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In This Edition

Chris Walker reports, "Voting Rights Groups Tell Biden: Don't Come To Atlanta Without A Plan."

Ralph Nader says to, "Think Big To Overcome Losing Big To Corporatism."

Margaret Kimberley returns with a must read, "Covid Fueled By Neoliberal Austerity."

Jim Hightower wonders, "What If Antibiotics No Longer Work?"

Greg Palast returns with, "Kazakhstan Uprising Against Rulers Bribed By Exxon, BP."

John Nichols thinks, "Tom Barrett Will Find His Happy Place In Luxembourg."

James Donahue wonders, "Are UFOs Hiding Behind The Clouds?"

David Swanson explores, "Why Russia Is Crazy."

David Suzuki considers, "Everything Under The Sun."

Charles P. Pierce concludes, "Debunked? There's No Such Thing As 'Debunked' Anymore."

Juan Cole asks, "Afghans Face Harsh Winter, Hunger, Lack Of Health Clinics: How Much Of It Is Our Fault?"

Robert Reich finds, "As Job Gains Slow, The Fed And Congress Apply The Wrong Medicine."

Thom Hartmann asks, "What's Next For Corporate Democrat Plotters? Voting Rights."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Sean Hannity Informs January 6th Panel That Swearing To Tell The Truth Would Violate His Contract With Fox," but first, Uncle Ernie sez, "I'm Having A Deja Vu All Over Again. How About You?"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Pat Bagley, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from, Tom Tomorrow, Evelyn Hockstein, Juliane Liebermann, Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Stephen Melkisethian, Kylie Cooper, Oliver Douliery, John Moore, Jim Hightower, Pexels, AFP, Unsplash, 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 -
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I'm Having A Deja Vu All Over Again. How About You?
Global warming strikes again!
By Ernest Stewart

"We simply must do everything we can in our power to slow down global warming before it is too late... The science is clear. The global warming debate is over." ~~~ Arnold Schwarzenegger

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me
Help ~~~ The Beatles

You may recall when a Democratic president was in the White House. The Democratic Party held a majority of seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. But a single senator - a moderate Democrat from West Virginia - blocked the White House's preferred climate plan. No, this wasn't 2021 - the year was 1993: Jurassic Park had just been released, Bill Clinton was president, and atmospheric carbon dioxide was only 357 parts per million (it's 415 ppm today). Senator Robert Byrd of fossil-fuel laden West Virginia was the chair of the Senate Appropriations committee, and without his support, the Clinton administration couldn't pass a tax on carbon emissions to address climate change. The White House opted to support an energy tax instead, which passed the House but, faced with substantial opposition and fossil-fuel lobbying, never became law.

It was the first climate policy failure of many. Four years later, Byrd spearheaded a resolution that prevented the U.S. from ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Other efforts to pass climate legislation stalled nearly every year after. Indeed, the last three decades of U.S. climate policy look like a graveyard of failed bills: Carbon taxes have died on the Senate floor and been torched by attack ads. Cap-and-trade systems have been endorsed - and then abandoned - by Republicans and Democrats alike.

According to the Climate Change Performance Index, the U.S. is 55th in the world when it comes to climate policy; another analysis by Yale University and Columbia University ranked the country 24th for environmental performance. Now, as Democrats struggle to regroup after current West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin's refusal to support President Joe Biden's landmark climate and social welfare bill, it seems to be happening again. The U.S. is within reach of passing climate policy, but perilously close to falling short.

Biden's giant climate bill - known as the Build Back Better Act - is still in play. Democrats have vowed to try and pass it regardless of Manchin's stance, while the West Virginia senator has said publicly that the climate sections of the bill may be easier to reach agreement on than, say, the Child Tax Credit. But earlier this week, Manchin also claimed that there have been "no negotiations" about the bill. For the moment, Build Back Better looks like a grim bookend to decades of inaction on climate change.

So what's wrong with the U.S. political system? Is American democracy uniquely incapable of tackling global warming?

"In most countries around the world, it is extremely difficult to pass climate reform," said Matto Mildenberger, a professor of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. But, he added, there are a few things that make dealing with global warming uniquely difficult in the United States; not impossible, but very hard.

In his book, Carbon Captured, Mildenberger argues that the most difficult part about passing climate policy is that fossil fuel interests enjoy something he calls "double representation." That means that they are represented on both the left, through labor unions and industrial workers, and on the right through business interests. This "double representation" has been the death knell of climate policies.

That's because in most democracies, it's easier to block change than to create it. And the United States government, with its separation of powers baked into the Constitution, offers many more opportunities for blocking than other democracies. "The United States has a lot of what in political science are called 'veto points,'" Mildenberger explained. "There's a lot of different individuals in different places that can block a policy, all the way from having a majority in the House of Representatives to having a really conservative Supreme Court."

Those "veto points" have been visible in many of the U.S.'s major climate flops to date. In 2009, a cap-and-trade bill, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's climate strategy, died in the Senate after it became clear that Democrats could not rustle up 60 "yes" votes to overcome the filibuster. (The filibuster: a veto point.) Later, Obama's back-up plan - an order to require utilities to switch over to clean sources of electricity - was challenged in the courts and never implemented. (The courts: another veto point.) Then, in 2017, President Donald Trump announced that he would pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, even though the treaty was non-binding. (Executive action: yet another veto point.) Every time climate advocates have tried to push through change, the story has been distinctly American: veto point, veto point, veto point.

The U.S. electoral system doesn't help much either. The United States has a presidential system, rather than a parliamentary system - meaning that the president, or head of state, does not necessarily belong to the same party as the majority of Congress. That means two branches of government are often pulling in different directions, dooming bills to a no man's land of inaction. Studies have shown that parliamentary systems are generally quicker to establish climate-friendly policies: Many parliamentary democracies like the United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany have already managed to establish carbon prices or similar carbon-cutting measures, but there are exceptions, like the climate policy-averse Australia.

Then there's the U.S.'s single-member House districts which create Congresspeople more focused on representing their geographical areas than toeing the party line. Taken together, the system creates what Roger Karapin calls "centrifugal" forces that separate and divide legislators. "We have 50 states, a huge territory, and a huge population," said Karapin, a professor of political science at Hunter College, City University of New York. "By their nature, members of Congress are appealing to their base back home - and those bases are far apart."

Karapin says the makeup of Congress tilts the country toward fossil fuel interests: Two senators per state means that states dependent on oil and gas or coal have disproportionate weight while less populous states gain outsized representation in Congress. Several of those less populous states - Wyoming, Alaska, the Dakotas - also have substantial fossil fuel reserves.

Combine those barriers with an extremely polarized political system and a powerful fossil fuel industry that can use cash to buy politicians, and the United States' idea of democracy doesn't look like a great place to enact positive climate policies. Ergo, we are doomed, and with us, we doom the planet too!


11-10-1928 ~ 01-08-2022
Thanks for the music!

12-01-1944 ~ 01-08-2022
Thanks for the music!

05-17-1956 ~ 01-09-2022
Thanks for the film!

05-18-1934 ~ 01-09-2022
Thanks for the film!

05-03-1936 ~ 01-11-2022
Thanks for fighting the good fight!

08-10-1943 ~ 01-12-2022
Thanks for the music!


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


Until the next time, Peace!

(c) 2022 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, philosopher, 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.

Vice President Kamala Harris listens to President Joe Biden speak to reporters as he departs
through the Hall of Columns on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

Schumer Says Senate Could Vote On Filibuster Changes Later This Month
It was, indeed, a disastrous year, but we do have some reasons to cheer
By Chris Walker

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are planning to visit Atlanta, Georgia, next week - but a coalition of voting rights organizations are telling them to stay in Washington, D.C., unless they can visit with a plan for strengthening voting protections across the U.S.

In a statement from the White House earlier this week, Biden and Harris announced that they would be visiting Atlanta on Tuesday, January 11, with the aim of promoting voting rights legislation in Congress.

Several Republican-led states across the country, including Georgia, have passed highly restrictive voting laws following former President Donald Trump's loss in the 2020 election. Biden is the first Democrat to win Georgia in a presidential race since 1992.

In a statement released this week, a coalition of voting rights organizations said that Biden and Harris should delay their trip until they explain how voting rights legislation can be passed in a narrowly divided Congress. Several pieces of voting rights legislation have indeed failed in the Senate due to Republican filibusters.

The group suggested that any visit to the state without a plan to overcome such hurdles would be pointless, amounting to no more than a publicity stunt.

"Georgia will not be used as a two-dimensional backdrop, a chess piece in someone else's ineffectual political dealings," the coalition said in a statement.

They added:

Georgia voters made history and made their voices heard, overcoming obstacles, threats, and suppressive laws to deliver the White House and the US Senate. In return, a visit has been forced on them, requiring them to accept political platitudes and repetitious, bland promises. Such an empty gesture, without concrete action, without signs of real, tangible work, is unacceptable.
The groups that took part in issuing the statement include the New Georgia Project Action Fund, the Black Voters Matter Fund, the Asian American Advocacy Fund, and the GALEO Impact Action Fund, a Latinx-based organization.

The coalition said it would "reject any visit by President Biden that does not include an announcement of a finalized voting rights plan that will pass both chambers, not be stopped by the filibuster, and be signed into law."

"Anything less is insufficient and unwelcome," they added.

The Biden administration has not yet responded to the groups' demand.

In a speech on Thursday recognizing the one-year anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol building, both Biden and Harris emphasized the need to protect voting rights, noting that the same lies that drove Trump loyalists to attack Congress were being used to attack the right to vote in statehouses across the country.

"Right now, in state after state, new laws are being written not to protect the vote, but to deny it," Biden said in his speech. "Not only to suppress the vote, but to subvert it. Not to strengthen and protect our democracy, but because the former president lost."

For several months now, efforts to pass voting rights legislation have stalled due to Republican filibusters. Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Democrats would take action to change filibuster rules in the chamber unless Republicans allowed the passage of voting rights legislation.

In his statement, Schumer also connected the attack on the Capitol to the assault on voting rights.

"Much like the violent insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol nearly one year ago, Republican officials in states across the country have seized on the former president's Big Lie about widespread voter fraud to enact anti-democratic legislation and seize control of typically non-partisan election administration functions," Schumer said. The Senate would "take strong action to stop this antidemocratic march" by passing voting rights protection bills, he went on - even if Democrats had to change the filibuster rule to do so.

However, Schumer's statement didn't elaborate whether he was seeking to alter the filibuster or end it altogether.

(c) 2022 Chris Walker is based out of Madison, Wisconsin. Focusing on both national and local topics since the early 2000s, he has produced thousands of articles analysing the issues of the day and their impact on the American people.

Corporate welfare is larger, more varied, and more automatic than ever

Think Big To Overcome Losing Big To Corporatism
Civic groups are winning some skirmishes, while losing the battle and the war to the entrenched corporate state.
By Ralph Nader

The progressive citizen groups, that in the '60s and '70s, drove through Congress the key environmental, worker, and consumer legislation, since unmatched, must feel nostalgic. Those were the years when legislation throwing cruel companies on the defensive was signed by arch-corporatist, President Richard Nixon, because he read the political tea leaves.

These bills included the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and environmental laws, the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for worker health and safety, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and worker pension protection, among others.

Alas, Richard Nixon was the last Republican president to be afraid of liberals. When grade B actor Ronald Reagan flew into Washington, he opened all doors to Big Business. A cruel man with a smile, Reagan gave an actor's cover to the greatest collapse into the corporate power pits in American history.

Here is a checklist showing the takeovers of our government at all levels by the corporate supremacists for whom enough is never enough when it came to profits and power.

1. Regulatory agencies curbing corporate ravages were essentially shut down. Reaganites thought companies should regulate themselves when it comes to the health, safety, and economic well-being of the American people; which is to say, the corporate rule took over the rule of law.

2. Labor unions were weakened by timid leadership, anti-labor policies, acceleration of job exports, and the major shift by the Democratic Party to solicit money from rapidly expanding corporate political action committees (PACs).

3. Congress abandoned its role of checks and balances and gave much of its constitutional power to the imperial, autocratic presidency. This concentration of power and secrecy in the White House seriously weakened the power of civic groups that had been able to start their reform drives in Congress.

4. The consequences of corporatizing Congress allowed the tax system to be filled with escapes and lower rates for the superrich and global corporations. It allowed presidents to get corporatist judges confirmed to dominate the courts. It permitted total inaction on the necessity of strengthening our federal corporate criminal laws, including antitrust enforcement and laws, so out of date that they became out of mind by the supposed enforcers in the executive branch.

5. A spineless Congress fell to its knees before the military-industrial complex so much so that the bloated unaudited 'defense' budget zoomed over 50% of discretionary spending by the federal government. The military empire grew without congressional oversight.

6. Meanwhile, the corporate giants became dominant in weakening the private pillars of American law. They turned freedom of contracts into fine-print consumer servitude, while coercing consumers into also giving up key rights and remedies under the law of torts should they incur wrongful injuries.

A manipulated credit economy took away consumers' control over their own money, subjecting them to penalties, ultimatums, and punitive credit scores.

7. Without challenge to their marketing, corporations commercialized childhood, directly selling to kids junk foods and junk drinks that set off the deadly obesity epidemic and its health-damaging results. They sold violent programming and exploited the weaknesses of children, circumventing parental authority and discipline.

In the Internet Age, corporations can be described as raising our children, getting their personal information for free, and selling this collected data to advertisers. They are trapping these youngsters in the peonage of click-on contracts they never see through in their daily screen hours.

Whether in reality or virtual reality, corporations have become electronic child molesters with few pursuing sheriffs.

8. Corporate globalization has erected mechanisms such as corporate-managed trade agreements that operate to pull down our standards for workers, consumers, and the environment to the lower levels of developing countries, many of them under dictatorial regimes.

9. Decades after warnings by scientists of rising global warming, the fossil fuel giants, while on the defensive, still have the economy in their clutches, slowing their substitutes of conservation and renewable energy.

10. Corporate welfare is larger, more varied, and more automatic than ever. Subsidies, handouts, giveaways, and bailouts are now routinely enacted by little-challenged, government-guaranteed capitalism at the federal and state levels!

Big corporations even control the wealth owned by the people such as the public lands, public airwaves, and trillions of dollars in pension and mutual funds.

11. Voting rights and electoral accuracies are being undermined in many states by legislation. 12. Medicare is being corporatized (over 40% of elderly beneficiaries are under corporate plans). Billing fraud is greater than ever (reaching $360 billion in 2021 just in the healthcare industry). Traditional defined benefit pension plans are disappearing, with the unstable 401K as a replacement if workers are lucky enough to have any retirement savings plans at the workplace.

Clearly, the situation in our political economy is getting worse by the year. To be sure, progressive groups have maintained some successes such as the near abolition of most uses of deadly asbestos, lead out of paint and gasoline, safer cars, better labeling, more recalls, removals of unsafe or ineffective drugs, and reduction of air and water pollutants. Civil rights and children protection laws still have some teeth. But civic groups are winning some skirmishes, while losing the battle and the war to the entrenched corporate state. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt told Congress in 1938-whenever private power takes control of the government, that is fascism.

These citizen groups and their supporters must now step back and develop a 10-year plan to overpower the corporate state with a democratic state. The people, however passive now, are largely on their side. Originally, in their state chartering days of the early 19th century, corporations were expected to be our servants not our masters. The reverse is now true.

This plan will require thousands of new organizers, lobbyists, strategists, and all the skills used by big corporations. It will also require systematically connecting with enlightened billionaires, already worried about our country's slide into the abyss, for a budget of at least $10 billion over 10 years.

Otherwise, ongoing skirmishes will continue the lower the expectations by progressive civic groups to a point of self-delusion.

(c) 2022 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).

Covid test distribution in Brooklyn, New York

Covid Fueled By Neoliberal Austerity
By Margaret Kimberley

The neo-liberal austerity model of governance ensures that Covid-19 will continue spreading and producing new variants. Only people focused public health remedies will end the pandemic.

On December 31, 2019 Chinese media told the world about a newly discovered disease cluster in the city of Wuhan. What was thought to be a viral pneumonia came to be known as SARS-CoV-2, Covid-19. Two weeks later Chinese scientists sequenced its genome and gave the world the ability to test and trace the disease. Covid continued to spread and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

China didn't wait for a WHO declaration in order to take action. The government immediately adopted a zero covid strategy. They dispatched health care workers to Wuhan and built new hospitals to care for the sick. The sick were isolated and the healthy were supported in a variety of ways. They developed their own vaccine, which 90% of the population have taken. China tests millions of its people on a regular basis. The result of this effort is fewer than 5,000 deaths in a nation of 1.3 billion people. The United States, with a population of 330 million, has more than 800,000 deaths and a record-breaking number of new cases in December 2021. Of course, one society is committed to serving human needs while the other wants to do as little as possible in that regard. Serving the donor class is the political priority in the U.S. Everything else is secondary.

The United States doesn't have a true health care system. Instead, for-profit companies run hospitals and private health insurers. Workers have health insurance only if their employers provide it, and the race to the bottom has reduced opportunities for these living wage jobs. This shaky system didn't serve the public before the pandemic struck. The safety net is fragile and people who fell ill or who were unemployed during this crisis were on their own with little help from the federal government.

Throughout 2020 Donald Trump was the face of the covid crisis and his performance was in large part responsible for his defeat. Despite campaigning as the man who would end the pandemic, Joe Biden's response has been even worse than Trump's. By the time Biden came to office the nature of the problem was well known, vaccines had been developed, and a test was widely available. What hadn't changed is the hold of the oligarchy on the political system and the resulting commitment to austerity and keeping workers on the job. The Biden administration now has the dubious distinction of presiding over the same number of deaths which occurred while Trump was in office.

Biden's spokesperson Jen Psaki unintentionally explained why the situation is no better. In a now infamous response to a question about increasing the availability of rapid tests for at home use, she said. "Should we just send one to every American? Then what happens if every American has one test? How much does that cost and what happens after that?" The operative words were about cost.

The omicron variant had begun its spread around the world and all Biden could come up with was a plan to make tests eligible for insurance reimbursement. Health insurers are loath to pay for anything because profit maximization is their goal. There is little reason to believe that these same corporations would act against their interests and suddenly become altruistic in a time of need.

But big money is still in control and they have direct access to the president who promised them that nothing would fundamentally change. When the CEO of Delta Airlines asked to reduce the number of days that employees could end infection isolation from ten days down to five, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) did just that. Most physicians and scientists vehemently opposed the decision, but big business said jump and the white house asked, "How high?" Delta's lobbying success was immediately followed by a cut in paid sick leave for its employees with covid.

In 2020 the campaign against Trump and his mishandling was the centerpiece of Biden's campaign. He said he would, "Trust the science," but when scientists made recommendations that might have reduced the spread of covid he ignored them. It is Biden's CDC that declared vaccinated people didn't have to wear masks and thus precipitated the spread of the delta variant.

It was recently revealed that in October 2021 a group of researchers proposed what they called A Testing Surge to Prevent a Holiday COVID Surge. Their plan was simple. The federal government should produce and distribute 732 million free test kits per month. But the idea was rejected because of a "lack of capacity." Of course the real problem was just what spokeswoman Psaki said out loud. There was never an intention of using federal resources to benefit the people.

Fortunately the omicron variant appears to be less dangerous. Yet milder symptoms do little good in a country which doesn't help its people. Test kits sold commercially are often out of stock, testing facilities are crowded and people line up for hours to be tested only to face a long wait for results. There are so many new infections that even a "mild" variant has created chaos with illnesses among health care workers and flight crews.

The reliance on a vaccine only strategy has led to this situation. When it became clear that "breakthrough" infections could occur after vaccination, the CDC announced that it would limit tracking of breakthroughs to those cases which required hospitalization. The decision was an admission that a course correction was needed. Instead the Biden team doubled down on failure and began forcing federal agencies and contractors, which means most private companies, to vaccinate employees whether they wanted it or not.

The only certainty is that a virus continues to mutate when it spreads. The spread can be stopped if sick people are paid to stay at home, testing is easily accessible, high quality masks are free and in ample supply, and ventilation is improved indoors. Reliance on vaccination alone has been a failure all over the world. For now the vaccinated are still far less likely to need hospitalization or to die. But that protection can end with a future variant.

The WHO has warned that continued spread will lead to a variant that responds to none of the vaccines or treatments. Already the "mild" omicron can be treated with only one of three approved monoclonal antibody formulas. Of course the sole effective treatment is now in very short supply. The next mutation may create a variant that can't be treated at all.

Biden wants to keep people at work and make big business happy, just as Trump did. The focus on the corporate bottom line makes life precarious during a pandemic. Of course precarity is the goal. Keeping the public vulnerable and afraid is a feature of the system.

The logic of reliance on vaccination was simple. Big pharma got millions of dollars in public funds, and the federal government didn't have to do anything else. Of course there should have been ongoing support instead of small stimulus payments and a temporary child tax credit. This moment calls for huge expenditures and not nickel and diming about test kits. The ongoing battle over Build Back Better proves that the oligarchy are in no mood for more spending when that is just what the situation calls for.

Americans are alternately afraid or fatalistic, succumbing to the belief that everyone will get covid. Resignation is to be expected when the people responsible for social well being fail so miserably. While China and Cuba freely share vaccines around the world the United States has nothing to offer except more misery. Biden told a group of governors that the covid crisis was a state responsibility. Having made a crisis worse, he seeks to wash his hands of the situation of his own making.

There is no covid miracle coming and none is necessary. Just consistent testing, allowing the sick to stay home, improving indoor air quality, providing access to the best masks, and using vaccines as one piece of the puzzle. Of course all of these things should be free and under public control. On the other hand, caring for the needs of the people would indeed be miraculous in the country of which it was once said, "The business of America is business."

(c) 2022 Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e -mail at Margaret.Kimberley@BlackAgendaReport.Com.

What If Antibiotics No Longer Work?

By Jim Hightower

Can antibiotic medicines, long hailed as miracle drugs, be too much of a good thing? Yes.

Two factors are at work here. First, bacteria (one of the earliest forms of life on Earth) are miracles in their own right, with a stunning ability to outsmart the antibiotic drugs through rapid evolution. Second is the rather dull inclination of us supposedly-superior humans to overuse and misuse antibiotic medicines. Every time we take an antibiotic to kill some bad bacteria that is infecting our bodies, a few of the infectious germs are naturally resistant to the drug, so they survive, multiply, and become a colony of Superbugs that antibiotics can't touch.

Multiply this colony by the jillions of doses prescribed for everything from deadly staph infections to the common cold, and we get the "antibiotic paradox:" The more we use them, the less effective they become, for they're creating a spreading epidemic of immune Superbugs.

A big cause of this is the push by drug companies to get patients and doctors to reach for antibiotics as a cure all. For example, millions of doses a year are prescribed for children and adults who have common colds, flu, sore throats, etc. Nearly all these infections are caused by viruses - which cannot (repeat: CANNOT) be cured with antibiotics. Taking an antibiotic for a cold is as useless as taking a heart drug for heartburn. The antibiotics will do nothing for your cold, but it will help establish drug-resistant Superbugs in your body. That's not a smart trade off.

In fact, it's incomprehensibly stupid. Antibiotics are invaluable medicines we need for serious, life-threatening illnesses, but squandering them on sore throats has already brought us to the brink of Superbugs that are resistant to everything. That's the nightmare of all nightmares.

"The Rising Threat Of Antibiotic Resistance In The United States,", December 20, 2013.

(c) 2022 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

Investigative journalists Greg Palast and Anthony DiMieri in Kazakhstan, 2013.

Kazakhstan Uprising Against Rulers Bribed By Exxon, BP
By Greg Palast

In 2013, I was thrown out of Kazakhstan by its President, former KGB chief Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Today, January 6, it was Nazarbayev who was tossed out of Kazakhstan - the result of an uprising by a public fed up with a kleptocratic murder-ocracy cosseted by the bribery of Western oil companies, the oil-philic Bush, Clinton and Obama State Departments and Putin's stormtroops.

(If you don't know where Kazakhstan is, you will find out when the 101st Airborne arrive to protect "our" oil fields.)

I had gone to Kazakhstan to investigate bribes of over $160 million paid to Nazarbeyev and his retinue by Exxon-Mobil, BP and their Big Oil partners. How do I know about the bribe? I have the receipts. No foolin'. Given to me by Jack Grynberg, former CIA Helsinki Station oil tracker, former anti-Nazi resistance fighter and the demi-billionaire partner of British Petroleum in a Kazakh Caspian Sea oil field who decided to blow the whistle on his industry's bribery spree.

I got to the dictator's daughter and chosen successor at a private disco where the booze flowed freely and the women dressed in clothes that the ruling family would not want seen by the conservative Muslim populace. As we danced, I suggested lunch - and that's where my troubles began.

Notably, the bribe paid by Exxon to Nazarbayev was mentioned in an indictment of the bagman - except he was identified only as KO-2 (Kazakh Official 2) so as to protect him at home. In fact, I had broken Kazakh law by asking Nazarbayev's daughter, his heir apparent, about the bribery. (A Kazakh journalist had written about the ruling family's corruption. He "committed suicide" by shooting himself in the head - twice!)

[Watch this clip from the video version of "The Wizard of Ooze" chapter in Vultures' Picnic.]

Nazarbayev's name was kept secret in the indictment by Hillary Clinton's State Department. In fact, the bagman James Giffen, although he pleaded guilty for a felony, was released by a federal judge and thanked - thanked - by the Court for paying the bribes and thereby "saving important petroleum supplies" for the USA.

But the Kazakhs themselves are not so grateful that the bribes led to the giveaway of the rights to their oil at literally pennies a barrel. Kazakhstan's treasury has been drained by the ruling family kleptocrats and US and British oil companies, a loss which the government chose to make up by a massive price increase in liquid petroleum gas, a drilling by-product, the fuel used by the nation's drivers.

While America celebrates the anniversary of our close scrape with dictatorship, the Kazakh's celebrate their first taste of freedom.

But it may be short lived. Putin's tanks are rolling in to Kazakhstan to support the regime leaders who have not, or cannot, flee, principally the official President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Nazarbayev's puppet. (Nazarbayev officially stepped aside two years ago so the capital of the nation could be changed to "Nursultan," Nazarbayev's first name. However, the 81-year-old remained head of the nation's Security Council, where the real power resides–until yesterday, when Nazarbayev resigned and, and according to British news reports, fled the country with his dissolute family.

Putin's interest? He needs his ex-KGB buddies to remain in power to protect the huge Baikonur Cosmodrome where Russia still launches its rockets.

Dictator's daughter gets down at the disco. I had the next dance leading to an invite to lunch followed by an invitation to leave the country. (Nursultan, Kazakhstan, 2013.)

(c) 2022 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Armed Madhouse and the highly acclaimed Vultures' Picnic, named Book of the Year 2012 on BBC Newsnight Review.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and other prominent Democrats hoist beers to celebrate the announcement
of Milwaukee as the host city for the 2020 Democratic National Convention: From left in front:
Milwaukee Bucks senior vice president Alex Lasry, Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez, Barrett and Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.

Tom Barrett Will Find His Happy Place In Luxembourg
We are, surely, in a fight over whether the will of the people will be the law of the land. It was brutal in 2021, and it is likely to get uglier in 2022.
By John Nichols

Former Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is headed for his happy place. As the new ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Barrett will be serving in one of the happiest countries on the planet.

I don't say this simply because I've enjoyed a considerable amount of time in Luxembourg over the years. There's data to back the claim up.

On the 2021 list of the "Happiest Countries in the World," which is produced by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs and others associated with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Luxembourg ranks No. 8 on the top 10 - one place behind Sweden, one place ahead of New Zealand.

But Luxembourg does not just look to international rankings to assess its spirits. The small western European country takes these matters so seriously that it produces an annual calculation of its mood.

The current Luxembourg Index of Well-Being was released at the end of 2021, and the news was quite encouraging. While economic growth slowed during a period of pandemic lockdowns and social distancing, people in Luxembourg were generally more satisfied with their lives.

"Looking at the factors that most contributed to the satisfaction, balance between work and private life plays an important role," explained Senyo Fofo Ametepe, a statistician with the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (STATEC), which monitors the sentiments of 633,622 Luxembourgers. "People have more time for themselves, their families, and leisure activities, while in general spending shorter periods commuting."

Despite a brief spike in unemployment, the researchers determined, "People's revenues did not decrease and there was no explosion of inequalities as previously anticipated." And they charted "a decrease in feelings of loneliness and anxiety between the beginning of the year and the summer."

All in all a fine assessment, according to RTL, Luxembourg's historic broadcaster, which noted: "Luxembourg thus ranks in the upper middle field of the international well-being ranking, shortly behind Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. The Grand Duchy does however dominate if compared to its direct neighbors Germany, France, and Belgium."

The U.S. government and media are far less engaged with questions of well-being than Europeans, so our stats are shaky. But the general mood in this country seems to be one of anxiety and disenchantment - along with a fair share of fear and loathing, as the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection highlighted.

So it could be that the U.S. might learn a thing or two from Luxembourg, a country with a robust social welfare state that features what the website reports is "one of the best state-funded healthcare systems in Europe." According to the survey, "the health service, overseen by Luxembourg's Union of Sickness Funds, ensures high quality, free and subsidized healthcare is available to all citizens and registered long-term residents. The state system covers the majority of treatments provided by GPs and specialists as well as laboratory tests, pregnancy, childbirth, rehabilitation, prescriptions and hospitalization."

Luxembourg's social welfare system also provides for paid sick leave, extensive maternity leave, significant benefits for families with children, long-term care for the elderly, a basic minimum income, early retirement and generous pensions.

A multiparty parliamentary democracy, Luxembourg is led by a coalition government that currently includes liberal, green and socialist parties. Indeed, the Luxembourg Socialist Workers Party is a social democratic grouping with deep roots in the union towns of the mining and steelmaking cities that dot the country's southern "Red Lands." In many of those cities, the mayors are socialists, just as they once were in Milwaukee.

When Barrett's nomination was announced, The Luxembourg Times explained, "Wisconsin is one of the few American states with ties of immigration to Luxembourg, as well as the German and Scandinavian settlers that made its politics friendly toward socialism to a degree unusual in the country." Other publications in Luxembourg noted that for the better part of 50 years during the past century, Milwaukee was led by socialists Emil Seidel, Dan Hoan and Frank Zeidler.

Barrett, of course, is a Democrat who served as a progressive member of the Wisconsin state Legislature and the U.S. Congress before his election in 2004 to the first of five terms as mayor. He ran for governor of Wisconsin three times, twice as his party's nominee, and earned a reputation as one of the most congenial and humane political figures in the state.

To a far greater extent than most elected officials in Wisconsin and elsewhere, Barrett leaves the state's political stage with a reputation as a gentleman with a talent for forging alliances across lines of partisanship and ideology. In other words, he has the diplomatic skills to be an able ambassador.

Barrett is also one of the most upbeat political figures I've ever covered. He walks on the bright side of the road, taking honest delight in meeting people, learning their stories and working with them. And, while I'll leave it to him to make the final determination in this regard, I've always had the impression that Barrett is a genuinely happy fellow.

As someone who has known both the man and the country for some time, my bet is that Tom Barrett is going to love Luxembourg, and that Luxembourg is going to love Tom Barrett.

(c) 2022 John Nichols writes about politics for The Capitol Times. His book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, is published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Are UFOs Hiding Behind The Clouds?
By James Donahue

Photos of odd cloud formations and frequent sightings of unidentified flying objects all over the world have prompted stories of alien craft that hide behind clouds.

We have been hearing these stories for a few years. Back when Doris and I lived under the bright blue skies of Arizona, we used to notice strange clouds that didn't seem to belong.

We were experimenting in those days with making things happen by mere thought. Doris came up with the idea of thinking away the cloud, just to see if we could do it. I think she also wondered if anything was hiding behind it.

We succeeded sometimes at making parts of a cloud go away, but there always seemed to be a remnant left behind. Was a ship hiding there? The imagination can sometimes run wild about stuff like that, especially while living in a super-charged esoteric setting like Sedona, Arizona.

People there claimed to see UFOs hovering over the town in broad daylight.

Some people believe the UFOs can disguise themselves as clouds so we can look right at them and not see them as they really are. Indeed, if the aliens that control the ships from afar can send interesting three-dimensional holographic projections to Earth from distant stars, what would stop them from making their ships look to us like clouds?

There are a few interesting stories on the web about people who have experienced strange encounters with cloud formations. Russian Vitaly Kosinov said he was picking nuts in the fall of 1989 when he suddenly was overcome with a feeling of great apprehension. He said he felt as if someone or something was observing him. When he looked up, there was an odd dark-gray cloud hovering overhead. He said he fell to the ground, as if the energy in the cloud overpowered him. To this day be believes he may have been abducted but has no memory of it.

In late August, 2004, just after dusk, people in the eastern United States noticed a small silvery cloud of light in the northwest sky. Amateur astronomer John Bortle said he observed the cloud from his home in Stormville, New York, just after 9 p.m. He said it remained in the sky for about 25 minutes.

Other observers described the cloud as a round dish, about the size of the moon. Bill Bogardus, of Long Island, said while observing the object through an eight-i Other observers described the cloud as a round dish, about the size of the moon. Bill Bogardus, of Long Island, said while observing the object through an eight-inch telescope, he noticed two points of light.

Even though some dramatic looking photos have been taken of similar cloud formations, scoffers think they have a logical answer.

They call these "lenticular clouds" formed by water droplets (as are all clouds) that are formed over mountains during high winds.

Indeed. From the photos I've seen, it is difficult not to wonder.

(c) 2022 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.

Why Russia Is Crazy
By David Swanson

The full extent of Russia's lunacy is hidden from us by a considerate Western press careful of our delicate sensibilities. The demands that Russia made back in December are described by numerous news articles, but the list of demands itself is found in very few places. When you see it, you quickly understand why. The horror of it could shock you right off your sofa. We're told by our newspapers how aggressive and vicious the list is, how it would start a new Cold War, and so on, yet articles much longer than the list itself choose not to tell us what exactly it is, clearly for fear that we couldn't handle it.

You've been warned. Here is the list:

Article 1: the parties should not strengthen their security at the expense of Russia's security;

This is the central substantive stupidity, right at the top - a classic Shock and Awe strategy from the Evil Dr. Putin. The United States and NATO have gone to great lengths to strengthen their security. They've added nations to NATO, marching ever eastward. They've torn up treaties including the Anti-Ballistic Missiles Treaty. They've built missile bases in Romania and Poland. They've staged major war rehearsals near Russia's border. They've shipped weapons to Ukraine despite honestly not caring for the Nazi elements in the government there. You can imagine if Russia had done all of this in Ontario how important that would be to Russia's security, and how irrelevant and offensive it would be to suggest that it really mattered if it was at the expense of someone else's security. Insanity!

Article 2: the parties will use multilateral consultations and the NATO-Russia Council to address points of conflict;

This is a purely gratuitous atrocity. Imagine suggesting that everybody sit down and talk. Truly, Moscow should be bombed just for this alone.

Article 3: the parties reaffirm that they do not consider each other as adversaries and maintain a dialogue;

Holy !%@^#$&^! Can you imagine the impact just on NATO's demand that European nations all spend more on weapons? Not consider Russia an adversary?! This has been the top moneymaker since 1917 (WWII notwithstanding). Putin wants to toss it out, just like that. The audacity! An indictment for the crime of aggression ought to be introduced at the International Criminal Court immediately.

Article 4: the parties shall not deploy military forces and weaponry on the territory of any of the other states in Europe in addition to any forces that were deployed as of May 27, 1997;

Now we get into truly certifiable territory. To begin with there is the level of disrespect for the fine job NATO has done in Afghanistan or Libya for example - surely this does not originate in a sane mind. Then there's the loss in weapons sales that's simply unfathomable. Consider the economic impact: thousands of people would have to get better-paying, more-sustainable jobs they could feel better about. Incredible. The fact that Putin's minions allow this stuff to make it into print simply shows the extent of the power he wields over them.

Article 5: the parties shall not deploy land-based intermediate- and short-range missiles adjacent to the other parties;

Off the deep end! I live in the United States and want nothing more than missiles in Mexico and Canada. I'm not old enough to remember it, but there was a time when the United States famously welcomed missiles in Cuba. Let's be rational about this. Russia is playing one doll short of a Matryoshka.

Article 6: all member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization commit themselves to refrain from any further enlargement of NATO, including the accession of Ukraine as well as other States;

Should we be offended or understanding of the addled brain that produces such insults? The expansion of NATO has proven incredibly effective. For 30 straight years the Warsaw Pact has not only been contained but actually shown no signs of existing. And you want to mess with that success?

Article 7: the parties that are member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization shall not conduct any military activity on the territory of Ukraine as well as other States in the Eastern Europe, in the South Caucasus and in Central Asia; and

Need I say more? This would be like asking Russia not to stage war rehearsals in British Columbia. Who doesn't want that? Ridiculous! Think of the tourism benefits!

Article 8: the agreement shall not be interpreted as affecting the primary responsibility of the Security Council of the United Nations for maintaining international peace and security.

The final note. Classic. They're practically openly admitting to sending helicopters full of globalist aliens to take our guns and turn us homosexual. Why are straightjackets for all Russkies not the proper solution?

(c) 2022 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.

As the days grow longer with the promise of the sun, let's all do what we can to spread light and joy in the world.

Everything Under The Sun
By David Suzuki

As light slowly returns to the Northern Hemisphere, we anticipate brighter days ahead. It's a good time to consider the wondrous combination of forces that make life on Earth possible.

Above all is the sun - the ultimate source of all our energy. But we rely on plants, algae and some bacteria to obtain this energy through photosynthesis. According to a Lumen Learning article, "It is the only biological process that can capture energy that originates in outer space (sunlight) and convert it into chemical compounds (carbohydrates) that every organism uses to power its metabolism."

Photosynthesis uses solar energy to convert water and atmospheric carbon dioxide into organic compounds such as sugars. "These sugars are then used to make complex carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins, as well as the wood, leaves, and roots of plants," University of California's Understanding Global Change website says. As an added bonus, we get oxygen.

Photosynthesis powers 99 per cent of Earth's ecosystems. Even coal, oil and gas were created when plants (and sometimes the animals that ate them) were buried, their captured solar energy transformed and concentrated though heat, pressure and hundreds of millions of years.

Although it's tempting to see this massive, fiery, life-giving entity as some kind of deity, we have to remember the sun is indifferent. What it does to or for us is up to us. If we choose to go out into its heat unprotected, we'll burn and possibly get skin cancer. If we put solar panels on our home or office building, we'll capture its energy.

Existing and new ways to use its power more directly, perhaps even through artificial photosynthesis, are clearly better than wasting the valuable, concentrated stores that have taken more than 300 million years to form. But unlike solar radiation, coal, oil and gas can be "commodities." Under our human systems, someone can "own" these and exploit, trade, sell and profit from them. As profit and wealth concentration became primary drivers of economic agendas in the industrialized world, rampant exploitation and waste became the norm, rather than careful and beneficial use.

Most early automobiles used plant-based ethanol for fuel, but as more oil was discovered, the two industries worked together to create a sprawling car culture that would deliberately burn and waste excessive amounts of fuels to keep profits flowing. It was likely the biggest overall mistake humans have ever made.

For a time, it worked like a dream - the American Dream perhaps - increased prosperity and mobility, shopping malls, drive-throughs, suburbs, middle class jobs, a wide variety of food and products and consumerism as a virtue. We can see now that we've been borrowing from the future to pay for our excessive lifestyles, and the bill has come due.

It never made sense to burn precious energy stores in such a wasteful and polluting way, to put enormous amounts of money and energy into developing a culture and infrastructure around empowering and encouraging a massive number of people to each have a two-tonne machine to move them around.

To resolve the climate and related crises, we have to change our ways. And we have to help those who haven't enjoyed the same privileges and benefits of our fossil-fuelled economies to ensure they can prosper without contributing more to the damage.

I once asked renowned ecologist E.O. Wilson, who died on December 26, how many people the planet could sustain indefinitely. He responded, "If you want to live like North Americans, 200 million." That's because North Americans, Europeans, Japanese and Australians, who make up 20 percent of the world's population, are consuming more than 80 percent of its resources.

So maybe we shouldn't think of transformative change as sacrifice. It's more about realizing what's truly important, that the persistent race to acquire more stuff or more money is an illusory path to well-being. We simply can't continue consuming in the same way we have been for the past hundred years or so. Freed from those pointless pursuits, we might actually discover that family, friends, community and nature bring us more happiness and satisfaction than any material goods.

So, as the days grow longer with the promise of the sun, let's all do what we can to spread light and joy in the world.

(c) 2021 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

Debunked? There's No Such Thing As 'Debunked' Anymore
Fact is whatever enough people believe. Just check out this yahoo in Indiana.
By Charles P. Pierce

This was the saddest thing published this weekend. From the Washington Post:

Their coffee date that October day, as recounted by both women, was an exercise in gritted-teeth civility. Cole asked about the Three Percent logo tattooed on Sova's neck in red, white and blue bullets. Sova tried to corner Cole on critical race theory. At the end, they took a photo and promised to work together no matter who was elected, each privately expecting Cole to win.

In December, however, it was Sova who was sworn in, the second Three Percenter on the five-person Eatonville School Board. Three Percenter ideology, part of the self-styled militia movement, promotes conspiratorial views about government overreach and imagines "patriotic" Americans revolting against perceived violations of the Constitution. Presented as "defending liberty," extremism analysts say, those far-right views are spreading in conservative places like Eatonville, where the school board race spiraled into a fight over mask mandates and how race is taught in school. Cole lost by more than 200 votes.

Eventually, when we have raised a twisted generation of children who believe that Jesus and herd immunity are specifically mentioned in the Constitution-and, who knows, they may well be by then-I sincerely hope that nobody succeeds in politics by expressing surprise that It All Came To This. We older folks are the generation that is willing this into being. Blame us when we're gone.
Today, the Washington Three Percent claims members in dozens of official posts throughout the state, including a mayor, a county commissioner and at least five school board seats. Sova, an officer with the group, was among four women members who ran in local races this cycle. Three won. Most Washington Three Percenters in public roles keep the affiliation quiet for fear of backlash from anti-fascist activists or employers. Not Sova. She openly embraces the ideology, which comes from the debunked notion that only 3% of colonists rose up in the American Revolution.
Debunked? There's no such thing as debunked anymore, especially on the American right. As somebody once wrote in a book:
Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.
Don't believe me? Check out this yahoo in Indiana. From the Indianapolis Star:
During a committee hearing Wednesday about Senate Bill 167, a wide-ranging bill inspired by the national discourse over critical race theory, history teacher Matt Bockenfeld raised concerns about what the bill would require of teachers. He gave what he thought was an extreme example.

"For example, it's the second semester of U.S. history, so we're learning about the rise of fascism and the rise of Nazism right now," Bockenfeld said. "And I'm just not neutral on the political ideology of fascism. We condemn it, and we condemn it in full, and I tell my students the purpose, in a democracy, of understanding the traits of fascism is so that we can recognize it and we can combat it."

The nun who taught me history in fourth grade was not neutral about Nazis. The Xaverian Brother who taught me history as a high-school sophomore was emphatic that Nazis were bad. None of the Jesuits who taught me history in college spent any time on what a great job Hitler did on the autobahn so Both Sides. (And this is even taking into account how comfortable Holy Mother Church was with fascists throughout the second half of the 20th century.) But Mr. Bockenfield had reckoned without Rep. Scott Baldwin, the Republican with whom the residents of Noblesville have blessed the Indiana statehouse.
Baldwin, a Republican from Noblesville, said that may be going too far. Baldwin said he doesn't discredit Marxism, Nazism, fascism or "any of those isms out there."

"I have no problem with the education system providing instruction on the existence of those isms," he said. "I believe that we've gone too far when we take a position on those isms ... We need to be impartial." Baldwin said that even though he is with Bockenfeld "on those particular isms," teachers should "just provide the facts."

"I'm not sure it's right for us to determine how that child should think and that's where I'm trying to provide the guardrails," Baldwin said.

Personally, I wouldn't mind if somebody threw up guardrails around Rep. Baldwin, who, on Monday, was said to have "walked back" his idiocy, although my mileage certainly varies on that.
In an email to IndyStar Thursday, Baldwin said his intent with the bill was to ensure teachers are being impartial when discussing "legitimate political groups."

"When I was drafting this bill, my intent with regard to 'political affiliation' was to cover political parties within the legal American political system," he said. "In my comments during committee, I was thinking more about the big picture and trying to say that we should not tell kids what to think about politics.

"Nazism, Marxism and fascism are a stain on our world history and should be regarded as such, and I failed to adequately articulate that in my comments during the meeting. I believe that kids should learn about these horrible events in history so that we don't experience them again in humanity." Baldwin said he'd continue to work on the bill to get at his original intent: "impartiality of legitimate political groups."

I would like to not experience this whole period in our history in my humanity.

(c) 2022 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 -

"Unemployment insurance, abolishing child labor, the 40-hour work week, collective bargaining, strong banking regulations, deposit insurance, and job programs that put millions of people to work were all described, in one way or another, as 'socialist.' Yet, these programs have become the fabric of our nation and the foundation of the middle class."
~~~ Bernie Sanders

Afghans Face Harsh Winter, Hunger, Lack Of Health Clinics: How Much Of It Is Our Fault?
By Juan Cole

Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) - The ancient Greek philosopher Bion of Borysthenes said that boys throw stones at frogs in jest, but the frogs die in earnest. The United States government hasn't placed sanctions on Afghanistan as a joke, but it certainly has done so in a blunt way, and Afghans are on the verge of dying in earnest, in very large numbers. The US categorized the Taliban as a specially designated terrorist organization, which meant that no US person or organization could have any dealings with them. But you cannot provide humanitarian aid in a country without dealing with the government.

The United States has to choose between punishing the Taliban for defeating it and helping the Afghan people avoid a large-scale calamity.

In December, Michael Crowley and Alan Rappeport reported at the NYT, the Treasury Department finally issued broad waivers to aid organizations for dealing with the Taliban to provide relief to the people. Treasury also allowed money to be wired to individuals in Afghanistan. And, Biden will donate another million COVID vaccine doses to the country. These steps were essential, but a lot of banks and organizations still don't want to risk being associated with a "terrorist" government, and those who are willing to take that risk don't have resources commensurate with the scale of the crisis. Some former US diplomats and generals are warning that the Biden administration needs to be more pro-active in forestalling a catastrophe, lest mass starvation deeply damage the reputation of the United States.

Moreover, the US embargoed $9 billion of Afghanistan government money. That is fine, deny it to the Taliban. but why not release some of it to Save the Children and the UN for aiding the people?

New China TV: "GLOBALink | Winter blizzards heap suffering on snow-blown Afghanistan"

It is winter in Afghanistan, and it is cold and snowy in the capital of Kabul. Many AFghans don't have the resources to face a harsh winter. Afghanistan is facing the same fuel crisis as the rest of the world, with high prices that people increasingly cannot afford. A climate-driven drought caused a 40% shortfall in this year's wheat crop.

The United Nations defines poverty as "hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion, as well as the lack of participation in decision-making," with many people in this category making less than 2 dollars per day.

Afghans have a monetary crisis because of the US sanctions on the new Taliban government. International banks do not want to deal with the central bank of a country under sanctions. International aid has dried up, in large part because donors didn't want to be sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. It has yet to be seen what impact the broader waivers issued in December will have. They aren't likely to help the liquidity crisis. With little money in the country, people increasingly can't afford food. The great economist Amartya Sen demonstrated that famines are not caused by lack of food but by the inability of people to afford the food that is available.

The World Bank, which often follows the lead of the US government, had run a program to provide health care, on which about half of Afghans depended. When the Taliban came to power last August, the World Bank program was abruptly ended. The IRC writes, "Now, over 90% of the country's health clinics are expected to shut down, depriving millions of basic care."

90 percent of health clinics will likely have closed by the end of 2022, in the midst of another coronavirus wave. Yes, it is hitting Afghanistan, too. The difference is that few Afghans are vaccinated and the hospitals can no longer afford to keep the Intensive Care Units operating.

Food insecurity rose 37 percent by the end of last year from pre-Taliban levels, and through this year half of Afghans will face "acute food insecurity." Food insecurity means you are not starving but you are one mishap away from starving. Nearly a fourth of the population will be at emergency levels of food insecurity, just one rung up from mass famine.

Ashok Swain of Upssala University reports for Gulf News that 7 out of ten Afghan families are having to borrow money for food this winter. He urges the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to come back into Afghanistan with development support. He says that the Biden administration's freeze on $9 billion in Afghanistan government funds should also be ended.

Save the Children is also sounding the alarm that 5 million children are at emergency levels of food insecurity. Millions of children are not in school and are facing a harsh winter. Some three million AFghans are internally displaced by conflict and their camps lack food and fuel.

(c) 2022 Juan R.I. Cole is the founder and chief editor of Informed Comment. He is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf and South Asia and has given numerous media interviews on the war on terrorism and the Iraq War. He lived in various parts of the Muslim world for nearly 10 years and continues to travel widely there. He speaks Arabic, Farsi and Urdu.

As Job Gains Slow, The Fed And Congress Apply The Wrong Medicine
We must answer Trump's neofascism with hope
By Robert Reich

Friday's jobs report from the Department of Labor was a warning sign about the US economy. It should cause widespread concern about the Fed's plans to raise interest rates to control inflation. And it should cause policymakers to rethink ending government supports such as extended unemployment insurance and the child tax credit. These will soon be needed to keep millions of families afloat.

Employers added only 199,000 jobs in December. That's the fewest new jobs added in any month last year. In November, employers added 249,000. The average for 2021 was 537,000 jobs per month. Note also that the December survey was done in mid-December, before the latest surge in the Omicron variant of Covid caused millions of people to stay home.

But the Fed is focused on the fact that average hourly wages climbed 4.7% over the year. Central bankers believe those wage increases have been pushing up prices. They also believe the US is nearing "full employment" - the maximum rate of employment possible without igniting even more inflation.

As a result, the Fed is about to prescribe the wrong medicine. It's going to raise interest rates to slow the economy - even though millions of former workers have yet to return to the job market and even though job growth is slowing sharply. Higher interest rates will cause more job losses. Slowing the economy will make it harder for workers to get real wage increases. And it will put millions of Americans at risk.

The Fed has it backwards. Wage increases have not caused prices to rise. Price increases have caused real wages (what wages can actually purchase) to fall. Prices are increasing at the rate of 6.8% annually but wages are growing only between 3-4%.

The most important cause of inflation is corporate power to raise prices.

Yes, supply bottlenecks have caused the costs of some components and materials to rise. But large corporations have been using these rising costs to justify increasing their own prices when there's no reason for them to do so.

Corporate profits are at a record high. If corporations faced tough competition, they would not pass those wage increases on to customers in the form of higher prices. They'd absorb them and cut their profits.

But they don't have to do this because most industries are now oligopolies composed of a handful of major producers that coordinate price increases.

Yes, employers have felt compelled to raise nominal wages to keep and attract workers. But that's only because employers cannot find and keep workers at the lower nominal wages they'd been offering. They would have no problem finding and retaining workers if they raised wages in real terms - that is, over the rate of inflation they themselves are creating.

Astonishingly, some lawmakers and economists continue to worry that the government is contributing to inflation by providing too much help to working people. A few, including some Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, are unwilling to support Biden's Build Back Better package because they fear additional government spending will fuel inflation.

Here again, the reality is exactly the opposite. The economy is in imminent danger of slowing, as the December job numbers (collected before the Omicron surge) reveal.

Many Americans will soon need additional help since they can no longer count on extra unemployment benefits, stimulus payments or additional child tax credits. This is hardly the time to put on the fiscal brakes.

Policymakers at the Fed and in Congress continue to disregard the elephant in the room: the power of large corporations to raise prices. As a result, they're on the way to hurting the people who have been taking it on the chin for decades - average working people.

(c) 2022 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

Activists gathered in front of the White House to advocate for Congressional passage of The Freedom To
Vote Act and The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act on November 17, 2021 in Washington D.C.

What's Next For Corporate Democrat Plotters? Voting Rights
Seniors not getting eyeglasses or diabetics getting price gouged on insulin are all bad, but won't signal the death of our republic: the failure to pass meaningful voting rights certainly will.
By Thom Hartmann

Remember when the Biden presidency was brand new and Democrats in the House and Senate proposed a sweeping, $6 trillion package to rebuild our social safety net, cut drug prices, upgrade our infrastructure, rescue our students and elderly, and save the environment?

As it was moving forward, a small group of Republicans and Democrats who call themselves the "corporate problem solvers caucus," told us that if they could just peel off the parts that involved actual physical construction of infrastructure into a separate bill, they'd get it going right away without having to worry about the filibuster.

Following Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election, it's now obvious that we have a genuine crisis around the way we select a president, one that can be exploited by a politician committed to destroying democracy.

The Democrats in the group promised to vote for the remainder of the legislation, now called Build Back Better, while at the same time they were working with their Republican colleagues to require that every penny in the "bipartisan infrastructure" bill be run through for-profit donor corporations via so-called "public-private partnerships" (Joe Manchin introduced the amendment for this: it's now law).

Progressives in the House tried to keep the two bills together so the "problem solver" Democrats like Manchin & Sinema couldn't drop Build Back Better, a valiant effort that required enormous guts and determination: Pramila Jayapal and the Progressive Caucus led the effort.

Toward the end, though, they had to let the "bipartisan infrastructure" bill go to the Senate after Biden was promised by the "corporate problem solver" Democrats that they'd vote for Build Back Better after just the "smallest" of tweaks.

Then we learned that Manchin and Sinema in the Senate, and Gottheimer, Schrader and a few others in the House, had all lied to their leadership. They had no intention of passing the complete bigger bill, which would have reduced profits for Big Pharma, Big Insurance and a half-dozen other industries that regularly and legally bribe those legislators who have their hands out.

By separating the legislation, the "problem solvers" have, for the moment, effectively killed President Biden's Build Back Better plan.

Get ready for Act Two. Only this time they're going after voting rights.

Following Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election, it's now obvious that we have a genuine crisis around the way we select a president, one that can be exploited by a politician committed to destroying democracy.

There are three solid pieces of legislation to insure voting rights and the integrity of the voting process-the For The People Act (HR 1), the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the Freedom To Vote Act.

All three have passed the House of Representatives and are only held up by a 100% Republican filibuster in the Senate.

That filibuster can only be broken by ten Republicans giving in (not going to happen: the entire GOP is committed to voter suppression, dark money, and gerrymandering) or by a change to the filibuster in the Senate's rules (which takes 50 votes plus the VP).

The For The People Act is the most expansive of the three, regulating dark money in politics and bringing back publicly funded elections; as such it's the most-hated by Republicans and rightwing billionaires.

The watered-down version, the Freedom To Vote Act, is even co-sponsored by Joe Manchin, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act has the moral power of the nation's memory and admiration of civil rights giant John Lewis behind it. Therefore, Senate Leader Chuck Schumer has been pushing for a vote before Martin Luther King Jr. Day to change the Senate rules to allow the two bills to move past the filibuster and become law. And we need them both: even though the Freedom To Vote Act is somewhat watered down, it still accomplishes essential and important things.

But none of these bills address the problem of a renegade VP unilaterally taking onto themselves the power to overturn the vote of the Electoral College. Or to throw that vote to the House, where the party that controls the most states will make the decision as to who is the next president.

That is mostly made possible by a piece of legislation passed in the wake of the election of 1876, when Democrat Sam Tilden won the majority of the popular vote and the majority of Electoral College votes, but because 4 states had submitted "dueling slates of electors" the election got thrown to the House which made Republican Rutherford B. Hayes president. That post-1876-election law is called The Electoral Count Act of 1887.

Two years ago, before the 2020 election, I published an article pointing out that a Republican friend in DC had told me on the QT that "Trump and his people are planning an 1876 strategy" that involved mobilizing the Electoral Count Act.

While my warnings were largely ignored (and even ridiculed), it turns out that's exactly what they were up to.

Now that it's obvious that was their plan-and Trump or a similarly inclined wannabee dictator could try it again-both Democrats and a few Republicans have been saying that the Electoral Count Act needs to be fixed. And it does.

Enter the old okey doke.

Both Mitch McConnell and Joe Manchin are now making noises about reforming the Electoral Count Act, just like they were talking about the "bipartisan infrastructure" legislation last year.

And, just as night follows day, you can bet that they'll put it up for a vote and then, after it passes, wipe their hands clean of these other three necessary pieces of election reform legislation.

Just as holding the "bipartisan infrastructure" and the Build Back Better bills together was key to getting the latter passed (and failed when they were separated), Democrats can't let Manchin, Sinema, McConnell and the "corporate problem solvers" in the House get away with a second Lucy-and-the-football stunt.

Particularly with voting rights.

Seniors not getting eyeglasses or diabetics getting price-gouged on insulin are all bad and it's a shame they've so far been screwed by these "problem solvers."

But they don't signal the death of our republic. The failure to pass meaningful voting rights legislation almost certainly will.

Already right wing groups and media are talking about the "solution" to the nation's "voting problems" is to "fix" the Electoral Count Act while abandoning all the other voting rights legislation.

We can't let them get away with another scam, this time one that may well shatter American democracy for all time.

Fixes to the Electoral Count Act must be added into the Freedom To Vote legislation, rather than presented as a standalone bill.

Call your two senators and your member of the House to let them know your thoughts on this.

The number for the Capitol switchboard, which will connect you to the offices of any member of Congress, is 202-224-3121.

(c) 2022 Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of "The Hidden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream" (2020); "The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America" (2019); and more than 25 other books in print.

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 -

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump watch a video featuring Fox host Sean Hannity ahead of Trump's arrival.

Sean Hannity Informs January 6th Panel That Swearing To Tell The Truth Would Violate His Contract With Fox
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)-Sean Hannity has informed the congressional committee investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection that swearing to tell the truth would be a violation of his contract with Fox News.

In a written statement, Hannity said that taking an oath "to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" would be "a betrayal of the solemn vow I made to Fox."

"The members of the committee would no doubt require me to swear on a Bible," he said. "However, I answer to a higher power: Rupert Murdoch."

The committee members attempted to reassure Hannity that he would need to tell the truth only to them and not while he was doing his show, but he remained steadfast in his refusal.

"Telling the truth is a deal breaker," Hannity said. "If I am seen doing it even once, it could destroy my brand."

(c) 2021 Andy Borowitz


Issues & Alibis Vol 22 # 02 (c) 01/14/2022

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