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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." 

Published in EditorBlog

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.

Published in EditorBlog

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." 

Published in EditorBlog

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
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