financereformIf large corporate donors didn't have influence over presidential candidates, senators and congresspeople, why would they contribute to them? (Photo: Barry Solow)

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An analysis, released on May 18 by Public Citizen, a nonprofit citizens' rights advocacy groupfound that in 2016 the "financial sector accounts for more than half of all money given by donors contributing $1 million or more to presidential super PACs." According to a news release announcing the findings, Public Citizen verified that,

The financial services sector is on pace to obliterate its records for political spending this election cycle, led by a select group of donors who have given at least $1 million to super PACs devoted to presidential candidates, according to a new report (PDF) by Public Citizen....

The securities and investment industry, a subset of the finance sector that includes hedge funds and private equity funds, also has given more to outside groups than in any full election cycle.

“This pace of giving is particularly remarkable for two reasons,” said Taylor Lincoln, research director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and author of the report. “First, the financial sector and securities industry already were the biggest donors in every election cycle on record. Second, they set these records without supporting two of the three remaining candidates.”

Who is the only candidate still in the Democratic-Republican race to benefit from this largesse? Hillary Clinton, who received financial sector services donations (as well as donations from other sectors) through three super PACs. However, she is not the only candidate to receive super PAC funding. The Republican candidates who have now dropped out of the presidential race received large amounts of Super PAC money. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump rejected super PAC backing, but it is very possible that Trump will segue from a primarily self-funded (plus free massive media coverage) campaign to PAC, super PAC and large donor funding in the general election. Sanders continues to run a purely individual-donor-fueled campaign.

What is a super PAC?

Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

2016may18 bullyingWhat happens when bullying is in the bloodstream of a nation, as it is in the US?     (Image: Ken Whytock)

Bullying is an essential tactic used by Donald Trump -- and that's not just analysis; it is a fact readily acknowledged by Trump himself.  

In what was meant as a rapprochement of sorts, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly interviewed Trump, which aired on May 17. The Boston Globe reported on an excerpt in which Trump lectures Kelly about how bullying, in essence, tests the survival of the fittest. He prided himself on bullying and urged her not to feel victimized, but to "fight back" ten times harder:

Trump says he is a counterpuncher who goes after people when they go after him....

But he said bullying doesn’t just happen to children. "People are bullied when they’re 55," he said.

Kelly responded pointedly, with a smile: "Can happen when you’re 45." She is 45.

"You know, it happens, right?" Trump went on, as if he didn’t hear her. "But you gotta get over it. Fight back, do whatever you have to do."

The rest of the interview took on a lighter tone, however. Erick Wemple of The Washington Post speculates that Fox was pivoting to make nice with the presumptive Republican nominee and to publicize Kelly's new book (published by HarperCollins, which is, like Fox, owned by Rupert Murdoch). The book is coming out after the election, and she shilled it on the program while interviewing Trump.

The motif of the interview was the victory of the bully. It conveyed that Megyn Fox, who was a high-profile target of Trump's misogyny, was no longer upset with him.

In a new book Bully Nation: How the American Establishment Creates a Bullying Society, authors Charles Derber and Yale R. Magress incisively explain the prototype that has resulted in a surge of supporters for the truculent "strong man." This is stated in a pre-publication summary of Bully Nation by the publisher, University of Kansas Press:

Bullying looks very similar on the personal and institutional levels: it involves an imbalance of power and behavior that consistently undermines its victim, securing compliance and submission and reinforcing the bully’s sense of superiority and legitimacy.[Italics were inserted by BuzzFlash at Truthout.] The similarity, this book tells us, is not a coincidence. Applying the concept of the "sociological imagination," which links private problems and public issues, authors Charles Derber and Yale Magrass argue that individual bullying is an outgrowth—and a necessary function—of a larger social phenomenon. Bullying is seen here as a structural problem arising from systems organized around steep power hierarchies—from the halls of the Pentagon, Congress, and corporate offices to classrooms and playing fields and the environment. Dominant people and institutions need to create a culture in which violence and aggression are seen as natural and just: one where individuals compete over who will be bully or victim, and each is seen as deserving their fate within this hierarchy. The larger the inequalities of power in society, or among nations, or even across species, the more likely it is that both institutional and personal bullying will become commonplace. 

Ergo, Trump's bullying of Megyn Kelly in early primary debates and tweets was part of a strategy of asserting power and attempting to weaken an individual, as well as the media. It is a way of projecting "leadership" in a society that often values forceful, obdurate negotiators who achieve their goals. Trump said that he regretted some of his coarse and vulgar remarks about Kelly, but he did not apologize.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2106may trumpbutlerDonald Trump's former butler and present acquaintance clearly echoes the billionaire's racism, misogyny and bigotry, just in cruder fashion if that can be believed. (Image: Philip Cohen)

The rabid, vile racism of Trump's former butler at his Florida Mar-a-Lago estate sucked the air out of the news for a few hours yesterday.

According to David Corn of Mother Jones, Anthony Senecal became a part-time "historian" of Mar-a-Lago after his retirement -- although the Trump campaign claims that they don't see each other anymore -- and has spent a lot of time on Facebook posting racist and other contemptible rants, including "express[ing] profound hatred for President Barack Obama and declar[ing] that he should be killed."

CNN posted an article last night that Trump's campaign has "disavowed" Senecal's statement threatening President Obama:

"Tony Senecal has not worked at Mar-a-Lago for years, but nevertheless we totally and completely disavow the horrible statements made by him regarding the President," [Trump] campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said.

Trump really had no choice but to renounce Senecal's threats to the life of the president, because it is a federal crime to encourage a president's assassination. According to CNN, Senecal readily admitted to his recent deadly Facebook screeds:

Anthony Senecal, who served as Trump's butler for 17 years and now takes groups on tours of the presumptive Republican nominee's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday that Obama "should have been taken out by our military and shot as an enemy agent in his first term," according to Mother Jones, which first reported on Senecal's post.

Reached for comment by CNN on Thursday, Senecal, 84, confirmed he wrote the post, but disputed one point, "I think I said hung."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016may12 91123Have Americans been doubly betrayed in the war on terror? (Photo: Wikipedia

Yesterday, I committed the heresy of speculating that US weapons manufacturers may be pleased that the war on terrorism does not appear to have an end. Why? Because billions and billions of dollars might be lost in contracts from the Pentagon and CIA if terrorism were halted. 

Today, I'll let the co-chair of the 2002 official joint congressional 9/11 inquiry -- former US Senator Bob Graham -- take on another sacred cow in the so-called "war on terror": Saudi Arabia. Graham, who also served as the governor of Florida, has long claimed that a number of Saudi Arabians -- some in the government -- financed and aided al-Qaeda in planning the 9/11 attacks. This assertion is considered heretical by the foreign policy, congressional and White House fossil fuel "pragmatists" because such an allegation, if proven true, would endanger the relationship of the US with the second-largest oil producer in the world (after the US itself, which ranks first). In fact, the White House is vigorously opposing congressional legislation that would allow survivors and surviving family members of 9/11 to sue the government of Saudi Arabia for alleged involvement in enabling the 9/11 attacks. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is threatening to financially harm the United States if the bill becomes law.

Graham charges that there has been a long-term effort to keep a 28-page section of the official report secret from the public. In a recent column for US Today, Graham wrote:

On April 11, CBS's "60 Minutes" led with an important segment about the tragedy of 9/11 and how a 28-page chapter of the final report of a congressional investigation has been withheld from the American people for almost 13 years.

This was not a cover-up. It was the result of aggressive deception. Your government has purposely used deceit to withhold the truth.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016may11 terrorwareisenIn the absence of newly declared war, how would the military-industrial complex prosper without terrorism? (Image: KAZ Vorpal)

The National Priorities Project recently sent out an email with the subject line, "Terrorism means business, if you're a defense contractor." The message bluntly states:

If you're a defense contractor, terrorism means business, and business is good.

According to recent reports, the corporate defense behemoth Lockheed Martin's revenue rose 15.7% and shares rose 1.5% following the news that President Obama was committing an additional 250 troops in Syria. 

Lockheed Martin was the biggest federal contract in 2014, pulling in more than $32 billion in federal contracts, including $25 billion in Pentagon contracts. Its federal haul makes it practically an honorary state.

In fact, the Project states that the contracts received by Lockheed Martin in 2014 exceed federal grants allotted to each individual state, with the exceptions of the high-population states of California, New York and Texas.

In a blog entry on the National Priorities Project site, research director Lindsay Koshgarian states, "Lockheed and its defense industry companions have made enough profits from taxpayer dollars. It’s past time to show them that terrorism doesn’t pay.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016May10 rednosewal24A 2015 billboard promoting Red Nose Day, a corporate branding opportunity to allegedly reduce childhood poverty in the United States. (Photo: Steven Feldman)

Red Nose Day, which has an affiliated campaign in the UK, is described by its sponsoring organization, Comic Relief Inc. (which the Red Nose Day website notes "is not connected to the former American charity Comic Relief that was supported by Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg"), as follows:

Red Nose Day is a fundraising campaign run by the non-profit organization Comic Relief Inc., a registered 501(c)(3) American public charity. Funds raised go to the Red Nose Day Fund and last year benefited children in all 50 states and 15 countries internationally through programs to keep children and young people safe, healthy and educated. Comic Relief Inc. in the US and Comic Relief UK are independent sister organizations that are joined by their shared vision of a just world, free from poverty and the mission to drive positive change through the power of entertainment…

The US Red Nose Day initiative distributes the money it raises to charities in the US, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Oxfam of America, Covenant House and the National Council of Raza. There appears little doubt from the statistics cited on the Red Nose Day website that some poor children are indeed aided by the Red Nose Day commercial tie-in efforts, and that some incremental good will come out of the initiative.

Red Nose Day is officially on May 26, when "a live 2-hour primetime television event that brings together the biggest stars for a night of fun and laughs” -- as described on the Red Nose Day website -- will air on NBC. In 2015, according to the site, "Red Nose Day raised $23 million, changing the lives of children all over the USA and around the world."

The campaign’s slogan -- "Laugh. Give. Save a kid" -- does raise pesky questions about a corporate promotional charity event that unabashedly offers to combine fun, comedy and helping "kids who need it most." That is because it does not appear that any systemic change results from Red Nose Day that would permanently reduce or eliminate poverty, and $23 million is a paltry amount, when a sea of transformative change is needed. Red noses are not going to eliminate, reduce or have a significant impact on the condition of youth poverty in the United States. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016may6 bclinton24Hillary Clinton has suggested that she might appoint her husband, who played a leadership role in championing trade deals that have hemorrhaged jobs from the US, as jobs czar to create manufacturing positions. Say what? (Photo: Eric Austin)

Politicians in tight spots often say the most puzzling things. While campaigning in coal country, where large numbers of miners are without jobs, Hillary Clinton has been met by grassroots opposition to her (hopefully accurate) comment earlier this year that coal, as a fuel, is on its last legs.

As Politico reported on May 2,

Clinton has faced increased scrutiny and backlash from coal-producing areas of the country after boasting at a March town hall, "We're going to put a lot of coal companies and coal miners out of business." Though she followed up by saying that the United States should "make it clear that we don't want to forget those people," the remark created consternation in the coal community. On Sunday, Bill Clinton confronted protesters in West Virginia unhappy with his wife's comments.

The Hill reported on May 5 that current polling shows Clinton potentially facing an embarrassing loss to Bernie Sanders in the upcoming West Virginia primary on May 10, but also confronting the possibility that Donald Trump could carry the state in November:

West Virginia is shaping up to be a terrible state for Hillary Clinton

Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

2016 May5AmericanDreamThe so-called "American Dream" needs to be less about money and materialism and more about justice, quality of life and the common good. (Photo: James Walsh)

According to the findings of a Marist Poll commissioned by Boston PBS station WGBH earlier this year, "The American Dream [is] still alive, but ... a majority of U.S. residents believe the American middle class is just a vestige of the past." That WGBH summary of the poll notes:

While 58% [of parents] think their children will be better off than they are now, about one-third, 33%, say their children will be in a worse position. The picture becomes bleaker when the focus shifts to the future of America’s youth, in general. Nearly half of residents, 48%, believe most children in the United States will grow up to be worse off than their parents while 43% say children, overall, will be better off....

A news release that I received on April 5 from a publicist for WGBH put it more bluntly:

A majority of U.S. residents believe the American middle class is just a vestige of the past, according to an Exclusive Point Taken-Marist Poll, commissioned by WGBH Boston for its new late-night, multi-platform PBS debate series Point Taken. But, despite a pessimistic view about the viability of the American middle class, most adults nationally think the American Dream is attainable for themselves, 69%. Although fewer, many think it is in reach for other Americans, 58%, as well.

Given the nation's radical and growing income inequality, the perceptions of those surveyed in the poll [as shown in charts]  appear rosier than the reality of the economic chasm in the US.  The poll raises the question about how the hope of achieving an economic dream can defy economic data, given that most of those polled thought the middle class was dying. Where will the 69 percent of those who believe that "the American Dream" is attainable end up? That's 69 percent too many people to squeeze into the 1 percent.

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