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EditorBlog (1647)


aaaaaaaaaaaaaaatrumphandWhen authoritarianism comes to the United States, it may be wearing a pinstripe suit. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

A poll conducted by University of Massachusetts PhD candidate Matthew MacWilliams found that the most frequent reason supporters back Donald Trump is his authoritarianism. In an opinion piece in Politico, MacWilliams describes the methodology and conclusions of his poll:

My finding is the result of a national poll I conducted in the last five days of December under the auspices of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, sampling 1,800 registered voters across the country and the political spectrum. Running a standard statistical analysis, I found that education, income, gender, age, ideology and religiosity had no significant bearing on a Republican voter’s preferred candidate. Only two of the variables I looked at were statistically significant: authoritarianism, followed by fear of terrorism, though the former was far more significant than the latter.

Authoritarianism is not a new, untested concept in the American electorate. Since the rise of Nazi Germany, it has been one of the most widely studied ideas in social science. While its causes are still debated, the political behavior of authoritarians is not. Authoritarians obey. They rally to and follow strong leaders. And they respond aggressively to outsiders, especially when they feel threatened. From pledging to "make America great again" by building a wall on the border to promising to close mosques and ban Muslims from visiting the United States, Trump is playing directly to authoritarian inclinations.

MacWilliams' findings are consistent with many well-known theories, which hold that a climate of intense fear and discontent is prime ground for appeals to authoritarianism. Add a fear of "terrorism" to a fear of economic decline, and the kindling is created for the rise of an authoritarian leader who offers harsh, iron-fisted solutions to real and ginned-up dismay, agitation and fear.  


aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakeystonexlnorth32Advocates in 2014 demonstrated in front of the White House in opposition to the northern section of the Keystone XL Pipeline. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)

In a January 13 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Kristine Delkus, an executive vice president and general counsel at TransCanada, announced that TransCanada was going to file a claim against the United States for allegedly violating NAFTA. At issue is the Obama administration denial of a permit to construct the northern section of the Keystone XL pipeline:

The administration’s decision violates international agreements. When the U.S. government signed Nafta, it committed to provide Canadian investors with various protections against unfair, inequitable, and uncompensated expropriatory and discriminatory U.S. regulatory actions. The agreement enables companies, like TransCanada, to recover damages through international arbitration when Nafta’s provisions have been violated....

The damage to TransCanada is clear. It has lost the value of the project and incurred significant costs in pursuing what should have been a robust regulatory process based on facts and established criteria, not based on meeting misplaced symbolic political objectives.

Delkus also detailed how TransCanada was simultaneously pursuing a federal lawsuit in the US, charging that President Obama's decision to prohibit the construction of the northern Keystone XL section violates the US Constitution.

The NAFTA claim highlights longstanding fears of opponents of massive corporately written trade deals that such agreements allow companies to pursue "remedies" that supersede the sovereign powers of individual nations. This is because NAFTA and similar trade pacts allow for a separate arbitration trade-agreement tribunal process for adjudicating claims. According to the Canadian publication Oilweek, TransCanada has indicated that it intends "to file for $15 billion in damages against the U.S. government under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) based on its rejection of the [northern section of the] Keystone XL Pipeline."


aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaascottFlorida Governor Rick Scott embodies why individuals and corporations should not profit from providing medical care. (Image: DonkeyHotey)

Two-term Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) heavily financed both of his campaigns (2010 and 2014) out of his personal fortune, estimated at more than $130 million according to recent tax filings. Scott became a member of the one percent by co-founding what would become the largest US for-profit hospital and health care system in the 1990s: Columbia/HCA.

However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) began investigating Columbia/HCA under Clinton's Attorney General Janet Reno, and Rick Scott was forced to resign as CEO of the company in 1997 after proof of massive illegal Medicare profiteering was discovered.

2000 Forbes article provided a glimpse into some of the defrauding of the taxpayer that occurred under Scott:

The company increased Medicare billings by exaggerating the seriousness of the illnesses they were treating. It also granted doctors partnerships in company hospitals as a kickback for the doctors referring patients to HCA. In addition, it gave doctors “loans” that were never expected to be paid back, free rent, free office furniture, and free drugs from hospital pharmacies.

In the tradition of the DOJ not prosecuting CEOs, Scott was never charged with overseeing the bilking of Medicare. However, after his departure, Scott's former company (by then simply called HCA), pled guilty to 14 felony counts. Forbes reported that the Department of Justice investigation revealed that "the fraud ... ran deep within HCA’s way of doing business."


aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaobamahopeBarack Obama ran on a campaign of hope, but ended up with little change in the structural racism in the US. (Image: Thomas Hawk)

It was July 2004 and the Democratic Party was holding its presidential nominating convention in Boston. John Kerry would be nominated, and his team chose a nationally unknown candidate for US senator in Illinois as the keynote speaker: Barack Obama. Obama gave a dazzling 17-minute oration that catapulted him into becoming a political celebrity, helped him to win his US senate race and positioned him for the presidential race in 2008.

In light of his last State of the Union address as president, delivered last night to Congress and the nation, it is revealing to return to that 2004 pivot point in Obama's career. Included in his charismatic Boston keynote address were these words:

Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy; our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...."

Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America.

There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.

Although there are a plethora of issues to discuss concerning the Obama administration - domestic and foreign - perhaps the most glaring and intractable flaw in his 2004 rhetoric was the portrayal of a nation that wasn't divided by race. 


aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatrumphairBeware of fascism in a pinstripe suit. (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

Revisiting Donald Trump's flirtation with the "birther" movement that goes back many years is worthwhile in understanding his current incarnation as the bellowing, vulgarian "king of the whites who feel displaced."

As reported in Talking Points Memo, 

Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio introduced Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump Wednesday at a rally by reminding everyone that they were both vocal members of the "birther" movement that questioned President Barack Obama's birth certificate.

Arpaio's comment came less than a day after the real estate mogul evaded a question about whether he thought Obama was a legitimate President....

Both Arpaio and Trump have been vocal members of the "birther" movement which claims Obama was born in Kenya.

In a September BuzzFlash commentary, we noted that Trumpism is really about coded white privilege. Trump may have started his campaign with scurrilous descriptions of Mexicans who seek refuge in the United States. However, in just a short period of time, he has fluidly moved from defaming Mexicans to denigrating Black Lives Matter protesters to slandering Muslims to once again evoking his "birther" movement credentials.

The "birther" movement is no small part of Trump's bombastic, demagogic appeal.


aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaadelson32Sheldon Adelson's oligarchal tale of two newspapers: in Israel and Nevada. (Image: DonkeyHotey)

There was a lot of media attention paid last week to billionaire Sheldon Adelson's purchase of the largest newspaper in Nevada, the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Speculation abounded as to the motives of Adelson - a casino magnate who currently is positioned 15th in Forbes' US billionaire rankings - in buying the largest newspaper in Nevada.

Was Adelson trying to influence the 2016 political race, particularly by staking out a favorite GOP candidate in the Nevada primary, which is the fourth GOP primary contest next year? Is he also counting on using the paper as a platform to try to swing Nevada Republican in the presidential election? After all, this is a man who spent $150 million trying to defeat Barack Obama in 2012, according to U.S. News & World Report....

After all, Adelson owns another newspaper that most Americans know little about. It is called Yisrael Hayom, and it has the largest circulation of any newspaper in Israel.  That may be due to the fact that is distributed for free: Adelson subsidizes it to the tune of some $40 million a year. The pages of Yisrael Hayom may be used by many Israelis for wrapping fish; nevertheless, it is a serious shaper of right-wing public opinion, due to its consistently extremist pro-Netanyahu positions.

The Economist, in an April 25 article, described the relationship between Yisrael Hayom and Netanyahu: "Yisrael Hayom is a freesheet owned by Sheldon Adelson, a casino mogul and supporter of Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister. Its headlines are routinely approved by the prime minister's office."


aaaaaaaaaafanon32Let it be! (Photo: fuseboxradio)

As I saw a clip the other day of CNN promoting a presidential debate - yet again - as some sort of gladiator event, I was disgusted by how the mainstream corporate media thrives on promoting conflict to attract viewers.  

It's not just politics that becomes a caricature of a series of World Wrestling Federation bouts - it's also the superficial and sensationalist corporate media coverage of struggles for a just, equal and enlightened democracy. With all the courageous advocacy happening around the United States to achieve social justice, movements are often portrayed as some sort of pitched battle between "the forces of law and order" and activists. Corporate-run television, in particular, tends to reduce vital struggles over moral imperatives to viewer-attracting "clashes."

Activists around the country are making it very clear that the instances of violence that are the subject of protests - for example, police killings - occur within the context of systemic oppression. However, when covering protests, the mass media rarely reports that the overall goal of many of these actions is transformative change, nor do corporate outlets generally discuss the ways in which oppression has taken root in their own coverage.

Mass media does not reveal the perniciousness of the "white settler" narrative that has been handed from one US generation to the next - and how crucial it is to disrupt that narrative. Of course, with the change of narrative must come a metamorphosis in attitudes and institutional structures within the US.


aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaataiwanUS arms sale to Taiwan symbolizes how US exports both war and weapons. (Photo: Alan Wu)

China lodged an official protest against the Obama administration's announcement that Taiwan has been cleared to purchase $1.83 billion in US arms, according to The New York Times:

The Obama administration’s announcement that it would sell $1.83 billion worth of arms to Taiwan, including two warships and antitank missiles, has drawn a swift rebuke from China, which threatened to penalize the companies that made the armaments and summoned a United States diplomat to register an official protest.

Although the sale is not remarkably large as far as US weaponry is concerned, it is of value to look at the transaction in the context of US weapons sales.

In the last two years, we have repeatedly noted how the US economy is heavily invested in the so-called "defense industry.”

BuzzFlash commentary this summer reported on a National Priorities Project analysis which found that 54 percent of all US government discretionary spending in 2015 - more than $598 billion dollars - is going to the military. That does not include funding for intelligence agencies (such as the CIA and NSA, which receive tens of billions of dollars), nor does it include the supplemental funds that were used to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are still not over.

Funding for the military-industrial-complex is also buried in other congressionally budgeted line items, particularly when it comes to covert programs.

War - or just ratcheting up the potential for conflict through stockpiling armaments - is profitable. For example, the National Priorities Project found that Lockheed Martin "saw over $5.5 billion in profit, and paid its CEO more than $34 millionin 2014. And the $32 billion it received from the U.S. government made up more than seventy percent of its total sales."


aaaaaaaaaaaaahedgefund2Hedge funds and charity don't mix well. (Photo: Simon Cunningham)

What is motivating a hedge fund to acquire a Catholic nonprofit hospital system in the San Francisco Bay Area? Is it a burst of Christmas spirit? After all, the Daughters of Charity hospitals serve a significant number of poor people in medical need.

We are skeptical that the acquiring hedge fund, BlueMountain Capital Management fund, is simply serving as a compassionate Santa Claus.

December 14 article on the San Francisco Chronicle's SFGate site posed the financial paradox of the acquisition, given that the hospital is known for its care for the poor:

Hospital officials said patients should not notice any major changes. "Patients should see the same level of care and attention and concern for their health," said Rick Rice, spokesman for Daughters of Charity. "We expect that service to continue."

Daughters of Charity, which is based in Los Altos Hills, had been losing about $150 million a year and was searching for a buyer for years. A New York hedge fund seemed an unlikely entity to take over a nonprofit health system that treats a fair number of poor and uninsured patients.


aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaapocshallThe future of the earth may hang on the consequential difference between "shall" and "should" when it comes to averting environmental destruction across the planet. (Photo: Robert Hruzek)

A December 13 Politico European Edition article discusses how the replacement of the word "shall" with "should" became a vital necessity to the signing of the final COP21 agreement. According to Politico, the last-minute switch to "should" - in reference to compliance with agreement goals by the signatory nations - was made at the request of the United States. President Obama was allegedly worried that the use of the word "shall" would require legal obligations of the US, ensuring almost certain defeat of ratification of what then would be deemed a treaty by the Republican-controlled Senate.

However, it can be speculated that other nations were also concerned about the legal implications of a mandate as opposed to voluntary compliance with the COP21 goals. In short, by replacing the word "shall" with "should," the nations most responsible for ruinous global warming policies will have a lot of wiggle room in implementing the final document.

The National Resources Defense Council, which generally praises the Paris talks, does, however, inadvertently admit its key failings in an article on the top "takeaways" from the accord:

  • It’s not a formal treaty and it doesn’t commit us [the United States] to any new international legal obligations.

  • It doesn’t contain legally binding carbon targets.

  • Each country has put forth its own voluntary proposals for ambitious carbon reductions.

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