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EditorBlog (1674)


aaaaaaaaaaaaacivilwarmarch10The Union and Confederate Armies may have signed an armistice in 1865, but the Civil War continues for the soul of the United States. (Photo: Alvin Trusty)

There is an uncivil Civil War taking place in the Republican Party.

In part, it is animated by whether the festering racism inherent in this nation's founding premise of white superiority -- a premise that fueled slavery and the decimation of Indigenous populations -- will resurface in a contemporary form of governance by bigotry.

Donald Trump's slogan, "Make America Great Again," contains demagogic appeal. It is a coded call to "make America white again": to ensure that it is a nation characterized by white patriarchal rule, the oppression of people of color, the condoning of violence to resolve perceived grievances of white privilege, the use of torture, and all the trappings of white settler colonialism.

The Civil War ended more than 150 years ago, but an armistice was never signed concerning the conflict over white patriarchal privilege.

Here's the essential conundrum: The United States was founded -- and the Constitution was written -- by men who rejected the notion of a monarchy, but believed in a federal government that was elected and run by white males. It was also "unified" with the acceptance of slavery as a practice in half the nation, along with the belief that killing off the Indigenous population was a patriotic act of expanding white civilization.


aaaaaaaaaawaynelapierremarch9Caricature of Wayne LaPierre, CEO and executive vice president of the NRA. (Image: DonkeyHotey)

In a March 8 news release, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) charges the NRA with flouting IRS requirements to fully reveal political spending:

The National Rifle Association (NRA) failed to disclose more than $1 million in contributions to major Democratic and Republican leadership groups, bringing their total undisclosed political spending to nearly $60 million since 2008, according to a supplemental complaint filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).  This is the third complaint CREW has filed regarding the NRA’s political spending scandal.Between 2008 and 2014, five 527 political organizations reported receiving more than $1 million from the NRA which the gun advocacy group failed to note.  These groups were the Democratic and Republican Governors Associations, the Democratic and Republican Attorneys General Associations and the Republican State Leadership Committee, with the vast majority of the funding going to the Republican organizations.  These donations increased as time went on, from nearly $55,000 in 2008 to more than $225,000 in 2014....

CREW’s initial complaint found that the NRA appeared to have violated federal law by failing to disclose to the IRS $33.5 million in political spending between 2008 and 2013.  CREW then supplemented this complaint after finding an additional $25 million the NRA failed to disclose in 2014.  While the NRA admits its tax records are incorrect, it appears to have done nothing to correct them.

An article on the CREW website points out that the implications of the NRA's politcal spending extend beyond the federal level and into the states.


aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaapovertymarch8Poverty is built into the current economic system in the United States. (Photo:Paul Downey)

In the last Democratic debate, held in Flint, Michigan - a city where, according to the most recent United States Census data, 41.6 percent of the population lives below the poverty line - presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders emphasized the importance of restoring the declining US middle class.

However appealing that almost universal bipartisan campaign meme is, it logically leads to a troubling conclusion: In order to have a "middle" class, one has to assume an ongoing "lower" class. In essence, a campaign promise to rebuild a "robust" middle class is based on the premise that a significant segment of people in the US will compose the bottom tier in the class structure - a tier that exists in a state of poverty.

As Critical Mass Progress Editor Nancy A. Heitzeg recently wrote:

Before the war on drugs became our national fixation, there was a short-lived, halfheartedly implemented war on poverty. Would that the same amount of resources and political will been expended here. But hyper-individualism, rampant capitalism, and a political discourse that persistently racializes poverty and stigmatizes governmental assistance continue to stand in the way.

We are left instead with the war on the poor...

The reality of course is that the over-whelming majority of the 47 million officially poor are there because of structure and policy - low wages, lack of affordable housing, a shrinking social safety net, a decimated public education system, a host of conservative and neoliberal "reforms" - not because of flawed personal choices.

Heitzeg goes on to write that poverty is often criminalized in a variety of ways, and certainly has become fodder for the vast expansion of the prison-industrial complex. In a BuzzFlash commentary today, law professor and columnist Bill Quigley also writes of the grotesque irony that corporations and the upper class make large profits off of those in severe economic distress. Quigley calls these predatory vultures "Reverse Robin Hoods."


aaaaaaaaaaaaadukedavidmarch4David Duke (pictured above), former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, has enthusiastically endorsed Donald Trump for President. (Photo: Mark Williams)

The most revealing and shocking poll finding, however is that "Nearly 20 percent of Mr. Trump’s voters disagreed with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in the Southern states during the Civil War." Yes, according to The New York Times, a Public Policy Polling South Carolina exit survey found that 1/5 of Trump's electoral supporters in South Carolina believe that slavery should not have been abolished.

Perhaps you can argue that some of the racist and white-first polling results are skewed because they are from the state that began the Civil War, but Trump has received support from white nationalist groups around the nation. It is also no coincidence that Trump did not initially renounce the support of David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan this past weekend - and has engaged in other wink-and-nod games with active racists by retweeting white nationalist groups' statements on his personal Twitter account. He has implicitly played to the sense of whites being the victims and targets of "the others" (but not victims of the oligarchs, of course).

One might propose that Trump doesn't regularly single out Black people for disdain and defamation (although it did not go unnoticed that he egged on violence against a Black Lives Matters protester at one of his rallies). That's because he doesn't have to. The support of David Duke and white supremacist organizations are indicators that the arch-racists of the US understand Trump's message loud and clear: By taking such a draconian and slanderous stance toward Muslims and Mexicans, among others, he doesn't have to defame Blacks. Trump understands that as many profane and despicable bridges that he has crossed, speaking like George Wallace would hinder his campaign and expose him to intensified media ridicule. That would result in the end of his free bullhorn publicity ride with the mainstream press, worth tens of millions of dollars in advertising.

However, the likes of David Duke and white nationalist groups - as well as your garden variety racist - know that Trump is only excluding Black people from his target list for strategic reasons.


aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafightterorThe Indigenous people of the Americas have been experiencing the terrorism of white settler colonialism since 1492. (Photo: Marc Moss)

The use of waterboarding at military "black sites," the horrors of Abu Ghraib, the midnight raids to kill and terrorize "suspected militants" in Afghanistan and Iraq, and numerous other instances of torture and abuse by the US military are well-documented. Indeed, the failure of the Obama administration to prosecute any members of the Bush administration for condoning torture - including the grotesque infliction of pain that resulted in the deaths of "suspects, " as these photographs from Abu Ghraib illustrate - is appalling.

It's been a remarkable feat of the government and corporate media that the question of prosecuting high-ranking officials for condoning torture and murder has barely been raised. Neocon proponents of torture claim that it is necessary to protect "the homeland," but that's a plot line for television shows, not reality.

Even a few years ago, when torture was regularly making headlines, the argument was over a very limited definition of torture - usually focusing on waterboarding. Yet torture has always been pervasive in the US. Torture was used on the Indigenous population whose land was stolen during settler colonialism.  Torture was systematically used against slaves, while slavery remained an essential economic engine in the United States (for nearly its first 100 years).


Does the use of drones to assassinate and murder people symbolize a segue into a robotic battlefield?Does the use of drones to assassinate and murder people symbolize a segue into a robotic battlefield? (Photo: Frank Serritelli)

The spring Unmanned Ground Systems Conference, sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement, will feature discussion of the development of robotics and autonomous systems (RAS) strategy for the military-industrial complex. In essence, this means creating a battlefield of the future in which the US employs robotic support and fighting technology.

A staff member of the Unmanned Ground Systems Conference interviewed this year's chairperson of the military-contractor confab, Lt. Col. (retired) Matt Dooley. He is the former chief of the lethality and robotics branch for the US Army, but denies that robotics and autonomous military "devices" are meant to kill people and replace soldiers. "The goal remains to change the culture of the Army to view robots as 'teammates,' rather than tools," Dooley asserts in the interview.

Dooley's "qualification" should be viewed with skepticism. Although drones, for instance, have an individual in the Southwest of the United States pushing a button to kill "targets" and "collateral damage," they are basically robotic. Given mission creep, at some point the drones will likely make their own decisions about who to murder based on image identifying technology. So it is plausible that "teammate" robotic weaponry would possibly lessen the number of battlefront military personnel in the future. In turn, this outcome would make war more acceptable in the United States because military casualties would be dramatically reduced.


It's galling enough that the mainstream corporate media has been in tacit collusion with Donald Trump's sensationalist, racist, bombastic campaign because it is titillating and attracts viewers - which means more advertising dollars and profit. However, when evidence like the Instagram clip above, posted (with a comment) by Celeste Chorniak - a student at Radford University in Virginia - shows a US Secret Service agent assaulting a veteran TIME photographer for attempting to stray from the Trump-campaign designated media pen, it is appalling to contemplate the federal government's complicity in enforcing the spectacle rules that enhance Trump's demagoguery.

If you play Chorniak's Instagram clip, you will see that the Secret Service agent lunges toward the TIME photographer before he even leaves the media pen, putting a choke hold on him and then throwing him to the ground. You can see the attack occur at the bottom of the video, about midway across the screen, a few seconds after the clip begins. The comments below the video are those of Chorniak.

The Washington Post - in its frequent namby-pamby way - actually wrote up the assault on the photographer as if it was unclear if he was roughed up by the Secret Service agent without "cause." In an article today, the Post curiously conjectures:

You know those inkblot tests that are supposed to reveal something about your personality, based on what you see in confusing, splattery images? Well, the cellphone video clips of a physical altercation involving a photographer at a Donald Trump rally on Monday are like a real-life Rorschach.

How you react says a lot about what you think of Trump, the media and law enforcement.

Here's what we know: There was a violent confrontation between a photojournalist and a Secret Service agent during Trump's campaign event in Radford, Va.

According to numerous reports, the photographer uttered an expletive at the Secret Service agent who was blocking his way and tried to get around him to document a Black Lives Matter protest that was marching through the Trump event in Virginia. 


aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatehranThe Azadi Tower serves as an entrance into Tehran. (Photo: Christiaan Triebert)

In Iran, the polls are just closing in the national election for two governing bodies: the parliament and the "Assembly of Experts." The former is nominally the secular governing body, but it is secondary in power to the theological "Assembly of Experts," which is composed of religious figures. The Assembly elects the Supreme Leader (an ayatollah), currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, is described in Western media as a pragmatist who wants to integrate Iran into the international community. 

Reuters reports that a large number of moderate or relatively liberal candidates to both elective bodies were "disqualified" from running, leaving mostly "hardline" conservatives on the ballot:

The Guardian Council, appointed half by Khamenei and half by the ultra-conservative judiciary, disqualified thousands of candidates for the legislature and vetoed 80 per cent of those seeking election to the Assembly of Experts. They included Hassan Khomeini, the moderate grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution and Khamenei’s predecessor.

Yet, there was an overwhelming turnout for the Iranian election - albeit an election with pre-limited choices. (Of course, we should bear in mind that in the United States, democracy is also compromised by pre-limited voting, the influence of billionaires and suspect vote-tallying practices, among other factors.)


aaaaaaaaaaaaaablankfein32Lloyd Blankfein, head of Goldman Sachs, caustically attacked Bernie Sanders but paid Hillary Clinton $675,000 in speaking fees. (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

According to an article in The Hill a few weeks back, Lloyd Blankfein - head of Goldman Sachs and symbol of Wall Street's lack of accountability - warned that Bernie Sanders is "dangerous." Blankfein told CNBC that Sanders is too set in his ways, adding, "It's a liability [in this anti-Wall Street environment] to say, 'I'm willing to compromise'… It's just incredible. It's a moment in history. Eventually people, the electorate, will notice nothing is getting done."

At no time did Blankfein, who personally supported Hillary Clinton against Barack Obama in 2008, find fault with Clinton; his alarm is solely focused on the senator from Vermont. He contrasted Sanders with more flexible candidates who are willing to work with Wall Street when he emphasized that a candidate must be "willing to compromise."

The Sanders campaign - supported by public records - charges that Wall Street donations make up a considerable portion of the Clinton war chest. She is supported by at least one huge Wall Street PAC, and, of course, has made millions of dollars in speaking fees from Wall Street financial firms.  


aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatrumpbackLooming over the United States is the possibility that the nation may elect its first Snake-Oil-Salesman-in-Chief. (Photo: Tony Webster)

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A few years back, taking advantage of his brand identity and the emergence of for-profit educational corporations, the current leading GOP presidential candidate established Trump University.  Donald Trump announced the "academic" venture, which offered no degrees or transferable credits, with his usual bombastic flourish at a news conference in 2005.

However, the unaccredited "university" became increasingly tainted by charges of fraud, profiteering, and courses that were allegedly often just high-pitch sales session for other Trump University and Trump organization products. The attorney general of New York, Eric Schneiderman - who called Trump University a scam - filed a lawsuit against Trump and The Trump Organization in 2013, according to an article last year in The Washington Post:

Schneiderman filed a $40 million civil lawsuit against Trump and the institution, accusing both of charging more than 5,000 people big money to supposedly learn Trump’s successful real estate techniques but failing to deliver. The suit says Trump U — often using high-pressure sales tactics and telling students that the next, more expensive seminar would reveal important secrets — earned about $40 million from students and seeks to the money recovered.

Last year [2014], a judge found Trump personally liable for the university’s violation of New York education laws, and this past April, and a Manhattan Supreme Court judge ruled in April that the case would have to resolved at a trial.

Meanwhile, a class-action suit was filed in California by a former Trump University student named Art Cohen who said he spent more than $36,000 on courses that failed to deliver the top-notch education the university had promised. A judge in that case ordered both sides to complete “fact discovery” by Aug. 10, according to a Courthouse News story.

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