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Monday, 30 January 2017 07:27

What It Means to Live in a Breitbart Nation

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bannon 0130wrp opt(Photo: Steve Bannon, by Don Irvine)Steve Bannon's openly declared war on the mainstream media may be the kind of hot-button news that drives headlines, but his new role on the National Security Council gives the former Goldman Sachs executive-turned-head of the ultra-right xenophobic and misogynistic Breitbart News, and the architect of Trumpism, unimaginable power. In an executive order, possibly written by Bannon himself, President Trump made it clear that Bannon could "join the government's most senior members during any meeting of the principal committee, led by national security advisor, Michael Flynn," The New York Daily News reported.  

Bannon, according to Raw Story's David Edwards, "personally overruled a decision by the Department of Homeland Security not to include green card holders in the president's temporary ban on travel from Muslim countries," a ruling that set off a firestorm of protests at airports across the country. 

“Whatever else he is, Steve Bannon is a smart guy, and he had to know that this would produce turmoil at airports around the country and widespread condemnation from the press,” Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum wrote. “In cases like this, the smart money is usually on incompetence, not malice. But this looks more like deliberate malice to me. Bannon wanted turmoil and condemnation. He wanted this executive order to get as much publicity as possible. He wanted the ACLU involved. He thinks this will be a PR win.”

Earlier in the week, Banning pointedly told The New York Times' Michael Grynbaum that: "The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while." Bannon then added, "The media here is the opposition party. They don't understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is president of the United States." 

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Davos 0130wrp opt(Photo: Remy Steinegger)In-between cocktail parties at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, billionaires tried to solve global inequality and climate change. Most of the attendees had arrived by private jet, which can burn as much fuel in an hour as an average car does in a year. 

America's actions impact everyone in the world. But that doesn't seem to matter to the super-rich elite who inexplicably get to make our decisions for us. They are not only far removed from ordinary people, but they're also out-of-touch with the world around them, insulating themselves in fortified estates and bubbles of wealth like in Davos. 

Only the most insensitive among us could fail to care about the people in Madagascar described by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times:

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

3915102132 30858c9743 z(Photo: Aaron David Aznar)

Trump's strategy of creating an alternative reality based on "alternative facts" has apparently helped catapult a 67-year-old book that takes place in a totalitarian state, George Orwell's 1984, to the top of the charts. On January 25, USA Today reported:

George Orwell's tale of a sad, grim future, the book 1984, has experienced a recent resurgence, climbing to the top of Amazon.com's bestseller list of books....

It's in such demand that publisher Penguin has ordered a 75,000-book reprint, CNN reported.

The book's plot, as Penguin puts it, features the omniscient Big Brother, mind-erasing, a new language and thought process in a post-nuclear-war world. The publisher said Orwell's "vision of an omni-present and ultra-repressive state is rooted in the ominous world events."

Sounds familiar, huh? The current administration has forbidden climate change information on agency websites (including the White House's site), banned tweeting by government departments that send messages inconsistent with Trump administration policy (as it did with the National Park Service and other government departments last weekend), and ordered government scientists not to discuss their research work publicly. These are just a few examples of information suppression. By forbidding facts and research contrary to administration policy to reach the electorate, the Trump administration attempts to grant credibility to its lies, through repetition and the forced absence of real information.

 

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Presser 0127wrp opt(Photo: Cherie Cullen)There's a new media sheriff in Washington, D.C. and his name is Sean Spicer. "The mainstream media isn't the only game in town anymore," Spicer, a former communications director and strategist for the Republican National Committee and now White House press secretary, told Fox News in a recent interview. At what was called his first briefing – which was really his second, having read an incendiary and factually inaccurate message about crowd size at the inaugural and then storming off – Spicer made it clear that the mainstream media will not be treated as deferentially as it has by previous administrations.

Which, when translated, means that such purveyors of misinformation and what Kelly Anne Conway has called "alternative facts," such as the New York Post, the city's ultra-conservative newspaper, and Newsmax, will not only get called on for questions, but will receive priority treatment.

At a subsequent news briefing, Spicer called on LifeZette, Breitbart, and The Heritage Foundation's The Fred Lucas.

According to The New York Times, Spicer has said "that he would provide access via Skype to journalists working for news organizations 'who may not have the convenience or funding to travel to Washington.' He has previously pledged to find space for talk-radio hosts and conservative bloggers."

"The order in which [Spicer] called on people suggests it is a new day when it comes to who this White House considers being priorities in terms of being called on," CNN's Jake Tapper pointed out.

2017.26.1 bf chow(Photo: J Troup)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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In a political era where "alternative facts" are used in place of actual facts, several government bodies have been tweeting doses of reality in defiance of President Donald Trump and his many controversial stances. That is, until someone at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. notices and forces them to delete their social media missives.

The Badlands National Park in South Dakota really lived up to its name after tweeting out several posts about climate change Tuesday afternoon, countering the president and most of his administration's notorious skepticism of climate science.

"The pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). As of December 2016, 404.93 ppm," the first post read.

A second tweet read, "Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. #climate".

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

13318663515 6f28038139 z 1(Photo: jaroh)

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What does Donald Trump stand to gain from repeatedly telling lies? For the answer, we can look to the Bush administration's propaganda campaign surrounding the invasion of Iraq: If you repeat a lie enough times, it becomes the truth to your followers, and even to some people who are more independently minded. After all, look at how the media and much of the public were persuaded that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction -- when even internal CIA intelligence reports were indicating that was not the case.

Therefore, it should be no surprise that Trump and his staff claimed that his inauguration crowds were larger than the DC Women's March and President Obama's inauguration, and that he keeps on repeating the claim despite evidence to the contrary. When Trump doubles down on charging that there were up to 3 million illegal voters in the last election and calling for a Department of Justice investigation, he is reinforcing a lie -- using the mantle of "justice" to further disseminate his prevarication. Of course, the fact that Hillary Clinton beat Trump by about 3 million popular votes in the election gets lost in the maelstrom of coverage over Trump's brazenly untrue illegal voter assertion. In The Hill, Jordan Fabian and Jonathan Easley wrote that Trump's assertion was a "baseless claim that widespread voter fraud cost him the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election." They noted that some Congressional civil rights leaders fear that the lie and pending investigation may be manipulated to use as an excuse for a further crackdown to keep legitimate non-Republican voters from the polls.

In a CNBC commentary, John Barry Ryan notes that Trump is facilitated in his lying by a base of supporters that is predisposed to believing him.

Thursday, 26 January 2017 06:46

Why So Many People Loathe Congress

2017.26.1 BF Hightower(Photo: Photos by Clark)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Uncle Sam wants you!

Not the symbolic Uncle Sam, but Sam Johnson. Although he's been a member of Congress more than a quarter of a century, it's unlikely you've ever heard of him. He's a lawmaker who holds a congressional seat, but just sits in it, achieving so little that he's unnoticeable.

But look out! Johnson has suddenly leapt into action. And we all need to take notice, because this Texas Republican has unveiled what he calls his "Plan to Permanently Save Social Security."

To get you to support the plan, Uncle Sam wants you to believe that this successful and very popular retirement program is "going bankrupt." He knows that's a lie, but he hopes it's a big enough lie to panic you into doing anything to save the program. Then to make his particular plan easy to swallow, he coats it with another lie, claiming that he's merely "modernizing," "updating" and "ensuring" the benefits and solvency of Social Security, which a big majority of Americans count on to avoid living out their golden years in stark poverty.

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31706098183 351a70b9e2 zU.S. Customs and Border Protection Headquarters in Washington DC  (Photo: Mobilus In Mobili )

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The Guardian US, in an article following the historic Saturday march in Washington, DC, recounted the experience of a group of Canadians -- with two French nationals -- traveling in two cars to join the protest. The paper interviewed Montrealer Sasha Dyck:

Border agents first told the two French citizens that they had been denied entry to the US and informed them that any future visit to the US would now require a visa.

“Then for the rest of us, they said, ‘You’re headed home today’,” Dyck said. The group was also warned that if they tried to cross the border again during the weekend, they would be arrested. “And that was it, they didn’t give a lot of justification.”

Dyck described it as a sharp contrast to 2009, when the research nurse made the same journey to attend Barack Obama’s inauguration. “I couldn’t even get in for this one, whereas at the other one, the guy at the border literally gave me a high five when I came in and everybody was just like, ‘welcome’. The whole city was partying; nobody was there to protest Obama the first time.”

Meanwhile a January 21 CNN article recounted the experience of Canadian Joseph Decunha at a New York immigration checkpoint while driving with friends to Washington, DC, for the march.

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PipeOil 0125wrp opt(Photo: Pipeline)An oil pipeline has leaked about 200,000 liters, or 52,834 gallons, of crude onto an aboriginal community in the oil-rich province of Saskatchewan, Canada.

This is the province's largest pipeline breach since July's disastrous 225,000 liter (59,438 gallon) Husky Energy Inc spill, in which some oil entered the North Saskatchewan River and cut off drinking water supply for two cities.

The latest spill happened on reserve lands of the Ocean Man First Nation. Ocean Man Chief Connie Big Eagle told Reuters that a local resident smelled the scent of oil for a week, located the spill and brought it to her attention on Friday.

While no homes were affected, the spill is about 400 meters (1,320 feet) from the local cemetery, Big Eagle said.

The Saskatchewan government was informed of the spill on late Friday afternoon, but the public was only notified of the spill on Monday.

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Heritage 0125wrp opt(Photo: Amantio di Nicolao)During the Trump transition, staffers from The Heritage Foundation were quite active developing policies and pointing out potential nominees for government positions. That was only foreplay. Not since those halcyon days of the George W. Bush administration have folks at the Heritage Foundation been this giddy. If you are looking to understand where the underpinning of the Trump Administration's deregulation, tax breaks for the wealthy, Obamacare repeal and replace alternatives, climate change denial, and privatization agenda will be coming from, look no further than the Washington D.C. based Heritage Foundation, America's most influential right-wing think tank.

Almost every day for eight years, The Daily Signal, Heritage's e-mail newsletter, sounded the alarm about the Obama administration's misdeeds and the wrongheadedness of liberal policies.

Now Heritage, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, has pivoted to providing a broad-based agenda for Team Trump. Take Monday morning January 23rd for example. The Daily Signal's "Morning Bell's" headlines are bountiful and revelatory: "Trump Nominees Face 'Unprecedented' Democrat Obstructionism"; "Relief Is on the Way: What Trump's Obamacare Executive Order Will Do"; "Obama's Legacy Is a Weaker and More Divided America"; "How Obamacare Will Cost Native American Tribes Millions of Dollars"; "EPA's Top Priority Should Be to Eliminate Bogus Global Warming Models"; "Trump Should End Government Funding of NPR's Biased News."

Although Trump never seemed to be The Heritage Foundation's candidate of choice, nevertheless it appears that it has embraced him seamlessly. Perhaps most attractive to the Foundation was that Trump was an empty slate; devoid of political convictions or policy prescriptions. As the Huffington Post's Matt Fuller pointed out in August, "[F]or the Heritage Foundation ― and its cousin political operation, Heritage Action for America, which can more actively engage in political activities ― Donald Trump presents a rare opportunity: a politician without policies."

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