BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Just as Karl Rove was often referred to as President George W. Bush’s brain, Steven K. Bannon just may be President Donald Trump’s brain on steroids. Were President Donald Trump’s executive order, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” – aka the Muslim ban -- and the naming of Bannon, his chief strategist, to the National Security Council, indicative of the first stages of a holy war against Islam?
As The Washington Post’s Frances Stead Sellers and David A. Fahrenthold recently pointed out, “Bannon’s past statements, aired primarily on Breitbart and other conservative platforms, serve as a road map for the controversial agenda that has roiled Washington and shaken the global order during Trump’s first two weeks in office.”
In 2014, before Bannon, a former Goldman Sachs banker, who at the time was the proprietor of the incendiary white-nationalist Brietbart News, became a household name as Trump’s chief political strategist, he told a Vatican-held Christian conference audience that: "We're now, I believe, at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism."
Speaking at the International Conference on Human Dignity -- the third annual meeting organized by the Rome-based Christian organization Dignitatis Humanae Institute – via Skype, Bannon told the gathering: "We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH.COM
The din coming from Washington with the bombastic, pernicious arrival of the Trump spectacle has continued to keep America's longest war in the back pages of the news, if it makes the news at all. However, it is vital that we remember this war that was begun by the US and that has been raging for more than 15 years now. The original impetus was, ostensibly, to punish the Taliban government in the wake the of 9/11 attacks for harboring Al Qaeda. Yet it would be hard to define why we are there now except for the imperatives of US hegemony and military empire.
The war began on October 7, 2001. The US combat mission in the nation was declared at a formal end in 2014, but the US never really withdrew all its advisers and soldiers stationed there for "training" purposes. In addition, military contractors affiliated with the US government likely remained active in the country.
In fact, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), according to National Public Radio (NPR), confirmed that "There are still more than 13,000 NATO troops -- including 8,400 U.S. service members -- deployed to Afghanistan." McCain's opinion was that there should actually be more troops stationed in Afghanistan.
Now, it appears possible that the US will officially return to combat in Afghanistan, reaffirming that it is a war without an end in sight.
JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Of all the economic pain in America that Washington ought to be relieving, what group would you choose as the top priority?
Public opinion surveys consistently reveal that the great majority of us say that people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder -- the poor and the failing middle class— are the ones Congress should focus on. But, then, regular people don't run Congress -- or Donald Trump's White House.
On February 3, Trump and a blue-ribbon panel of working-class champions announced a bold new initiative to create millions of new American jobs. The panel members were genuinely thrilled that the president was acting so swiftly and decisively. Indeed, a spokesman for the group, Steve Schwarzman, praised Trump as a leader who wants to "do things a lot better in our country, for all Americans."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
I noted in a January 31 commentary that President Trump signed an executive order that took "two steps backward in public protection regulations." His action requires that executive branch agencies can only create a new regulation by eliminating two existing ones. Many of the regulations that may now be on the chopping block are key protections of civil, human and environmental rights. Furthermore, remember that a new regulation could be pro-corporate, and it might replace two regulations that benefit the public good.
In thinking about regulations in the age of Trump, it is also essential to remember that Congress initiates its own regulations -- and acts of deregulation. Public Citizen, a national advocacy agency for the public good, points out in an email, as one example, that Congress can repeal recently enacted executive branch orders, noting:
As a result of the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Americans could lose dozens of important health, safety, pocketbook and environmental protections established during the final six months of the last administration. The CRA allows Congress to strike down recently issued rules -- with limited debate and no possibility of a filibuster -- and blocks agencies from ever again issuing “substantially similar” standards without express authorization from Congress....
Two rules already have been struck down: the stream protection rule and the overseas drilling anti-corruption rule. More are at risk of repeal every week. In practical terms, Congress will have 60 legislative working days – until sometime in May or June – to torpedo rules finalized after June 13, 2016.
In short, that means the Republican-controlled Congress that has made deregulation (with a few pro-corporate exceptions) a priority, and it has nearly half a year to annul many of the important regulations that were put in place during the last six months of the Obama administration.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"Lot of killers. We've got a lot of killers. Boy, you think our country's so innocent? You think our country's so innocent?"
We have carnage and we have irony.
The speaker is the president, of course. It's Super Bowl Sunday and here he is, generating another eyeball-popping headline as he dares to compare American "collateral damage" over the years with (as a chorus of shocked critics exclaimed) Vladimir Putin's remorseless homicides. This happened during a pre-Super Bowl interview with Bill O'Reilly last Sunday, after O'Reilly had challenged Trump's coziness with Russia and called Putin a killer.
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska summed up the outrage thus: "There is no moral equivalency between the United States of America, the greatest freedom-loving nation in the history of the world, and the murderous thugs that are in Putin's defense of his cronyism."
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
officially broken ground on a $975 million expansion to its Luling plant in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. The facility will manufacture dicamba, a controversial herbicide used in the company's new XtendiMax weedkiller for GMO soybeans and cotton.Monsanto has
Despite the company's promise to bring 120 new full-time jobs to the area, it seems many locals are unhappy with the project.
Angry online comments have flooded the Times-Picayune's coverage of the Feb. 3 groundbreaking. The newspaper's Facebook post of the story has garnered 433 shares and 114 comments so far, with many people criticizing the new plant as well as the company itself.
"120 jobs isn't worth having this toxic company in your backyard...," the top Facebook comment states. The comment was "Liked" 117 times.
"Diacamba [sic] is bad. California just won the right to label Roundup as cancer causing," a newspaper reader commented. "So excited for Cancer Alley to grow."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) refused to allow Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) to criticize Trump Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama). In fact, he invoked a rarely used Senate rule to force Warren to end her remarks prematurely, while she was reading a letter written by Coretta Scott King. MSNBC reports:Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader
Warren quoted from a letter that Coretta Scott King wrote in opposition to Sessions, an Alabama Republican, during his attempted confirmation for a federal judgeship 30 years ago.
The letter said that Sessions, who was then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, had used the "the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge."
McConnell and other Republicans said Warren violated Senate rules. The rule, No. 19, says senators cannot "directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator."
MSNBC adds, "The Senate voted along partisan lines, 49-43, to admonish Warren." Thus, Warren was silenced and rebuked for speaking truth to power through the words of a great civil rights leader. In effect, McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate were also sanctioning Coretta Scott King.
CARL POPE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Donald Trump's main appeals to many of his voters was a pledge to "drain the swamp" and rid Washington of corruption. In only two weeks he has, instead, begun stocking the swamp with new and poisonous creatures, making it yet more deadly, much as sugar planters did in the Caribbean importing fleur-de-lance and other poisonous snakes to discourage slaves from making new lives for themselves by escaping into the jungle.It's staggering to recall that one of
Trump's cabinet, of course, may contain as many irreconcilable conflicts of interest as all the cabinets of the 20th century combined. Secretary of State Tillerson cannot do his job without becoming deeply enmeshed in the interest of ExxonMobil. Education Secretary DeVos, Health and Human Services Secretary Price, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Ross are ensnared with layers of inappropriate investments; Labor Secretary Puzder has made it clear that he wants to use his new position to reduce wages paid by his fast-food companies and only conceded on Feb. 1 that he might have to divest much of his investment portfolio to avoid future conflicts.
Trump's case for himself was "set a thief to catch a thief." He argued that he alone of recent Presidential candidates had been so deeply engaged in manipulating the federal tax code, that he alone knew how to fix it.
Well. If only.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
To paraphrase a remark attributed to Jesus, "Render unto Trump the things that are Trump, and unto Falwell the things that are Falwell's." And like that, President Donald Trump will be rewarding Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. for his early and earnest endorsement. According to Falwell, the administration has indicated that it will be tapping him to head up at least one and possibly two as yet to be created Department of Education task forces dealing with higher education. It appears that Falwell's goal will be to transform the Department of Education, an agency of which Falwell has been consistently critical. Falwell, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that he had a "notebook full of issues," and he appears to be particularly interested in reigning in Title IX, dealing with student aid, and possibly pushing one of his pet causes; allowing guns on campus.
"I've been in conversations with [presidential adviser] Steve Bannon and others, and the president is forming some education task forces that I've been asked to head," said Falwell, who apparently turned down an invitation by Team Trump to head up the Department of Education.
Len Stevens, Liberty's spokesman, indicated that Falwell "will push to stop regulations coming out of the Education Department, especially those that apply to colleges and universities," CNN reported. CNN's Dan Merica pointed out that "Falwell has been particularly interested in curbing rules that require schools to investigate campus sexual assault under Title IX, a federal law that bans discrimination in education."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In a February 3 article on Truthout, Spencer Sunshine reported on a Trump administration plan that is circulating to roll back the monitoring and prevention of domestic white terrorism:
The Trump administration's reported new plan to change a federal program which combats violent "extremism" into a project focused exclusively on "radical Islam" looks like another step toward demonizing Muslims -- while adding to concerns that the administration will actively empower open white supremacist groups. Reuters reports that multiple inside sources say the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) grant program will be being renamed either "Countering Islamic Extremism" or "Countering Radical Islamic Extremism."
Almost every year, the white supremacist movement is the political movement that kills the most Americans. (In the rare year that they don't come in first, they come in second.) But, for many years now, the federal government has refused to focus resources on violent far-right groups. Instead, efforts have been poured into surveilling the Muslim community at large -- even going so far as to entrap Muslims in order to arrest them.
Sunshine later notes:
Ignoring far-right movements seems to be a longstanding federal strategy