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aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakalaThe NRA enables terrorism. It's not even debatable. (Photo: Bartosch Salmanski)

It's been more than a decade since then Attorney General John Ashcroft prohibited the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) from stopping people on the US government terrorist watch list from purchasing guns.

Indeed, since Ashcroft issued the order after 9/11 not to interfere with people suspected of terrorist involvement from buying firearms, BuzzFlash has been calling attention to the contradictions embodied by those in the NRA and Congress who say that we need guns to protect ourselves against terrorists, while also ensuring that people they suspect of being terrorists can purchase guns without hindrance. Regardless of what you think of the existence of the terrorist watch list in the first place, the hypocrisy is striking.

As a November 20 Associated Press (AP) article noted,

People on the U.S. government's terrorist watch list often can't board commercial airliners, but they can walk into a gun store and legally buy pistols and powerful, military-style assault rifles....

According to a March analysis by the Government Accountability Office, people on the FBI's consolidated Terrorist Watchlist successfully passed the background check required to purchase firearms more than 90 percent of the time, with more than 2,043 approvals between 2004 and 2014. The office is an investigative branch of Congress....

Under current federal law, however, association with a terrorist organization doesn't prohibit a person from possessing firearms or explosives.

If someone is denied a gun purchase from a retail firearms store, it is only because they don't qualify for other reasons.


aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatrumpTrump combines the skills of an entertainer, self-promoter and demagogue in advancing his political "brand." (Photo: Michelle)

Like many reality-based individuals, until recently I thought of Donald Trump as a somewhat amusing, somewhat disturbing combination of the Joker from Batman, a carnival barker and a used-car salesman successfully persuading a sucker to buy a vehicle without a motor.

I smugly waited for common sense to tighten its grip on the Trump zeppelin until it burst.

Time after time, colleagues and friends would say, "This time Trump's gone too far." They predicted a rapid descent of his Republican candidacy as a result of his latest "take your pick" outlandish statement. However, except for a couple of weeks when Ben Carson began to rise in the polls, challenging Trump's lead, the bombastic billionaire Pied Piper has continued to lead the GOP field. Not that Carson would be a salvation from Trump. (Addressing that point, Stephen Colbert recently nicknamed Trump and Carson "offensive" and "bizarre," respectively, in a sketch.)

Last week, even mainstream media pundits were speculating that Trump had finally imploded as a result of a rambling, surreal speech in Iowa. Trump's remarks included a mock reenactment of Ben Carson allegedly stabbing the belt buckle of a classmate when he was a teenager, implied that Carson had a pathology similar to that of a "child molester," and declared that Iowans who support Carson are "stupid." 


aaaaaaaaadonaldtrDonald Trump finds a new xenophobic target, refugees fleeing for their lives from the civil war in Syria. (Mark Hammermeister)

Refugees fleeing the ongoing carnage in the Middle East are a made-to-order target for Donald Trump's demagogic xenophobic fearmongering.

Trump's campaign statements are primarily built on evoking fear, fear of "the other," fear of foreign powers, fear of non-Christians, fear of the government. His most abiding appeal to the amygdala (the base of fear in the brain), is to stoke the fright and vitriol of white privilege. In doing so, he finds daily hot buttons to push using variations on incarnations of "the other" to feed the beast of his voter base. 

Trump can glide from slandering Mexicans to defaming refugees from the Middle East with a destructive glibness that is as dangerous as it is facile. It is not surprising that Trump's claim that Obama was only sending refugees to states with Republican governors was rated by POLITIFACT as a pants-on-fire lie. That claim was only one small arrow in Trump's quiver of fear-evoking arrows aimed at stirring up the emotional cauldron of his followers. Indeed, Trump, according to The Washington Post, commented today that he "is refusing to rule out extreme measures that include warrantless searches or faith-based identification requirements" of Muslims in the US.


aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaciaThe CIA and NSA insult the intelligence of Americans when it comes to preventing terrorism. (Photo: Global Panorama)

As Glenn Greenwald pointed out in an incisive article on The Intercept today, the claims CIA Director John Brennan made this week, stating that whistleblowers and civil libertarians are keeping the US from stopping terrorist attacks, are insidious and duplicitous. 

Brennan's history of thuggishly lying on behalf of the military-industrial-intelligence complex is so blatant that, as Greenwald notes, even The New York Times Editorial Board took Brennan to task on November 17. As Greenwald writes, the editorial "mercilessly shames the despicable effort by U.S. government officials to shamelessly exploit the Paris attacks to advance long-standing agendas." 

The New York Times editorial excoriated Brennan:

It’s a wretched yet predictable ritual after each new terrorist attack: Certain politicians and government officials waste no time exploiting the tragedy for their own ends. The remarks on Monday by John Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, took that to a new and disgraceful low....

It is hard to believe anything Mr. Brennan says. Last year, he bluntly denied that the C.I.A. had illegally hacked into the computers of Senate staff members conducting an investigation into the agency’s detention and torture programs when, in fact, it did. In 2011, when he was President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, he claimed that American drone strikes had not killed any civilians, despite clear evidence that they had...


aaaaaaaaaaaaartinstThe Art Institute of California (San Francisco), one of the "brands" of the for-profit Education Management Corporation. The company is partially owned by Goldman Sachs. (Photo: Simon Gibson)

The Obama administration has again shown that it is as lax in reining in for-profit college corporations as it is in disciplining Wall Street firms.  

In regards to both Wall Street and for-profit colleges, the executive branch is using relatively insignificant fines - not mandated structural change - against companies that violate regulations, laws, and the public trust through fraud.

Last week, we wrote about the bankruptcy of Corinthian colleges, which used high-pressure sales to lure students into educational programs that promised preparation for jobs that frequently never materialized - in large part due to inadequate training. In total, former Corinthian students with federal loans may owe up to $3.5 billion to the government. A movement to forgive the Corinthian student federal loan debt is currently underway. This would mean that the taxpayer underwrote Corinthian executive salaries and bonuses - as well as investor gains - before the corporation went belly up.

We quoted Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) warning, "If we continue to feed this beast, shame on us, and we should be held accountable by taxpayers for those who are going to make excuses for this industry." 

Based on a Department of Justice (DOJ) settlement announced this week with another for-profit higher education corporation, Education Management Corp. (the second largest such chain in the US), the Obama administration is doing little to eliminate the incentive for such predatory companies to engage in fraudulent practices. Yes, the DOJ did fine Education Management Corp. and force a repayment of loans to a small group of specified students, but that leaves the company benefiting from more than $9 billion dollars in federal loans owed by students, according to a November 16 article in The New York Times.


aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaexceptionalismIs socialism the cure for the hubris of American exceptionalism? (Image: Occupy Posters)
















The form of 'socialism' described here is more accurately "a compromise between the market and the state," with an emphasis on local socialist models. Our "American exceptionalism" derives in part from neoliberal and neoconservative demands that we be unconstrained by domestic or foreign governments or economic regulation. 

Environment: Drones Dropping Seeds Rather Than Bombs

China has planted 66 billion trees since 1978 in an effort to stem desertification. Their 'shelterbelt' program, which has shown mixed results, has its origins in a project implemented right here in the U.S., in the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, when the FDR Administration planted a thousand-mile line of trees to fight erosion on the Great Plains. The plan worked. In recent years, millions of federal dollars have been committed to restore and manage longleaf pine forests

The planting of trees is a simple, effective, earth-saving, job-creating idea, especially if military resources were to be diverted to the endeavor. A company called BioCarbon Engineering hopes to plant billions of trees by using drones to disburse seedlings. 

Capitalism equates to profit-making, and profit-making abounds in the fossil fuel industry. But cooperative energy solutions await us in solar and wind, which are expected to provide 100 percent of our energy needs within a few decades, if the will of the people prevails over market forces. 


aaaaaaaaaaaaaabvegasCNN's Jake Tapper hyped the October Democratic debate by asking if one of the candidates might bite the ear off of another candidate. Really. (Photo: You Tube)

As the so-called primary debates continue, one cannot emphasize enough how corporate television and the two major parties have conspired to reduce democracy to entertainment. Yes, it could be argued that the Democratic debates have allowed for a bit more substance than the Republican sparring matches. That, however, is only a relative judgment.

As Candice Bernd recently noted in a trenchant Truthout analysis, what are called primary debates are actually corporation-branded spectacles. They are opportunities for large media conglomerates to enhance their brand image, sell advertising, provide publicity for their "star" reporters, provoke titillating "exchanges" that attract more viewers (and advertisers), create more interest in the election and build relationships with politicians who make decisions about corporate media legislation. Of course, the primary debates whet the appetite of viewers for more election coverage - and enhance spending on political advertising on corporate television, eventually resulting in a windfall of billions of dollars.

In an October 14 BuzzFlash commentary on "privatizing democracy," I noted how the primary debates are negotiated directly between the two major political parties and television stations. As far as we can tell (although the DNC did not respond to our queries about the agreement for the CNN debate in October), the TV stations that air debates own the copyrights to them. That is why, thus far, one can only watch an individual debate on TV on the pay-TV station airing that specific debate (although CNN and the FOX News Business channel allowed free Internet streaming). 


aaaaaaaaaaaacorinthianThe for-profit Corinthian college corporation went bankrupt, leaving students billions of dollars in debt. Everest College was one of the Corinthian "brands." (Photo: Jeramey Jannene)

If you doubt that for-profit education is generally a scourge on students seeking knowledge and skills at the college level, just look at the example of what was one of the largest exploiters of higher education: Corinthian Colleges. The Corinthian corporation recently collapsed under the weight of bankruptcy.

According to a November 9 Chicago Tribune article, the demise of Corinthian left a massive number of former students with large college debts to pay off:

Closed by regulators for deceptive practices and dissolved through bankruptcy, for-profit Corinthian Colleges left tens of thousands of former students with dubious degrees and billions of dollars in debt.

A national movement to provide those students with debt relief is underway....

For students left holding the bag, that relief can't come too soon.

"I was ripped off," said Dawn Thompson, a divorced Springfield mother of two who is seeking forgiveness of $150,000 in federal student loans. Most of her debt was amassed through the online paralegal studies program offered by for-profit Everest University, a Corinthian brand.

The damage, however, goes far beyond those students who now owe money for degrees that are tarnished in the job marketplace. For example, many students who were still in their pre-degree studies when Corinthian went belly up accumulated large debts and now have neither a degree nor credits that are transferable to most colleges (given the now questionable quality of a Corinthian "education").


aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakentuckyflagKentucky flag waves over a state that regularly elects politicians who vote against the health interests of the state's citizens. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

With the the election last week of a rabidly anti-Obamacare governor, Tea Party Republican Matt Bevin, the health care of hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians is in jeopardy. It is not hyperbole to state that lives are at stake because of Bevin's victory in a low turnout election last week (just 30.7 percent of eligible voters participated, according to CBS-affiliate WKYT.)

Considering the hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians whose lives are cared for as a result of the ACA - not to mention some relief from often-staggering medical bills - how did a governor get elected whose key campaign promise was to end Obamacare in the Bluegrass State?

Low turnout could be one possible answer, but that doesn't explain the fact that some people whose lives may literally depend on the ACA voted for a candidate who promised to end their coverage. 

A telling November 9 Washington Post article focuses on how the majority of those who voted in Pike County, Kentucky, broke for Bevin, even though the Appalachian county has a 23 percent poverty rate and its citizens benefit greatly from the ACA 


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

Photo credit: Erik S Lesser / EPAThe language included in the TPP is more aggressive than previous trade deals and provides broad new powers for other countries and foreign corporations to challenge U.S. food safety and food labeling measures. Photo credit: Erik S Lesser / U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 

The Obama administration released the long-secret text of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal that would weaken consumer protections, undermine U.S. food safety standards and prevent commonsensefood labeling. The language included in the TPP is more aggressive than previous trade deals and provides broad new powers for other countries and foreign corporations to challenge U.S. food safety and food labeling measures. 

The TPP is a giveaway to big agribusiness and food companies that want to use trade deals to attack sensible food safety rules, weaken the inspection of imported food and block efforts to strengthen U.S. food safety standards. The food and agribusiness industries inserted language into the text of the TPP that will undermine U.S. food safety oversight and expose consumers to risky imported foods.

The TPP includes a new provision designed to second-guess the government inspectors who monitor food imports. The so-called Rapid Response Mechanism allows companies to challenge border inspection procedures that companies claim cause unnecessary delay—like holding suspect shipments while awaiting laboratory test results—and demand that a TPP panel of experts review and provide guidance on the inspection. This would create a chilling-effect on rigorous border inspection that would be especially dangerous for problems that are not obvious, like chemical or drug residues that would only appear after more thorough examination and testing.

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