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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaajohnwaynestatStatue of John Wayne, who was a rabid racist and draft dodger. (Photo: Cromeley)

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Last week, a media scrum covered the endorsement of Donald Trump by John Wayne's daughter, Aissa Wayne. The press event was held at the John Wayne Museum in his hometown of Winterset, Iowa, just two weeks before the caucuses in that state.

In a campaign based on Trump's agile celebrity branding of himself, akin to a political Kardashian, the endorsement by John Wayne's daughter was another masterful move, invoking images of the "golden age" of white Hollywood male virility. Yet Wayne never enlisted in the military during World War II. His image as a war hero is purely derived from his acting performances of valor and flinty cowboy stoicism filmed on Hollywood sets.

In a commentary on the event by Ken Walsh, who covers DC and politics for U.S. News & World Report, he observes,

Of course, Wayne rose to fame by playing a symbol of power and strength in the movies, not by being one in real life. Similarly, Trump has taken his own tough-guy persona from his hit TV show, "The Apprentice," and made it his persona on the campaign trail.

An article on the website Neatorama examined Wayne's lucrative Hollywood years spent primarily in southern California, when not punctuated by vacations and filming in other locations. The recounting of Wayne's self-indulgent war years concluded: "From all the evidence, it just simply looks like a case of a man preferring to be a Hollywood movie star millionaire to being a $21.00 a month GI, risking his life in some foxhole or in a plane, overseas." 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaapalincpac

Sarah Palin speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

It would be easy to dismiss the endorsement of Donald Trump by Sarah Palin as one more segment in a rambunctious satire of a reality TV show. After all, who could possibly take seriously Palin's bizarre, meandering speech this week throwing her support behind Trump? The New York Times felt compelled to post a story with an annotated version of Palin's remarks that highlighted frequent phrasing unanchored in grammar - or even in one case the dictionary, when she created the word "squirmishes."

However, instead of laughing at the endorsement, we need to take its implications seriously. Palin's words were likely, judging from the cheers of the Iowa crowd, understood as a reaffirmation of "values" at the emotional heart of the populist right wing. For examples, consider one of Palin's declarations that The Times analyzed (the following segment includes the interpretation of Times reporter Michael Barbaro in italics):

[Palin:]"And he, who would negotiate deals, kind of with the skills of a community organizer maybe organizing a neighborhood tea, well, he deciding that, 'No, America would apologize as part of the deal,' as the enemy sends a message to the rest of the world that they capture and we kowtow, and we apologize, and then, we bend over and say, 'Thank you, enemy.'"

[NYT] It’s a mouthful. But this section, in which Mrs. Palin contrasts Mr. Trump with Mr. Obama, has everything she relishes: Mockery of Mr. Obama’s early years working in Chicago neighborhoods, right-wing accusations that the president has apologized for America, and a crude reference to him as a submissive sissy on foreign policy.

Palin, over the years, has scurrilously targeted President Obama in a coded appeal to racism, as in her regular invoking of his work as a community organizer.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaelizabethwarren45Senator Elizabeth Warren may not be in the presidential debates, but she is essential to the debate on the pernicious activity and influence of Wall Street. (Photo: Edward Kimmel )

Criticism of US government leniency on Wall Street legal transgressions is now being covered widely - even by trade publications such as the National Mortgage Professional Magazine. On January 18, the trade publication ran an article about Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) condemning the most recent US government settlement with a "too-big-to-fail" financial firm, in this case Goldman Sachs, for illegal abuse of the mortgage market:

Sen. Warren used her Facebook page to denounce the agreement, noting that the settlement sum was “barely a fraction of the billions investors lost” while arguing that Goldman Sachs was not properly penalized for its actions.

“That’s not justice – it’s a white flag of surrender,” she wrote. “It’s time to end this farce. These companies think they’re above the law – and too many government officials go along with them. A first step would be to pass the bipartisan Truth in Settlements Act to shine more light on these backroom deals. A second step would be to get government officials who have the backbone to fight back.”

Warren’s comments were echoed by the nonprofit U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG).

The publication, which is geared toward professionals in the mortgage industry, also tellingly noted, "In announcing the [$5.1 billion] settlement, Goldman Sachs made no admission of guilt or error, and no executive from the New York-based financial giant will face criminal or civil charges." 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaeisenwhowerWas President Dwight Eisenhower a socialist in disguise? (Photo: Marion Doss)

Based on the attacks on Bernie Sanders by the wealthy and corporate sectors, you'd think that his call for the wealthy to pay higher taxes makes him a Communist.  

However, as has been pointed out by Sanders himself, the highest marginal income tax rate in the last 65 years was 91 percent, and it was in place under President Eisenhower. In November 2015, PolitiFact reported:

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., wouldn’t reveal just how high he’d raise income taxes on the rich during the Iowa presidential debate, but he guaranteed it wouldn’t be as much as it has been in the past.

In order to pay for making college tuition-free for Americans, Sanders said that Wall Street owed the middle class for bailing it out during the recent financial crisis. He said he would demand "that the wealthiest people and the largest corporations, who have gotten away with murder for years, start paying their fair share."

Sanders was asked at the debate how high he might raise the marginal rate on upper bracket Americans? His response was, "We haven’t come up with an exact number yet, but it will not be as high as the number under Dwight D. Eisenhower, which was 90 percent."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaatrumphandWhen authoritarianism comes to the United States, it may be wearing a pinstripe suit. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

A poll conducted by University of Massachusetts PhD candidate Matthew MacWilliams found that the most frequent reason supporters back Donald Trump is his authoritarianism. In an opinion piece in Politico, MacWilliams describes the methodology and conclusions of his poll:

My finding is the result of a national poll I conducted in the last five days of December under the auspices of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, sampling 1,800 registered voters across the country and the political spectrum. Running a standard statistical analysis, I found that education, income, gender, age, ideology and religiosity had no significant bearing on a Republican voter’s preferred candidate. Only two of the variables I looked at were statistically significant: authoritarianism, followed by fear of terrorism, though the former was far more significant than the latter.

Authoritarianism is not a new, untested concept in the American electorate. Since the rise of Nazi Germany, it has been one of the most widely studied ideas in social science. While its causes are still debated, the political behavior of authoritarians is not. Authoritarians obey. They rally to and follow strong leaders. And they respond aggressively to outsiders, especially when they feel threatened. From pledging to "make America great again" by building a wall on the border to promising to close mosques and ban Muslims from visiting the United States, Trump is playing directly to authoritarian inclinations.

MacWilliams' findings are consistent with many well-known theories, which hold that a climate of intense fear and discontent is prime ground for appeals to authoritarianism. Add a fear of "terrorism" to a fear of economic decline, and the kindling is created for the rise of an authoritarian leader who offers harsh, iron-fisted solutions to real and ginned-up dismay, agitation and fear.  

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakeystonexlnorth32Advocates in 2014 demonstrated in front of the White House in opposition to the northern section of the Keystone XL Pipeline. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)

In a January 13 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Kristine Delkus, an executive vice president and general counsel at TransCanada, announced that TransCanada was going to file a claim against the United States for allegedly violating NAFTA. At issue is the Obama administration denial of a permit to construct the northern section of the Keystone XL pipeline:

The administration’s decision violates international agreements. When the U.S. government signed Nafta, it committed to provide Canadian investors with various protections against unfair, inequitable, and uncompensated expropriatory and discriminatory U.S. regulatory actions. The agreement enables companies, like TransCanada, to recover damages through international arbitration when Nafta’s provisions have been violated....

The damage to TransCanada is clear. It has lost the value of the project and incurred significant costs in pursuing what should have been a robust regulatory process based on facts and established criteria, not based on meeting misplaced symbolic political objectives.

Delkus also detailed how TransCanada was simultaneously pursuing a federal lawsuit in the US, charging that President Obama's decision to prohibit the construction of the northern Keystone XL section violates the US Constitution.

The NAFTA claim highlights longstanding fears of opponents of massive corporately written trade deals that such agreements allow companies to pursue "remedies" that supersede the sovereign powers of individual nations. This is because NAFTA and similar trade pacts allow for a separate arbitration trade-agreement tribunal process for adjudicating claims. According to the Canadian publication Oilweek, TransCanada has indicated that it intends "to file for $15 billion in damages against the U.S. government under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) based on its rejection of the [northern section of the] Keystone XL Pipeline."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaascottFlorida Governor Rick Scott embodies why individuals and corporations should not profit from providing medical care. (Image: DonkeyHotey)

Two-term Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) heavily financed both of his campaigns (2010 and 2014) out of his personal fortune, estimated at more than $130 million according to recent tax filings. Scott became a member of the one percent by co-founding what would become the largest US for-profit hospital and health care system in the 1990s: Columbia/HCA.

However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) began investigating Columbia/HCA under Clinton's Attorney General Janet Reno, and Rick Scott was forced to resign as CEO of the company in 1997 after proof of massive illegal Medicare profiteering was discovered.

2000 Forbes article provided a glimpse into some of the defrauding of the taxpayer that occurred under Scott:

The company increased Medicare billings by exaggerating the seriousness of the illnesses they were treating. It also granted doctors partnerships in company hospitals as a kickback for the doctors referring patients to HCA. In addition, it gave doctors “loans” that were never expected to be paid back, free rent, free office furniture, and free drugs from hospital pharmacies.

In the tradition of the DOJ not prosecuting CEOs, Scott was never charged with overseeing the bilking of Medicare. However, after his departure, Scott's former company (by then simply called HCA), pled guilty to 14 felony counts. Forbes reported that the Department of Justice investigation revealed that "the fraud ... ran deep within HCA’s way of doing business."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaobamahopeBarack Obama ran on a campaign of hope, but ended up with little change in the structural racism in the US. (Image: Thomas Hawk)

It was July 2004 and the Democratic Party was holding its presidential nominating convention in Boston. John Kerry would be nominated, and his team chose a nationally unknown candidate for US senator in Illinois as the keynote speaker: Barack Obama. Obama gave a dazzling 17-minute oration that catapulted him into becoming a political celebrity, helped him to win his US senate race and positioned him for the presidential race in 2008.

In light of his last State of the Union address as president, delivered last night to Congress and the nation, it is revealing to return to that 2004 pivot point in Obama's career. Included in his charismatic Boston keynote address were these words:

Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy; our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...."

Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America.

There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.

Although there are a plethora of issues to discuss concerning the Obama administration - domestic and foreign - perhaps the most glaring and intractable flaw in his 2004 rhetoric was the portrayal of a nation that wasn't divided by race. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatrumphairBeware of fascism in a pinstripe suit. (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

Revisiting Donald Trump's flirtation with the "birther" movement that goes back many years is worthwhile in understanding his current incarnation as the bellowing, vulgarian "king of the whites who feel displaced."

As reported in Talking Points Memo, 

Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio introduced Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump Wednesday at a rally by reminding everyone that they were both vocal members of the "birther" movement that questioned President Barack Obama's birth certificate.

Arpaio's comment came less than a day after the real estate mogul evaded a question about whether he thought Obama was a legitimate President....

Both Arpaio and Trump have been vocal members of the "birther" movement which claims Obama was born in Kenya.

In a September BuzzFlash commentary, we noted that Trumpism is really about coded white privilege. Trump may have started his campaign with scurrilous descriptions of Mexicans who seek refuge in the United States. However, in just a short period of time, he has fluidly moved from defaming Mexicans to denigrating Black Lives Matter protesters to slandering Muslims to once again evoking his "birther" movement credentials.

The "birther" movement is no small part of Trump's bombastic, demagogic appeal.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaadelson32Sheldon Adelson's oligarchal tale of two newspapers: in Israel and Nevada. (Image: DonkeyHotey)

There was a lot of media attention paid last week to billionaire Sheldon Adelson's purchase of the largest newspaper in Nevada, the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Speculation abounded as to the motives of Adelson - a casino magnate who currently is positioned 15th in Forbes' US billionaire rankings - in buying the largest newspaper in Nevada.

Was Adelson trying to influence the 2016 political race, particularly by staking out a favorite GOP candidate in the Nevada primary, which is the fourth GOP primary contest next year? Is he also counting on using the paper as a platform to try to swing Nevada Republican in the presidential election? After all, this is a man who spent $150 million trying to defeat Barack Obama in 2012, according to U.S. News & World Report....

After all, Adelson owns another newspaper that most Americans know little about. It is called Yisrael Hayom, and it has the largest circulation of any newspaper in Israel.  That may be due to the fact that is distributed for free: Adelson subsidizes it to the tune of some $40 million a year. The pages of Yisrael Hayom may be used by many Israelis for wrapping fish; nevertheless, it is a serious shaper of right-wing public opinion, due to its consistently extremist pro-Netanyahu positions.

The Economist, in an April 25 article, described the relationship between Yisrael Hayom and Netanyahu: "Yisrael Hayom is a freesheet owned by Sheldon Adelson, a casino mogul and supporter of Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister. Its headlines are routinely approved by the prime minister's office."

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