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In This Edition


Lee Fang returns with, "Cable Industry Lobbyists Write Republican Talking Points On Net Neutrality."

Uri Avnery considers, "Parliamentary Riffraff."

Glen Ford examines, "Jeff Sessions, Eric Holder And Mass Black Incarceration -- Revisited And Revised."

Robert Parry wonders, "US Journalism's New 'Golden Age'?"

Jim Hightower wants to know, "Who'll Help America's Hard-Hit Gold Miners?"

Katrina vanden Heuvel warns, "Trump Escalates War On Women."

Chris Hedges with a must read, "The Death Of The Republic."

John Nichols says, "Donald Trump Committed Another Impeachable Offense This Week."

Ralph Nader explores, "The Left/Right Challenge To The Failed 'War On Drugs.'"

David Suzuki concludes, "Increased Awareness Is Key To Resolving The Climate Crisis."

John Pilger reveals, "The International Persecution Of Julian Assange."

David Swanson says, "U.S. Human Rights Groups Recommend Bombing Victims Move Underground, Develop Militias."

Michael Winship reviews, "The Internet Won't Let Armenia Go Away."

Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich finds, "Anti-Trump Sentiment Is Even Stronger In Europe Than In The U.S.."

Medea Benjammin asks, "Why Were The Saudi Streets So Quiet?"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "DNC Chair Tracks Down Biden In Everglades Tossing Whole Chickens To Gators," but first Uncle Ernie exclaims, "Murdering, The Poor, The Sick, And The Elderly, The Trump Way!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Bob Gorrell, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Mr. Fish, Frank Augstein, DonkeyHotey, Kevin Lamarque, Tony Webster, Alisdare Hickson, Survival Pictures, Saudi Press Agency, Whitehouse.Gov, Washington Post, Reuters, Flickr, AP, Getty Images, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

The Quotable Quote...
The Vidkun Quisling Award...
The Cartoon Corner...
To End On A Happy Note...
Have You Seen This...
Parting Shots...

Welcome one and all to "Uncle Ernie's Issues & Alibis."













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Murdering, The Poor, The Sick, And The Elderly, The Trump Way!
By Ernest Stewart

"I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican, and I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid." ~~~ Donald Trump

"The suppression of this information is a scandal. It's a crime against the American people, because scientists have known for at least 50 years that anthropogenic climate change is a reality." ~~~ Professor Neil Frazer of the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Hawaii at Manoa

"There are clearly some changes in Trump as a speaker since the 1980s, a clear reduction in linguistic sophistication over time, with simpler word choices and sentence structure. Some sentences, or partial sentences, would, if written, make a second-grade teacher despair." ~~~ Ben Michaelis ~ psychologist

"Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got til it's gone?"
Big Yellow Taxi ~~~ Joni Mitchell



Did you ever notice that politicians love euphemisms? Their love of euphemisms made me choose the name of "Happy Camps" for the magazines American concentration camps section. (A must read for those of you who want to see your possible future before too long.) I bring this up as Trump calls his new budget "A New Foundation for American Greatness." Get my point?

Trump's first budget proposal to Congress includes $1.7 trillion in mandatory spending cuts over 10 years, including $800 billion from Medicaid and $193 billion from food stamps, in an effort to balance the federal budget on the backs of the poor, sick and elderly. let's not forget cuts to student loans some $143 billion over 10 years and let's not forget cuts to federal worker retirement programs $63 billion over 10 years.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said on the Senate floor: "Candidate Trump campaigned as a populist. Since he has taken office he has governed like a hard-right conservative -- pushing policies that help the uber wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

"Based on what we know about this budget, the good news -- the only good news -- is that it's likely to be roundly rejected by members of both parties here in the Senate -- just as the last budget was."
We can but hope, Senator.

Trump needs the trillion dollar rip off of the poor, sick and elderly because he wants to give a $trillion dollar tax cut to himself and his 1% peers, not to mention another $50 billion for the war machine, a budget that should be cut by about $500 billion to begin with. Did I mention that the $50 billion isn't going to soliders, but the fat cat weapons makers, the soliders face drastic cuts to their health as well as to their families. A lot of folks voted for Trump because when he was campaigning he pretended to be a populist instead of the fascist that he is. Fool me once America!

In Other News

I see where the Department of the Interior deleted a line explaining how global warming drives sea level rise from the news release accompanying a new study on coastal flooding. Last week, six scientists published a journal article, "Doubling of coastal flooding frequency within decades due to sea-level rise," which explains that coastal flooding will be much worse than previously expected, explicitly citing the role of global warming.

As three of the scientists were from the Interior Department's U.S. Geological Survey, the USGS sent out a press release. Typically, these releases rely heavily on the original study and its abstract.

Instead, according to three of the study's co-authors, the following line was censored from the release: "Global climate change drives sea-level rise, increasing the frequency of coastal flooding." The significance of the line is underscored by the fact it is the very first line of the study's abstract. The Washington Post reports that "the decision to change the news release came from officials at the Interior Department itself."

As a result of this deletion, the news release never explains what is causing the sea level rise. The USGS's lead press officer, Anne Wade said, the excised line "didn't add anything to the overall findings."

She explained that because "climate change causes sea levels to rise is not a new finding, it did not warrant inclusion in the news release."

Unsurprisingly, the co-authors don't agree. "It did not cause any direct inaccuracy, but it did eliminate an important connection to be made by the reader - that global warming is causing sea-level rise," geophysicist Chip Fletcher explained.

Of course, Trump has long called global warming a "hoax," and his Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, is a climate science denier. Team Trump started deleting and suppressing climate science from his first day in office and has never stopped since.

So thanks to Trump, Zinke, and Wade things are only going to get worse and worse until we pass the point of no return, and many scientists think we've passed that point now! Your federal tax dollars at work, America!

And Finally

After some serious thought and a little research I have come to the conclusion that Trump's deteriorating speech could be a sign of early Dementia or Alzheimers, either way we are soooooo screwed.

His tortured syntax, mid-thought changes of subject, and apparent trouble formulating complete sentences, let alone a coherent paragraph, in unscripted speech holds to key his current brain health. He can still read speeches but without a script he seems to be lost and soon is rambling. All he needed for the campaign was a few sentences repeated over and over and over and believable lies told over and over and an audience dumb enough to believe them. You'd be hard pressed to find a people stupider than Americans anywhere on the planet. After 300 years of brainwashing you get Donald Trump.

You may recall that back in the day Donald was as slick as could be. He could fool almost anyone with his witty repartee and talk them out of billions of dollars on a yearly basis thorough his casinos, schools, airlines, steaks, you name it, all of it garbage but some how with a few words from Donald sounded perfectly sound.

However, as of late he speaks like a child and research has shown that changes in speaking style can result from cognitive decline. His thoughts may or may not be valid but it comes out of his mouth as a mishmash of ideas and thoughts that often have nothing to do with one another. It reminds me of Ray Guns when his mind fell apart and the country was being run by Nancy's fortune tellers and mystics. Fortunately or unfortunately "Bush the assassin" was in control and Ronnie's nuclear launch button didn't do anything. Hopefully Donald's nuclear launch button doesn't do anything either!

Keepin' On

I guess if Issues & Alibis is to succeed for another year, I'm going to have to take Captain Renault's (Claude Rains) advice from "Casablanca" and "Round Up The Usual Suspects!" Thank mighty Zeus for those "usual suspects," too; they've been keeping us afloat for the last five years; without them, we'd be just like the wind -- "GONE!"

This week, we got a nice donation from Carl in California, just like he did last year at this time; and with his third donation passes that magic threshold and becomes a member of "The Usual Suspects." Your magic decoder ring is in the mail along with the location of the key to the honor bar! Thanks, Carl!

Thanks, ladies and gentlemen; don't know what we'd do without you and the rest of our little band of "Merry Pranksters!" Trouble is, they're the only ones that we've heard from since the beginning of the year, those usual suspects!

We need to hear from the rest of the usual suspects; and we need to hear from a whole new group of newbies, too, if we're going to continue bringing you the truth -- week after week, month after month, year after year, and decade after decade; we need your help; and we need it now. If you're a long time member of our readership, and still gainfully employed, shouldn't you be paying your fair share and perhaps the share of another reader who is out of work, out of their house, out of luck, and out of time, too? You know you should -- time is running out for all of us -- don't be a day late and a dollar shy! As old Ben Jammin' Franklin said, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." You might want to give that some serious thought, America! To help us hang together, just go "here" and follow the instructions, and thanks!

*****


12-29-1923 ~ 05-22-2017
Thanks for the film!



10-14-1927 ~ 05-23-2017
Thanks for the film!




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So how do you like Trump so far?
And more importantly, what are you planning on doing about it?

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2017 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Facebook. and like us when you do. Follow me on Twitter.




The hearing room at the Federal Communications Commission headquarters in Washington, on Feb. 26, 2015.



Cable Industry Lobbyists Write Republican Talking Points On Net Neutrality

By Lee Fang

Following the vote last week by the Federal Communication Commission to unwind the net neutrality rules enacted during the Obama administration, House Republican lawmakers received an email from GOP leadership on how to defend the decision. The email was shared with The Intercept and the Center for Media and Democracy.

Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers must treat all web traffic in the same way. If the FCC eventually undoes the Obama-era regulations in their entirety, an ISP like Comcast could demand that websites pay it fees in order not to slow or block them. Large companies like Facebook would easily be able to afford such charges, but smaller companies might not, creating an uneven playing field.

"Want more information on the net neutrality discussion?" wrote Washington state Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House Republican Conference. "Here is a nifty toolkit with news resources, myth vs reality information, what others are saying, and free market comments."

The attached packet of talking points came directly from the cable industry.

The metadata of the document shows it was created by Kerry Landon, the assistant director of industry grassroots at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, a trade group that lobbies on behalf of Comcast, Cox Communications, Charter, and other cable industry companies. The document was shared with House Republican leaders via "Broadband for America," a nonprofit largely funded by the NCTA.

"The FCC is wisely repealing the reckless decision of its predecessors to regulate competing internet service providers," reads one of the document's talking points. "We rightly protest when governments around the world seek to place political controls over the internet, and the same should apply here in America," according to another.

The document also refers GOP caucus members to quotes they can use from other industry-funded nonprofits to defend the decision to repeal net neutrality through the rollback of Title II reclassification.

To respond to the "myth that only internet providers oppose utility regulation," the document suggests citing a number of civil rights organizations that have opposed net neutrality.

The same groups cited by the talking points, however, are heavily funded by ISP companies, including AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast, and the group that mobilized certain civil rights leaders to sign onto a campaign against net neutrality has a long history of work on behalf of the cable industry.

Broadband for America, the cable industry-funded group that passed the document to House Republicans, has long acted as a go-between for cable industry money to flow to allied pundits, lobbyists, and consultants.

The organization has enlisted a bipartisan set of talking heads to speak out against net neutrality. Harold Ford, the former Democratic lawmaker, and John Sununu, the former Republican senator, have been paid handsomely by the group while appearing in the media to warn about the dangers of adopting net neutrality.

Broadband for America has also retained a broad set of consultants to influence the telecom policy debate. The DCI Group, a Republican firm that specializes in "astroturf" campaigns designed to create fake grassroots support for political clients, has been paid at least $8,284,685 since 2012. SKD Knickerbocker, a firm founded by prominent Democrats, has received at least $3.1 million from Broadband for America.

In 2014, Broadband for America touted a lengthy list of allied groups that shared their opposition to net neutrality rules. But many of the groups on the list, including the Ohio chapter of League of Conservation Voters and a radio program dedicated to supporting veterans, said they were added to the list without their knowledge.

NCTA and Rep. McMorris Rodgers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(c) 2017 Lee Fang is a journalist with a longstanding interest in how public policy is influenced by organized interest groups and money. He was the first to uncover and detail the role of the billionaire Koch brothers in financing the Tea Party movement. His interviews and research on the Koch brothers have been featured on HBO's "The Newsroom," the documentaries "Merchants of Doubt" and "Citizen Koch," as well as in multiple media outlets. He was an investigative blogger for ThinkProgress (2009-2011) and then a fellow at the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute and contributing writer for The Nation.

In 2012, he co-founded RepublicReport.org, a blog to cover political corruption that syndicates content with TheNation.com, Salon, National Memo, BillMoyers.com, TruthOut, and other media outlets. His work has been published by VICE, The Baffler, The Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Progressive, NPR, In These Times, and The Huffington Post. His first book, "The Machine: A Field Guide to the Resurgent Right," published by The New Press, explores how the conservative right rebuilt the Republican Party and its political clout in the aftermath of President Obama's 2008 election victory. He is based in San Francisco.





Parliamentary Riffraff
By Uri Avnery

WHEN I first entered the Knesset, I was shocked by the low standard of its debates. Speeches were full of cliches, platitudes and party slogans, the intellectual content was almost nil.

That was 52 years ago. Among the members were David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, Levi Eshkol and several others of their kind.

Today, looking back, that Knesset looks like an Olympus, compared to the present composition of that non-august body.

AN INTELLIGENT debate in today's Knesset would be as out of place as a Pater Noster in a Synagogue.

Let's face it, the present Knesset is full of what I would call parliamentary riffraff. Men and women I would not drink a cup of coffee with. Some of them look and behave like walking jokes. One is suspected of owning a bordello in Eastern Europe. Several would be rejected out of hand by any self-respecting private employer.

These people are now engaged in an unprecedented competition of outrageous "private" bills - bills submitted to Knesset vote not by the government, but by individual members. I have already mentioned some of these bills recently - like the bill to recognize Israel as the "National Home of the Jewish People" - and they multiply by the week. They do not attract any special attention, because the bills introduced by the government are hardly more sensible.

The question necessarily arises: how did these people get elected in the first place?

In the old parties, such as the Likud and the Zionist Camp (a.k.a. the Labor Party), there are primaries. These are internal elections, in which the party members select their representatives. For example, the head of the workers' committee of a large public enterprise got all the employees and their families registered in the Likud, and they got him on the party list for the general elections. Now he is a minister.

Newer "parties" dispense with all this nonsense. The party founder personally selects the members of the party list, at his or her pleasure. The members are totally dependent. If they displease the leader, they are simply kicked out at the next election and replaced by more obedient lackeys.

THE ISRAELI system allows any group of citizens to set up an election list. If they pass the electoral threshold, they enter the Knesset.

In the first few elections, the threshold was 1%. That's how I got elected three times. Since then, the threshold has been raised and now stands at 3.25% of the valid votes.

Naturally, I was a great supporter of the original system. It has, indeed, some outstanding advantages. The Israeli public has many divisions - Jews and Arabs, Western Jews and Eastern Jews, new immigrants and old-timers, religious (of several kinds) and secular, rich and poor, and more. The system allows all of these to be represented. The prime minister and the government are elected by the Knesset. Since no party has ever achieved a majority in elections, governments are always based on coalitions, which provide some checks and balances.

At some stage, the law was changed and the Prime Minister was elected directly. The public quickly became disillusioned and the old system was reinstated. Now, seeing the riffraff that have entered the Knesset, I am changing my opinion. Obviously, something in the existing system is extremely wrong.

OF COURSE, there is no perfect election system. Adolf Hitler came to power in a democratic system. All kinds of odious leaders were elected democratically. Lately, Donald Trump, an unlikely candidate, was elected.

There are many different election systems in the world. They are the results of history and circumstances. Different peoples have different characters and preferences.

The British system, one of the oldest, is very conservative. No place for new parties or erratic personalities. Each district elects one member, winner takes all. Political minorities have no chance. Parliament was a club of gentlemen, and to some extent still is (if one counts gentlewomen).

The US system, much younger, is even more problematic. The constitution was written by gentlemen. They had just gotten rid of the British king, so they put in his place a quasi-king called president, who reigns supreme. Members of both houses of parliament are elected by constituencies.

Since the founders did not trust the people too much, they instituted a club of gentlemen as a kind of filter. This is called the Electoral College, and just now they elected (again) a president who did not obtain the majority of the votes.

The Germans, having learned their lesson, invented a more complicated system. Half of the members of parliament are elected in constituencies, the other half on country-wide lists. This means that the one half are directly responsible to their voters, but that political minorities also have a chance of being elected.

IF I were asked to write a constitution for Israel (we have none) what would I choose? (No need for panic. According to my calculations, there is about a one trillion to one chance for this to happen.)

The main questions are:

(a) Will members of parliament be chosen in constituencies or by country-wide lists?

(b) Will the chief executive be elected by the general public or by parliament?

Each answer has its pros and cons. It is a decision about what is more important under the existing circumstances in each country.

I was very impressed by the recent elections in France. The president was elected in a direct nation-wide vote - but with an incredibly important and wise institution: the Second Round.

In a normal election, people first vote emotionally. They may be angry with somebody, and want to express their feelings. Also, they want to vote for the person they like, whatever his or her chances. So you have several winners, and the final winner may be somebody who has got only a minority of the votes.

The second round repairs all these faults. After the first round, people have time to think rationally. Among the presidential candidates who have a chance to win, who is the closest to me (or the lesser evil)? In the end, one candidate necessarily gets a majority.

The same applies to the candidates to the Assemblee Nationale, the parliament. They are elected in constituencies, but if no one gets a majority at the first try, there is a second round there, too.

This may impede the arrival of newcomers, but lo and behold - the election of Francois Macron shows that even in this system an almost complete newcomer can become president.

Sure, an expert can probably find faults in this system, too, but it seems reasonably good.

OVER THE years I have visited several parliaments. Most of their members left me singularly unimpressed.

No parliament is composed of philosophers. You need a lot of ambition. cunning and other unseemly traits to become a member. (Myself excluded.)

I grew up admiring the US senate. Until I visited that institution and was introduced on the floor to several members. It was a terrible disappointment, Several of them I spoke with about the Middle East obviously had no idea what they were talking about, though they were considered experts. Some were, frankly, pompous asses. (Pompous Asses are a category well represented in every parliament).

I learned that the real business of the Senate is conducted behind the scenes by the consultants and advisors of the senators, who are far more intelligent and informed, and that the role of the members themselves is to look good, collect money and make highfalutin speeches.)

TV IS changing the picture (literally) everywhere.

TV cannot show party programs, so programs are obsolete. TV cannot show political parties, so parties are disappearing in many places, including Israel. TV shows faces, so the faces of individuals count. That explains why good-looking politicians in Israel create new parties and appoint the Knesset members, including the riffraff (some of them also good-looking), who would never be elected in a direct constituency vote.

When Adlai Stevenson ran for the presidency, he was told "Don't worry, every thinking person will vote for you."

"But I need a majority," Stevenson famously replied.
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom







Jeff Sessions, Eric Holder And Mass Black Incarceration -- Revisited And Revised
By Glen Ford

Attorney General Jeff Session is a nightmare, but Eric Holder, his Black predecessor, was among those that opened the door to racial profiling, "pretext" traffic stops, and mandatory minimum sentences during the Clinton era. The vaunted criminal justice "reforms" that are credited to Obama and Holder are so ephemeral, they have been wiped out by a single Jeff Sessions memo.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the deep-fried racist from Alabama, would like to turn the clock back to pre-Emancipation, but will settle for a return to the good old days of Bill Clinton, the mega-incarcerating con man from Hope, Arkansas. It is important to maintain an historical perspective on the actual policies that are being pushed by Republican and Democratic political actors, given the corporate media's practice of revising history on a daily basis. Sessions' new instructions demand that his U.S. attorneys "charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense," rather than adjust criminal charges and sentencing recommendations based on the defendants individual history and circumstances. Sessions insists that federal prosecutors push all the legal buttons necessary to activate mandatory minimum sentences, with no judicial discretion.

Sessions' policy "is not tough on crime. It is dumb on crime," said his predecessor, Eric Holder, who executed Barack Obama's so-called "Smart on Crime" initiative in response to a growing wave of Black protest during Obama's second term. In typical fashion, Obama "led from behind" on criminal justice issues, positioning himself on the cautious side of the emerging establishment consensus that the U.S. prison population must be shrunk. Thus, the Obama administration gave ample lip service to rolling back patently racist crack cocaine penalties, but, once legislation to that effect was passed, fought successfully in the courts to prevent early release of inmates convicted under the law. Instead, prisoners were forced to undergo individual review. The lucky ones, who fit Eric Holder's strict release eligibility guidelines, were dribbled out of prison as public relations exhibits of Obama's kindness.

Obama and Holder did tolerate, and even encourage, a degree of prosecutorial discretion in framing charges and recommending sentences - although they proposed no fundamental reforms to the system. The truth is, prosecutorial discretion is an arbitrary tool of the state, a matter of convenience and budget-adjusting that has nothing to do with justice and leaves the repressive architecture of mass Black incarceration totally intact - as should be obvious, since all it took was a memo from Jeff Sessions to undo the phony "reform."

What Sessions is actually defending are the racist policies championed by Eric Holder, himself, when he was U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia in the mid-Nineties. Sessions needs only to drive his time machine back two decades to be in total synch with the Eric Holder who made his political bones by imposing systemic racial profiling on the streets of Black Washington, DC. Holder kicked off his "Operation Ceasefire" campaign on Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday, 1995, framing his anti-crime strategy in civil rights terms -- the right of Black people to be safe. On his watch, Driving While Young and Black became sufficient cause for a police stop and search -- and all the consequences that follow. "The people who will be stopped will be young Black males, overwhelmingly," Holder conceded. However, the greater good must be served. "Young Black males make up 1 percent of the national population but account for 18 percent of the nation's homicides," he said.

Holder's policy of targeting "suspicious" vehicles for stops "with the aim of conducting searches" is detailed in James Forman Jr.'s new book, Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America, an indispensable resource for understanding the roots of modern mass incarceration and the role the Black political (misleadership) class played in creating the monster. The man who would later declare that some banks are too big to prosecute (How's that for discretion?) helped establish a national precedent for stripping constitutional protections from the "suspicious" demographics of society. James Forman reports that Holder's signature "pretext stops" are responsible for "most of the racial disparity in traffic stops, nationwide." Thus, Eric Holder has contributed mightily to the misery endured by, literally, millions in the U.S. prison gulag over the last several decades, while his feeble discretionary criminal justice "reforms" under Obama have no lasting institutional impact.

Worse, Eric Holder's past is a model for Attorney General Jeff Session's future.
(c) 2017 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.




The Washington Post building in downtown Washington, D.C.



US Journalism's New 'Golden Age'?
By Robert Parry

The mainstream U.S. media is congratulating itself on its courageous defiance of President Trump and its hard-hitting condemnations of Russia, but the press seems to have forgotten that its proper role within the U.S. democratic structure is not to slant stories one way or another but to provide objective information for the American people.

By that standard - of respecting that the people are the nation's true sovereigns - the mainstream media is failing again. Indeed, the chasm between what America's elites are thinking these days and what many working-class Americans are feeling is underscored by the high-fiving that's going on inside the elite mainstream news media, which is celebrating its Trump- and Russia-bashing as the "new golden age of American journalism."

The New York Times and The Washington Post, in particular, view themselves as embattled victims of a tyrannical abuser. The Times presents itself as the brave guardian of "truth" and the Post added a new slogan: "Democracy dies in darkness." In doing so, they have moved beyond the normal constraints of professional, objective journalism into political advocacy - and they are deeply proud of themselves.

In a Sunday column entitled "How Trump inspired a golden age," Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote that Trump "took on the institution of a free press - and it fought back. Trump came to office after intimidating publishers, barring journalists from covering him and threatening to rewrite press laws, and he has sought to discredit the 'fake news' media at every chance. Instead, he wound up inspiring a new golden age in American journalism.

"Trump provoked the extraordinary work of reporters on the intelligence, justice and national security beats, who blew wide open the Russia election scandal, the contacts between Russia and top Trump officials, and interference by Trump in the FBI investigation. Last week's appointment of a special prosecutor - a crucial check on a president who lacks self-restraint - is a direct result of their work."

Journalism or Hatchet Job?

But has this journalism been professional or has it been a hatchet job? Are we seeing a new "golden age" of journalism or a McCarthyistic lynch mob operating on behalf of elites who disdain the U.S. constitutional process for electing American presidents?


Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (right) talks with President Barack
Obama in the Oval Office, with John Brennan and other national security aides present.

For one thing, you might have thought that professional journalists would have demanded proof about the predicate for this burgeoning "scandal" - whether the Russians really did "hack" into emails of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and then slip the information to WikiLeaks to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.

You have surely heard and read endlessly that this conclusion about Russia's skulduggery was the "consensus view of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies" and thus only some crazy conspiracy theorist would doubt its accuracy even if no specific evidence was evinced to support the accusation.

But that repeated assertion is not true. There was no National Intelligence Estimate (or NIE) that would compile the views of the 17 intelligence agencies. Instead, as President Obama's Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on May 8, the Russia-hacking claim came from a "special intelligence community assessment" (or ICA) produced by selected analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation, or as Clapper put it, "a coordinated product from three agencies - CIA, NSA, and the FBI - not all 17 components of the intelligence community."

Further, as Clapper explained, the "ICA" was something of a rush job beginning on President Obama's instructions "in early December" and completed by Jan. 6, in other words, a month or less.

Clapper continued: "The two dozen or so analysts for this task were hand-picked, seasoned experts from each of the contributing agencies." However, as any intelligence expert will tell you, if you "hand-pick" the analysts, you are really hand-picking the conclusion.

You can say the analysts worked independently but their selection, as advocates for one position or another, could itself dictate the outcome. If the analysts were hardliners on Russia or hated Trump, they could be expected to deliver the conclusion that Obama and Clapper wanted, i.e., challenging the legitimacy of Trump's election and blaming Russia.

The point of having a more substantive NIE is that it taps into a much broader network of U.S. intelligence analysts who have the right to insert dissents to the dominant opinions. So, for instance, when President George W. Bush belatedly ordered an NIE regarding Iraq's WMD in 2002, some analysts - especially at the State Department - inserted dissents (although they were expunged from the declassified version given to the American people to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq).

An Embarrassing Product

Obama's "ICA," which was released on Jan. 6, was a piece of work that embarrassed many former U.S. intelligence analysts. It was a one-sided argument that lacked any specific evidence to support its findings. Its key point was that Russian President Vladimir Putin had a motive to authorize an information operation to help Hillary Clinton's rival, Donald Trump, because Putin disdained her work as Secretary of State.


Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015.

But the Jan. 6 report failed to include the counter-argument to that cui bono assertion, that it would be an extraordinary risk for Putin to release information to hurt Clinton when she was the overwhelming favorite to win the presidency. Given the NSA's electronic-interception capabilities, Putin would have to assume that any such undertaking would be picked up by U.S. intelligence and that he would likely be facing a vengeful new U.S. president on Jan. 20.

While it's possible that Putin still took the risk - despite the daunting odds against a Trump victory - a balanced intelligence assessment would have included such contrary arguments. Instead, the report had the look of a prosecutor's brief albeit without actual evidence pointing to the guilt of the accused.

Further, the report repeatedly used the word "assesses" - rather than "proves" or "establishes" - and the terminology is important because, in intelligence-world-speak, "assesses" often means "guesses." The report admits as much, saying, "Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents."

In other words, the predicate for the entire Russia-gate scandal, which may now lead to the impeachment of a U.S. president and thus the negation of the Constitution's electoral process, is based partly on a lie - i.e., the claim that the assessment comes from all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies - and partly on evidence-free speculation by a group of "hand-picked" analysts, chosen by Obama's intelligence chiefs.

Yet, the mainstream U.S. news media has neither corrected the false assertion about the 17 intelligence agencies nor demanded that actual evidence be made public to support the key allegation that Russia was the source of the WikiLeaks's email dumps.

By the way, both Russia and WikiLeaks deny that Russia was the source, although it is certainly possible that the Russian government would lie and that WikiLeaks might not know where the two batches of Democratic emails originated.

A True 'Golden Age'?

Yet, one might think that the new "golden age of American journalism" would want to establish a firm foundation for its self-admiring reporting on Russia-gate. You might think, too, that these esteemed MSM reporters would show some professional skepticism toward dubious claims being fed to them by the Obama administration's intelligence appointees.


President Donald Trump being sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017.

That is unless, of course, the major U.S. news organizations are not abiding by journalistic principles, but rather see themselves as combatants in the anti-Trump "resistance." In other words, if they are behaving less as a Fourth Estate and more as a well-dressed mob determined to drag the interloper, Trump, from the White House.

The mainstream U.S. media's bias against Putin and Russia also oozes from every pore of the Times' and Post's reporting from Moscow. For instance, the Times' article on Putin's comments about supposed secrets that Trump shared with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the White House had the headline in the print editions: "Putin Butts In to Claim There Were No Secrets..." The article by Andrew Higgins then describes Putin "asserting himself with his customary disruptive panache" and "seizing on foreign crises to make Russia's voice heard."

Clearly, we are all supposed to hate and ridicule Vladimir Putin. He is being demonized as the new "enemy" in much the way that George Orwell foresaw in his dystopian novel, 1984. Yet, what is perhaps most troubling is that the major U.S. news outlets, which played instrumental roles in demonizing leaders of Iraq, Syria and Libya, believe they are engaged in some "golden age" journalism, rather than writing propaganda.

Contempt for Trump

Yes, I realize that many good people want to see Trump removed from office because of his destructive policies and his buffoonish behavior - and many are eager to use the new bete noire, Russia, as the excuse to do it. But that still does not make it right for the U.S. news media to abandon its professional responsibilities in favor of a political agenda.


The run-down PIX Theatre sign reads "Vote Trump" on
Main Street in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. July 15, 2016.

On a political level, it may not even be a good idea for Democrats and progressives who seem to be following the failed strategy of Hillary Clinton's campaign in seeking to demonize Trump rather than figuring out how to speak to the white working-class people who voted for him, many out of fear over their economic vulnerability and others out of anger over how Clinton dismissed many of them as "deplorables."

And, by the way, if anyone thinks that whatever the Russians may have done damaged Clinton's chances more than her colorful phrase disdaining millions of working-class people who understandably feel left behind by neo-liberal economics, you may want to enroll in a Politics 101 course. The last thing a competent politician does is utter a memorable insult that will rally the opposition.

In conversations that I've had recently with Trump voters, they complain that Clinton and the Democrats weren't even bothering to listen to them or to talk to them. These voters were less enamored of Trump than they were conceded to Trump by the Clinton campaign. These voters also are not impressed by the endless Trump- and Russia-bashing from The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC, which they see as instruments of the elites.

The political danger for national Democrats and many progressives is that mocking Trump and thus further insulting his supporters only extends the losing Clinton strategy and cements the image of Democrats as know-it-all elitists. Thus, the Democrats risk losing a key segment of the U.S. electorate for a generation.

Not only could that deny the Democrats a congressional majority for the foreseeable future, but it might even get Trump a second term.
(c) 2017 Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America's Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).







Who'll Help America's Hard-Hit Gold Miners?
By Jim Hightower

These are hard times for America's gold miners, who're scrambling to get ahead, but seeing their pay dropping.

Take Bob Mercer, who's been a top miner for years, but last year even Bob was down. He pulled in only $125 million in pay. Can you feel Bob's pain?

Well, these are not your normal miners. They are hedge fund managers, digging for gold in the Wonderland of Wall Street. Indeed, if you divided Mercer's pay in his "bad year" among 1,000 miners doing honest work, each would consider it a fabulous year. Nonetheless, hedge funds are almost literally gold mines, although they require no heavy lifting by the soft-handed, Gucci-wearing managers who work them. These gold diggers are basically nothing but speculators, drawing billions of dollars from the uber-rich by promising that they will deliver fabulous profits for them. But the scam is that Mercer and his fellow diggers get paid whether they deliver or not.

Their cushy set up, known as 2-and-20, works like this: (1) Right off the top, they take 2 percent of the money put up by each wealthy client, which hedge fund whizzes like Mercer keep even if the investments they make are losers; (2) if their speculative bets do pay off, they pocket 20 percent of all profits; and (3) hedge fund lobbyists have rigged our nation's tax code so these Wall Street miners pay a fraction of the tax rate that real mine workers pay.

Last year, the 25 best paid hedge fund operators totaled a staggering $11 billion in personal pay - even though nearly half of them performed poorly. Meanwhile, Donald Trump - who promised last year to close that special hedge-fund tax break, is now promising to give an even bigger break to them. Guess who was one of Trump's most generous funders last year: Bob Mercer.
(c) 2017 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.




At the Women's March in New York City in January, 2017.




Trump Escalates War On Women
By Katrina vanden Heuvel

"I just want to state some facts," Deja Foxx, a 16-year-old activist, told Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) at a town hall meeting in April. "I'm a young woman, and you're a middle-aged man. I'm a person of color, and you're white. I come from a background of poverty, and I didn't always have parents to guide me through life. You come from privilege, so I'm wondering, as a Planned Parenthood patient and someone who relies on Title X, who you are clearly not, why it's your right to take away my right to choose Planned Parenthood."

The confrontation, which went viral, occurred on the same day that President Trump signed a law allowing states to deny Title X family planning funds to health clinics that offer abortions. Flake supported the bill, along with 49 other Senate Republicans. With two Republican women breaking ranks, Vice President Pence cast the tiebreaking vote to force the bill through. As Foxx explained to Flake, the care she receives at Planned Parenthood is helping her take charge of her future and achieve the American dream. "I can't sit idly by while women like me are countlessly and constantly being ignored on Capitol Hill," she said in an interview after the exchange.

The Title X measure is just one of many unnerving examples of women having their interests ignored - or, worse, threatened - in Washington. While much of the media and political establishment are gripped by the scandals engulfing the administration, Trump and the Republican Party have been waging war on the health of women everywhere.

The latest attack came last Monday, when the Trump administration marked the beginning of National Women's Health Week by announcing an unprecedented expansion of the "global gag rule," which Republican presidents since Ronald Reagan have used to withhold U.S. funding from health organizations that provide abortions or even acknowledge the procedure as an option. The last time it was in effect, under George W. Bush, the policy restricted roughly $600 million in international family planning assistance. Trump is broadening it to include global health funding provided by the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Defense Department, totaling $8.8 billion. The expanded ban will cause an increase in unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions and maternal deaths. "Despite the Trump administration's ludicrous rebranding of the policy," says Suzanne Ehlers, president of the global reproductive health advocacy group PAI, "the Global Gag Rule is unmistakably deadlier than ever."

The president's top domestic priority - repealing the Affordable Care Act - would also be disastrous for women across the United States. The replacement bill passed by the House would take away coverage for millions of Medicaid recipients, the majority of whom are women. It would eliminate essential health benefits, such as maternity and newborn care, and strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood. And it would gut protections for preexisting conditions, meaning women could once again face discrimination as a result of "conditions" such as pregnancy and Caesarean sections. A Senate version of the bill is now being crafted by 13 Republicans - all men.

Meanwhile, the assault on women's health is expanding in Republican-controlled states. In the first four months of 2017 alone, there were 31 abortion restrictions enacted at the state level, according to the Guttmacher Institute. In Iowa, Planned Parenthood announced last week that it will close four clinics serving nearly 15,000 patients as a result of a defunding measure slated to take effect in July. Under the new law, Iowa will forgo Medicaid family planning funds in favor of a state-run program that will exclude care providers that offer abortions. Since making a similar move in 2011, Texas has seen a steep drop in participation and a rise in Medicaid pregnancies, and is now asking the federal government to restore its funding - without requiring it to end the counterproductive ban on abortion providers.

Despite the grim developments, women are responding with an outpouring of political energy. Since the Women's March in January, thousands of women have expressed interest in running for office. They are jamming the phone lines on Capitol Hill. And they are making a more powerful case than ever that reproductive rights are not merely a women's health issue, but an essential component of economic health and security as well.

Trump may be escalating the war on women, but in doing so, he has awakened women and girls such as Deja Foxx. They will drive the anti-Trump resistance forward and, increasingly, shape the future of the progressive movement. As Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said in a speech last month, L"This White House and this Congress have shown they are willing to throw women under the bus - and we are fighting them every step of the way. That's why we are building a progressive movement where women's health and women's economic empowerment aren't an afterthought - they are at the forefront."
(c) 2017 Katrina vanden Heuvel is an American editor and publisher. She is the editor, publisher, and part-owner of the magazine The Nation. She has been the magazine's editor since 1995.








The Death Of The Republic
By Chris Hedges

The deep state's decision in ancient Rome-dominated by a bloated military and a corrupt oligarchy, much like the United States of 2017-to strangle the vain and idiotic Emperor Commodus in his bath in the year 192 did not halt the growing chaos and precipitous decline of the Roman Empire.

Commodus, like a number of other late Roman emperors, and like President Trump, was incompetent and consumed by his own vanity. He commissioned innumerable statues of himself as Hercules and had little interest in governance. He used his position as head of state to make himself the star of his own ongoing public show. He fought victoriously as a gladiator in the arena in fixed bouts. Power for Commodus, as it is for Trump, was primarily about catering to his bottomless narcissism, hedonism and lust for wealth. He sold public offices so the ancient equivalents of Betsy DeVos and Steve Mnuchin could orchestrate a vast kleptocracy.

Commodus was replaced by the reformer Pertinax, the Bernie Sanders of his day, who attempted in vain to curb the power of the Praetorian Guards, the ancient version of the military-industrial complex. This effort saw the Praetorian Guards assassinate Pertinax after he was in power only three months. The Guards then auctioned off the office of emperor to the highest bidder. The next emperor, Didius Julianus, lasted 66 days. There would be five emperors in A.D. 193, the year after the assassination of Commodus. Trump and our decaying empire have ominous historical precedents. If the deep state replaces Trump, whose ineptitude and imbecility are embarrassing to the empire, that action will not restore our democracy any more than replacing Commodus restored democracy in Rome. Our republic is dead.

Societies that once were open and had democratic traditions are easy prey for the enemies of democracy. These demagogues pay deference to the patriotic ideals, rituals, practices and forms of the old democratic political system while dismantling it. When the Roman Emperor Augustus-he referred to himself as the "first citizen"-neutered the republic, he was careful to maintain the form of the old republic. Lenin and the Bolsheviks did the same when they seized and crushed the autonomous soviets. Even the Nazis and the Stalinists insisted they ruled democratic states. Thomas Paine wrote that despotic government is a fungus that grows out of a corrupt civil society. This is what happened to these older democracies. It is what happened to us.

Our constitutional rights-due process, habeas corpus, privacy, a fair trial, freedom from exploitation, fair elections and dissent-have been taken from us by judicial fiat. These rights exist only in name. The vast disconnect between the purported values of the state and reality renders political discourse absurd.

Corporations, cannibalizing the federal budget, legally empower themselves to exploit and pillage. It is impossible to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or ExxonMobil. The pharmaceutical and insurance industries can hold sick children hostage while their parents bankrupt themselves trying to save their sons or daughters. Those burdened by student loans can never wipe out the debt by declaring bankruptcy. In many states, those who attempt to publicize the conditions in the vast factory farms where diseased animals are warehoused for slaughter can be charged with a criminal offense. Corporations legally carry out tax boycotts. Companies have orchestrated free trade deals that destroy small farmers and businesses and deindustrialize the country. Labor unions and government agencies designed to protect the public from contaminated air, water and food and from usurious creditors and lenders have been defanged. The Supreme Court, in an inversion of rights worthy of George Orwell, defines unlimited corporate contributions to electoral campaigns as a right to petition the government or a form of free speech. Much of the press, owned by large corporations, is an echo chamber for the elites. State and city enterprises and utilities are sold to corporations that hike rates and deny services to the poor. The educational system is being slowly privatized and turned into a species of vocational training.

Wages are stagnant or have declined. Unemployment and underemployment-masked by falsified statistics-have thrust half the country into chronic poverty. Social services are abolished in the name of austerity. Culture and the arts have been replaced by sexual commodification, banal entertainment and graphic depictions of violence. The infrastructure, neglected and underfunded, is collapsing. Bankruptcies, foreclosures, arrests, food shortages and untreated illnesses that lead to early death plague a harried underclass. The desperate flee into an underground economy dominated by drugs, crime and human trafficking. The state, rather than address the economic misery, militarizes police departments and empowers them to use lethal force against unarmed civilians. It fills the prisons with 2.3 million citizens, only a tiny percentage of whom had a trial. One million prisoners work for corporations inside prisons as modern-day slaves.

The amendments of the Constitution, designed to protect the citizen from tyranny, are meaningless. The Fourth Amendment, for example, reads: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." The reality is that our telephone calls, emails, texts and financial, judicial and medical records, along with every website we visit and our physical travels, are tracked, recorded and stored in perpetuity in government computer banks.

The state tortures, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantanamo Bay, but also in supermax ADX [administrative maximum] facilities such as the one at Florence, Colo., where inmates suffer psychological breakdowns from prolonged solitary confinement. Prisoners, although they are citizens, endure around-the-clock electronic monitoring and 23-hour-a-day lockdowns. They undergo extreme sensory deprivation. They endure beatings. They must shower and go to the bathroom on camera. They can write only one letter a week to one relative and cannot use more than three pieces of paper. They often have no access to fresh air and take their one hour of daily recreation in a huge cage that resembles a treadmill for hamsters.

The state uses "special administrative measures," known as SAMs, to strip prisoners of their judicial rights. SAMs restrict prisoners' communication with the outside world. They end calls, letters and visits with anyone except attorneys and sharply limit contact with family members. Prisoners under SAMs are not permitted to see most of the evidence against them because of a legal provision called the Classified Information Procedures Act, or CIPA. CIPA, begun under the Reagan administration, allows evidence in a trial to be classified and withheld from those being prosecuted. You can be tried and convicted, like Joseph K. in Franz Kafka's "The Trial," without ever seeing the evidence used to find you guilty. Under SAMs, it is against the law for those who have contact with an inmate-including attorneys-to speak about his or her physical and psychological conditions.

And when prisoners are released, they have lost the right to vote and receive public assistance and are burdened with fines that, if unpaid, will put them back behind bars. They are subject to arbitrary searches and arrests. They spend the rest of their lives marginalized as members of a vast criminal caste.

The executive branch of government has empowered itself to assassinate U.S. citizens. It can call the Army into the streets to quell civil unrest under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which ended a prohibition on the military acting as a domestic police force. The executive branch can order the military to seize U.S. citizens deemed to be terrorists or associated with terrorists. This is called "extraordinary rendition." Those taken into custody by the military can be denied due process and habeas corpus rights and held indefinitely in military facilities. Activists and dissidents, whose rights were once protected under the First Amendment, can face indefinite incarceration.

Constitutionally protected statements, beliefs and associations are criminalized. The state assumed the power to detain and prosecute people not for what they have done, or even for what they are planning to do, but for holding religious or political beliefs that the state deems seditious. The first of those targeted have been observant Muslims, but they will not be the last.

The outward forms of democratic participation-voting, competing political parties, judicial oversight and legislation-are meaningless theater. No one who lives under constant surveillance, who is subject to detention anywhere at any time, whose conversations, messages, meetings, proclivities and habits are recorded, stored and analyzed, who is powerless in the face of corporate exploitation, can be described as free. The relationship between the state and the citizen who is watched constantly is one of master and slave. And the shackles will not be removed if Trump disappears.
(c) 2017 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. Keep up with Chris Hedges' latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at www.truthdig.com/chris_hedges.




Donald Trump at a joint news conference with Colombia's
President Juan Manuel Santos at the White House, May 18, 2017



Donald Trump Committed Another Impeachable Offense This Week
And it had nothing to do with the Russia investigation
By John Nichols

President Donald Trump committed an impeachable offense this week, but you likely haven't heard about it on cable news.

It did not involve firing the director of the FBI, nor conspiring with the attorney general to facilitate the firing that even some Republicans recognized as a potential obstruction of justice, nor bragging to the Russians about how "pressure" was "taken off" by that firing, nor any of the other acts of presidential maladministration that scream out for an accountability moment.

Those developments may have gotten the impeachment clock ticking faster, as Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan suggested. But there was another event-nothing to do with Russia-that should have set off the alarm: Donald Trump's refusal to respect the requirements that the US Constitution places on presidents when it comes to matters of war and peace.

On Wednesday, US forces carried out more unauthorized air strikes on pro-government forces in Syria. Though the Constitution explicitly states that the legislative branch, not the executive, has the power to initiate new military actions, Trump has steered the United States deeper into the Syrian conflict.

After initial reports that US officials had confirmed "that the US-led Coalition hit Assad regime forces with air strikes in southern Syria today," Congressman Ted Lieu, a former active-duty officer in the US Air Force now serving as a colonel in the Reserves, who is an expert in military law, had the right response on Twitter:

If true, this is FRICKIN ILLEGAL. Trump does not have Congressional authorization to attack Syria, a country that has not attacked US. https://t.co/5cf7gBVwC7

-Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) May 18, 2017

The congressman later issued a statement:

For the second time in as many months, the US military has conducted airstrikes against pro-Assad forces in Syria. The Trump Administration does not have congressional authorization to carry out military strikes against the Assad regime. Furthermore, the situation that led to today's strike is precisely why I warned against getting further entangled in the Syrian civil war without a clear strategy. President Trump needs to explain his plan for Syria to Congress and the American people.
Lieu is not alone in expressing concern about this undeclared war making. After Trump ordered military strikes on Syria in April, Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders Raul Grijalva, Keith Ellison, and Mark Pocan released this statement:
In the absence of an imminent threat to the United States, the president must seek Congressional authorization prior to any act of war. Trump failed to seek, much less gain, Congressional authorization. If President Trump believes that US military actions should be utilized against the Assad regime, he should immediately call the House and Senate back into session to debate and vote on the use of military force. These unauthorized attacks could pull the United States into a regional war and escalate this unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
Even Republican Congressman Justin Amash said in April, "Airstrikes are an act of war. Atrocities in Syria cannot justify departure from Constitution, which vests in Congress power to commence war." Republican Senator Rand Paul called on Trump to "come to Congress for a proper debate."

Trump did not answer the call.

Rather, the commander in chief is presiding over the unauthorized expansion of US military involvement in Syria-and disregarding the Constitution's most serious dictates regarding war and peace.

The commentariat can and will debate when a president's refusal to seek congressional authorization for military action becomes impeachable. (There will even be attempts by the apologists for presidential overreach to make convoluted claims about how past authorizations of the use of military force somehow apply to every new conflict.) But, in Trump's case, there is no evidence to suggest that he will respect the requirements of the Constitution. As such, an article of impeachment is justified.

Of course, impeachment is a political process rather than a legal one. It requires a level of respect for the Constitution that is rarely evidenced by leaders of the House or the Senate-especially ones like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. But political processes evolve when popular pressure rises-and it is worth noting that public support for impeachment is higher among voters than on Capitol Hill. Indeed, the new Public Policy Polling survey finds 48 percent of Americans want Trump impeached, while just 41 percent oppose impeachment. There's no reason to think he won't keep providing justifications.
(c) 2017 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, is published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.









The Left/Right Challenge To The Failed 'War On Drugs'

By Ralph Nader

More and more conservatives and liberals, from the halls of Congress to people in communities across the country, are agreeing that the so-called "war on drugs" needs serious rethinking.

First, we should define our terms. The "war on drugs" that was started by Richard Nixon in 1971 and persists to this day, refers to illegal "street drugs" - cocaine, heroin, marijuana and variations thereof. It is not used to mean a war on legal pharmaceuticals, whose excessive and often inappropriate prescribing takes over 100,000 lives a year in our country. Ironically, prescription opioids alone took 35,000 lives last year - about equal to traffic fatalities.

The argument to criminalize "street drugs", and severely punish their sellers and users, is largely based on the assumption that a "tough on crime" approach will reduce addiction and abuse of these dangerous substances. Criminalizing drug use consistently fails to address the health problems of addiction, and drives the drug trade underground where crime, violence and death flourish.

Our country learned this hard lesson firsthand when it prohibited the production and sale of alcoholic beverages in 1920 through the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. That led to an underworld of organized crime and illegal undercover stills making "moonshine", whose victims could hardly go for medical treatment. Considered a failure, the amendment was repealed in 1933 with the 21st Amendment.

This national experiment with prohibition verified the wise observation of the famous dean of the Harvard Law School, Roscoe Pound, who said that there were certain human behaviors that are beyond "the effective limits of legal action." In short, the law couldn't stop the addicting alcohol business; it could only drive it underground.

Legalizing the sale and possession of alcohol allowed people suffering from alcoholism to come out of the shadows and find support through thousands of successful chapters of Alcoholics Anonymous and other treatment options. Alcoholism is still a problem in our country, but it is out in the open where a rational society can address it.

Nicotine from tobacco products is one of the most addictive drugs that people can ingest. Lawmakers since the days of the Virginia tobacco growers in the 17th century have not prohibited the smoking of tobacco. For generations, smoking cigarettes and cigars was not considered harmful; it was said to help concentrate your mind on your tasks. The mass media perpetuated such false statements through ads that claimed doctors preferred Lucky Strikes because they were "less irritating."

Then the historic and widely reported US Surgeon General's Report of 1964 concluded that cigarette smoking is a cause of lung cancer and laryngeal cancer in men, a probable cause of lung cancer in women and the most important cause of chronic bronchitis. Over time, accumulating scientific knowledge connecting smoking to lung cancer and a host of other diseases began changing habits.

In 1964 about 44% of American adults smoked regularly; now it is down to 17%. Now smokers cannot indulge on airplanes, buses, trains or in schools, waiting rooms and most office buildings. Had we driven tobacco use underground, organized crime would have claimed the tobacco market and smokers and low-level dealers would have been jailed. If alcohol prohibition taught us the limitations of drug criminalization, efforts to reduce tobacco use have shown what is possible when dangerous products are taxed and regulated and consumers are educated.

So, what about "street drugs?" The drug trade is tearing Mexico apart. Just in the past few years, over 50,000 people have been slain by the fights between drug cartels and against police, judges, reporters and innocents who just happen to be in the way of the machine guns. Fear, anxiety, outright terror and political corruption grips large regions of our southern neighbor as the cartel's violently work to meet the black market demand in the US and elsewhere.

Drug dealers in the US fight each other, producing violent crimes and terrorized neighborhoods.

To suppress this drug trade the US is spending tens of billions of taxpayer dollars a year. Drug cases are clogging our court dockets and crowding out important cases involving corporate crimes and negligence. Low-level drug offenders continue to receive mandatory minimum sentences; filling our prisons and leading to the expansion of the private prison industry whose lobbyists prefer a status quo that commodifies the ruined lives who sustain their profitable inventory.

For decades, conservatives like William F. Buckley and progressives like the then Mayor of Baltimore, Kurt Schmoke, have called for decriminalization, or legalization and regulation, of illegal drugs. We don't jail alcoholics for being alcoholics, or incarcerate people for smoking highly addictive cigarettes. Their addictions are treated openly as afflictions to be treated individually and more broadly through sound public policies.

Despite the many calls for reform, the arch-reactionary Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has recently ordered 5,000 federal assistant US attorneys to charge defendants peddling street drugs, many of whom are addicts themselves, with the most serious crimes and impose the toughest penalties possible.

Not so fast, say a growing group of liberal and conservative members of Congress. From Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) to liberal Patrick Leahy (D-VT), lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are joining together to sponsor a bill to end mandatory minimum sentences. Senator Paul said such sentences "disproportionately affect minorities and low-income communities" and will worsen the existing "injustice" in the criminal justice system, while Senator Leahy declared that as ,I>"an outgrowth of the failed war on drugs, mandatory sentencing strips criminal public-safety resources away from law-enforcement strategies that actually make our communities safer."

The bipartisan bill, S.1127, is already supported by 37 Senators and 79 members of the House. Both the NAACP and the Koch brothers support this legislation!

We need more open debates about the impact of the "war on drugs." As Justice Louis Brandeis said years ago - "sunlight is the best disinfectant."

To learn more about the need for drug policy reform, and the history of the failed war on drugs, watch this informative video from the Drug Policy Alliance.
(c) 2017 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book is Unstoppable, and "Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us" (a novel).




(Just Cool It!: The Climate Crisis and What We Can Do, published by Greystone




Increased Awareness Is Key To Resolving The Climate Crisis
By David Suzuki

Most people understand that human-caused climate change is a real and serious threat. True, some still reject the mountains of evidence amassed by scientists from around the world over many decades, and accepted by every legitimate scientific academy and institution. But as the physical evidence builds daily - from increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather events like droughts and floods to disappearing polar ice to rising sea levels - it takes an incredible amount of denial to claim we have no reason to worry.

Climate change isn't an easy or pleasant subject, and massive efforts by the fossil fuel industry and its supporters to sow doubt and confusion have made it harder for people to grasp. With all the information out there, it's not always easy to distinguish between analysis based on rational, peer-reviewed evidence and propaganda from industry and deniers. But if more people truly understood the enormity of the crisis, we'd be engaged in an all-out effort, comparable to those undertaken during world wars, to reduce the threat.

That's why David Suzuki Foundation senior editor Ian Hanington and I wrote Just Cool It!: The Climate Crisis and What We Can Do. The book provides a clear and comprehensive overview of global warming, climate science and solutions. We examine the science's history, from 1824 when natural philosopher Joseph Fourier discovered the greenhouse effect - although he didn't call it that - through to the discovery of feedback loops, and up to the present, following the 2015 Paris Agreement, which was based on the current evidence outlined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment Report.

The book then delves into climate consequences and impacts - from extreme weather to melting Arctic ice and ocean acidification to species extinction and impacts on human physical and mental health to the refugee crisis and more.

With extensive knowledge about climate change and its consequences and impacts, one has to ask why we're moving so slowly to confront such an urgent problem. We're already in a troubling state and it will quickly get worse if we fail to tackle it head-on. The book's next section explores some reasons behind this lack of resolve. Although there's progress in many areas, we still have to come to terms with outmoded ways of thinking and living that prevent us from acting in our own best interests. We also have to deal with issues like population growth and industrialization in the developing world. And we're still up against wealthy, powerful interests that would like us to ignore the issue so they can continue to reap enormous fossil fuel profits.

Despite the barriers, there's a wide range of solutions, and most of the book focuses on those. Some are already in place and some are being developed. Some show more promise than others, and some have their own pitfalls. Ultimately, though, this is what gives us hope. As we point out, no single technology, action or idea will get us out of this mess. It will take concerted efforts from individuals, governments at all levels and people in every sector, from agriculture to science and technology.

The benefits of many solutions go beyond their climate implications. Burning less coal, oil and gas helps the climate but also cuts pollution, which protects human health and brings health-care costs down. Those who are able to walk, bike or take transit instead of driving will improve their physical and mental health (avoiding gridlock aggravation, for example) and save significant amounts of money. Improving agricultural methods can increase the carbon stored in soils and plants and prevent loss of fertile soils, which is also a serious problem for humanity.

Many individual solutions, especially, come with added benefits. There's so much people can do in their personal lives: drive less, eat less or no meat and dairy, be more energy efficient, reduce waste, buy less and divest from fossil fuel companies among them. But individual actions alone won't resolve the crisis. That's why the most important way to help keep the world healthy and habitable for humans is to get informed and get involved. We hope this book will encourage more people to join the growing movement for a livable future!
(c) 2017 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.




Julian Assange greets supporters outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Friday May 19, 2017.




The International Persecution Of Julian Assange
By John Pilger

Julian Assange has been vindicated because the Swedish case against him was corrupt. The prosecutor, Marianne Ny, obstructed justice and should be prosecuted. Her obsession with Assange not only embarrassed her colleagues and the judiciary but exposed the Swedish state's collusion with the United States in its crimes of war and "rendition."

Had Assange not sought refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, he would have been on his way to the kind of American torture pit that Chelsea Manning had to endure.

This prospect was obscured by the grim farce played out in Sweden. "It's a laughing stock," said James Catlin, one of Assange's Australian lawyers. "It is as if they make it up as they go along."

It may have seemed that way, but there was always serious purpose. In 2008, a secret Pentagon document prepared by the "Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch" foretold a detailed plan to discredit WikiLeaks and smear Assange personally.

The "mission," as the Pentagon document says, was to destroy the trust that was WikiLeaks' "center of gravity." This would be achieved with threats of "exposure [and] criminal prosecution." Silencing and criminalizing such an unpredictable source of truth-telling was the aim.

Perhaps this was understandable. WikiLeaks has exposed the way America dominates much of human affairs, including its epic crimes, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale, often homicidal killing of civilians and the contempt for sovereignty and international law.

These disclosures are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama, a professor of constitutional law, lauded whistleblowers as "part of a healthy democracy [who] must be protected from reprisal."

In 2012, the Obama campaign boasted on its website that Obama had prosecuted more whistleblowers in his first term than all other U.S. presidents combined. Before Manning had even received a trial, Obama had publicly pronounced the former Army intelligence analyst guilty.

Few serious observers doubt that should the U.S. get its hands on Assange, a similar fate awaits him. According to documents released by Edward Snowden, Assange is on a "manhunt target list." Threats to kidnap or assassinate him became almost political and media currency in the U.S. following then-Vice President Joe Biden's slur that the WikiLeaks founder was a "cyber-terrorist."

Hillary Clinton, the destroyer of Libya and, as WikiLeaks revealed last year, the secret supporter and personal beneficiary of forces underwriting Islamic State, proposed her own expedient solution: "Can't we just drone this guy?" [Clinton later said she was joking.]

According to Australian diplomatic cables, Washington's bid to get Assange is "unprecedented in scale and nature." In Alexandria, Va., a secret grand jury has sought for almost seven years to contrive a crime for which Assange can be prosecuted. This is not easy.

The First Amendment protects any publisher, journalist or whistleblower, whether he or she is the editor of The New York Times or the editor of WikiLeaks. The very notion of free speech is described as America's "founding virtue" or, as Thomas Jefferson called it, "our currency."

Faced with this hurdle, the U.S. Justice Department has contrived charges of espionage, conspiracy to commit espionage, conversion (theft of government property), computer fraud and abuse (computer hacking) and general conspiracy. The favored Espionage Act, which was meant to deter pacifists and conscientious objectors during World War I, has provisions for life imprisonment and the death penalty.

Assange's ability to defend himself in such a Kafkaesque world has been severely limited by the U.S. declaring his case a state secret. In 2015, a federal court in Washington state blocked the release of all information about the "national security" investigation against WikiLeaks, because it was "active and ongoing" and would harm the "pending prosecution" of Assange. The judge, Barbara J. Rothstein, said it was necessary to show "appropriate deference to the executive in matters of national security." This is a kangaroo court.

For Assange, his trial has been trial by media. On Aug. 20, 2010, when the Swedish police opened a "rape investigation," they coordinated it, unlawfully, with the Stockholm tabloids. The front pages said Assange had been accused of the "rape of two women." The word "rape" can have a very different legal meaning in Sweden than in Britain or the United States; a pernicious false reality became the news that went round the world.

Less than 24 hours later, the Stockholm chief prosecutor, Eva Finne, took over the investigation. She wasted no time in canceling the arrest warrant, saying, "I don't believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape." Four days later, she dismissed the rape investigation altogether, saying, "There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever."

Enter Claes Borgstrom, a highly contentious figure in the Social Democratic Party then standing as a candidate in Sweden's imminent general election. Within days of the chief prosecutor's dismissal of the case, Borgstrom, a lawyer, announced to the media that he was representing the two women and had sought a different prosecutor in Gothenberg. This was Marianne Ny, whom Borgstrom knew well, personally and politically.

On Aug. 30, 2010, Assange went to a police station in Stockholm voluntarily and answered the questions put to him. As he understood it, that was the end of the matter. Two days later, Ny announced she was reopening the case.

At a press conference, Borgstrom was asked by a Swedish reporter why the case was proceeding when it had already been dismissed. The reporter cited one of the women as saying she had not been raped. He replied, "Ah, but she is not a lawyer."

On the day that Ny reactivated the case, the head of Sweden's military intelligence service-which goes by the acronym MUST-publicly denounced WikiLeaks in an article titled "WikiLeaks [is] a threat to our soldiers [under U.S. command in Afghanistan]."

Both the Swedish prime minister and foreign minister attacked Assange, who had been charged with no crime. Assange was warned that the Swedish intelligence service, SAPO, had been told by its U.S. counterparts that U.S.-Sweden intelligence-sharing arrangements would be "cut off" if Sweden sheltered him.

For five weeks, Assange waited in Sweden for the renewed "rape investigation" to take its course. The London-based newspaper The Guardian was then on the brink of publishing the Iraq "War Logs," based on WikiLeaks' disclosures, which Assange was to oversee in London.

Finally, he was allowed him to leave Sweden. As soon as he had left, Ny issued a European arrest warrant and an Interpol "red alert" normally used for terrorists and dangerous criminals.

Assange went to a police station in London, was arrested and spent 10 days in Wandsworth Prison, in solitary confinement. Released on bail of 340,000 pounds [more than 440,000 U.S. dollars], he was electronically tagged, required to report to police daily and placed under virtual house arrest while his case began its long journey to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

He still had not been charged with any offense. His lawyers repeated his offer to be questioned in London, by video or personally, pointing out that Ny had given him permission to leave Sweden. They suggested a special facility at Scotland Yard commonly used by the Swedish and other European authorities for that purpose. Ny refused.

For almost seven years-a period in which Sweden questioned 44 people in the U.K. in connection with police investigations-Ny refused to question Assange.

Writing in the Swedish press, a former Swedish prosecutor, Rolf Hillegren, accused Ny of losing all impartiality. He described her personal investment in the case as "abnormal" and demanded she be replaced.

Assange asked the Swedish authorities for a guarantee that he would not be "rendered" to the U.S. if he was extradited to Sweden. This was refused. In December 2010, the British newspaper The Independent revealed that the two governments had discussed his extradition to the U.S.

Contrary to its reputation as a bastion of liberal enlightenment, Sweden has drawn so close to Washington that it has allowed secret CIA "renditions"-including the illegal deportation of refugees. The rendition and subsequent torture of two Egyptian political refugees in 2001 was condemned by the U.N. Committee Against Torture, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; the complicity and duplicity of the Swedish state are documented in successful civil litigation and in WikiLeaks cables.

"Documents released by WikiLeaks since Assange moved to England," wrote Al Burke, editor of the online Nordic News Network, an authority on the multiple twists and dangers that faced Assange, "clearly indicate that Sweden has consistently submitted to pressure from the United States in matters relating to civil rights. There is every reason for concern that if Assange were to be taken into custody by Swedish authorities, he could be turned over to the United States without due consideration of his legal rights."

The war on Assange now intensified. Marianne Ny refused to allow his Swedish lawyers, and the Swedish courts, access to hundreds of text messages that the police had extracted from the phone of one of the two women involved in the "rape" allegations.

Ny said she was not legally required to reveal this critical evidence until a formal charge was laid and she had questioned him. Then why wouldn't she question him? Catch-22.

When Ny announced last week that she was dropping the Assange case, she made no mention of the evidence that would destroy it. One of the text messages makes clear that one of the two women did not want any charges brought against Assange, but, the woman said, "the police were keen on getting a hold on him." She was "shocked" when they arrested him because she only "wanted him to take [an HIV] test." She "did not want to accuse JA of anything," and she said "it was the police who made up the charges." In a so-called witness statement, she is quoted as saying that she had been "railroaded by police and others around her."

Neither woman claimed she had been raped. Indeed, both denied they were raped, and one of them has since tweeted, "I have not been raped." The women were manipulated by police, whatever their lawyers might say now. Certainly, they too are the victims in this sinister saga.

Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape wrote: "The allegations against [Assange] are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction. ... The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will. [Assange] has made it clear he is available for questioning by the Swedish authorities, in Britain or via Skype. Why are they refusing this essential step in their investigation? What are they afraid of?"

Assange's choice was stark: extradition to a country that had refused to say whether or not it would send him on to the U.S. or to seek what seemed his last opportunity for refuge and safety.

Supported by most of Latin America, the government of tiny Ecuador granted him refugee status on the basis of documented evidence that he faced the prospect of cruel and unusual punishment in the U.S.; that this threat violated his basic human rights; and that his own government in Australia had abandoned him and colluded with Washington.

The Labor government of Australia's then-prime minister, Julia Gillard, had even threatened to take away his Australian passport-until it was pointed out to her that this would be unlawful.

The renowned human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce, who represents Assange in London, wrote to the then-foreign minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd: "Given the extent of the public discussion, frequently on the basis of entirely false assumptions ... it is very hard to attempt to preserve for him any presumption of innocence. Mr. Assange has now hanging over him not one but two Damocles swords, of potential extradition to two different jurisdictions in turn for two different alleged crimes, neither of which are crimes in his own country, and that his personal safety has become at risk in circumstances that are highly politically charged."

It was not until she contacted the Australian High Commission in London that Peirce received a response, which answered none of the pressing points she raised. In a meeting I attended with her, the Australian consul general, Ken Pascoe, made the astonishing claim that he knew "only what I read in the newspapers" about the details of the case.

In 2011, in Sydney, I spent several hours with a conservative member of Australia's Federal Parliament, Malcolm Turnbull. We discussed the threats to Assange and their wider implications for freedom of speech and justice, and why Australia was obliged to stand by him. Turnbull then had a reputation as a free speech advocate. He is now the prime minister of Australia.

I gave him Peirce's letter about the threat to Assange's rights and life. He said the situation was clearly appalling and promised to take it up with the Gillard government. Only his silence followed.

For almost seven years, this epic miscarriage of justice has been drowned in a vituperative campaign against the WikiLeaks founder. There are few precedents. Deeply personal, petty, vicious and inhuman attacks have been aimed at a man not charged with any crime yet subjected to treatment not even meted out to a defendant facing extradition on a charge of murdering his wife. That the U.S. threat to Assange was a threat to all journalists, and to the principle of free speech, was lost in a sordid and ambitious "anti-journalism."

Books were published, movie deals struck and media careers launched or kick-started on the back of WikiLeaks and an assumption that attacking Assange was fair game and he was too poor to sue. People have made money, often big money, while WikiLeaks has struggled to survive.

The previous editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, called the WikiLeaks disclosures, which his newspaper published, "one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years." Yet no attempt was made to protect The Guardian's provider and source. Instead, the "scoop" became part of a marketing plan to raise the newspaper's cover price.

With not a penny going to Assange or to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie. The book's authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously described Assange as a "damaged personality" and "callous." They also revealed the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing U.S. embassy cables. With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean Embassy, Harding, standing among the police outside, gloated on his blog that "Scotland Yard may get the last laugh."

Journalism students might well study this period to understand the most ubiquitous source of "fake news"-as from within a media self-ordained with a false respectability and as an extension of the authority and power it courts and protects.

The presumption of innocence was not a consideration in Kirsty Wark's memorable live-on-air interrogation in 2010. "Why don't you just apologize to the women?" she demanded of Assange, followed by: "Do we have your word of honor that you won't abscond?"

On the BBC's "Today" program, John Humphrys bellowed: "Are you a sexual predator?" Assange replied that the suggestion was ridiculous, to which Humphrys demanded to know how many women he had slept with.

"Would even Fox News have descended to that level?" wondered the American historian William Blum. "I wish Assange had been raised in the streets of Brooklyn, as I was. He then would have known precisely how to reply to such a question: 'You mean including your mother?' "

Last week, on BBC World News, on the day Sweden announced it was dropping the case, I was interviewed by Greta Guru-Murthy, who seemed to have little knowledge of the Assange case. She persisted in referring to the "charges" against him. She accused him of putting Donald Trump in the White House, and she drew my attention to the "fact" that "leaders around the world" had condemned him. Among these leaders she included Trump's CIA director. I asked her, "Are you a journalist?"

The injustice meted out to Assange is one of the reasons the British Parliament reformed the Extradition Act in 2014. "His case has been won lock, stock and barrel," Gareth Peirce told me, "these changes in the law mean that the U.K. now recognizes as correct everything that was argued in his case. Yet he does not benefit." In other words, he would have won his case in the British courts and would not have been forced to take refuge.

Ecuador's decision to protect Assange in 2012 was immensely brave. Even though the granting of asylum is a humanitarian act, and the power to do so is enjoyed by all states under international law, both Sweden and the United Kingdom refused to recognize the legitimacy of Ecuador's decision.

Ecuador's embassy in London was placed under police siege and its government abused. When the British Foreign Office threatened to violate the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, warning that it would remove the diplomatic inviolability of the embassy and send the police in to get Assange, outrage across the world forced the government to back down.

During one night, police appeared at the windows of the embassy in an obvious attempt to intimidate Assange and his protectors.

Since then, Assange has been confined to a small room without sunlight. He has been ill from time to time and refused safe passage to the diagnostic facilities of a hospital. Yet, his resilience and dark humor remain quite remarkable in the circumstances. When asked how he put up with the confinement, he replied, "Sure beats a supermax [prison]."

It is not over, but it is unravelling. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention-the tribunal that adjudicates and decides whether governments comply with their human rights obligations-last year ruled that Assange had been detained unlawfully by Britain and Sweden. This is international law at its apex.

Both Britain and Sweden participated in the 16-month-long U.N. investigation and submitted evidence and defended their position before the tribunal. In previous cases ruled upon by the Working Group-Aung Sang Suu Kyi in Burma, imprisoned opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia, detained Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian in Iran-both Britain and Sweden gave full support to the tribunal. The difference now is that Assange's persecution endures in the heart of London.

The Metropolitan Police say they still intend to arrest Assange for bail infringement should he leave the embassy. What then? A few months in prison while the U.S. delivers its extradition request to the British courts?

If the British government allows this to happen, it will, in the eyes of the world, be shamed comprehensively and historically as an accessory to the crime of a war waged by rampant power against justice and freedom, and all of us.
(c) 2017 John Pilger was born and educated in Sydney, Australia. He has been a war correspondent, film"maker and playwright. Based in London, he has written from many countries and has twice won British journalism's highest award, that of "Journalist of the Year," for his work in Vietnam and Cambodia.









The Quotable Quote...



"The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity - much less dissent"
~~~ Gore Vidal









U.S. Human Rights Groups Recommend Bombing Victims Move Underground, Develop Militias
By David Swanson

The International Committee of the Red Cross and InterAction (a coalition of U.S. human rights groups) have published a report on how to protect civilians when waging war on cities. They seek to catalog the "humanitarian challenges specific to urban warfare."

While I would not (one wishes it were needless to say) prefer that they strive to maximize the human destruction possible in urban warfare, I want to note that any report seeking to address the humanitarian challenges specific to slavery or rape or child abuse or the slaughter of kittens (rather than humans) would be dismissed with outrage. Nowhere do these human rights advocates hint at the possibility of ceasing to bomb cities. Nowhere do they recognize the illegality of all recent U.S. bombings of cities under the U.N. Charter or, for that matter, the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Instead, the authors treat the practice of bombing cities as inevitable and natural, and attribute the growth of urban warfare to the migration of people from rural to urban areas.

What should be done? While the authors discuss various types of massive slaughter and destruction as "intended or not," they also suggest that the key reform to be sought is better intentions and more careful planning. The "development" types should work better with the "humanitarians," provide more "flexible" funding for the human rights groups, and do "proportionality analysis," we're told.

The word "proportionality" appears in every Just War theory and in thousands of mainstream news reports, yet nobody, including these authors, has ever devised a test whereby one can determine whether a war or a particular bombing was "proportional" or not. If I say killing 14 children in order to kill a particular man was disproportional, what's to stop someone else arguing that this particular man needed to be killed to an extent that would have justified killing anywhere up to 16.37 children? Of course, I can point out that most wars kill mostly civilians, so that launching them is an act that guarantees great injustice, but I can't stop someone else claiming that "proportionally" killing 500,000 children is "worth it" in the context of some just cause (as then U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once claimed).

The most serious recommendation that these authors make is that no more large bombs, only small bombs, be dropped on cities, with the large bombs saved for rural areas. It's worth noting that the U.S. government is developing "more usable" nuclear bombs and tends to ignore such restrictions, that small bombs like large bombs still commit mass-murder while endangering us and costing a fortune and poisoning the environment, that a number of small bombs adds up to a large bomb, and that large bombs in rural areas do all of the same destructive things even if hitting fewer people and less centralized infrastructure.

The most disturbing recommendations in this report include creating safe exit routes (even while claiming people should have the right not to leave), moving schools and hospitals underground, avoiding ground floor windows, and taking up arms and developing local militias.

This report is the product of a human rights industry feeding off its total acceptance of war and violence. When you can bring yourself to the point of making these recommendations to the people your government is bombing, but you cannot ever bring yourself to the point of even hinting at the possibility that your government should stop bombing people all over the world, you've become an Orwellian ministry of human rights, not an actual movement to expand the well-being of humans.
(c) 2017 David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.




Oscar Isaac as Armenian medical student Mikael Boghosian in The Promise, a film about the Armenian genocide.




The Internet Won't Let Armenia Go Away
By Michael Winship

Here's a different kind of story about media and politics.

It demonstrates how the monstrosity of a crime a century old still divides and scorches the world. And it's one more example of how digital technology is changing geopolitics at every level, from interfering with other nation's elections to the current wave of ransomware cyberattacks and even the release of motion pictures.

Last Tuesday, Donald Trump had a chummy meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. There was a lot to talk about - NATO, Syria, ISIS. They also discussed the continued presence in the United States of Fethullah Gulen, the Erdogan foe on whom the Turkish leader blames last summer's failed coup d'etat.

In a Washington Post op-ed just prior to Erdogan's visit, Gulen wrote, "The Turkey that I once knew as a hope-inspiring country on its way to consolidating its democracy and a moderate form of secularism has become the dominion of a president who is doing everything he can to amass power and subjugate dissent."

No wonder Erdogan wants Gulen extradited to Turkey, where he would probably face certain death. So far at least, we have refused to do so. Meanwhile, as Erdogan looked on, his security detail viciously beat protesters outside the Turkish ambassador's residence in Washington.

So given this particular White House, and Trump's expressed admiration for Erdogan, you know that one topic not up for discussion was Erdogan's ever-escalating suppression of human rights, especially in the aftermath of the unsuccessful coup and the recent referendum in which he consolidated even more power.

Here's another forbidden but related subject that wasn't on the agenda: the horrific Armenian genocide committed a century ago by Turkey's Ottoman Empire. Between 1915 and 1922, at least 1.5 million were massacred, some 80 percent of the Armenian population.

Like his predecessors, and unlike the government of Germany after the Holocaust and World War II, Erdogan still refuses to acknowledge what the Turkish government did. Instead, he has admitted that yes, Armenians lost their lives, but as Cara Buckley at The New York Times wrote, "...He implied that they were victims of a war in which all Ottoman citizens had suffered - rather than the victims of a genocide."

(Although Donald Trump and Barack Obama have condemned the atrocities committed against Armenians, for fear of offending their NATO ally neither used the word "genocide" while president. During the 2008 campaign, Obama pledged he would but never did).

This year, the anniversary of the beginning of the genocide has been marked by the release of two movies, each offering a very different account of what happened. Only one of them is truthful and the response has been both fascinating and troubling.

At the center of all this is the movie The Promise, co-written (with Robin Swicord) and directed by Terry George. It's about a love triangle: an Armenian medical student (Oscar Isaac), an American photojournalist (Christian Bale) and a worldly, beautiful Armenian woman (Charlotte Le Bon) with whom both men are involved. As Turkey aligns with Germany during World War I and begins the systematic extermination of ethnic and religious minorities, their romantic rivalry is put aside and the three unite for survival.

In the interest of full disclosure, Terry George and I have known each other for a long time. Last year, he asked me and a few other friends to come screen The Promise while he still was adding the finishing touches. I thought it was terrific then and still do. The movie's an old-fashioned love story in the style of David Lean's Doctor Zhivago or Ryan's Daughter, an epic set against a vast historical landscape devastated by cruelty and bloodshed.

With Jim Sheridan, Terry George wrote the movies In the Name of the Father, Some Mother's Son and The Boxer, all of which dealt with the "troubles" in Northern Ireland. In 2004, Terry directed and co-wrote Hotel Rwanda, nominated for three Academy Awards, an unflinching look at the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and the world's indifference to it. So jumping into the middle of the Armenian genocide dispute was not unusual for him. He joked, "If it doesn't cause controversy, what am I doing it for?"

Last year, Terry realized that another picture on the topic was about to be released. The Ottoman Lieutenant has a similar story structure but it presents a sanitized version of the genocide in which the murders of Armenians are not part of a systematic, state-sanctioned policy but random acts of violence committed by rebellious soldiers.

The New York Times reports, "According to several people familiar with the project, Turkish producers oversaw the final cut, without the director's knowledge.

"The people familiar with the project said that tensions emerged on the 'Ottoman' set after producers pushed to minimize depictions of Turkish violence against Armenians. Several people who worked on the project felt that the final version butchered the film artistically, and smacked of denialism: Dialogue that explicitly referred to systematic mass killing had been stripped out."
Writing for The Daily Beast, Michael Daly discovered that one of The Ottoman Lieutenant's producers, "ES Film is based in Istanbul and its co-founders include Yusuf Esenkal, who is said to be a business partner in other ventures with Bilal Erdo─čan, son of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The younger Erdogan has been accused by Russia of trading in oil with ISIS and is being investigated by Italy of laundering massive sums of money there, all of which he has denied."

ES Film also is behind a current TV series that glorifies the life of the last sultan of Turkey, "perpetrator of the first wave of mass killings that were the lead-up to the Armenian genocide."

So suddenly a film appears running counter to The Promise narative, produced by Turks whose motives might be less than pure. (It should be noted that The Promise got most of its funding from the late movie mogul, Armenian-American Kirk Kerkorian).

Then things got even stranger. The Promise premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. After just three screenings, IMDB, the Internet Movie Data Base, was flooded with 85,000 terrible reviews, a statistical impossibility. Only a handful could have seen the film.

As Mary Wald noted at HuffPost: "85,000 is not a few irate people. It is an organized mob. Or more likely a small network on laptops or in a boiler room working to make it look like a mob. Either way it is coordinated. And to coordinate something of this magnitude, you pay for it."

IMDB removed all but the 32 or so reviews that they believed to be legitimate. But that wasn't the end of it. According to Terry George, a similar smear campaign took place on the Turkish version of Twitter and the comment section at YouTube briefly had to be shut down. And he says that in Chicago and other cities large blocks of tickets were bought via the Fandango website and then refunded just before the movie was scheduled to start so that patrons would walk into near-empty theaters.

In the great scheme of things, this may seem like small ball when put up against election hacking, vast troves of leaked documents or taking down an entire national health service, but these insidious tactics add up, pile onto the "fake news" trope and give comfort to the denialists of every stripe. As Mary Wald wrote:

"Governments who are accustomed to controlling the media have put considerable energy into working out how the supposedly open and objective Internet can surreptitiously be harnessed to enforce a political agenda."
That seems to be precisely what the Turkish government and its friends are doing as they continue to resist the reality of the Armenian genocide.

In 2014, Turkish President Erdogan tried to ban Twitter and YouTube, describing social media as a "knife in the hand of a murderer" when it was effectively used to mount protests against him. Now he has a Twitter account all his own and the knife is in his hand as well. Like deniers and haters here and everywhere, he and his allies have come to realize that the Internet, like any weapon, works both ways. It's all about where you aim it.

The Promise opens in Spain next month and in Germany in August, and Terry George wonders whether the hostile reaction will be even more strident in Europe. Whatever happens, "We're in it for the long haul," he said, noting that he intends to utilize social media to generate outreach programs for classrooms that will heighten awareness of a bleak and overlooked time in world history. It's a monstrous tale that must be told wherever it can, on movie screens or in cyberspace, never to be forgotten.
(c) 2017 Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, and was senior writer for Moyers & Company and Bill Moyers' Journal and is senior writer of BillMoyers.com.





The Dead Letter Office...





Alex grins after revealing his union busting plans.

Heil Trump,

Dear Deputy Fuhrer Acosta,

Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Sam Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Kyle Busch, Anheuser Busch, Vidkun Quisling, and last year's winner Volksjudge John (the enforcer) Roberts.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your willingness to bust unions and take away their rights, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Republican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Trump at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 06-24-2017. We salute you Herr Acosta, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump




A sign held up at an anti-Trump demonstration in London.


Anti-Trump Sentiment Is Even Stronger In Europe Than In The U.S.
By Robert Reich

European governments, preparing for a round of major summits with Donald Trump, are wary.

I spent much of the past week speaking with officials and cabinet ministers in Europe. All they wanted to talk about was Trump.

Here, in summary, are the most frequent remarks I heard from them, and from others in my travels, in rough order of frequency:

1. Trump is unstable, and we're not going to count on anything he says or commits to.

2. Trump doesn't support NATO or European integration.

3. Trump is actively encouraging racist nationalists in our country.

4. Trump is allied with Putin to bring Europe down.

5. There's no doubt Trump worked with Putin to win the U.S. presidential election.

6. If Trump's polls drop too low, he'll start a war in order to get Americans to rally around him. (Opinions varied on whether Trump's war would be with North Korea, Iran, terrorists in Nigeria, or an escalation in Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan.)

7. How did you Americans come to elect this ego-maniac? (Others called him an infant, moron, ignoramus, fool.)

8. He's another Berlusconi (or Franco, Mussolini, Salazar, Hitler).

9. We remember fascism. We never thought it would happen in America.

10. The world depends on American leadership. We're very worried.

My overall impression: Anti-Trump sentiment is even stronger in Europe than it is in the U.S. If Trump expects his European trip to give him a reprieve from his troubles at home, he's mistaken.
(c) 2017 Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few." His website is www.robertreich.org.




A handout photo made available by the Saudi Press Agency shows US President Donald J.
Trump being welcomed by Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (r) at King
Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 20 May 2017.





Why Were The Saudi Streets So Quiet?
By Medea Benjamin

With the world's media focused on President Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia, it's curious that the streets of Riyadh were so empty. Unlike most of Trump's public appearances, there was not a protester in sight.

While Mexicans pour out on the streets to protest Trump's anti-immigrant policies, bashing Trump pinatas and burning U.S. flags, there was nary a Saudi protester chanting "Trump: Go home." In this very religious country, no one seemed interested in demonstrating opposition to Trump's derogatory comments about Islam nor his attempts to impose a Muslim ban back home.

Saudi women could have used the occasion to push for their rights. They could have put out a national call saying that as soon as Trump began to speak, women should walk out of their homes with their heads uncovered and dressed as they pleased, just like Melania and Ivanka Trump. They could have raised their arms in the air, waving the petition thousands of them signed calling for an end to the guardianship system that gives men control over their lives. They could have taken to the road behind the wheels of their family cars, openly defying the retrograde Saudi ban on women driving. But alas, there was not a Saudi woman in sight.

Where was the Shia minority who make up 10 percent of the population and suffer ongoing repression? Why didn't they come out to call for the freedom of political prisoners, like the three young men on death row who were arrested as juveniles for protesting? The Saudi military is presently occupying the Shia town of Awamiyah, shooting at civilians and terrifying the townspeople. Yet there was not even graffiti on the streets of Riyadh saying "Military Out of Awamiyah."

Instead of hiding behind their computers, Saudi youth could have flooded the streets demanding the right to free speech and free association. They could have marched together demanding an end to gender segregation in the schools. They could have made hundreds of copies of the face of Raif Badawi, a young man sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for blogging, and held them for the visiting delegates to see.

Foreign workers from countries like Bangladesh and the Philippines could have picketed outside the hotels where the foreign dignitaries were staying, demanding they not be treated as indentured servants under a sponsorship system that doesn't even allow them to go back home without their employer's permission.

Christians could have organized a "preach in," taking to the street with Bibles to assert their right to build churches and publicly worship their God. Non-believers could have used the visit to insist that atheism should not warrant the death penalty.

Poor Saudis-yes, there are plenty of them-could have taken a page from the Brazilians during the Olympics and protested the millions spent on hosting the opulent gathering. Better yet, they could have complained about their rulers investing $115 billion in weapons instead of people's needs.

And where were all the environmentalists? Aren't there Saudi chapters of Greenpeace or 350.org? Why didn't they bring out that the big, plastic pipeline they use in so many international protests, demanding that the Saudis stop pushing cheap oil to keep the planet addicted to fossil fuels? Why weren't they out in force calling for the Saudi oil company ARAMCO to invest millions-no, billions-in solar energy?

Oh yeah, silly me. I forgot. Protest is illegal in the kingdom. It's also against the law to "distort the reputation of the kingdom" or "break allegiance with the ruler." A 2014 anti-terrorism law treats virtually all free expression as acts of terrorism, including "calling for atheist thought"; "contacting groups or individuals opposed to the Kingdom"; and "seeking to disrupt national unity" by calling for protests. People who dare dissent are publicly flogged, tortured in prison, and sometimes publicly beheaded.

Thanks to U.S. weapons makers and arms deals signed with successive U.S. presidents, the Saudi rulers have more firepower than they could ever need to put down any form of dissent.

No wonder the streets of Riyadh were so quiet.
(c) 2017 Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace, is the author of the new book, Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection. Her previous books include: Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control; Don't Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart, and (with Jodie Evans) Stop the Next War Now (Inner Ocean Action Guide). Follow her on Twitter: @medeabenjamin




The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Bob Gorrell ~~~










To End On A Happy Note...





Have You Seen This...






Parting Shots...



Former Vice President Joe Biden is reportedly content in the Everglades and doesn't even
mind occasional alligator bites as long as they "steer clear of the ol' frank and beans."


DNC Chair Tracks Down Biden In Everglades Tossing Whole Chickens To Gators
By The Onion

HOMESTEAD, FL-Acting on a tip from a local fisherman who caught the former vice president siphoning gas from his outboard motor, DNC Chairman Tom Perez on Monday reportedly tracked down Joe Biden deep in the Florida Everglades tossing whole raw chickens to alligators.

Sources confirmed that the bearded, shaggy-haired Biden, who withdrew from public life four months ago, was initially startled to see Perez, dropping the bird carcass he was de-feathering and uttering "ah shit" when he recognized the newly elected head of the Democratic Party.

"How the fuck did you guys find me?" said Biden, flicking a lit cigarette into the swamp before wiping his brow with the bottom of his faded Merit cigarettes tank top. "I was really hoping I'd seen my last federale pencil pusher."

"Ain't much I can do for you unless you want to see 'ol Betsy here make a 10-pound leghorn disappear," added the former six-term Delaware senator, dangling a limp chicken over the snapping jaws of an adult female alligator. "These days I'm just trying to put together a gator show for the tourists and make some scratch, but since you hauled ass all the way down here, I guess you got Uncle Joe's ear."

Biden reportedly encouraged Perez to "take a load off" on an overturned plastic bucket outside his decrepit wooden shack, popped off the cork of a rum bottle with his teeth, took a long swig, and described how he was finally living the good life. The former VP then waded knee-deep into the water and attempted to grab a catfish barehanded while explaining that he relished the chance to spend quiet time in nature "way the fuck away from the D.C. shit fiesta."

According to sources, the 74-year-old, who categorically refused Perez's pleas to help the beleaguered Democratic Party campaign in a handful of local races, added that even a bad day in the swamp beat having to "waste a killer buzz sitting in some bullshit cabinet meeting" or "wank off the Joint Chiefs" like in his previous job.

Biden then warned the DNC chairman to keep his eyes peeled, explaining that the alligators could get a "little feisty" once they got a few chickens in them.

"Most of these guys are pretty chill, except for that big boy over there-watch out for the chompers on that fucker," said Biden, gesturing with the severed tip of his right index finger toward a 9-foot-long male affectionately named Diablo. "He may have nipped my pleasure pointer, but he sure as shit got the business end of a broken Cuervo bottle."

"So let's just say we've got an unspoken agreement," Biden added. "Still got the fingertip floating around with some ice-cold brewhas in case I ever need that sucker."

While Biden admitted that more work needed to be done so that no American had to choose between affordable healthcare and Ozzfest tickets, he also reiterated his lack of interest in even a modest role in politics, and instead reportedly offered to take Perez for a spin in an old fan boat he'd recently restored in his downtime.

"My main man Rez, what do you think of my hot new fling?" said Biden, who accelerated the rickety boat through the brackish water and started "doing donuts" as Perez tightly gripped both sides of his seat and tried not to get mud on his clothes. "If I really gun her, we can catch some serious fuckin' air."

"Dammit, I think I just clipped a manatee," Biden continued. "Better slow this puppy down or the dicks from Fish and Wildlife will be up my ass again."

Easing back on the boat's throttle, Biden reportedly invited the DNC chairman to help himself to a Slim Jim and a couple of Coors tallboys from a cooler in the stern.

"I'm not gonna lie, I've got a good thing going here in the Glades," said Biden, turning up BulletBoys' "Smooth Up In Ya" on a beat-up boombox covered in marijuana leaf and Graffix bong stickers. "The sun's bright, and the babes ain't got any damn tan-lines. Plus, I don't have to worry about narcs like you telling me what I can and can't say."

"Listen, for the first time in my life, I've got my shit together, so I'm staying put," Biden continued. "Next time you're in D.C., give my best to Jilly. Just don't mention where I am or your ass is fucking grass."
(c) 2017 The Onion




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Issues & Alibis Vol 17 # 19 (c) 05/26/2017


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