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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016march25 scgunsThe confirmation of a United States Supreme Court Justice is being held hostage, in significant part, by the NRA. (Photo: Envios)

Judge Merrick Garland's judicial rulings and Republican fans -- including arch-conservative Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and the more-right-wing-than-you-might-realize presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich -- indicate that Garland is about as weak as you can get, when it comes to a "liberal" Supreme Court nominee. Yet many Republicans continue to refuse to even consider the nomination.

However, the reasons behind the Republican opposition are not as straightforward as they may appear. The New York Times (NYT) has offered an additional key factor behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's obdurate opposition to even allowing hearings on the Garland nomination: The NRA opposes it.

In a March 24 editorial, the NYT editorial board opined:

It turns out that the most important voice in the Supreme Court nomination battle is not the American people’s, as Senate Republicans have insisted from the moment Justice Antonin Scalia died last month. It is not even that of the senators. It’s the National Rifle Association’s.

That is what the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said the other day when asked about the possibility of considering and confirming President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, after the November elections. “I can’t imagine that a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm, in a lame-duck session, a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Association,” he told “Fox NewsSunday.”

We recently noted that the NRA represents a core financial backer of the Republican Party (and many individual non-urban Democratic politicians), and plays a vigorous role in turning out its members during elections. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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2026 March24drugwarsThe "War on Drugs" is a war on people of color, as a lost quotation from Nixon adviser John Ehrlichman now reveals.  (Photo: Neon Tommy)

Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, in a 2015 commentary in Free Press, rightfully charged that the ruinous "war on drugs" had its origins in a nefarious motive that had little to do with concern about harmful drug use:

The Drug War was officially born June 17, 1971, when Richard Nixon pronounced drugs to be “public enemy number one.” In a nation wracked by poverty, racial tension, injustice, civil strife, ecological disaster, corporate domination, a hated Vietnam War and much more, drugs seemed an odd choice.

In fact, the Drug War’s primary target[s were] Black[s] and young voters.

As the Vietnam War ended -- and massive youth political protest subsided -- the war on drugs rapidly took a two-tier track: incarceration for even the most minor drug "offenses" for people of color, while whites of means were generally treated leniently by the legal system for drug use. The war on drugs became embedded in the post-Civil Rights era society as a gruesome and destructive re-emergence of Jim Crow policy. It was supported in full force by the national, state, county and city police and court systems, as a means of suppressing and punishing Blacks for having survived slavery -- and a means of continuing to systematically exploit them, long after official slavery had been outlawed.  

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

march23 empirestrikesbackFor the US, the 2016 election symbolizes the sins of empire striking back. (Photo: Nick Normal)

Behind the vulgar, violent, racist, nationalist bombast of Donald Trump lies a profound and unsettling reality: This is what an empire looks like in the 21st century when it is imploding.  

The birth of the United States became known historically as a "revolution" because it created a government that was not monarchal. (Of course, non-monarchal governments had already been common throughout history, but in the narrow context of 18th century Western society, this development was framed as "new.") However, that "revolutionary" government did not break with the concept of empire, even though it overthrew one. In fact, as the British empire diminished, the US empire expanded into a global presence, positioning itself to achieve dominance (with only the Soviet Union as its competitor until the 1990s) after World War II.

The US may have overthrown rule by bloodline descent, but it fully adopted the tools of empire expansion, most notably through its two original sins: the massacre and displacement of the Indigenous population and the incorporation of slavery into the expanding nation as a legally condoned fuel for the growth of empire.

As we recently noted, the Civil War for this nation's soul will not end with this election. The grotesque ire that is born of white privilege -- descended from the Eurocentric origins of the United States -- have emerged in coded words and thinly veiled racist attacks, such as "Birtherism." 

MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

March21 democracy1Advocating for democracy makes one a political target. (Photo: SUXSIEQ)

A mid-April pro-democracy protest in Washington, DC had been planned for months -- but that didn't stop the right-wing Trump-friendly Breitbart website from declaring, "Anti-Trump groups threaten largest disobedience action of the century." The article posted on March 16 insinuated that the the Democracy Spring mobilization in April -- and by implication, Democracy Awakening activities -- were created to target Trump. The charge was quickly picked up by the right-wing media choir, including The Drudge Report and World Net Daily.

Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening are actually two separate initiatives that are converging together in DC on April 16. Democracy Spring will begin as a walk to DC, starting at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia on April 2. Its goals -- promoting a full, participatory democracy -- are similar to those of Democracy Awakening. Both mobilizations are primarily aimed at getting big money out of politics, allowing full voting rights for all Americans and ending obstructionism in confirming a Supreme Court replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia.

Margrete Strand-Rangnes, executive vice president of Public Citizen --  a non-profit citizens rights advocacy group that is playing a key role in organizing Democracy Awakening -- told BuzzFlash that she was baffled by the Breitbart article that spuriously connected Democracy Spring to an anti-Trump initiative. She was concerned that the accusations would ultimately skew public perception of the separate and combined actions of Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening.

EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

March18 liesWhy do US politicians get away with so much lying? (Photo: jaroh)

How can so many politicians in the US get away with blatant lying? After all, although the corporate media is not great at fact-checking, there are a number of sites, such as PolitiFact, that at least try to establish the truth (although one can argue that the site is not immune to bias).

Donald Trump keeps the lies coming quickly -- frequently composing them in just the few seconds it takes to tweet. It seems as if no one is vetting his Twitter account. Then, often, just a few more seconds or minutes pass before he slyly tries to qualify the original lie. As Mark Twain said, " A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."

The use of lies in political campaigns -- particularly presidential campaigns -- is bi-partisan.

The tactic of the "artful smear" that Hillary Clinton accused Bernie Sanders of -- but has employed herself several times in the primary campaign (the auto bailout accusation against Sanders, the claims that he would eliminate Medicare and Medicaid, etc.) -- generally works because the refutation of a lie by someone running for the presidency almost inevitably gets less coverage than the original false charge. This is particularly true in a high-speed digitalized age in which presidential candidates seek to roll out fresh news items and attacks each news cycle. A well-placed lie spouted during a debate, for example, can be propelled into ongoing coverage in a later news cycle.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016March17 godDo sanctimonious politicians invoke the idea of God so elected officials can perpetuate injustice under the cloak of piety? Just asking. (Photo: Visit W3Schools)

As we grit our teeth throughout this harrowing and bizarre presidential campaign (which effectively began more than two years ago), Donald Trump's narcissism and demagogic strategies have dominated on the Republican side. Nonetheless, almost all of Trump's opponents (present and past) have followed the GOP tradition of sanctimoniously evoking God as a stamp of righteous approval from the heavens. This year, there has been some surprise that evangelicals have voted in large numbers for Trump. That is because Trump represents a greed-driven lifestyle, spotty church attendance and a religion of money worship. 

Given Trump's bombastic vanity, it's not surprising that he asserts that he believes in God, but has never asked for God's forgiveness - a central element of almost every Christian denomination. After all, this is a man who -- although not Catholic -- denounced the pope as disgraceful.

Nonetheless, many of Trump's supporters bestow him with the mantle of God's and Christ's support, including Jerry Falwell JrThe Daily Beast reported in January that when Trump visited Liberty University, founded by Falwell Jr's father, Trump omnipotently pledged "to make God great again":

Jerry Falwell Jr., the university president and son of Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell, introduced Trump to the crowd and left no doubt about his feelings for the golden-haired mogul. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

march16 lotsofcashPfizer plans to deprive US Treasury of an estimated $35 billion based on legal tax evasion scheme. (Photo: Steven Depolo)

The CEO of Pfizer Inc., Ian Read, received a "pay package [that] was valued at $18 million in 2015," according to The Wall Street Journal. 

The Journal notes that one of Read's top recent accomplishments is the planned "$155 billion combination with Allergan PLC" :

The Allergan transaction would form the world’s biggest drugmaker by sales and move Pfizer’s headquarters from New York to Ireland. Pfizer expects to cut its tax rate to 17% or 18%,from its approximate 25% rate currently, because corporate taxes in Ireland are lower than in the U.S.

In short, Read gets a 1-percenter salary for, in part, determining how Pfizer can stick it to the US taxpayer by sharply cutting tax liability to the US treasury. The process of a larger US corporation becoming a subsidiary of a smaller foreign corporation in a nation with lower tax rates is called legal "tax inversion." 

Pfizer's proposed action will proceed unless halted by the executive branch or congressional action (which is unlikely to occur in the near future). 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016march15 trumppaintingThere should be little doubt that Donald Trump emulates the propaganda and crowd manipulation of Adolf Hitler. (Image: thierry ehrmann )

It would be unlikely that Trump shares much of Hitler's ideology. Trump is too narcissistic for that. However, the billionaire clown prince of branding himself indisputably emulates - to some degree - Hitler's strategy to turn a homogenous identity group with grievances into an emotional mob primed to explode. This includes techniques of vitriolic scapegoating, threats and acts of violence against dissenters and even a Hitler-style salute and pledge.

It's important to remember that Hitler first came to power through an electoral process, after a putsch attempt in the early 1920s failed. He promised the creation of an Aryan state of purity and prosperity, following the humiliating defeat of Germany in WWI and the onerous Treaty of Versailles terms placed upon it. Compounding the strain of its war debt, the German economy was in a desperate condition due to the international recession of the '30s.

A prescient September 2015 article on the If You Only News website provides context for understanding that, as overused as the Hitler analogy is as applied to Trump, it is hard to believe that the "master salesman and negotiator" would not be interested in the propaganda and psychological tools Hitler used to rise to power:

By 1932, a recently unknown party called the Nazis was somehow able to get 33 percent of the vote (a majority), and Hitler was then appointed head of the German government as chancellor.

The Nazi party and Hitler became wildly popular among German citizenry with the use of endless propaganda that included large amounts of money spent on campaigns filled with nationalistic slogans. These campaigns were then dispersed via newspapers, posters, leaflets, etc. Anything, really, to rally support behind their lies.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

March11 zelaya2In 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supported the military coup that overthrew democratically elected reformist President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras. (Photo: coolloud)

On June 28, 2009, the Honduran military overthrew the democratically elected and modestly progressive president, Manuel Zelaya. He was forced on a plane and sent into exile. 

wrote a commentary on June 30, 2009, raising the issue of possible US influence through leading members of the Honduran military, who were trained at what was formerly called The School of Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. I stated: "You can bet your bottom dollar there were a few American hands behind what happened in Honduras.  We just can't say just yet who they belonged to."

Given information that has been revealed since 2009, we now know a lot more about the US support for the 2009 military coup. Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time, didn't necessarily push the button that started it, but she was the Obama administration's most ardent advocate of keeping the military in power and preventing Zelaya from returning as a democratically elected leader.

The repercussions to Honduras of Clinton siding with the military have led to it becoming one of the most corrupt and violence-ridden nations in the world. They also reveal the deep contradiction between Clinton's espousal of democracy and the rights of women and children, and her neoliberal realpolitik interest in protecting the markets and profits of US-based corporations.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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.

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