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In This Edition

Dahr Jamail explores, "Administration Of Denial."

Uri Avnery introduces, "Bibi's Son Or: Three Men In A Car."

Margaret Kimberley exposes, "Oligarch Jeff Bezos."

Matt Taibbi gives us, "The TL:DR Guide to Michael Wolff's 'Fire and Fury'."

Jim Hightower answers, "What's Killing America's Middle Class?"

John Nichols "The Trump Effect Helps Democrats Pull Off A Surprise Win In Wisconsin."

James Donahue examines, "A House Divided . . .."

Norman Solomon reports, "Cardin's Anti-Russia Views Make Him A Fitting Opponent For Chelsea Manning."

Heather Digby Parton studies, "The Fine Art Of Unraveling Right Wing BS."

David Swanson orates, "Bury the Monroe Doctrine."

Charles P. Pierce asks, "What Would President* Trump Recommend For Countries Running Out Of Water?"

Bernie Sanders says, "Let's Wrench Power Back From The Billionaires."

William Rivers Pitt explains, "Why I Hate Michael Wolff's New Trump Book."

US Senator Garry Peters D/Michigan wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich gives us, "Straight Talk About Trump."

Chris Hedges reveals, "You Don't Need A Telescope To Find A 'Shithole Country'."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Paul Ryan Slits Auto Mechanic's Throat To Kick Off GOP Purge Of Working Class" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Ceasar, Cave Idus Martias."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Steve Benson, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Mr. Fish, Saul Loeb, Drew Angerer, Drew Angerer, Leon Neal, Jabin Botsford, Pablo Martinez, Tom Brenner, Carolyn Kaster, Jabin Botsford, Saul Leob, U.S. Navy, Washington Post, Redux, 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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Caesar, Cave Idus Martias
Et Tu Bannon? Tunc cadunt Caesar!
By Ernest Stewart

"Trump did not enjoy his own inauguration. He was angry that A-level stars had snubbed the event, disgruntled with the accommodations at Blair House, and visibly fighting with his wife, who seemed on the verge of tears. Throughout the day, he wore what some around him had taken to calling his golf face: angry and pissed off, shoulders hunched, arms swinging, brow furled, lips pursed." ~~~ Steve Bannon

"We shouldn't view this as one ice sheet that suddenly grew to its present size, but rather one that was a transient ice sheet that expanded every couple million years or so." ~~~ Sean Gulick

"[King] would later write, 'It was quite easy for me to think of a god of love mainly because I grew up in a family where love was central.' That is what Reverend King preached all his life. Love. Love for each other, for neighbors, and for our fellow Americans. Dr. King's faith in his love for humanity led him and so many heroes to courageously stand up for civil rights of African-Americans." ~~~ Donald Trump

I get by with a little help from my friends,
Going to try with a little help from my friends,
I get high with a little help from my friends,
With a little help from my friends
With A Little Help From My Friends ~~~ The Beatles

Old Sloppy Steve is now committee bound, first to the House where a love fest is planned and then he has been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged ties between the President's electoral campaign and Russia.

So the question is whether Steve will lie his ass off for Donnie and when caught spend the rest of his miserable life in prison, or, squeal like the pig that he is about everything he knows about Trump to stay out of the hoosegow. What do you think will happen?

Steve knows enough to to make Pence president if he cares to. Since glorious leader tagged Steve with the epithet "sloppy" Steve seems to have lost praise for der Fuhrer. Since Steve has been made a joke and a nobody, by Donnie, and since fired from his job at Breitbart, and has been made personal non-gratis in Washington, methinks ole "sloppy Steve" may become Trump's Brutus.

Anything Steve can do to give Trump his well deserved "perp walk" would be very appreciated by folks all over the world. I'm sure Steve could give Donnie jr. and Jared Kushner, a similar stroll between Federal Marshals for the fake news folks! We can but hope, but I'm guessing "sloppy Steve" will plead the fifth and clam up, only time will tell, so stay tuned, America!

In Other News

I see where research has confirmed one of the worst nightmares of climate science: the instability of the East Antarctic ice sheet. Most reports have focused on the melting of the West Antarctic ice sheets, as the thought was that East Antarctic wasn't melting much.

The East Antarctic ice sheet holds enough water to raise sea levels by 53 metres, that's about 174 feet, and that's worldwide. And researchers have confirmed that one stretch of the southern polar coastline has melted many times in the past: by enough to raise sea levels by three to five metres.

A rise of just one metre would render at least 100 million coast dwellers homeless. And 53 metres drowns a few billion more!

US scientists (now there's a rare commodity in the age of Trump) report in the journal Nature that they went to what they called the Sabrina Coast of eastern Antarctica to look for geological and geophysical evidence of change.

Although the western region, and the Antarctic peninsula, is warming swiftly, for decades scientists have assumed that the great mass of ice in the eastern Antarctic was stable.

However, last year a research team looked more closely at meltwater flow from one of the region's glaciers and concluded that it was not stable, and that any melting could result in a dramatic rise in sea levels!

"It turns out that for much of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet's history, it was not the commonly perceived large stable ice sheet with only minor changes in size over millions of years," said Sean Gulick, of the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics.

"Rather, we have evidence for a very dynamic ice sheet that grew and shrank significantly between glacial and interglacial periods. There were also often long intervals of open water along the Sabrina Coast, with limited glacial influence."

And his co-author Amelia Shevenell from the University of South Florida said: "As ice melts, global sea levels rise. Most of Florida is at or several feet above sea level.

"We are already seeing the effects of rising seas caused by melting ice sheets and ocean warming. There is enough ice in our study region alone to raise global sea level by as much as 15 feet (5m). This, in isolation, would be catastrophic to Florida."

Meanwhile, Trump and Con-gress continue to do absolutely nothing about global warming, except to try and make more power-plants coal or gas fired, which makes everything so much worse. Your tax dollars at work America!

And Finally

The quote above by Trump came one day after he called African countries "shitholes" how dare he talk about love when all he expresses is hate, hate for anybody and everybody who isn't white and rich. Since the King holiday was recognized federally in 1994, every President has taken the date as a day of service. President Clinton painted walls in a D.C. school, President Bush helped paint a mural with children, and President Obama worked in a soup kitchen. Instead of going into service like all other American president have Donnie was out playing golf.

Yes Dr. King preached a lot about love and most quotes of his that you hear are about love, but King was no fool. He knew that love will only take you so far. You can't raise the people out of the ghetto, just by loving whitey. He also said...

"At the very same time that the government refused to give the Negro any land, through an act of Congress our Government was giving away millions of acres of land in the west and the midwest, which meant it was willing to undergird its white peasants from Europe with an economic floor. But not only did they give the land, they built land grant colleges with government money to teach them how to farm; not only that, they provided county agents to further their expertise in farming; not only that, they provided low interest rates in order that they could mechanize their farms; not only that today, many of these people are receiving millions of dollars in federal subsidies not to farm and they are the very people telling the Black man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps. And this is what we are faced with, and this is the reality. Now, when we come to Washington in this campaign, we are coming to get our check."

There is no question that King loved those who hated him, he is also the man who said...

"Urban riots are a special form of violence. They are not insurrections. The rioters are not seeking to seize territory or attain control of institutions. They are mainly intended to shock the white community... But most of all, alienated from society and knowing that this society cherishes property above people, rioters are shocking it by abusing property rights."

I remember the Detroit riots, as I was home on leave from the Army at the time and I came away with the same conclusion, even though I hadn't heard Dr. Kings thoughts on the subject.

Methinks Trump and his cronies are all about returning us all back to the 1840s not lifting us up to true equality, what do you think, America?

Keepin' On

As the great American philosopher, Yogi Berra once said, "It's like deja vu all over again," and ain't that the truth! It certainly is when coupled with the magazine's bank account as of late. Zero, zip, zilch, nada coming in; in fact, the only thing in my PO Box this month was the bill to renew my PO Box; funny thing that, huh?

It gets harder every year, coming to you; cap in hand, begging for a few alms to keep us afloat and operating. If I have anything, it's stamina, and we are paid up until June, who knows by then we may pick up an advertiser or two? Stranger things have happened!

Ergo, a little help ya'll. If, in the final daze of America, what we do for you and yours is deemed just a wee bit helpful or incredibly necessary, then please send us, whatever you can, whenever you can; and we'll keep fighting for you and yours, bringing you the truth that you need to know, to figure all this madness out!


09-21-1943 ~ 01-14-2018
Thanks for the film!

09-06-1971 ~ 01-15-2018
Thanks for the music!


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

****** We've Moved The Forum Back *******

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) 2018 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.

President Trump signs a presidential proclamation shrinking Bears Ears and Grand
Staircase-Escalante national monuments at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017.


Administration Of Denial
Trump's Shock and Awe Attack on the Environment
By Dahr Jamail

It's no secret that Donald Trump, someone who would never be mistaken for an intellectual, does not believe in anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD).

We're all familiar with his tweet from 2012 that stated: "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."

Fast forward to early 2018. Trump is now president of the United States, and a climate-disruption-driven Arctic cold front recently engulfed vast swaths of the US. Taking a page out of the fossil fuel industry propaganda playbook, Trump tweeted in late December: "In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year's Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!"

During the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump and his fossil-fuel backers have filled key positions in his administration with ACD deniers, and their war against scientists and government administrations tasked with dealing with ACD impacts has been one of shock and awe.

Fossil-Fueled Cronies

Rex Tillerson had been CEO of ExxonMobil for a decade when he accepted the post of secretary of state. Tillerson, who famously dodged questions about Exxon's role in sowing doubt about ACD during his confirmation hearings, has stated that our ability to predict the impact CO2 is having on the atmosphere is "very limited."

Mike Pence, Trump's vice president, has called ACD a "myth." He also voted twice against limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

Scott Pruitt, Trump's EPA administrator, refuses to link ACD to CO2 emissions. He was, of course, rabidly opposed to the Environmental Protection Agency itself during his tenure as Oklahoma's attorney general. Pruitt even said he intended to form a team of "independent experts" to challenge well-established climate science because, he claimed, the subject has not yet undergone "a robust, meaningful debate." Thousands of emails released in the early months of the Trump administration revealed the longstanding and very close relationship Pruitt has maintained with the oil and gas industry. Moreover, it has been known for a long time that Pruitt has maintained a secretive alliance with said industry.

Then there is Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who denies humans are the cause of ACD. Meanwhile, another more recent addition to this junta of ACD deniers is Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine, who has blamed ACD on the sun -- and is now a nominee to head NASA, an agency that spends nearly 10 percent of its budget on monitoring the Earth and its climate. It's worth noting that, echoing Trump's position, Bridenstine has even implied that one day of snow disproved decades-long ACD trends.

Along those lines, we have also Trump's nominee for the Council on Environmental Quality, Kathleen Hartnett White, who has been a long-time outspoken ACD denier. She has called climate science a "kind of paganism" for "secular elites," and claims that excess carbon emissions are "beneficial" and good for plant growth. She has even claimed that UN efforts to reduce global CO2 emissions are actually a secret attempt to create what she has called a "one-world state ruled by planetary managers."

These are simply a few of the "highlights" of those who have been tasked with entrenching ACD denial across the spectrum of the US government under this administration.

Climate Change Vanishes Before Our Very Eyes

Within moments of Trump's inauguration as president, references to "climate change" were erased from the official White House website.

Since then, a generalized scrubbing of all things "climate change" and "global warming" has become the norm across various federal agency websites, from the National Institutes of Health to the EPA. The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, a watchdog group that monitors such things, commented to Mother Jones on these actions: "What has happened is a significant and systematic shift in ways that certain types of information and messages are presented on federal websites."

This "significant and systematic shift" is clearly aimed at ignoring, or at best obfuscating, the facts and reality of ACD. This is indicative of the aforementioned fossil-fuel cronies doing the bidding of their backers.

While there have been far too many changes to websites to include all of them, there are several highlights worth noting.

The position of director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which has in the past functioned as the president's top science advisor, has remained unfilled. Less than two months into Trump's term, that office's website removed a line from a description of its mission that said it "ensures that the policies of the Executive Branch are informed by science."

Tillerson's State Department removed the term "greenhouse gas" from its Office of Global Change's website, in addition to deleting links to the Climate Action Report.

The National Institutes of Health's environmental unit changed mentions of "climate change" to "climate," and the agency has erased links to a fact sheet about ACD's threats to human health.

The National Park Service has seen nearly 100 documents that describe its action plans regarding ACD scrubbed from its Climate Friendly Parks website.

EPA websites have been the hardest hit. Dozens of links to information aimed at assisting local officials prepare for ACD impacts have been deleted. More than a dozen mentions of the words "climate change" have been removed from the site's main page, and other website pages that had detailed the risks of ACD, goals to curb emissions, and state plans to adapt to more extreme weather fueled by ACD are long gone.

The Department of the Interior (DOI) website has also seen dramatic changes. The Bureau of Land Management's statement about the purpose of a 2015 Fracking Rule that entailed greater regulations for onshore energy production has been removed. Prior to Trump, the DOI website featured an extensive overview of its ACD priorities, which have now been reduced to just a few sentences that focus on the kinds of land the agency protects. Recently, just before this Christmas, the Interior Department rescinded a variety of ACD policies, along with mitigation policies, because they were "potential burdens" to energy development.

The Department of Energy, which runs the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, has made vast changes to its web pages that include the Bioenergy Technologies Office and the Wind Energy Technologies Office, including the reduction of emphasis on renewable energies as replacements for fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation (DOT) changed the language it uses across multiple web pages, exchanging "climate change" and "greenhouse gases" for terms such as "sustainability" and "emissions." Furthermore, the DOT's summary was changed from working to "reduce greenhouse gas pollution and improve resilience to climate change impacts" to helping to "enhance sustainability, improve resilience, and reduce energy use and emissions on our highway system."

Attacking the Planet

Another nefarious way in which the Trump administration has been pushing its denialist approach to ACD is by disallowing government scientists from participating in conferences to discuss their work on the subject.

There are numerous instances of this, but one example occurred last October when the EPA canceled speaking appearances of three of its scientists who were to discuss ACD at a conference in Rhode Island.

Actions like this one -- the suppression of the work of government climate scientists -- have been widespread and common enough that several scientists exiled by the Trump administration recently formed a panel in order to continue their work. The scientists, who were members of a federal advisory committee on ACD that was disbanded by the administration, took their research to Columbia University's Earth Institute which went on to hire one of the committee's researchers who will reconvene the panel members to produce the report they were previously working on.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues its near-daily attacks on the environment itself, one of the more recent being its announcement to open most US coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. This came on the heels of another announcement that the administration aims to dramatically shrink several ocean monuments in order to allow for more commercial fishing, after announcing plans to shrink several land-based national monuments as well.

The planet's warming, of course, is not pausing to wait out this administration. The last four years have been the four hottest years ever recorded. Signs of runaway ACD abound, and it is only intensifying.

The Trump administration's attack on science and the environment, along with its denial of the largest existential threat to humanity (alongside nuclear war), will continue, and almost assuredly, intensify.
(c) 2018 Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last 10 years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards. His third book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with William Rivers Pitt, is available now on Amazon.

Bibi's Son Or: Three Men In A Car
By Uri Avnery

NO, I don't want to write about the affair of Ya'ir Netanyahu. I refuse adamantly. No force in the world will compel me to do so.

Yet here I am, writing about Ya'ir, damn it. Can't resist.

And perhaps it is really more than a matter of gossip. Perhaps it is something that we cannot ignore.

IT IS all about a conversation between three young man in a car, some two years ago.

One of the young men was Ya'ir, the eldest of the two sons of the Prime Minister.

Ya'ir is named after the leader of the "Stern Gang", whose real name was Abraham Stern. The original Ya'ir split from the Irgun underground in 1940, when Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany. While the Irgun stopped its actions against the British government for the time being, Stern demanded the very opposite: exploit the moment in order to get the British out of Palestine. He was shot by the British police.

The modern Ya'ir and his two friends were on a drunken tour of Tel Aviv strip-tease joints, an appellation which often seems to be a polite way of describing a brothel.

Somebody took the trouble to record the conversation of the young men - the sons of the Prime Minister and two of the richest "tycoons" in the country.

This recording has now surfaced. Since the publication, hardly anyone in Israel is talking about anything else.

According to the recording, Ya'ir demanded from of his friend, Nir Maimon, 400 shekels (about 100 dollars), in order to visit a prostitute. When the friend refused, Ya'ir exclaimed: "My father gave your father a concession worth a billion dollars, and you refuse to give me 400 shekels?"

The concession in question concerns the rich gas fields out in the sea near Israel's shores.

In an especially disgusting display of his utter contempt for the female sex, Ya'ir also offered to provide all his friends with the sexual services of his ex-girlfriend.

THIS RECORDING raises a whole pile of questions, each more unpleasant than the next.

First of all: who made it? Apart from Ya'ir and his two pals, there were only two persons present; the driver of the car and a bodyguard.

This raises some more questions. First, why is the 26-year old man provided with bodyguards at all, and for a tour of strip-tease joints in particular?

Ya'ir has no official function. No son or daughter of any former prime minister has ever been provided with bodyguards. No known danger threatens this particular son. So why must I pay for one? Second, what about the driver? Ya'ir was riding in a government car, driven by a government driver. Why? What right has he to a government car and to a government driver, in general - and in particular for such an escapade?

The episode has drawn the attention of the public to this son of privilege.

Who is Ya'ir Netanyahu? What does he do for a living? The simple answer: Nothing.

He has no profession. He has no job. He lives in the state-owned official residence in Jerusalem and eats at the state's expense.

What about his record? The only service he ever performed was as a soldier at the office of the army spokesman - not much risk of meeting flying bullets there. You need a lot of pull to land such a cozy job in the army.

Every reader can ask himself or herself: where was he or she when they were 26 years old?

Speaking for myself, at that age I had behind me several years of service in the Irgun underground, a year of continual fighting in a renowned army commando unit, a battle wound, and the beginning of my career as the editor-in-chief of a belligerent news magazine. I have earned my living since the age of 15. That is not something special to be proud of - many young people of my generation have the same past (except the journalistic part, of course.)

STILL, THIS part of the story can be explained by the character of this particular young man. Can a parent be held responsible for the character of his offspring?

Like many politicians, Netanyahu had no time for his children. It's the mother who bears most of the responsibility.

Sarah Netanyahu, known as "Sarah'le", is generally disliked. A former airplane stewardess, who "caught" Binyamin at an airport duty-free shop and became his third wife, is a haughty and quarrelsome person, who is in perpetual conflict with her government-paid household personnel. Some of these quarrels reach the courts.

So this is all a family affair, except that it raises some profound political questions.

What is the social setting of the Prime Minister, himself the son of a poor university professor and a government employee for almost all his life?

His offspring consorts with the sons of the country's richest peoples, who are enriching themselves with the active help of the Prime Minister, - Netanyahu influences the government funding of big projects. At the moment, the police are conducting at least four separate investigations into Netanyahu's personal economic affairs.

Practically all of Netanyahu's personal associates and friends are under police investigation. His closest friend, lawyer and relative is under investigation concerning the acquisition of immensely expensive German-made submarines. The navy claims that it does not need all of them.

In his private life, Netanyahu is being investigated for receiving for a long time cases of the most expensive Cuban cigars from super-rich "friends", for whom he provided some services. Sarah'le is investigated for receiving, on demand, a regular supply of very expensive pink champagne from another billionaire, whom she also asked to buy her jewelry.

THIS ENTIRE atmosphere of public and private corruption at the top of the state is very much removed from our past. It is something new, reflecting the Netanyahu era.

One could not even imagine anything like this in the times of David Ben-Gurion. His son, Amos, was implicated in some affairs which my magazine exposed, but nothing even remotely resembling this.

Menachem Begin lived for many years as an MK in the same two-room apartment where he had hidden as the most wanted terrorist in British Palestine. Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres all lived in modest circumstances.

Public humor calls Netanyahu "king" and even "emperor" and speaks of the "royal family". Why?

One reason is certainly the time factor. Netanyahu is now in his fourth term of office. That is much too much.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, as Lord Acton remarked. One can replace "absolute" with "long-term".

A person in power is surrounded by temptations, flatterers, corruptors, and as time goes by, his resistance wanes. That, alas, is human.

After the endless presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a relatively honest and effective chief executive, the American people did something extremely wise: it limited a president to two terms. I also have come to the conclusion that eight years is exactly right.

(That applies to myself, too. I was a Member of Parliament for ten years. In retrospect I have drawn the conclusion that eight years should have been enough. During my last two years I was less enthusiastic, less combative)

I DON'T hate Binyamin Netanyahu, as many Israelis do. He does not really interest me as a person. But I believe that he is a danger to the future of Israel. His obsession with clinging to power makes him sell out our national interests to interest groups, not just to billionaires but also to the corrupt religious establishment and many others.

Such a man is unable to make peace, even if he wanted to. Making peace demands strength of character, like taking the risk of being overthrown. Such audacity does not even enter Netanyahu's mind.

Tell me who your son is, and I'll tell you who you are.
(c) 2018 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Oligarch Jeff Bezos
By Margaret Kimberley

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a net worth of $105 billion and is the richest man in the world. But he is not just the richest man at this moment in history. He is the richest person who has ever lived. As of 2017 he and seven other billionaires had a collective net worth equal to that of the poorest 3.6 billion people on earth.

These figures have been in the news of late but without much useful analysis. The corporate media refuse to state what is obvious. Namely that inequality is worse around the world precisely because these super rich people demand it.

While pundits and politicians go on breathlessly about oligarchs in Russia, they seldom take a look at the wealthiest in their own back yard and the control they exert over the lives of millions of people. When Amazon announced it would choose a site for its new headquarters cities across the country began a furious race to the bottom. Amazon is not alone in the thievery department. Major corporations like Walmart always request and receive public property and public funds in order to do business.

Some 235 cities have put themselves in the running for this dubious venture. Chicago is willing to give Amazon $1.3 billion in payroll taxes that prospective employees would ordinarily pay that city. If Chicago wins this booby prize Amazon employees would pay taxes to their employer and not to the government. This is truly cutting out the middle man and makes real the rule of, by, and for the wealthiest.

The potential for public outrage isn't lost on unprincipled politicians. Some cities now refuse to reveal how much they plan to give away. But the news to date is disheartening with Boston offering $75 million while Houston is willing to part with $268 million. Amazon says it will hire 50,000 people but their business model already pays employees so little that many of them qualify for public assistance, despite being employed.

The United States is as much of an oligarchy as countries it usually disparages but it is far more dishonest about its true nature. All talk of democracy is a lie as the rich get richer, by an additional $1 trillion in 2017, and wield more and more power over the lives of everyone else.

The Bezos juggernaut is not restricted to theft of public money. He is also the sole owner of the Washington Post, one of the most influential newspapers in the country. Bezos owns a newspaper that is an organ of the ruling elite and he also has a $600 million contract to provide the Central Intelligence Agency with cloud computing services.

The Washington Post was the force behind Propaganda or Not, an effort to destroy left wing voices like those at Black Agenda Report. Under the guise of fighting Russia and so-called fake news the Bezos owned Post began the censorship campaign that has put the left's presence on the internet in such jeopardy.

Politicians outdo one another giving away public resources to the richest man on the planet who also owns a major newspaper and services the surveillance state. If it can be said that any one person rules the world Bezos would be obvious choice. No one in Chicago, Boston, Houston or any of the other cities giving away the store ever voted for Jeff Bezos. All talk of democracy is a sham as long as the richest people take from the rest of humanity.

The effort to make government an irrelevance is thoroughly bipartisan. Republicans and Democrats alike are willing to turn over government coffers to Bezos and his ilk and the rights of the people be damned.

Whoever wins this tarnished brass ring ought to be consigned to political defeat. The mayor, aldermen, city council members or whoever else brings disaster to their locality should be punished for aiding and abetting the theft. If these cities can give to the richest man who ever lived, they can surely use public money to help their residents right now. But they will never do that because they are all bought off and compromised. They are either cynical or afraid to go against the real rulers of the country.

Bezos may look like the villain in a James Bond movie but there is nothing funny about him. He is deadly serious and so are his intentions. In a Bezos run world every worker will be impoverished, every level of government will subsidize corporations, and anyone who speaks out will be discredited and under surveillance.

The last thing any city needs is a new Amazon headquarters. We need an end to billionaire rule in this country and around the world. That will be the salvation of the people, not more sweat shops run by wealthy people who steal from everyone else.
(c) 2018 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.

'Fire and Fury,' while a devastating "notional" portrait of Trump generally, describes a
White House that seems genuinely to believe the Russiagate scandal to be a complete hoax.

The TL:DR Guide to Michael Wolff's 'Fire and Fury'
As factual reporting, it's dubious, but as insight into the thinking of high-level right-wing intellectuals like Steve Bannon, it's subtle - and maybe valuable
By Matt Taibbi

A quick note about Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury, which upon a second pass still has, to put it mildly, some serious issues: As any art historian can pick out a forgery, veteran journalists reading this book will quickly spot an oversold narrative and perhaps unprecedented sourcing issues.

The tortured "Author's Note" preceding the prologue almost reads like a novel in itself. In fact, trying to follow Wolff's idea of what "off the record" means or does not mean is like trying to follow the hands of a three-card monte dealer. It just can't be done.

As a White House source put it, Wolff's narrative personality is almost like a comedy act in itself:

"He's like the old Jon Lovitz character from Saturday Night Live," the source said. "You know - 'Yeah, I went to Harvard, that's the ticket. And, yeah, I was on the couch in the West Wing for months, that's the ticket.'"
Fire and Fury is really two books rolled into one. The first is a compelling nonfiction book about the intellectual divide in the modern right, as candidly hashed out to Wolff by influential figures like Steve Bannon and Roger Ailes and (seemingly?) Rupert Murdoch.

The second is a Primary Colors-style novel about what goes on behind various closed doors in the Trump White House, based on a few bits and pieces of fact, which are offset by mountains of eye-rollingly insupportable supposition, spiced with occasional stretches of believable analysis.

There is considerable debate in the media world, on both the left and the right, about the value of this book (even I've gone back and forth on it). In the end, I think it's like a piece of moldy rye bread - you have to cut around the hairily sourced parts to keep from getting poisoned. But on a broad level, there is something to dig into.

Reading the book, there are at least a few real points about Trump that shine through:

1.) Trump has almost no ideological convictions and is motivated almost entirely by the classic narcissistic value equation, i.e. how much praise or scorn he gets on a second-to-second basis, from whom, and why. Had he not run as a Republican - and in particular won on a platform scripted by a nationalist true believer like Bannon - he might very well by now have been pushed into a completely different kind of presidency. Trump wants so badly to be liked that, especially with the influence of Kushner and Ivanka, he might easily have allowed his White House to drift back toward his original politics, which (as New Yorkers and furious conservatives alike will clearly remember) was once squarely in the Bob Rubin rich-guy sort-of Democrat mold.

President Donald Trump waves to the crowd after speaking at the 2017
National Scout Jamboree in Glen Jean, West Virginia on July 24, 2017.

2.) However, as Bannon points out in the book - correctly - Trump by now is so firmly entrenched in the consciousness of America's intellectual elite as a villain that he will never be accepted by that crowd. The constant battering Trump gets from the press, especially, ensures that he will continue to lash out at them, forcing him continually to tack back to the only people who still like him - Bannon's angry-man followers. This despite the fact that what Trump clearly craves is, instead, the approval of members of his own class.

3.) The result is an insane paradox of an America led by a doomed and trapped psyche. This is a president who in another era might have been confined to the impact of an ordinary bad commander-in-chief (we've had many), i.e., sedated and/or scripted in public, and kept on the golf course the rest of the time while the empire runs on the dreary autopilot of donors, P.R. flacks and military advisers.

Instead, we get a leader whose most dangerous moments come during his ever-expanding calendar of hyper-tweeting downtime (incidentally, is anything more certain than the term "executive time" replacing "taking my talents to South beach" as this generation's euphemism for masturbation?). All those crazed Trump tweets guarantee an endless cycle of paranoia and rebuke - and a permanently paralyzed White House.

Anyway, it's a fascinating book. But too long for most people in the Internet age to actually read. So without further ado, here's shorter Michael Wolff, in chapter form:

a) The Author's Note:

See if you can make sense of this passage:

"Many of the accounts of what has happened in the Trump White House are in conflict with one another; many, in Trumpian fashion, are baldly untrue. Those conflicts, and that looseness with the truth, if not with reality itself, are an elemental thread of the book. Sometimes I have let the players offer their versions, in turn allowing the reader to judge them. In other instances I have, through a consistency in accounts and through sources I have come to trust, settled on a version of events I believe to be true."
In other words: The unattributed facts you're about to read are sometimes my best guess as to the truth, and sometimes someone else's more dubious version, and you won't know which is which, but - whatever, enjoy!

b) Prologue: Ailes and Bannon

This is the most interesting part of the book, and not just because Wolff has the stones to use the word "louche" in a sentence early on (there's an "I went to college, honest" word choice about once every four pages in Fire and Fury). This passage alone sums up 30 years of the history of right-wing thinking:

"Ailes was convinced that Trump had no political beliefs or backbone. The fact that Trump had become the ultimate avatar of Fox's angry common man was another sign that we were living in an upside-down world. The joke was on somebody - and Ailes thought it might be on him."
This is the main theme of the book: That both the Republican establishment (as represented by the likes of Ailes and Murdoch) and the alt-right revolution (as represented by Bannon) think Trump is a fumbled football they can pick up and run into the end zone of power.

In the end, of course, the joke is on everyone, as Trump's brain fumbles hopelessly out of bounds and neither side successfully appropriates his presidency, which becomes an endlessly circular, purposeless, narcissistic tweet-storm.


Wolff becomes roughly the 40,000th writer to compare Trump's campaign to The Producers. In classic Hollywood formula-script fashion, the Trump campaign is presented as composed of characters that each have their own desperate motivation to lose, only to each be crushed in their own way by the shocker result.

This chapter reads a lot like Shattered, the acid catalogue of finger-pointing that took place among high-ranking Clinton campaign figures after Hillary's loss, except here it's backwards. In this case, the characters start to blame each other for somehow transforming what Steve Bannon called a surefire "broke dick" loser campaign into a winner.

The only person who truly believed from the start that Trump would win is Melania, who had learned to expect, with religious certainty, that her husband would deliver upon the worst-case scenario in every situation. She was right.

President-elect Donald Trump, with his family, addresses supporters at an election
night event at the New York Hilton Midtown November 8, 2016 in New York City, New York.

2. Trump Tower

The president spends the Saturday after the election begging guests to stay to meet a late Rupert Murdoch, not yet realizing he is the president of the United States and probably should be at the top of every party's A-list from now on.

The fate of Chris Christie and the White House chief-of-staff job is explained. Christie, who played a huge role in Trump's election by being the first establishment Republican to endorse his candidacy (until then, Trump's top backers were celebrity not-smart people like Gary Busey, John Daly, and Johnny Damon), would almost certainly have been chief of staff. But Trump does the unthinkable and gives daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner official posts in his White House, over the objections of noted ethicist Ann Coulter.

In his prosecutor days Christie had put Jared's dad Charlie Kushner in jail in 2005 for tax evasion and witness tampering, among other things, so Christie is cashiered as an impossible fit with the family-run administration.

A number of other unsuitable candidates for the chief post are considered until Trump finally settles on Reince Priebus, a lifetime Republican functionary who lacks the willpower to refuse the suicidal assignment.

3. Day One

Everybody warns Trump not to mess with the intelligence community. "If you fuck with the intel community... you'll have two or three years of a Russia investigation, and every day something else will leak out," Jared is told by one of Wolff's Someones. Kushner, alarmed, comes up with a plan to build a bridge to the "IC" with a Day One presidential visit to the CIA. Trump dutifully shows up for the address and doesn't take off his overcoat, lending him a "hulking gangster look" that may or may not have been designed to ingratiate him with an audience of spies.

He proceeds to go off on a lunatic rant about the size of the inauguration crowd, how God stopped the rain just in time to allow the great Trump to speak, and how he, Trump, didn't really take down a bust of Martin Luther King, despite what a guy named Zeke from Time tweeted, because "I would never do that, I have great respect for Dr. Martin Luther King." This is the first of many bridge-building efforts that don't work out so well.

4. Bannon

Bannon goes from being a team player pre-election to being "focused on my shit." He passes David Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest around the White House so that staffers can learn what a political establishment looks like and to recognize a true presidential "mien" (Wolff went to college!). Foreigners, we learn, are the ne plus ultra mania of Trumpism (ibid).

A growing fault line inside the Trump White House is described as beginning to be visible between establishment GOP functionaries like Priebus, Spicer and Priebus deputy Katie Walsh on the one hand, and the likes of Bannon and ex-Jeff Sessions aide and seeming escaped med-school cadaver Stephen Miller on the other. Who will get the upper hand?

US President Donald Trump stands alongside Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon (L) upon arrival
at Snap-On Tools in Kenosha, Wisconsin, April 18, 2017, prior to signing the Buy American, Hire American Executive Order.

5. Jarvanka

Bannon invents the term "Jarvanka" to describe Jared Kushner and wife Ivanka Trump. Trump invites Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough to the White House and serves fish. Mika doesn't eat fish. A long story about Kushner and the New York Observer is told that ends with an explanation about how Trump, who once sought to conquer the New York media scene, eventually had to flee it, going to Hollywood to become a reality star.

This story is important because in Hollywood and then through the election, Trump becomes so famous that the coastal media set - which had effectively driven Trump from New York in the first place in search of less judgmental audiences in flyover country - is now once again forced to cover Trump; a "fabulous, incomprehensible irony," as Wolff puts it.

Also in this chapter: Ivanka once dated an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, Jamie Johnson, who cast her in a bizarre movie about the horrible travails of inheriting assloads of money, a film called Born Rich (ultimate marijuana challenge: get baked and watch a tuxedoed Jamie's intro narration without laughing).

"If you have a douchebag dad, and everyone is open about it, then maybe it becomes fun and life a romantic comedy," Wolff writes, channeling Ivanka. "Sort of."

6. At Home

Trump is increasingly mad at the media, in particular at The New York Times, which has reported he stalks around the White House at late hours in a bathrobe.

Bannon's interpretation of the bathrobe detail is that this is a way of depicting Trump as losing it, a la Norma Desmond, the spiraling loony ex-actress in Sunset Boulevard.

Trump complains to everyone that he doesn't have a bathrobe, and moreover wouldn't think of wearing one, and can't believe people would think he does.

"Do I seem like a bathrobe kind of guy?" Wolff says he demands of "almost everyone" he spoke to in the wake of the Times story. This is the kind of thing that passes for important in the Trump White House.

7. Russia

Fire and Fury, while a devastating "notional" portrait of Trump generally, describes a White House that seems genuinely to believe the Russiagate scandal to be a complete hoax. The only crack here is that some of Wolff's sources wonder what Michael Flynn might have "roped the president into."

Wolff furthermore describes a White House that seems more concerned that Russiagate investigations might lead toward more-real revelations in unrelated business dealings.

Bannon says he likes Flynn, that Flynn reminds him of his uncles, but "that's the problem, he reminds me of my uncles."

Flynn, depending on what he says going forward, is, according to Wolff, maybe the most powerful person in Washington.

President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Russian President
Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office of the White House, January 28, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

8. Org Chart

Priebus, says Wolff, is expected to lose his job "as soon as his losing it would not embarrass the president too much." Katie Walsh, the deputy chief of staff, is portrayed as a Stalinesque figure, quietly assuming all the real organizational responsibilities of the palace while a bunch of more bombastic and self-aggrandizing males proudly pretend to be in charge of the historic ongoing failure that is this presidency.

Trump's ability to read is questioned. Then, that question is questioned, as Wolff notes that Trump can read headlines about himself. "He's just a guy who really hated school," Bannon says, "and he's not going to start liking it now."


It's a long book but Wolff doesn't have much material, so he fills a lot of it with the transcripts of that weird series of days in which Bannon touches Priebus on the knee at the CPAC conference, only to have Reince recoil (although this scene is not described in the book). Rebekah Mercer, daughter and heiress to hedge fund manager and major right-wing donor Robert Mercer, who had rescued Trump's floundering campaign after Pussygate, is seen saying the president's insane CPAC speech (basically a declaration of war against the news media) showed him at his "most gracious and charming."

10. Goldman

Wolff discusses how Bannon, Trump and Kushner have differing views about Jews. This somehow becomes a segue to talk about how Goldman, Sachs vets like Gary Cohn and onetime Goldman philanthropic chief (and noted Davos schmoozer) Dina Powell were brought into the White House by Jarvanka. The new Goldman-enhanced team is given credit for composing Trump's relatively sane speech to a joint session of Congress, for which he is, for a few brief hours, praised by almost everyone in the news media, even Van Jones. Jarvanka decrees that "Reaching Out" is the new watchword.

Bannon, who "cast himself as a Cassandra to anyone who would listen," correctly predicts the adulation won't last. Because the virtue of Donald Trump, at least to Bannon, is that he will never be accepted by the "cosmopolitan elite," which by extension includes the news media - which in turn means Bannon will have the White House back in violent conflict with the right people soon enough.

11. Wiretap

Jeff Sessions becomes the center of the latest Russiagate controversy. Trump doesn't understand why talking to the Russians was a big deal.

Tony Blair visits Jared Kushner in a freelance diplomacy capacity and purportedly lets on that the British may have had the Trump campaign under surveillance. This becomes an obsession with Trump, who goes bonkers when he sees Bret Baier interview Paul Ryan on Fox on March 3rd, 2017, quoting a Circa report about surveillance involving the Trump Tower.

It seems like Baier just misspoke in using the word "wiretap," but Trump goes nuts and tweet-storms at 4:35 a.m. that Trump Tower had its "wires tapped."

Then he calls Priebus and holds the phone up so that he, Priebus, can hear a playback of the interview between Baier and Ryan, who appears to kinda-sorta endorse the Circa report in the appearance. Ryan later tells Priebus he was just "BS-ing through the interview."

12. Repeal and Replace

The effort to undo Obamacare fails spectacularly in an episode that either speaks to the total incompetence of the Trump White House, or to a brilliant strategic move by Steve Bannon to demonstrate to Trump the total impotence of Paul Ryan and establishment pols like him. Or both, or neither.

13. Bannon Agonistes

Steve Bannon sees America as hopelessly divided into two hostile groups, one of which will win and one of which will lose. It is a modern undeclared civil war in which the rise of one side will mean, necessarily, the marginalization of the other.

Bannon had originally succeeded in making Trump a believer of this idea. Now, however, the failure of the health care debacle has instead begun to convince Trump that Bannon has to go. The logic here, as relayed by Wolff:

"Bannon's efforts to use the epic health care fail as evidence that the establishment was the enemy had hopelessly backfired. Trump saw the health care failure as his own failure, but since he didn't have failures, it couldn't be a failure, and would in fact be a success - if not now, soon. So Bannon, a Cassandra on the sidelines, was the problem."
The "centrist" wing of the Trump White House and inner circle, which by now includes not just Jarvanka but also Rupert Murdoch, begins to shark-circle around Bannon and point to him as the cause of all trouble.

The Mercers, who had rescued Trump's campaign and installed Bannon, apply pressure to keep Bannon around. A compromise is reached: Bannon will begin leaving at more reasonable hours, and not lingering in case Trump needs a dinner companion.

14. Situation Room

"The unique problem here," writes Wolff, "was partly how to get information to someone who did not (or could not or would not) read."

Trump says of H.R. McMaster, his post-Flynn National Security Advisor: "That guy bores the shit out of me... He looks like a beer salesman."

Then Trump sees McMaster perform well on Morning Joe and decides he's made a good hire.

Bannon has pushed Trump pretty far into what is described as a radical isolationist posture toward the Middle East (or, as Bannon puts it more succinctly, "Fuck 'em").

Now, however, a chemical attack in Syria takes place, and Ivanka and Dina Powell - this is according to Bannon - get Trump's eyes in front of pictures of child chemical-warfare victims "foaming at the mouth."

Trump, Bannon says, melts. He may not like to read, but pictures work. The president (allegedly) calls "a friend" that night. "The foam," Wolff reports him saying. "All that foam."

Trump launches a missile attack in response, and informs the visiting first couple of China over a dinner of "Dover Sole, haricots verts, and thumbelina carrots" that the attack has been completed. Fire and Fury has a fish motif.

Bannon (and the Chinese) are mortified, but everyone else is thrilled that, for the first time, Trump shows evidence of being "manageable."

Guided-missile destroyer USS Porter launches a tomahawk
land attack missile in the Mediterranean Sea, Friday, April 7th, 2017.

15. Media

There is a long discussion about what to do about the White House Correspondents' Dinner. The universal assessment is that Trump can dish it out but can't take it, and is not particularly funny - at least not "in that kind of humorous way," Kellyanne Conway is quoted as saying.

There is relief among the staff when it is decided Trump will not attend. He instead goes to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he inspects a line of "colorful wheelbarrows."

16. Comey

Wolff's telling of the Comey firing story seems to come almost entirely from Bannon's viewpoint. Most of the theories of what happened seem to involve the family, and Ivanka in particular, being afraid the Russia investigation will eventually lead to personal business matters. "The daughter will take down the father," Bannon-Cassandra prophesies on.

A huge part of Trump's problem in Washington, Bannon says, is his inability to understand the mindset of people who seek collective prestige - the "association with hegemonic organizations and a sense of higher cause" - as opposed to individual aggrandizement. Trump, Bannon explains, doesn't get the idea and continually insults career functionaries for being what they're supposed to be, because he doesn't understand anyone who would want that kind of job.

17. Abroad and At Home

Trump and the family pack up for a trip to the Middle East to establish peace there. No problem! They go to Saudi Arabia to visit the Crown Prince of the House of Saud, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, a.k.a. MBS.

They don't establish peace in the Middle East. But they do have a $75 million party thrown for them, where the fam gets driven around in gold golf carts and Trump gets to sit "on a throne-like chair."

18. Bannon Redux

Bannon exults in Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, another move designed to permanently place Trump on the other side of a battle with the cultural elite. Bannon crudely says this is a blow to Ivanka.

"Score," he is quoted as saying. "The bitch is dead."

19. Mika Who?

Bannon is quoted as saying that, in his estimation, there is no way Donald Trump Jr. did not bring the dirt-promising Russian delegation led by Natalia Veselnitskaya up to his father's office. "The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father's office on the 26th floor is zero," Bannon says.

The Urban Dictionary defines a "jumo" as "used universally to insult any person/s regardless their gender, race, nationality, etc."

20. McMaster and Scaramucci

On the reason Anthony Scaramucci wasn't hired initially: "The problem was that, really, nobody liked him."

New White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci speaks to members of the media
in the Brady Press Briefing room of the White House in Washington, Friday, July 21, 2017.

21. Bannon and Scaramucci

Bannon is feeling superior because Gary Cohn, "once a killer enemy," is by summer trying to curry favor, in search of a Fed Chair appointment.

Cohn is "licking my balls," Bannon says, in an image viciously relayed without warning by Wolff.

Bannon also seems pleased to hear that special prosecutor Robert Mueller has hired Andrew Weissman to his team. Bannon thinks this is deliciously bad news for Jarvanka, who now, Bannon says, have "the LeBron James of money laundering investigations" on their tail.

"You realize where all this is going," Bannon says. "This is about money laundering."

And once again, Bannon-Cassandra predicts that Mueller will steamroll through Manafort straight into Trump family business dealings, Deutsche Bank, etc., what Bannon calls the "greasy shit."

"They're on a beach trying to stop a Category Five," he says.

22. General Kelly

After Charlottesville, Jarvanka urges the hyper-tweeting, defensive and clearly tone-deaf Trump to take a strident posture condemning hate groups and racialists.

Bannon counsels against it, saying, "It will be clear his heart's not in it."

Bannon also advises against the disastrous impromptu presser at Trump Tower that Trump does anyway, sinking the White House into major crisis after Charlottesville.

Bannon at this point calls Robert Kuttner of the American Prospect and gives the interview that will seal his fate - and not coincidentally, provide the end of Wolff's narrative. In the curiously unguarded interview, he says of his enemies in the White House: "They're wetting themselves."

In fact it is Bannon who is out. He immediately runs to Breitbart, swearing revenge. About a half-year later, he is out of that job, too.

Leaving us in the moment we're in now: with Bannon sidelined, but billionaires like Trump and Mercer and permanent Beltwayers back piloting this ghost ship of a presidency. Will Mueller find the "greasy shit" and put an end to it all? Or will the Trump family complete the full Producers-style four-year jail sentence?

What a crazy story. If only we weren't really living it.
(c) 2018 Matt Taibbi is Rolling Stone's chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi's predecessors include the likes of journalistic giants Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Taibbi's 2004 campaign journal Spanking the Donkey cemented his status as an incisive, irreverent, zero-bullshit reporter. His books include Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion, Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire.

What's Killing America's Middle Class?
By Jim Hightower

As the royal triumvirate of Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell continue their perverse quest to turn our America into a gold-plated Trumplandistan for oligarchs, they keep insisting that their blatantly-elitist schemes will magically elevate the middle class and even the poor, delivering a 7-course-dinner to everyone!

Yeah, right - as we've now seen from their totally-regressive new tax law, your and my seven-course dinner turns out to be a six-pack and a possum. In fact, as the non-partisan Tax Policy Center reports, 10 years from now, 83 percent of the benefits in the Trump-Ryan-McConnell tax act will be flowing to the wealthiest families, while more than half of America's middle-income and poor people will actually see their taxes rise during the next decade.

Meanwhile, this egregious giveaway to undeserving corporate elites will add as much as one-and-a-half trillion dollars to the federal deficit. No problem, says the slap-happy triumvirate, for we have a plan to cover the cost of these lavish tax cuts we've given to the royals (including cuts for the gilded Trump family, which just happens to be one of the act's top beneficiaries). As Trump himself explained the plan: "We're going to go into welfare reform." Yes, the plan is to cut such essential safety net programs as children's health care, food stamps, jobless programs, and - as Ryan now publicly admits, they intend to cut your and my Medicare and Social Security.

What we have here is plutocracy in action - the precious few are intentionally knocking down and locking down the many to further enrich themselves. This is why the social cancer of inequality is spreading so rampantly in America, devouring the very middle class that Trump & Company are using - ironically and cynically - as an Orwellian rationale for passing their plutocratic agenda.
(c) 2018 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

Donald Trump and Scott Walker attend a campaign roundtable with small-business leaders in Altoona, Wisconsin, November 1, 2016.

The Trump Effect Helps Democrats Pull Off A Surprise Win In Wisconsin
In a district that backed Trump 55-38, Patty Schachtner sweeps to victory with a result that has shocked the state-and Governor Scott Walker.
By John Nichols

Don't take it from Wisconsin Democrats when they say that a surprise win Tuesday night in a special election for the state Senate signals that right-wing Republican Governor Scott Walker is in political trouble. Take it from Walker, the hyper-ambitious careerist who crashed and burned as a 2016 presidential contender but is now bidding for a third gubernatorial term.

After Democrat Patty Schachtner won a seat representing a district that backed Donald Trump by a 55-38 margin in 2016, Walker tweeted: "Senate District 10 special election win by a Democrat is a wake up call for Republicans in Wisconsin."

Walker will still raise plenty of money this year from the out-of-state campaign donors, including the Koch brothers, who have always been his most ardent supporters. The antiunion zealot will still engage in the relentlessly negative campaigning that he has always resorted to in tough races. But in an election season that looks like it could be defined by disenchantment with Donald Trump and his enablers, the governor is suddenly sounding-and acting-politically vulnerable.

There's no question that the Trump factor influenced the special-election result in Wisconsin. "President Donald Trump-along with Speaker Paul Ryan and Gov. Scott Walker who support and prop him up-are toxically unpopular and divisive," the state Democratic Party declared Tuesday night. "Republicans focus on ultra-wealthy donors, rather than opening doors to opportunities and building strong communities for the rest of us."

Carolyn Fiddler, a national Democratic analyst who tracks legislative races across the country, pointed out that the pattern of Democratic wins in the states, which took shape after the Republican president's election, continues. "Democrats are still winning Republican seats! Even when Republicans run in 'safe' and extremely gerrymandered districts and spend boatloads more money than the Democrat!" Fiddler explained Tuesday evening. "Tonight's win is Democrats' 34th state legislative pickup of the cycle."

Given that Wisconsin Republicans have used extreme gerrymandering to secure their positions, Schachtner's win was a particularly inspiring indication of the extent to which that disenchantment is shifting political sentiments. Noting that "[Schachtner's] message of building up our communities and bridging our differences clearly had an impact as we saw some of the best numbers Democrats have seen in this district in decades," State Senator Jen Shilling, the Democratic leader in the chamber, said Tuesday, "The results from today show that Wisconsin is ready for a change in Madison."

That's true for legislative contests, where Democrats have narrowed the Republican advantage in the Senate to 18-14, with one vacancy. It's also true for this fall's gubernatorial race. Western Wisconsin's suburban and rural 10th district has given Walker solid backing in his gubernatorial runs. It has also given Republican legislative candidates overwhelming support-reelecting the incumbent state senator, whose resignation sparked Tuesday's special election, by 26 percent in 2016. But now the district's voters have rejected a well-financed Walker ally (State Representative Adam Jarchow) in favor of Schachtner, a Democrat who won almost 55 percent of the vote.

The result that shocked Wisconsin Democrats and Republicans came after a campaign in which Schachtner touted her work as the St. Croix County medical examiner, her service on the Somerset School Board, and her tenure on the board of the board of directors for Turning Point Wisconsin, a center for victims of sexual and domestic violence.

Schachtner's campaign also highlighted her support for public education and public services-which have suffered on Walker's watch-and ripped the governor for misdirecting economic development spending. Walker worked with Trump last year on a much-criticized scheme to lure a manufacturing facility being developed by the Taiwan-based Foxconn corporation to House Speaker Paul Ryan's congressional district in southeast Wisconsin-with $3 billion in tax incentives and promises to ease off on regulations.

Schlachter explained during the campaign that

I want to prioritize investment in jobs, businesses and entrepreneurs right here in western Wisconsin. For too long, politicians have failed to put our local schools, roads and communities first while special interests in other areas of the state have received large sums of taxpayer money. Instead of giving foreign corporations and wealthy donors massive tax breaks and special exemptions from environmental protections, I will work to ensure that our communities receive our fair share of state investments. I will also fight to retain local control so that our communities can decide what is best for our growth, instead of letting out-of-state corporations damage our clean land, air, and water for their own profit.
"In the Senate," the Democrat promised, "I will fight for tax fairness and make sure that everyone who does business in Wisconsin plays by the same rules. Rather than picking winners and losers, I want our government to invest in good roads, quality schools and 21st century broadband infrastructure to help all communities compete in our global economy." You can bet Scott Walker's Democratic challenger-who will be selected this summer from a wide field of contenders-will bring a similar message to Wisconsinites this fall.
(c) 2018 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, is published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

A House Divided . . .
By James Donahue

Abraham Lincoln quoted Jesus when he gave his famous "house divided" speech before the Republican State Convention in Springfield, Illinois, on June 16, 1858. He went on to win the Presidency against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas.

Lincoln's speech was controversial when he said it. Yet it was clearly prophetic because of the looming Civil War that was to literally tear the nation apart during his term in office.

That war was fought over the issue of state's rights and slavery. Today, a century and a half later, America is once again a house divided, and the rift may be even more severe than it was in 1858. Not only are Americans divided over political issues, but Lincoln's grand old party is still embroiled over the old issue of race following the election of President Barack Obama, the first black president to be elected to the White House.

The fighting on party lines was so severe that President Obama had to use every trick in the book to deal with important issues. Many of his appointments to vacant political seats remained unapproved by a Republican controlled Congress. He did manage to push a health bill through the two houses but it was left somewhat skewed by the political in-fighting that occurred among legislators that worked hard against the bill. Because of gerrymandering and trickery in key voting districts the Republicans gained gained control of the Senate, thus creating a political block against just about anything Mr. Obama had on his plate for his final four years in office.

While unable to get much done on the home front, the Obama Administration focused on issues in the Middle East, which even then were growing ugly. One important question was whether Iran could be persuaded not to build atomic weapons after it successfully constructed a nuclear power plant. Vice President Joe Biden, who was personally involved in negotiations with Iranian leaders, justifiably exploded in anger when 47 Republican Senators sent a letter to Iran which questioned the authority of President Obama to negotiate such a deal with Iran. In a prophetic statement, Biden accused the Senate Republicans of undercutting "sensitive international negotiations" and acting "beneath the dignity of an institution I revere."

Biden's letter suggested that any deal the Iranians made with President Obama might well be scuttled by Republican legislators, and that a successor to Mr. Obama might choose to invalidate its terms. Indeed, we now know this is exactly what happened. Donald Trump succeeded President Obama and within his first few months in office, he and his radical pack of legislators set about reversing every presidential order made and scuttle every peace initiative during the Obama years.

Consequently the world is closer to the brink of nuclear war than ever before in history. In his prophetic statement, Biden also warned that the GOP letter "ignores two centuries of precedent and threatens to undermine the ability of any future American president, whether Democrat or Republican, to negotiate with other nations on behalf of the United States.

"As the authors of this letter must know, the vast majority of our international commitments take effect without congressional approval," Biden added.

Since it is clear that the "Tea Party" Republican legislators have been busy erasing everything Obama attempted to accomplish, and the now slanted Judicial branch has been successfully muddying the waters with controversial decisions, this house . . . the United States government, is clearly divided on almost every front.

It is no secret that America has now made enemies in all corners of the world. Are the Republican legislators . . . many of them greenhorn Tea Party extremists . . . not placing our nation in great jeopardy by doing what they are doing? Could they collectively pull themselves up for a united front in the event that the United States comes under any kind of attack by a foreign power?

As radical groups like the KKK and Nazis are reappearing with the apparent blessings of Mr. Trump, and state governments rebel against imposed problematic demands issued by this radical president and his staff, are we not in danger of launching yet another civil war within our own boundaries?

Operatives for North Korea, China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Pakistan, and varous Middle Eastern nations might be asking these very questions as they watch the strange events unfolding these days in Washington.
(c) 2018 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.

Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland, has served two terms.

Cardin's Anti-Russia Views Make Him A Fitting Opponent For Chelsea Manning
By Norman Solomon

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ben Cardin, has become a big star in national media by routinely denouncing Russia as a dire threat to American democracy. The senior senator from Maryland personifies the highly dangerous opportunism that has set in among leading Democrats on the subject of Russia.

Chelsea Manning confirmed on Sunday that she is challenging Sen. Cardin's re-election effort in the Democratic primary this June. Her campaign has real potential to raise key issues. One of them revolves around the kind of bellicose rhetoric that heightens the dangers of conflict between the world's two nuclear superpowers.

In a typical foray into reckless hyperbole, Cardin told a public forum in November: "When you use cyber in an affirmative way to compromise our democratic, free election system, that's an attack against America. It's an act of war. It is an act of war."

Cardin is far from the only member of Congress to use "act of war" rhetoric about alleged Russian cyber actions. Republican ultra-hawk Arizona Sen. John McCain has hurled the phrase at Russia. But the most use of the phrase comes from a range of Democrats, such as Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal and the normally sensible Northern California Rep. Jackie Speier.

As his party's ranking member of the key Senate committee on foreign policy, Cardin is at the tip of the anti-Russia propaganda spear. After three decades in Congress including nearly a dozen years in the Senate, he's an old hand at spinning. No one has worked harder to get political mileage out of "Russiagate."

Last week, Cardin upped the ante with the release of a report that he commissioned. In effect, it's a declaration of red-white-and-blue jihad against Russia.

The report-which accuses Russian President Vladimir Putin of "a relentless assault to undermine democracy and the rule of law in Europe and the United States"-received massive coverage in U.S. news media. Conservative and liberal punditry voiced acclaim.

"Never before in American history has so clear a threat to national security been so clearly ignored by a U.S. president," a solo statement by Cardin declares on the opening page. With the truly repugnant President Trump in its crosshairs, the report's most polemical claims-no matter how debatable or ahistorical-have predictably gotten a pass from mass media.

But the much-ballyhooed report is a carefully selective and distorted version of history.

The expansion of NATO up to Russia's borders, the U.S. interference in dozens of countries' elections (including in Russia during the Clinton administration), Washington's support for repressive regimes in the past and present-such realities didn't merit consideration or mention. Nor did facts such as the USA's role as the world's biggest arms merchant. Or the aggressively deadly U.S. military interventions in the recent past and present, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya.

Such omissions are essential to the self-righteous tone of the Russiagate frenzy. Only with silence about basic truths of U.S. foreign policy can officials in Washington pose as leaders of an angelic nation that must confront satanic Russia.

In light of what is at stake for human survival-with the odds of nuclear war shifting ominously because of the agenda that he's helping to push-Sen. Cardin can be understood as someone who avidly fits into patterns of nationalistic and militaristic madness. The sad fact is that he has plenty of company on Capitol Hill. Lemmings are bad enough, but conformists who would drag all of humanity over the cliff with them are far worse.

Democratic leadership used to be much saner. Five decades ago, it was the fanatical Republican standard bearer Barry Goldwater who scorned reaching out to the Kremlin-while Democratic President Lyndon Johnson wisely sought detente with Russian leaders on behalf of peaceful coexistence and reducing the risks of nuclear conflagration.

Right after being sentenced to prison in August 2013 for heroic whistleblowing that exposed many U.S. war crimes, Chelsea Manning released a statement that quoted Howard Zinn: "There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people." A nuclear war between the United States and Russia would do more than kill vast numbers of innocent people. Scientific research tells us that a nuclear holocaust would make the Earth "virtually uninhabitable."

The extreme hostility toward Russia that makes such an outcome more likely must be rejected. Sen. Ben Cardin is one of the loudest and most prominent voices for such hostility. He should be challenged.
(c) 2018 Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

The Fine Art Of Unraveling Right Wing BS
By Heather Digby Parton

For anyone who has been following the right wing counter-narrative on the Russia investigation which most recently has been focused on the idea that high ranking members of the FBI were actively working against Donald Trump, possibly with the help of Russian agents through the nefarious Christopher Steele.

It's very convoluted and completely absurd, since it was obvious that if the FBI had its thumbs on the scale it was on behalf of Donald Trump not against him. Anyway, last week a right winger who calls himself a journalist named John Solomon published an article that was picked up by Drudge and Sean Hannity and was then sent all over Bizarroworld in which he claims that the notorious emails sent between FBI agent Strzok and his girlfriend, FBI lawyer Page prove that they were leaking damaging information about Trump to the press.

The Huffington Post's Ryan Reilly and Nick Baumann debunk the whole damned thing here and it's not easy because the whole damned thing is so ridiculous in the first place.

The reason this is important is because the traitorous Republicans in the congress, led by such patriotic heroes as Lindsey Graham, are using their offices to push this sort of nonsense into the legal realm and it's a dangerous abuse of power. We don't know yet if they will succeed in creating some sort of parallel investigation to counter the Mueller probe and attempt to equalize Trump's crimes but they've got people pushing for it. It's a cynical ploy to make Dear Leader happy and throw some Clinton meat at the ravening crowd that wants to see her drawn and quartered just so they can prove they did the right thing by voting for this cretinous imbecile.
(c) 2018 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.

Bury the Monroe Doctrine
By David Swanson

Remarks at No Foreign Bases Conference, Baltimore, MD, January 13, 2018

I get to introduce three terrific speakers to you on the topic of Latin America and the Caribbean, but first I'm allowed to say what I'm thinking for five minutes, so I'll do that. I'm thinking that the first European bases on this coast were foreign bases, that they moved west, and that the practice has never paused. I live almost next door to the former home of James Monroe whose Monroe Doctrine, as evolved and abused over the centuries, ought to be buried. The U.S. policy of antidemocratically and often violently seeking to dominate the nations to its south, in the name of preventing some other force from doing so, has seen its shelf-life expire. The communism excuse is gone. The terrorism and drugs excuses are weak and getting weaker.

The United States keeps small numbers of troops in almost every country or territory to its south, with the biggest numbers in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Honduras, and El Salvador, with many more within striking distance in Texas and Florida, where the U.S. maintains a command center that claims to command the hemisphere. The U.S. even has use of an island in the middle of the Atlantic that the British used in the Falklands war. And its bases include one at the tip of South America.

Is Latin America a military threat to the United States or the world? Hardly. The threat perceived by some segment of the U.S. is of an influx of refugees from hardships, including mostly human-created disasters, and most of those created in part by U.S. militarism. Of all the world's big weapons dealers, none are located in Central or South America or the Caribbean. But almost the entire area is sent weapons from the United States. While the U.S. encourages higher military spending in these countries and sets an example by spending over $1 trillion per year itself, Brazil is the only country in the region to spend over 1% of that, or $10 billion. It spends $24 billion. Every nation in this region and on earth spends closer to Costa Rica's $0 than to the United States' $1 trillion.

These countries have no nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. They are almost all members of the International Criminal Court. They tend to belong to more disarmament and human rights treaties than does the United States. Almost all are members of a nuclear free zone. The majority have signed the new nuclear weapons ban treaty. Some have held truth commissions or prosecuted war crimes. People in almost every one have signed our peace pledge at Four years ago this month, 31 Latin American and Caribbean countries declared themselves a zone of peace and committed to not using and to seeking to end war making, and to advancing complete disarmament.

What does this model behavior earn the region from the U.S.? Just since 1945, numerous elections interfered with, assassinations of leaders or attempts in eight countries I know of, overthrown governments or attempts at it in 15 countries I know of, attacks by the U.S. military in 13 countries that I know of. In 2013 Gallup polled in Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, and Peru, and in each case found the United States the top answer to "What country is the greatest threat to peace in the world?" In 2017, Pew polled in Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, and Peru, and found between 56% and 85% believing the United States to be a threat to their country.

This modern imperialism is uniquely U.S.ian, and it may be that communication and organizing is all we need to end it using existing popular sentiment. Maybe we can close the bases because of the ingratitude of foreigners for our imagined generosity. But would such a victory lay the groundwork for good behavior? U.S. exceptionalism that justifies imperial bullying is a prominent sentiment we may have to cure. U.S. nationalism has a religious character, it's destructive mission is imagined as sacred. Ft. McHenry Baltimore is not a historic site. It is a "National Monument and Historic Shrine." We may have to learn to value other things, including the other 96% of humanity, before the empire shuts down.
(c) 2018 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.

What Would President* Trump Recommend For Countries Running Out Of Water?
South Africa is the latest victim of the elaborate "climate hoax."
By Charles P. Pierce

Let's begin the week with some cheery news that has nothing to do with the epochal moment in which Steve Bannon showed up in the Capitol wearing only one shirt and a tie. Far away from the Beltway stakeouts, the city of Cape Town in South Africa is running out of water. From Quartz:

It's the height of summer in Cape Town, and the southwesternmost region of South Africa is gripped by a catastrophic water shortage. Unless the city adopts widespread rationing, the government says, the taps "will be turned off" on April 22, 2018, because there will be no more water to deliver. This would make Cape Town the first major city in the world to run out of water, according to Anthony Turton, a professor at the Centre for Environmental Management at the University of the Free State in South Africa, who spoke to the New York Times. "It's not an impending crisis-we're deep, deep, deep in crisis." The shortage is the result of a multi-year drought.
Drought conditions have become epidemic in the southern hemisphere over the past decade. Last fall, which is spring in that part of the world, the good folks at Climate Watch published a survey of the region.
Drought is also intensifying on the other side of the Indian Ocean in Indonesia and Australia and the positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) in the tropics likely plays a large role in this. As early as June our model confidently predicted the development of a positive IOD and we pointed out the increased drought risk in those regions. Due to the IOD conditions those droughts are likely to continue.

Tied in with drought conditions, and with the deepening climate crisis that are their major cause, are a number of other problems, as Climate Watch explains. One of these is epidemic disease. From JST:

Recent climate changes have increased the possible risks of infectious disease outbreaks in unexpected regions and on scales previously unknown. This project is developing an infectious disease outbreak prediction model that incorporates the influences of a variety of environmental factors into the climate change models in order to predict the outbreaks of malaria, pneumonia, and diarrheal diseases such as cholera that are predominantly affected by climate conditions. The ultimate aim of the research is to build an early warning system that can be applied in implementing effective countermeasures for infectious disease...The predictions can be applied through approaches involving appropriate preventative measures during warning periods and in high-risk regions (including implementation of countermeasures, preparation of medicines and diagnostic kits for an early response). In the future, the system can also be expected to be developed and deployed in areas outside Southern Africa.
Leave that aside for a moment and consider the original story. Cape Town, a major city with close to a half-million inhabitants, is in immediate danger of running out of water. Two million tourists a year visit the place. As Reuters reports, the city is scrambling as "Day Zero" approaches.
"Day Zero" - the date taps are due to run dry - has crept forward to April 22 as city authorities race to build desalination plants and drill underground boreholes.
This climate business remains the most successful hoax in history.
(c) 2018 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...

"The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance"
~~~~ Benjamin Franklin

Let's Wrench Power Back From The Billionaires
If we stand together against powerful special interests we can eliminate poverty, increase life expectancy and tackle climate change
By Bernie Sanders

Here is where we are as a planet in 2018: after all of the wars, revolutions and international summits of the past 100 years, we live in a world where a tiny handful of incredibly wealthy individuals exercise disproportionate levels of control over the economic and political life of the global community.

Difficult as it is to comprehend, the fact is that the six richest people on Earth now own more wealth than the bottom half of the world's population - 3.7 billion people. Further, the top 1% now have more money than the bottom 99%. Meanwhile, as the billionaires flaunt their opulence, nearly one in seven people struggle to survive on less than $1.25 (90p) a day and - horrifyingly - some 29,000 children die daily from entirely preventable causes such as diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia.

At the same time, all over the world corrupt elites, oligarchs and anachronistic monarchies spend billions on the most absurd extravagances. The Sultan of Brunei owns some 500 Rolls-Royces and lives in one of the world's largest palaces, a building with 1,788 rooms once valued at $350m. In the Middle East, which boasts five of the world's 10 richest monarchs, young royals jet-set around the globe while the region suffers from the highest youth unemployment rate in the world, and at least 29 million children are living in poverty without access to decent housing, safe water or nutritious food. Moreover, while hundreds of millions of people live in abysmal conditions, the arms merchants of the world grow increasingly rich as governments spend trillions of dollars on weapons.

In the United States, Jeff Bezos - founder of Amazon, and currently the world's wealthiest person - has a net worth of more than $100bn. He owns at least four mansions, together worth many tens of millions of dollars. As if that weren't enough, he is spending $42m on the construction of a clock inside a mountain in Texas that will supposedly run for 10,000 years. But, in Amazon warehouses across the country, his employees often work long, gruelling hours and earn wages so low they rely on Medicaid, food stamps and public housing paid for by US taxpayers.

Not only that, but at a time of massive wealth and income inequality, people all over the world are losing their faith in democracy - government by the people, for the people and of the people. They increasingly recognise that the global economy has been rigged to reward those at the top at the expense of everyone else, and they are angry.

Millions of people are working longer hours for lower wages than they did 40 years ago, in both the United States and many other countries. They look on, feeling helpless in the face of a powerful few who buy elections, and a political and economic elite that grows wealthier, even as their own children's future grows dimmer.

In the midst of all of this economic disparity, the world is witnessing an alarming rise in authoritarianism and rightwing extremism - which feeds off, exploits and amplifies the resentments of those left behind, and fans the flames of ethnic and racial hatred.

Now, more than ever, those of us who believe in democracy and progressive government must bring low-income and working people all over the world together behind an agenda that reflects their needs. Instead of hate and divisiveness, we must offer a message of hope and solidarity. We must develop an international movement that takes on the greed and ideology of the billionaire class and leads us to a world of economic, social and environmental justice. Will this be an easy struggle? Certainly not. But it is a fight that we cannot avoid. The stakes are just too high.

As Pope Francis correctly noted in a speech at the Vatican in 2013: "We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal." He continued: "Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalised: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape."

A new and international progressive movement must commit itself to tackling structural inequality both between and within nations. Such a movement must overcome "the cult of money" and "survival of the fittest" mentalities that the pope warned against. It must support national and international policies aimed at raising standards of living for poor and working-class people - from full employment and a living wage to universal higher education, healthcare and fair trade agreements. In addition, we must rein in corporate power and prevent the environmental destruction of our planet as a result of climate change.

Here is just one example of what we have to do. Just a few years ago, the Tax Justice Network estimated that the wealthiest people and largest corporations throughout the world have been stashing at least $21tn-$32tn in offshore tax havens in order to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. If we work together to eliminate offshore tax abuse, the new revenue that would be generated could put an end to global hunger, create hundreds of millions of new jobs, and substantially reduce extreme income and wealth inequality. It could be used to move us aggressively toward sustainable agriculture and to accelerate the transformation of our energy system away from fossil fuels and towards renewable sources of power.

Taking on the greed of Wall Street, the power of gigantic multinational corporations and the influence of the global billionaire class is not only the moral thing to do - it is a strategic geopolitical imperative. Research by the United Nations development programme has shown that citizens' perceptions of inequality, corruption and exclusion are among the most consistent predictors of whether communities will support rightwing extremism and violent groups. When people feel that the cards are stacked against them and see no way forward for legitimate recourse, they are more likely to turn to damaging solutions that only exacerbate the problem.

This is a pivotal moment in world history. With the explosion in advanced technology and the breakthroughs this has brought, we now have the capability to substantially increase global wealth fairly. The means are at our disposal to eliminate poverty, increase life expectancy and create an inexpensive and non-polluting global energy system.

This is what we can do if we have the courage to stand together and take on the powerful special interests who simply want more and more for themselves. This is what we must do for the sake of our children, grandchildren and the future of our planet.
(c) 2017 Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont's at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website. Follow him on Twitter: @SenSanders or @BernieSanders

Customers purchase copies of one of the first UK consignments of Michael Wolff's book on
Trump's presidency Fire and Fury, at Waterstones, Piccadilly on January 9, 2018, in
London, England. The book is already a bestseller with over a million orders in the US alone.

Why I Hate Michael Wolff's New Trump Book
By William Rivers Pitt

Along with a significant segment of the planet, I downloaded Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Michael Wolff's ubiquitous new tell-all book, the first morning it was available. I expected to love it, for no other reason than its very existence motivated Trump into a paroxysm of cease-and-desist threats and looming defamation suits. How is that not fun all by itself?

I plowed through it, highlighting passages like a college kid working a thesis ... then it was over, and there I was, just absolutely hating it. I felt dull, dirty and mean in its wake. It was as if the slime contained in the pages had slithered under my fingernails and into my bloodstream. I felt polluted. I felt like lice. I felt like the president of the United States.

Don't get me wrong, it's a fine read in the main. While Wolff's reporting in the book has taken a number of justified hits for being sloppy with the details, the essence of what he describes has been confirmed time and again by other reporters pursuing other stories. Since the very first day of this administration, Donald Trump and his people have approached their duties like kids dropping bricks off a highway overpass, and that sort of behavior leaves a very visible mark.

This is how it is, and due respect to the author, anyone who has been paying attention didn't learn much of anything new from Wolff's book. The stories I'd never heard before were only depressing, not revelatory. Take the scene where campaign aide Sam Nunberg was tasked early on to explain the Constitution and Bill of Rights to candidate Trump, who had little understanding of either. The way Wolff tells it, Trump was rolling his eyes and bored by the time they got to the Fourth Amendment.

Not only did a candidate for president have no grasp of the country's founding documents, according to the book, he didn't care to know. Indeed, aggressive ignorance has been Trump's battle cry since he came down that fateful escalator like a blood sausage on a conveyor belt. Wolff's anecdotes paint a picture we can already see. It's not confirmation bias when it's already been confirmed a thousand different ways.

A great many people are hoping Fire and Fury has delivered a terrible blow to an already disorganized and disoriented administration. Perhaps it has. With the Mueller investigation still ticking away behind the White House walls like the tell-tale heart, and with the very real possibility of an electoral bloodbath lurking in November, Wolff's book may be remembered as the first real haymaker anyone has managed to land on Donald Trump since the 2016 campaign began, the one that buckled his knees on his trip to the canvass.

Still, Fire and Fury is a storyboard of the putrid place we occupy in history, for everything that has gone sideways and down, for what we have become as a nation. It is a collection of terrible people doing terrible things for terrible reasons. It broke my heart to read it, and I didn't think politics could do that to me anymore.

I hated reading it because it not only encapsulates the reality TV show our government has become, it expands upon it and in many ways, feeds it. Although there is merit to the book's publication, we should remember while reading it that there is no President Trump without the corporate news media's lavish assistance throughout the 2016 campaign. Candidate Trump was great TV; President Trump is even better. Throw a juicy scandal book onto the pyre and the ratings pop like a knot in the bark.

In April 2016, CBS CEO Les Moonves delivered some remarks at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in San Francisco. Holding forth on the profitability of political advertising on local networks, Moonves shared some observations on Donald Trump's antics during the ongoing presidential campaign. "It may not be good for America," he said, "but it's damn good for CBS, that's all I got to say. So what can I say? It's -- you know, the money's rolling in, and this is fun."

There you have it. The presidency of Donald J. Trump has been a million white Broncos for much of the media, a million Desert Storms, a million 9/11s. Much of the North American continent has not turned off the TV since the man took office, because anything could happen at any minute, and even good people are going to ogle the wreck in the road. Such is the founding principle of modern TV journalism: Get them to look.

Trump has been a media creation all his life. His ascendancy, his vividly ongoing calamities and now a book that breathlessly describes what we already knew have formed a frictionless moneymaker for Murrow's lights and wires in a box. The TV loves this. Next up on the celebrity presidential parade: Oprah! Before long, we'll be amending the Constitution to stipulate that you can't run for office until you've appeared in at least one pilot.

I don't like Donald Trump. The Wolff book doesn't like Donald Trump. I was predisposed to enjoy it, and I did, because it is a peek at a wreck, and if some of the facts have a case of the wobbles, it's still difficult to look away.

Let's remember, though, that it is also a confection for the media, grist for the mill, cash money. Mainstream media outlets, clearly, are not at all tired of all this winning. We're trapped in a bad plot we didn't write, binge-watching history as the ratings soar.

Finally and for the sake of argument, say Michael Wolff made everything in his book up out of pure sunshine, that it's the tapestry of lies Trump's allies claim it is. It still doesn't matter, not one bit, because the behavior of the president of the United States of America -- every day, for many long years now -- makes every single thing in that book seem not just plausible, but likely. It looks like him, sounds like him, smells like him, and there is no joy in knowing it.

When I was 13, my father took me to see the movie Gremlins because I asked him to. It was blood and guts and puppets running amok, and my father frowned all the way through it. When it was over and the lights came up, he looked pained. I asked him what he thought of it. "It reminded me of the end of the world," he replied softly. "All those people getting killed in so many terrible ways, and the audience thought it was hilarious. Everyone was laughing at the wrong things. If that's how people are, it makes me feel doomed."

I hadn't thought of that moment in many years, not until I finished Wolff's book. There is nothing to feel good about with this, no "Gotcha" jolt or sense of empowerment that usually comes with new knowledge. It is just darkness painted black, and I feel doomed, too. We can enjoy this read, but we must also hope the next big book is about what we are doing to fix all this. Right now, there is too much laughter at the wrong things.
(c) 2018 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.

The Dead Letter Office...

Gary gives the corporate salute!

Heil Trump,

Dear Uberfuhrer Peters,

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 happily giving Trump warrantless spying powers on Americans, 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 17 "Democractic 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 03-17-2018. We salute you Herr Peters, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

Ronald Reagan's secret service name "Old Dementia Head."

Straight Talk About Trump
By Robert Reich

Now that Trump has been president for almost a year, it's time the media called his behavior for what it is rather than try to normalize it. Here are the six most misleading media euphemisms for conduct unbecoming a president:

1. Calling Trump's tweets presidential statements or press releases. "The President is the President of the United States, so they're considered official statements by the President of the United States," Trump's first press secretary, Sean Spicer, said last June when asked during his daily briefing how his tweets should be characterized.

Wrong. Trump's tweets are mostly rants off the top of his head - many of them wild, inconsistent, rude, crude, and bizarre.

Normal presidential statements are products of careful thought. Advisers weigh in. Consequences are considered. Alternatives are deliberated. Which is why such statements are considered important indicators of public policy, domestically and internationally.

Trump's tweet storms are relevant only to judging his mood on a particular day at a particular time.

2. Referring to Mar-A-Lago as "the Winter White House." The White House says the term is accurate because Trump does official business from there, and, besides, Mar-A-Lago's former owner wanted the Palm Beach estate to become a presidential retreat.

Rubbish. Unlike the White House and Camp David, the traditional presidential retreat, both of which are owned by taxpayers, Mar-a-Lago is a profit-making business owned by Trump.

The White House is open for public tours; Mar-a-Lago is open only to members who can pay $200,000 to join.

Mar-a-Lago, along with the other Trump resort properties that he visits regularly, constitute a massive conflict of interest. Every visit promotes the Trump resort brand, adding directly to Trump's wealth.

Normal presidents don't make money off the presidency. Trump does. His resorts should be called what they are - Trump's businesses.

3. Calling his lies "false claims" or "comments that have proved to be inaccurate." Baloney. They're lies, plain and simple.

Early last year the Wall Street Journal's editor-in-chief insisted that the Journal wouldn't label Trump's false statements as "lies." Lying, said the editor, requires a deliberate intention to mislead, which couldn't be proven in Trump's case.

Last fall, NPR's then news director, Michael Oreskes defended NPR's refusal to use the term "liar" when describing Trump, explaining that the word constitutes "an angry tone" of "editorializing" that "confirms opinions."

In January, Maggie Haberman, a leading Times' political reporter, claimed that her job was "showing when something untrue is said. Our job is not to say 'lied.'"

Wrong. Normal presidents may exaggerate; some occasionally lie. But Trump has taken lying to an entirely new level. He lies like other people breath. Almost nothing that comes out of his mouth can assumed to be true.

For Trump, lying is part of his overall strategy, his MO, and his pathology. Not to call them lies, or to deem him a liar, is itself misleading.

4. Referring to Trump's and his aide's possible "cooperation" or "coordination" with Russia in the 2016 presidential campaign.

This won't due. "Cooperation" and "coordination" sound as if Trump and his campaign assistants were merely being polite to the Russians, engaged in a kind of innocent parallel play.

But nothing about what we've seen and heard so far suggests politeness or innocence. "Collusion" is the proper word, suggesting complicity in a conspiracy.

If true - if Trump or his aides did collude with the Russians to throw the election his way - they were engaged in treason, another important word that rarely appears in news reports.

5. Calling Trump's and Paul Ryan's next move "welfare reform," as in "Trump has suggested more than once that welfare reform might be the next big legislative item on his agenda."

Rubbish. They're not going after "welfare." Welfare - federal public assistance to the poor - was gutted in 1996. Trump and Ryan are aiming at Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

Nor are they seeking to "reform" these programs. They want to cut them in order to pay for the huge tax cut they've given corporations and the wealthy. "We're going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform," Ryan said recently, "which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit."

So call it what it is: Planned cuts in Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

6. Describing Trump's comments as "racially charged." "Racially charged" sounds like Trump doesn't intend them to be racist but some people hear them that way. Rubbish.

Trump's recent harangue against immigrants from "shitholes" in Latin America and Africa comes only weeks after The New York Timesreported that at another Oval Office meeting Trump said Haitian immigrants "all have AIDS" and that Nigerians who visit the US would never "go back to their huts."

This is the man who built his political career on the racist lie that Barack Obama was born in Africa, who launched his presidential campaign with racist comments about Mexican immigrants, who saw "fine people on both sides" in the Charlottesville march of white supremacists, and who attacked African-American football players for being "unpatriotic" because they kneeled during the National Anthem to protest police discrimination.

This is the same man who in 1989 took out full page ads in New York newspapers demanding the return of the death penalty so it could be applied to five black and Latino teenagers accused of raping a white woman in Central Park - and who still refuses to admit his error even though they were exonerated by DNA evidence.

Stop using terms like "racially charged" to describe his statements. Face it. Trump is a racist, and his comments are racist.

Words matter. It's important to describe Trump accurately. Every American must understand who we have as president.
(c) 2018 Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few." His website is

You Don't Need A Telescope To Find A 'Shithole Country'
By Chris Hedges

I covered the war in El Salvador for five years. It was a peasant uprising by the dispossessed against the 14 ruling families and the handful of American corporations that ran El Salvador as if it was a plantation. Half of the population was landless. Laborers worked as serfs in the coffee plantations, the sugar cane fields and the cotton fields in appalling poverty. Attempts to organize and protest peacefully to combat the huge social inequality were met with violence, including fire from machine guns mounted on the tops of buildings in downtown San Salvador that rained down bullets indiscriminately on crowds of demonstrators. Peasant, labor, church and university leaders were kidnapped by death squads, brutally tortured and murdered, their mutilated bodies often left on roadsides for public view. When I arrived, the death squads were killing between 700 and 1,000 people a month.

An insurgent army arose, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (known by the Spanish-language abbreviation FMLN), named for the leader of a peasant uprising in 1932 that was crushed through the slaughter of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, many of them killed in summary executions. The FMLN seized huge parts of the country from the corrupt and demoralized military. In the fall of 1983, the rebels, supplied with weapons from the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, were on the verge of capturing the country's second largest city. I did not, at first, travel with the army. It was too dangerous. It was far safer to go into combat with the FMLN. Without outside intervention, the rebels would have seized control of El Salvador within months and ousted the oligarchs.

But, far to the north, was a shithole country ruled by a former B-list movie actor who had starred in "Bedtime for Bonzo" and who was in the early stages of dementia. This shithole country, which saw the world in black and white, communist and capitalist, was determined to thwart the aspirations of the poor and the landless. It would not permit the profits of its companies, such as United Fruit, or the power of the pliant oligarch class that did its bidding in El Salvador, to be impeded. It had disdain for the aspirations of the poor, especially the poor of Latin American or Africa, the wretched of the earth, as writer Frantz Fanon called them, people who in the eyes of those who ruled the shithole country should toil in misery all their lives for the oligarchs and the big American companies allied with them. Let the poor, brown and black people go hungry, watch their children die of sickness or be murdered. Power and wealth, those who ruled this shithole country believed, was theirs by divine right. They, as the lords of shithole-dom, were endowed with special attributes. God blessed shithole countries.

The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda understood how those who ruled the shithole country looked at the wretched of the earth. He wrote:

When the trumpet sounded, it was
all prepared on the earth,
the Jehovah parceled out the earth
to Coca Cola, Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other entities:
The Fruit Company, Inc.
reserved for itself the most succulent,
the central coast of my land,
the delicate waist of America.

It rechristened its territories
as the 'Banana Republics'
and over the sleeping dead,
over the restless heroes,
who brought about the greatness, the liberty and the flags,
it established the comic opera
Abolished independencies,
presented crowns of Caesar,
unsheathed envy, attracted
the dictatorship of flies. ...

The dictatorship of flies had its downside. It elevated the imbecilic and the inept, men whose main attributes were brutality, mendacity and thievery. They were uniformly unpleasant creatures. Anastasio "Tachito" Somoza in Nicaragua. The Duvaliers in Haiti. Augusto Pinochet in Chile. Efrain Rios Montt in Guatemala. These flies did the bidding of the shithole country. They would murder their own people without compunction and, for hefty bribes, would allow the corporations to exploit and pillage. Yes, they had their eccentricities. The depraved often do. Gen. Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez, who came to power in a military coup, led the government in El Salvador that carried out the 1932 massacres known as La Matanza. The general, a recluse who rarely appeared in public, was a believer in the occult and held seances in the presidential residence. He was one of the models for Gabriel GarcĂ­a Marquez's portrait of a Latin American tyrant in "The Autumn of the Patriarch." Martinez styled himself after the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. He barred all immigration by Arabs, Hindus, Chinese and blacks. He once announced: "It is good that children go barefoot. That way they can better receive the beneficial effluvia of the planet, the vibrations of the earth. Plants and animals don't use shoes." And he said it was a greater crime to kill an ant than a human being "because a man who dies is reincarnated while an ant dies forever." His solution to a measles epidemic was to order the streetlights wrapped in cellophane to purify the air. He believed that colored water could cure most illnesses.

How surprised the leaders of the shithole country would be if they knew about the poets, the writers and the artists, the intellectuals and the men and women of great moral probity, such as the Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, who in 1980 was assassinated with a bullet shipped down to the killers from the shithole country. The leaders of the shithole country do not see the people of Latin America or Africa as fully human. But then they are not great readers, especially of poetry by the lesser breeds of the earth. They have not heard the truth of the Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton, who wrote:

Take care, you're worth your weight in gold.
Because in capitalism only the owners
of gold are worth their weight in gold.
The shithole country poured $1 million a day in aid and weapons into the land. They sent down their most ruthless killers, including Felix Rodriguez, the CIA agent and Bay of Pigs veteran who had overseen the hunt for Che Guevara in Bolivia, presided over his execution and proudly wore the wristwatch he had taken from the martyred revolutionary's body. At night you could see the killers sent to El Salvador by the shithole country, usually with their Vietnamese wives, sitting around the pool at the Sheraton Hotel. They had perfected the dark arts of infiltrating, torturing, interrogating, disappearing and murdering through practice on the people of Vietnam during the war there. They could teach you how to strangle someone with piano wire so there would be no noise as the victim choked to death. They brought many such skills with them to Central America. They directed the death squads to wipe out the resistance leaders, priests and nuns working in poor communities, teachers, journalists, labor organizers, student leaders, professors and intellectuals who denounced the barbarity. They trained and equipped new soldiers for the oligarchs. They formed mercenary units with hundreds of soldiers recruited from countries such as Honduras, Venezuela and Chile. They called these military units, which were secret, Unilaterally Controlled Latino Assets. They sent them to fight the FMLN because the Salvadoran military was so unreliable. They provided fleets of helicopters to hunt the insurgents by air. It was an orgy of militarism. By the time the shithole country was done, it had spent $4 billion to crush the uprising. And while it was orchestrating the bloodbath in El Salvador it provided $1 billion to the thugs and killers known as the Contras in Nicaragua, where 50,000 people were murdered. It also quietly assisted the killers of Guatemala, where 200,000 were slain. The poor peasants did not stand a chance. Mass graves dotted the Central American isthmus, a testament to their work.

Dalton wrote:

The dead are more insolent than ever.

It used to be easy:
we gave them a starched collar a flower
we placed their names on an honor roll:
the length and breath of our land
the illustrious shades of yesteryear
the monstrous statue.

The cadaver signed on memory's dotted line
joined the rank and file once more
and marched to the beat of our worn out music

But what are you gonna do
the dead
just ain't what they used to be.

These days they get ironic
ask questions.

Seems to me they're starting to figure out
that they are the majority.

The leaders of the shithole country would oversee the murder of 80,000 people and 8,000 disappeared in El Salvador. Intelligence officials from the shithole country were, it appears, complicit in the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Romero, organized by a former Salvadoran army officer named Roberto D'Aubuisson-known affectionately as "Blowtorch Bob"-who was one of the shithole country's favorite killers. The shithole country protected those who ordered the murder and rape of four American churchwomen in December 1980. They protected the officers of the Atlacatl Brigade-which in 1981 had massacred more than 700 civilians in El Mozote-when in 1989 they gunned down six Spanish Jesuit priests, one of whom was the rector of the University of Central America, plus their housekeeper and her teenage daughter, on the university campus. The Salvadoran officers who oversaw these massacres, and countless others, had been selected and trained in the shithole country's U.S. Army School of the Americas. The war would destroy much of the infrastructure. El Salvador never recovered. It is awash in weapons. It experiences a murder every one and a half hours. Let the blood flow, the leaders of the shithole country said. The blood of brown and black people does not matter.

A shithole country depends on your perspective.
(c) 2018 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
~~~ Steve Benson ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Paul Ryan Slits Auto Mechanic's Throat To Kick Off GOP Purge Of Working Class
By The Onion

WASHINGTON-Grinning proudly as blood gushed from his victim's windpipe, House Speaker Paul Ryan reportedly slit an auto mechanic's throat Wednesday to kick off the GOP purge of the working class.

"With our tax reform bill giving us the mandate we have long desired, there's nothing stopping us now-commence the bloodletting!" said Ryan, holding up the lifeless body of the local blue-collar worker as blood from his severed arteries sprayed reporters gathered at the press conference.

"Now we can finally experience the sweet release of all our pent-up hatred of the parasitic working class without fear of punishment or retribution. The blood of the filthy proletariat will flow in the streets, and the families of truck drivers, nurses, and retail employees all over the nation will know our wrath. No one making under $50,000 a year is safe. Today, the American economy will be put back on the right track, and the liquidation begins!"

At press time, blood-drenched Republican senators Bob Corker and Lisa Murkowski were seen sprinting into a Baltimore Walmart wielding machetes.
(c) 2018 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 18 # 03 (c) 01/19/2018

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