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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."

Published in EditorBlog

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.  

Published in EditorBlog

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.

Published in EditorBlog

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."

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaafanon32Let it be! (Photo: fuseboxradio)

As I saw a clip the other day of CNN promoting a presidential debate - yet again - as some sort of gladiator event, I was disgusted by how the mainstream corporate media thrives on promoting conflict to attract viewers.  

It's not just politics that becomes a caricature of a series of World Wrestling Federation bouts - it's also the superficial and sensationalist corporate media coverage of struggles for a just, equal and enlightened democracy. With all the courageous advocacy happening around the United States to achieve social justice, movements are often portrayed as some sort of pitched battle between "the forces of law and order" and activists. Corporate-run television, in particular, tends to reduce vital struggles over moral imperatives to viewer-attracting "clashes."

Activists around the country are making it very clear that the instances of violence that are the subject of protests - for example, police killings - occur within the context of systemic oppression. However, when covering protests, the mass media rarely reports that the overall goal of many of these actions is transformative change, nor do corporate outlets generally discuss the ways in which oppression has taken root in their own coverage.

Mass media does not reveal the perniciousness of the "white settler" narrative that has been handed from one US generation to the next - and how crucial it is to disrupt that narrative. Of course, with the change of narrative must come a metamorphosis in attitudes and institutional structures within the US.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaataiwanUS arms sale to Taiwan symbolizes how US exports both war and weapons. (Photo: Alan Wu)

China lodged an official protest against the Obama administration's announcement that Taiwan has been cleared to purchase $1.83 billion in US arms, according to The New York Times:

The Obama administration’s announcement that it would sell $1.83 billion worth of arms to Taiwan, including two warships and antitank missiles, has drawn a swift rebuke from China, which threatened to penalize the companies that made the armaments and summoned a United States diplomat to register an official protest.

Although the sale is not remarkably large as far as US weaponry is concerned, it is of value to look at the transaction in the context of US weapons sales.

In the last two years, we have repeatedly noted how the US economy is heavily invested in the so-called "defense industry.”

BuzzFlash commentary this summer reported on a National Priorities Project analysis which found that 54 percent of all US government discretionary spending in 2015 - more than $598 billion dollars - is going to the military. That does not include funding for intelligence agencies (such as the CIA and NSA, which receive tens of billions of dollars), nor does it include the supplemental funds that were used to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are still not over.

Funding for the military-industrial-complex is also buried in other congressionally budgeted line items, particularly when it comes to covert programs.

War - or just ratcheting up the potential for conflict through stockpiling armaments - is profitable. For example, the National Priorities Project found that Lockheed Martin "saw over $5.5 billion in profit, and paid its CEO more than $34 millionin 2014. And the $32 billion it received from the U.S. government made up more than seventy percent of its total sales."

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaahedgefund2Hedge funds and charity don't mix well. (Photo: Simon Cunningham)

What is motivating a hedge fund to acquire a Catholic nonprofit hospital system in the San Francisco Bay Area? Is it a burst of Christmas spirit? After all, the Daughters of Charity hospitals serve a significant number of poor people in medical need.

We are skeptical that the acquiring hedge fund, BlueMountain Capital Management fund, is simply serving as a compassionate Santa Claus.

December 14 article on the San Francisco Chronicle's SFGate site posed the financial paradox of the acquisition, given that the hospital is known for its care for the poor:

Hospital officials said patients should not notice any major changes. "Patients should see the same level of care and attention and concern for their health," said Rick Rice, spokesman for Daughters of Charity. "We expect that service to continue."

Daughters of Charity, which is based in Los Altos Hills, had been losing about $150 million a year and was searching for a buyer for years. A New York hedge fund seemed an unlikely entity to take over a nonprofit health system that treats a fair number of poor and uninsured patients.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaapocshallThe future of the earth may hang on the consequential difference between "shall" and "should" when it comes to averting environmental destruction across the planet. (Photo: Robert Hruzek)

A December 13 Politico European Edition article discusses how the replacement of the word "shall" with "should" became a vital necessity to the signing of the final COP21 agreement. According to Politico, the last-minute switch to "should" - in reference to compliance with agreement goals by the signatory nations - was made at the request of the United States. President Obama was allegedly worried that the use of the word "shall" would require legal obligations of the US, ensuring almost certain defeat of ratification of what then would be deemed a treaty by the Republican-controlled Senate.

However, it can be speculated that other nations were also concerned about the legal implications of a mandate as opposed to voluntary compliance with the COP21 goals. In short, by replacing the word "shall" with "should," the nations most responsible for ruinous global warming policies will have a lot of wiggle room in implementing the final document.

The National Resources Defense Council, which generally praises the Paris talks, does, however, inadvertently admit its key failings in an article on the top "takeaways" from the accord:

  • It’s not a formal treaty and it doesn’t commit us [the United States] to any new international legal obligations.

  • It doesn’t contain legally binding carbon targets.

  • Each country has put forth its own voluntary proposals for ambitious carbon reductions.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaascaliaPompous bigotry is embedded into Antonin Scalia. (Image: DonkeyHotey)

Antonin Scalia was appointed to the Supreme Court three decades ago; he will have served on that "august" body for 30 years as of 2016. As perilous as the condition of the United States is, it's amazing that the nation has not yet imploded from the force of Scalia's judicial brutality. 

After all, Scalia is the Donald Trump of the Supreme Court, casting forth rulings and remarks that poke through the edge of the envelope of both the law and civil society. That may be why some publications, a handful of politicians and a couple of pundits criticized Scalia's racist comments during oral arguments in the latest affirmative action case to appear before SCOTUS. During a hearing this week, Scalia, according to ThinkProgress, stated, "Black students don’t need affirmative action because they benefit from a 'slower track,'" and asserted that Black students would, in general, benefit from "less advanced school[s]."

CNN reported that Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) ripped into Scalia in his Thursday morning opening Senate remarks:

Reid read Scalia's full comments on the Senate floor Thursday morning and tore them apart.

"These ideas that he pronounced yesterday are racist in application, if not intent," Reid said. "I don't know about his intent, but it is deeply disturbing to hear a Supreme Court justice endorse racist ideas from the bench on the nation's highest court. His endorsement of racist theories has frightening ramifications, not the least of which is to undermine the academic achievements of Americans, African-Americans especially."

Scalia doesn't render judicial opinions so much as he issues partisan diatribes that include enough legal mumbo jumbo to make it appear as if his fish wrap of law is actually respected jurisprudence - rather than a week-old newspaper that last held a rancid cut of carp.

Over the years, Scalia has rendered court-watchers dismayed but helpless, as his outrageous comments and legal opinions spew forth unchecked. In 2009, we noted one particularly shocking written legal finding that didn't raise much of a stir nationally. In an appeal to the Supreme Court to re-hear the case of condemned prisoner Troy Davis, based on possibly exonerating evidence that had been disclosed since his original trial, Scalia wrote that he opposed a new trial. Why? Because, Scalia argued - and we are not making this up - there is apparently nothing in the Constitution that prohibits the execution of a person who is convicted and later produces exonerating evidence.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamnightWhose "American Dream" are we talking about anyway? (Photo: badlyricpolice)

It's a bit of a mind-bender to reflect upon Donald Trump in relation to one of the finest novels in the US canon, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Indeed, many an English major may consider it sullying to the legacy of the book to cite it at all in reference to Trump.

Still, some parallels beg consideration. The book's protagonist, Jay Gatsby, is a romantic dreamer who wishes to by loved by a woman who is not of his class. However, there is something more to Gatsby’s desire, which can be interpreted as a yearning for the mythical "American dream."

At the conclusion of the book, Nick Carraway - the narrator of the novel who is sympathetic to Gatsby - writes of Gatsby's futile pursuit of an ineluctable fantasy:

He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city....

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms further.....

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Dreams, after all - the ones that visit us when we are asleep - are beyond our control.

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