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ELLIOT COHEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

AntiFascist 0205wrp opt(Photo: Cristiane Marçal / Flickr)John Dean, former White House counsel to President Nixon, used the term "conservatives without conscience" to refer to George W. Bush era neoconservative Republicans. Now, an even more callous strain of conservative Republicanism has taken root under the Trump administration. But the Bush era strain appears to have planted the seeds.

The Bush neoconservatives embroiled the U.S. in a bloody war in Iraq in which millions of lives, both American and Iraqi, were lost. Not unlike the Republican attempt to conceal the facts surrounding the Vietnam War during the Nixon Administration (as disclosed in the Pentagon Papers), the Bush administration had the gall to lie to the American people about the reasons for going to war in Iraq. In the immortal words of the Downing Street Memos, a set of official memos of British Secret Intelligence (M16), "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Under the George W. Bush administration, the misnomer of a boundless "War on Terror" was used to justify the systematic whittling away of respect for human rights. Torture was renamed "enhanced interrogation" without due regard for international law, compliments of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a puppet for the Bush administration. Preemptive, simultaneous war was the covert means to spread "American democratic values" even at the expense of quelling the civil liberties of U.S. citizens at home who opposed the war. A new category of "unlawful enemy combatant" was created, pursuant to the 2006 Military Commissions Act, which referred to "an individual engaged in hostilities against the United States who is not a lawful enemy combatant." The term "hostilities" was never defined, and could have, in principle, included journalists critical of the Bush Administration's war policies.  The writ of habeas corpus, so fundamental to the American justice system, was cancelled by this Act for those so branded, only to have this unconstitutional provision overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Friday, 02 February 2018 06:43

The CDC's Prescription for Nuclear War

GAR SMITH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Nuke 0202wrp opt(Photo: Dr Case / Flickr)Donald Trump's wrecking-ball approach to governing has left Washington in a shambles. Instead of presiding as a caretaker, Trump has proven to be more comfortable in the role of an undertaker.

One would hope the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would be spared. If only. Under Trump, the nation's premiere health protection agency has been given an unsettling new task: to promote acceptance of the greatest looming threat to human life -- nuclear war.

Under Trump, the CDC was recruited to host a January 16 press briefing on the "Public Health Response to a Nuclear Detonation." The intent appeared to be normalize the prospect of nuclear war by offering US families a checklist they could use to eke out a living in the smoking rubble of a post-nuclear landscape.

As it turned out, this attempt to put a positive spin on the specter of nuclear annihilation didn't happen. Instead, a real-life outbreak of influenza put the plan on hold, and the CDC opted to substitute an event boosting the "Public Health Response to an Influenza Pandemic."

 

Friday, 02 February 2018 06:02

Donald Trump Is Distractor-in-Chief

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

donaldtrumpmedDonald Trump tames the media. (Gage Skidmore)

It is quite tempting to dismiss Donald Trump as a gaudy con man who is feverishly stumbling his way through the presidency. However, that would be a mistake. Trump is the sneering lion tamer of the mainstream corporate press, snapping his whip with Twitter bursts that distract from the egregious destructiveness of his administration on so many fronts.

One could argue that the mass media has continued to bring up Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, but the rollout of the so-called "Nunes memo" is an example of how Trump uses the press as his foil. The release of the GOP report that chastises the FBI for investigating former Trump adviser Carter Page has been the subject of speculation for a week. Trump has teased the press about whether he will approve of release of the document with classified information, when all the while the White House may very well have coordinated the action with Rep. Devin Nunes (R-California), chair of the House Intelligence Committee. The general assumption is that the memo will discredit the FBI and the Mueller investigation of Trump.

Many of those who oppose Trump believe that he is on the ropes and desperate. However, there is another way of looking at his actions: He is masterful at redirecting the media to what he wants to focus on at any given moment -- and that often changes by the hour. Whether or not the public dissemination of the GOP House Intelligence Committee memo will tarnish the FBI enough to gain Trump support in his battle with the special prosecutor remains to be seen. However, it is another example of how Trump manipulates the media into focusing on his ongoing charges, outrageous remarks and general agenda of distraction.

The bottom line is that the majority of Americans, while they may truly abhor the extreme bullying Trump exhibits, learn to accept or uncomfortably tolerate bullying in our competitive society as a an ingredient of security and success.The bottom line is that the majority of Americans, while they may truly abhor the extreme bullying Trump exhibits, learn to accept or uncomfortably tolerate bullying in our competitive society as a an ingredient of security and success. (Photo: NASA HQ Photo)CHARLES DERBER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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President Trump is a bully -- and anti-Trumpists denounce him for it. But their critique only endears Trump to his base because many of them love his bullying.

More surprising, though, is that hidden bullying norms pervade our society and ruling institutions. They explain why many of Trump's base embrace his bullying, but also illuminate the unrecognized bullying of millions of other voters, including prominent anti-Trumpists in the media and leaders of our society.

How do we know that Trump voters are bullish on his bullying? On January 17, 2018, The New York Times asked their readers who were Trump supporters why they still backed him. Here are typical responses:

Steven Landis from Hampton Bays, New York: "…it's better to be feared than loved. My hope is for our enemies to fear Donald Trump and for his domestic opponents to realize he's on their side." This reveals a cultural belief in success through intimidation rather than love, and a normalization of bullying values. This man likes Trump because he makes people afraid.

Man holds sign saying "Alt-Right Delete"(Photo: Blink O'fanaye)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Move over Alt-Reichsters: A new "New Right" is looking to make headway among the disenchanted, embittered and disgruntled young right-wingers, and nerdy trollsters disillusioned with the alt-right. While Mike Cernovich's "Night For Freedom," was supposed to be light on offensiveness, and heavy on mainstreaming – which included adherence to a strict dress code -- when a gaggle of right-wing provocateurs and social media personalities show up, offensiveness remains the coin of the realm.    

As People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch recently reported, "The self-described 'New Right' -- a Trump-loving, anti-feminist, anti-'social justice warrior' online movement that has branded itself as separate from the explicitly white supremacist alt-right -- held a party in Manhattan … in its latest attempt to move its efforts into the real world and to find an identity beyond its shared disgust for 'political correctness' and support for President Trump."

The event, which was attended by some 650-+ people paying between $139 to $999, depending on how close ticketholders might get to the headline speakers,was organized by Mike Cernovich, who is described by Right Wing Watch as "a Pizzagate conspiracy theorist who has disavowed the alt-right and attempted to distance himself from his former support for the movement."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

HurricaneMariaHurricane Maria (Photo: Antti Lipponen)

Puerto Rico achieved Commonwealth Status under President Harry Truman's administration in 1952, after being a territory since the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898. However, the United States Congress and presidents over time have continued to treat Puerto Rico like a colony.

The relationship is riddled with contradictions. Residents of Puerto Rico are citizens of the US, but can only vote in federal elections if they move to and live in a state. The island is supposed to have an independent Commonwealth legislature, but its financial affairs are now being overseen by a seven-person Puerto Rico Fiscal Control Board appointed in 2016 by President Obama. The island had been on the brink of bankruptcy -- more than $70 billion in debt. Typical of the island's treatment as a colony, its governor is on the Control Board but cannot vote.

According to USA Today, the relationship of the US government to the island is generally not understood by people in the 50 US states:

The destruction wrought by Hurricane Maria on the 3.4 million residents of Puerto Rico resurfaced a disturbing fact – many Americans don't know the first thing about the Caribbean island. 

A USA Today/Suffolk University poll conducted in March [2016] found that fewer than half of Americans (47%) believe that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by birth.

JOHN SCHLOSSBERG FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Lobo 0131wrp opt(Photo: Joel Cristian / Flickr)Environmental organizations filed a lawsuit on January 30, 2018, in U.S. District Court in Arizona against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), alleging the agency violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by ignoring science relevant to the recovery of the beleaguered Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), a.k.a. "el lobo." The legal action comes on the heels of USFWS' November release of its long-anticipated Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan — a strategy conservation groups say appeases red state ranchers and falls flat in the face of science.

The lawsuit, filed by attorneys at the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) on behalf of Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians (Guardians), names Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and USFWS Acting Director Greg Sheehan. The complaint asserts the USFWS, an ancillary arm of the Interior Department, turned a deaf ear to its own scientists' recommendations for the minimum number of wolves and the amount of habitat needed for recovery and removal from the endangered species list.

"This recovery plan was designed by politicians and anti-wolf states, not by independent biologists," said Matthew Bishop of the Western Environmental Law Center. "It's an affront to the ESA and Congress' directive [is to] make decisions solely on the best available science."

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Pumalin 0131wrp optFlowers in Pumalín Park. (Photo: Dan Lundberg / Flickr)Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed a decree Monday to create five new national parks and expand three others, following a pledge made last year with Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, the president and CEO of Tompkins Conservation, to dramatically expand national parkland in the South American country.

More than 10 million acres of new national parklands will be created in Chile, approximately three times the size of Yellowstone and Yosemite combined, or about the size of Switzerland. Bachelet said that would increase national parklands in Chile by 38.5 percent.

The expansion includes 1 million acres of land donated by Tompkins Conservation, in what is believed to be the largest private donation of land ever from a private entity to a country.

The decree included the creation of Pumalín Park and Patagonia Park, the conservation organization's two flagship projects, while expanding others to help create the "Route of Parks," a 17-park route spanning more than 1,500 miles from Puerto Montt to Cape Horn in the continent's southern tip.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

obamacareimageDespite Trump administration roadblocks, 2018 enrollment in Obamacare is robust. (Luis Rodriguez)

Obamacare has been a singular obsession for Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress since its creation, signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. In the mouths of the GOP, the health insurance program has taken on a monstrous image, as though it were a monster preying upon Americans. It has been a tragically intractable attack on a healthcare insurance system that -- although far from ideal -- has assisted millions of people in the US.

Despite the ongoing attacks from the GOP, it is worth noting that Obamacare was no progressive innovation: Its structure is based on a system put into place and championed by Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts -- and implemented with the support of the George W. Bush administration, which helped fund it.

However, Trump and Congress recently took another swipe at the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and according to Politifact, their action may destabilize the entire insurance market:

The Republicans' successful drive to pass a massive tax bill allowed President Donald Trump to take another slice off of the Affordable Care Act. Effective 2019, the sweeping tax package repeals the penalty on people who might be able to afford health insurance but choose not to buy it. The individual mandate affects a relatively narrow sliver of Americans, but it has been a pillar of Obamacare.

Knowledgeable and trusted local groups have been key to the recent election victories by bona fide progressives. Knowledgeable and trusted local groups have been key to the recent election victories by bona fide progressives. (Photo: Malcolm K.)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Last June, after Democratic candidates had lost four straight special Congressional elections (Rob Quist in Montana, James Thompson in Kansas, Archie Parnell in South Carolina, and Jon Ossoff in Georgia), the US's purveyors of conventional political wisdom simultaneously jumped to the conclusion that the policies and message of Democrats were just too progressive for our nation of moderate-right voters. The Washington cognoscenti expressed dismay that, despite Trump's dismal public approval ratings and the nationwide surge of "Resist!" campaigns, the hapless Democratic Party was still unable to score any electoral victories. "Why Do Democrats Keep Losing in 2017?" queried a June headline in The Atlantic. "Democrats just went 0-4. When will they win?" asked a cynical CNN reporter. "It is a bit surprising that Democrats haven't managed a single victory yet," declared a University of Wisconsin election expert. "Panic is setting in on the left," exclaimed a Vox headline.

Really?

No, not really. The professional political observers are like cats watching the wrong mouse hole. They are so fixated on the minutia of Washington-centric politics that they're missing the much bigger story of transformative political changes that have erupted in every region of the country. Far from panicking, America's political left is organizing, strategizing, mobilizing ... and WINNING. Coalitions of local progressive activists (newly energized by an infusion of dynamic, creative young people and people of color) came together after the 2016 election. They recruited and trained candidates from their own ranks; methodically knocked on doors, having thousands of front-porch conversations with voters on basic issues; mobilized supporters for intensive election-day turn-out drives; and elected scores of audaciously populist mayors, council members, legislators, and other officials.

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