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EditorBlog (1793)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

fccbadgeThe Federal Communications Commission under Trump is once again facilitating media consolidation. (Image: Wikipedia)

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One of the giant media consolidators, the Sinclair Broadcast Group, is on the verge of acquiring the Tribune Media Company. This is not good news.

The website B&C: Broadcasting and Cable points out that when the merger is complete, "Sinclair will reach 72 percent of the country, giving the group a near-national footprint, as well as a presence in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Sinclair also would get Tribune’s national cable channel WGN America, and multicast networks including Antenna TV." In total, Sinclair will be acquiring Tribune Media's 42 television stations.

The acquisition of Tribune Media for $3.9 billion includes the flagship WGN radio station, which broadcasts from Chicago. The Tribune's print properties, including The Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times are not part of the buyout because they are part of Tribune Publishing, which became a separate company a few years back.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

civilrightsmlkThe Trump administration is moving backwards on civil rights. (Photo: Sivlia Calderon)

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The Trump administration is wasting no time in reducing the enforcement of civil rights laws. According to a June 15 article in ProPublica,

For decades, the Department of Justice has used court-enforced agreements to protect civil rights, successfully desegregating school systems, reforming police departments, ensuring access for the disabled and defending the religious.

Now, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the DOJ appears to be turning away from this storied tool, called consent decrees. Top officials in the DOJ civil rights division have issued verbal instructions through the ranks to seek settlements without consent decrees — which would result in no continuing court oversight.

The move is just one part of a move by the Trump administration to limit federal civil rights enforcement. Other departments have scaled back the power of their internal divisions that monitor such abuses.

Critics of the new Department of Justice policy say it will have serious implications, according to the ProPublica piece.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

parisaccord34Many US cities and states will abide by the Paris accord goals. (Photo: Klovovi)

 The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) resoundingly rejected President Trump's withdrawal from the Paris accord, according to a statement on its website:

The United States Conference of Mayors strongly opposes President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and has vowed that the nation’s mayors will continue their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to alleviate the impacts of global warming.

“The U.S. Conference of Mayors is a strong proponent of the need to address climate change and we support the Paris agreement, which positions the world’s nations, including the United States, to be energy independent, self-reliant, and resilient,” said Phoenix (AZ) Mayor Greg Stanton, Chair of USCM’s Environment Committee. “A thriving economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are compatible by focusing on new technology, investing in renewable fuel sources, and increasing our energy efficiency....”

“Dozens of our country’s cities have already united to implement measures that combat climate change, so the President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement is not representative of our nation’s leaders and their communities,” said Columbia (SC) Mayor Steve Benjamin, USCM Second Vice President. “As Mayors, we commit to protecting the planet that we will leave to the next generations, finding innovative solutions for renewable energy and working so that our communities are kept free of hazardous emissions.”

The USCM represents 1,408 cities with populations of 30,000 residents or more.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

trumphoteldcThe Trump old post office hotel in DC used by foreign government officials, surrounded by protesters. (Mike Maguire)

Given Donald Trump's expansive business empire -- much of it hidden away in the details of his unreleased tax filings -- being president is enhancing his "brand" and the value of his name, which he often licenses to outside investors. Furthermore, he has said that he is not running his business while he is president, but he is reaping profits from the Trump Organization because he still owns the same share of the business as he always has. As a result, when foreign powers patronize his businesses or invest in Trump properties or naming rights, he is -- in legal theory -- violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

Paul Pillar clarifies the emoluments clause in a recent edition of the Lobe Log:

The emoluments clause is part of a broader prohibition in the Constitution (in Article I, Section 9) that bars the granting of any title of nobility and the acceptance “of any present, Office, Emolument, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” Emolument may be an eighteenth-century word that is not in many active vocabularies in the twenty-first century, but the concern about the effects of flattery and favor are at least as relevant today as they were when the Constitution was written. In fact, with the current president, the concern is more relevant than ever.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times on June 12, legal action by state officials challenging Trump's flouting of the emoluments clause is now being undertaken.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

naomikleinbookcover 1Now is the time to double up efforts to achieve ideals of justice. (Photo: Haymarket Books)

The title of Naomi Klein's book released today -- and available from Truthout by clicking here -- is No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. Although Klein spends the first part of her book detailing the appalling rise of Trump as an outgrowth of neoliberalism and branding trends over the past few decades, she also offers strategies for "reverse shock." This turns her theory of "the shock doctrine"-- the use of crises to advance ultra-capitalist economics and government -- on its head. What she suggests is that a shock-response strategy can also offer the opportunity for positive radical change.

As Klein exhorts in the conclusion to No Is Not Enough,

With this elevation of the basest figures to the most exalted of positions, the culture of maximum extraction, of endless grabbing and disposing, has reached some kind of breaking point. Clearly, it is the culture itself that must be confronted now, and not only policy by policy, but at the root.

Indeed, radical is defined as "of or going to the root." Klein argues that there is potentially a window of opportunity to break through "the shock doctrine" and adopt transformative progressive policies as neoliberal excesses teeter and perhaps collapse.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

constitution22Will there be an amendment to the Constitution to overturn Citizens United? (Photo: Adam Theo)

Late last month, Nevada became the 19th state to call for Congress to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. This would be accomplished through a constitutional amendment process. Since the 2010 ruling, its results have been overwhelmingly evident: The decision has substantially increased the influence of corporations on elections.

This shift has occurred via shady third party organizations -- entities which are supposed to be officially unaffiliated with political campaigns. However, it is extremely difficult to prove the existence of back channels of communication, and the likelihood of candidates buying elections and engaging in campaign finance-related corruption has increased. Furthermore, the increase in unregulated money going toward "indirect" electioneering has crushed the democratic process.

Public Citizen, a national advocacy organization and think tank, greeted the May 25 passage of Nevada's support for the amendment with a celebratory news release:

With Nevada today becoming the 19th state to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, the effort to rid politics of the corrupting influence of money has reached a milestone. The movement has support from half of the 38 states needed to enact such an amendment after it is approved by two-thirds of both chambers of Congress.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

scalesofjustice33In a surprising move, the Supreme Court lets the scales of justice tilt toward voting rights in North Carolina. ( Chris Potter)

In the tumultuous media scrum to cover the feckless showmanship and destructive behavior of Donald Trump, many positive developments on other fronts become lost in the maelstrom of the chronicles of Trumpism. One of those developments was a Supreme Court action on May 15 that let stand the striking down of a draconian North Carolina voter suppression law.

Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, which works to combat racial discrimination, commented on the Supreme Court development in a news release:

The Supreme Court’s move [on May 15] now renders North Carolina’s law null and void, and brings to close a long and protracted battle over a law deemed one of the most egregious voter suppression measures of its kind. We are pleased that the Supreme Court has left in place the 4th Circuit’s decision finding North Carolina’s draconian voter suppression measure unlawful because it discriminated against minority voters with 'almost surgical precision.'

The Lawyer's Committee also provided some background to the law that is now null and void:

The battle over North Carolina’s law reflects the fallout from the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder which gut a core provision of the Voting Rights Act.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

enduringfreedomUS soldiers patrolling in Afghanistan. (Photo: DVIDSHUB)

We are nearing the 16th year of the Afghan War, which began on October 7, 2001, with the US military invasion of the country. The assault was jingoistically dubbed Operation Enduring Freedom. Today, the longest war in US history still has no end in sight.

Alarmingly, according to the New York Times, Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster are urging President Trump to initiate a new surge of troops. This would add thousands more soldiers to the 8,400 who are still currently serving there, should Trump approve the plan.

In a commentary in Consortium News, James W. Carden writes:

In his 2014 book Restraint: A New Foundation for US Strategy, [Barry] Posen correctly observes that U.S. objectives in Afghanistan are "probably unachievable." After all, "despite much US and NATO instruction" Afghanistan’s "military, and police remain poorly trained, inadequately armed, sometimes corrupt, and only intermittently motivated."

What to do? Send in more troops, as per Mattis and McMaster? No: the wisest course of action would be for the U.S. to moderate its goals, which, according to Posen, "means ratcheting down the US counterinsurgency, nation-building project in Afghanistan at the earliest possible time."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

tsunamihazardThe Trump administration would imperil people from escaping the devastating effect of tsunamis. (Photo: hansol)

The Trump administration budget proposal would put large numbers of people at risk by reducing funds for Tsunami warnings, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) -- an advocacy group representing staff members of government agencies that are responsible for preserving the environment. A recent PEER news release states:

Proposed budget cuts by President Trump would compromise the timeliness and accuracy of tsunami forecasting and warnings, thereby putting thousands of coastal residents at needless risk.... The budgetary reductions unveiled last week would also negate key provisions of the Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act which Trump signed into law on April 18th.

According to National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration experts, the cuts will significantly reduce warning time of an incoming tsunami to coastal populations, especially in Alaska and Hawaii. In addition to eliminating over 60% of the staff for the NOAA Tsunami Warning Center (from 40 positions to only 15), the Trump budget would terminate funding for three separate tsunami detection systems:

  • Land-based seismic sensors;

  • Coastal water level sensors; and 

  • Deep-ocean buoys (the Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis or DARTs).

A PEER fact sheet details the impact of the proposed reduction in tsunami forecasting and advance alert funds. In particular, it warns against the termination in funding for seismic sensors, noting, "Eliminating these seismic sensors will dramatically decrease the lead time (from about 25minutes on average, to 0) for the most vulnerable Hawaiian, and Alaskan coastal populations,because over 90% of the casual ties occur on the closest coasts to a Tsunamigenic Earthquake."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

parisaccord2The poster above may be the epithet of the Trump administration. (Photo: Victoria Pickering)

Resistance is an imperative response to "Trumpism." However, in addition to pushing back, it is important for individuals, ad hoc advocacy groups, activist organizations and local governments to advance progressive goals in innovative ways.

This week brought us Trump's decision to remove the United States from the Paris Accord. This makes the United States one of only three nations that did not sign the Accord. (The others are Nicaragua, which did not sign it because the political leaders of that country felt it was not strong enough, and Syria, which was in the midst of civil war and whose leaders were hardly in a position to engage in international talks.) Beyond the wholly understandable outrage, can there be positive progressive action to counter Trump's pernicious abandonment of the people of the planet?

The answer that California, New York and Washington have offered is "yes." Yesterday, the three states announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance, which will be composed of states that want to commit to the Paris Accord, bypassing Trump's withdrawal. The alliance was described on the website of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo:

In response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., and Washington State Governor Jay R. Inslee today announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition that will convene U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change.

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