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2016april8 trump8When it comes to medical insurance, Trump's ideas are bad for the health of the US  (Photo: Gilberto A. Viciedo )

A Medicare-for-all system would be the most cost-effective, fair and humane way to provide medical care in the United States. It would immediately, for instance, reduce health care costs that are currently inflated by the profits of private insurance companies. It would also improve the availability of medical care by eliminating the for-profit incentive to deny payment for services.Those are just two of many reasons that universal government coverage would be the best way to deliver health care in this country.

Donald Trump, of course, doesn't want to go that route. After all, the Republican Party has spent years obstructing Congress by way of its obsession with repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare -- and this is one issue on which Trump and mainstream Republicans agree.

What does Trump want to replace Obamacare with? That's a good question. According to an article in an April 18 New York Times article, he has offered such a jumble of sketchy suggestions that even conservative critics of the ACA are highly critical of Trump's jerry-rigged ideas: 

Robert Laszewski, a former insurance executive and frequent critic of the health law, called Mr. Trump’s health care proposals "a jumbled hodgepodge of old Republican ideas, randomly selected, that don’t fit together...."

Mr. Trump’s health care platform "resembles the efforts of a foreign student trying to learn health policy as a second language," said Thomas P. Miller, a health economist at the American Enterprise Institute and a harsh critic of President Obama’s health law....

"It took a herculean political effort to put in place the Affordable Care Act," said [James] Capretta [a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative nonprofit group], who worked at the White House Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004. "To move in a different direction, even incrementally, would take an equally herculean effort, with clear direction and a clear vision of what would come next. I just don’t see that in Trump’s vague plans to repeal the law and replace it with something beautiful and great."

Those are just three of the critiques of Trump's sketchy healthcare coverage policies coming from conservative health care policy analysts.


2016April7 holybibleMaking the "Holy Bible" the official book of Tennessee violates the constitutional separation of church and state. (Photo: Charlotte Tai)

According to Joel Ebert of The Tennessean, this week the Tennessee legislature finalized passage of a bill making the Christian Bible the official state book:

Tennessee is poised to make history as the first state in the nation to recognize the Holy Bible as its official book.

After nearly 30 minutes of debate, the state Senate on Monday (April 4), approved the measure, sponsored by state Sen. Steve Southerland, with a 19-8 vote, sending the legislation to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk.....

If Haslam signs the bill, the Bible would join a list of state symbols such as the raccoon as the state’s wild animal, the Eastern box turtle as the state reptile, the square dance as the state folk dance, milk as the official state beverage and the Barrett M82 sniper rifle as the official state rifle, which lawmakers approved earlier in the session.

Prior to the state Senate vote, the bill had been approved by the Tennessee House of Representatives. 

Official state symbols are largely unknown by residents of any state. How many Californians know that the "official state artifact" is the chipped stone bear? Or how many people in the Lone Star State are aware that the "official state amphibian" is the Texas Toad


2016April6 siliconvaleycontractMany Silicon Valley companies are part of the problem when it comes to income inequality. (Photo of Silicon Valley from the air: Patrick Nouhailler)

A recent Washington Post article highlighted how the high-tech industry, particularly in Silicon Valley, is fostering income inequality through the use of contract workers for support positions such as bus drivers and custodians, as well as for "white-collar" positions such as secretaries and accountants. The Post focused on a March 2016 study entitled, "Silicon Valley Industries: Contract Workforce Assessment." It was conducted by the Everett Program at the University of Santa Cruz. 

The Post focuses on some key findings:

There are also some crucial differences between the people who work at Google without working for Google, or work at Facebook without working for Facebook.

Subcontracted workers make about 70 percent of the salary that in-house workers in similar occupations make, or an average of $40,000 a year, compared to $113,300 for directly-hired tech employees --making it incredibly difficult to find an affordable place to live within a reasonable distance from work. According to Census data, they depend more heavily on food stamps, and 30 percent lack health insurance.

So these contracted workers, the ones who are not directly employed by Silicon Valley companies, save the corporations money at the expense of salary, job security and benefits for the workers. Meanwhile, the corporations continue to roll in exorbitant amounts of money; Facebook recently reached a market value of $340 billion.


2016April5 kochbrothers5The Koch Brothers, masters of dark money.  (DonkeyHotey)

Money, according to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, should be considered merely a tool that facilitates "free speech" under the First Amendment. The decision infamously extended unlimited dark money political spending even to corporations.

In her prodigiously documented and riveting book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Jane Mayer provides an historical account of how Charles and David Koch tenaciously built a network among the wealthiest people in the United States to buy elections and influence public policy.

In just one telling fact, Mayer provides a glimpse into the oligarchical impact on elections that the Koch network and other rich individuals and corporations are having:

The 100 biggest known donors in 2014 spent nearly as much money on behalf of their candidates as the 4.75 million people who contributed $200 or less. On their own, the top 100 known donors gave $323 million. And this was only the disclosed money. Once the millions of dollars in unlimited, undisclosed dark money were included, there was little doubt that an extraordinarily small and rich conservative clique had financially dominated everybody else.

As a "former family friend" of the Koch brothers said of Charles (as quoted by Jane Mayer), "Maybe he confused making money with freedom."


2016March30 rollingstoneThe first album of the Rolling Stones. Now, they are a global brand who cross promote with global corporations. (Photo: badgreeb RECORDS)

The Rolling Stones played a concert in Havana, Cuba, on March 25. The rock magazine Rolling Stone gushed over it:

In the recent series of monumental arrivals in Cuba — Netflix, Airbnb, a U.S. president — none looms as large as the Rolling Stones, who played to an estimated 500,000 Cubans in Havana on Friday. On an island overlooked by time for more than a half century, the group became the focal point of life for at least a day. The iconic tongue logo sprouted up on T-shirts across Havana, and cabbies, bartenders and friendly locals asked almost anyone, "Do you know the Rolling Stones will play tonight?" as if to confirm that the concert was indeed real....

"This is a new time," Jagger observed to roars from the crowd, a nod to the Stones' once-outlaw status in the country....

Cuban communism might be losing steam, but over an hour into the show it was clear that Mick Jagger is not.

If a half a million people indeed attended the concert, that is about a quarter of the population of Havana....

However, and not to be a curmudgeon about celebrating their classic riffs, they also represent the marketing of music as a brand. That is why Rolling Stone magazine - itself a brand - starts out its coverage of the band's show in Cuba comparing the performance to the arrival of Netflix and Airbnb on the island still officially under a congressional embargo.

Bill Berkowitz for BuzzFlash at Truthout

2016march28 justiceWhen will the mass media treat the Indigenous people in the United States with justice and dignity? (Photo: Thomas)

National stories about Native Americans are few and far between, and when they do appear, stereotypes generally prevail. In a recent Nieman Reports article, Jon Marcus reported on the deaths of several Native Americans at the hands of government officials; deaths that have basically gone un-or-under-reported:

* On a cold winter’s night in December 2014, a policeman who maintained that Allen Locke lunged at him with a knife, killed Locke inside his house at Lakota Community Homes in Rapid City, North Dakota. No charges were filed against the officer;

* In Denver, Colorado, Paul Castaway was killed “by police who said he was threatening his mother, though she argues that deadly force was unnecessary in this incident”;

* “William J. Dick III, a 28-year-old suspected armed robber … died in Washington State after a U.S. Forest Service agent shocked him with a Taser”;

* Larry Kobuk, 33, “died after being restrained by officers booking him into the Anchorage Correctional Complex on charges that he stole a car and drove it with a suspended license.”

It's not just police brutality and killing of Indigenous peoples that aren't generally included in ongoing national media coverage.


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. 


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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.  


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." 


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.

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