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Friday, 14 October 2016 06:08

The Origin of the Trump Species

PROTECT DEMOCRACY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Gold 1014wrp opt(Photo: Agnico-Eagle Mines Limited)The 2016 election campaign has left the victims of global capitalism behind.  

On one side is Hillary Clinton, the quintessential representative of the financial and political elites, who was temporarily forced into adopting a progressive populist message by her primary opponent, Bernie Sanders.  On the other side, there is Donald Trump; a narcissistic con man who was born on third base and insists he hit a home run.  By the dictionary definition, I believe Mr. Trump is a sociopath, having no moral judgment, and no ability to empathize or put events into perspective.  Mr. Trump’s condition is serious, however, I don't think it is rare.  

In fact, Mr. Trump's life of dubious financial dealings is a metaphor for how our unregulated capitalist system has evolved.  Success is only measured in terms of accumulated wealth.  Executives of large companies are compensated based solely on short-term returns to investors, resulting in cutthroat financial dealings and accounting gamesmanship.  Decisions are made in remote boardrooms with no consideration of their social impact. 

By most measures, Mr. Trump has been a success in the world of high stakes real estate investing, deal making, and accumulating personal wealth.   His path to attaining this wealth has also been a subject of controversy, since Mr. Trump has left a trail of financial dead bodies in his wake; serial bankruptcies, questionable labor practices, legions of unpaid employees and creditors, and some well-publicized scams that were barely, if at all, legal.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

oct2016obamamMichelle Obama understands that words matter. (Photo: Mike Baird)

Michelle Obama was responding to Donald's Trump's excuse that he was just engaging in "locker room banter" when he boasted about sexual assault in a 2005 "hot mic" videotape with Billy Bush. Later, in the second debate, Trump claimed words were not actions, and he specifically denied ever engaging in such heinous behavior.

However, Michelle Obama was having none of that. She drew a straight line to the heart of the matter when she declared, "I can't believe I'm saying a candidate for president of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women." She explained that she was "shaken to the core" by Trump's words and the misogynist nature of his entire campaign:

The fact is that in this election, we have a candidate for president of the United States who -- over the course of his lifetime and the course of this campaign -- has said things about women that are so shocking, so demeaning that I simply will not repeat anything here today. And last week, we saw this candidate actually bragging about sexually assaulting women. And I can't believe that I'm saying that a candidate for President of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women.

And I have to tell you that I can't stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn't have predicted. So while I'd love nothing more than to pretend like this isn't happening, and to come out here and do my normal campaign speech, it would be dishonest and disingenuous to me to just move on to the next thing like this was all just a bad dream.

This is not something that we can ignore. It's not something we can just sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season. Because this was not just a "lewd conversation." This wasn't just locker-room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior, and actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language so obscene that many of us were worried about our children hearing it when we turn on the TV.

It now seems clear that this was not, however, just words. It's one of countless examples of how he has treated women his whole life. And I have to tell you that I listen to all of this and I feel it so personally, and I'm sure that many of you do too, particularly the women. The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman.

Thursday, 13 October 2016 08:00

Bullying Is Not Just a Problem in Schools

Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

8208077880 b823b7647d z 1Bullying is systemic in the United States. (Image: Ken Whytock)

So frequently the media and people in social and political leadership positions focus on reforming problems on a micro-level, when the problems are actually part of a larger institutional structure. For instance, take the repeated focus on school bullying as an issue. The authors of Bully Nation: How the American Establishment Creates a Bullying Society -- this week's Truthout Progressive Pick, which you can obtain with a donation by clicking here -- helped me understand that if we isolate school bullying from the larger US economic, military, political and cultural systems, efforts to combat it will be doomed to fail. Bullying in our schools is not an exception to our society; it is a consequence of it.

My interview with the authors of the book -- Charles Derber and Yale R. Magrass -- will be published on Sunday on Truthout. In it, the authors trenchantly lay out the conundrum of trying to halt the societal context in which this odious behavior occurs:

Bullying has been a means of controlling people, putting them in “their place,” for perhaps as long as there have been humans. Until about twenty years ago, it was dismissed as “normal,” a rite of passage that children and adolescents must go through and “get over.” Some endure relatively little of it – perhaps they are bullies themselves- and it leaves little long-term impact. For others, it is a trauma that leaves lifelong scars...

We live in militarized capitalism. Capitalism assumes competition -- winners and losers. Militarism requires violence, aggression and submission to authority. Bullying builds these very traits. Psychology is inadequate to understand the cause and power of bullying. Indeed, bullying is about power, and psychology hardly has a concept of power. It is all about individuals changing their attitudes. Sociology and politics are much better at understanding power. 1950s sociologist C. Wright Mills spoke of the “sociological imagination,” where he argued you cannot separate “personal troubles” from “public issues.” We need the sociological imagination to understand bullying -- how are children raised to blend into militarized capitalism? What kind of school system does militarized capitalism need? How do school authorities encourage a student culture which prepares for militarized capitalism and sees bullying as a “normal” part of life?

When you combine extreme capitalism with hyper-militarism, you end up with a culture that is very conducive to bullying. There should be no surprise that schoolchildren and teenagers pick up their cues from the culture at large. This also makes marginalized young people particularly vulnerable to bullying and violence in schools: The bullying of LGBTQ students, for instance, is an especially urgent problem. It is born of a larger cultural context that, in essence, values bullying in how its infrastructure works, even while denouncing it among young people.

2016.13.10 BF Hightower(Photo: Mike Mozart)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Just when you thought that Big Banker greed surely bottomed out with 2008's Wall Street crash and bailout, along comes Wells Fargo, burrowing even deeper into the ethical slime to reach a previously unimaginable level of corporate depravity.

It's one thing for these giants of finance to cook the books or defraud investors, but top executives of Wells Fargo have been profiteering for years by literally forcing their employees to rob the bank's customers. Rather than a culture of service, executives have pushed a high-pressure "sales culture" at least since 2009, demanding that front-line employees meet extreme quotas of selling myriad unnecessary bank products to common depositors who just wanted a simple checking account. Employees were expected to load each customer with at least eight accounts, and employees were monitored constantly on meeting their quotas -- fail and they'd be fired.

That's why the bosses' sales culture turned employees into a syndicate of bank robbers. The thievery was systemic, and it was not subtle: Half a million customers were secretly issued credit cards they didn't request; fake email accounts for online services were set up without customers' knowledge; debit cards were issued and activated without telling customers; depositors' money was moved from one account to another; signatures were forged -- and, of course, Wells Fargo collected fees for all of these bogus transactions, boosting its profits.

2016.13.10 BF Koehler(Photo: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Values the size of Planet Earth are at stake, as the American presidential election grows ever smaller, ever pettier, ever more certain that rancor triumphs over relevance.

Can you imagine, let us say, an issue the size of global nuclear disarmament emerging in this race, somewhere between the groper tapes and the hacked DNC emails? What if -- my God -- we lived in a country in which such a matter were seriously and publicly discussed, not shunted off to the margins with a grimace and a smirk? The only thing that has mainstream credibility in this country is business as usual, which comes to us wrapped in platitudes about strength and greatness but in reality is mostly about war and profit and the destruction of the planet.

Meanwhile it's three minutes to midnight.

And the Republic of the Marshall Islands has lost its case in the International Court of Justice. On a technicality, no less! Phon van den Biesen, lead attorney for the tiny island nation, which had sued the world's nine nuclear powers -- the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, France, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea -- to begin real nuclear disarmament negotiations, said the case was dismissed earlier this month on a "microformality," which in my layman's grasp of the matter might be called, instead, a desperate legal copout.

LORAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Paris 1012wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Earlier this summer, Paris quietly passed a new law encouraging residents to help green the City of Light by planting their own urban gardens.

Although the measure was adopted on July 1, the news has only recently made headlines in France and on U.S. sites such as Inhabitat and Condé Nast Traveler.

The initiative, "permis de végétaliser" (or "license to vegetate"), is part of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo's 2020 target of adding 100 hectares (247 acres) of vegetation on the city's walls and roofs, with a third dedicated to urban agriculture.

To encourage citizens to become "gardeners of the Parisian public space," any resident can now apply for a renewable three-year permit to start their own urban garden project. Participants can green the capital in various ways, from planting fruit trees to creating living walls to a rooftop garden. Upon request, the city will also provide a planting kit that includes topsoil and seeds.

Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

21016octprescripFor many Americans, Big Pharma profiteering is a matter of life and death. (Photo: Thomas Hawk )

In spite of the recent scandals regarding predatory drug pricing for many vital medications, pharmaceutical companies and their CEOs are still engaging in wanton profiteering, as I noted a couple of months ago. If people have the money, they are going to pay whatever medication costs are necessary to save their lives, unless they are fortunate enough to have rare coverage for costly prescriptions. For individuals in medical need, it may be a matter of life or death, but for the drug industry it's just a matter of price-gouging to increase shareholder profits and the excessive compensation of CEOs.

That's the conclusion reaffirmed in a report, "Outrageous Fortunes: Big Pharma Executives Cash-In on High Drug Prices," conducted by the Institute for Health & Socio-Economic Policy (IHSP), a research arm of National Nurses United. An October 10 news release from Nurses United summarized key findings:

Top pharmaceutical executives are making billions of dollars in compensation while implementing skyrocketing price increases for essential medications, according a new research report released today by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.

In “Outrageous Fortunes,” the report finds that pharma executives were handed over $11 billion in compensation the past five years. In 2015, the most recent year for which the data is available, the ten highest paid pharma chief executive officers (CEOs) made $327 million....

The report finds a direct connection between executive pay, profiteering – through pay for performance arrangements based on profits and stock prices – and escalating drug prices that increasingly block patient access to affordable medication.

KRISTIN FALZON OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Woodley 1012wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Shailene Woodley, star of The Fault in Our Stars and the Divergent series, was arrested Monday morning while protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in Sioux County, North Dakota.

Woodley was streaming live on her Facebook page Monday during a peaceful protest at Standing Rock. The protest was in response to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on Monday that lifted a temporary injunction on the pipeline, allowing construction to resume.

The actress and environmental activist was trying to head back to her RV to go back to camp, when she noticed it was surrounded by police and a riot vehicle. As she approached her RV, she was stopped by police dressed in riot and military gear. After speaking with them, she was told on camera that she was being arrested for criminal trespassing. A spokesman for the Morton County Sheriff's Department said she was also arrested for engaging in a riot. Her mother was with her at the time.

When she asked why she was being arrested and no one else, and whether it was because people know who she is, the officer who appeared to be in charge said it was because she was identified.

2016.11.10 BF Brasch(Photo: Joe Brusky)WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

With a month left before the November general election, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are trash-talking each other in a financial race to the White House.

According to the latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, Clinton has raised about $516.8 million for her campaign. Total spending by outside groups and SuperPacs supporting her was an additional $31.7 million; the total spent opposing her was about $40.2 million.

Trump has raised about $205.9 million. About 45 percent of his income is from individual contributors; one-third is from Trump himself. Total spending by outside groups and superPACs supporting Trump is about $69 million; opposition spending is about $139.7 million.

Both Clinton and Trump are spending heavy on TV ads. Clinton and pro-Clinton outside groups have spent about $190 million, and Trump and pro-Trump outside groups have spent about $50 million, according to data compiled by Advertising Analytics. However, Trump has mitigated the difference by a barrage of Tweets to 12 million followers, and by constant calls to TV stations. In Pennsylvania, one of nine "swing states," Clinton has outspent Trump, $17 million to $6 million.

2016.11.10 BF Berkowitz(Photo: Gage Skidmore)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

With one salacious video, Donald Trump filled up his deplorable basket to the brim. The latest Trump revelations, regarding his predatory and sexual attacks claims toward, and vulgar thoughts about women, raise numerous questions, one of them being: Will white conservative Christian evangelicals continue to support him? The answer, as of this writing, is that evangelical Christian leaders that have supported him are not backing away.

Kermit Zarley, writing for patheos.com, described the scene: "In this conversation, Trump is very lewd in the characterization of himself as a philanderer. He uses sexual language in his narrative of attempting to have sex with a named married woman. It is not only a tape recording, but a video showing the bus traveling along with Trump and [Billy] Bush [host of "Access Hollywood"] in it while they were having this conversation.

In a short video, Trump issued a classic non-apology saying, "I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize," before quickly pivoting to Bill and Hillary Clinton, claiming Bill's actions were much worse, and that Hillary "bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims."

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