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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

trumpcaudilloIs Donald Trump becoming our caudillo? (Photo:Gage Skidmore)

Vladimir Putin restored the Soviet Union tradition of putting on an annual military parade to showcase the country's ability to wage war to the world. It used to be that the annual hours-long show of military wares and troops was a way of intimidating the West during the Cold War. CNN reported on the 2017 event in Red Square:

Russian President Vladimir Putin showed off ballistic missiles, armored tanks and new aircraft systems at a World War II commemorative parade in Moscow on Tuesday.

More than 10,000 troops marched in formation through Red Square to mark Victory Day, an annual event to celebrate the Soviet Union's triumph over Nazi Germany in a series of battles that ended on May 9, 1945....

Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles were among more than 100 pieces of military equipment rolled through the square.

Now, the Washington Post reports, Donald Trump wants to institute a similar parade to demonstrate US military might, to be held on Pennsylvania Avenue sometime this year. The idea is apparently under active discussion between the Pentagon and White House, and Trump is reportedly set on holding it in the next few months. The specific date has reportedly not been set yet.

Trump claims that his inspiration was a special military review he attended on Bastille Day (July 14) last year in France as a guest of French President Emmanuel Macron. Nonetheless, it is hard to think that a president with authoritarian tendencies is not also thinking of promoting US militarization. After all, the US has at least 800 military bases abroad in at least 80 nations. A White House military parade would be a bellicose assertion of US empire. It is consistent with Trump's tendency toward grandiose military statements, such as when he tweeted that he had a bigger nuclear launch button than Kim Jong-un.

Combined with Trump's other authoritarian actions, the idea of a national military parade is another indicator of the president's efforts to consolidate power.

KEVIN MARTIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bomber 0207wrp opt(Photo: David Rickard / Flickr)Militarism, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. eloquently asserted in 1967, is one of our society's "Triple Evils," along with racism and economic exploitation.

Were King alive today, he would surely decry not just the gargantuan nature of the US military, with our war budget over one-third the global total, but also how it's largely unchallenged by the public. Our tax dollars pay for nuclear and conventional military policies that practically guarantee armed conflict and nuclear weapons proliferation, making Americans and the whole world less safe.

With the coerced, cynical "support the troops" faux patriotism (to really support the troops, end the wars, bring them home, and give them better care) there is a psychological colonization at work as well. Given all this, it's hard to escape the reality that the US war machine more or less runs on autopilot.

Understandably, most Americans and even many progressive activists don't think there is much we can do about it, tacitly admitting there is precious little democracy in our foreign and military policies. Elites make decisions inimical to the interests of the vast majority of us, as the largesse lavished on the Pentagon prevents investments in domestic social and environmental priorities.

US military personnel observe a nuclear weapons test in Nevada in 1951.US military personnel observe a nuclear weapons test in Nevada in 1951.  (Photo: US Government via International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons via [FLICKR] / Flickr)DAVID SWANSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Did you hear the one about the "safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent"? There is, of course, nothing safe or secure about producing, maintaining, or threatening to use nuclear weapons. Nor is there evidence that they have ever deterred anything that the United States wanted deterred.

Trump's State of the Union gave this justification for building more weapons:

"Around the world, we face rogue regimes, terrorist groups and rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy, and our values. In confronting these horrible dangers, we know that weakness is the surest path to conflict and unmatched power is the surest means of our true and great defense. . . . [W]e must modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal, hopefully never having to use it, but making it so strong and so powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression by any other nation or anyone else. Perhaps someday in the future, there will be a magical moment when the countries of the world will get together to eliminate their nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, we are not there yet, sadly."

Now, a rival is just something that you call a rival, and I suppose it can challenge your "values" merely by not sharing them. Perhaps it can challenge your "interests" and "economy" through trade agreements. But those are not acts of war. They don't require nuclear weapons unless you intend to get better trade agreements by threatening genocide. Moreover, there's nothing magical about the moment when the Nonproliferation treaty that the US violates was created, nor about the current moment when the majority of nations are in fact working on a new treaty to ban the possession of nuclear weapons.

 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

cfpbarbThe Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is under withering assault from the Trump administration. (Photo: Michael Licht)

Former Rep. Mick Mulvaney is a busy man. He was not only selected by Trump to serve as the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, but Trump also appointed him -- in a controversial move -- to be interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB, of course, was the brainchild of Elizabeth Warren, before she was elected senator. It was intended to protect consumers against the exploitative practices of financial institutions. It opened its doors in 2011, and, according to the agency's website, has obtained $11.9 billion dollars in relief for more than 29 million consumers.

However, under Trump and Mulvaney, the CFPB is under danger of becoming the financial institution protection bureau. A January 23 New York Times article disclosed an internal memo Mulvaney sent around to CFPB staff. The Times characterized Mulvaney's approach:

Mr. Mulvaney made clear that under his direction, the consumer bureau would be more reluctant to target companies without overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing and suggested that the effect on a business should be weighed more heavily when considering cracking down on potential consumer abuses.

Mulvaney, who in the past called the CFPB "a joke," is a "tea party drone," according to Charles P. Pierce of Esquire. Just the other day, Reuters revealed that the CFPB, under Mulvaney, had stopped a multi-pronged investigation into the Equifax computer hack that affected more than 140 million people. This means that the CFPB is protecting Equifax over the online identity security of millions of consumers.

There has been a dangerous increase in white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups on college campuses.There has been a dangerous increase in white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups on college campuses. (Photo: Blink O'fanaye)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Since Donald Trump's election, white supremacist organizations have been working overtime on college campuses across the country, organizing rallies, spreading propaganda, gaining publicity, and creating assorted platforms to recruit students. According to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League, (ADL), college campuses have become a major battleground for white supremacists, as there has been "an alarming increase in white supremacist propaganda … during the 2017 fall semester."

While white supremacists have been targeting campuses for several years, they  "failed to get any real traction until the fall semester of 2016," the report pointed out. "Since then, propaganda efforts have increased dramatically." 

As the Washington Post recently reported, "Pamphlets and stickers proclaimed war against diversity and stoked racial division": 'Fighting for White Working Families';'Take back what is rightfully ours'; 'Preserve your heritage, take up the fight.'"

"The propaganda delivers a range of messages: it may promote a white supremacist group, or trumpet the urgent need to 'save' the white race. Frequently, the propaganda attacks minority groups, including Jews, Blacks, Muslims, non-white immigrants, and the LGBT community."

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Scrabble 0205wrp opt(Photo: Kevin Simmons / Flickr)It's incomprehensible to many of us that people could support a president who, in Bernie Sanders' words, "is compulsively dishonest, who is a bully, who actively represents the interests of the billionaire class, who is anti-science, and who is trying to divide us up based on the color of our skin, our nation of origin, our religion, our gender, or our sexual orientation." 

Based on various trusted sources and a dab of cognitive science, it's fair to conclude that there are three main reasons for this unlikely phenomenon. 

1. Trump's Followers Believe They're Better Than Other People

Nationalism, exceptionalism, narcissism, racism. They're all part of the big picture, although it's unfair to simply dismiss Trump people as ignorant racists. Many of them are well-educated and wealthy. But well-to-do individuals tend to feel entitledsuperioruninterested in the people 'beneath' them, and less willing to support the needs of society. Thus many wealthy white Americans are just fine with Trump's disdain for the general population. 

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.

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