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PredatorDronePredator drone. (Photo: Greg Goebel)

Obama personally authorized killer drone strikes from a list that was regularly presented to him. With Trump, the decision-making is being deferred to the operational leadership in the CIA, and there is increased disregard for the "collateral damage" of civilians killed and injured.

In fact, Amnesty International is so concerned about the accelerating drone strikes under Trump that it issued a plea to the European nations that are logistically supporting the US drone program:

As the Trump administration prepares to further expand the USA’s lethal drone program, increasing the risk of civilian casualties and unlawful killings, Amnesty International is calling on four European countries to urgently overhaul the crucial operational and intelligence assistance they provide to the program.

Amnesty International and others have documented cases under successive US administrations where US drone strikes have killed people who were not directly participating in hostilities or posed no imminent threat to life, including children.

Indeed a report that surfaced only recently revealed Trump's willingness to have family members of targets killed.


kris kobachKansas Secretary of State and vote suppressor Kris Kobach (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

On April 18, a federal judge in Kansas held inveterate vote suppressor Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in contempt of court for failing to enfranchise an estimated 30,000 voters. US District Judge Julie Robinson also found Kobach liable to pay for attorney fees for the plaintiffs. The crux of the ruling invalidates Kobach's efforts to prevent people who do not show proof of citizenship from registering to vote at Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices.

According to The Kansas City Star:

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson in Kansas City, Kan., referred repeatedly to Kobach as acting “disingenuously.”

She chastised him for failing to treat the voters affected by the ongoing court case the same as all other registered voters in accordance with a previous court order....

“The term ‘register’ is not ambiguous, nor should there have been any question that these voters were to be treated just like any other registered voter,” Robinson said in her order.

“The Court is troubled by Defendant’s failure to take responsibility for violating this Court’s orders, and for failing to ensure compliance over an issue that he explicitly represented to the Court had been accomplished,” Robinson wrote.

Robinson specifically upbraided Kobach for not sending out postcards with confirmation of voter and information about polling places to voters who had registered at DMVs but had not shown papers proving US citizenship. Judge Robinson, appointed by George W. Bush, had in 2016 directed Kobach to send out the standard registration postcards to the DMV voters in limbo, but he only partially complied.


 Bashar al Assad2Bashar al-Assad, president of Syria. (Photo: watchsmart)

Trump's threat to bomb Syria in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack is not only terrifying, it also runs counter to international law. As anti-war activist and author David Swanson writes:

The problem is not that Trump wants to start a war before the inspectors can determine whether a war is merited. War cannot be merited. There is no such thing as mass murder getting justified by someone else committing murder with the wrong type of murder weapon. This is ludicrous nonsense....

Imagine if whenever 12 people were killed with a bomb or guns the “International Community” had to kill the nearest 20,000 people with poison gas. Why is the reverse so acceptable? It shouldn’t be. It isn’t legal or moral or decent or popular enough for the warmongers to let us have a public vote before they do it.

It's not to say that chemical weapons are not particularly heinous, but at least 400,000 civilians have been killed since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. The US has been involved in what has become a proxy war since then, arming, training and equipping rebel troops, and bombing and fighting ISIS.

Thursday, 12 April 2018 05:44

Marching to a Transformative Future


robertmuellerHundreds of thousands of people are reportedly ready to march if Robert Mueller is fired by Trump. (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

Peter Dreier wrote in a 2017 American Prospect article:

Over the past few years, efforts like Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, the Dreamers immigrant-rights movement, the battles against the Keystone pipeline and for marriage equality, and the Fight for 15 generated a new wave of activism, but nothing has inspired more protest than Trump’s election.

As we see resistance build and sustain itself during Trump's administration, with the massive multi-city March for Our Lives being the most recent example, it is worth remembering that the modern era of progressive populist protest began many years before Trump assumed office, reigniting since January 20, 1917, to oppose and support various issues. Some analysts would trace this recent surge back to the street dissent against the Iraq War. Others would point to the protests against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker -- the Koch brothers' sock puppet -- and his push to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public unions in 2011. The Wisconsin protests lasted for weeks and made Madison, the state's capital, into an encampment of mass upheaval.

Enormously strong movements such as Occupy Wall Street, the Movement for Black Lives and pro-immigrant gatherings were part of a wave of progressive populism actions that indeed laid the groundwork for resistance in the age of Trump.


constitution33Trump is in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. (Photo: Kim Davies)

Last month a federal judge ruled that Maryland and Washington, DC, had standing to sue President Trump for violating the Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution. As reported by CNN on March 28, however, the ruling included a significant qualification:

Judge Peter Messitte of the US District Court of Maryland says the Maryland and District of Columbia attorneys general who brought the case will have to focus it on the Trump Organization's operations in Washington. That means the case going forward will challenge payments made by foreign officials for services at the Trump International Hotel, but will not include visits to Mar-a-Lago in Florida or other Trump properties.

Maryland and DC have argued that the Trump International Hotel's operations put other nearby hotel and entertainment properties at a competitive disadvantage, and that the Trump hotel got special tax concessions.

As reported in previous BuzzFlash commentaries, the Emoluments Clause (Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8) of the Constitution states,

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.


votingfelonsVoting rights should be inclusive, not exclusive. (Photo: justgrimes)

According to the National Council of State Legislatures, only 12 states permanently disenfranchise persons who have been convicted of felonies, with limited possibilities for appeal. Other states have varying degrees of restoration of voting rights, including two states -- Maine and Vermont -- that allow voting while imprisoned.

Under Republican Governor Rick Scott, Florida is one of the dozen states that have a lifetime ban on voting for persons convicted of felonies, with few exceptions. That is likely due to a desire to keep more than 1.5 million Floridians from voting, most of whom would presumably vote Democratic. In a state where Al Gore lost the presidency in 2000 by a few hundred votes and Scott won his two terms as governor by very small percentages, the current restrictions on voting by persons formerly incarcerated for felonies serve the interests of the Republican Party. It is of particular interest to Scott, who just announced that he is going to run against current Democratic US Senator Bill Nelson in November for a Senate seat.

Scott has been given until April 26 to eliminate the lifetime prohibition on voting by those people convicted of felonies. The order was issued earlier this year by federal US District Judge Mark Walker. Scott and his Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi first tried to receive a stay from complying with the ruling.


census2010The 2010 Census and the ones preceding it did not have a citizenship question. (Photo: US Census Bureau)

It is not hard to connect Donald Trump's recent memorandum to deploy National Guard Troops on the Mexican border with the 2020 census question that will ask if the respondents are citizens. Both efforts, like various forms of Republican voter suppression, are meant to bolster the power of white people in the US at the expense of an inclusive nation.

In fact, Ari Berman of the Nation was recently interviewed on Democracy Now and cited the voter issue as the official reason given for including the citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Berman views this as an ironic justification:

Well, I think if you look at who the request is coming from, it's coming from the Department of Justice, run by Jeff Sessions. And they say they need this question to enforce the Voting Rights Act, which is hysterical, because the Trump Justice Department has no interest in enforcing the Voting Rights Act, and, in fact, is actively trying to subvert the Voting Rights Act. This is a smokescreen to try to depress responses from immigrant communities, so that immigrant communities get far less resources than other communities, with the census.

However, the invocation of the Voting Rights Act raises concerns. One can infer the possibility that the names of those who fill out the census form would no longer be anonymous. This possibility would send a chill through even many citizens, who understandably fear the prospect of their personal information being revealed to government agencies.


sinclairrevSinclair will not be televising the revolution. ( Fotos de Camisetas de SA)

Sinclair Broadcast Group is the largest owner of local television news stations in the country. That is one reason that its mandate that news anchors read statements decrying so-called "fake news" -- in an effort to bolster Trump's trope -- has caused such a stir. It is not the first time that Sinclair has required stations to run packaged, biased content, and the stakes are high.

Allied Progress, a consumer advocacy organization, just issued a report that details the threat of Sinclair's effort to acquire the Tribune Broadcasting affiliates:

The Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice are currently reviewing Sinclair’s proposed merger with Tribune Media which would net the behemoth an additional 42 local TV news stations, including some in some of the country’s largest media markets. The deal would give Sinclair control of 233 stations, reaching a staggering 72% of U.S. households....

  • If the deal goes through, Sinclair will have historic influence over local television news. They will own or operate TWO or MORE local news stations in a staggering 52 markets.

  • Sinclair will also control 40-49.99% of all local news stations in 22 markets, 50-59.99% in 15 markets, and more than 60% in 5 markets, if the merger is approved....

  • If the Sinclair-Tribune merger is approved by the FCC, the company will be one step closer to fulfilling the dream of its chairman David Smith for “an instantaneous final consolidation of the industry.”


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americanexceptionalismIt takes courage to debunk the myth of American exceptionalism. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)

Here’s what the New York Post has to say about my new book, Curing Exceptionalism:

Exceptional idiocy

David Swanson touts his book, Curing Exceptionalism, in a press release where he claims American Exceptionalism is 'no less harmful than racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry. The purpose of this book is to persuade you of that statement.'

No thanks.

In forming his opinion prior to reading the book, using "no thanks" as both a shield against learning anything and a supposed argument for refuting what he hasn't learned, Michael Goodwin of the New York Post supports the book’s argument that exceptionalism is largely disconnected from facts.


gillibrandSen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has been a leader in trying to reform sexual harassment policies and procedures in the Senate. (Photo: Senate Democrats)

At BuzzFlash and Truthout we never shy away from criticizing powerful corporate and political forces. Support this work by making a tax-deductible donation now.

In the wake of the momentum of the #MeToo movement, the United States Senate is riding in the slow lane. It has failed to move forward with sexual harassment policies that are responsive the new era of accountability that the #MeToo campaign symbolizes. The Senate is still employing a bill passed in 1995, the Congressional Accountability Act, to address issues of sexual harassment, but that legislation it is sorely lacking.

NPR recently provided some background on the law and why it needs a thorough overhaul:

Filing an official complaint about harassment on the Hill involves a multistep dispute resolution process that can stretch out for months, as described on the congressional Office of Compliance website. A staffer must first request counseling and that counseling period "normally lasts for 30 days," according to the Office of Compliance. Then, the staffer must request mediation, which also usually lasts 30 days. If that mediation doesn't resolve things, the staffer then can proceed with a lawsuit or have an administrative hearing, but can only do so 30 to 90 days after the mediation ends.

In addition, taxpayer dollars have funded settlements to staffers complaining of harassment. The Washington Post reported in December that the Treasury has spent $174,000 on settling harassment-related claims over the last five years. In February, the House unanimously passed a measure that would overhaul the Congressional Accountability Act. That bill would ensure that lawmakers who harass employees pay for settlements out of their own pockets, and it would also simplify the complaint process.

Note two things from this account: Firstly, taxpayers are still in the unacceptable position of paying for the settlement of sexual harassment claims committed by members of the Senate. Secondly, the usually more conservative House of Representatives has passed a bill that is much improved, but the Senate has failed to take it up.

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