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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

votedecShouldn't we help people to vote, not prevent them from voting? (Photo: H2Woah!)Isn't extortion illega

You wouldn't know it from a corporate media is that is so intent on cozying up to and normalizing the Trump transition that they have strayed from any moral moorings.  As Bob Koehler observed in a commentary on our site yesterday, as far as the mass corporate media is concerned, "Once agreement congeals and the winner is declared, that's it. The election is over and it's time to move on."

Of course, as Koehler noted, there's an effort underway to have a recount spearheaded by Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein -- with some legal backing from the Hillary Clinton campaign -- but mainstream journalism isn't particularly enamored with the prospect. After all, as Koehler tartly reflected, "in mainstream media land, questioning the results of a presidential election has sort of an unpatriotic stench to it."

Furthermore, the voting process may seem simple to some people -- particularly white suburban voters whom the GOP counts on for victory margins -- but it is actually quite complicated. Greg Palast detailed some of the realities of widespread and varied suppression of the votes of people of color and other likely Democrats in an article this week in Truthout, "The No-BS Inside Guide to the Presidential Vote Recount."

How many ways can votes be annulled, and in how many ways can people who don't vote Republican be kept from voting? Palast details a multitude of possibilities, including voting machine software vulnerabilities, the generally uncounted "provisional ballot" (which Palast calls the "placebo ballot"), requirements involving voter ID cards, absentee ballots that are never counted, etc. Palast uncovers the names of millions of people who are not able to vote because of "caging" scams such as Operation Crosscheck and the denial of the rights of people previously incarcerated following felony convictions to vote in many states (including Florida, which also had a "caging" list that kept many people of color from voting in the 2000 election there).

Friday, 02 December 2016 07:04

Talking the 2016 Post-Election Blues

BRUCE MULKEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Sad 1202wrp opt(Photo: Tellmeimok)As I watched the returns start to trickle in on election night with my wife Shonnie and our friend Carolyn, I kept saying, “The votes in the Democratic strongholds obviously haven’t come in yet. It’s just a matter of time before Hillary takes the lead in Florida.” But she didn’t. Not in Florida, nor in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, or Wisconsin. Given that almost all the polls had consistently shown Clinton leading, it was difficult to believe what was happening right before my eyes.

Disconsolate, I went to bed around midnight after it was clear that Donald Trump was on his way to becoming our next president. I woke up around 3:00 a.m. and fumbled around with my Kindle to see if a miracle had taken place, if some of the battleground states had flipped to the Democratic column. They hadn’t.

Let me be clear. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the North Carolina primary when hope was still alive that he could capture the Democratic nomination for president. I supported Sanders because I believed (and still believe) that he understood the necessity of addressing issues such as income inequality, lack of a living wage for many, our two-tiered justice system, institutional racism, the militarization of our police departments, world-wide militarism (800 military bases in more than 70 countries and territories abroad), government surveillance of U.S. citizens, and climate change.

2016.1.12 BF Kennedy(Photo: Leslie Peterson)ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR. OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

In 1966, my father held Senate hearings to investigate violent attacks by growers against pickers in the produce fields surrounding Delano, California. A young United Farmworkers organizer, Cesar Chavez, was orchestrating peaceful protests by Filipino and Chicano farmworkers against meager pay and brutal working conditions. My father only reluctantly attended the hearings. While he was sympathetic with the farmworkers' plight, he already had a full plate of issues ranging from the Vietnam War, rioting cities to starvation in the Delta and education on Indian reservations. He didn't think he had bandwidth for another cause.

"Why do I need to fly all the way to California," he complained to his aid, Peter Edelman, on the airplane out. But then something made him mad; A Kern county sheriff explained to the committee that he had imprisoned the peaceful protestors "for their own protection" to safeguard them from violent growers and their hired thugs.

The prospect of law enforcement officials deploying the states police power on behalf of lawbreaking corporations against law abiding citizens whose only crime was their poverty and powerlessness made him steam. My father despised bullies and believed in rule of law. He gaveled the morning session to a close. "May I suggest that during the luncheon period of time that the sheriff and the district attorney read the Constitution of the United States?" That afternoon, he joined the farmworkers on their picket line. Chavez became his closest political and moral ally.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

5437288053 624c075aa3 z 1Big Pharma knows that campaign money and lobbyists have more value than life. (Photo: Steven Depolo/a>

I recently wrote about how Big Pharma largely drafted the Medicare Part D legislation signed by George W. Bush in 2006, which resulted in billions of dollars in windfall profits for drug companies. How was this fleecing of seniors in need of medication accomplished?

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) engaged in the customary DC practices of big campaign contributions, lobbying and actually writing passages of the Medicare Part D legislation. What goal did they achieve? They were able to get Congress to prohibit Medicare from negotiating a lower price for the cost of drugs. This meant that seniors were subject to excessive co-pays, because their chosen private insurance providers for Part D were not getting government-negotiated discounts. Insurance companies were also given permission to leave many drugs off their formularies (lists of covered drugs) and to price medications by tiers.

An October 2016 article in Mother Jones notes:

What's more, Part D often pays far more for drugs than do Medicaid or the Veterans Health Administration—which, unlike Part D, mandate government measures to hold down prices. One report found that Part D pays 80 percent more for medicines than the VHA and 73 percent more than Medicaid. While researchers aren't unanimous in their views, an array of experts have concluded that federal negotiating power—if backed up by other cost controls—would bring Part D drug costs more in line.

Mother Jones describes Washington as being "awash in drug industry cash," stating that "last year the drug industry retained 894 lobbyists to influence the 535 members of Congress, staffers, and regulators." That may explain why progressive economist Dean Baker, a regular columnist for Truthout, estimated that perhaps $332 billion could have been saved between 2006 and 2013 if Medicare had been allowed to negotiate prescription costs for Part D.

2016.1.12 BF Koehler(Photo: Keith Bacongco)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The impatience across much of the media is palpable.

Recount?

Oh groan. That's not going to change the election results. The consensus "truth" writhing just below the surface of the mainstream, eyeball-rolling disapproval of Jill Stein's call for and financing of a presidential vote recount in Wisconsin (and perhaps in Pennsylvania and Michigan) is that the political and media consensus has already established who the next president is. Like it or not.

And "election integrity" is apparently set in stone, here in America, the oldest democracy on the planet. We took care of that a long time ago. No matter that touch-screen voting is unverifiable and absurdly vulnerable to hacking and the struggle for power brings out the worst in people. No matter that the Republican Party -- the political party that lost the vote but won the election -- has a long history of passing voter suppression laws aimed at non-white Americans. The federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, striking down one such law in North Carolina, for instance, accused state legislators of targeting African-Americans "with almost surgical precision."

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fist 1130wrp(Photo: Genusfotografen)When you find yourself in a suddenly darkened room, what do you do?   Some rush blindly to where they think the door might be.  Others stand still, let their eyes get adjusted to the different environment, re-orient themselves, then cautiously and sensitively, move forward.  Some search out people who might be able to show the way.  Post-election, a lot of people are re-assessing and searching for the best way forward.  Here are some ideas on where we should be going and what we should be doing from experienced, thoughtful people who are organizing on the front lines. 

One:  You Were Born for This Time.

My friend, Cherri Foytlin, a mother who lives in rural Louisiana in a deeply Republican area, gives her life organizing to protect our earth, water and the rights of indigenous people.  For that she has been arrested and is subject to death threats.  Right after the election she wrote: “Fear no evil.  Joy and Love still live, and it is up to us to build the shelter for the Hope that they provide.  Lower those pointed fingers, we will need them to grasp the hammer and forge the nails.  Do not give in to your righteous anxieties.  Our heroes have never left us.  All the good that ever was, it is still here.  You were born for this time.” 

Two:  Join Allies.

Marisa Franco, one of the founders of Mijente, calls on Latinos and African Americans to join together with whites who didn’t go for Trump. “No one is going to build it, no one is going to give it to us. Positioning folks like the people in Arizona who built resilience and strength, positioning people who have been survivors to teach others. People in the South, in Arizona have been doing that for years,” she said. “We’ve got to build bridges across communities.”

Wednesday, 30 November 2016 06:56

Betsy DeVos' Plan to Destroy Public Education

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Eraser 1130wrp opt(Photo: Prosavage2600)Betsy DeVos, Present-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the Department of Education, has, as Douglas N. Harris recently wrote in an Op-Ed in The New York Times, “sent shock waves through the educational establishment.” And that is probably what Team Trump hoped would happen and continues to happen when DeVos takes office. Several years before being tapped by Trump, Americans United’s Rob Boston observed, “DeVos’ goal is nothing short of a radical re-creation of education in the United States, with tax-supported religious and other private schools replacing the traditional public school system.”

Betsy DeVos is a billionaire philanthropist, a longtime funder of multiple right-wing causes and candidates, and an ardent supporter of school vouchers/charter schools/privatization of public schools.

DeVos, and her brother, Erik Prince – the founder of Blackwater, the private military force that received contract worth billions of dollars from the U.S. government -- are two of the four children of  Elsa Prince Broekhuizen and the late Edgar Prince.

Edgar Prince made his fortune in Prince Automotive, and became one of the primary supporters of numerous Religious Right organizations and causes. Betsy DeVos is married to Dick DeVos, former CEO of Amway/Alticor and Republican candidate for governor of Michigan in a failed bid in 2006.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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 Noam Chomsky warns that the real "American Dream" is of plutocracy suppressing majority rule.  (Photo: Andrew Rusk)

During times like these, when we must choose resistance over compliance with an unjust power structure, I recall an exhortation from Maya Angelou:

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.

There will no coming out of the current political nightmare -- which existed before the November election, and exponentially worsened after it -- without a redoubling of advocacy for the common good.

That is what Noam Chomsky concludes in a sobering and informative documentary, Requiem for the American Dream (available from Truthout by clicking here). In the documentary, Chomsky describes 10 reasons why we have arrived at this time of political and social dystopia.

 

Monday, 28 November 2016 08:08

Understanding This New Age of Fascism

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Nationalism 1128wrp opt(Photo: Maerz1848)Anyone attempting to understand the roots of what is now being called the “alt-right” should run out to your favorite independent bookstore and grab hold of a copy of Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream. Published in 2009, and written by Leonard Zeskind, it remains a seminal history of the white supremacist movement, now being reimagined as the “alt-right.”

"While the white nationalist movement has splintered organizationally over the last few years, it is best to think of this phenomenon as something akin to a broken thermometer, where the mercury continually reconfigures itself into silver beads smaller and larger," Zeskind has written.

Drew S. Days III, Professor of Law, Yale University, and former U.S. Solicitor General called Blood and Politics “not only a brilliant account of the origins, modes of operation, collaborations, and internecine disputes of white supremacist, neo-Nazi, Holocaust-denier, and anti-Semitic groups in America, but alerts us to the fact that despite—or perhaps because of—significant improvements in race relations and changing demographic patterns, we are likely to witness a resurgence of their activities.”

Monday, 28 November 2016 06:56

Donald Trump Shatters the Arc of Justice

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TrumpPence 1128wrp opt(Photo: Ali Shaker/VOA)Maybe this much is true. Donald Trump, pseudo-president-elect, loser of the real election, charismatic stump-speech populist whose actual ability to govern may well be non-existent, has inflicted significant damage on America’s political infrastructure.

This is scary, of course, but not necessarily a bad thing. I say this even, or especially, if he manages to assemble a far right, white-nationalist-friendly cabinet and inner circle and start attempting to implement some of the promises he made on the campaign trail. If the Trump pseudo-presidency is “normalized” and we-the-people and the media shrug our shoulders at the rebuilding of Jim Crow Nation — the Wall, the Muslim registry and God knows what happens next — then yes, this is a disaster and moving to Canada is a viable option. But if Trump, instead, is the reincarnation of Bull Connor, someone who makes a dark, hidden ugliness suddenly clear to the public at large, then his rise to power may be the harbinger of profound, positive change.

“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe,” abolitionist Theodore Parker wrote more than 150 years ago, prefiguring the words of Martin Luther King. “The arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”

But the arc doesn’t bend by itself.

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