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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016june8 twitterryanReposted with permission of the New York Daily News.

Tweet from New York Daily News with image above:

I'M WITH RACIST! Ryan still supports Trump, "definition of racist" https://t.co/0C1JIaQxwN pic.twitter.com/AxlnLYWcv2

— New York Daily News

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) is a living oxymoron.

After his Hamlet-like anguish over whether to endorse Donald Trump or not, Ryan finally chose his Janesville, Wisconsin, hometown paper, to announce his backing of Trump in a tepid op-ed this past week. No news conference, no joint appearance, no round of Sunday morning DC pundit talk shows -- just a quiet, lukewarm endorsement of Trump. Ryan apparently believes Trump will help him enact a "bold" regressive Ayn Randian House GOP budget for the US next year. Ryan wrote in the online Janesville GazetteXtra,

Through these conversations [with Trump], I feel confident he would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people’s lives. That’s why I’ll be voting for him this fall....

For me, it’s a question of how to move ahead on the ideas that I—and my House colleagues—have invested so much in through the years. It’s not just a choice of two people, but of two visions for America. And House Republicans are helping shape that Republican vision by offering a bold policy agenda, by offering a better way ahead.

Donald Trump can help us make it a reality.

Ryan admits he has had his "differences" with Trump. After all, it is more than possible that Ryan would like to run for president in 2020, which means Trump would need to lose in November. If this speculation is accurate, then Ryan needs a lot of wiggle room to distance himself from the bull in the china shop that is Trump. However, that wiggle room is already starting to look like the Grand Canyon, instead of just minor disagreements.

When Trump began his racist crusade to taint the US federal judge who is currently overseeing the pretrial motions in the infamous Trump University class-action lawsuit, which alleges that the presumptive GOP presidential nominee committed fraud, his reluctant GOP "establishment" supporters were mortified. As journalist Callum Borchers writes today in The Washington Post, Paul Ryan is finding his balancing act rather perilous.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016june7 immigrationreformDonald Trump is only against non-white immigration. Immigration advocates (above) express their sentiments.  (SEIU Local 99)

In a cravenly worded June 4 article that appeared to blame anti-Trump protesters for planning and initiating alleged escalating violence (a highly alarmist assertion) at Trump protests, The New York Times stated, "Mr. Gonzales’s group [which protested Trump at a speech he was giving in San Jose] was one of many that arrived on Thursday to express disapproval of Mr. Trump, who has angered many critics with proposals they consider to be anti-immigrant."

Excuse me, but The New York Times, which fashions itself "the paper of record," utterly diminishes its credibility when it distances itself from blaring realities: Trump has, of course, made numerous statements against non-white immigrants, and has made shocking stances on non-white immgration a cornerstone of his campaign. How cowardly is it of the United States' only international newspaper not to state the fact that Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee largely on the promise to build a wall on the US-Mexican border and deport 11 million (non-white) immigrants, while slandering refugees, specifically refugees of color?

I could go further and detail more of Trump's abominable statements against immigrants of color (including his initial appalling claim about Mexican "rapists"), but that would take several columns. As a result, one has to ask how The New York Times could post an article that states, "Mr. Trump, who has angered many critics with proposals they consider to be anti-immigrant"? Isn't the factual statement here, "Mr. Trump, who has angered many critics with proposals [and statements that are incendiary against non-white immigrants, particularly Mexicans and Muslims]"? Instead, the Times delivered a mealy-mouthed phrasing that transforms glaring reality into a "perception" by Mexican-American protesters who Trump has loudly blasphemed and slandered.

Trump's latest racist claim is that a federal judge who is of Mexican heritage cannot impartially hear a class-action case brought by plaintiffs who claim Trump defrauded them. In this specific matter, a civil lawsuit charges that Trump University was set up for the purpose of enrichment by Trump and his marketing staff, fleecing "students" of thousands of dollars in tuition for insipid "courses."

An article in Medium.com details how Trump University "exploited working Americans," yielding large profits for Trump. It quotes Ronald Schnackenberg, former Trump University sales manager: "“Trump University was a fraudulent scheme… it preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016 June3socsecobamaPresident Obama's support of expanding Social Security benefits came about as a result of grassroots activism. (Image: DonkeyHotey)

On June 1, The Huffington Post reported on President Obama's expression of support this week for expanding Social Security benefits, while not making cuts in the program elsewhere:

President Barack Obama said Wednesday the U.S. ought to increase Social Security retirement benefits.

"It’s time we finally made Social Security more generous and increased its benefits so that today’s retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement that they’ve earned," Obama said during a speech in Elkhart, Indiana.

"And we can start paying for it by asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute a little bit more," Obama said. "They can afford it. I can afford it."

The announcement represents a major evolution in the president’s public position on Social Security and a coup for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which increasingly views benefits expansion as a core element of its agenda.

The additional revenue needed for increasing Social Security support would come primarily from raising the cap on the level of income that is taxed to go toward the Social Security Trust Fund.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT 

2016june2 changeWe, not the politicians, lead the change. (Photo: Conal Gallagher)

The mainstream corporate media -- when not hanging on Donald Trump's latest outrageous remark -- covers the primary contest for president of the United States as if it were a horse race or boxing match. BuzzFlash has periodically commented on this travesty and how it debases democracy.

Already the national polls have started to become fodder for political debate -- as if the issues don't matter, just the numbers -- with the current mainstream buzz concluding that trending polls show Clinton and Trump in a tight November race. That, of course, has quickly become the "conventional wisdom" before either of them have been voted their party's candidate at the upcoming summer conventions, with Clinton still in a primary battle. In regards to the ongoing contest on the Democratic side, much is currently being made of an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll released Wednesday that shows Clinton and Sanders are "neck-and-neck" in California, according to CNN.

Most of the mainstream media coverage skips details of candidate policies and, instead, reinforces easily consumable distilled perceptions of the candidates: Trump is swaggering, pugnacious and entertaining; Clinton has the government experience résumé, but lacks emotional connection and trustworthiness; and Sanders has authenticity, passion and "radical" plans for Wall Street. In addition, aside from ongoing secondary stories (Trump's Liberty University scam, Clinton's email investigation, Sanders' going "rogue" on the Democratic Party), the corporate media -- as we have noted before -- covers the competition for the presidency as if it were a sporting event.

As voters, we may be motivated by ideas, but television, in particular, offers images that are akin to caricatures of presidential candidates. There is little, if any, room for nuance -- just sensationalistic coverage of outlandish remarks, gaffes, uncovered historical blemishes, polling, DC-based punditry, rowdy crowds and winners and losers. In this context, public policy announcements and differences are usually confined to below-the-main-headline news, if covered at all. After all, a discussion of the implications of reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act -- whose repeal in the second Bill Clinton administration has been viewed by many as enabling the 2008 economic breakdown -- just doesn't draw enough viewers. Advertisers on television, of course, pay rates based on the size of a program's audience. Making politics personal, entertaining, combative and polling-oriented keeps the adrenalin of a mass audience pumping -- and advertising fees high.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016june1 trumpveteransThe mainstream corporate media can't get enough of Donald Trump, even if he's lacerating them. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

"He's Not Gonna Take it," CNN blared on its homepage yesterday, above a large close-up photo of Donald Trump. Beneath the picture, CNN placed a headline with a link to the article, "When Donald Trump hits back, he hits back hard." 

CNN, in essence, was pumping up the indomitable image that Donald Trump wants the media to portray of him. He and his campaign flacks consistently account for any of Trump's reprehensible and coarse portrayals of individuals and groups by asserting that he is a "counterpuncher." How that excuses racism, misogynism, bigoted pronouncements and childish name-calling is what the mass corporate media should be examining in their own reporting. However, such reporting is the exception rather than the rule. This was exemplified in the coverage of Donald Trump's Tuesday news conference in which he lacerated the press for questioning the sincerity of his commitment to raising money for veterans' charities -- including a personal million-dollar contribution he pledged in January.

The New York Times provided an account of the Tuesday spectacle:

He called a news conference ostensibly to answer questions about his fund-raising for charities that benefit military veterans. But Donald J. Trumpinstead spent most of his time on live television Tuesday berating the journalists covering his presidential campaign in unusually vitriolic and personal terms.

“You’re a sleaze,” he told a reporter for ABC.

“You’re a real beauty,” he told a reporter for CNN, snidely denigrating the man’s competence.

For 40 minutes, Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, assailed those reporting on his candidacy with a level of venom rarely seen at all, let alone in public, from the standard-bearer of a major political party. Then he warned that a Trump White House would feature more of the same.

Trump's use of the media as pawns in the usual scrum of national live cable coverage of all things Trump speaks to how the corporate media press corps is eating at his trough.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

March2016July27TrumpglobalWDonald Trump the businessman appears to accept global warming, while politically denouncing it as a hoax. (Photo: Tory Webster

Politico published an article on May 23 that received a bit of attention, but was generally buried in the news cycle by more sensational aspects of the presidential race. In a campaign season when public policy has taken second place to entertainment value in coverage, it was interesting to read a report (particularly on a website with an often-conservative bent) that actually addressed how one candidate is contradicting an official position that he has taken. The candidate is Donald Trump, and his public position is that global warming is a "total hoax" yet, as Politico notes:

The New York billionaire is applying for permission to erect a coastal protection works to prevent erosion at his seaside golf resort, Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland, in County Clare.... 

A permit application for the wall, filed by Trump International Golf Links Ireland and reviewed by POLITICO, explicitly cites global warming and its consequences — increased erosion due to rising sea levels and extreme weather this century — as a chief justification for building the structure.

His public disavowal of climate science at the same time he moves to secure his own holdings against the effects of climate change also illustrates the conflict between his political rhetoric and the realities of running a business with seaside assets in the 21st century.

To put it more bluntly, Trump is a climate change denier except when it comes to impacting his bottom line. Then, he's a believer in global warming.A May 26 New York Times report states that "Donald Trump’s energy plan [consists of] more fossil fuels and fewer rules."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016 May26statoflibertyWill the torch welcoming refugees on the Stature of Liberty be replaced by a can of Budweiser beer? (Photo: Daniel Mennerich)

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Perhaps you have read that Budweiser has announced it is going to brand its beer cans (and bottles) simply as "America" over the summer, with all sorts of patriotic phrases emblazoned on the red, white and blue aluminum containers. It's all party of a multi-corporate sponsorship and advertising tie-in with many events, including the US team at the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

In May of 2015, I wrote a commentary criticizing the National Park Service (NPS) for selling branding rights of National Park images to Budweiser (owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, headquartered in Belgium) for $2.5 million. The agreement not only was a violation of the National Park Service guidelines, which specify that our public lands should not be affiliated with alcohol or tobacco products, but it also indicated that US government austerity policies were forcing entities that should be considered a "public good" to enter into the corporate branding tidal wave.

The "America" branding of Budweiser -- which will run through the November election and include the opportunistic slogan, ""America is in Your Hands" -- includes an image of the NPS-trademarked image of the Statue of Liberty, according to the trade publication Creativity (an offshoot of Ad Age). The use of the iconic statue -- and possibly other National Park Service-owned images -- by Budweiser during its election and US Olympic team branding initiative was made possible by the rights agreement we discussed in 2015.

The national advocacy alliance Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) -- which condemned the Budweiser relationship with the National Park Service -- is now warning of even more aggressive corporate branding arrangements being pursued by the Park Service. On May 9, it revealed in a news release.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016 May25warrentrumpElizabeth Warren's scorching criticism of Donald Trump is effective because it comes from impassioned conviction candidly expressed. (Photo: AFGE)

While Bernie Sanders continues to use his candidacy to advance progressive options for the future of the United States, Hillary Clinton has already stated that she assumes she'll get the nomination. Although Sanders looks to win more delegates, his mission appears to also be focused on using his continued role as an active candidate to press for concessions from the Clinton camp and to build a movement.

Indeed, among all the news media clamor over irresolvable enmity and political differences between the Clinton and Sanders campaign, behind the scenes there are clearly negotiations going on. These talks resulted in, for example, Sanders being able to choose five members of the 15-person Democratic Party Platform Committee. Sanders is choosing people who stick in the craw of the Clinton camp and neoliberal Democratic Party leadership. According to Reuters, they are "Arab-American Institute President James Zogby; noted professor Cornel West; Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison; Deborah Parker, an activist on Native American rights; and Bill McKibben, an activist on environmental issues."

While granting Sanders and his ideas for reform a role in the convention, Clinton is moving on to continue vigorously campaigning for votes in the remaining primary, while -- as the mainstream media so frequently describes it -- "pivoting" to running against Trump.

That, however, is already proving a challenge to the sprawling bureaucratic, focus-group-vetted, poll-tested Clinton campaign. According to a commentary by Jake Novak that appeared on CNBC.com, two of three of Clinton's biggest campaign mistakes are that she generally offers uninspiring platitudes in her speeches and on social media -- and that she lets Donald Trump "drive the agenda."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016 May24cpdpatchChicago's contract with the Fraternal Order of Police union has many provisions that obstruct investigations of misconduct. (C. Holmes)

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According to an article in the Chicago Tribune this past Sunday, for decades the City of Chicago has negotiated contracts with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) that grant cops special rights to avoid accountability for misconduct and violence committed against citizens:

From the moment Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police started negotiating its first contract with City Hall 35 years ago, the union identified an issue that would prove key to its members: ensuring officers had robust protections when they were investigated for misconduct.

City Hall had its own focus: money.

Since that first contract, mayors from Jane Byrne to Rahm Emanuel have routinely fought to hold tight on the bottom line, while the union that represents thousands of rank-and-file officers has worked to, among other things, build layers of insulation from scrutiny.

One product of that bargain between the city and the FOP has been a flawed system in which officers are rarely held accountable for misconduct. 

The special contract concessions allow Chicago police officers special rights during internal investigations of their conduct, which the police do not afford to civilians. According to the Tribune,

Critics say the provisions provide police the opportunity to collude and even formulate a favorable version of events after an incident such as a shooting. They say, too, that they can create a chilling effect that keeps some victims from coming forward for fear of retaliation. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016 May20malheurMalheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, where armed anti-federal land militants occupied the site and demanded the public land from the US government earlier this year. (Photo: John Matthews)

During the armed occupations of the Cliven Bundy ranch in 2014 and of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge this year, the "sovereign citizen" militants carrying out the occupations were seizing federally owned lands and demanding their privatization. The unjust irony of these demands was that -- in both cases -- the militants were descendants of white colonialist settlers trying to claim personal ownership of land that is the rightful property of Indigenous peoples.

The occupations of the Bundy ranch area and Malheur were covered by the mainstream media as a standoff between law enforcement officials on the federal and local levels versus the militia occupiers. A vital public policy issue that the confrontations raised is to what extent are public lands under threat in the West.

A new report, "The Disappearing West," by the Center for American Progress offers an ominous analysis of the diminishing Western lands open for public use. "Every 2.5 minutes, the American West loses a football field worth of natural area to human development," the study states. The report, conducted in conjunction with Conservation Science Partners, warns of the looming peril:

From governors’ mansions to the halls of Congress, questions about land and wildlife conservation command relatively little attention today. The conventional wisdom seems to hold that the most consequential battles over America’s wild places are already settled. President Theodore Roosevelt, Sierra Club founder John Muir, and the environmental activists of the 1960s won protections for national parks, national forests, and wilderness areas. In the eyes of some politicians, the West’s open spaces are not only well protected, but too well protected. An anti-parks caucus in the U.S. Congress, for example, wants to block new national parks and sell off the West’s national forests to private owners....

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