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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

donaldtrump33Donald Trump doesn't do a "pivot." (Gage Skidmore)

Retired US Marine Corps General John Kelly, after a short stint as secretary of homeland security, replaced Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff on July 31. In response, the PBS News Hour sent out an email with the question, "Can Kelly stabilize the White House?" The question reflected the countless mainstream corporate press articles that speculated whether the umpteenth personnel change in the executive branch since Trump took office was a "pivot." Other articles reflected on whether or not Kelly's appointment was a "reset" for the Trump administration.

As an example of the Kelly-replacing-Priebus coverage, consider the August 1 NBC News article entitled, "Is Trump (Finally) Ready for a 'Pivot' to Presidential?" Journalist Ali Vitali wrote, after reflecting on Trump's incorrigible behavior as president,

But now, with the appointment of Ret. Marine Gen. John Kelly as his new chief of staff, is Trump finally on the precipice of change?

He says he could if he wanted — "with the exception of the late great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any President that's ever held this office!" — but chooses not to because he believes the country needs an unconventional governing style.

"Sometimes they say he doesn't act presidential. And I say, 'Hey look, Great schools, smart guy.' It's so easy to act presidential, but that's not gonna to get it done," Trump told thousands of supporters in Youngstown, Ohio, last week for a campaign-style rally.

How can one expect a person who sees himself as an omniscient, omnipotent CEO be reined in by a person whom he considers an employee?

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

epipenThe story of EpiPen pricing reveals why drug costs should be controlled. Greg Friese)

You may remember the EpiPen scandal -- the massive price increases on the life-saving drug delivery system that saves people temporarily from allergic reactions -- from awhile back. In 2016, The Daily Take Team wrote on Truthout,

Dozens of reports are now coming out about how Mylan Pharmaceuticals hiked the price of the very common life-saving EpiPen by over 450 percent since Mylan bought EpiPen in 2007.

You've probably heard of EpiPens, and you probably know someone who needs to carry two around with them at all times, just in case they have a severe allergic reaction as a result of some everyday occurrence -- for example, encountering a food product with peanuts or being stung by a bee....

But it's not the epinephrine that makes EpiPens unique, it's the precision delivery system, the "Pen," that makes the product special. And that delivery system really hasn't changed since 1977 when the EpiPen hit the market. So why has the price more than quadrupled since 2007? Why are patients who need this medicine currently paying $600 for two pens?

Because of the greed at Mylan Pharmaceuticals, plain and simple.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

4709584426 90ed99b6f0 zSurplus Humvees are among the army gear given away to police departments through the Pentagon's 1033 program. (AFPMB)

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Last month, The Marshall Project reported:

When you think of a federal sting operation involving weaponry and military gear, the Government Accountability Office doesn’t immediately jump to mind. The office is tasked with auditing other federal agencies to root out fraud and abuse, usually by asking questions and poring over paperwork.

This year, the agency went a little more cowboy. The GAO created a fictitious law enforcement agency — complete with a fake website and a bogus address that traced back to an empty lot — and applied for military-grade equipment from the Department of Defense.

And in less than a week, they got it.

The equipment was obtained, according to The Marshall Project, from

the obscure 1033 program, which dates back to the Clinton era. Any equipment the U.S. military was not using — including Humvees, grenades, scuba-diving gear and even marching-band instruments — was available to local cops who could demonstrate a need.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

dojemblemShould we rename the DOJ, the Department of White Nationalists? (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

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Before the abomination of Trump supporting a neo-Nazi race riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, his Department of Justice signaled earlier this month that it was going to put a high priority on achieving a goal of white nationalists: ending affirmative action at colleges and universities.

Such a priority on the part of Department of Justice (DOJ) is consistent with creating a nation that guarantees more white privilege, according to New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb:

[The recent] leak of the Department of Justice memo announcing its plan to mount a legal challenge to affirmative action in university admissions … has the possibly intentional effect of reminding conservatives why they should defend Jeff Sessions from Trump’s attempts to replace him as Attorney General. But its significance extends beyond the factional G.O.P. infighting. The memo became public one day before Trump’s endorsement of a Senate bill that would curb legal immigration to the United States. (At a press briefing, Stephen Miller explained the move in terms that recalled the language of the racialist Immigration Act of 1924.) These two initiatives, along with the constant talk of building a border wall and the Administration’s fulminations about trade deficits, point to an over-all endeavor to create a kind of racial protectionism, to socially engineer a world in which whites -- the unheralded disadvantaged class in America -- once again have a deck stacked in their own favor.

The DOJ, according to The New York Times, is going to aggressively investigate and suppress affirmative action through a special unit devoted to the project.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

roberteleeparkRobert E. Lee statue that hopefully will be removed from Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo: Bob Mical)

Make your voice heard! Readers like you are the sustaining force behind BuzzFlash and Truthout -- show your support by making a one-time or monthly donation today.

Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." If morality bends toward justice, it was perverted by rioting white nationalists brandishing tiki torches in defense of a Robert E. Lee statue and white supremacy in Charlottesville, Virginia.

On Tuesday, August 15, Donald Trump returned to where he had started on Saturday, blaming "both sides ... many sides" for the deaths and injuries in and surrounding Emancipation Park, where the Lee statue is located. According to the Tuesday news conference transcript, Trump extended the false equivalency of blame for the violence even further than on Saturday, saying:

You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent…. No one wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now....

What about the alt-left that came charging at ‘em. Excuse me, what about the alt-left that came charging at, as you say the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?

Not only did he manufacture acts of violence from those who were peacefully protesting racism and white supremacy, he also created a term that he will now likely use -- along with his white nationalist allies: "the alt-left." This will facilitate the media's tendency to report from a perspective of false equivalencies. "There are two sides to every story," many news producers and editors argue. Now Trump has made it easy for the press to describe alt-right and alt-left forces "clashing" at white nationalist mob actions.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

nycsubwayWhy shouldn't the rich be taxed to improve public transportation? (Photo: Josh Hallett)

When Elizabeth Warren was running for her Massachusetts Senate seat in 2012, she made the telling point that corporations are subsidized by government services. They benefit from public education, highways and other government-run programs, while also securing tax breaks. In urban areas, one of the most significant government financial outlays that aids businesses is mass transit, which is paid for by the public through tax expenditures and user fees. In significant-size cities, private enterprise would be dramatically curtailed if public transportation became unreliable and insufficient.

New York City, which is highly dependent upon its public train system, is currently experiencing a breakdown of its subway infrastructure, including mechanical failures and power outages, among other serious problems. These issues have developed after many years of deficient funding for repairs. As a result, riders are not infrequently facing long delays in getting to and from work.

New York City Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio has an idea for a long-term boost to the ailing mass transit system. According to NBC Channel 4 in New York,

The mayor of New York City wants to tax the wealthiest 1 percent to fund repairs and improvements to the beleaguered subway system….

"Instead of searching for a quick-fix that doesn't exist, or simply forking over more and more of our tax dollars every year, we have come up with a fair way to finance immediate and long-term transit improvement," de Blasio said in a statement Sunday. 

The tax would increase the top income tax rate from about 3.9 percent to 4.4 percent for married couples who make more than $1 million and individuals making more than $500,000, city officials said. It would affect about 32,000 of New Yorkers filing taxes in the city, or just less than 1 percent, officials said.

"Rather than sending the bill to working families and subway and bus riders already feeling the pressure of rising fares and bad service, we are asking the wealthiest in our city to chip in a little extra," de Blasio said.

De Blasio says the plan would generate about $800 million a year.

 

 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

guamcoatofarmsGuam is at the center of a nuclear standoff, but its US citizens cannot even vote for president. (Photo: Seal of Guam)

Guam made worldwide news on Wednesday when North Korea threatened to envelop it in fire in response to Donald Trump's threat to attack North Korea with "fire and fury." Guam is a US territory that serves as a massive military base. It has about 160,000 US residents who are American citizens. However, even though they are currently the focus of North Korea's destructive missile threats, people born on Guam are not able to vote in US presidential elections unless they move to a US state.

Thus, even though Guam may today be ground zero for a US nuclear standoff, its people have no say in electing a president who may make the decision to launch a preemptive nuclear attack on North Korea. In turn, North Korea is threatening a return nuclear strike on Guam.

According to an August 9 article in the Los Angeles Times,

It wasn't the first time the island has been on the receiving end of Pyongyang's threats. There was similarly ominous talk from North Korea in 2013, making specific note that Guam's sprawling Andersen Air Force Base, among other Pacific territories, lay within target range.

Still, many residents were worried about the unpredictability of North Korea's leader, and by the warnings of "enveloping fire" emanating from Kim's capital.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

sleepapneatrainUnder the Trump administration, riding a train could be lethal. (Photo: lOaD sToNe0

When you ride a train, be aware that, due to the Trump administration rolling back a key regulation, that a train may be operated by a drowsy engineer who could fall asleep at the wheel. Unfortunately, this life-threatening action received little coverage, and was largely drowned out by the ongoing Trump farces. The Associated Press reported yesterday:

U.S. officials are abandoning plans to require sleep apnea screening for truck drivers and train engineers, a decision that safety experts say puts millions of lives at risk.

The Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said late last week that they are no longer pursuing the regulation that would require testing for the fatigue-inducing disorder that's been blamed for deadly rail crashes in New York City and New Jersey and several highway crashes.

The agencies argue that it should be up to railroads and trucking companies to decide whether to test employees. One railroad that does test, Metro-North in the New York City suburbs, found that 11.6 percent of its engineers have sleep apnea.

The article noted the real risks of allowing trains to be driven by sleep-deprived drivers.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

medicareforallMedicare-for-All may be closer than many persons think. (Photo: Molly Adams)

Before the establishment of Medicare, many persons more than 65 years of age who weren't wealthy dealt with a harrowing reality. When they became seriously ill or required a costly procedure, they possibly faced bankruptcy due to lack of health insurance or high deductibles and co-pays. Many also confronted having to go without health care because of costs, sometimes leading to a painful death because of the exorbitant price of medical care without insurance. In fact, the lack of a government health insurance program for the elderly led to seniors being among the poorest age groups in the nation.

This past Sunday, Medicare celebrated its 52nd anniversary. National health care coverage in the United States for seniors had been an elusive goal until the program was launched in 1965. For years, efforts to pass Medicare were thwarted by charges that we still hear today against the Affordable Care Act and proposals for single-payer health care. Government health care insurance for the elderly was called "communist" medicine and accused of being "un-American." Despite his ability to get Social Security enacted in 1935 and launch other government-administered New Deal programs, President Franklin Roosevelt was not able to overcome vigorous opposition to government health coverage for seniors, and was unable to get it passed out of Congress.

It took the determined and wily President Lyndon Baines Johnson, in the post-Kennedy assassination environment, to persuade both houses of Congress to make Medicare -- long a seemingly impossible dream of many advocates -- a reality.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

scalesofjustice33The scales of justice are tipping conservative due to the GOP's fast-paced Senate confirmations of federal judges. (Photo: Chris Potter)

Ever since I founded BuzzFlash in 2000, I have written occasional commentaries on how the Republicans are equally tenacious in appointing right-wing federal judges when they control the Senate process as they are in opposing liberal or moderate nominees when there is a Democratic president.

One can point to the nixing of the Merrick Garland appointment to the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) under Obama as an example of GOP obstructionism. With Mitch McConnell as the coordinator of the effort, no hearings were even held on Garland and only a few courtesy calls with a few Republican senators were allowed. Garland, Chief United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is regarded as a moderate and respected by the likes of arch-conservative Orrin Hatch.

However, the Democrats did not shine a spotlight on the unfairness of the Republicans, which led to what would have been Garland's seat going to ultra-right-wing jurist Neil Gorsuch, who was fast-tracked to the SCOTUS in the first months of the Trump administration.

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