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In This Edition

Tom Engelhardt asks, "Is Donald Trump An Asteroid?"

Lee Camp finds, "The Silver Bullet To Stop The Corporate State Pillage."

Glen Ford returns with, "Yes, White People Are Also Killed By The Mass Black Incarceration."

Jim Hightower asks, "Should You Have To Pay To Protest?"

David Swanson considers, "A Green New PayGo Shutdown."

John Nichols finds, "Reasserting Wisconsin Values Will Make Tony Evers A Very Successful Governor."

James Donahue wonders, "Did A Natural Disaster Spark The Dark Ages?"

William Rivers Pitt reports, "Trump Writes Sad Ballads As The New House Majority Arrives."

Heather Digby Parton says, "Buhleemee Or Bulee Your Lying Eyes."

Michael Winship recalls, "About Last Night."

Charles P. Pierce concludes, "It Might Be Time To Start Fireproofing The Reichstag."

Ralph Nader exclaims, "It's Your Congress, People!" Make it work for you!"

Jane Stillwater explains, "Paradise, California: Just Another Casualty Of Corporate Greed."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich tells, "Why We Must Get Big Money Out Of Politics."

Chris Hedges announces, "The Election Circus Begins."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst tries, "Turning Trump Around," but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Trump's Folly, Partie Deux."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Pat Bagley, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from, Tom Tomorrow, Mr. Fish, Alex Wong, Captain Ray Lewis, Chris Kleponis, Mandel Ngan, Mario Tama, Shutterstock, 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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Trump's Folly, Partie Deux
By Ernest Stewart

"After the White House made its request on Monday, there were a few hours in which the major broadcast networks were discussing the matter. And then, one by one, they all fell in line, despite the compelling arguments to avoid the pitfalls of live Trump coverage. Likewise in 2014, those four major broadcast networks all made the opposite decision. If ever there was a case for collusion!" ~~~ Erik Wemple ~ Washington Post

"Several orders of magnitude more methane has been hypothesized to be capped beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet than beneath Arctic ice-masses. Like we did in Greenland, it's time to put more robust numbers on the theory." ~~~ Guillaume Lamarche-Gagnon ~ University Of Bristol's School of Geographical Sciences

"In the midst of a partial government shutdown, Democratic and Republican senators have decided that one of their first orders of business should be to sneak through a bill that would weaken Americans' First Amendment protections. The bill, Combatting BDS Act, encourages states to adopt the very same anti-boycott laws that two federal courts blocked on First Amendment grounds. The legislation, like the unconstitutional state anti-boycott laws it condones, sends a message to Americans that they will be penalized if they dare to disagree with their government. We therefore urge senators to vote no on the Combatting BDS Act next week." ~~~ Kathleen Ruane ~ ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel

You know, the landlord rang my front door bell
I let it ring for a long, long spell
I went to the window,
I peeped through the blind,
And asked him to tell me what's on his mind
He said,

Money, honey, uh uh
Money, honey
Money, honey, if you want to get along with me.
Money Honey ~~~ Elvis Presley

I'm not going to write about tRumps speech on tRump's Folly. I never watch presidential speechs as I can't afford to replace my TV and I know somewhere along the way I'd be tempted to throw a brick through the screen! When I do write about them, I go to The White House and read the speech there. In black & white, for me, it's a lot easier to deal with than watching tRump tell those lies to my face!

I sent out this tweet to my followers:
In 2014, you may recall, these same networks refused to carry an immigration speech by former President Barack Obama on the grounds that it was "overtly political." I know, WTF? I left the following message at ABC News, NBC News, and CBS News. Since Fox News doesn't have a contact page, I left it on their facebook page!

"I see you're happy to broadcast tRumps political speech tonight. Funny you didn't allow Obama to speak on the very same topic as you deemed it too political. I'm guessing it was because Barry was black and Donnie is white. Methinks this is just a case of overt racism. I know, you are only following ze orders, ya?"

That is the one thing I agree with tRump about, i.e., "Fake News," although we call it that for different reasons. tRump calls the truth told about him fake news, I call it fake news because of all the very important news stories that the networks never cover, which is the very reason I've been publishing this magazine for 19 years, to get that unreported news out where everyone can see it!

In Other News

I see where, according to a new study, that the Greenland Ice Sheet emits tons of methane showing that subglacial biological activity impacts the atmosphere far more than previously thought. The more we know, the scarier it gets!

An international team of researchers led by the University of Bristol camped for three months next to the Greenland Ice Sheet, sampling the meltwater that runs off a large catchment of the Ice Sheet during the summer months.

As reported in Nature, using novel sensors to measure methane in meltwater runoff in real time, they observed that methane was continuously exported from beneath the ice.

They calculated that at least six tons of methane was transported to their measuring site from this portion of the Ice Sheet alone, roughly the equivalent of the methane released by up to 100 cows.

Professor Jemma Wadham, Director of Bristol's Cabot Institute for the Environment, who led the investigation, said: "A key finding is that much of the methane produced beneath the ice likely escapes the Greenland Ice Sheet in large, fast flowing rivers before it can be oxidized to CO2, a typical fate for methane gas which normally reduces its greenhouse warming potency."

Methane gas (CH4) is the third most important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere after water vapour and carbon dioxide (CO2). Although, present in lower concentrations that CO2, methane is approximately 20-28 times more potent. Therefore smaller quantities have the potential to cause disproportionate impacts on atmospheric temperatures. Most of the Earth's methane is produced by microorganisms that convert organic matter to CH4 in the absence of oxygen, mostly in wetlands and on agricultural land, for instance in the stomachs of cows and rice paddies. The remainder comes from fossil fuels like natural gas.

While some methane had been detected previously in Greenland ice cores and in an Antarctic Subglacial Lake, this is the first time that meltwaters produced in spring and summer in large ice sheet catchments have been reported to continuously flush out methane from the ice sheet bed to the atmosphere.

Lead author, Guillaume Lamarche-Gagnon, from Bristol's School of Geographical Sciences, said: "What is also striking is the fact that we've found unequivocal evidence of a widespread subglacial microbial system. Whilst we knew that methane-producing microbes likely were important in subglacial environments, how important and widespread they truly were was debatable. Now we clearly see that active microorganisms, living under kilometres of ice, are not only surviving, but likely impacting other parts of the Earth system. This subglacial methane is essentially a biomarker for life in these isolated habitats."

Dr Elizabeth Bagshaw from Cardiff University added: "The new sensor technologies that we used give us a window into this previously unseen part of the glacial environment. Continuous measurement of meltwater enables us to improve our understanding of how these fascinating systems work and how they impact the rest of the planet."

As I am wont to say global warmings is being fed by many things that don't meet the eye, or as Meatloaf sang in "Life Is A Lemon" "There's always something. There's always something going wrong, that's the only guarantee, that's what this is all about."

And Finally

As you may have notice Marco Rubio has won this week's Vidkun Quisling Award. Marco proposes the Combatting BDS Act, which many say Rubio's measure infringes on free speech. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., tweeted, "It's absurd that the first bill during the shutdown is legislation which punishes Americans who exercise their constitutional right to engage in political activity. Democrats must block consideration of any bills that don't reopen the government. Let's get our priorities right."

So you know what I did, don't you? I left the following note on Marco's facebook page:

Your Combatting BDS Act is two acts of treason in one bill. You being a Israeli 5th columnist is one act and your attempt to destroy the 1st amendment is another. I'm guessing Israel paid you the traditional 30 pieces of silver for your treason, right? As you wait for that trap door to open up, ask yourself, was it worth it?

If you have any thoughts on the subject and live in Florida you can go here and leave them:

Or, if you're not a Florida resident, then visit his facebook page:

Either way, tell him that Uncle Ernie sent you!

Keepin' On

Nothing's changed folks, the time has come and gone, and so some of our arthors and artists won't be available to us. We turned up $1160 short of paying our bills for this year. That's the first time in the magazines history since our beginning in 2000 that we failed to raise the "rent."

For once I'm at a loss for words, imagine that! That's the trouble with being a sooth sayer. When people ask me what is it that I do, I have been known to say, "I piss people off." You'd be amazed how mad you can make some people by just telling the truth, saying the sooth! The Matrix, I hear, is very warm and comfortable, and over the years while we did unplug this, or that person, we found ourselves, mainly, just preaching to the choir! C'est la guerre!"

We'll keep fighting the good fight until the rest of the money runs out. If you think that what we do is important and would like to see us keep on, keeping on, please send us whatever you can, whenever you can, and we'll keep saying the sooth!


08-24-1932 ~ 01-06-2019
Thanks for the film!

06-07-1925 ~ 01-06-2019
Thanks for the equipment!


We get by with a little help from our friends!
So please help us if you can-?

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For late breaking news and views visit The Forum. Find all the news you'll otherwise miss. We publish three times the amount of material there than what is in the magazine. Look for the latest Activist Alerts. Updated constantly, please feel free to post an article we may have missed.


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) 2019 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.

Jim "Mad Dog" Mattis and the 1st Marine Division he commanded had just such an impact
on the Iraqi city of Fallujah, leaving more than 75% of it in rubble.

Is Donald Trump An Asteroid?
Honestly, this could get a lot uglier
Tom Engelhardt

Sixty-six million years ago, so the scientists tell us, an asteroid slammed into this planet. Landing on what's now Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, it gouged out a crater 150 kilometers wide and put so much soot and sulfur into the atmosphere that it created what was essentially a prolonged "nuclear winter." During that time, among so many other species, large and small, the dinosaurs went down for the count. (Don't, however, tell that to your local chicken, the closest living relative -- it's now believed -- of Tyrannosaurus Rex.)

It took approximately 66 million years for humanity to evolve from lowly surviving mammals and, over the course of a recent century or two, teach itself how to replicate the remarkable destructive power of that long-gone asteroid in two different ways: via nuclear power and the burning of fossil fuels. And if that isn't an accomplishment for the species that likes to bill itself as the most intelligent ever to inhabit this planet, what is?

As humanity has armed itself ever more lethally, it has also transformed itself into the local equivalent of so many asteroids. Talking about accomplishments: as humanity has armed itself ever more lethally, it has also transformed itself into the local equivalent of so many asteroids. Think, for instance, of that moment in the spring of 2003 when George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and crew launched the invasion of Iraq with dreams of setting up a Pax Americana across the Greater Middle East and beyond. By the time U.S. troops entered Baghdad, the burning and looting of the Iraqi capital had already begun, leaving the National Museum of Iraq trashed (gone were the tablets on which Hammurabi first had a code of laws inscribed) and the National Library of Baghdad, with its tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts, in flames. (No such "asteroid" had hit that city since 1258, when Mongol warriors sacked it, destroying its many libraries and reputedly leaving the Tigris River running "black with ink" and red with blood.)

In truth, since 2003 the Greater Middle East has never stopped burning, as other militaries -- Afghan, Iranian, Iraqi, Israeli, Russian, Saudi, Syrian, Turkish -- entered the fray, insurgent groups rose, terror movements spread, and the U.S. military never left. By now, the asteroidal nature of American acts in the region should be beyond question. Consider, for example, the sainted retired general and former secretary of defense, Jim "Mad Dog" Mattis, the man who classically said of an Iraqi wedding party (including musicians) that his troops took out in 2004, "How many people go to the middle of the desert... to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization?" Or consider that, in the very same year, Mattis and the 1st Marine Division he commanded had just such an impact on the Iraqi city of Fallujah, leaving more than 75% of it in rubble.

Or focus for a moment on the destruction caused by some combination of U.S. air power, ISIS suicide bombers, artillery, and mortars that, in seven months of fighting in 2017, uprooted more than a million people from the still largely un-reconstructed Iraqi city of Mosul (where 10 million tons of rubble are estimated to remain). Or try to bring to mind the rubblized city of Ramadi. Or consider the destruction of the Syrian city of Raqqa, the former "capital" of ISIS's caliphate, left more than 80% "uninhabitable" after the U.S. (and allied) air forces dropped 20,000 bombs on it. All are versions of the same phenomenon.

And yet when it comes to asteroids and the human future, one thing should be obvious. Such examples still represent relatively small-scale local impacts, given what's to come.

The Wars From Hell

If you happened to be an Afghan, Iraqi, Libyan, Syrian, Somali, or Yemeni in the twenty-first century, can there be any question that life would have seemed asteroidal to you? What Osama bin Laden began with just 19 fanatic followers and four hijacked commercial airliners the U.S. military continued across the Greater Middle East and North Africa as if it were the force from outer space (which, in a sense, it was). It doesn't matter whether you're talking about cities turned to rubble, civilians slaughtered, wedding parties obliterated, populations uprooted and sent into various forms of exile, the transformation of former nations (however autocratic) into failed states, or the spread of terrorism. It's been quite a story. More than 17 years and at least $5.6 trillion after the Bush administration launched its Global War on Terror, can there be any question that the wildest dreams of Osama bin Laden have been more than fulfilled? And it's not faintly over yet.

More remarkable still, just about all of this has largely been ignored in the country that functionally made it so. If you asked most Americans, they would certainly know that almost 3,000 civilians were slaughtered in the terror attacks of 9/11, but how many (if any) would be aware of the several hundred civilians -- brides, grooms, revelers, you name it -- similarly slaughtered in what were, in essence, U.S. terror attacks against multiple wedding parties in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen? And that's just to begin to mention the kinds of destruction that have gone on largely unnoticed here.

In the first 18 years of this century, tens of millions of people have been uprooted and displaced -- more than 13 million in Syria alone -- from what had been their homes, lives, and worlds. Many of them were sent fleeing into countries like Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Sooner or later, more than one million Syrians made it to Europe and 21,000 even made it to the United States. In the process, Washington's wars (and the conflicts that unfolded from them) unsettled ever more of the planet in much the way those particulates in the atmosphere did the world of 66 million years ago. So consider it an irony that, here in the U.S., so few connections have been made between such events and an unceasing series of American conflicts across the Greater Middle East and Africa -- or that the thought of even the mildest sorts of retreats from any of those battlegrounds instantly leaves political and national security elites in Washington (and the media that cover them) in an uproar of horror.

We're talking, of course, about the conflicts from hell that have long been labeled "the war on terror" but -- given the spread of terror groups and the rise of the anti-immigrant right in Europe and the United States -- should probably have been called "the war for terror" or the "war from hell."

Consider this a tale of imperial power gone awry that -- were anyone here truly paying attention -- could hardly have been uglier. And no matter what happens from here on, it's hard to imagine how things won't, in fact, get uglier still. I'm not just thinking about Donald Trump's Washington in 2019, where such ugliness is par for the course. I'm thinking about all of those lands affected by America's unending post-9/11 wars (and the catastrophic American-backed Saudi one in Yemen that goes with them) -- about, that is, the region and the conflicts from which Donald Trump sorta, maybe, in the most limited of ways was threatening to begin pulling back as last year ended and about which official Washington promptly went nuts.

We're talking, of course, about the conflicts from hell that have long been labeled "the war on terror" but -- given the spread of terror groups and the rise of the anti-immigrant right in Europe and the United States -- should probably have been called "the war for terror" or the "war from hell." And it's this that official Washington and much of the mainstream media can't imagine getting rid of or out of.

Naturally, doing so will be ugly. In functionally admitting to a kind of defeat (even if the president insists on calling it victory), Washington will be tossing aside allies -- Kurds, Afghans, and others -- and leaving those who don't deserve such a fate in so many ditches (just as it did in Vietnam long ago). Worse yet, it will be leaving behind a part of the world that, on its watch, became not just a series of failed or semi-failed states, but a failed region. It will be leaving behind populations armed to the teeth, bereft of normal lives, or often of any sort of life at all, and of hope. It will be leaving behind a generation of children robbed of their futures and undoubtedly mad as hell. It will be leaving behind those cities in rubble and a universe of refugees and insurgents galore. Even if ISIS doesn't rebound, don't imagine that other horrors can't arise in such circumstances and amid such wreckage. Ugly will be the word for it.

And for some of that ugliness, you can indeed thank Donald Trump, whether he withdraws American troops from Syria, as promised, or not. After all, here's the strange thing: though no one in Washington or elsewhere in this country had paid more than passing attention to it, the recent Syrian "withdrawal" decision wasn't The Donald's first. Last March, he "froze" $200 million that had been promised for Syrian aid and reconstruction, money that assumedly might have gone to derubblizing parts of that country -- and rather than being up in arms about it, rather than offering a crescendo of criticism (as with his recent decision to withdraw troops), rather than resignations and protests, official Washington and the media that covers it just shrugged their collective shoulders. It couldn't have been uglier, but Washington was unfazed.

As for countermanding the president's order and staying, we already know what more than 17 years of endless American war have delivered to that region (as well as subtracted from the American treasury). What would another two, four, or eight years of -- to use a fairly recent Pentagon term -- "infinite war" mean? Here's one thing for sure: ugly wouldn't even cover it. And keep in mind that, despite Donald Trump's recent Syrian and Afghan decisions (both of which are reversible), so much of what passes for American war in this century, including the particularly grim Saudi version of it in Yemen and those Air Force and CIA drone assassination strikes across much of the region, has shown little sign of abating anytime soon.

Using Up Precious Time

And then, of course, there's that other issue, the one where withdrawal can't come into play, the one where ugly doesn't even begin to cover the territory.

In case you haven't instantly guessed -- and I suspect you have -- I'm thinking about what's happening to the place known to its English-speaking inhabitants as Earth. It no longer takes a scientist or a probing intelligence to know that the planet that welcomed humanity all these thousands of years has begun to appear a good deal less gracious thanks to humanity's burning of fossil fuels and the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. By now, no matter where you live, you should know the litany well enough, including (just to start down a long list): temperatures that are soaring and only promise to rise yet more; a record melting of Arctic ice; a record heating of ocean waters; ever fiercer storms; ever fiercer wildfires (and ever longerfire seasons); rising sea levels that promise to begin drowning coastal cities sometime later this century; the coming of mega-droughts and devastating heat waves (that by 2100 may, for instance, make the now heavily populated North China plain uninhabitable).

Nor do you have to be a scientist these days to draw a few obvious conclusions about trends on a planet where the last four years are the hottest on record and 20 of the last 22 years qualify as the warmest yet. And keep in mind that most of this was already clear enough at the moment in planetary history when a near-majority of Americans elected as president an ardent climate-change denier, as were so many in the party of which he became the orange-haired face. And also keep in mind that the very term climate-change denier no longer seems faintly apt as a description for him, "his" party, or the crew he's put in control of the government. Instead, they are proving to be the most enthusiastic group of climate-change aiders and abettors imaginable.

In other words, the administration heading the country that, historically, has been the largest emitter of greenhouse gases is now in the business -- from leaving the Paris climate accord to opening the way for methane gas releases, from expanding offshore drilling to encouraging Arctic drilling, from freeing coal plants to release more mercury into the atmosphere to rejecting its own climate-change study -- of doing more of the same until the end of time. And that's certainly a testament to something. Ultimately, though, what it's doing may be less important than what it isn't doing. On a planet on which, according to the latest U.N. report, there are only perhaps a dozen years left to keep the long-term global temperature rise under 1.5 degrees centigrade, the Trump administration is wasting time in the worst way imaginable.

An Asteroidal Future

Even 18 years into a series of "quagmire" Middle Eastern wars, the U.S. could still withdraw from them, however ugly the process might be. It could indeed bring the troops home; it could ground the drones; it could downsize the Special Operations forces that now add up to a secret army of 70,000 (larger than the armies of many nations) at present deployed to much of the globe. It could do many things.

What Washington can't do- what we can't do-is withdraw from the Earth, which is why we are now living on what I increasingly think of as a quagmire planet.

In the 1960s, that word, quagmire ("a bog having a surface that yields when stepped on"), and its cognates -- swamp, sinkhole, morass, quicksand, bottomless pit -- were picked up across the spectrum of American politics and applied to the increasingly disastrous war in Vietnam. It was an image that robbed Washington of much of its responsibility for that conflict. The quagmire itself was at fault -- or as historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., put it at the time: "And so the policy of 'one more step' lured the United States deeper and deeper into the morass... until we find ourselves entrapped in that nightmare of American strategists, a land war in Asia."

Embedded in the war talk of those years, quagmire was, in fact, not a description of the war as much as a worldview imposed on it. That image turned Vietnam into the aggressor, transferring agency for all negative action to the land itself, which had trapped us and wouldn't let us go, even as that land was devalued. After all, to the Vietnamese, their country was anything but a quagmire. It was home and the American decision to be there a form of hated or desired (or sometimes, among America's allies there, both hated and desired) intervention. Much the same could be said, of course, of the Greater Middle East in this century.

When it comes to this planet in the era of climate change, however, quagmire seems like a far more appropriate image, as long as we keep in mind that we are the aggressors. It is we who are burning those fossil fuels. It is, as our president loves to put it, "American energy dominance" that is threatening to submerge Miami, Shanghai, and other coastal cities in the century to come. It is the urge of the Trump administration to kneecap the development of alternative energies, while promoting coal, oil, and natural gas production that is threatening the human future. It is the acts and attitudes of Trumpian-like figures from Poland to Saudi Arabia to Brazil that threaten our children and grandchildren into the distant future, that threaten, in fact, to turn the Earth itself into a rubblized, ravaged planet. It is Vladimir Putin's Russian petro-state that is at work creating a future swamp of destruction in the Arctic and elsewhere. It is a Chinese inability to truly come to grips with its use of coal (not to mention the way it's exporting coal plants to Africa and elsewhere) that threatens to make our world into a morass. It is the lack of any urge on the part of fossil fuel CEOs to "keep it in the ground" that will potentially take humanity down for the count.

In that context, think of the man who, from his earliest moments in the Oval Office, wanted to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, filled his cabinet with climate-change aiders and abettors, was desperate to obliterate his predecessor's modest steps on climate change, and never saw a coal mine, oil rig, or fracking outfit he didn't love as the latest asteroid to hit Planet Earth. Under the circumstances, if the rest of us don't get ourselves together, we are likely to be the dinosaurs of the Anthropocene era.

Donald Trump himself is, of course, just a tiny, passing fragment of human history. Already 72, he will undoubtedly be taken down by a Big Mac attack or something else in the years to come and most of his record will become just so much human history. But on this single subject, his impact threatens to be anything but a matter of human history. It threatens to play out on a time scale that should boggle the mind.

He is a reminder that, on this quagmire planet of ours, we -- the rest of us -- have no place to go, despite NASA's plans to send humans to Mars, the rise of privatized projects for space tourism, and a Chinese spacecraft's landing on the far side of the moon. So, if we care about our children and grandchildren, as 2019 begins there is no time to spare and no more burning issue on Planet Earth than this.

(c) 2019 Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's His sixth and latest book, just published, is A Nation Unmade by War (Dispatch Books).Previous books include: Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (with an introduction by Glenn Greenwald). Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050 (co-authored with Nick Turse), The United States of Fear, The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's, The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from here.

The Silver Bullet To Stop The Corporate State Pillage
By Lee Camp

Every year a certain number of our soldiers decide they'd rather not be involved in shooting people they don't know so that ExxonMobil can have more oil or Lockheed Martin can make more cash or MSNBC / Fox News can give their hosts topics for their upcoming poetry books. Basically, these soldiers do something horrifying, something terrible, something often called "treasonous" ... They - wait for it - think for themselves!

(Glass shatters. Woman screams. Baby cries.)

Nothing is more frightening for our endless war machine than a military grunt who thinks for him or herself. They're supposed to do nothing more than follow orders. They're supposed to ask a superior officer for permission to wear a different color pair of socks. That's right - the biggest, toughest gladiators in our society have to get authorization to switch from boxers to briefs.

I'll get to what this has to do with our inverted totalitarian corporate pillaging in a moment.

One of the more notable soldiers who stood up this year was Spenser Rapone - a second lieutenant discharged on June 18, 2018, for disparaging the U.S. war machine online and promoting a socialist revolution. (Clearly our enormous globe-spanning military complex can obliterate any possible enemies except independent thought, which promptly turns it to a mush akin to pea soup.) Apparently reading about the true story of Pat Tillman pushed Rapone toward the realization that he was a pawn in the middle of a massive lie.

"Pat Tillman showed me I could resist the indoctrination," Rapone said. "I did not have to let the military dehumanize me and turn me into something monstrous. When I learned how his death was covered up to sell the war, it was shocking."

To sell the war. Why is it they would need to sell a war? Oh, I know - because it's completely unjustifiable. For activities people naturally agree with or enjoy doing, you don't have to advertise them. Like you don't see ads saying, "Hey, feed your kids. ... Don't forget." Or a commercial saying, "Try having sex some time. It's fun!" That stuff comes pretty naturally. But you do need promotion (Read: media propaganda) for our endless war games because it does not come naturally to most of us. War comes naturally to sociopaths, and then it's sold to the rest of us, much like a used car or an ill-advised timeshare in Cleveland.

But the military is not the only place where conscientious objectors play a role. It might be the only one where walking away can get you locked up in prison spending your days sewing McDonald's uniforms, but there are a lot of moments in our messed-up world when you can turn your back and do the right thing.

For example, fewer and fewer people are willing to do the job of killing millions of animals every year. A recent report "revealed that staff shortages at slaughterhouses [in the U.K. were] threatening Christmas sales. Some 10,000 positions are unfilled at major abattoirs. ... The report explains that for most potential applicants, the industry's low pay is not the problem but that 'people simply do not want to do this work anymore.'"

Oh come on, you fragile snowflakes! "Ewww, I can't handle chopping the heads off a thousand pigs a day. It hurts my feelings to end the life of hundreds of sentient beings who haven't done anything to me to warrant such treatment. WAAH! I don't like loading buckets of adorable chickadees into the grinding colander so they can be turned into a meat milkshake that will ultimately be served to a labradoodle or a puggle. BOO HOO HOO!" (I might have made up the term "grinding colander.")

In all seriousness, working at the killing fields of a factory farm has life-long impacts that no one talks about. (And by "no one," I mean the media and our politicians and most everybody else.) As the Guardian reported, "Slaughterhouse work has been linked to a variety of disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder and perpetration-induced traumatic stress. One pig slaughterer said the 'worst thing' about the work is its 'emotional toll'. ... A worker at a chicken plant said one of his colleagues was 'hauled off to the mental hospital' after he 'kept having nightmares that chickens were after him.'" (It's tough to say what the chickens would've done with him had they caught him. Professional torture is made difficult by a lack of hands.)

These workers who have walked off the killing floors should be honored as conscientious objectors. They should be rewarded for realizing it's better to get paid to hand out coffees at the coffeehouse than death sentences at the slaughterhouse.

And conscientious objection happens in the big tech world too. This past May, a dozen Google employees quit to protest the company's role in drone-killing technology created for the Pentagon, and another 4,000 signed an internal petition to stop the partnership.

There have been many great objectors in our police forces, too. Captain Ray Lewis was in the Philadelphia police force for 23 years. Then he became an outspoken critic of police abuse, militarization, excess force and the inequality that has hollowed out our society like an aggressive virus. He shows up to protests in full uniform and stands on the front lines to help remind the other cops what they should be protecting - and it's not oil pipelines or Wall Street banks. Perhaps most importantly, he does it all with a mustache that looks like it houses squirrels in the winter. It's quite possible that without the facial hair, not a single police officer would give a shit. However, you can really reach a cop through his 'stache. (Sorry, his or her 'stache.)

Ray Lewis, a retired Philadelphia police captain who is now a critic of police abuse and militarization.

Conscientious objectors even show up in the grand hallways of the famously lockstep mainstream media outlets. Just last week, veteran national security journalist William Arkin left his job at NBC and MSNBC and basically blasted them in an open letter "... for becoming captive and subservient to the national security state, reflexively pro-war... and now the prime propaganda instrument of the War Machine's promotion of militarism and imperialism." Of course, anyone who regularly reads independent outlets like Truthdig would probably say Mr. Arkin is roughly 30 years late to this realization. Yet it still takes nerve, gonads and a spine to turn against your employer while calling them out for manufacturing consent for hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths. (Certain types of deep-water fish are made up of only nerves, gonads and a spine, and they're constantly being insolent to their employers.)

The truth is, we the people may not have that much power. We don't control our democracy anymore now that every decision is based on money. We can't instantly change the entire system. But we have one very powerful tool - we have the power of our labor.

Millions of Americans, and hundreds of millions worldwide, work for corporations or organizations that do evil every single day. This list includes:

People at the big banks that fund the destruction of our world
Officials sent to steal children from their mothers and fathers
People working at big oil companies, pushing papers while knowing we only have 11 years left to completely change our behavior
Soldiers told to drone bomb a guy they've never met before
Merchants in charge of selling Kid Rock T-shirts
The list is endless, and ALL of these people have the ability to say "I object. I will not help with your villainy."

If they all objected - we would see a different world overnight.

- If you think this column is important, please share it. Also check out my new comedy special at

(c) 2019Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of the weekly comedy news TV show "Redacted Tonight With Lee Camp" on RT America. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years.

Yes, White People Are Also Killed By The Mass Black Incarceration Regime
By Glen Ford

The WSWS site has done a disservice to Marxism and to the Black Lives Matter movement with its ideologically driven study of police killings in the U.S., focusing on dead white people.

The World Socialist Web Site has brought in the New Year with a scurrilous and sectarian assault on "Black Lives Matter" and what the WSWS calls "the pseudo-left," claiming that Black activists and their allies are pushing a "racialist and pro-capitalist agenda" that ignores the killing of poor whites by police. In a three-part series titled "Behind the epidemic of police killings in America: Class, poverty and race," the site claims to show that "the killing of poor blacks by white cops is only one aspect of the reign of terror by American police against the working class, and not even the most common form of such killings." Instead, the site's Trotskyist researchers maintain that, because cops kill whites and Blacks in roughly equal proportions in some parts of the nation, and hardly kill Blacks at all in much of the country, the general phenomenon of police killings of civilians is class conflict, not race.

This bizarre and ill-conceived study serves as a reminder that much of what passes for a "left" in the white settler states and Europe is useless to any movement against racial oppression. Were it not so tiny and ineffectual, the WSWS's handlers in the Socialist Equality Party would be downright dangerous to Black people.

The study looks at police killings data compiled by the Washington Post, the Guardian and Fatal Encounters surveyors. Although the WSWS researchers concede that Blacks are, on a nationwide basis, 2.24 times more likely to be killed by police than whites, they contend that such police killings are limited to just one-quarter of the country, and that three-quarters of the nation's population "live in cities or counties that were free of such killings." The WSWS then proceeds to treat the "police killing zone" and the rest of the U.S. as separate countries. The "killing zone" nation is more heavily Black (18.6 percent) and Hispanic (26.7 percent) and less non-Hispanic white (only 44.5 percent) than the rest of the country. The researchers further calculate that the "killing zone" poverty rate is more than twice as high as the rest of the U.S.: 19.5 percent versus 9.5 percent. Voila!: the study concludes that "what whites and blacks who are killed by police have in common is poverty."

The WSWS study finds that "half of all police killings occur in rural areas where the majority is non-Hispanic white, though these areas represent a much smaller fraction of the national population. It is here where white deaths begin to 'catch up' to black deaths, and ultimately surpass them." These whites are the supposedly hidden victims of the ruling class war on poor people. The researchers put them in the same economically targeted class as Black victims of police lethal force in St. Louis, the city with the highest rate of police killings in the nation. "Not only are blacks" in St. Louis "shot in predominately black neighborhoods," said the study, "but they are also the poorest with median household income even below the city average and poverty levels three times the national average."

With all this slicing and dicing of numbers, the WSWS study has only "proven" that cops are much more likely to shoot a poor person than an affluent one. The study also confirmed another fact that has long been known to researchers: that white and Asian victims of police violence "had a higher rate of mental illness as compared to blacks and Hispanics" - close to twice as high. "Whites had a rate of 29.6 percent compared to blacks at 17.6 percent."

Yes, it's a big country, with lots of poor people of all races, who are more likely to be killed by police than are richer Americans. But that doesn't mean they were killed because they were poor, only that they were not rich enough - or sane enough - to escape being victimized by cops. But class-conscious cops can also be racists, and all U.S. cops function in a system that has been purposely organized to contain, control and terrorize specifically Black populations, especially poor Blacks. The numbers show, incontrovertibly, that lethal police violence is most concentrated in Black, poor urban neighborhoods, which have for nearly a half century been the epicenter of what Michelle Alexander calls "The New Jim Crow": the post-Civil Rights and Black Power era Mass Black Incarceration State. As I wrote in BAR on September 13, 2017:

"In building the world's largest prison system to house the mostly non-white prey of the planet's most intrusive police state, the U.S. has condemned to the dungeons millions of non-targeted whites - unintended, collateral damage of the race wars that birthed the nation and built an empire."
Not only are U.S. whites killed by police in far larger numbers than their western European, Canadian and Australian cousins, they are also locked up in far greater numbers. The dead whites, like their Black counterparts, are the bodies that didn't make it to jail, victims of a Mass Black Incarceration State that inevitably also ensnares non-Blacks in its institutional traps. But, that doesn't change the racial nature of the beast. As most Blacks are well aware, were it not for endemic racism many more whites would be incarcerated or dead as a consequence of the draconian criminal justice system that was concocted to re-enslave Blacks after "Emancipation" - the Old Jim Crow - and refurbished and militarized as a response to the Black and radical movements of the late 1960s: Michelle Alexander's New Jim Crow.

The WSWS tortures both Marxism and history in order to stuff U.S. police racism into an economics-only box. But the racial roots of the Mass Black Incarceration State - leading inevitably to high rates of police killings of Blacks and others in the U.S. - are irrefutable.

As Richard Nixon top aide John Erlichman told Harper's Magazine:

"The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."
The federalized militarization of police began with the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, inaugurated in 1968. According to Michelle Alexander, Ronald Reagan's regime put the campaign into hyper-drive:
"President Ronald Reagan wanted to make good on campaign promises to get tough on that group of folks who had already been defined in the media as black and brown, the criminals, and he made good on that promise by declaring a drug war. Almost immediately after his declaration of war, funds for law enforcement began to soar....

"The drug war had already been declared, but the emergence of crack cocaine in inner-city communities actually provided the Reagan administration precisely the fuel they needed to build greater public support for the war they had already declared.

"So the Reagan administration actually launched a media campaign to publicize the crack epidemic in inner-city communities, hiring staff whose job it was to publicize inner-city crack babies, crack dealers or so-called crack whores and crack-related violence, in an effort to boost public support for this war they had already declared [and to inspire] Congress to devote millions more dollars to waging it....

"It was President Bill Clinton who actually escalated the drug war far beyond what his Republican predecessors even dreamed possible."


First lady Hillary Clinton, aiming to return to the Big House as chief executive one day, marked legions of Black boys for death, back in 1996, with her demonizations:
"We need to take these people on, they are often connected to big drug cartels, they are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called super-predators. No conscience. No empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way but first we have to bring them to heel."
Cops took that as further encouragement for use of deadly force. As I reported in BAR, Barack Obama boosted the Pentagon's infamous 1033 program 24-fold, increasing the flow of battle-ready weaponry and gear to local police departments from $34 million a year, under George Bush, to $787 million under the First Black President in 2014 - the year Mike Brown was slaughtered by a cop in Ferguson, Missouri, outside St. Louis.

A long-delayed grassroots movement finally emerged to confront the Mass Black Incarceration regime and its killer cops, under the umbrella of Black Lives Matter. The ruling class has attempted to co-opt this movement ever since, with varying degrees of success. But the WSWS critique of Black Lives Matter is bogus and ideologically driven, with numbers sprinkled in to give the illusion of social science. WSWS is opposed to independent Black political activity, including Black political self-defense against state oppression, which the WSWS brand of Trotskyists deems as narrow nationalist and objectively (or even consciously!) in league with the capitalist rulers. Which would be a great slander, if the WSWS were considered as serious Marxists. But, they are not. Although WSWS does some good work, they are also, unfortunately, crazy.

(c) 2019 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Should You Have To Pay To Protest
By Jim Hightower

Ideally, elections are about ideas, but these days policy discussions are being shoved aside by raw partisanship and vitriol. Not only are good ideas ignored, but very bad idea can become public policy without the public knowing it.

For example, the Trump Team wants to snuff out your Constitutional right to free speech and assembly by putting an exorbitant fee on public protests in our nation's Capitol City. In other words, you'd still be "free" to rally for or against any issue or policy - but not for free! Apparently meant to deter any more of the mass demonstrations against their policies on women, immigrant children, climate change, etc., they want each protesting group to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the government for policing and other necessary costs of guaranteeing the public's right to protest.

Corporations and billionaires would have no problem paying, but regular grassroots groups would be priced off the public lawn. Such historic protests such as Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 march and his "I have a dream" speech couldn't have happened under Trump's pay-me plan.

I'm guessing that a good 90 percent of Americans - Republican, Democrat, and otherwise - would shout "NO!" to this repression of a fundamental civic right. But I'd also bet that not a single congressional candidate has even mentioned it to voters in this year's elections. Yet, in perverse Orwellian newspeak, the Trumpsters pushing the plan say it's "designed to provide greater clarity about how and where demonstrations can occur in a manner that protects historically important land."

I was born at night, but it wasn't last night! This proposal is designed to protect nothing but the bad policies of the power elites from objections by riff-raff like you and me. To help stop their authoritarian power play, go to

(c) 2019 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. Jim writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at

A Green New PayGo Shutdown
By David Swanson

"She'll cut your head off." That's Nancy Pelosi's daughter's praise for her mother.

I guess you're supposed to imagine it always being somebody else's head and to really hate all those somebody elses.

But then, what is PayGo? This looks like a deal aiming a big ole Pentagon bone saw at so many heads that our powers of hatred are likely to fall far short.

Pelosi's PayGo rule says that any money spent must be made up for by cutting other spending or raising revenue. This must sound very sensible to a lot of people.

Congress is known for being very sensible. In fact, when people want to be sensible, they usually ask "What would Congress do?" Right?

On the other hand, if Speaker Pelosi and gang were to seriously tax corporations or billionaires, or if they were to move 10% of military spending to something useful, there'd be no need for PayGo.

Are they perhaps trying to force themselves to take just those steps? Uh huh, and the decades they've spent eagerly doing just the opposite has all been part of a surprise attack, I suppose.

Here's what they're doing. They're trying to prevent major spending on preserving a habitable planet or providing education or healthcare.

If you believe these people have noble intentions, you probably believe that the U.S. government is shut down.

The biggest thing the U.S. government does is not shut down and has never been shut down during any so-called "shutdown." The majority of the money that Congress decides on each year goes to one thing and one thing only: war.

Trump says he's happy to keep non-war government operations shut down for months or years - only if forced to, of course, as a last resort. "Go ahead and indict me and impeach me, just don't throw me in that terr'ble fascist briar patch!"

A handful of Democrats in Congress do want to make a significant effort to slow down the climate catastrophe. But their media overlords want nothing other than to equate that with "raising taxes" - and to have that understood as raising everybody's taxes.

Answers to "But doesn't that mean raising taxes?" have thus far ranged all the way from "yes" to "yes." Some have sometimes done a better job of saying "Yes on corporations and oligarchs." Most of them blow this terribly.

The one thing they all do consistently is avoid saying "Let's move some money out of the military budget." The public would love such a response. The questioners would be completely thrown off if not silenced. But there's clearly been an agreement reached to never do this.

Even the draft Green New Deal avoids mentioning the existence of militarism, either as an unfathomable pile of money or as a major destroyer of the environment. That failure is bad politics, bad policy, and possibly fatal for the effort and for many actual living things.

If Trump declares a "national emergency" he will be wrong, of course. We're in a global emergency. Trump is a national emergency. Yet it's when he does something right - such as proposing to end a war, or, as far as we know, does nothing at all, such as not stealing evidence of Democratic Party outrages and giving them to WikiLeaks so that the U.S. public could learn about its government - that the Resistance grows loudest.

Asked to hold Trump accountable for all the things he does wrong, Democrats declare that they need to wait for evidence. Yet here are 15 documented impeachable offenses drafted as Articles of Impeachment and ready to go.

Congress is the first branch of the U.S. government and should be deeply ashamed of itself for pretending that it needs to await the pleasure of an outside investigation or needs to take matters to the judiciary. It can use inherent contempt. It can use impeachment. And it will do so the minute people compel it to. And that's the way it should be done, as it creates the best threat of impeaching others as needed.

(c) 2019 David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

Gov. Tony Evers grew up outside Plymouth in rural Sheboygan County. "I had to ride my bike four miles into town to play baseball,"
he recalled. "I was kind of isolated, so I wanted as many friends as I could find. And that meant that you had to get along to get along."

Reasserting Wisconsin Values Will Make Tony Evers A Very Successful Governor
By John Nichols

Pundits and politicians who are wrapped up in the debilitating D.C. politics of this moment will always second-guess someone like Tony Evers. They will not recognize, let alone understand, what drives the new governor of Wisconsin.

But people with roots in Wisconsin, people who value the state's unique political history, and the patterns of progress and reaction and progress again that have shaped its governance, get the guy. They know that Evers defeated Scott Walker precisely because the former state superintendent of public instruction speaks to a longing on the part of Wisconsinites for a presumption of civility.

Evers is exceptionally polite, deeply observant and inclined to get on well with everyone - even the Republicans who have tried to upend the new Democratic governor.

As someone whose family settled in Mineral Point in the 1820s and entered into territorial politics, the work of statehood and the governing that extended from it, I appreciate where Evers is coming from.

When we spoke the other afternoon, he talked about growing up outside Plymouth in rural Sheboygan County. "I lived in the country," he recalled. "I had to ride my bike four miles into town to play baseball. I was kind of isolated, so I wanted as many friends as I could find. And that meant that you had to get along to get along."

This instinct does not incline a governor toward unprincipled compromise but toward fruitful cooperation; it is not a sign of weakness but rather a strength. It has motivated some of the state's greatest governors - Bob La Follette (a native of the town of Primrose), John Blaine (Boscobel), Gaylord Nelson (Clear Lake), Warren Knowles (New Richmond) Pat Lucey (Ferryville), and Tommy Thompson (Elroy). And it framed a discussion from which the following insights are drawn:

On whether a small-town background teaches you to get along with people you disagree with politically: Oh God, yes. In a big city, you can ignore them. In a small town, you cannot. It creates an atmosphere where you have to find common ground. Can you be principled (by holding firm on an issue like taking Medicaid money)? Yes. Can you be principled and find common ground? I think so.

On what he means when he says he's a "Plymouth progressive": I view progressivism as maybe more pragmatic than others might. I think that's what I mean by "Plymouth progressive." It's from the small-town experience. You figure out what people's value systems are. You respectfully deal with it. You try to reach common ground in discussions with people who may be Democrats, may be Republicans.

On his sense that Wisconsinites will reject the power-grab politics practiced by Republicans in the lame-duck legislative session: I am going to continue to talk about it in the way I have talked about it. It's a mess. And I believe that many of (the changes made to weaken the governor's authority) not only didn't reflect what happened in last November's election but also likely aren't constitutional. I'm not a lawyer, so I can't make that final judgment, but I believe that to be true. So we're going to continue to talk about it. Clearly people are upset about it. I know (that speaking up on these issues) creates pushback from the Republicans saying "this is all about nothing." Well, if it was about nothing, then why the hell do it?

On his plan to counter legislative resistance by organizing Wisconsinites to support his agenda: I learned this as state superintendent. (The superintendent position) could be nothing more than an inside job. You've got a bureaucracy and they are all these good people doing good work. But if you're not out there selling your product, talking about public education and essentially creating an atmosphere where all these good people are able to do good work, you've got nothing.

(In the new administration) we've hired quite a cadre of good secretaries for our agencies. It's up to me, now, to make sure that the people of Wisconsin get the services they need. But also to make sure that the people of Wisconsin understand how important what we do in government is to solving problems. It is campaigning - campaigning for ideas and to get things done.

On using the bully pulpit to rally support for a budget that is focused on education, transportation and health care: Once our budget's done, regardless of what the legislators do we're taking it directly to the people of Wisconsin. Not just having press conferences; we're going to bring back the same kind of format (that was used for the listening sessions to shape his budget plan). We're going to say: OK, here's the budget, let's have at it. How can you, the people of Wisconsin, participate in this budget-making process? How do you want to make this happen? How do you, as the citizens of Wisconsin, participate in this democracy, in this legislative process that's going to create the policies that move us forward?

On how he plans to build a popular movement in support of his budget: I believe that we will get people invested in making this happen. It can't just be me. And it can't just be lobbyists who lobby for large organizations and interest groups. We have to get people involved in passing this budget.

On critics who say he is naive to think he can tip the balance by building a popular movement for his budget: Of course they do. They say: "Why don't you just tell me if you're going to veto the Republican budget?" I'm not convinced I have to. I think we can get to a point where they, the Republicans, recognize that there's a consensus out here - it's all about discourse, civility, finding common ground, Wisconsin values.

(c) 2019 John Nichols John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, is published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Did A Natural Disaster Spark The Dark Ages?
By James Donahue

There is a relatively new book by British historian David Keys circulating that suggests the Dark Ages were caused, or at least helped along by a natural disaster of such magnitude that it altered human behavior for the next one thousand years.

The Dark Ages is a name for a long period of European history ranging from at about the time of the fall of the Roman Empire in the Fifth Century to the beginning of the Renaissance in the Fifteenth Century AD. It is called a dark period because it was a time when the European people lacked stability in government and consequently fell under the rule of the Roman Catholic Church.

Lacking the refinement and culture that was brought to the area under Roman rule, civilization at that time is remembered as barbaric in its nature. After the refinements of the Roman and Greek periods, the Dark or Middle Ages are marked as a thousand years of silence. No great thought, music, invention or human advancement is known to have sprung from this time.

Until Keys raised the question, however, historians seemed to have overlooked the suggestion that there might have been something abnormal about a culture that plunged so completely into barbaric obscurity after existing under the light of the refined cultures introduced to Europe by the Greeks and later the Romans.

Another theory has involved the economic collapse of the Roman Empire, which literally included the entire known world at that time.

Keyes' book suggests that a major cataclysmic event, such as a powerful volcanic eruption or a meteor strike that sent enough dust and ash into the stratosphere to dim the sunlight for several years, might have turned human history into a form of chaos.

Indeed, some historical accounts of the time indicate that the sun actually became dim and the Earth got colder in the year 535. The Roman historian Procupius wrote that "the sun gave forth its light without brightness. . . for the whole year." A Chinese record states that "yellow dust rained down like snow."

People who study such things confirm that a sulfuric fall-out appears in ice cores, drilled from the ice sheets in both Greenland and Antarctica, suggesting that a major volcanic eruption occurred at about this time in history. Pinpointing the material to an exact year, however, is difficult to do.

Keys also attempts to use a study of tree rings to show a cooling for a period of several years, although just where he found someone who was an expert on 2,000-year-old tree trunks is not clear.

A more interesting argument is the onset of the bubonic plague during this time, which Keys believes was caused by a breeding explosion of rats in East Africa. This, he believes, was brought about by a massive increase in normal rainfall. The moist climate altered the balance between the plague-carrying rats and their predators.

Keys notes that the plague was killing people in Alexandria in 541 AD, and it was apparently spread from there, via ships plying the Red Sea to Constantinople where an estimated 900,000 people were eradicated in less than 100 years.

The author also argues that the climate changes also created famine, which collapsed the old empires. This opened the door to invasions of the barbarian tribes from the east, and consequently brought on a long period of warfare and civil unrest. This, Keys believes, is the root of the civil phenomenon we now call the Dark Ages.

So just what happened in 535 AD that would cause such a catastrophic disruption of the advance of civilization?

Keyes suggests a very large volcanic eruption, something even larger than the great blast of Krakatoa that sunk ships and killed civilians caught within hundreds of miles of the volcano in 1883. This famous eruption between the islands of Sumatra and Java send ash and smoke into the stratosphere that, indeed, dimmed the light and brought brilliant sunsets all over the world for months. It is Keys suggestion that the villain in the year 535 also may have been Krakatoa, which erupted with an even more powerful blast.

The concept of social and economic changes brought about by catastrophe certainly is not a new one. Historians have been coming up with various theories, ranging from a meteorite collision to a pole shift for the sudden extinction of the dinosaurs. Then there is Immanuel Velikovsky, who theorized in the 1950s that the Earth was once in collision with a maverick planet.

Indeed, the cause of the one-thousand-year period of war, barbarism, and mass suffering by the illiterate masses throughout Europe is not an easy riddle to solve when looked at it in the light of contemporary religious and social belief systems.

J. S. Chiappalone, author of various books condoning Gnosticism and explaining his version of the current condition of the world, suggests an entirely different reason for the period of dark history. He argues that the world has been under the control of evil forces for so long that people believe war, corruption, violence and disease is a status quo. In his book The Kingdom of Zion, Chiappalone quotes historian Charles Van Doren who declares "a large part of mankind's ingenuity has gone into inventing new ways of killing and torturing other human beings, and the threat of pain of death has been found to be the best, and often the only, means of ruling large numbers of people."

Describing the so-called "civilizations" that arose in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, India and China, Van Doren said "these empires gave their people law, which is to say, a measure of peace and security against the violence of other people like themselves. But they provided no security against the rulers themselves, who ruled by violence and guile."

Chiappalone then goes on to point out that throughout known history, nothing has changed. Even though there has been an occasional flowering of great nations, mankind has never really evolved from the barbaric character he was when it all began. We in the United States, Europe, and Asia have demonstrated this over and over again in our actions, right up to modern times.

Chiappalone asks: "Have there been less wars, less carnage, less torture, less violence, more civilization in this century than existed thousands of years ago? If anything, there have been far more. This has been described by many and confirmed by the number of deaths to be the most violent century in known human history."

Looking at the world from Chiappalone's perspective we must conclude that the dark ages never ended.

(c) 2019 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles.

Then House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, surrounded by members of her caucus, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on November 28, 2018.

Trump Writes Sad Ballads As The New House Majority Arrives
By William Rivers Pitt

After a 90-minute Cabinet meeting on Wednesday where Trump was lying or bragging or both throughout, he met with Nancy Pelosi and a congressional delegation to "discuss" border security, the Wall and the government shutdown. Before the delegation even had a chance to sit down, Trump deployed a pair of brazen lies about his beloved Wall: The trade deal he just struck means Mexico will pay for it (nope), and, in his words, "much of the Wall has already been fully renovated or built" (likewise nope).

The Trump-Pelosi meeting Wednesday evening predictably came to nothing, and not just for the reasons you might suspect. Donald Trump hasn't realized he's betting all his chips on a busted straight and still believes he can bare-face his way through the muddle he's made for himself, but we knew that. Word came down on Wednesday afternoon, however, that Trump and his people have somehow convinced themselves that Pelosi lacks the votes to become Speaker. The White House chose to punt the meeting to Friday and see who's still standing once the smoke clears. Pro tip: Pelosi has it in the bag.

What a perfectly ridiculous way to ring in a new year.

It is my most devout and fervent hope that you were able to spend the days between the Christmas holiday and the New Year resting and ignoring the president of the United States and his ongoing government shutdown with all your might. If you managed to do so, congratulations: You are smarter for the effort. If you were sucked into the vortex of gibbering nonsense deployed by Donald Trump before the ball dropped in New York City, well, welcome to the club; we get jackets.

If you missed it, allow me to catch you up. The barrage began on Christmas Day and hasn't yet ended. Try to contain your shock, but yes, Trump lied to us over and over again in a drumbeat of false accusations and baseless proclamations. His fixation on the now-mythical Wall is causing him to bend the very nature of fiction into audacious new shapes. The Wall for Trump becomes slats at intervals, and Mexico will pay for it once Chuck Schumer coughs up enough US tax dollars to, um, pay for it, or something.

Meanwhile, swaths of the federal government remain shut down. "Irony of ironies," snarks The Washington Post's editorial board, "that shutdown has paralyzed the nation's immigration courts, shuttering many of them and allowing several hundred undocumented immigrants to dodge deportation orders each day the shutdown continues. They are among many hundreds of others whose cases will be postponed for years - or, in effect, indefinitely - for every day the closure lasts."

Pitch this script to a Hollywood producer and they'd laugh you out of the building. Special notice, however, must be given to a tweet sent out hours before the New Year began. This one, my friends, is genuinely special:

Clearly, Mr. Trump did not spend the holiday season acclimating himself to the harshly altered reality facing him today. "Throughout the ages some things NEVER get better and NEVER change" is the lament of a sulky teenager who can't pass a driver's license test ... or the lament of a cornered lout no longer in control of the conversation. For Trump, 2019 isn't just a year; it's an estimate of the number of subpoenas the White House can expect from Pelosi and Co. before Valentine's Day.

"You have Walls and you have Wheels," Trump continued. "It was ALWAYS that way and it will ALWAYS be that way!" Some things beggar likeness, but this strikes me as an eerily strange attempt to channel Bruce Springsteen: "We got one last chance to make a deal / To trade in this Wall for some wheels ..." Who knew The Orange One had such melancholy depths? If he starts trying to channel Jim Morrison, I'm moving to the Mongolian steppe and taking up yak herding.

Trump will have ample time to plumb those depths, starting today, for the new majority in the House of Representatives did not let the grass grow beneath their 40-seat November victory. Already, no less than six appropriations bills are prepared and ready to end the government shutdown while denying Trump the money he wants for the Wall. This is the same package Senate Republicans supported before Trump scuttled into his own personal Alamo and started chucking fur balls over the walls.

Having the appropriations tuned up and set for passage on day one puts the ball squarely in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's court. "It would be the height of irresponsibility and political cynicism," said Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer in a joint statement, "for Senate Republicans to now reject the same legislation they have already supported."

And then there are the investigations. According to CNN, the House Judiciary Committee, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a third as-yet unnamed committee have been racking and stacking resumes with an eye toward the presidential jugular. They are specifically fielding staff candidates with expertise in "criminal law, immigration law, constitutional law, intellectual property law, commercial and administrative law (including antitrust and bankruptcy), or oversight work." A separate job advertisement seeks "investigative counsel to conduct congressional investigations and advise on policy matters related to oversight of the executive branch."

"The White House, meanwhile, seems wholly unprepared for what's about to happen," reports Rafi Schwartz of Splinter News. "It's understaffed, for one, and also increasingly unable to respond to even Robert Mueller's existing Special Counsel investigation, thanks to the president's total unpredictability."

If you have the requisite skill set, it's probably not too late to send a resume to Pelosi's office. I'm just sayin'. Good work if you can get it.

(c) 2019 William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co_written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.

Buhleemee Or Bulee Your Lying Eyes
By Heather Digby Parton

He's insisting that he never announced a precipitous withdrawal from Syria:

President Trump on Monday pushed back against media reports that he had altered the timeline for removing U.S. troops from Syria, denying his administration had issued a series of contradictory statements about plans for ending America's role in the war.

"We will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!" the president said in a message on Twitter, referring to the Pentagon's ongoing operation to defeat the Islamic State.

His comment, which differed from earlier promises of a swift departure for the more than 2,000 U.S. troops stationed in Syria, was the latest iteration of an envolving roadmap for concluding the military mission there.

Trump's statement came a day after national security adviser John Bolton, speaking to reporters during a tour of the Middle East, said the troop departure would occur only after Islamic State militants are fully routed.

Both his comments and Trump's conflict with officials' initial statements following the president's unexpected Dec. 19 announcement that all troops would come home in short order. Trump also declared victory against the Islamic State, contradicting military assessments.

"Our boys, our young women, our men, they're all coming back and they're coming back now. We won," Trump said in a video message on Twitter.

That abrupt pronouncement upended plans for a continued presence in Syria, where U.S. troops work with Syrian Kurdish forces battling militants in the eastern part of the country.

The unexpected move shocked allies, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned after clashing with Trump over the plans.

While officials said Trump had initially ordered a 30-day departure, the White House later agreed to an exit within 120 days, which would permit troops more time to break down bases and safely remove equipment and personnel.

In recent days, White House and State Department officials have appeared to back away from plans for an immediate departure and from assertions that the battle against the militants was over.

Instead they have suggested the drawdown would be conditioned on the conclusion of fighting with the Islamic State and on a promise from Turkey, a NATO ally, that it would not attack Syrian partner forces, which Ankara views as an offshoot of a terrorist group.

This is a total walkback which I would normally find alarming but since Trump made this decision on the fly wihtout any discussion with allies and others, against the advice of virtually everyone, perhaps a "pause" is at least in order so that the world can figure out what the hell is going on.

(c) 2019 Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

Migrants view a live televised speech by President Donald Trump on border security at a shelter for migrants
on January 8, 2019 in Tijuana, Mexico. Tijuana continues to house migrants hoping to cross the border into the U.S.

About Last Night
Trump's Oval Office Address was a sham and a disgrace
By Michael Winship

I come to you more from sorrow than from anger, President Trump seemed to be trying to say when he addressed the nation Tuesday night. But he was lying, of course, and the effect was more like that of the Big Bad Wolf dressing up in grandma's nightgown than a person truly concerned with the fate of anyone other than himself.

The speech was to be his big moment. Live from the Oval Office, he would make the case to the nation that a beefed-up southern border, with guns and drones and a wall-now of steel, not concrete-would ensure our superiority and purity, a goal more than worthy of a government shutdown.

No doubt Trump's deputy chief of staff for communications, the ousted-for-turning-a-blind-eye-to-sexual-harassment-at-Fox-News exec Bill Shine screwed his TV skills to the sticking point trying to hone the presentation and create an image of compassion. This was one instance in which Trump's inability to read convincingly from a Teleprompter almost paid off. It made him seem more subdued than usual, which some may have mistaken for thoughtfulness.

The words "love" and "loved" were mentioned. So were "heart" and "soul." And "sad." These must have tested well and if truly sincere might have suggested a hint of empathy from this president. Concern was even expressed for "African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans" whose jobs and wages, he alleged, were negatively affected by the undocumented. Presidential crocodile tears.

Twice Trump spoke of a "humanitarian crisis." He said it was a "cycle of human suffering that I am determined to end." But it's a crisis and a cycle he himself has created. The harsh treatment of those seeking asylum, the separation of families at the border, the overcrowding, hunger, disease and death in dirty, airless detention facilities; all are the result of Trump's misbegotten policy of cruelty as a deterrent.

The speech was barely begun when it was back to the same old, same old scare tactics and paranoia egged on by xenophobic senior advisor Stephen Miller, the insect-gobbling Renfield to Trump's Count Dracula. Crimes committed by the undocumented-rape, murder, gang attacks, trafficking, mutilation-verbal images of all these calumnies perpetrated by the few were conjured and exaggerated by the president to smear the many, the tens of thousands of refugees trying to escape the poverty, injustice and violence of their homelands.

The problems of drugs and crime and terror are real but pinning it all on the undocumented is illusory and the cheapest of cheap political shots. Meanwhile, the shutdown is a charade of ugly political motivation and manipulation that cripples governance and threatens the livelihood of hundreds of thousands.

On one level Trump wants his wall the way a senile billionaire alumnus insists on building another school gym with his name on it when what the old alma mater desperately needs is a new library and student housing. On another, even baser level, pure meanness seems to be his oxygen

There's a crisis all right, but he lives in the White House. And his deportation order can't come soon enough.

(c) 2018 Michael Winship is the Schumann Senior Writing Fellow for Common Dreams. Previously, he was the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and, a past senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos and former president of the Writers Guild of America East. Follow him on twitter:@MichaelWinship

It Might Be Time To Start Fireproofing The Reichstag
Ruth Bader Ginsburg's absence signals our last line of defense is in peril.
By Charles P. Pierce

It Might Be Time To Start Fireproofing The Reichstag Ruth Bader Ginsburg's absence signals our last line of defense is in peril. It's time for everyone to start getting used to the fact that, unless some massive legal apocalypse intervenes, the president* is going to get at least one more nominee for the United States Supreme Court and that, barring a sudden desire to keep the republic from turning entirely to guacamole, the Senate is going to rubber-stamp Justice Wingnut McWingnutty onto the Court for the next 40 years. That's not the bleakest speculation. The bleakest speculation is that he gets more than one.

Happy Monday!

The most recent speculation was prompted by the fact that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg missed oral arguments on Monday for the first time since she's been on the Court. From CNN:

Ginsburg's absence came midway through the term as the justices will consider petitions concerning some of President Donald Trump's most controversial policies, including the phase-out of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and his ban on most transgender individuals from serving in the military. Ginsburg was released from the hospital about two weeks ago, according to the court, following the surgery earlier last month. The court said there was no evidence of any remaining disease following the surgery. The nodules themselves were discovered incidentally following tests after a fall she sustained in November. The key liberal justice returned to the court shortly after the fall that fractured three of her ribs last November.

Unmentioned in the CNN story is the fact that the administration* is giving off unmistakable signs that it might be wise to start fireproofing the Reichstag. From USA Today:

"We can call a national emergency and build it very quickly," President Donald Trump said Friday. "But if we can do it through a negotiated process, we are giving that a shot." The president repeated that assertion Sunday and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said on CNN's "State of the Union" that Trump had directed "every single Cabinet secretary and the Office of Management and Budget to go out and find money that can be used legally to guard the southern border." "Presidents have authority to defend the nation," Mulvaney said, adding that he was personally involved in the hunt to find funds that could be steered toward a border wall.
Now, he has announced that he will give a Big Boy speech on TV Tuesday night, which will be followed by his taking his unending road show to the border on Thursday because that's just what the border needs. He can go there because there is no emergency. There is no emergency just because the president* will say there is. (I think the networks who will cover this dog-and-lizard show are obligated to give the Democrats time for rebuttal.) In any event, if he tries this foolishness, it's invariably going to end up in the courts, which are the last line of defense, and they're thinning precipitously.

There is a huge constitutional crisis brewing over an endless series of lies from the executive branch. And there are dozens of embryonic Kavanaughs waiting in the wings.

(c) 2019 Charles P. Pierce has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently 'Idiot America.' He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.

The Quotable Quote-

"We cannot have a world where everyone is a victim. I'm this way because my father made me this way. I'm this way because my husband made me this way. Yes, we are indeed formed by traumas that happen to us. But then you must take charge, you must take over, you are responsible."
" ~~~ Camille Paglia

"It's Your Congress, People!" Make it work for you!
By Ralph Nader

Congress is the Constitutionally delegated repository of the sovereign authority of the people (the Constitution which starts with "We the People," not "We the Congress!"). Most of the changes, reforms, and improvements desired by a majority of people have to go through Congress. Incentives for change often start with Congressional elections or grass-roots organizing. But sooner or later, change has to go through the gates of our national legislature on Capitol Hill.

This point is so obvious that it is astonishing so many reformers fail to regularly hammer home that we must intensely focus on Congress.

Just 535 humans (Senators and Representatives) need your votes far more than they need fat cat campaign contributions.

Guess what the following twelve redirections or changes have in common with one another?

1. A living wage, much higher than the long-frozen federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
2. Full Medicare for all or what is called a "single payer" system covering everybody, with free choice of doctor and hospital, is much cheaper and has better outcomes than the present complex, bureaucratic, price-gouging, claim denying, profits-first chaos in the U.S.
3. Moving swiftly to a renewable, solar-based, wind-powered, more efficient energy system, that diminishes climate disruption and toxic pollution.
4. Cleaner air, water, soil and food for a healthful environmental for today and for coming generations.
5. Clean elections reform and strong, enforceable laws against public corruption.
6. Criminal justice reform, especially regarding non-violent offenses and additional reforms of sentencing and prisons.
7. Stopping taxpayers from being required to pay for very costly corporate welfare, or what conservatives call "crony capitalism" in all its many forms.
8. Enforcing the criminal and civil laws against corporate rip-offs, thefts, hazardous products, and hearing the voices of workers, consumers and those from beleaguered communities (especially on the public's airwaves unfairly controlled by the monetized gatekeepers called radio and television stations).
9.Protecting access to justice for wrongfully injured people to have their full day in court with trial by jury as demanded by the country's founders and our Constitution.
10. Protection of the public lands - the national and state forests and the national parks and wilderness regions from corporate profit-driven encroachment and despoliation.
11. Re-evaluating the loss of lives from unconstitutional, boomeranging wars abroad that spread death and destruction abroad making more people our enemies. These wars have also taken trillions of taxpayer dollars from rebuilding our community infrastructure - schools, highways, bridges, public transit, libraries, health clinics, drinking water/sewage works, and environmental cleanups.
12. Make it easier for consumers, workers, and small taxpayers to band together for civic action and a powerful seat at the table with big businesses and their government toadies.

These twelve advances have the following in common:

(1) They have majority public opinion support - in some cases huge support- which means many liberal and conservative voters agree, which can produce an unstoppable political movement.

(2) Most of them cost nothing or little to implement, bringing more efficiencies and less damage to our society. Wisdom is less expensive than constant folly or deep greed!

(3) They are understandable. People relate to the experiences, agonies, and dreams for a better life and livelihood for themselves and for their families.

(4) They provide people with a sense of empowerment and accomplishment - traits necessary for a worthy democracy to work. Cynicism and withdrawal begin to be reversed in favor of engagement and new civic institutions needed by our posterity.

(5) They all have to go through our Congress - a good majority of only 535 people whose names we know become much more responsive to citizen action, people-driven town meetings, civic agendas, and democratizing procedures inside Congress.

Start by inviting the old and new members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to your town-meetings. Five hundred citizens clearly signing a petition will get a Senator to attend; considerably fewer names a U.S. Representative.

When you have them face-to-face with no flak, you'll see what "we the people" can accomplish. It has happened before in American history; it must happen again. (For more advice, see

(c) 2019 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His latest book is The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future. Other recent books include, The Seventeen Traditions: Lessons from an American Childhood, Getting Steamed to Overcome Corporatism: Build It Together to Win, and "Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us" (a novel).

Paradise, California: Just Another Casualty Of Corporate Greed
By Jane Stillwater

Paradise, California: Just Another Casualty Of Corporate Greed Do Latino immigrants really steal all of our jobs? Are Black people really the source of most crime in America? No, no and no. Of course not. Most of our missing jobs have been stolen by global corporations that are still bedazzled by outsourcing and Reaganomics. And America's true super-criminals are 99% White.

After I finished volunteering at a Red Cross shelter in Chico that had efficiently geared up to house hundreds of the survivors of the recent Paradise fire, I went off to wander around Chico itself, a sweet university town famous for its small Craftsman-style homes.

Near Chico's public library, however, I got distracted from my tour by a toothless skinny seriously scroungy middle-aged dirty-blonde female meth-head who was standing on a street corner and screaming her head off. I approached her slowly and cautiously -- like one would approach some feral wild animal, actually thinking that I might be of some help.

"Were you caught in the Paradise wildfire?" I asked her. Yes, she was. Everything gone. "Then why don't you just stay at the shelter?" Her eyes rolled around in her head. I took a step back. This was obviously none of my business. She grabbed my arm.

"Those bastards threw me out!" she screamed. And I could definitely understand why. I handed her a couple of dollars, hoping to buy her off long enough to get out of there -- but she wasn't done yet. "I used to work in a factory," she rambled, almost starting to calm down. "Had a really good job too. Then they moved my [freaking] job overseas." Ah. Reaganomics at its finest -- what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine too.

"I had no place to go. I moved to Paradise." Where she apparently started making her living by cooking meth back up in the hills. Hmmm. Could a meth-lab explosion have started the Paradise fire, I thought -- kinda taking my eyes off the woman for an instant. Bad idea. She immediately started revving up into meth-head mode again. "And just look at you, bitch!" she cried. "All warm and comfy in your big puffy jacket and boots. You don't have a clue what it's like to be me!" Hey, I gots economic troubles too! But then she spit at me and I moved on.

Actually, I ran back into the library and hid in the women's restroom until some mothers with children started giving me strange looks.

So I borrowed one of the library's computers and googled "Paradise" and "Meth". Turns out that Paradise wasn't just a sweet little retirement community after all. It was also the "Meth Capital of California." That explains a lot. This woman wasn't the first meth-head I'd seen wandering aimlessly around Chico. I'd seen lots of them, apparently disgorged by the fire.

So. What have I learned? Other than that I tend to be sort of a wimp around out-of-control meth-heads? I learned that it wasn't the immigrants who stole our jobs here -- and that it isn't Black people who are the top American criminals. It is the greedy American corporations who have created the economic mess that we are currently trapped in. Duh.

I also learned that it was the American "privatization" (aka theft) and the American "downsizing" (aka greed) that went on here during the Reagan years that screwed all the rest of us up -- and that these heinous crimes are still going on right here right now.

Apparently the Paradise wildfire has burned down the homes of thousands of its residents, but it has also flushed hundreds of meth-heads out of the hills as well -- the non-urban homeless, the invisible rural economic casualties of American greed. And I was there too. It was not a pretty picture. Americans deserve better than to be cast off like old shoes by the global elites. But, hell, if they can do that to Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Vietnam and Honduras, they can easily do that to us too -- so stop acting so surprised.

(c) 2019 Jane Stillwater. Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world. And while you're at it, please buy my books!

The Dead Letter Office-

Marco gives the corporate salute

Heil Trump,

Dear Uberfuhrer Rubio

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 "Combatting BDS Act" that destroys the 1st amendment for your Zionazi puppet masters, 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 "Rethuglican 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 02-16-2019. We salute you herr Rubio, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

Why We Must Get Big Money Out Of Politics
By Robert Reich

The most important thing we must do to save our democracy is get big money out of politics. It's a prerequisite to accomplishing everything else.

Today, big money continues to corrupt American politics - creating a vicious cycle that funnels more wealth and power to those at the top and eroding our democracy.

In the 2018 midterm elections, wealthy donors and Super-PACs poured millions into the campaigns of the same lawmakers who voted to pass the 2017 tax cuts, which gave them huge windfalls.

Consider conservative donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, whose casino business received an estimated $700 million windfall, thanks to Trump and Republicans' tax cuts. The couple then used some of this extra cash to plow more than $113 million dollars into the 2018 election, breaking the record for political contributions by a single household.

That's not a bad return on investment - for them.

All told, almost 40 percent of total contributions in the 2018 midterms came from people who donated $10,000 or more. Yet these mega-donors comprise a tiny 0.01 percent of the U.S. population.

It's a worsening vicious cycle: Lawmakers cut taxes and slash regulations for their wealthy campaign donors. Mega-donors and corporations funnel some of that money back into our political system to keep their lackeys in power. Politicians then propose another round of tax cuts, subsidies or bailouts to secure even more donations.

If this isn't corruption, I don't know what is. It also breeds cynicism in our democracy. The game seems rigged because it is. A 2015 poll found that the majority of Americans say lawmakers are corrupt, out of touch with their constituents, and beholden to special interests.

In the 2018 midterms, Americans demanded an end to the corruption. And there are signs lawmakers are finally getting message. House Democrats' first piece of legislation aims to end the big-money takeover.

We must end this vicious cycle in order to reclaim our democracy. We must get big money out of politics. Now.

(c) 2019 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 web site is

The Election Circus Begins
By Chris Hedges

It is January 2019. This signals the start of the 2020 election circus. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the first big-name Democrat on stage. But we will soon be deluged with candidates, bizarre antics and endless commentary by fatuous TV and radio pundits. The hyperventilating, the constant polling, the updates on who has the largest campaign war chest, the hypothetical matches between this hopeful and that hopeful, the mocking tweets by Donald Trump, will, as we saw in the 2016 election campaign, have as much relevance to our lives and political future as the speculation on cable sports channels about next year's football season. This farce takes the place of genuine political life.

It costs a lot of money to mount this spectacle. Our corporate masters, like the oligarchic rulers of ancient Rome who poured money into the arena as they stripped the empire and its citizens of their assets, are happy to oblige. The campaign sustains the fiction of a democracy and gives legitimacy to the corporate state. Maybe Hillary Clinton, who raised $1 billion in her 2016 run for president, will return for another season, although the Bill and Hillary tour is now a debacle with empty seats and slashed ticket prices. Maybe Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders will make comebacks. And what about the new faces in the scramble for the presidency-Beto O'Rourke, former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg?

It is a political version of the reality television show "Survivor." Who will be the first knocked out? Who will make it into the semifinals and the finals? Who is the most devious and cunning? Who will come out on top? We get to vote for the contestants that appeal to us most, or at least vote against those we hate the most. The cable news shows, in a prelude to the nonstop idiocy to come, have spent the last few days speculating about whom Mitt Romney will endorse in the 2020 race. Now, there's a burning question of national importance.

To take power in 2021 in lieu of any real policy changes, the Democratic Party is banking on the deep animus toward President Trump. It has no intention of instituting genuine populist programs, rebuilding unions, funding universal health care, providing free college tuition or curbing the criminal activities of the corporations and the big banks. The war machine will continue to wage endless war and consume half of all discretionary spending. The vaunted new populist members of Congress will be no more than window dressing, trotted out, like Sanders, to trick voters into thinking the Democratic Party is capable of reform. Most voters, for this reason, are "voting out of loathing, against enemies and against the system in general, not really for anybody," as journalist Matt Taibbi points out.

Working men and women especially despise the slick-talking politicians-including the Clintons and Barack Obama-and the "experts" and well-groomed pundits on their screens who sold them the con that deindustrialization, deregulation, austerity, bailing out the banks, nearly two decades of constant war, the exporting of jobs overseas, tax cuts for the rich and the impoverishment of the working class were forms of progress. Trump hangs on to the support of white working Americans because he expresses through his adolescent insults and dynamiting of political norms the legitimate hatred they feel toward the well-heeled, college-educated ruling elites who sold them out. The Democrats, at the same time, understand that it takes someone as revolting as Trump to fire up their lethargic base, a group in which millions do not vote. They cling to a tactic of "anybody but Trump" even though it did not work in 2016.

The corporate media ignores issues and policies, since there is little genuine disagreement among the candidates, and presents the race as a beauty contest. The fundamental question the press asks is not what do the candidates stand for but whom do the voters like. As for now, Warren-the only nationally known Democrat except Julian Castro to form an exploratory committee for a presidential bid-is not winning this popularity contest. A CNN/Des Moines Register Iowa poll-yes, polling in Iowa already has begun-puts her fourth, with only 8 percent of support among the Democrats surveyed, behind Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Beto O'Rourke.

Our corporate rulers do not need to denounce democracy. Democratic laws, such as who can fund campaigns, have been subverted from within, their original purposes redefined by the courts and legislative bodies to serve corporate power. This managed democracy has transformed elections from the simple, straightforward process of voting for a party platform or party positions to vast, choreographed theatrical productions. Politicians run on "moral" issues and use public relations experts to create manufactured personalities. Trump, his image constructed by a reality television show, proved more adept than his rivals at playing this game the last time around.

Politicians must stick to the script. They have well-defined roles. They express a suffocating, reality-defying positivism about the future of America. They are steadfast in their obsequious praise of the nation's "heroes" in the military and law enforcement. They are silent about the crimes of empire. They ignore the plight of the poor; indeed the word "poor" is banished from their vocabulary. They pretend we do not live in a corporate oligarchy, although they acknowledge amorphous attacks on the middle class and promise to stem the assault. They exude a cloying feel-your-pain compassion that revolves around personal stories of the hardships they overcame in their own lives to become "successes"-the most ludicrous being Trump's claim that he turned a "very small" loan from his father into a multibillion-dollar real estate empire. They telegraph to us that they are one of us. We can be like them. They trot out their wives, husbands and children, even when a spouse like Melania Trump looks as if she has been taken hostage, to portray themselves as family men and women. They claim they are outsiders, ignoring their long political careers and their status as members of the wealthy ruling elite. They are no different from the array of self-help gurus who ignore systemic injustice and social decay to peddle schemes for personal success. The formula is universal. It is the triumph of artifice, what Benjamin DeMott called "junk politics."

Those who do not play this game, like Ralph Nader, or who like Sanders play it begrudgingly-Sanders refused corporate money, has called for reforming "the bloated and wasteful $716 billion annual Pentagon budget" and addresses issues of class-are ridiculed and marginalized by a monochromatic corporate media that banishes qualification, ambiguity, nuance and genuine dialogue. Trump's success as a candidate came, in large part, because of the constant media attention he received. Those like Sanders who attempt to defy the rules of the game are punished. The goal is entertainment. Politicians who are good entertainers do well. The poor entertainers do badly. The networks seek to attract viewers and increase profits, not disseminate information about political issues. Voters have little or no say in who decides to run, who gets funded, how campaigns are managed, what television ads say, which candidates get covered by the press or who gets invited to presidential debates. They are spectators, pawns used to legitimize political farce.

"At issue is more than crude bribery," the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin writes in "Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Spector of Inverted Totalitarianism." "Campaign contributions are a vital tool of political management. They create a pecking order that calibrates, in strictly quantitative and objective terms, whose interests have priority. The amount of corruption that regularly takes place before elections means that corruption is not an anomaly but an essential element in the functioning of managed democracy. The entrenched system of bribery and corruption involves no physical violence, no brown-shirted storm troopers, no coercion of the political opposition. While the tactics are not those of the Nazis, the end result is the inverted equivalent. Opposition has not been liquidated but rendered feckless."

This process, Wolin writes, has turned the electorate into "a hybrid creation, part cinematic and part consumer. Like a movie or TV audience, it would be credulous, nurtured on the unreality of images on the screen, the impossible feats and situations depicted, or the promise of personal transformation by a new product. In this the elites were abetted by the long-standing American tradition of dramatic evangelism and its fostering of collective fervor and popular fantasies of the miraculous. It was no leap of faith from the camp meetings of the nineteenth century and the Billy Sundays of the twentieth century to the politically savvy televangelist of the twenty-first century."

The corporations that own the media and the two major political parties have a vested interest in making sure there is never serious public discussion about issues ranging from our disastrous for-profit health care system and endless wars to the virtual tax boycott that large corporations have legalized. The corporate system is presented as sacrosanct and the ruling ideology of neoliberalism as natural law. The corporations are funding the show. They get what they pay for.

Sanders, it appears, will run again as a Democrat, despite the theft of the 2016 nomination by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party hierarchy. His next campaign, to quote Samuel Johnson, will be the triumph of hope over experience. The Democratic establishment and the media sharks will, if Sanders uses the old playbook, devour him. They have already severely diminished his stature by turning him into Clinton and Chuck Schumer's barking seal.

The differences between the right-wing media and the liberal media are minuscule. As Taibbi writes in "Insane Clown President: Dispatches From the 2016 Circus," they are "really just two different strategies of the same kind of nihilistic lizard-brain sensationalism. The ideal CNN story is a baby down a well, while the ideal Fox story is probably a baby thrown down a well by a Muslim terrorist or an ACORN activist. Both companies offer the same service, it's just that the Fox version is a little kinkier."

"Elections are about a lot of things, but at the highest level, they're about money," Taibbi writes. "The people who sponsor election campaigns, who pay hundreds of millions of dollars to fund the candidates' charter jets and TV ads and 25-piece marching banks, those people have concrete needs. They want tax breaks, federal contracts, regulatory relief, cheap financing, free security for shipping lanes, anti-trust waivers and dozens of other things."

"They mostly don't care about abortion or gay marriage or school vouchers or any of the social issues the rest of us spend our time arguing about. It's about the money for them, and as far as that goes, the CEO class has had a brilliantly winning electoral strategy for a generation. They donate heavily to both parties, essentially hiring two different sets of politicians to market their needs to the population. The Republicans give them everything that they want, while the Democrats only give them mostly everything. They get everything from the Republicans because you don't have to make a single concession to a Republican voter. All you have to do to secure a Republican vote is show lots of pictures of gay people kissing or black kids with their pants down or Mexican babies at an emergency room."

The Republican strategy of playing to the lowest common denominator ensured that eventually the useful idiots would take over and elect one of their own, in Donald Trump. Trump is the epitome of the human mutation produced by an illiterate, dumbed-down age of electronic images. He, like tens of millions of other Americans, believes anything he sees on television. He does not read. He is consumed by vanity and the cult of the self. He is a conspiracy theorist. He blames America's complex social and economic ills on scapegoats such as Mexican immigrants and Muslims, and of course the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party, in turn, blames Trump's election on Russia and former FBI Director James Comey. It is the theater of the absurd.

The childish gibberish Trump speaks is the new language of political discourse. His taunting tweets against his enemies are countered by his enemies with taunting tweets against him. These grade-school-level insults dominate the daily news cycle. The political process, captured by commercial interests, devolved to Trump's imbecilic level. The presidential election of 2020 has begun. The circus, with its freaks, con artists and clowns, is open for business.

(c) 2019 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

The Cartoon Corner-

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Pat Bagley ~~~

To End On A Happy Note-

Have You Seen This-

Parting Shots-

Turning Trump Around
By Will Durst

Donald Trump and global warming. Not what you would call your match made in heaven. Rather, the pairing harkens closer to the other location. That hotter destination often described as being in a more Southernly direction. The one with the pitchfork racks on the scorched walls of the foyer.

Not only does the president not believe in global warming, he thinks the exact opposite is going on. Whatever that is. He's not really sure. But it's definitely neither warming nor global. Could be localized. Could be cooling. Still snows in New Hampshire in the winter, don't it?

His series of climate change denials have included calling it a hoax, blaming the Chinese and saying it could turn back on its own. He even said it was a spurious plot dreamed up by Crooked Hillary to make him look bad, and claimed he would have won the popular vote if millions of illegals hadn't flooded the polls.

He pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords, even though hundreds of U.S. corporations lobbied to stay in. Because apparently they have access to research that seems to indicate that the extinction of the human species might adversely affect quarterly dividends. Especially in the retail sector.

In their most recent report, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced an updated strategy: learn to live with it. Remember when they said that if something wasn't done within ten years, all hell was going to break loose? Well, that was 16 years ago. So what they're saying now is, the basement is already full of gas, we should concentrate on lighting the fewest matches.

Then Trump's own administration was forced to issue the 1,600 page national climate assessment, which they attempted to bury by releasing it the day after Thanksgiving. You know, that blackest of Fridays, when most Americans are recovering from ingesting enough calories to stuff a wooly mammoth. Speaking of extinct species.

That report suggests that unless something is done by 2100, 10 percent of our GNP could disappear due to environmental deterioration. There you go. See, that's how you reach the guy. Focus on ramifications he can understand. And losing money would certainly be one of them.

So here are some other possible items of note to help convince Mr. Trump that climate change might not be the best thing since sliced bread.

- Rising ocean levels washing through Mar-A-Lago would necessitate the refurbishment of a large amount of rooms.

- Increased humidity guaranteed to make his daily hair scaffolding ritual more complicated.

- Might prove to be a major inconvenience for Sean Hannity.

- Rudy Giuliani would dissolve into an oil slick that would dissipate and befoul beaches up and down the entire east coast.

- Would definitely affect Melania's complexion. And not necessarily in a good way.

- Can almost guarantee it would interfere with the intricate electronics that allow Mike Pence to appear so lifelike.

- Might prove to be a major inconvenience for Vladimir Putin.

- Kellyanne Conway can't float.

- Scientists predict wars breaking out over dwindling food and water supplies and we all know how much he enjoys his snacks.

- Having the carts burning up on his golf courses might negatively affect resort revenues. Because as everyone knows, a dead member is not a dues paying member.

(c) 2019 Will Durst is an award-winning, nationally acclaimed comedian, columnist, and former sod farmer in New Berlin, Wisconsin. For past columns, commentaries and a calendar of personal appearances, please please visit:

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Issues & Alibis Vol 19 # 02 (c) 01/11/2019

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