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EditorBlog (1636)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016july22 trumpauthThe triumph of authoritarianism and scapegoating in Cleveland. (Photo: IoSonoUnaFotoCamera )

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Donald Trump asserted in his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination that only he can "fix" the violence and terrorism that he says is threatening individuals in the United States. His campaign has largely been based on inciting fear of "the other" among white Americans. Now that he has lit that fire among his supporters and unleashed a hideous bonfire of hate, he is positioning himself as the authoritarian (just call it fascist) solution to the frenzied fear that he has created among his supporters.

In his remarks in Cleveland (see transcript here) Trumped promised:

I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon, and I mean very soon, come to an end. Beginning on January 20th, 2017, safety will be restored.

The Guardian US observed, as have other news sites and journalists, that Trump is bringing back the Nixonian "law and order" code wording for keeping the nation white through hyper-aggressive policing:

In his warnings of “crime and violence” and his solemn pledge that “I am the law and order candidate," Trump sounded notes eerily similar to Richard Nixon’s campaign rhetoric in 1968.

Then, in the aftermath of consecutive summers of widespread riots across the US, Nixon ran as the candidate of “law and order...."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016july20 trumpcolonialThe coronation of Trump as GOP nominee for president has its origins in white settler colonialism. (Photo: Kl801)

BuzzFlash isn't funded by ads or subscription revenue, but by readers like you. Can you help sustain us by making a tax-deductible donation now?

A 21st-century white self-proclaimed billionaire became the official 2016 presidential nominee of the Republican party on Tuesday night. Pundits have relentlessly speculated about how it came to be that a candidate so brazen in his misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, foreign policy ignorance and factlessness could succeed in obtaining the Republican nod to run for president.

There are many factors that resulted in the Trump nomination -- including the savvy use of his celebrity status and understanding of contemporary television (combined with Twitter) as an entertainment medium -- but the fact is, he is a racist carnival barker, and his racism is at the center of his rise to the pinnacle of leadership in the Grand White Party.

I was listening to the Thom Hartmann Program a couple of weeks ago. Hartmann, as I recall, had a guest on who referred to Trump's use of a technique mastered by Dick Nixon, known by the acronym FIBS. FIBS stands for a political strategy based on fear, ignorance, bigotry and sneering. That about sums up Trump, doesn't it?

However, if you had to take one element of "FIBS" and identify it as the key to Trump being crowned the GOP presidential nominee, "bigotry" would lead the list by a long stretch. Of course, bigotry evokes and is reinforced by fear, ignorance and sneering. Still, the pedestal upon which Trump's triumph rests is raw, seething, hateful racism.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016july15 cabbagesCabbages. (Photo: Mike Licht)

On Wednesday, I wrote that "while hunger and poverty persist in the US, half of the edible food is thrown away." That's a shocking statistic for a nation that still indulges in the self-congratulatory -- but obviously false -- myth of being the land of plenty. Those who go hungry in the United States could likely be fed with the overwhelming amount of crops, produce and restaurant food that is thrown away and left to rot. It is a stunning statistic, exemplifying both indifference and social injustice. Over the years, we have even discussed how some cities have taken a punitive attitude toward feeding the homeless, including arresting people who distribute food to those without shelter.

One group concerned about the pressing issue of feeding the hungry -- Food Not Bombs -- is making a dent in the waste of much-needed food through creative redistribution, explaining:

We arrange the collection of produce, bread and other food that can't be sold from grocery stores, bakeries, and produce markets. They put this food to the side and we pick it up at a scheduled time. This way, we build personal relationships with local food providers and are able to collect larger amounts of better quality food with more regularity.

Over the years, Food Not Bombs has been repeatedly harassed by police in a number of cities, including San Francisco, for providing free food to the homeless.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016July14 socsecurekidsSocial Security offers a safety net component for many children. (Image; Chris Potter)

The Center for Global Policy Solutions -- a think tank focusing on vulnerable populations in the US --issued a report this week, "Overlooked but Not Forgotten: Social Security Lifts Millions More Children Out of Poverty." It reconfirms the important role that Social Security plays in reducing childhood impoverishment. The executive summary of the report, which was released on January 12, confirms that Social Security is not only an economic necessity for many seniors, but it is also a critical support for more than 3 million children:

Social Security’s role in lifting millions of Americans out of poverty has been widely documented. However, the national focus on the program’s income assistance for senior citizens has obscured the fact that Social Security is also one of the federal government’s largest antipoverty programs for children. It serves more children than such discretionary programs as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

In 2014, there were 3.2 million children under age 18 directly receiving Social Security income benefits either as the surviving dependent of a parent or guardian who had died, the dependent of a disabled worker, or the dependent of a retiree. Many of these children come from the nation’s most economically vulnerable households. As a result, Social Security is often the only financial safeguard protecting them from the harmful effects of poverty.

Yet, the number of children benefitting from Social Security is commonly underestimated. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and the Social Security Administration’s Annual Statistical Supplement, this paper demonstrates an undercount in the number of Social Security beneficiaries under age 18. In fact, when children who are not direct beneficiaries but live in extended families that receive Social Security are added to the official figure, the number of children who benefit from the program doubles to 6.4 million. This represents 9 percent of all U.S. children under the age of 18 and 11 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries.

The report also confirms that despite conservative efforts to reduce and privatize the Social Security program, the number of children who benefit from Social Security has fortunately increased.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016july homelessvetsVeterans need more housing and assistance. (Photo: Rusty Clark)

At almost any big sporting championship, there's the moment when a baritone announcer becomes solemn, pauses and then introduces a heart-tugging spectacle honoring US military veterans. Usually the crowd roars and waves the flag, feeling a sense of both patriotism and pity for the person, wounded in action, who is brought onto the field. When the presentation is over, however, the rush of jingoistic rhetoric subsides -- as does concern about the fate of individual veterans.

One could argue that such tributes to veterans serve the consciences of those who rely on a voluntary military to assure the continuation of a prosperous lifestyle. These dazzling displays of gratitude, however, do not do much to meet the actual needs of psychologically and physically wounded veterans, as well as those in economic need.

Furthermore, the ephemeral warm and fuzzy feeling sports fans receive for "supporting our troops" by simply responding to a presentation are part of a marketing message. According to a 2015 PBS Newshour report:

The United States Department of Defense paid the National Football League more than $5 million in taxpayer money between 2011 to 2014 to honor U.S. soldiers and veterans at games, an investigation revealed this week.

Nearly $5.4 million was given to 14 NFL teams across the country, the bulk of which ($5.3 million) was supplied by the National Guard and the rest paid by the Army and Air Force, according to government records obtained by NJ.com.

But instead of purely heartfelt salutes to soldiers from hometown football teams, the halftime segments were reportedly part of paid promotions under federal advertising contracts for the military.

One might say the entire unseemly enterprise is more Hollywood production than "heartfelt."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

 

2016jul7 warnomoreWars are largely fought now to ensure comfort and wealth, not to liberate people. (Photo: micagoto)

In the attacks of 9/11, the US government found the ideal motivating factor to pursue wars across the globe (particularly in the Middle East): fear.

Yes, there were terrorist attacks in the United States. And those attacks were all the more affronting to those in the US because since the Civil War, this country has been largely immune to any attacks on US soil (with a couple of notable exceptions, such as Pearl Harbor). We have come to see ourselves as immune to foreign attack, whether committed by nations or non-state terrorist organizations. Unlike most of the rest of the world, we have not seen our streets and sidewalks crushed by tanks and our cities bombed into rubble.

Meanwhile, according to journalist and researcher Nick Turse, the US is expanding its military action, particularly in low-level intensity conflicts, around the world. Political figures will claim that this military warfare is necessary to protect us from state enemies and terrorists alike. However, the reality is that for the most part, the US conducts war to protect its hegemony over regions of the world that supply it with raw materials, inexpensive labor and lucrative markets for corporations.

One need not look beyond the Middle East to see an example of an entire region that was first colonized by Europe in the early 1900s. The only thing that has changed since then is that the oil-rich region was carved up into nations that are still largely under the hegemonic control of the West. When oil-rich nations such as Iraq or Libya become troublesome to the US, they are "liberated" at the costs of hundreds of thousands of civilians, soldiers and US lives to ensure the ongoing availability of fossil fuel. The "dictators" are replaced with Western-friendly governments installed by the US and nations of the European Union (particularly the UK and France).

Our wars are frequently disguised under the propaganda sloganeering of fighting terrorism and "tyranny." This "sells" much better than portraying the reality of people dying and being displaced in massive numbers to ensure that wealthy people in the West -- particularly in the US -- can continue to enjoy a prosperous lifestyle. Except on rare occasions, we have not actually initiated wars to liberate the oppressed; we have fought to enrich the wealth of those who benefit from the resources that are "liberated" to our control. Western nations don't have to administer colonial governments anymore; they just have to conduct coups, install puppet governments and preserve the appearance of creating independent free nations.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

24272362830 425ed068b4 zBillboard of a demagogue "on message." (Photo: Tony Webster)

Mainstream media pundits and Republican Party apparatchiks are expressing the desire for Donald Trump to start sounding "presidential' and to "stay on message." An Associated Press article this weekend stated:

Weary Republicans are looking for assurances that Donald Trump can maintain the discipline needed to stay on message as he prepares for a bruising general election run-up against Hillary Clinton....

As he kicked off his general election campaign Friday, a thorny question has arisen: How does the party keep Trump in check?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently advised Trump on this matter, as reported by Politico:

"In addition to that, it's time to quit attacking various people you competed with or various minority groups in the country and get on message," McConnell told reporters. 

What might be an example of being "on message," to the top GOP dog in the Senate? Why, doing what the Republicans have been doing vociferously and obstructively for nearly eight years: attacking "the implementation of Obamacare."

Obsessively bloviating and babbling about a few Republican mantras would provide the "on message" credentials for Trump to be the CEO of the United States, McConnell is implying.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016June30 trumpforeignTrump doesn't just think that he is above the law, he thinks that he is the law. (Photo: IoSonoUnaFotoCamera)

With Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee for president, it's sometimes hard to pick which outrageous action or statement to focus on. It's a bit like trying to decide which door to open in a Halloween haunted house. The difference is that at the haunted house, you may scream, but you know that whatever is frightening you isn't real. With Trump, however, you fear that the daily scares may be monstrously real threats.

Yesterday, June 29, offers a fine example of the Trump fright fest, with several possible options for dismay. First, The Washington Times, a right-wing newspaper itself, prominently posted an article that repeated a charge that the "Trump campaign [is] illegally soliciting donations from foreign nationals":

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is illegally soliciting campaign donations from foreign nationals, according to a complaint being filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission.

Mr. Trump’s campaign has emailed solicitations to foreign nationals in Iceland, Scotland, Britain, and Australia requesting that they make contributions to his presidential campaign, according to a copy of the complaint being filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, two campaign finance watchdog groups.

“Donald Trump should have known better,” said Paul S. Ryan, deputy executive director of the Campaign Legal Center.

“It is a no-brainer that it violates the law to send fundraising emails to members of a foreign government on their official foreign government email accounts, and yet, that’s exactly what Trump has done repeatedly,” Mr. Ryan said.

According to the Federal Election Commission website, "Foreign nationals are prohibited from making any contributions or expenditures in connection with any election in the U.S."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016June29 paramedicGovernment paramedic services in the United States are increasingly being privatized. (Photo: Jim Legans, Jr)

When the issue of privatization of public services is raised, we don't often hear about it in relation to ambulances and paramedics. However, these emergency services -- often a matter of life or death -- are not immune to the shift toward privatization. That is why a June 25 New York Times article on the growing ownership of public emergency services (including fire departments) by investors is particularly chilling:

A Tennessee woman slipped into a coma and died after an ambulance company took so long to assemble a crew that one worker had time for a cigarette break.

Paramedics in New York had to covertly swipe medical supplies from a hospital to restock their depleted ambulances after emergency runs.

A man in the suburban South watched a chimney fire burn his house to the ground as he waited for the fire department, which billed him anyway and then sued him for $15,000 when he did not pay.

In each of these cases, someone dialed 911 and Wall Street answered.

It is a specific branch of Wall Street -- private equity -- that is heavily investing in acquiring public services such as emergency transport. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016June28 tppdncIt appears that Hillary Clinton is trying to have it both ways on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (Photo: Cool Revolution)

As a concession to Bernie Sanders and his large electoral following in the Democratic primaries, the Clinton campaign got the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to let him appoint five delegates to the Democratic Party Platform Drafting Committee. Hillary Clinton got to name six representatives to the committee. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chair of the DNC, named four. Considering that the prestigious and vocal progressives of the Sanders camp were outnumbered, you might think that the Clinton campaign had offered nothing more than a symbolic gesture -- and you would be partially correct.

The delegates appointed by Clinton and Wasserman-Schultz rejected many of the proposals put forth by Sanders' appointees. As Common Dreams reported on June 25:

During a 9-hour meeting in St. Louis, Missouri on Friday, members of the DNC's platform drafting committee voted down a number of measures proposed by Bernie Sanders surrogates that would have come out against the contentious Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), fracking, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. At the same time, proposals to support a carbon tax, Single Payer healthcare, and a $15 minimum wage tied to inflation were also disregarded.

In a statement, Sanders said he was "disappointed and dismayed" that representatives of Hillary Clinton and DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz rejected the proposal on trade put forth by Sanders appointee Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), despite the fact that the presumed nominee has herself come out against the 12-nation deal.

"Inexplicable" was how Sanders described the move, adding: "It is hard for me to understand why Secretary Clinton’s delegates won’t stand behind Secretary Clinton’s positions in the party’s platform." 

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