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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakochdefendThe American Dream of white privilege is a nightmare. A congressman at a Koch brothers summit. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

On October 31, Marc Fisher of The Washington Post attempted to explore the appeal of the Donald Trump slogan "Make America Great Again." Of course, the notion of "Make America Great Again" is closely related to the shibboleth of "the American Dream."

The concept of a dream that can be realized in reality is fascinating. After all, dreams, in actuality, are a cauldron of images and broken narratives that occur during sleep. Dreams visit us and present suggestive visuals and stories that we - at least, our conscious selves - do not control.

So, when politicians appeal to our "dream" of "Making America Great Again," they are evoking something in us which is a hybrid of conscious desires and a foggy notion of of the subconscious to make the nation - and our lives - "better." That second aspect of the aspirational dream is often vague and visceral, difficult to articulate, something akin to the dreams we experience when we are asleep.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaabencarsonRetired neurosurgeon Ben Carson still knows how to stimulate the part of the brain that induces fear. (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

Internationally acclaimed pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson, now retired, is clearly an expert on how the brain functions. After all, the Republican presidential aspirant was the director of pediatric neurosurgery at the renowned Johns Hopkins Medical Center from 1984 to 2013, and received much acclaim for his skills in the operating room.

That is why it is safe to assume that Carson is well aware of the role of one part of the brain in stimulating fear: the amygdala. The website About Education describes one major role of the amygdala:

The amygdala is involved in autonomic responses associated with fear and hormonal secretions. Scientific studies of the amygdala have led to the discovery of the location of neurons in the amygdala that are responsible for fear conditioning. Fear conditioning is an associative learning process by which we learn through repeated experiences to fear something. Our experiences can cause brain circuits to change and form new memories. 

Opportunistic politicians are well aware of the use of fear in attracting voters who are predisposed to latch onto the invocation of alarmist threats.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaapaulryanSpeaker of the House Paul Ryan will likely continue to champion his war on the poor. (Image: DonkeyHotey)

The corporate media is generally touting Paul Ryan's election as Speaker of the House as a triumph of Republican centrism. Paul Krugman, however, rebuked that notion in an October 10 New York Times commentary, in which he notes that Ryan is,

more or less unique among extreme right-wingers in having the approbation of centrists, especially centrist pundits. That is, he’s a big man within the GOP because people outside seem to approve of him....

And it has been a stunningly successful act. In his heyday, Ryan was the object of an immense, indeed embarrassing, media crush — the word “love” came up a lot....

So Ryan’s current stature is really quite curious, and I’d argue quite fragile. He has been a highly successful con artist, pretending to be the reasonable conservative centrists desperately want to see; he has become a power within his party because of that external achievement. 

The con job of which Krugman speaks involves couching extreme right wing positions in a veneer of budgetary wonkishness. This is particularly true when Ryan claims that he wants to "help" the poor when he is actually conducting a war on the poor that is based on the tacit premise that they are disposable people. Ryan is, indeed, obsessed with reducing government aid to the poor, including assisting them in finding jobs.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaceoretire345Economic injustice benefits the few at the expense of the many in retirement years. (Image: Institute for Policy Studies)

A just-released study on the enormous gap between retirement assets and benefits for the wealthy as compared to the rest of Americans - "A Tale of Two Retirements" - blames the divide on "a shift in the rules to favor corporate executives over other working people."

Key findings of the report, which was authored by Sarah Anderson and Scott Klinger for the Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Effective Government, include:

  • The company-sponsored retirement assets of just 100 CEOs add up to as much as the entire retirement account savings of 41% of American families (50 million families in total).

  • The 100 largest CEO retirement accounts are worth an average of more than $49.3 million—enough to generate a $277,686 monthly retirement check for each executive for the rest of their lives.

  • David Novak of YUM Brands had the largest retirement nest egg in the Fortune 500 in 2014, with $234 million, while hundreds of thousands of his Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC employees have no company retirement assets whatsoever. Novak transitioned from CEO to Executive Chairman in 2015.

Meanwhile, as BuzzFlash pointed out in an October 15 commentary, US "seniors face year of increased hardship as Social Security benefits stagnate." We pointed out that the government is denying seniors on Social Security a cost-of-living increase next year, even though their costs for food, medical care and rent are increasing. 

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaatblairProtestors at a UK Iraq War inquiry in 2010 respell Tony Blair's last name to emphasize that he is a liar. (Photo: Chris Beckett)

In a highly qualified "apology" for the Iraq War - offered in an interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN - Tony Blair grudgingly admitted that the war may have been partially responsible for the unleashing of ISIS. 

Many British news outlets, such as the Guardian US, speculate that Blair was savvily using preemptive public relations to insulate himself from the expected criticisms of the upcoming publication of the UK Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War:

Did Tony Blair’s statements about taking Britain to war in Iraq constitute an apology? As far as Britain’s national newspapers were concerned, they certainly did not.

Most of the editorials and commentaries view his CNN interview as a spin operation ahead of the publication of the Chilcot report, which is expected, wrote the Guardian’s Richard Norton-Taylor, to be "damning."

The Daily Mail accused the former prime minister of weasel words in "an apology of sorts." The Daily Mirror thought he had delivered a "half-hearted apology" that "will bring no comfort to families whose loved ones never came home."

Blair, while acknowledging that the accusations that Iraq's Saddam Hussein was amassing weapons of mass destruction were false, doesn't concede that he knew that they were false as the Bush administration and the UK used the lie to feverishly market the war.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaabeng666The House of Representatives GOP promotes one of the endless Benghazi Committee "hearings." (Photo: House GOP)

One need not support Hillary Clinton's hawkish foreign policy (including her lamentable advocacy of the Libyan invasion in the first place - which most Congressional Republicans vigorously supported), her candidacy, or even her veracity to challenge the use of Congress by Republicans to hijack the legislative process and turn it into a junkyard dog. 

Yahoo Finance reported about Thursday's marathon Benghazi hearing:

After questioning Hillary Clinton for 11 hours in Congress, the head of the House Select Committee investigating the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya didn't have a concrete answer about whether he'd learned anything new. 

Even the corporate mainstream media, which usually loves to report on the sparks that fly from the manufactured spectacle of such "hearings," is beginning to take note of the real motive of the Benghazi Committee. An October 22 USA Today editorial offered this opinion:

The situation raises any number of questions about the wisdom of U.S. involvement in Gadhafi's removal, the lack of follow-through and the right strategy to fight the spread of ISIL in the region. 

But, as former secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s marathon appearance Thursday before the Select Committee on Benghazi made clear, these questions are not being asked. Instead, an insular and hyperpartisan Washington is focused on just one aspect of the Libyan drama: Clinton’s actions around the time of a 2012 raid on a diplomatic compound that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Thursday’s hearing was hardly a sober and thorough effort to find fact. That work has already been done in seven prior inquiries by Congress and one by a State Department review panel (which found that department personnel made misjudgments in a confusing situation). 

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaagreed324It is greed that is shameful, not poverty. (Photo: See-ming Lee

Robert E. McDonald, the mayor of Lewiston, Maine, recently wrote a commentary in his local paper in which he advocates for shaming public aid recipients by listing their names and addresses on a website. Consistent with this proposal, he also suggests that harsh restrictions should be applied to those in poverty who receive financial aid from the government:

We will be submitting a bill to the next legislative session asking that a website be created containing the names, addresses, length of time on assistance and the benefits being collected by every individual on the dole. After all, the public has a right to know how its money is being spent.

Along with this bill, we will be resubmitting HR 368, which will bring local General Assistance into compliance with federal laws that limit General Assistance to a 60-month total lifetime benefit. 

Additionally, we will be submitting a bill similar to one in Massachusetts, prohibiting the state from paying benefits for any additional child born after the recipient has been accepted into General Assistance.

McDonald doesn't call his idea for publicly listing government financial recipients an act of "shaming," but that surely is his intention. It also may be a perverse strategy to deter families in need from seeking financial assistance in the first place, out of fear that they may be harassed. 

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaawtcGeorge W. Bush did nothing, even though warned of imminent attacks, to prevent 9/11. He did not "keep us safe." (Photo: Jason Powell)

No, Jeb, George W. Bush did not try and keep the US "safe" from 9/11 occurring.

Despite Jeb's claims otherwise, Bush was indeed warned of bin Laden planning attacks in the US. These included an alarming memo that he received while on a month-long vacation in Texas, just weeks before 9/11. The memo referred not only to a long history of bin Laden's goal to strike on US soil, it directly mentioned hijackings. 

A September 10, 2012, commentary in The New York Times by Kurt Eichenwald provides the damning context to George W. Bush's negligence in taking any steps to prevent an al-Qaeda operation such as the one that caused such a loss of life on 9/11:

On Aug. 6, 2001, President George W. Bush received a classified review of the threats posed by Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, Al Qaeda. That morning’s "presidential daily brief" — the top-secret document prepared by America’s intelligence agencies — featured the now-infamous heading: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." A few weeks later, on 9/11, Al Qaeda accomplished that goal....

[This memo should be] read in conjunction with the daily briefs preceding Aug. 6, the ones the Bush administration would not release. While those documents are still not public, I have read excerpts from many of them, along with other recently declassified records, and come to an inescapable conclusion: the administration’s reaction to what Mr. Bush was told in the weeks before that infamous briefing reflected significantly more negligence than has been disclosed. In other words, the Aug. 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaabillionChina has trumped the US in having the most billionaires. (Photo: Fry_theonly)

At the next Republican presidential debate, are we going to hear a round of lamentations that the US - according to a study of the world's wealthiest individuals conducted by a Chinese financial publication, the Hurun Report - is no longer number one in billionaires?

An October 15 article in The Chicago Sun-Times states it bluntly:

The United States can no longer claim the title of being home to the world’s most billionaires.

....that distinction now belongs to China, where a reported 596 billionaires reside, surpassing the 537 billionaires the Hurun Rich List claims live in the U.S.

To make the top 100, you’d have to be worth at least $3.2 billion

By the list’s calculations, China produced 242 billionaires through the year ending on Aug. 14, which comes out to about five newly minted mega rich per week.

Will Donald Trump bellow that he is helping to hold onto the fabled notion of "the American Dream" by being a billionaire? After all, he has made China a major target of his campaign rhetoric, claiming the US has allegedly been economically superseded by the Communist nation turned aggressive capitalist economy. Is Trump's obsession with China really a battle over which nation will be the world champion in its number of billionaires?

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaasocialsecIn a specious move, the federal government will deny Social Security recipients an adjusted increase in benefits this coming year. (Photo: 401(K) 2012)

According to an October 15 Associated Press article, the federal government has decided not to increase benefits this year for Social Security recipients:

The government says there will be no benefit increase next year for millions of Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and federal retirees.

It’s just the third time in 40 years that benefits will remain flat. All three times have come since 2010....

The announcement will affect benefits for more than 70 million people - that’s more than one-fifth of the nation’s population.

The total includes almost 60 million retirees, disabled workers, spouses and children who get Social Security benefits.

Published in EditorBlog
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