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In This Edition


Bernie Sanders delivers "A Response To President Donald Trump's 2018 State Of The Union Address."

Uri Avnery remembers, "The Jumping Parliament."

Glen Ford explains, "How Donald Trump Rode In On "Dark Money."

Matt Taibbi reports, "Erica Garner Secretly Taped Justice Department Meeting, Was Distressed With Slow Pace Of Investigation."

Jim Hightower observes, "Fed Up With Democrats, Progressives Forge Own Path."

John Nichols reports, "Republicans Are Furious About Mark Pocan's Guest To The State Of The Union."

James Donahue goes over, "Gerrymandering - Trickery At The Polls."

Nick Turse explores, "Fitness Tracker Data Highlights Sprawling U.S. Military Footprint In Africa."

Heather Digby Parton exposes, "Trump's Role Model."

David Swanson says, "'The Post' Should Be Viewed By Current Editors Of The Post."

Charles P. Pierce concludes, "North Carolina's Voter Suppression Is A Lesson To The Rest Of The Nation."

Ron Fein warns, "Trump Officials Are Exploring Mass Arrests Of US Mayors."

William Rivers Pitt finds, "None of This Is Normal, State Of The Union Edition."

Bill Nye wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich finds, "Trump's America: Open To Global Capital, Not People."

Chris Hedges reviews, "The Useful Idiocy Of Donald Trump."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst returns with a must read, "Donald Trump's Reign Of Error Only Seems Like A Lifetime - Sigh" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "It's Two Minutes To Midnight."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Chip Bok, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Mr. Fish, Andrew Burton, Stephen Melkisethian, Salwan Georges, The Washington Post, Strava Global Heatmap, 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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It's Two Minutes To Midnight
Tick... Tick... Tick...
By Ernest Stewart

"The world is a goddamned evil place, the strong prey on the weak, the rich on the poor; I've given up hope that there is a God that will save us all. How am I supposed to believe that there's a heaven and a hell when all I see now is hell." ~~~ Aaron B. Powell

"There is a cooling, and there's a heating. I mean, look, it used to not be climate change, it used to be global warming. That wasn't working too well because it was getting too cold all over the place." ~~~ Donald Trump

An Introduction ...

Welcome to volume 1 # 1 of our new ezine "Issues & Alibis." Our goal is to present to you on a bi-monthly basis America's best writers and political cartoonists, so that you can cut through the political bullshit and past the spin-doctors to the heart and the truth of the matter.

On the 1st and 15th of every month no smoke and mirrors will stop us from bringing you your political reality no matter how horrible it actually is. You can always deal with the truth no matter how bad it is but you must know what it is. This is not an ezine for the weak of heart or for those who would rather have a sugar coating on the truth. We're going to tell it like it is and let the chips fall where they may! We hope you are ready for "Issues & Alibis."

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



The Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists have raised the "Doomsday Clock" ahead another 30 seconds to two minutes till midnight. That's two years in a row since god gave us Trump. Do you see a pattern forming here. Not since 1953 have we been this close to doomsday!

Here's what the scientists had to say...

The failure of world leaders to address the largest threats to humanity's future is lamentable-but that failure can be reversed. It is two minutes to midnight, but the Doomsday Clock has ticked away from midnight in the past, and during the next year, the world can again move it further from apocalypse. The warning the Science and Security Board now sends is clear, the danger obvious and imminent. The opportunity to reduce the danger is equally clear. The world has seen the threat posed by the misuse of information technology and witnessed the vulnerability of democracies to disinformation. But there is a flip side to the abuse of social media. Leaders react when citizens insist they do so, and citizens around the world can use the power of the internet to improve the long-term prospects of their children and grandchildren. They can insist on facts, and discount nonsense. They can demand action to reduce the existential threat of nuclear war and unchecked climate change. They can seize the opportunity to make a safer and saner world. See the full statement from the Science and Security Board on the 2018 time of the Doomsday Clock.
Stephen Schwartz offers insight into why the Bulletin's scientific board --- which includes 15 Nobel Laureates --- decided, for the second year in a row, to move the clock "thirty seconds" forward.
"This is the closest that it's ever been, as it was in 1953, when it hit two minutes. The furthest away was at 17 minutes to midnight in 1991, reflecting the end of the Cold War, the creation of the START Treaty that sharply reduced US and Soviet strategic nuclear weapons, and a general feeling at that point that we were moving very much in the right direction. Obviously, the people at the Bulletin today, and many people around the world, feel that we're moving very much in the wrong direction, while there are far fewer nuclear weapons in the world today than in 1953 when the hands were last at 'two minutes to midnight', we now have far more countries with their fingers on proverbial buttons. Thus, the likelihood of nuclear weapons being used, whether by accident or design, is higher, certainly, than at any time since the Cold War ended.

"It's an interesting and obviously symbolic arbiter of global dangers and since about 2007 it also includes global warming in the mix, so it's not just about nuclear dangers."

Still glad you got suckered into voting for Donnie, America? Is this how you make America great again? We have a demented lunatic lose with the nuclear football. Make your peace with your god or devil, because it's about to hit the fan!

In Other News

As with every other thing, when it comes to global warming Trump hasn't got a clue. You may recall that he just said, "The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they're setting records." They're melting faster than ever before, since the last ice age! During the summer the Northwest Passage is open and ice free. You may recall that ocean liner the size of the Battleship Bismark makes leisurely cruises between Alaska and New York City! Want to go for a cruise? It will cost you $22,000.00

In referring to the "ice caps" Trump fails to distinguish between sea ice (which floats on water and which does not contribute to sea level rise when it melts) and the continental ice sheets i.e. the Greenland and Antarctic. Ice Sheets, which store huge amounts of ice and once they begin to melt are difficult to stop. The distinction is important when it comes to larger climate change impacts, but for our purposes it doesn't matter, because by either definition of "ice cap," Trump couldn't be more wrong with regard to the predictions. Ironically though, he does get one thing right: The "ice caps" are setting records--records for rate of ice loss.

In an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) last year, showed that the latest projected increases in sea level rise, combine with more intense hurricanes, combine for greatly increased flood risk where things hit home for Trump--New York City. They even produced a map of maximum projected flood extent that Trump might want to check out. Trump Tower itself is apparently within the danger zone. In fact a whole bunch of his properties look to go under the waves!

To make Trump change his tiny little mind, our only hope is that Trump comes to realize that climate change is a threat not just to human civilization but to the one thing he cares about, i.e., Trump. But don't hold your breath, just ask the folks in Ireland where he bribed the local government to allow him to build a sea wall down the length of his golf course. Yes, Donnie's a big believer in building walls!

And Finally


Your Issues & Alibis staff

How time flies when you're having fun! You may remember, away back yonder on February 1st, 2001 we published our first edition of Issues and Alibis magazine. Since then I stopped writing fluff pieces and dared to tell it like it is. As I had made Nixon's enemies list for my work with the SDS, I'd kept a rather low profile, compared to my radical "hippie daze!"

After a couple of editions I kept a sharp lookout for any silent black helicopters that might be following me around! Since those "hippie daze" I had worked as a hard rock DJ for 30 years leaving it to become a writer of fiction and non-fiction and was perfectly happy spinning yarns and remembering old times when the 12-12-2000 judicial coup d'etat went down. After all those years my main course of education, poli-sci, which I had done my best to forget came roaring back like the "hot kiss on the end of a wet fist!"

There was no escaping the truth, try as I might, but I knew what I had to do, like it or not. On 12-12-2000 a few friends and I began the magazine. I had worked for two chains of local newspaper while I was in school doing everything from selling advertisement, to bill collection, to linotype operator, to writing fluff pieces along with writing a few sci-fi stories for various magazines, so I knew the basics. Of course, that was in the print media and cyber-space was a whole different ballgame!

Fortunately the cyber world was a whole lot easier to work with and it took about six weeks to design the magazine, get permission to reprint articles and attract a few writers and graphic artists to work with us. So about two weeks after the Crime Family Bush came back into power we were ready to kick ass and take names and for the last 17 years that just what we have done for you and yours. For the first two months we only published bi-monthly but after that is was publish every Friday! Some 873 editions later, here we are!

Editors Note: Last Friday something went very wrong as I was putting up the new magazine, something I had seen a dozen years before that I had fixed but hadn't a clue on how to fix it today. I spent about 6 hours on the phone and texting experts that hadn't a clue so I had to check everything and rule out this and that as I went along. As my childhood hero Sherlock Holmes said, "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth" and when I got down to that level there it was, and after a five minute fix, we were up and running. Have no fear that if it ever happens again, I will remember that improbable solution!

Keepin' On

I'm having a deja vu all over again, so until things change I'll just run this...

As far as fundraising goes, this year is turning out to be a disaster! Fundraising in the first quarter has always been slow going at best; but even more so this year. In a "normal" year we would have raised about 17% to 18% of our yearly operating costs, this year, it's barely 1%. Needless to say, if this trend continues we'll be gone come June's first group of bills, not to mention July's group and November's bills.

Thanks to our sponsorships I'll be able to continue by writing weekly essays instead of editorials; but most of the rest of the magazine will be gone; and if my sponsors want more than just me, then I'll be gone too, except in various other magazines scattered through out the blogosphere.

Ergo, if you enjoy your weekly Issues & Alibis and would hate to see it disappear as so many other liberal sites have done, then please send us whatever you can, as often as you can, and we'll continue to fight the forces of darkness for you!

*****


09-03-1923 ~ 01-27-2018
Thanks for the laughs!



06-24-1949 ~ 01-27-2018
Thanks for the read!




*****

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






'


Sen. Bernie Sanders Delivers A Response To President Donald Trump's 2018 State Of The Union Address
By Bernie Sanders


(c) 2018 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





The Jumping Parliament
By Uri Avnery

YEARS AGO, when I was a member of the Knesset, I decided to stage a demonstration in the plenum hall.

I put on a T-shirt with the slogan "Peace is greater than Greater Eretz Israel". In the middle of the debate I took my jacket off, displaying the slogan.

After a few minutes, an usher approached me and said politely: "The Speaker would like to see you in his office."

The speaker was Yitzhak Shamir, a former commander of the Lehi terrorist underground. He received me with a broad smile, asked me to be seated and said: "Uri, you have made your demonstration [demonstration point]. Now I ask you to take the t-shirt off and return to your seat!" Of course I did so.

I remembered this small incident this week, when something much more serious happened in the Knesset.

THE AMERICAN vice president honored Israel with a visit and was received like a king.

Why? Don't know. To my mind, the man is a good-looking and well-dressed fool. Wherever he stopped, he made speeches that should have made even ardent Zionists blush. He lauded Israel in terms of childish adulation, heaping shameless flattery upon fake history.

Official Israel was ecstatic. No one reminded the public that the extreme Christian evangelism espoused by Pence has an unhappy end. It says that after all the Jews have gathered in the Holy Land, Christ will return to earth and all the Jews will convert to his religion. Those who don't will perish.

The high point of the visit was Pence's speech in the Knesset plenum. This in itself was curious. Such honors are reserved for foreign heads of state. Pence, as a mere vice, had no such right. But the Israeli government was set to flatter the man, who might one day become president himself.

(Actually, the only reason I can imagine for not throwing Donald Trump out is the frightening idea that Pence will become president.)

As a former Knesset member I was invited to be seated in the Plenum hall on this occasion, but of course I declined the honor. What followed was shameful.

When the vice president started to utter his chain of flatteries, the members jumped up and gave him a wild standing ovation. This was repeated again and again, up and down, up and down, and looked both ridiculous and disgusting.

Contrary to the US congress, the Knesset does not allow applause. In all my 10 years as a member, during which I attended every single session, I don't remember a single hand-clap, not to mention multiple standing ovations.

After the guest's speech, representatives of the parties had the right to respond. All the Jewish parties lauded the American politician wholeheartedly. No difference between coalition and opposition.

BUT THE really shameful scene came right at the beginning. When Pence started to speak, the members of the Arab United List stood up and waved placards protesting Trump's recent recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Knesset Guard seems to have been forewarned. In a split second, they set upon the 13 members of the list and evicted them forcibly. It was an ugly sight, made even uglier by the stormy applause from most Jewish members.

The United List is a combination of three Arab parties with widely divergent views - Communist, Nationalist and Islamist. They were compelled to unite when the Jewish majority enacted a law raising the minimum clause with the obvious intent of getting rid of the Arab parties, none of which had a chance of passing the minimum on its own. So they put up a joint list and became the third largest Knesset faction.

The entire ugly scene was quite superfluous. After a minute, the Speaker could have acted as Shamir did in my case - ask the Arab members to be seated after having made their point. But the present Speaker is no Shamir. He was a Zionist activist in Soviet Russia, with quite a different mentality.

FOR THE two million Arab citizens of Israel and the tens of millions of Arabs in the neighboring countries, the scene conveyed a clear message: the Arabs don't really belong to the State of Israel.

The visual impact was unequivocal: all the Jews in the Knesset applauded the eviction of all the Arabs. It was a clear national divide, showing that the Arabs are strangers in the "Jewish state" - no matter how many centuries they have lived here.

The division is not so absolutely clean: the Arab list contains one Jewish communist, while most Jewish factions have one Arab member each. Popular humor calls them "Pet Arabs".

This was not the end. On the very next day, the police announced that they were going to recommend that the three nationalist members of the United List be put on trial for breaking the party financing law.

Since parties represented in the Knesset receive state subsidies, the law prescribes what other donations they are allowed to receive. Israeli citizens are allowed to donate up to a certain maximum donations from abroad are forbidden.

Now the police announced that the Arab national Party, Balad, had received large cash donations from abroad, disguising them with false documentation. The investigation, it was disclosed, has taken two years, with 140 persons interrogated.

Yeah? If so, why was the disclosure made exactly one day after the Knesset incident? Arab citizens and others are compelled to believe that the disclosure was a penalty for insulting the US Vice President.

How vicious! How stupid!

BUT ARABS are not the most unfortunate victims of this government. This role is reserved for the Africans.

Black people fleeing from Sudan and Eritrea have reached us for years after a long and painful trek, crossing the border between Sinai and Israel. In the end Israel built a wall and stopped the flow. But before that happened, about 35 thousand black Africans had reached Tel Aviv, where they settled in the poorest sections and soon quarreled with the locals.

The government built a special prison for them, but many had to be released. They were illegally employed washing dishes and such.

Now the Israeli government has made a secret agreement with the governments of Ruanda and Uganda: for a payment per head, these countries will receive the immigrants. The victims themselves will receive a few dollars if they leave voluntarily. Otherwise they will be incarcerated indefinitely.

The decision raised a storm. It was generally assumed that in these African countries the lives of the refugees would be in danger, that they would be robbed, raped and killed, that others would try to reach European shores and be killed on the way.

The racist aspect was painfully obvious. Israel is full of foreign workers, from Ukrainians to Chinese. The Africans could easily displace them and do their jobs. But they are black. And they might - God forbid! - marry kosher Jewish girls.

And suddenly something completely unexpected happened: a moral uprising. After a rising tide of protests and articles, citizens spoke with a new voice.

Hundreds of pilots and other air crew called for airlines to refuse to transport the refugees from Israel to Africa. Many announced that they themselves would refuse to fly them. They swore not to be like the German locomotive drivers, who transported the Jews to their deaths in the extermination camps.

An elderly woman, a survivor from such a camp, announced on TV that she would hide any refugee seeking her help. She called on all Israeli women to do the same and hide refugees in the attics of their homes. That was a clear allusion to Anne Frank, who was hidden with her family in an attic in Amsterdam during the Holocaust.

This is going on now, a rising tide, an Israeli voice that has not been heard for a long time. A voice that has been mute for so many years, the voice of my Israel, the voice of yesterday's Israel - and hopefully tomorrow's.

There was a time when I could be proud to be an Israeli. Perhaps this time is returning.
(c) 2018 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom







How Donald Trump Rode In On "Dark Money"
By Glen Ford

A team led by University of Massachusetts professor emeritus Thomas Ferguson reveals that "a giant wave of dark money" flowed into Donald Trump's campaign coffers in the last months of the 2016 election, enabling him to go heads up with Hillary Clinton's $1.4 billion juggernaut in the final stages of the contest. The identity of Trump's late-campaign godfathers is "shrouded," according to a paper authored by Ferguson and his collaborators, Paul Jorgensen and Jie Chen, but all signs point to "a sudden influx of money from private equity and hedge funds." The cash infusion brought Trump's total spending up to $861 million. Although that's still substantially less than Hillary's total outlays, Trump's dark money arrived just in time to capitalize on Clinton's failure to mount an effective blitz in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Thus, it wasn't the Russians that brought us Trump, but the usual suspects: private equity and hedge funds bandits. Ferguson notes that a number of private equity managers "who do not appear in the visible roster of campaign donors" began to show up "prominently around the President" after his upset win -- masters of dark money, creeping into the light to claim their rewards.

Prof. Ferguson specializes in tracing corporate money to deduce the political leanings and schemings of the various corporate sectors. During the Obama administration, Ferguson's research showed Silicon Valley and the high-tech sector were Barack Obama's most reliable corporate allies, in terms of campaign contributions and political support. (And he, in turn, dutifully served the digital oligarchs.) The new study indicates that Trump owes a huge debt to the vultures of financial speculation. But then, virtually every corporate sector is seeing its wish-lists fulfilled under this president, who over the past year has proven his loyalty to his class.

Or, some would argue that he has been bludgeoned into that posture. Certainly, the bulk of the ruling class and their attendants, interpreters and enforcers were horrified that the Orange Menace might destabilize the two-capitalist-party system, undermine the free global flow of capital and jobs, and allow the momentum of the military offensive begun by Barack Obama in 2011 to falter. That threat to the imperial order has passed. Trump's savage assault on the very concept of regulation; his willingness to renegotiate NAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership; and the rise of the generals as both day-to-day and overall policy managers in his White House, are "normalizing" Trump. The Republican tax cut -- a looting spree - although not engineered by Trump, redounds to his benefit in 1% circles. As their unearned gains accrue, the Lords of Capital appreciate the uses of The Donald. Orange is the new normal - a measure of how insane late stage capitalism has become.

Democrats are not happy, sensing that their partnership with the clandestine services to eject Trump by non-electoral means is losing steam by the day. After almost two years, the predicate offense -- that Trump and the Russians colluded in hacking the Democrats -- has not been proven, or even convincingly presented. By now, the media-CIA-Democrat version of "resistance" is hoping that Trump will somehow self-destruct through some act or statement that is beyond the pale -- except that nobody knows where "beyond" is.

Decent people thought Hillary Clinton had stepped beyond civilized discourse when she greeted news of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's murder, cackling, "We came, we saw, he died." Nothing so vile and savage had passed the lips of any ranking diplomat of a major power since World War Two, yet Clinton not only kept her job, but would have become president were it not for the late campaign cash infusions from hedge funders to Donald Trump. Clinton's murder-drenched cackle was a more shocking affront to civilization than any outburst yet recorded by Trump -- a man not clever enough to paraphrase Julius Caesar -- including his barroom cracker commentary on "shithole" countries.

The corporate Demo-press case for a Trump-Putin axis looks more and more like a Potemkin construct -- a daily assemblage of front page portals to nowhere, all fa├žade with no back. One must eat and breathe manure to pull the likes of Donald Trump even deeper into the muck, from below - but that has been the mission the premiere corporate media have assigned themselves. Whatever aura of fairness and credibility that still clings to their filthy corporate carcasses, is irrevocably fading. And that is a good thing, just as it is a good thing that President Trump is despised by about half the country; and that Hillary Clinton is even less popular than Trump; and that the global public's trust in the United States has plummeted dramatically under Trump's presidency. What true radical does not wish for the dissolution of the mad pox of U.S. imperialism and all its interlocking institutions, with hope that this will signal the end of half a millennium of Europe's rapacious wars against the rest of the planet, and of capitalism's war against the Earth, itself?

In truth, imperialism, internally and externally, shudders under the weight -- not of Donald Trump's orange mane, but of its own contradictions. Trump is an excretion of the system. Late stage capitalism is the mother of monstrosities, subverting science itself -- the sum total of humankind's acquired knowledge and labor -- to the enslavement of the species; the path down which Amazon, Google, Apple and the other techno-omnivores are rushing, propelled by the same for-profit engine that carved up our ancestors' worlds into edible chunks for a rich, white few.

The unraveling of this system is the overarching story of our times, a saga of great crime -- and real resistance. The oppressors' media cannot tell this story, so they must smother reality with a daily narrative of lies: "counter-speech," as Google, Twitter and Facebook have dubbed their new policy. They want to monopolize (and, of course, monetize) the human story -- no dissenting versions allowed. One immediate aim is to disappear Black Agenda Report and a short list of other left publications, and then move on to other white-outs.

(It is really quite amazing that senior and junior imperial heads of state -- Obama, Merkel, Macron, May -- and titans of industry -- Bezos, Zuckerberg, Pichai -- were so quick to affix their own imprimaturs to the crude hit piece put out by the red-baiters at PropOrNot, and showcased on the front page of the Washington Post, back in late November, 2016. The combined audiences of the dozen or so targeted lefty sites would have little impact on a national electoral contest. But again, empire demands a monopoly.)

The main objective is to make endless war palatable, as imperialism attempts to bomb, blockade, occupy and bluster its way out of a cascade of crises. Unable to compete with the Chinese command economy, its "soft" power exhausted, the U.S. empire plays the only strong card it has left: its massive military, now centered on a special operations force roughly as large as the entire French Army. War becomes both the means of imperial survival and justification for its continued existence: the how and the why of empire.

That's why there is no such thing as a "resistance" that is not loudly and consistently anti-war.
(c) 2018 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.




Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner, died on December 30th, 2017.



Erica Garner Secretly Taped Justice Department Meeting, Was Distressed With Slow Pace Of Investigation
In meeting with Garner family summer, Justice officials seemed to promise results
By Matt Taibbi

Erica Garner, activist and daughter of slain police victim Eric Garner, died unexpectedly of heart failure at the end of 2017. She was only 27, and left behind two small children.

She also had unfinished business.

In the last months of her life, she had been planning to release a video she'd made surreptitiously of a meeting with Department of Justice officials in New York on June 21 of last year.

Erica was furious about the meeting, which she attended with her grandmother, Gwen Carr, as well as her mother, Esaw Snipes, and Reverend Al Sharpton. She felt that Justice officials had made empty promises.

Today, in accordance with what is believed to have been her wishes, the tape is being released on her Twitter feed. As was reported by the New York Times in late October of 2016, the Garner case had been re-assigned - prior to the election of Donald Trump - in an unusual shakeup within the Justice Department. The paper claimed that the FBI officials in New York "opposed bringing charges," so a new, Washington-based team took over the case.

In the video, that new team of Justice Department officials leads off the meeting by inferring to Erica and her family that they can expect a decision on civil rights charges soon.

"I think that we'll be at a decisional point within the next several months," an official tells the family, adding: "We're not talking about, no decisions being made on this case in 2018. That is not where we're at."

This statement was very much on Erica Garner's mind shortly before her death, as the New Year approached. She discussed it frequently with friends and family.

On the tape, both Erica and her grandmother Gwen Carr can be heard asking for specifics about what had been learned in the investigation. They are not told anything, but are told that the new team had done most of the work.

"The vast majority of the federal investigation," they are told, "has taken place since this team was put into place."

In other words, this new team had done more work than the previous, New York-based team.

This upset Erica, who was tired, she said, of continually being asked to be pleased about things that were not concrete results, and/or promised action that was not forthcoming. As the New Year approached, she talked more and more about finding ways to pressure the Justice Department to act.

Despite what people may have thought from the outside - there were many who believed that the family was content with the $5.9 million financial settlement it won from the city of New York in July of 2015 - Erica was determined to see if someone, anyone, would be federally prosecuted on civil rights charges for her father's chokehold death at the hands of police on July 17, 2014.

Although sources told Rolling Stone a grand jury was still taking testimony from witnesses late in the year, the "decisional point" never came in the federal case before Erica's own death.

That does not mean the case is dead, however. The news could be interpreted in different ways, according to multiple sources close to the affair. The delay could mean the investigation is not only ongoing, but expanding. Or, it could mean the opposite. In either case, Erica's circle got tired of waiting.

The Justice Department did not comment for this story.
(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.







Fed Up With Democrats, Progressives Forge Own Path
By Jim Hightower

Last June, after Democratic candidates had lost four straight special Congressional elections (Rob Quist in Montana, James Thompson in Kansas, Archie Parnell in South Carolina, and Jon Ossoff in Georgia), America's purveyors of conventional political wisdom simultaneously jumped to the conclusion that the policies and message of Democrats were just too progressive for our nation of moderate-right voters. The Washington cognoscenti expressed dismay that, despite Trump's dismal public approval ratings and the nationwide surge of "Resist!" campaigns, the hapless Democratic Party was still unable to score any electoral victories. "Why Do Democrats Keep Losing in 2017?" queried a June headline in The Atlantic. "Democrats just went 0-4. When will they win?" asked a cynical CNN reporter. "It is a bit surprising that Democrats haven't managed a single victory yet," declared a University of Wisconsin election expert. "Panic is setting in on the left," exclaimed a Vox headline.

Really?

No, not really. The professional political observers are like cats watching the wrong mouse hole. They are so fixated on the minutia of Washington-centric politics that they're missing the much bigger story of transformative political changes that have erupted in every region of the country. Far from panicking, America's political left is organizing, strategizing, mobilizing ... and WINNING. Coalitions of local progressive activists (newly energized by an infusion of dynamic, creative young people and people of color) came together after the 2016 election. They recruited and trained candidates from their own ranks; methodically knocked on doors, having thousands of front-porch conversations with voters on basic issues; mobilized supporters for intensive election-day turn-out drives; and elected scores of audaciously populist mayors, council members, legislators, and other officials.

This is the mouse hole to watch, for it's where ordinary people - those fed up with the corporate-rigged, business-as-usual politics and policies of both major parties - are actively rebuilding democracy and beginning to produce real change. It's a nationwide rebellion made up of spontaneous local rebellions, each sparked by various specific grievances with America's ruling royalists. Linking these uprisings together is a shared determination to restore our nation's unifying ethic of the Common Good, a principle that my old daddy used to express this way: Everybody does better when everybody does better.

This burgeoning movement is not merely about protesting or lobbying the government - it intends to become the government. It's a new politics embracing a three-front strategy I call R-I-P:

- Resist the Trumpeteers and corporatists of all parties who're imposing plutocratic rule over us commoners.

- Insist on enacting a positive, aggressively progressive people's agenda.

- Persist in organizing from the ground up to sustain both "little-d" democratic politics and "everybody" policies.

The most common characteristic of last year's progressive, populist candidates is that they were genuinely of the people, not career pols who were next in line. And they were not simply running for office, but running for specific economic, social and political changes to make America better for families and neighborhoods like theirs. They didn't need campaign consultants to tell them what to say and not to say, for they were politicized by personally experiencing assorted assaults on their values and sense of justice. Politics is not a game to them - they know who they are, what they're fighting against and, more importantly, what they're fighting for.

Knowledgeable and trusted local groups have been key to the recent election victories by bona fide progressives. These groups build relationships through work in their communities, know whom to speak with and can tackle the intensive work of going door to door. Several national organizations understand the power of a local focus and have invested in identifying amazing grassroots partners - their 2017 results speak to the potential of this emerging network. Groups like Our Revolution, Working Families Party, Black Lives Matter, Democratic Socialists of America, People's Action, Progressive Democrats of America, Democracy for America and the Movement Voter Project are just some of the organizations doing important work. As the Movement Voter Project put in its recent report, "Failure is not an option. Not for our children. Not for our grandchildren."
(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 HightowerLowdown.org.




Wisconsin Representative and congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan.




Republicans Are Furious About Mark Pocan's Guest To The State Of The Union
The Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair has invited a union activist and advocate for the Dreamers who is running against Paul Ryan to attend Trump's speech.
By John Nichols

Members of Congress are allowed to invite guests to attend the annual State of the Union address by the president. This year, when Donald Trump speaks to a joint session of the House and Senate, many Democrats will bring Dreamers to the Capitol in hopes that their presence will lead the president and his Republican allies to support protections for young people who were left in legal limbo by the president's canceling of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

But Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan (D-WI) decided to send an even blunter message about misguided Republican priorities. He invited Randy Bryce, a Wisconsin ironworker who is one of the Democrats running against House Speaker Paul Ryan, to be his guest. Bryce, the son of a Mexican-American father and a Polish-American mother, has been an ardent advocate for the Dreamers, highlighting their fight at campaign stops, at a town-hall meeting with Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), and in repeated blasts at Ryan.

"Ever since Donald Trump announced his disgusting plan to rescind DACA, members of Wisconsin's immigrant community have been asking to speak with Paul Ryan so they can personally urge him to support the Dream Act, to make DACA permanent, and to block federal budget spending to fund mass deportations," says Bryce, who appeared with Wisconsin Dreamers last fall and recounted the story of their struggles to get a meeting with Ryan:

Fernanda and Valeria are two Dreamers who live in Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District-and all they want is a meeting with their congressman. Paul Ryan refused to meet with them at his office, even after they went on a five-day hunger strike, and he refused to meet them at his Janesville church, even though the priest gave Fernanda and Valeria permission to be there.

But Fernanda and Valeria refuse to give up on their dream of living life in the only country they've ever known. Unable to get a meeting with Ryan in Wisconsin, they flew to New York to try and meet him outside the Al Smith Dinner, where he was giving a keynote address to the mega-donors in attendance.

It won't surprise you to learn that he refused to meet them. He was too busy making promises to his corporate donors.

I guess I can understand why Paul Ryan thinks people should have to fly around the country to meet with him-since that's what the special interests, lobbyists, and billionaires do. But constituents shouldn't have to fly in a desperate attempt to meet their representative.

Bryce has attracted significant support for his aggressive run against Ryan-including endorsements from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Vote Vets and the Latino Victory Fund-and that has unsettled Republicans. So it should come as no surprise that they were upset by the news that Pocan would be bringing the union activist to Tuesday's State of the Union speech.

But it was surprising when one of the senior Republicans in the House blew his stack and attacked Pocan for "creating a spectacle" that is "disrespectful and out of bounds." "As the Dean of the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation, I expect my colleagues to maintain Wisconsin values and treat each other with respect, civility, and deference," declared Congressman James Sensenbrenner, a conservative Republican whose district adjoins the districts represented by Ryan and Pocan. "By using the State of the Union to prop up a campaign in the hopes of getting a rise out of Speaker Ryan, Congressman Pocan erodes the tradition of basic comity in the Wisconsin delegation."

In a statement released to Wisconsin media, Sensenbrenner called on Pocan to "reconsider the blatant stunt of inviting candidate Randy Bryce as his guest."

Pocan was having none of it. "Speaker Ryan is a nice guy, but it isn't nice to write a bill that would kick 23 million people off their health care, or pass tax cuts that primarily benefit the top 1 percent, rather than his own constituents. Worse, Speaker Ryan has now collected $500,000 in campaign funds from the Koch brothers for passing tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. The sad reality is that Speaker Ryan has abandoned his Wisconsin values by refusing to face his constituents in a truly open town hall, which is at the core of our jobs, and by not standing up to the President when necessary," said the Democratic congressman.

"Republicans have zero credibility to discuss the state of political discourse in America or what is disrespectful or out of bounds," added Pocan "I must've missed Mr. Sensenbrenner's remarks when the President disparaged foreign countries as sh*tholes, called neo-Nazis and white supremacists 'very fine people,' bragged about sexually assaulting a woman, or even reportedly asked his lawyer to pay off an adult film star using campaign funds. Apparently tax cuts for GOP donors come at any cost."
(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.








Gerrymandering - Trickery At The Polls
By James Donahue

Gerrymandering is a major political issue as candidates line up for 2018 local, state and federal district elections. A ruling in the Pennsylvania Federal District court against Republican manipulation of state election district boundaries has put the word gerrymandering in the spotlight. But do many people understand what it is?

Gerrymandering is described as a practice used to establish a political advantage for a particular party by redrawing the boundaries of election districts. Every candidate for political office serves an election district, whether it is for school board, a county office, state elected position or federal legislative job. All states and counties, towns and townships are divided by districts. By law these districts must be established to provide a fair number of registered voters in occupancy, thus creating a form of fairness during the election process.

The complexities of accomplishing "fair" districts can be extreme. Special local and regional redistricting boards are established to establish the proper demographics in districts following a national census that occurs every ten years. The census takers gather not only head counts but determine ethnic, racial, linguistic, religious and even class groups. All of this information is used by redistricting boards to create legal voting districts.

This job of serving on these boards often gets highly political and consequently, it can become a major controversial battleground before those final voting districts are established. And it is considered so important that the redistricting has become a special science where representatives of each board turns to a variety of methods in an attempt to dilute the voting power of opposing parties against one another. When one party is predominant within a region this form of "trickery" is called gerrymandering, cracking or packing. It is designed to make sure that incumbents remain in power or the predominant party maintains its power for the next ten year cycle.

In an effort to clarify this process we will report on our personal experience covering redistricting board meetings in Michigan's Sanilac County in the early 1960s.

Sanilac County, a rural region located about 100 miles north of Detroit, has always been a predominantly Republican district. The G.O.P. operates such a closed shop there that it was long said that Democrats had to lie about their party affiliation if they ever hoped to get elected to public office.

For years congressional seats were reapportioned based on state population changes. But after the 1960 Census the question arose as to whether state legislators were required to ensure that state congressional districts also were roughly equal in population. Thus emerged the infamous "one person, one vote" rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court. They determined that reapportionment needed to be conducted in each political district from the top down.

The redistricting board in my county was comprised of five people. There was a chairman. I think I remember it was the county prosecutor who was supposed to be impartial. There were two prominent Republicans and two prominent Democrats appointed to make up the rest. This small committee then spent hours studying the statistics gathered from the local Census and create legal reapportionment plans. Once finalized, the plans were sent to state level offices for final approval before the district lines were legally established.

Even at a county level, and this early in the game, it was amazing how much trickery and manipulating occurred among those five delegates. The meetings went on for weeks, each time with new plans presented to the group to be considered. As a reporter covering those meetings I admit the news stories that emerged became so complex and routine that they were boring to read. My editors complained that I was wasting my time covering them. Yet even then I recognized that what was happening was an important part of the county election process that needed to be told.

When the final maps were drawn the districts were so bent and twisted that they were hard to recognize. School districts crossed over township and county lines. County Board districts crossed township lines. State districts crossed into and out of Sanilac County, as did federal election districts. The maps were a complex maze of information that only the professional election coordinators attempted to interpret and understand.

And there lays the rub, to coin a Shakespearian phrase. The entire process is far too complicated for the general public to understand, or wish to try to interpret. Thus the stage is set here for massive voter fraud.

The Republicans have wasted no time utilizing the redistricting complexities to slide in their own sneaky kind of gerrymandering. Some experts say this is how the G.O.P. seized power in the last two big elections. They warn that if we don't get control of those distorted election maps the Republicans will retain power again this year, and may still maintain control of the government after 2020 elections.
(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.







Fitness Tracker Data Highlights Sprawling U.S. Military Footprint In Africa
By Nick Turse

OUT IN THE cocoa-colored wastes of north-central Niger, people have been running around in circles. Exactly who has been jogging or walking around this compound outside the town of Arlit is unclear. But there's a good chance it has something to do with U.S. Africa Command's "Analysis Office" there, the existence of which was disclosed in 2016 contracting documents.

Not far away, people have been running round and round in a compound near the airfield in Agadez, Niger, where the U.S. military is building a $100 million drone base. There has also been a significant amount of movement going on around the airport in Gao, Mali, where the U.S. military established an outpost in the early 2010s. And Garoua, Cameroon, the site of a U.S. drone base, is also aglow with the digital evidence of many past runs, according to an online interactive map that shows the routes of people who use fitness devices, such as Fitbit.


Running route around airports in Mogadishu.

To the east, the airport in Faya-Largeau, Chad, turns out to be a fitness hotspot. The digital signatures might have been generated by French forces who have operated there, but it also might have something to do with the fact that, according to formerly secret 2014 AFRICOM documents, the U.S. military has a "contingency location" at the facility. Running routes are even more radiant at the airport in Chad's capital, N'Djamena. People have also been racing around the airfield in Baledogle, Somalia, the very same site previously identified as a U.S. outpost. And that isn't the only site in Somalia outlined by the neon glow of workouts past, as evidenced by the dazzling effect around airports in Mogadishu and Baidoa.

The outline of Camp Lemonnier, a large U.S. base in the sun-bleached nation of Djibouti, burns brighter than Las Vegas at midnight. A more remote site, about 10 kilometers away, is another popular locale for running ... and drone flights. Chabelley Airfield is aglow with the digital signature of military personnel, with the most popular route circling the airstrip.

The Global Heat Map, released in November 2017 by fitness tracking company Strava, provides more than 3 trillion individual global GPS data points uploaded over the last two years via fitness devices, such as Fitbit, Jawbone, and Vivofit, as well as by people who directly subscribe to its mobile app, according to the company. In many parts of the United States and Europe, where millions of people use fitness trackers, the map is ablaze with light. In more austere locations, like the war zones of Yemen, Syria, and Afghanistan, as well as remote areas of Africa, fitness hot spots - in the form of neon paths along the perimeters of fenced-in compounds or secure roads - are far more likely to denote the presence of Western personnel working for the United Nations, humanitarian organizations, or foreign militaries like the U.S. armed forces.

In the past, the U.S. Defense Department has encouraged the use of Fitbits, distributing 2,500 to military personnel in 2013. Two years later, the Navy announced "plans to run a pilot program in the Pacific Fleet and Navy Reserve using wearable fitness trackers like Fitbits." In 2016, Marines were, with a few important caveats, authorized to wear fitness tracking devices, including Fitbits, "in all Marine Corps spaces where collateral classified information and controlled unclassified information is processed, stored, or discussed" anywhere on earth. And last year, the Army announced plans to issue fitness bracelets "that will allow Army leaders to track their Soldiers' fitness in real time."

While Strava's Global Heat Map was posted online last year, it only attained widespread notoriety over the weekend, when it was publicized on Twitter by Nathan Ruser, a 20-year-old Australian student studying international security. This has led to disclosures of the supposed locations of numerous low-profile U.S. military outposts, forward operating sites, and bases. It has raised fears about how such information might be linked to individual troops and imperil U.S. forces, while shining a light on the poor operational security habits of many U.S. military personnel based overseas.

For its part, U.S. Army Special Operations Command provides online guidance for maintaining digital privacy for personnel using Fitbits. U.S. Central Command, the umbrella organization for military operations in the greater Middle East, told the Washington Post that it will change its guidelines for the use of wireless and technological devices on military facilities.

The Intercept reached out to U.S. Africa Command, seeking comment on the implications of the Global Heat Map, regulations regarding the use of fitness trackers, and whether plans exist to issue new guidance regarding such devices. A digital receipt shows that AFRICOM personnel read the emailed questions, but the command did not respond to The Intercept prior to publication.
(c) 2018 Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch and a fellow at the Nation Institute. An award-winning investigative journalist, he has written for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Nation, and is a contributing writer for The Intercept. His latest book is Next Time They'll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan. His website is NickTurse.com.







Trump's Role Model
By Heather Digby Parton

I'm sure Trump thinks this is an excellent idea. Certainly he likes Putin's tactic of banning his political rivals from running against him by trumping up charges and then saying he's disqualified from running due to his criminal record. Trump's DOJ put a bunch of American on trial for protesting his inauguration but it didn't work. And he is still pushing for his former political rival to be put in jail.

Russian protesters shouting slogans including "Putin is a thief!" gathered briefly around the Russian government's headquarters while marching through central Moscow.

The lengthy march Sunday by the mostly young group of several hundred protesters came after a large gathering at Pushkin Square dispersed. The rally was among protests nationwide in support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny's call to boycott the March 18 presidential election.

The marchers headed down Novy Arbat, one of Moscow's widest and busiest avenues, to the riverside government building colloquially known as the Russian White House. They shouted slogans and some threw handfuls of snow through the high, spiked fence surrounding the building before moving on.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was detained by police en route to an unauthorized protest rally in Moscow, is expected to be charged with a public-order violation.

That charge could bring a punishment of 20 days in jail.

Navalny called for nationwide demonstrations Sunday to support a boycott of Russia's March 18 presidential election, in which Vladimir Putin is seeking a fourth term. Navalny has been barred from running in the election.

Navalny was seized by police Sunday while walking to the Moscow protest. Russian news reports cited police as saying he was likely to be charged with violating a law on calling public demonstrations.

Who is President Putin going to blame this time? Hillary Clinton hasn't even said a word about it.

Trump holds the same sentiments about dealing with his political rivals, he just hasn't been able to figure out a way do it. Perhaps this is one silver lining of the Russia investigation I hadn't thought of. Trump is so distracted by his legal troubles that he's only testing his powers to protect himself instead of fully embracing the authoritarianism he so obviously believes in.
(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.








The Post Should Be Viewed By Current Editors Of The Post
By David Swanson

I was afraid that The Post would give us a Hollywood film version of the publication of the Pentagon Papers and manage never to say what was in the Pentagon Papers. I was afraid it would be turned into a pro-war movie. I was afraid we'd be told that the Washington Post was a courageous institution while Daniel Ellsberg was a dirty traitor. I am pleased to have had no reason for such concerns.

The Post is not exactly an anti-war movie, Ellsberg is not a main character, the peace movement is just rabble scenery, and the major focus is split between journalism's struggle against government and Katherine Graham's struggle against sexism. But we are in fact told in this film that the Pentagon Papers documented decades of official war lies and the continuation of mass-slaughter year-after-year purely out of cowardly unwillingness to be the one to end it. The Post leaves Ellsberg looking like the hero he is and Robert McNamara looking like the Nazi he was. And I'm left to complain that I have nothing to complain about.

Well, except this: We're supposed to believe that the fact that the U.S. government had been blatantly lying about its motivations, actions, and analyses of its warmaking for decades came as a shocking revelation to every intern, reporter, editor, and publisher at the Washington Post, that they all had simply had no idea, bless their hearts, and that they all immediately believed that this brand-new truth needed to be told (with the only hurdle being the willingness of the publisher to stick to the obvious course of action when faced with legal threats from the Justice Department).

This story obscures the fact that senators, Congress members, independent reporters like I.F. Stone, and many others had been exposing the lies in real time for years. And, of course, many statements appeared to be lies without the need for any exposure. We're expected to overlook the willful suspension of disbelief required to believe, for example, that predicting imminent success in Vietnam over and over again for years was all driven by honest reflection on facts. The peace movement was the massive recognition of the lies. The peace movement persuaded Ellsberg to act. The people running the Washington Post cannot have been quite as oblivious as we're led to believe.

The same tale of innocence also may leave the moviegoer with the entirely false impression that the Washington Post has instinctively challenged the most blatant war lies ever since the days of Tricky Dick. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ellsberg has said that Trump should see this movie. I'd rather Jeff Bezos and each of his employees at the current Post see it.

Here are some of the wars that the Washington Post has helped to promote since the moment the credits rolled: Grenada, Panama, the Gulf War (the Post outdid itself promoting a fictional account of babies being taken out of incubators), Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and drone wars in general.

Here are the wars I am aware of the Washington Post having opposed: _______________.

The current U.S.-Saudi war on Yemen is unusual for the Post's pretense that the U.S. military isn't actively engaged in it, even while admirably asking the U.S. to ask the Saudis to open the ports.

Here's an excerpt from my book, War Is A Lie:

In May and June 2005, the most repeated excuse by U.S. media outlets, including the Washington Post, for not covering the Downing Street Minutes and related documents demonstrating the dishonesty of the planners of the War on Iraq, was that the documents told us nothing new, that they were old news. This conflicted, of course, with the second most common excuse, which was that they were false.

Those of us trumpeting the story as new and important scratched our heads. Of course we'd known the Bush-Cheney gang was lying, but did everyone know that? Had corporate media outlets reported it? Had they informed the public of confirmation of this fact in the form of memos from top government officials in the United Kingdom? And if so, when? When had this particular piece of news been new news?

At what point did it become stale and unnecessary to report that Bush had decided by the summer of 2002 to go to war and to use false justifications related to weapons of mass destruction and ties to terrorism? Judging by opinion polls in spring 2005, we hadn't reached that point yet. Much of the public still believed the lies.

If you went back, as I did, and reviewed all the issues of the Washington Post that had come out in June, July, and August 2002, you found that, while what was happening behind closed doors in Washington and London may have been known to the Washington Post, it certainly never informed its readers.[i] In fact, during that three month period, I found a flood of pro-war articles, editorials, and columns, many of them promoting the lies the debunking of which was supposedly old news.

On August 18, 2002, for example, the Washington Post ran an editorial, an ombudsman column, and three op-eds about a potential U.S. attack on Iraq, as well as three related "news" articles. One article, placed on the top of the front page, reported on a memo that Secretary of "Defense" Donald Rumsfeld had sent to the White House and the media. "Defense" officials were worried that countries such as Iraq or Iran could use cruise missile technology to attack "U.S. installations or the American homeland."

The article contained the admission that "no particular piece of new intelligence prompted the warning." What prompted the "reporting"?

The second Post article - by Dana Milbank - urged Bush to hurry up and argue for an attack on Iraq before opponents of such an attack raised their voices too loudly. The headline was, "White House Push for Iraqi Strike Is On Hold: Waiting to Make Case for Action Allows Invasion Opponents to Dominate Debate." While the article did touch on some of the opponents' arguments, it mainly focused on arguments about how best to persuade the American public and European politicians to support a war.

A third article - by Glenn Kessler - was called "Rice Details the Case for War With Iraq." It began:

"The United States and other nations have little choice but to seek the removal of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said. 'This is an evil man who, left to his own devices, will wreak havoc again on his own population, his neighbors and, if he gets weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, on all of us,' Rice told the BBC. 'There is a very powerful moral case for regime change. We certainly do not have the luxury of doing nothing.'"
The Post's editorial on August 18 urged the White House to make its case for war, and advised it to do so on the grounds that Saddam Hussein had refused to get rid of weapons. Here's the last paragraph of the editorial:
"A preemptive war carries another danger: that it will seem to legitimize aggression by any stronger nation against a weaker regime in disfavor. It has long seemed to us that targeting the weapons of Saddam Hussein carries a legitimacy that other such attacks would not, because the U.N. Security Council more than a decade ago demanded that he rid himself of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, and he has refused to do so. That is also a case that the administration must make more persuasively."
The Post's ombudsman column on the same day was titled "Covering the War Before it Starts," and lamented the Post's biased coverage in favor of attacking Iraq. Unfortunately, this admirable observation was overshadowed by three much longer op-eds on the next page.

The best of them, David Broder's, questioned the accuracy of CIA information on Iraq, briefly mentioned a few concerns, and then joined the chorus urging Bush to make his case.

The worst of the op-eds - which was placed at the top and center of the page, illustrated by a clenched fist with an Uncle Sam sleeve pounding on a map of Iraq - was by former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. The title was "If We Must Fight . . . ." It didn't call proponents of peace "assisters of terrorism," as a Post column had done some months earlier, but it did assume there was no reason to work for peace.

Brzezinski offered advice to the President in a list of five recommended steps to war: First, Brzezinski joined the chorus in suggesting that the President must articulate some sort of reason for attacking Iraq. Second, Brzezinski suggested that the reason the President articulates must be that Hussein is producing weapons in defiance of the Security Council. (Brzezinski was good enough to add that Hussein did not use chemical weapons in the last war and that some reason must be provided to believe he would use them in the future). Third, the United States must take the lead in a new proposal for weapons inspections. Europe would support this, and Hussein would not, giving the United States a good excuse to attack. (Here we have Brzezinski plotting publicly as Prime Minister Tony Blair was privately to "wrong-foot Saddam" - the phrase Britain's ambassador to the United States used privately in March 2002 to describe a process of manipulating Hussein into refusing inspections, thereby creating an excuse for war). Fourth, the United States must work for peace between Israel and Palestine, so that an attack on Iraq is not viewed together with the U.S.-backed Israeli assaults on Palestinians - a combination bound to anger quite a lot of people. And fifth, the United States should plan to occupy Iraq after demolishing it.

The Post's final op-ed was by Charles "liberals are stupid" Krauthammer. He attacked the New York Times for its allegedly biased coverage against attacking Iraq. Krauthammer was upset that the Times had covered some of the stories that the Post's ombudsman criticized the Post for not covering - including the expression of opposition to or concern about attacking Iraq on the part of various legislators and officials.

Remember this was the same "objective" media that had been so upset with President Clinton for missing a chance to launch a war on Iraq in 1998. This was the same media that didn't blink when Bush's Chief of Staff Andrew Card explained the delay until September 2002 of the most aggressive war propaganda by remarking "You don't introduce new products in August."

The war would be built on a planned marketing campaign, not resorted to as a last resort. This fact was not a scandal to be reported in the news or to legal authorities; this was what the Washington Post had repeatedly and publicly requested. The Post wanted war but wanted the President to sell the war well.

This was the same Washington Post that had written of the rising pro-war fever in the country in 1918: "In spite of excesses such as lynching [peace activists] it is a healthy and wholesome awakening."[ii]

[i] David Swanson, "Remember When Bush's Lies Weren't 'Old News?'" June 20, 2005. Accessed October 9, 2010. http://old.warisacrime.org/node/407

[ii] Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class, p. 80.
(c) 2018 David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.








North Carolina's Voter Suppression Is A Lesson To The Rest Of The Nation
It is relentless and multi-faceted.
By Charles P. Pierce

Nowhere has the assault on voting been as thoroughgoing, or as creative, as it has been in the newly insane state of North Carolina. The Republicans in that state's legislature have been remarkably flexible in adapting to changing circumstances that might screw up their plans to disenfranchise inconveniently Democratic voters-such as, for example, the election of a Democratic governor name Roy Cooper.

In 2017, as Cooper was taking office, the Republicans suddenly got it into their heads that it would be a good idea to merge the state's elections commission and the state's ethics commission. This was a pre-emptive response to Cooper's promise to roll back existing voter suppression measures that had passed when the Republicans had control of the whole state government. The new policies almost guaranteed a permanent partisan gridlock which would maintain the status quo. Cooper saw that and vetoed the plan. The legislature overrode his veto and Cooper sued. A state court upheld Cooper's case so the legislature changed a few commas and passed the thing again. Cooper sued, again, arguing that the legislature had violated the state constitution. (As Mark Joseph Stern explains in Slate, the N.C. constitution is uncommonly rigid on separation of powers.) On Friday, as the Raleigh News & Observer reports, the North Carolina Supreme Court decided it had had enough of this ridiculous finagling.

In a 4-3 ruling that breaks down along the court's partisan lines, the justices found that a law passed in 2017 that merged the state Board of Elections with the state Ethics Commission and limited Cooper's power to appoint a majority of its members violated the state Constitution's separation of powers clause. The ruling, in a case that has attracted national attention, means that the governor's party will control elections boards at the state and county levels, as has been the case for decades before Cooper defeated one-term Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. That could have implications for voting hours and poll locations in this year's elections.

The state supreme court's decision, written by Judge Sam Ervin IV, was quite clear that the state legislature had gone completely renegade in its attempts to suppress the franchise in North Carolina.

"The General Assembly cannot, however ... structure an executive branch commission in such a manner that the Governor is unable, within a reasonable period of time, to 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed' because he or she is required to appoint half of the commission members from a list of nominees consisting of individuals who are, in all likelihood, not supportive of, if not openly opposed to, his or her policy preferences while having limited supervisory control over the agency and circumscribed removal authority over commission members."
The Republican justices based their dissents on the argument that the decision, and the governor's efforts to roll back the voter suppression campaign, were tainted by "partisanship," which, I confess, is pretty damned hilarious. The Republicans in the state legislature howled along in tune. Once again, the importance of contesting all state elections is obvious here-North Carolina, alas, elects its judges-as is the fact that the franchise is hanging by a thread in a number of places. And, as you may have noticed, the state supreme court was authored by a judge with a familiar name. On May 17, 1973, Judge Ervin's grandfather, Senator Sam Ervin, Jr. had this to say about another group of sleazy Republicans who poisoned another election.
"If these allegations prove to be true, what they were seeking to steal was not the jewels, money or other property of American citizens, but something much more valuable-their most precious heritage, the right to vote in a free election."
They don't use burglars in North Carolina. They use the law itself as a pry-bar and picklock. But the principle and the object of the theft remain the same. Some day, god help us, we may run out of Ervins.
(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...



"Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens. They fall, when the wise are banished from the public councils, because they dare to be honest, and the profligate are rewarded, because they flatter the people, in order to betray them."
~~~ Justice Joseph Story ~ (1779-1845) US Supreme Court Justice 1833









Trump Officials Are Exploring Mass Arrests Of US Mayors
By Ron Fein

It's 4 am in New York. Federal agents in tactical gear confront the police department's mayoral security detail outside Manhattan's Gracie Mansion. After a tense standoff, the NYPD stands down and steps aside as the bedraggled mayor is removed in handcuffs. Across the nation, carefully coordinated pre-dawn raids sweep up the mayors of Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle, and the governor of California. Two hours later, President Trump tweets victory.

Paranoid conspiracy thriller? Feverish dystopian fantasy? Hardly. This is a plan that the Trump administration is actively considering. On January 16, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen told the Senate Judiciary Committee that, at her department's request, federal prosecutors are "reviewing what avenues might be available" to arrest and prosecute mayors of sanctuary cities for harboring unauthorized immigrants.

Nielsen's testimony wasn't even the first time in January that the administration floated the idea of arresting mayors and governors. Two weeks earlier, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Thomas Homan told a Fox News host, "We gotta start charging some of these politicians with crimes."

This is dangerous, dangerous talk.

It's important to understand what a sanctuary city (or state) status means. While local policies vary and there is no universal definition of the term, in sanctuary cities, local police stick to enforcing local and state law, not federal immigration law. That frustrates federal authorities, but it's not obstruction, let alone nullification. Federal officers can still enforce federal immigration law. They just have to do it on their own.

The question here is not whether sanctuary policies are wise. The question here is whether our constitutional democracy can survive mass roundups of mayors and governors for refusing to use local resources to help enforce federal immigration.

To be sure, elected officials are not immune from the law. Many have spent time in the federal penitentiary for corruption. And elected officials who deliberately violate court orders can be subject to criminal contempt of court. For example, in the 1960s, Mississippi's governor was charged with criminal contempt for defying a court order to desegregate the University of Mississippi. And former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio was convicted for disobeying a court order to stop unconstitutional policing practices. (President Trump pardoned him, but that pardon is the subject of ongoing and potential future litigation.)

It's possible that administration officials are performing elaborate theater for an audience of one -- the president. Trump himself often says "We're looking into it" as a way to dodge an awkward question.

Or perhaps the Department of Justice chuckled at the request for criminal prosecution of mayors, but is considering narrower options to punish sanctuary cities. There aren't many, partly because most sanctuary policies don't even violate any federal statute. More importantly, as the late Justice Antonin Scalia explained in 1997, the Constitution prohibits the federal government from "commandeering" local law enforcement to enforce federal law. Even Congress's power to condition federal funds is limited; as Chief Justice John Roberts explained in 2012, Congress cannot use its spending power to "coerce" a state "to adopt a federal regulatory system as its own." That's partly why a federal judge issued a permanent injunction against Trump's earlier attempt to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities.

But let's not lose the forest for the trees: The United States government is contemplating a mass arrest of US mayors and governors for refusing to help the president's agenda.

We've seen this before in other countries. Mass purges of dissident local officials are moves from Putin's Russia (if not Stalin's) or Erdogan's Turkey. But nothing in our own history has prepared us for this moment.

Is this a red flag for autocracy? Some take comfort in Trump's disorganization and distraction. On this theory, breaking the republic is a full-time job, not something you squeeze in between golf and live-tweeting morning television. But as longtime Putin critic Masha Gessen notes, the first rule for survival in an autocracy is to "believe the autocrat. He means what he says." And even if Trump himself doesn't know how to achieve his goals, the people running the president's immigration enforcement policy -- Secretary Nielsen, Acting Director Homan and, of course, Attorney General Jeff Sessions -- know what they are doing, and how to achieve what they and the president want.

Maybe it won't happen. Maybe cooler heads will prevail. But we should reflect on the chilling fact that President Trump's handpicked appointees to run immigration enforcement openly discuss prosecuting the mayors of US cities. We must prepare for the day when the administration makes good on its threat.

We may not get a second chance.
(c) 2018 Ron Fein is the legal director of Free Speech For People, a national nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that engages in legal advocacy to confront the misuse of the US Constitution.




People watch President Donald Trump give his first State of the Union speech from the US
Capitol Building at the Hawk 'n' Dove bar on Tuesday, January 30, 2018, in Washington, DC




None of This Is Normal, State Of The Union Edition
By William Rivers Pitt

"He was a man of splendid abilities but utterly corrupt. Like rotten mackerel by moonlight, he shines and stinks." ~~~ John Randolph

Since this all began more than a year ago, it has been my sworn duty as a citizen of this country and member of the human race to remind people of one core fact as often as possible: None of this is normal.

All the pomp and circumstance of every other State of the Union address was present last night -- the introductions, the stage-managed applause, the honored guests -- and this: Donald Trump giving the crowd his profile like Nero, sneering and gesticulating at the Democrats, clapping and clapping and clapping into his own microphone to keep the applause lines going like some starving seal in a two-bit circus. Standing under the lights last night, he looked like a new penny at the bottom of a truck stop toilet bowl, all copper sheen and the stink of ammonia.

There were a hundred moments I could point to yesterday evening to underscore the "Not Normal" qualities of Trump's first SOTU speech, but one stands out in gruesome relief. He pointed out four guests in the gallery -- Evelyn Rodriguez, Freddy Cuevas, Elizabeth Alvarado, and Robert Mickens, parents of two teenage girls brutally murdered by the MS-13 gang -- and proceeded to grind their demonstrable agony under his heel for all to see.

Why? Because it was Trump's intention to conflate the vast majority of immigrants in this country, particularly those who are undocumented, with vicious killers in the mind of his audience. He even managed to dismiss the Dreamers, who were protected by DACA until he stripped them bare, by claiming that "Americans are dreamers, too," as if these young people were somehow stealing from the rest of us. White House adviser and famous fascist Stephen Miller was in charge of the crafting of this speech, and his truncheon hand was all too visible in this passage.

I am not alone in my assessment of that moment. "Most revolting of all, though," writes Kevin Baker in the New York Times, "was the moment when Mr. Trump sank to using the weeping parents of two murdered teenage girls on Long Island to associate the MS-13 gang first with the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who seek refuge in the United States every year from the violence in their home countries and then by implication with Latino immigrants and even the Dreamers. His turning on the Dreamers like this even as he supposedly advocated for them was a blood libel beyond anything I have heard from an American president."

Beneath the treacly bromides and tread-worn rallying cries, however, lurked an overarching strategy of sorts. In the days leading up to the speech, the newspapers were filled with speculation on how Trump's far-right white nationalist fascist base would react to a speech that was anything other than Hitler in Munich circa 1920.

While the white nationalists got their fair share of red meat last night, Mr. Miller appears to have opted for a different and potentially effective tactic: Aim, above all, for the people who vote with their wallets and bank accounts. Trump did this by exaggerating -- and sometimes brazenly lying -- about the state of the US economy, and the goal of the effort was plain.

Trump has his base locked down tight, but that's all he has. By appealing to the "I got mine, screw you" instinct of voters, he is hoping to broaden his support with a truly venal arrangement: I'll deport millions of people, plunder the Treasury for my wealthy friends, ravage the environment, humiliate the nation and drag us to the brink of nuclear obliteration, but I won't hurt your bank account. Don't laugh: Ronald Reagan rode a similarly crass ethos into two terms, managing in that time to do damage we're still digging out from.

Nary a word was spoken about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing Russia investigation, leaving one to ponder the metaphysical question of what lives in the silence between the words. Richard Nixon brought up the Watergate inquiry during the 1974 State of the Union speech, his last as it turned out. I suppose the venue wasn't appropriate. How do you tell a thousand people and a televised audience your next bigly idea is to have Jeff Sessions investigate Mueller, so Mueller can no longer investigate you? Had Trump dropped that brick, Lindsey Graham would need a fainting couch permanently stapled to his back.

Last night, all the common components were there: the fan of seats filled with swells, balconies bustling, TV anchorpeople jockeying to win this year's Van Jones Overgush Award by being the first to say "Trump became the president tonight" ... except for the man in the middle. Like some blighted prism, he threw all the lights askew and turned a well-worn event into a genuinely distressing spectacle.

None of this is normal, goddamn it. Say it again.
(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...





Bill gives the corporate salute!

Heil Trump,

Dear Wissenschaft guy Nye,

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 leading your name to give Trump some science cred, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Trump at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 03-17-2018. We salute you Herr Nye, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump






Trump's America: Open To Global Capital, Not People
By Robert Reich

Trump to global CEOs and financiers in Davos, Switzerland: "America is open for business." We're now a great place for you to make money. We've slashed taxes and regulations so you can make a bundle here.

Trump to ambitious young immigrants around the world, including those brought here as children: America is closed. We don't want you. Forget that poem affixed to the Statue of Liberty about bringing us your poor yearning to breathe free. Don't even try.

In Trump's America, global capital is welcome, people aren't.

Well, I have news for the so-called businessman. America was built by ambitious people from all over the world, not by global capital.

Global capital wants just one thing: A high return on its investment.

Global capital has no obligation to any country or community. If there's another place around the world where taxes are lower and regulations laxer, global capital will move there at the speed of an electronic blip.

Global capital doesn't care how it gets a high return. If it can get it by slashing wages, outsourcing to contract workers, polluting air and water, defrauding investors, or destroying communities, it will.

People are different. Once they've rooted somewhere, they generally stay put. They develop webs of connections and loyalties.

If they're ambitious - and, let's face it, the one characteristic that almost all immigrants to America have shared for more than two centuries is ambition - they develop skills, educate their kids, and contribute to their communities and their nation.

My great grandfather arrived in America from Ukraine. He was nineteen years old and penniless. What brought him here was his ambition. He built a business. He started a family.

Then he invited his brothers and sisters from Ukraine to join him. He put them up in his home and gave them some of his savings to start their own lives as Americans.

You may call it "chain migration," Mr. Trump, but we used to call it "family reunification." We believed it wasn't just humane to allow members from abroad to join their loved ones here, but also good for the America. It made the nation stronger and more prosperous.

By the way, Mr. Trump, global capital doesn't create jobs. Jobs are created when customers want more goods and services. Nobody invests in a business unless they expect consumers to buy what that business will produce. Those consumers include immigrants.

Consumers are also workers. The more productive they are and the better they're paid, the more goods and services they buy - creating a virtuous circle of higher wages and more jobs.

They become more productive and better paid when they have access to good schools and universities, good health care, and well-maintained transportation systems linking them together.

This combination - people rooted in families and communities, supplemented by ambitious young immigrants, all aided by good education and infrastructure - made America the economic powerhouse it is today.

Along the way, regulations proved to be necessary guardrails. We protected the environment, prevented fraud, and tried to stop financial entities from gambling away everyone's savings, because we came to see that capitalism without such guardrails is a mudslide.

We didn't accomplish what we've achieved by cutting taxes and slashing regulations so global investors could make more money in America, while preventing ambitious immigrants from coming to our shores.

We raised taxes - especially on big corporations and wealthy individuals - in order to finance good schools, public universities, and infrastructure. We regulated business. And we welcomed immigrants and reunited families.

Global capital came our way not because we were a cheap place to do business but because we were fabulously productive and innovative place to do business.

Now Trump and his rich backers want to undo all this. No one should be surprised. When they look at the economy they only see money. They've made lots of it.

But the real economy is people. America should be open to ambitious people even if they're dirt poor, like my great grandfather. It should also be open to their relations, whose family members here will give them a start.

It should invest in people, as it once did.

America didn't become great by global capital seeking higher returns but by people from all over world seeking better lives. And global capital won't make it great again.
(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 www.robertreich.org.









The Useful Idiocy Of Donald Trump
By Chris Hedges

The problem with Donald Trump is not that he is imbecilic and inept-it is that he has surrendered total power to the oligarchic and military elites. They get what they want. They do what they want. Although the president is a one-man wrecking crew aimed at democratic norms and institutions, although he has turned the United States into a laughingstock around the globe, our national crisis is embodied not in Trump but the corporate state's now unfettered pillage.

Trump, who has no inclination or ability to govern, has handed the machinery of government over to the bankers, corporate executives, right-wing think tanks, intelligence chiefs and generals. They are eradicating the few regulations and laws that inhibited a naked kleptocracy. They are dynamiting the institutions, including the State Department, that served interests other than corporate profit and are stacking the courts with right-wing, corporate-controlled ideologues. Trump provides the daily entertainment; the elites handle the business of looting, exploiting and destroying.

Once democratic institutions are hollowed out, a process begun before the election of Trump, despotism is inevitable. The press is shackled. Corruption and theft take place on a massive scale. The rights and needs of citizens are irrelevant. Dissent is criminalized. Militarized police monitor, seize and detain Americans without probable cause. The rituals of democracy become farce. This is the road we are traveling. It is a road that leads to internal collapse and tyranny, and we are very far down it.

The elites' moral and intellectual vacuum produced Trump. They too are con artists. They are slicker than he at selling the lies and more adept at disguising their greed through absurd ideologies such as neoliberalism and globalization, but they belong to the same criminal class and share many of the pathologies that characterize Trump. The grotesque visage of Trump is the true face of politicians such as George W. Bush, Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The Clintons and Obama, unlike Bush and Trump, are self-aware and therefore cynical, but all lack a moral compass. As Michael Wolff writes in "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," the president has "no scruples." He lives "outside the rules" and is "contemptuous of them." And this makes him identical to those he has replaced, not different. "A close Trump friend who was also a good Bill Clinton friend found them eerily similar-except that Clinton had a respectable front and Trump did not," Wolff writes.

Trump, backed by the most retrograde elements of corporate capitalism, including Robert and Rebekah Mercer, Sheldon Adelson and Carl Icahn, is the fool who prances at the front of our death march. As natural resources become scarce and the wealth of the empire evaporates, a shackled population will be forced to work harder for less. State revenues will be squandered in grandiose projects and futile wars in an attempt to return the empire to a mythical golden age. The decision to slash corporate tax rates for the rich while increasing an already bloated military budget by $54 billion is typical of decayed civilizations. Empires expand beyond their capacity to sustain themselves and then go bankrupt. The Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires all imploded in a similar fashion. The lessons of history are clear. But the illiterate charlatans who seize power in the dying days of empire know nothing of history. They are driven by a primal and inchoate lust for wealth, one that is never satisfied no matter how many billions they possess.

The elites in dying cultures turn everything into a commodity. Human beings are commodities. The natural world is a commodity. Government and democratic institutions are commodities. All are mined and wrecked for profit. Nothing has an intrinsic value. Nothing is sacred. The relentless and suicidal drive to accumulate greater and greater wealth by destroying the systems that sustain life is idolatry. It ignores the biblical injunction that idols always begin by demanding human sacrifice and end by demanding self-sacrifice. The elites are not only building our funeral pyre, they are building their own.

The elites, lacking a vision beyond satiating their own greed, revel in the intoxicating power to destroy. They confuse destruction with creation. They are agents of what Sigmund Freud calls the death instinct. They find in acts of national self-immolation a godlike power. They denigrate empathy, intellectual curiosity, artistic expression and the common good, virtues that sustain life. They celebrate a hyper-individualism embodied in celebrity, wealth, hedonism, manipulation and the ability to dominate others. They know nothing of the past. They do not think about the future. Those around them are temporarily useful to their aims and must be flattered and rewarded but in the end are ruthlessly cast aside. There is no human connection. This emotional numbness lies at the core of Trump's personality.

"[Stephen] Bannon described Trump as a simple machine," Wolff writes. "The On switch was full of flattery, the Off switch full of calumny. The flattery was dripping, slavish, cast in ultimate superlatives, and entirely disconnected from reality: so-and-so was the best, the most incredible, the ne plus ultra, the eternal. The calumny was angry, bitter, resentful, ever a casting out and closing of the iron door."

The elites in a dying culture confuse what the economist Karl Polanyi calls "real" and "fictitious" commodities. A commodity is a product manufactured for sale. The ecosystem, labor and money, therefore, are not commodities. Once these fictitious commodities are treated as real ones for exploitation and manipulation, Polanyi writes, human society devours itself. Workers become dehumanized cogs. Currency and trade are manipulated by speculators, wreaking havoc with the economy and leading to financial collapse. The natural world is turned into a toxic wasteland. The elites, as the society breaks down, retreat into protected enclaves where they have access to security and services denied to the wider population. They last longer than those outside their gates, but the tsunami of destruction they orchestrate does not spare them.

As long as Trump serves the interests of the elites he will remain president. If, for some reason, he is unable to serve these interests he will disappear. Wolff notes in the book that after his election there was "a surprising and sudden business and Wall Street affinity for Trump." He went on: "An antiregulatory White House and the promise of tax reform outweighed the prospect of disruptive tweeting and other forms of Trump chaos; besides, the market had not stopped climbing since November 9, the day after the election."

The Russia investigation-launched when Robert Mueller became special counsel in May and which appears to be focused on money laundering, fraud and shady business practices, things that have always characterized Trump's financial empire-is unlikely to unseat the president. He will not be impeached for mental incompetence, over the emoluments clause or for obstruction of justice, although he is guilty on all these counts. He is useful to those who hold real power in the corporate state, however much they would like to domesticate him.

Trump's bizarre ramblings and behavior also serve a useful purpose. They are a colorful diversion from the razing of democratic institutions. As cable news networks feed us stories of his trysts with a porn actress and outlandish tweets, the real work of the elites is being carried out largely away from public view. The courts are stacked with Federalist Society judges, the fossil fuel industry is plundering public lands and the coastlines and ripping up regulations that protected us from its poisons, and the Pentagon, given carte blanche, is engaged in an orgy of militarism with a trillion-dollar-a-year budget and about 800 military bases in scores of countries around the world.

Trump, as Wolff describes him in the book, is clueless about what he has unleashed. He is uninterested in and bored by the complexities of governance and policy. The faster Trump finds a member of the oligarchy or the military to take a job off his hands the happier he becomes. This suits his desires. It suits the desires of those who manage the corporate state. For the president there is only one real concern, the tumultuous Trump White House reality show and how it plays out on television. He is a creature solely concerned with image, or more exactly his image. Nothing else matters.

"For each of his enemies-and, actually, for each of his friends-the issue for him came down, in many ways, to their personal press plan," Wolff writes of the president. "Trump assumed everybody wanted his or her fifteen minutes and that everybody had a press strategy for when they got them. If you couldn't get press directly for yourself, you became a leaker. There was no happenstance news, in Trump's view. All news was manipulated and designed, planned and planted. All news was to some extent fake-he understood that very well, because he himself had faked it so many times in his career. This was why he had so naturally cottoned to the 'fake news' label. 'I've made stuff up forever, and they always print it,' he bragged."

Yes, the elites wish Trump would act more presidential. It would help the brand. But all attempts by the elites to make Trump conform to the outward norms embraced by most public officials have failed. Trump will not be reformed by criticism from the establishment. Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee, who denounced Trump, saw their approval ratings plummet and have decided not to run for re-election. Trump may have public approval of only 39 percent overall, but among Republicans the figure is 78 percent. And I don't think those numbers will decrease.

The inability of the political establishment and the press to moderate or reform Trump's egregious behavior is rooted in their loss of credibility. The press, along with political and intellectual elites, spent decades championing economic and political policies that solidified corporate power and betrayed and impoverished American workers. The hypocrisy and mendacity of the elites left them despised and distrusted by the victims of deindustrialization and austerity programs. The attempt to restore civility to public discourse and competency to political office is, therefore, fruitless. Liberal and establishment institutions, including the leadership of the two main political parties, academia and the press, squandered their moral authority. And the dogged refusal by the elites to address the engine of discontent-social inequality-ensures that they will remain ineffectual. They lay down the asphalt for the buffoonery of Trump and the coming tyranny.
(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 www.truthdig.com/chris-hedges.




The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Chip Bok ~~~








To End On A Happy Note...





Have You Seen This...






Parting Shots...





Donald Trump's Reign Of Error Only Seems Like A Lifetime - Sigh
By Will Durst

It's been quite a year, the exact reverse of that whole "time flies when you're having fun" thing. These last 12 months have slogged by like cold molasses riddled with bat guano dripping through a tightly woven bamboo sieve.

It seems like decades since Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States. Shouldn't he be termed out by now?

After a mere 12 months, Trump's problems have stacked up like a bouquet of bombs from the Acme Co. being wafted aloft by helium balloons approaching an archery range for easily distracted pre-teens. Anybody who watched the televised White House bipartisan meeting can tell you the former reality TV star exhibits a mastery of his office on the level of a duck-billed platypus playing a harpsichord.

Trump's administration has been marked by division, derision, indecision and a distinct lack of supervision. Confusion, seclusion, delusion and collusion. Lazy, hazy, crazy: cheesy, sleazy, wheezy, breezy, and enough turmoil to make the entire world both uneasy and/or a little queasy.

During the first 365 days of Dopey Donald's Reign of Error, we have survived an unending stream of blatant lies, graphic insults, myopic intransigence, illiterate cluelessness, overt racism, monumental chaos, nuclear intimidation and a general coarsening of the culture to where the evangelical community is forced to reconcile a porn star payoff with its own staggering sense of self righteousness. Futilely.

In the recent book, Fire and Fury, author Michael Wolff intimated that 100 percent of White House insiders believe their boss is a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic, if you catch his drift. The wheel is spinning but the hamster is dead. Snuck into the gene pool while the lifeguard was chatting up the girl who runs the hot dog stand. Has the same mental capacity that God gave a bucket of hair.

Then, as if to stamp the book with his own fuzzy seal of approval, the former New York City real estate developer demonstrated that no matter how many allies he antagonizes, family members he insults, staffers he impugns, fellow Republicans he alienates or conventions he flaunts, his own worst enemy remains ... himself.

Attempting to stem backlash from Wolff's book, Trump tweeted (and these are quotes) that he is "like, really smart." And a "stable genius." A statement that most experts interpret as meaning he's really good with horse manure. Which probably comes in handy when interacting with Sloppy Steve Bannon.

Trump also twisted himself into a rhetorical battle with Kim Jong-un over whose nuclear button is bigger. When we all know it has to be Ivanka's dad, who needs the larger expanse to accommodate his diminutive hands. These two should be locked into a cell on an abandoned freighter in the South Pacific so that they can measure and get it over with.

Then the brief government shutdown precipitated an eruption of the Blame Game that witnessed both Republicans and Democrats flinging mud at each other with so much excess hitting Trump, many referees questioned the actual target.

Said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.: "I'm looking for something the president supports," making it sound like a mythical beast. Less unicorn, more dodo bird.

And all this has gone down in the first three weeks of 2018. Fasten your seat belts folks, it's going to be a bumpy year.
(c) 2018 Will Durst is an award-winning, nationally acclaimed columnist, comedian and former Pizza Hut assistant manager. For a calendar of personal appearances, including his new one-man show, "Durst Case Scenario," please visit: willdurst.com




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The Gross National Debt


Iraq Deaths Estimator


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Issues & Alibis Vol 18 # 05 (c) 02/02/2018


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