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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky returns with, "Populism and Terror."

Uri Avnery reviews, "President Kong."

Glen Ford says, "Trump Will Probably Dump Police Department 'Consent Decrees'."

Pepe Escobar asks, "Will Trump Hop On An American Silk Road?"

Jim Hightower explores, "Why So Many People Loathe Congress."

William Rivers Pitt explains, "Trump And The Gish Gallop: A Million Lies And One Truth."

Bill Moyers watches, "Donald Trump's Demolition Derby."

John Nichols reports, "Democracy Wins One As A Federal Court Strikes A Big Blow Against Gerrymandering."

Chris Hedges studies, "American Psychosis."

Sarah K. Burris notes, "Texas Governor Pelted with Used Menstrual Products After He Signs 'Fetal Burial' Order."

Jane Stillwater is, "Building affordable Housing -- Hobbit-style."

David Swanson wonders, "Does Rachel Maddow Want Russia Bombed?"

Bill Blum with an introduction, "Meet Neil Gorsuch, The New Antonin Scalia."

Donald Trump wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich concludes, "Trump and Bannon Are Putting the World at Real Risk of Nuclear War."

Joe Romm reports, "Trump's War On Immigration Is A War On Science And Our Prosperity."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Les East finds, "Alternate Ways Of Paying For The Wall" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "America, We Are So Screwed!!!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Mike Luckovich, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Mr. Fish, Morry Gash, Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Eric Ward, Carolyn Kaster, Slate, M.G.M., Warner Brothers Pictures, Getty Images,, Sam Hodgson, Christopher Hough, Black Agenda Report, You Tube.Com 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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America, We Are So Screwed!!!
By Ernest Stewart

"It's like deja-vu, all over again." ~~~ Yogi Berra

"He has made ill-considered comments about expanding the U.S. nuclear arsenal. He has shown a troubling propensity to discount or outright reject expert advice related to international security, including the conclusions of intelligence experts. And his nominees to head the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency dispute the basics of climate science. In short, even though he has just now taken office, the president's intemperate statements, lack of openness to expert advice, and questionable cabinet nominations have already made a bad international security situation worse." ~~~ Thomas Pickering (about Trump)

"...One of the most serious consequences of our actions is global warming brought about by rising levels of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels. The danger is that the temperature increase may become self-sustaining, if it hasn't done so already. Drought and deforestation are reducing the amount of carbon dioxide recycled into the atmosphere and the warming of the seas may trigger the release of large quantities of carbon dioxide trapped on the ocean floor. In addition the melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets will reduce the amount of solar energy reflected back into space and so increase the temperature further. We don't know where global warming will stop but the worst case scenario is that the earth will become like its sister planet Venus, with a temperature of 250 degrees C and rain sulphuric acid. The human race could not survive in those conditions." ~~~ Stephen Hawking

"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in." ~~~ Michael Corleone

From a comics standpoint, Trump is a gift from the gods. You don't even have to write any material, he does it for you. However, for everyone else this is a nightmare! As I've said at least one thousand times Americans are the dumbest people on the planet but at least they come by that stupidity honestly. We've had over three hundred years of the 1% brainwashing and dumbing down. Of course, the Demoncrats chose to ignore the will of the people, by running perhaps, the only candidate in America that gave Trump a chance to win. Sure, Hilary actually won the election by some 3 million votes, like Al did in 2000, and because Rethuglican controlled state legislatures, like here in Michigan, conveniently misplaced a few hundred thousand black votes which would have given Hilary, like Al Gore in Florida, the election. I miss old Yogi Berra who certainly had a way with words, because like Yogi I'm having "a deja vu all over again." It was just 16 years that another brain dead was handed the Presidency, and didn't that work out just fine?

I didn't vote for Hilary, as I'm a Green, but I have no doubt she fairly won the election and suddenly I was having a deja vu all over again, again, but this time it could easily be the end of all life on Earth. Had Hilary won the Presidency I wouldn't be here today but she, like the rest of us got screwed my a monster, so what could I do? I had foolishly assumed that after eight years of crony capitalism, America would have had enough of plutocracy to not elect Trump who is the worst case scenario of all that is wrong with America. My bad! But like Dubya, we have another disaster capitalist in power, but this time he's running amok and even scaring far right Rethuglicans who too can see the writing on the wall.

On a good note a lot of people are getting pissed off and are taking it to the streets. Thats a good thing as I can attest from my days with the SDS. America had been sleeping on their couches when Barry was here and let him get away with literal murder, but Barry has a brain and he knew just how far he could go, Trump doesn't, and what's more, doesn't care. Trump's just a spoiled brat used to getting everything he wants, and he wants it NOW! He thinks he can do whatever he pleases and the hell with the law, like Dubya said of the U.S. Constitution, "'s just a God damn piece of paper!" Ya'll remember when you liberals defended Obamas self-given right to kill anyone, any time, any where, including American kids, whenever he wanted to, without a trial, or charges, or a jury of their peers or any defense, etc. Well, guess what? Trump has that same right now, care to defend it again? Is it different now that a mad man has the power? As little Wednesday Addams said, "Be afraid! Be very afraid," America!!!

In Other News

I see where the atomic scientists moved the hands of the "A Doomsday Clock closer to midnight on Thursday amid increasing worries over nuclear weapons, climate change, and now Trump.

Since 1947, every year, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a nonprofit that sets the clock, decides whether the events of the previous year pushed humanity closer or further from destruction. The symbolic clock is now two-and-a-half minutes from midnight, the closest it's been to midnight since 1953, when the hydrogen bomb was first tested. Scientists blamed a cocktail of threats ranging from dangerous political rhetoric to the potential of nuclear threat as the catalyst for moving the clock closer towards doomsday.

"This year's Clock deliberations felt more urgent than trusted sources of information came under attack, fake news was on the rise, and words were used by a President-elect of the United States in cavalier and often reckless ways to address the twin threats of nuclear weapons and climate change," Rachel Bronson, the executive director and publisher of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said in a statement.

I can see their anxiety; if Global Warming dosen't get us, Trump's tiny finger on the button surely will. It's up to you, America, on whether we ride off into the sunset or go out with a big BANG!

And Finally

How hot was it Johnny? We'll it's the hotest year on record since at least 1880. Yeah, I get it, when the dinosaurs ruled the Earth it was just a tad warmer. I know, my bad, it's not funny but it is true!

2016 set a global heat record for the third year in a row. A record El Nino played a role in pushing the planet's temperatures higher but without man made pollution the El Nino would have had little effect.

Not only was this the third consecutive year to rank hotter than all previous years, it also means 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000, according to NOAA. To put this in perspective, the last time we had a record cold year was 1911.

Temperatures over the Earth's continents and oceans in 2016 were 1.1 degree Celsius (1.98 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial average, according to the WMO. That means we are already a majority of the way to the 1.5-degree warming goal set at the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.

Climate scientists say greenhouse gas pollution, which humans are creating primarily by burning fossil fuels and chopping down rainforests, likely contributed to the 2016 record. And the pollution certainly is behind the long-term trend toward warming, scientists say. Michael Mann, director of the Earth Science Center at Pennsylvania State University said:

"(T)he spate of record-warm years that we have seen in the 21st century can only be explained by human-caused climate change.

"The effect of human activity on our climate is no longer subtle. It's plain as day, as are the impacts -- in the form of record floods, droughts, superstorms and wildfires -- that it is having on us and our planet."

So you got to answer this question, America, what's going to kill you first, Trump or the weather, or perhaps, a little of both?

Keepin' On

Who knew? Certainly not I, when I put the magazine down on 07-11-14. I thought it was for good. I had been putting off finishing some promising novels that I had started writing but quit when the 12-12-2000 coup d'etat by the Extreme Court went down. You may recall they made the loser of November's preisdental election George W. Bush the winner over Al Gore; who had actually won, not only the popular vote, but the Electoral college as well. Well, Al would have won had they actually counted the Florida votes that baby brother Jeb had stolen for big brother George along with the help of those Bush appointed justices. No, I had done my bit working 60 hour weeks for free for 14 1/2 years so that every one, especially the poor folks, could get the truth that the main stream media was covering up for the Crime Family Bush. No, I was a free man, let someone else fight the good fights that were stacked against us. Then, the sh*t hit the fan, and here we are again!

I have finished writing a couple of books and have almost finished another one, which was what I had set out to do, so here I am again. And like always I don't have the funds to keep doing this for long, I figure mid-July so if ya'll could lend a hand, especially you former members of the "Usual Suspects," perhaps we can do it right this time and take our country back for good. However, we better do it quick because Trump is a lunatic who will do his best to destroy, America, and all of us along with it! If you can help, please send us whatever you can. Just click on this link and follow the instructions


04-18-1922 ~ 01-26-2017
Thanks for the film!

01-22-1940 ~ 01-27-2017
Thanks for the film!

02-28-1948 ~ 01-28-2017
Thanks for the music!

06-12-1949 ~ 01-31-2017
Thanks for the music!

04-15-1944 ~ 01-31-2017
Thanks for the film!


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

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

Populism and Terror: An Interview with Noam Chomsky
By Noam Chomsky, Kenneth Palmer and Richard Yarrow

Chomsky spoke with HIR editors Kenneth Palmer and Richard Yarrow about his reflections on politics in the West, and what issues he thinks it has failed to properly address.

What would you consider the origin of the rise in populist sentiments, illustrated by the referenda in the United Kingdom and Colombia and the ascent of Trump in the United States? Do you see a common thread between these developments?

Colombia is quite different, but what's happening in Europe and the United States has certain similarities. It fundamentally traces back, I think, to the new liberal programs of the past generation which have just cast a huge number of people to the side. These programs have improved corporate profit, kept wages stagnant, and highly concentrated wealth and power. They've undermined democracy. People have no faith or trust in institutions in Europe- it's actually worse than [in the United States]. Decisions are basically made in Brussels; people can elect whoever they like, but [the EU elections] have almost no implications for policy. As [economist and Columbia University professor] Joe Stiglitz pointed out, it's basically one dollar, one vote, and one of the reactions is just anger at everything.

So for example, Brexit interacts with the Thatcherite programs of de-industrializing England. Financial manipulations enriched southeast England and left the rest to wither on the vine. People are angry about that, but they picked, in my view, an irrational answer, since leaving Europe doesn't help- Europe didn't elect Thatcher, Major, Blair, or Cameron. My guess is that Brexit will even make it worse, but you can see what the source of the anger is. On the continent it's pretty similar: the austerity programs have severely harmed the economy, but they've also essentially undermined democratic functioning: the centrist parties are collapsing, and there's no faith in institutions. You see it in both the Trump and the Sanders phenomena-different ways of reacting to this collapse of functioning policies that [once existed] for the benefit of the population.

Trump supporters are not necessarily very poor-some of them are moderately well-off, they have jobs, but then, the image that's been used, which is not a bad one, I think, is that they are people who see themselves as standing in line trying to get ahead. That they've worked hard, they've "done"their place in line, and they're stuck there. The people ahead of them are shooting off into the stratosphere, and the people behind them, in their view, are being pushed ahead in the line by the federal government. That's what the federal government does [in their view]-it takes people who are behind them and who haven't worked hard enough they way they have, and pushes them ahead by some supportive programs. They listen to talk radio, for example, and hear laments about how Syrian immigrants are treated like kings while "I can't get my kids my college."

Recently, economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton identified a marked decrease in life expectancies or increase in mortality rates among white, middle-aged Americans, often due to drug abuse or suicide. How would you say that change in mortality rates has been affecting American culture or society?

It's the other way around, I think: the changes in American culture and society have led to the mortality rates. This is a sector of exactly the kind of people I was describing, mostly white and mostly male, in the sort of working age period of their lives, who are apparently suffering from depression, loss of face, lack of sense of any self-worth, and turning to drugs and alcoholism. Something similar happened in Russia during the market reforms of the 1990s. There was a huge increase in the death rate, and probably millions of people died. And a lot of it was the same sense that "everything's falling apart, we have nothing, I'll just drink myself to death."

Do you think that the changes in mortality rates are necessarily connected with the changes in politics-that it's all part of a similar phenomenon?

I think it's a reflection of it. Very much like, in another way, the Brexit vote is. That is, "I have no way out, so I'll scream." It would be quite different if, say, there was an organized labor movement, which could mobilize people. In the 1930s the situation was objectively far worse, but there was a sense of hopefulness. I am old enough to remember-there was militant labor action, CIO organizing, left-wing parties, and a relatively sympathetic administration, and so somehow we were going to get out of this. And now people don't have that. It's a striking difference.

You've talked a lot about the use of drones and, especially during the Obama administration, have criticized their use. Do you think there are ever conditions under which drone strikes are justified? What would be necessary to meet a moral threshold?

For example, just recently, ISIS was blocked with a drone that had an explosive in it. Would that be legitimate? It's wartime, [the launchers of the drone were] under attack, they're using a weapon for self-defense. I don't approve of it because I don't approve of them, but in that kind of situation I guess you could argue that it's like any other kind of weapon. On the other hand, when it's a technique of assassination of suspects, it's a different story. I mean, it's not a question of drones. Suppose we sent killers to assassinate people who we think are planning attacks on us. Would that be legitimate? Suppose they did it to us-would that be legitimate? The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other major newspapers have published op-eds saying we should bomb Iran now, not wait. So would Iran be justified in sending somebody to assassinate the editors? How would we react?

Do you think that US politics has been changing in its attitude toward humanitarian issues, or toward using drones in a better way?

Take a look at US history. We've been at war for five hundred years without a break. The people who lived here were driven out or exterminated. Up until the twentieth century it was clearing what we now call the national territory, with constant war and vicious, brutal war. Immediately after that it expanded to other parts of the world. It's five hundred years, virtually without a break, and the policies really haven't changed much. Do you see potential for greater change, and by what means? How do you think the attitude towards humanitarian issues could change?

It has in some respects. Take, say, torture again. The popular negative reaction was sufficient, so that it's now apparently not being used like the way it was being used under Bush. On the other hand, we shouldn't exaggerate. Take maximum security prisons in the United States: they're torture chambers. I mean, prisoners are subjected to solitary confinement, which is torture, for long periods, maybe a large part of their life, so torture still goes on all the time.

Psychologist Steven Pinker argues that over time we've been able to use reason and the "better angels of our nature" to make improvements in reducing violence. Would you agree with his analysis?

There's something to that, but the story that he presents is pretty shaky. I mean, ninety-five percent, roughly, of human history is in hunter-gatherer societies. He claims that they were very violent and brutal, but the specialists on the topic don't agree with him. There's work by some of the leading people who work on indigenous societies-Brian Ferguson, Douglas Fry, Stephen Cory-they just claim [that Pinker's notion about hunter-gatherers is] completely false. The large-scale killings are pretty much associated with the origin of cities and the state system. One [of Pinker's] strongest arguments is in what's called the "democratic peace,"that democracies don't fight each other. Almost all the evidence for that comes from the post-Second World War period, but during this period non-democracies don't fight each other either. Russia and China have been virtually at war, but never broke out into a war. They're not democracies, but the United States and Russia also didn't go to war, and Russia's certainly not a democracy. What happened in 1945 is that great powers, or powers of some scale, recognized that you just can't go to war anymore. If you do, everything's destroyed. So Europe had centuries of murders and internal wars, but not after 1945 because the next one's the end. I don't think that shows anything about the better angels of our nature. In fact, most of the wars since 1945 have been exported, and if you take a look at the way Pinker handles these, he mostly blames the victims. The wars, he says, are in Southeast Asia and Muslim areas. I mean, is that because of the Iraqis and the Vietnamese?

What do you think is the most important issue in international politics that is not being adequately discussed today?

Well, there are two huge issues, neither of them being adequately discussed. One is an increasing and very serious threat of possible nuclear war, especially at the Russian border. The other's an environmental catastrophe, which is coming at us very fast, and there's nothing much being done about it. These are issues of species survival, really, beyond anything that's ever been written about in human history. Take, say, the [last US presidential] election campaign. [These two problems were] barely mentioned, which is just astounding. Here we have an election campaign in the most powerful state in human history, which is going to have a major effect on determining what happens in the future, and the most crucial issues that have ever arisen in human history are just not being discussed. What we're discussing is Trump's 3 a.m. tweets and things like "did Hillary lie in her emails?"

Why do you think those issues are not being discussed more broadly?

I think there's a kind of a tacit recognition that people should be kept out of the democratic system. It's not their area, so divert them with something else.

I think there's a kind of a tacit recognition that people should be kept out of the democratic system. It's not their area, so divert them with something else. That can be consumerism, that can be obscene remarks about women, anything, but not the major issues. I don't think that's a conscious choice, but it's just kind of implicit in a subconscious, elite recognition of the way the world is supposed to work.

Does that apply for these issues as well- the nuclear threat and the environmental threat?

If you start looking at the nuclear threat, you have to ask yourself a lot of questions that maybe are best kept under the rug. Like, for example, why did NATO expand to the East? In fact, why does NATO exist? NATO was supposed to be a defense against the Russians. No Russians after 1991, so why NATO? A lot of questions like that are quite serious, and of course, it's not that they're not discussed at all. There's scholarship, but they're not in part of the mainstream. The way we talk about it is demonizing Russia, and they're doing plenty of rotten things, but there are other questions.
(c) 2017 Noam Chomsky is a philosopher, social critic, political activist, and pioneering linguist. Having served as a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1955, Chomsky is the author of dozens of books, with his most recent book, Who Rules the World?, published in 2016.

President Kong
By Uri Avnery

I KNEW he reminded me of somebody, but I couldn't quite place it. Who was it who pounded his chest with such vigor?

And then I remembered. It was the hero of a movie that was produced when I was 10 years old: King Kong.

King Kong, the giant primate with the heart of gold, who scaled huge buildings and downed airplanes with his little finger.

Wow. President Kong, the mightiest being on earth.

SOME OF us had hoped that Donald Trump would turn out to be quite a different person than his election persona. In an election campaign you say many kinds of inane things. To be forgotten the day after.

But the day after has come and gone, and the inane things have multiplied. The incredible Trump we believed didn't really exist is here to stay - for four years, at least.

On his first day in office, we saw the absurd sight of two boys in the schoolyard arguing about who had the largest.

In this case, the largest inauguration crowd. He insisted that he had the greatest ever. As he should have expected, within minutes aerial photos appeared on TV, showing that Barak Obama's crowd was far larger.

So did he apologize? On the contrary, he insisted.

A spokeswoman appeared and explained that this was just a case of "alternative facts". A wonderful phrase. Pity I did not know it during my many years as a journalist. When I say at noon that it is midnight, it is just an alternative fact. (And is of course true - in Hawaii or somewhere.)

I HAVE a very limited understanding of economics. But just a small amount of simple logic tells me that Trump's economic promises are baloney. One doesn't "bring back jobs" by talk.

Manual jobs are lost because of automation. The German and British textile workers destroyed the machines that took their jobs away. That was some 300 years ago, and it did not help them. Now Trump looks a hundred years back, and wants things to revert.

A hundred years ago you needed a thousand workers to do the job done now by ten. This will remain so and intensify, even if you smash all the computers in the world.

Globalization is the spirit of the times. It is the natural outcome of a situation that allows me to react to Trump's words within a few seconds of his uttering them. When I can fly around the world in much less than 80 hours.

Trump can do very little about this. He cannot bring back the "protectionist" policies of the 18th century. If he slaps punitive duties on imports from China, China will impose duties on imports from the USA. Already, this week, a trade war has broken out between the US and Mexico.

CREDULOUS PEOPLE may believe such simplistic slogans. Which brings us to the problem of democracy.

I just read an article asserting that democracy is dead. Gone. Passe.

Winston Churchill famously said that democracy is a very bad system, but that all other systems tried until now are worse.

He also said that the best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with an average voter.

Democracy could function when there was a sensible filter between the candidate and the people. A truthful press, an educated elite. Even in the Germany of 1933, with millions of jobless around, Adolf Hitler never did obtain a majority in free elections.

Now, with candidates addressing the voters directly through social media, all the filters are gone. So has Truth. The most atrocious lies travel through twitter and facebook in seconds, straight into the minds of millions, who have no capacity to judge them.

I think it was Joseph Goebbels who wrote that the bigger the lie, the more believable it is, since simple people cannot imagine that anybody would spread such a huge lie.

For example, the claim by President Trump that three million votes were stolen from him, thus causing him to lose the popular vote. No proof. Not even a shred of supporting evidence. Sheer nonsense, but many millions of ordinary people seem to believe it.

But if democracy is becoming obsolete, what is there to replace it? As Churchill intimated - there is no better system around.

SO THIS is the harvest of the first week in office: more packs of lies, or "alternative facts," by the day.

What about the substantive issues?

If we believed that many of his policy promises were just election stuff, we were wrong. On issue after issue, Trump has started to faithfully fulfill his promises.

Abortion rights. Protection of the environment. Medical insurance. Taxes on the super-rich. All going down the Potomac.

This, too, is a sign of the modern age: the poorest vote for the richest, against their own most elementary interests. That is true in America as it is true in Israel.

AH, ISRAEL. Israel is occupied with endless speculation about Trump's promise to relocate the US embassy in Jerusalem.

One could have assumed that Israel has bigger troubles. There is the kind of civil war raging now between the government and the Arab minority, which constitutes some 21% of the citizens of Israel proper. There are casualties on both sides. And especially with the Bedouin (also in Israel proper) who volunteer for the army, but whose homes the government wants to destroy, to make place for Jewish settlers.

And the occupation of the West Bank. And the blockade of the Gaza Strip. And the multiple corruption investigations of the Prime Minister and his wife, and the possible giant bribes to relatives of Binyamin Netanyahu for the acquisition of submarines. And for bribing newspaper tycoons.

No, all there are bagatelles, compared to the location of the US embassy.

The UN partition plan of 1947, which formed the legal basis for the State of Israel, did not include Jerusalem in Israeli territory. It provided for a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine, with Jerusalem and Bethlehem as a separate enclave.

Israel, of course, annexed West Jerusalem soon after its foundation, but no foreign embassy moved there. They all remained in Tel Aviv, which is an uglier but much livelier city. They are all still there. Including the American embassy, which is located on Tel Aviv's seashore, just opposite my window.

(In between, some South American banana republics did move to Jerusalem, but they soon moved back.)

In every American election, some candidate promises to move the embassy to Jerusalem, and every incoming president revokes the promise, once his experts tell him the facts of life.

Trump also promised. He, too, wanted to attract some Jewish votes, in addition to the one of his Jewish son-in-law. Trump probably thought: apart from these damn Jews, who cares?

Well, about 1.5 billion Muslims around the world care. And care a lot.

If Trump knew anything, he would be aware of the fact that in the very early days of Islam, the Qibla (direction of prayer) was Jerusalem, before it was moved to Mecca. East Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam. Recognizing the whole of Jerusalem Including East Jerusalem as the capital of Israel could lead to unthinkable violence against US installations from Indonesia to Morocco.

It seems that by now the experts have told Trump too, because he has begun to stutter about this issue. He is thinking about it. He needs time. Perhaps later. Perhaps the new US ambassador, a fervent right-wing Zionist, will go to live in Jerusalem, while the embassy remains in Tel Aviv.

Poor man. He will have to travel daily from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, a road almost always blocked by traffic jams. But everyone has to suffer for his convictions.

BUT THE real sad fact is that in every single speech since the inauguration, the main theme - indeed, almost the only theme - of President Donald Trump is I - I - I.

I - I - I with a lot of chest thumping.

Look out for the movie - King Kong II.
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Trump Will Probably Dump Police Department "Consent Decrees"
By Glen Ford

Donald Trump is unlikely to approve of any more "consent decrees" to "reform" police departments. But this will be no great loss. As practiced, "the scheme very much resembles former Attorney General Holder's coddling of criminal banks, under which the offending institutions were fined, but not criminally charged or compelled to admit guilt." In most cities, police killings of Blacks actually increased or stayed the same after federal intervention.

"The decrees do little or nothing to address the core issue of killer cops."

The new president is threatening to bring the Wrath of Trump down on Chicago, to "fix the horrible 'carnage' going on" in that city's streets, where shootings are up over the same time period of 2016, a year that marked the highest death toll in two decades. Trump tweeted that he might "send in the Feds," prompting some pundits to raise the specter of martial law.

Trump seems to be expounding on his inaugural address, in which he cited "the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage," he said, "stops right here and stops right now."

Trump may favor a relaxation in tensions with Russia, but there can be no doubt about his commitment to a permanent state of war with Black America. Although Trump has not labeled Black Lives Matter a "terrorist organization, more than 100,000 of his supporters sent a petition to that effect to the Obama White House back in July, and Trump surrogate David Clarke, the Black Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, called Black Lives Matter "one of the most destructive groups to the well-being and justice for black Americans that exist today."

Candidate Trump has entertained the possibility of a federal probe of the movement. "I have seen them marching down the street essentially calling death to the police and I think we're going to have to look into that," he told Bill O'Reilly, last summer. Asked if he would instruct the Justice Department to explore criminal charges against Black Lives Matter, Trump replied:

"When you see something like that taking place -- that's really a threat, if you think about it. And when you see something like that taking place, we are going to have to perhaps talk with the Attorney General about it or do something. But, at a minimum, we're going to have to be watching because that's really bad stuff and it's happened more than once."

"Such monitoring is reminiscent of the surveillance of the Black Panther Party."
The Obama administration had been closely -- and unconstitutionally - watching Black Lives Matter since its emergence as a national phenomenon in Ferguson, Missouri, two and a half years ago. Human rights lawyers filed suit against the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, in October, demanding release of documents detailing the agencies' surveillance against movement activists. "Such monitoring is reminiscent of the surveillance of the Black Panther Party, which was a target of the FBI's notorious illegal COINTELPRO program," according to a statement by the Center for Constitutional Rights.

When it comes to suppressing insurgent tendencies among Black people, the National Security State and the Mass Black Incarceration State share a common mission, no matter which side of the duopoly is in power. Trump can be counted on to shout his hostility to the movement, while Obama attempted to seduce it. These are merely differences in the public personas of politicians. But the police state goes about its business -- surveiling and jailing - at its own, methodical pace. There is good reason to fear that punishment for political offenses will become harsher under a Trump regime. However, resisters in Ferguson and Baltimore have already been singled out for draconian sentences under the First Black President.

What is almost certain to change, under Trump, is the federal policy of enticing cities to accept court-overseen "consent decrees" prescribing a schedule of "reform" of their police departments. That's what Trump's predecessors meant by "calling in the Feds."

"There is good reason to fear that punishment for political offenses will become harsher under a Trump regime."

The U.S. Congress first empowered the federal government to seek consent decrees from jurisdictions with abusive police departments at the urging of Republican President George Herbert Walker Bush, following the Los Angeles "Rodney King" rebellion of 1992, which resulted in 55 deaths, over 2,000 injuries, 6,345 arrests and more than $1 billion in property damages. Since then, the Justice Department was entered into scores of consent decrees with cities around the country.

Essentially, the federal government agrees NOT to sue these jurisdictions for violating the civil rights of their citizens, in return for promises of reform. The scheme very much resembles former Attorney General Eric Holder's coddling of criminal banks, under which the offending institutions were fined, but not criminally charged or compelled to admit guilt. The effects have been similar, as well. A 2015 Washington Post/Frontline investigation of cities that had been placed under federal consent decrees showed that:
"In five of the 10 police departments for which sufficient data was provided, use of force by officers increased during and after the agreements. In five others, it stayed the same or declined. None of the departments completed reforms by the targeted dates, the review found. In most, the interventions have dragged years beyond original projections, driving up costs."
In short, the decrees do little or nothing to address the core issue of killer cops, but are a quite useful diversion, stretching out the placebo process over years.

"Consent decrees are tools of diversion and delay -- one of the racist status quo's tricks to wear down and outlast social movements."

No federal administration, Republican or Democrat, has used its authority under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which allows the Justice Department to cut off federal funds to any program or agency that discriminates, including police departments -- a prominent demand of Chicago Black Lives Matter activists.

The presidential transition has left consent decree negotiations in limbo in Chicago and Baltimore, causing great anxiety in traditional civil rights circles. But the truth is, consent decrees are tools of diversion and delay -- one of the racist status quo's tricks to wear down and outlast social movements. The movement's job is to liberate the community from a policing system whose mission is to contain, control, terrorize and criminalize an entire people - what Michelle Alexander calls The New Jim Crow. The goal is self-determination, which is a fundamental right of all peoples. Obama didn't recognize that right, and neither does Trump. On this issue, nothing has changed except the color of the president's hat.
(c) 2017 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Whither now for Trump's America? The man behind the curtain can either
ignite a trade war or grant China's wishes for more access to its investors

Will Trump Hop On An American Silk Road?
If it's a trade war with China he would rather have, the new president will find himself on the back foot from day one
By Pepe Escobar

Hysteria reigns supreme at the dawn of the Trump era, with the President rebranded across the whole ideological spectrum as an American Mao or even an American Hitler.

Let's step away from this "American [media] carnage" to examine a few facts concerning the unofficial G2: US-China relations.

A case can be made that Beijing has already landed a 1-2-3 punch, pre-empting the possibility of a US-initiated trade war.

It started with Jack Ma's by now notorious visit to Trump Tower, when he developed his idea of helping small American businesses sell their products in China and across Asia through Alibaba's network, thus creating at least "1 million jobs" (Ma's number) in the US.

Then came President Xi Jinping's masterclass at Davos, where he positioned himself as Ronald Xi Reagan selling "inclusive" globalization to the stalwarts of international turbo-capitalism.

Finally Ma again, also at Davos, came up with a crystal clear, cause-and-effect formulation on globalization and US economic distress.

Ma said, "In the past 30 years, companies like IBM, Cisco and Microsoft made tons of money." The problem was how the US spent the wealth: "In the past 30 years, America has had 13 wars at a cost of US$14.2 trillion." So what if the US "had spent part of that money on building up their infrastructure, helping white-collar and blue-collar workers? You're supposed to spend money on your own people. It's not that other countries steal American jobs. It is your strategy - that you did not distribute the money in a proper way."

In the meantime, something quite extraordinary happened at the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong, one day before Xi's Davos speech. China Investment Corporation (CIC) chairman Ding Xuedong, referring to Trump's much-vaunted US$1 trillion infrastructure building plan, said that created fabulous investment opportunities for China and his US$800 billion sovereign fund.

According to Ding, Washington will need at least an astonishing US$8 trillion to fund the infrastructure spectacular. Federal government and US private investors are not enough: "They have to rely on foreign investors." And CIC is ready for it - focusing already on "alternative investments in the US."

Assuming the Trump administration welcomes CIC, and that's a major "if", it will be a slow start. Only US $80 billion of CIC's overseas investments are currently held in US government debt. A massive national security/antitrust controversy will be inevitable. And yet, if successful, the move could be a win-win towards an American Silk Road.

Time to tweak your supply chain

Now let's take a look at the options. Trump's campaign promises to declare China a currency manipulator and slap a 45 per cent tariff on Chinese imports are, in theory, still on the table.

Peter Navarro - author of Death by China and Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World - will be directing the new National Trade Council at the White House, focusing on "China's unfair subsidy behavior."

At the same time, countless reports such as this one are focusing on US-China trade war scenarios. And they do not look good for making America great again.

To start with, Beijing is not manipulating the yuan. On the contrary, the People's Bank of China wants a stable exchange rate, translating into stable trade.

In case of a major rift, Beijing would not be inclined to dump US Treasury bonds en masse; that's not exactly a win-win for Chinese reserves.

The US has way more foreign direct investment in China than vice-versa, so it's easy to see who would be on the losing end. At the same time, Chinese businesses could profit from more tax breaks and invest in upgrading their production lines. The break down: China's enormous savings funding the next step of industrial investment - especially as seven million college graduates hit the market each year. Now that's a win-win.

Any trade war projection leads to the same results: depressed US consumption, less economic growth, and more unemployment - particularly among the rust belt/ "basket of deplorables" axis.

Then there's the horror story for major US corporations such as Apple, whose exceptionally complex supply chains would take years to be tweaked. Boeing for its part relies on selling jets to China for 150,000 American jobs, and is already planning a giant new Chinese assembly plant.

The Trump administration will dump the Obama administration's trade arm of the pivot to Asia, the TPP. No one in Asia is exactly shedding tears for it; at the same time no one knows whether Team Trump may be interested, further on down the road, in discussing a Free Trade Area in the Asia-Pacific.

What is absolutely certain is that, absent a trade war, the new US trade strategy will be perfect for Beijing, as China will accelerate the expansion of its New Silk Roads/One Belt, One Road project, especially across the Southeast Asian mainland, as in high-speed rail lines linking Yunnan province to Singapore via Laos, Thailand and Malaysia.

At Davos, Jin Liqun, president of the Chinese-led Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), even opened the door, half in jest, to US participation. So all bets are off: imagine the "American Mao" joining AIIB to be part of the action across Eurasia while accepting CIC investment to build the American Silk Road. Would that be considered an "alternative fact"?
(c) 2017 Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His latest book is "Obama Does Globalistan." He may be reached at

Why So Many People Loathe Congress
By Jim Hightower

Uncle Sam wants you!

Not the Uncle Sam who's the symbolic caricature of our country, but Sam Johnson. Although he's been a member of Congress more than a quarter of a century, it's unlikely you've ever heard of him, for Sam's been what's known in legislative circles as "furniture." That's a lawmaker who holds a congressional seat, but just sits in it, achieving so little that he's unnoticeable.

But - look out! - Johnson has suddenly leapt into action. And we all need to take notice, because this Texas Republican has unveiled what he calls his "Plan to Permanently Save Social Security."!

To get you to support the plan, Uncle Sam wants you to believe that our nation's very popular retirement program is "going bankrupt." He knows that's a lie, but he hopes it's a big enough lie to panic you into doing anything to save the program. To make his plan easy to swallow, he coats it with another lie, claiming that he's merely "modernizing" and "updating" Social Security, which a big majority of Americans count on to avoid stark poverty in their golden years.

But on fact, old Uncle Sam is conniving to "save" Social Security by gutting it. The press release announcing his "Reform Act" doesn't even mention the key fact that it's based on making workers keep paying the same 12.4 percent tax on their wages, but getting drastically less paid back to them when they retire. How much less? Up to 69 percent less, cutting a total cut of $11.6 trillion in benefits promised to America's workers.

This is Jim Hightower saying... Meanwhile, Rep. Johnson has announced his own retirement after 28 years sitting sitting in Congress. And yes, he can draw a Social Security check, but he also gets a congressional pension that will pay him more than $70,000 a year. How about we cut that perk and leave the people's Social Security alone?
(c) 2017 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

A television camera outside the entrance to Trump Tower in New York City, on January 5, 2017.

Trump And The Gish Gallop: A Million Lies And One Truth
By William Rivers Pitt

Imagine being such a consummate bullshit artist that you have an entire debate tactic named after you. Enter the late Duane Tolbert Gish, neuroscientist and hardcore creationist who, at the time of his death in 2013, held the position of senior vice president emeritus at the Institute for Creation Research. His favorite activity in the world involved squaring off in public debates against advocates of evolution within the scientific community.

Mr. Gish's chief tactic, known in debate terminology as "spreading," was to fire off as many points as possible in a short span of time. Nearly every point delivered is either partially or completely false, but the opponent faces a daunting task when confronted with so many issues to refute at once. Like as not, they are overwhelmed, and the spreader emerges victorious while seeming to be a master of voluminous data. Eugenie Scott, anthropologist and director of the National Center for Science Education, was a frequent debate opponent of Gish. Dr. Scott coined the term "Gish Gallop" after being on the receiving end of the tactic numerous times, and it stuck.

Examples of the Gish Gallop can be found all over the political and media landscape today. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney used it to great effect during his first debate against then-President Obama in October of 2012. Deploying a rapid-fire fusillade of half-truths and outright falsehoods, he left his overwhelmed opponent stammering through replies. Most observers said at the time that Mr. Obama lost that debate. He didn't lose; he got Gish Galloped off the stage. Notably, the tactic did not fare nearly so well in their second meeting. A prepared opponent can handle the barrage, often dismantling many points at once by undermining a single false premise. Woe be, however, to the unready.

Nowhere is the tactic more evidently used than within the confines of the corporate "news" media. Turn on your television right now, and odds are better than good that you'll be confronted with a screen full of commentators Galloping at each other with all their might. It is a marvelous way to fill precious air time with the nitrous oxide of nonsense that comes from a bunch of people shouting lies simultaneously at the top of their voices. The best Gish Gallopers are the ones who keep getting invited back onto the shows. Good television, you see.

Without doubt or question, the reigning world heavyweight champion of the Gish Gallop also happens to be the president of the United States. Donald Trump modeled his entire presidential campaign on the tactic -- outrageous tweets, bizarre proclamations, an ocean of lies deployed on the hour at all hours of day and night -- to such mighty effect that his opponents and the "news" media covering him were left sputtering in his wake. The Gallop did not skip a beat after he assumed the White House; indeed, it appears to have found a whole new gear.

Consider Trump's recent remarks at CIA headquarters:

When I was young -- and I think we're all sort of young. When I was young, we were always winning things in this country. We'd win with trade. We'd win with wars. At a certain age, I remember hearing from one of my instructors, "The United States has never lost a war." And then, after that, it's like we haven't won anything. We don't win anymore. The old expression, "to the victor belong the spoils" -- you remember. I always used to say, keep the oil. I wasn't a fan of Iraq. I didn't want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you, when we were in, we got out wrong. And I always said, in addition to that, keep the oil. Now, I said it for economic reasons. But if you think about it, Mike, if we kept the oil you probably wouldn't have ISIS because that's where they made their money in the first place. So we should have kept the oil. But okay. Maybe you'll have another chance. But the fact is, should have kept the oil.
No, we were not always winning. No, we can't keep the oil. No, he actually was a fan of the Iraq invasion. No, we don't have ISIS because of the oil. No, they shouldn't get another chance. Five dollops of galactic nonsense delivered in an avalanche of jumbled verbiage, all of which is abandoned without correction or refutation as the next avalanche comes sliding down the hill. That was how he campaigned, and that is how he is governing: One long Gish Gallop that leaves the logic centers of the average brain stunned and grasping for purchase.

Not everyone is bothered by Trump's use of the Gish Gallop. For instance, the far-right bunch over at The American Spectator sure seem pleased with the practice. "The hacks covering Trump are as lazy as they are partisan," wrote Scot McKay regarding the phenomenon, "so feeding them clickbait such as manufactured controversies over inaugural crowds is a guaranteed way of keeping them occupied while things of real substance are done. At this rate, he'll have the country well on its way to recovery from the Obama malaise, and the enemies in the newsrooms will have hardly noticed his actual work."

There is more to this than right-wing wishful thinking -- "Look how the president plays pan-dimensional chess! He's a genius!" -- when you pile up the aftermath of this first week of Trump's administration. Torture is back on the table. "The Wall" is one step closer to realization. The Environmental Protection Agency has essentially ceased to exist as a governmental entity. The strongest version of the global gag rule ever deployed is in place. The Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines have been advanced. Trump's horrible cabinet nominees are sailing through the confirmation process largely untouched. All of this is happening without the GOP-controlled House and Senate getting fully into the game yet; when they do, it is going to be a hard day's night for a very long time to come.

Consider the events of this past weekend. Amid a blizzard of hastily-prepared paperwork came an executive missive on immigration that turned the nation on its collective ear. According to The New York Times, "The order bars entry to refugees from anywhere in the world for 120 days and from Syria indefinitely. It blocks any visitors for 90 days from seven designated countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen." The order also affected people with green cards, but the administration had crabbed its way back from that stance by Sunday. All of this initially took place on Holocaust Remembrance Day, which the administration took note of in a formal proclamation that omitted any mention of Jews.

Here was the Muslim ban come to life. The order galvanized a national protest the likes of which have never been seen. When word got out that people were being detained at Kennedy Airport in New York and faced forced deportation due to Trump's order, hundreds and then thousands of protesters rushed to Kennedy. Airports all across the nation saw similar actions erupt, and the streets of cities from Washington DC to Los Angeles came alive as thousands more shouted down the administration for its cruelty and its cowardice.

The ACLU and other rights groups flew into action, and a temporary restraining order was obtained that blocked the administration from executing its order. A court will decide the constitutionality of the Trump order, but given the black-letter wording of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, it seems ultimately doomed. By Sunday night, some refugees and green-card travelers who had been detained were being released, and the administration found itself in a full crouch trying to defend its actions.

True to form, however, another game was afoot. On the same night that all Hell was breaking loose over immigration, Trump quietly released another executive order that gave White House strategist and white nationalist leader Steve Bannon a regular seat on the National Security Council (NSC). Simultaneously, the order barred both the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from joining Council meetings unless they are specifically invited. The unprecedented move was met with horror by virtually the entire intelligence community, and for good reason. Even George W. Bush had enough sense to bar Karl Rove from attending NSC meetings, keeping to the long-standing "No political hacks" rule pertaining to the Council. Amidst the din of the uproar over the immigration order, the astonishing Bannon-to-NSC order went largely unnoticed.

Immigration over here, but wait! Steve Bannon over there. The Gish Gallop government strikes again.

That's one week. If your metric for success is measured by what has been accomplished to date, Donald Trump is Abraham Lincoln in a Superman cape... after fooling everyone into thinking he's just a bumbling Clark Kent. For sure and certain, much of the "news" media bypassed any serious analysis of Trump's first week in favor of an ongoing and utterly meaningless rhubarb over the nose count at the inauguration. Why? Because if given the choice, the corporate media will always pursue the easiest story to cover. After all, it beats working.

Trump and his team are playing the media like so many fiddles. All I know for certain is that a million lies have led to one truth: Donald Trump is Gish Galloping at speed, he and his people are almost completely running the table -- the pushback on immigration being a profoundly noteworthy exception -- and much of the media are eating it up.

"The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled," said Keyser Soze, "was convincing the world he didn't exist." Who is Trump, really? We're all going to find out soon enough.
(c) 2017 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 aftermath of a 2008 demolition derby in Fairview, Utah.

Donald Trump's Demolition Derby
By Bill Moyers

We're a week into the Trump administration and it's pretty obvious what he's up to. First, Donald Trump is running a demolition derby: He wants to demolish everything he doesn't like, and he doesn't like a lot, especially when it comes to government.

Like one of those demolition drivers on a speedway, he keeps ramming his vehicle against all the others, especially government policies and programs and agencies that protect people who don't have his wealth, power or privilege. Affordable health care for working people? Smash it. Consumer protection against predatory banks and lenders? Run over it. Rules and regulations that rein in rapacious actors in the market? Knock'em down. Fair pay for working people? Crush it. And on and on.

Trump came to Washington to tear the government down for parts, and as far as we can tell, he doesn't seem to have anything at all in mind to replace it except turning back the clock to when business took what it wanted and left behind desperate workers, dirty water and polluted air.

In this demolition derby, Trump seems to have the wholehearted support of the Republican Party, which loathes government as much as it worships the market as god. Remember Thomas Frank's book, The Wrecking Crew? Published in 2008, it remains one of the best political books of the past quarter-century. Frank took the measure of an unholy alliance: the century-old business crusade against government, the conservative ideology that looks on government as evil (except when it's enriching its allies), and the Republican Party of George W. Bush and Karl Rove - the one that had just produced eight years of crony capitalism and private plunder.

The Wrecking Crew - and what an apt title it was - showed how federal agencies were doomed to failure by the incompetence and hostility of the Bush gang appointed to run them, the same model Trump is using now. Frank tracked how wholesale deregulation - on a scale Trump already is trying to reproduce - led to devastating results for everyday people, including the mortgage meltdown and the financial crash. Reading the book is like reading today's news, as kleptomaniacs spread across Washington to funnel billions of dollars into the pockets of lobbyists and corporations.

That may include the pockets of Donald Trump's own family. As Jonathan Chait wrote after the election in New York magazine, "[Trump's] children have taken roles on the transition team. Ivanka attended official discussions with heads of state of Japan and Argentina. [As president-elect, Trump himself] met with Indian business partners to discuss business and lobbied a British politician to oppose offshore wind farms because one will block the view at one of his Scottish golf courses." Only a couple of days ago it was reported that the Trump organization would more than triple the number of Trump hotels in America. And why not? Its chief marketer works out of the Oval Office.

Jonathan Chait went on to say: "Trump's brazen use of his office for personal enrichment signals something even more worrisome than four or more years of kleptocratic government. It reveals how willing the new administration is to obliterate governing norms and how little stands in his way."

And oh yes, something else: David Sirota at International Business Times has just published a new report showing that the Trump administration appears to be quietly killing the federal government's major ethics rule designed to prevent White House officials from enriching their former clients. Experts say a review of government documents shows that regulators appear to have abruptly stopped enforcing the rule, even though it remains the law of the land.

We were warned. Donald Trump himself told The New York Times, "The law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can't have a conflict of interest." Shades of Richard Nixon, who said, "When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal." And who also announced, "I am not a crook." Which leads us to the second design now apparent in Trump's strategy of deliberate chaos. He may have run a populist campaign, but now it appears he aims to substitute plutocracy for democracy.

I know plutocracy is not a commonly used word in America. But it's a word that increasingly fits what's happening here. Plutocracy means government by the wealthy, a ruling class of the rich and their retainers. If you don't see plutocracy spreading across America, you haven't been paying attention. Both parties have nurtured, tolerated and bowed to it. Now we're reaching the pinnacle, as Trump's own Cabinet is rich (no pun intended) in millionaires and billionaires. He is stacking the agencies and boards of government with the wealthy and friends of wealth so that the whole of the federal enterprise can be directed to rewarding those with deep pockets, the ones who provide the bags and bags of money that are dumped into our political process today.

Yes, both Democrats and Republicans have been guilty of groveling to the wealthy who fund them; it's a staggering bipartisan scandal that threatens the country and was no small part of Trump's success last November, even as ordinary people opened their windows and shouted, "We're as mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore." So now we have in power a man who represents the very worst of the plutocrats - one who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. I shudder to think where this nightmare will end. Even if you voted for Donald Trump for a reason that truly is from your heart, I cannot believe you voted for this.

Tell me if I'm wrong. Tell me whose side are you really on? The people of America or the cynics and predators at the very top who would climb atop the ruins of the republic for a better view of the sunset?
(c) 2017 Bill Moyers is the managing editor of Moyers & Company and

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, September 21, 2015

Democracy Wins One As A Federal Court Strikes A Big Blow Against Gerrymandering
By John Nichols

Democracy has taken very hard hits in the first days of the Trump interregnum, as Donald Trump and the mandarins of his "alternative-fact" administration have spun fantasies about "voter fraud" that clearly does not exist; obsessed about the dubious legitimacy of a president who lost the popular vote and drew a disappointing crowd for his inauguration; and attacked the free and skeptical press that provides and essential underpinning for the open discourse that sustains popular sovereignty.

But sometimes democracy wins out-in a way that could transform our politics and our governance.

Nothing has so sustained and advanced Republican dominance of the states (and of the US House of Representatives) as the gerrymandering of legislative and congressional district lines by Republican politicians who have used their overarching control of state-based redistricting processes to warp electoral competition in their favor. And few states have seen such radical gerrymandering as Scott Walker's Wisconsin, where the governor and his allies skewed district lines so seriously that clearly contested state legislative races have become a rarity in much of a state that national elections suggest is evenly divided.

Wisconsin's gerrymandering was so extreme that, two months ago, a federal-court panel struck down Wisconsin legislative maps as unconstitutional. Walker's Republican state attorney general appealed immediately, setting up a fight that will eventually be resolved by a US Supreme Court that legal experts say may finally be prepared to rule on behalf of competitive elections.

"In our democracy, people have the right to hold their government accountable in fair, competitive elections." ~~~ Senator Mark Miller

Walker and his Republican allies, desperate to maintain their unfair advantage, asked the three-judge federal panel to delay implementation of its ruling as the appeals process goes forward.

But on Friday the judges refused to delay democracy any longer.

In a decision that was hailed as a significant victory for democracy in Wisconsin and nationally, the federal panel enjoined Wisconsin officials from using existing maps in "all future elections." At the same time, the judges ordered Walker and the state legislature to draw new legislative-district maps by November 1, 2017.

The new maps are to be used in November 2018, when Walker, the entire state assembly, and half of the state senate will be up for election.

"The decision by the federal court to require new redistricting maps by November 1, 2017 is great news for Wisconsin. Voters should always pick their elected officials instead of elected officials picking them. I hope that legislative Republicans are more competent with their second chance," said Democratic State Senator Mark Miller, the former majority leader of the Wisconsin Senate. "In our democracy, people have the right to hold their government accountable in fair, competitive elections-I am pleased that power should finally be returned to the people of Wisconsin."

Miller is right. While there will still be plenty of wrangling over the drawing of district lines, and while Walker and his Republican allies will keep trying to delay that process, the notion that voters have a right to cast their ballots in genuinely competitive elections is gaining traction.

"This case is an actual game-changer when it comes to undoing GOP gerrymandering nationwide." ~~~ Carolyn Fiddler

That's a big deal for Wisconsin. But it is also a big deal for the rest of a country where numerous states face legal battles over gerrymandering of legislative and congressional district lines. Walker acknowledges that "lawmakers and governors around the country are interested in this case regardless of party," while Carolyn Fiddler of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee says that "this order presents a real chance for Wisconsin Democrats' voices to be fairly represented in their state government. Additionally, this case is an actual game-changer when it comes to undoing GOP gerrymandering nationwide and preventing Republicans from artificially inflating their majorities via redistricting for the decade to come." Fiddler's point gets to the heart of the matter. Discussions about gerrymandering involve a lot more than maps. They are about electoral competition and the makeup of legislative chambers. Fair competition, in Wisconsin and nationally, could produce dramatic change in politics and governing. For instance: In 2012 voting for state assembly seats in Wisconsin, Democrats won 174,000 more votes than Republicans. Yet, because of the gerrymandering of the assembly maps by Walker and his allies, Republicans won a 60-39 majority in the chamber.

Bill Whitford, the veteran University of Wisconsin law professor who was the lead plaintiff in the gerrymandering case brought by the Fair Elections Project, hailed the court ruling as a victory in the struggle for a renewal of representative democracy.

"Today is a good day for Wisconsin voters, and another step in the journey of ensuring that our voices are heard," explained Whitford. "Now, we will be keeping a watchful eye on the state legislature as they draw the new maps and I ask them, for the sake of our democracy, to put partisan politics aside and the interests of all voters first."

If the Republicans fail to put aside partisanship, they are all but certain to face another intervention by the courts in what is by any measure a high-stakes struggle.

Republicans in Wisconsin and nationally know that if Democrats were to gain a stronger foothold in the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate following a fair fight in 2018, that could position them to draw more competitive congressional-district lines following the 2020 Census. And if the US Supreme Court were to accept the premise that voters have a right to cast ballots in competitive election-rather than to waste them in districts that are drawn to give one party a permanent advantage-the American political landscape could be radically altered.

As former president Barack Obama, who has pledged to make the battle against gerrymandering a focus of his post-presidential activism, has said: "If we want a better politics, it's not enough to just change a congressman or a senator or even a president. We have to change the system to reflect our better selves."

The way to get that better politics is by upending gerrymandering practices that allow politicians to pick their voters, and to give the voters the power that extends from genuinely competitive elections.
(c) 2017 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, is published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

American Psychosis
By Chris Hedges

Reality is under assault. Verbal confusion reigns. Truth and illusion have merged. Mental chaos makes it hard to fathom what is happening. We feel trapped in a hall of mirrors. Exposed lies are answered with other lies. The rational is countered with the irrational. Cognitive dissonance prevails. We endure a disquieting shame and even guilt. Tens of millions of Americans, especially women, undocumented workers, Muslims and African-Americans, suffer the acute anxiety of being pursued by a predator. All this is by design. Demagogues always infect the governed with their own psychosis.

"The comparison between totalitarianism and psychosis is not incidental," the psychiatrist Joost A.M. Meerloo wrote in his book "The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing." "Delusional thinking inevitably creeps into every form of tyranny and despotism. Unconscious backward forces come into action. Evil powers from the archaic past return. An automatic compulsion to go on to self-destruction develops, to justify one mistake with a new one; to enlarge and expand the vicious pathological circle becomes the dominating end of life. The frightened man, burdened by a culture he does not understand, retreats into the brute's fantasy of limitless power in order to cover up the vacuum inside himself. This fantasy starts with the leaders and is later taken over by the masses they oppress."

The lies fly out of the White House like flocks of pigeons: Donald Trump's election victory was a landslide. He had the largest inauguration crowds in American history. Three million to 5 million undocumented immigrants voted illegally. Climate change is a hoax. Vaccines cause autism. Immigrants are carriers of "[t]remendous infectious disease." The election was rigged-until it wasn't. We don't know "who really knocked down" the World Trade Center. Torture works. Mexico will pay for the wall. Conspiracy theories are fact. Scientific facts are conspiracies. America will be great again.

Our new president, a 70-year-old with orange-tinted skin and hair that Penn Jillette has likened to "cotton candy made of piss," is, as Trump often reminds us, "very good looking." He has almost no intellectual accomplishments-he knows little of history, politics, law, philosophy, art or governance-but insists "[m]y IQ is one of the highest-and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure, it's not your fault." And the mediocrities and half-wits he has installed in his Cabinet have "by far the highest IQ of any Cabinet ever assembled."

It is an avalanche of absurdities.

This mendacity would be easier to repulse if the problem was solely embodied in Trump. But even in the face of a rising despotism, the Democratic Party refuses to denounce the corporate forces that eviscerated our democracy and impoverished the country. The neoliberal Trump demonizes Muslims, undocumented workers and the media. The neoliberal Democratic Party demonizes Vladimir Putin and FBI Director James Comey. No one speaks about the destructive force of corporate power. The warring elites pit alternative facts against alternative facts. All engage in demagoguery. We will, I expect, be condemned to despotism by the venality of Trump and the cowardice and dishonesty of the liberal class.

Trump and those around him have a deep hatred for what they cannot understand. They silence anyone who thinks independently. They elevate pseudo-intellectuals who adhere to their bizarre script. They cannot cope with complexity, nuance or the unpredictable. Individual initiative is a mortal threat. The order for some employees of several federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's research service, the National Park Service and the Department of Health and Human Services, to restrict or cease communication with the press or members of Congress, along with the attempt to impose 10-year felony convictions on six reporters who covered the inauguration protests, signals the beginning of a campaign to marginalize reality and promote fantasy. Facts depend solely on those who have the power to create them. The goal of the Trump administration is to create an artificial consistency that conforms to its warped perception of the world.

"Before they seize power and establish a world according to their doctrines, totalitarian movements conjure up a lying world of consistency which is more adequate to the needs of the human mind than reality itself; in which, through sheer imagination, uprooted masses can feel at home and are spared the never-ending shocks which real life and real experiences deal to human beings and their expectations," Hannah Arendt wrote in "The Origins of Totalitarianism." "The force possessed by totalitarian propaganda-before the movements have the power to drop iron curtains to prevent anyone's disturbing, by the slightest reality, the gruesome quiet of an entirely imaginary world-lies in its ability to shut the masses off from the real world."

Trump's blinding narcissism was captured in his bizarre talk to the CIA on Jan. 21. "[T]hey say, is Donald Trump an intellectual?" he said. "Trust me, I'm, like, a smart persona."

"I have a running war with the media," he added. "They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth. And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you're the number one stop [in the new presidency] is exactly the opposite-exactly. And they understand that, too."

He launched into an attack on the media for not reporting that "a million, million and a half people" showed up for his inauguration. "They showed a field where there was practically nobody standing there," he said about the media's depiction of the inauguration crowd. "And they said, Donald Trump did not draw well. I said, it was almost raining, the rain should have scared them away, but God looked down and he said, we're not going to let it rain on your speech."

He has been on the cover of Time "like, 14 or 15 times," Trump said in speaking of his criticism of the magazine because one of its reporters incorrectly wrote that the president had removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office. "I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine. Like, if Tom Brady is on the cover, it's one time, because he won the Super Bowl or something, right? I've been on it for 15 times this year. I don't think that's a record, Mike, that can ever be broken. Do you agree with that? What do you think?" [Editor's note: Photographs or drawings of Trump were on the cover of Time 10 times in the last year and a half and once in 1989.]

Trump's theatricality works. He forces the press and the public to repeat his lies, inadvertently giving them credibility. He is always moving. He is always on display. He has no fixed belief system. Trump, as he consolidates power, will adopt the ideology of the Christian right to fill his own ideological vacuum. The Christian right's magical thinking will merge seamlessly with Trump's magical thinking. Idiocy, self-delusion, megalomania, fantasy and government repression will come wrapped in images of the Christian cross and the American flag.

The corporate state, hostile or indifferent to the plight of the citizens, has no emotional pull among the public. It is often hated. Political candidates run not as politicians but as celebrities. Campaigns eschew issues to make people feel good about candidates and themselves. Ideas are irrelevant. Emotional euphoria is paramount. The voter is only a prop in the political theater. Politics is anti-politics. It is reality television. Trump proved better at this game than his opponents. It is a game in which fact and knowledge do not matter. Reality is what you create. We were conditioned for a Trump.

Meerloo wrote, "The demagogue relies for his effectiveness on the fact that people will take seriously the fantastic accusations he makes, will discuss the phony issues he raises as if they had reality, or will be thrown into such a state of panic by his accusations and charges that they will simply abdicate their right to think and verify for themselves."

The lies create a climate in which everyone is assumed to be lying. The truth becomes suspect and obscured. Narratives begin to be believed not because they are true, or even sound true, but because they are emotionally appealing. The aim of systematic lying, as Arendt wrote, is the "transformation of human nature itself." The lies eventually foster somnambulism among a population that surrenders to the magical thinking and ceases to care. It checks out. It becomes cynical. It only asks to be entertained and given a vent for its frustration and rage. Demagogues produce enemies the way a magician pulls rabbits out of a hat. They wage constant battles against nonexistent dangers, rapidly replacing one after the other to keep the rhetoric at a fever pitch.

"Practically speaking, the totalitarian ruler proceeds like a man who persistently insults another man until everybody knows that the latter is his enemy, so that he can, with some plausibility, go out and kill him in self-defense," Arendt wrote. "This certainly is a little crude, but it works-as everybody will know who has ever watched how certain successful careerists eliminate competitors."

We are entering a period of national psychological trauma. We are stalked by lunatics. We are, as Judith Herman writes about trauma victims in her book "Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence-From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror," being "rendered helpless by overwhelming force." This trauma, like all traumas, overwhelms "the ordinary systems of care that give people a sense of control, connection, and meaning."

To recover our mental balance we must respond to Trump the way victims of trauma respond to abuse. We must build communities where we can find understanding and solidarity. We must allow ourselves to mourn. We must name the psychosis that afflicts us. We must carry out acts of civil disobedience and steadfast defiance to re-empower others and ourselves. We must fend off the madness and engage in dialogues based on truth, literacy, empathy and reality. We must invest more time in activities such as finding solace in nature, or focusing on music, theater, literature, art and even worship-activities that hold the capacity for renewal and transcendence. This is the only way we will remain psychologically whole. Building an outer shell or attempting to hide will exacerbate our psychological distress and depression. We may not win, but we will have, if we create small, like-minded cells of defiance, the capacity not to go insane.
(c) 2017 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. Keep up with Chris Hedges' latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at

Texas Governor Pelted with Used Menstrual Products After He Signs 'Fetal Burial' Order
By Sarah K. Burris

Vice President Mike Pence proclaimed his intentions to fight for the lives of the unborn but Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has taken extreme steps to shut down choice by women. After Abbott made an order that all women who have abortions and miscarriages must pay to have the remains buried, women launched a protest.

The Dallas Morning News reports that one woman, Ele Chupik, took to Facebook to urge women to send their used feminine hygiene products to Abbott. Chupik had no idea that women would actually do it, but they did.

"Unsure about fertilized status of these panty liners," one anonymous sender wrote including her package. Through December at least 17 women mailed their bloodstained products to the Texas governor's office according to records the paper obtained.

"Sending unprotected human bodily waste is a health hazard," said Michael Sullivan, a postal inspector in the capitol city. "We don't see a whole lot of that."

The governor's office kept the incident quiet, not reporting it to the press or to the postal inspector. The staff simply threw them away, but made digital copies of the items, perhaps for an open records request. Most elected officials' offices keep mail on file.

"I am enclosing my tampons and sanitary pads as long as the law stands," another woman wrote in.

One woman that didn't even live in the state mailed her items encouraging the office: "Bury this!"

"I hoped that it would be taken as an insult," Chupik said. "The same way we feel insulted."

Sullivan explained that most people who send items don't include a return address, so it's difficult to prosecute postal violations.

A federal judge has put the kibosh on enforcing the law, but it will likely be a while before the order is declared unconstitutional. That means several more cycles of menstrual products women can send.

"They're seeing it for the shaming tactic that it is, and that's deeply offensive to people," said NARAL Pro-Choice Texas director Heather Busby.

Chupik never did mail in her own products though she did think about dipping some tampons in red paint and sending them to the governor.

"Sending in the tampons felt like it was more for us," she said, "just a catharsis."
(c) 2017 Sarah K. Burris writes about politics and technology for Raw Story.

Building affordable Housing -- Hobbit-style
By Jane Stillwater

You don't need to live in a five-bedroom big-box suburban McMansion in order to stay warm and dry in the winter. Just ask Bilbo Baggins.

Recently I attended a vigil in memory of a homeless woman who had frozen to death on the mean streets of Berkeley, CA. You wouldn't expect something like that to happen here in Berkeley -- but it did. Homeless people brought candles to the steps of City Hall in order to honor this poor woman's memory. Someone also donated a portable space-heater to help keep the more fragile vigil-keepers warm. But in an ironic twist of fate, cops arrived and confiscated a space-heater at a vigil for a homeless person who had just frozen to death. But I digress.

With our federal government now threatening to shut down HUD subsidized housing in order to have more money to give to banksters, big oil and "war" profiteers, this sudden shift in the distribution of our tax dollars, away from the rest of us and into the pockets of the disgustingly-wealthy, could mean that approximately ten million Americans would be kicked off of HUD subsidy programs.

"Households that receive assistance comprise 9.8 million people, or roughly 3 percent of the U.S. population," sez HUD. Imagine what it would be like if housing subsidies all suddenly disappeared? Hey, it could happen -- and probably will.

If three out of every one hundred Americans suddenly found themselves on the mean streets of our country, the whole face of America the Beautiful would change overnight. Suddenly there would be this swamp of homeless people around us. Cincinnati would look more like the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Seattle would look like some barrio in Mexico City. Atlanta would look like a scene out of "The Walking Dead". And parts of Berkeley would look like a Hooverville shanty town left over from the 1930s Great Depression. Hell, all of America would look like that.

HUD subsidized housing serves as a disguise, a stage set, a prop -- so that the world won't know how poor so many Americans actually are. It's a small price to pay. But I digress again.

What I really want to talk about is how Americans can solve this very-real housing crisis which has descended upon us like a giant black cloud, whether we have HUD subsidies or not. And I would then suggest that we solve this housing crisis by taking advice from the Hobbits. "Go small or go home!" Just sayin'.

Mike Lee, a member of the Berkeley Homeless Commission, suggests that we build lots of "tiny houses" -- for a price as low as $16,000 each. My friend Jennifer suggests that we bring back the good old-fashioned trailer court. And I suggest that we get Frodo Baggins on the job. Problem solved.
(c) 2017 Jane Stillwater. Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world. And while you're at it, please buy my books!

The Quotable Quote...

"When the government fears the People, that is Liberty. When the People fear the Government, that is tyranny."
~~~ Thomas Jefferson

Does Rachel Maddow Want Russia Bombed?
By David Swanson

Here's why I ask. Maddow devotes many minutes on MSNBC stirring up hatred of Russia in order to establish that there is a vague possibility that President Donald Trump might be corrupted by a foreign government.

But that's already established beyond any doubt. China's state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is the largest tenant in Trump Tower. It is also a major lender to Trump. Its rent payments and its loans put Trump in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Every building approval, extension of credit, tax break, subsidy, or waiver of normal rules that Trump's businesses get from numerous foreign governments, state governments, and the U.S. government define him as quintessentially impeachable.

So, if the point is just to document corruption by Trump, why reach and stretch for a speculative possibility, when you've got a solid case sitting in your lap?

Maddow opened her rant on Thursday by making clear that what was coming was baseless speculation that might conceivably turn out to be right. She then began by describing Mikhail Gorbachev as a man who "lost the Cold War" but got a Nobel Peace Prize as a "consolation." Then she praised a newspaper he started. But he himself wrote on Thursday in Time Magazine the polar opposite of what Maddow would go on to say. He proposed peace and disarmament. She launched into an attack on Putin as an "intense little man," whom she implied had a habit of murdering his critics.

In Russia, she said, there's no notion of an aggressive accountable press. And yet, she said, the Russian press has reported on the dramatic arrest and charging with treason of a top cyber official. Leaving the question of what that proves about Maddow's ostensible topic (Trump) completely vague, Maddow turns to denouncing Trump's Mexican wall plans as vague and rejecting his "unsupported contention" regarding voter fraud. Then she leaps into a series of unsupported contentions:

1. the pee-pee story
2. the evidence-free "intelligence community" report
3. an evidence-free October statement from DHS
4. an evidence-free September statement from the FBI

Worse than all those vague possibilities, Maddow says, is this: Rex Tillerson got a friendship award from Russia. Think about that. Here's a guy setting about rendering the earth's climate uninhabitable for his short-term greed, and Maddow wants to demonize him for getting a "friendship award." Then she attacks the idea of lifting sanctions on Russia and suggests the only possible explanation for that would have to be that Russia stole the election for Trump. As if lifting the sanctions were not needed in order for Tillerson's corporation to plunder Russia's oil and render the earth unlivable for our species and many others! The sanctions are needed, Maddow claims, because Russia "unilaterally annexed part of another country and took their land." As if Crimea didn't vote. As if a non-unilateral annexation would be one where the people do not get to vote?!

Maddow goes on and on demonizing Russia and Putin. She airs for free and in its entirety a television ad that refers to as fact "Putin's attacks on our democracy." Then she credits the ad, which asked no questions, with raising legitimate questions. Then Maddow declares that there will be an investigation into "Russia's efforts to influence our election on Trump's behalf," which assumes as fact all the evidence-free claims and then piles on the claim to know Russia's motivation. Yet, later Maddow's theory devolves into just the possibility that some little fragment within all these evidence-free accusations could be true -- and it would be over that fragment that a Russian was arrested for treason. Maddow struggles at this point to make the chronology work, since the arrest was in early December. Yet she asserts as simple fact that the treason arrest was in fact a response to U.S. election tampering.

Maddow, meanwhile, makes clear that she believes actual evidence of Russian hacking, supplying WikiLeaks, etc., exists somewhere in the U.S. government. Yet people are leaking torture prison plans and embarrassing accounts right out of the White House, and we're to believe that nobody in any of the sainted 17 "intelligence" agencies would leak evidence if it existed?

What if by some bizarre series of coincidences Maddow were right? How, even then, would you justify stirring up a cold war with a nuclear government over that government revealing to your public that one of your political parties had rigged its primary? Wouldn't some of the blame go to that party? Wouldn't a little restraint in name-calling and demonizing be in order? Wouldn't the outrages that Trump openly commits deserve a bit of condemnation as well?

We're facing open corruption, militarism, advocacy for torture, discrimination, xenophobic immigration bans, attacks on basic necessary services, actual attacks on voting rights and election integrity -- and rather than taking these problems on, Maddow prefers to find one problem that originates in an evil foreign land. I suppose that's a more comfortable place to lay blame. But even a country that would elect a fascist clown because another country had made public that an election was flawed would be a deeply deficient country in need of self-improvement in a major way.

I asked observant media critic Norman Solomon (with whom I work at what he thought of Maddow's performance, and he replied:

"Maddow's 25-minute soliloquy was a liberal version of Glenn Beck at the whiteboard. Her plot line was the current Democratic party line -- free-associating facts, possible facts, dubious assertions and pure speculation to arrive at conclusions that were based on little more than her zeal to portray Trump as a tool of the Kremlin. Even when sober, Joe McCarthy never did it better.

"We might dismiss her performance as just another bit of stagecraft on 'MSDNC,' but Maddow is in sync with widespread fear-mongering by pundits and Democratic Party loyalists who think they're picking some low-hanging fruit to throw at Trump. But what they're doing is poisonous -- and extremely dangerous. Escalate a new Cold War? Push the U.S. government into evermore assertive brinkmanship? Push the world to the precipice of nuclear holocaust and maybe over it? Humanity deserves better than mega-propaganda that could lead to the world blowing up."

(c) 2017 David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

President Trump with his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, on Tuesday night.

Meet Neil Gorsuch, The New Antonin Scalia
By Bill Blum

Just when we might have thought we'd seen Donald Trump at his zaniest (say, in the first presidential debate) and most dangerous (say, in his executive order on immigration last week), he outdid himself with the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, 49, a judge from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (headquartered in Denver), to fill the late Antonin Scalia's empty chair on the Supreme Court.

The zany part is the way our narcissist in chief introduced Gorsuch as his pick. The dangerous part is that Gorsuch is exactly the sort of Scalia-in-waiting we would expect from an extremist right-wing administration that aims to roll back constitutional rights in pursuit of a political agenda driven by the fantasies of racial nostalgia, misogyny and the passions of white nationalism.

Let's deal with the zany part first:

Instead of the usual news release followed by a public meet-and-greet in the Rose Garden to introduce his first high court selection, Trump went the route of "Celebrity Apprentice" (perhaps Miss Universe might be a better analogy), fanning rumors that he had summoned both Gorsuch and another Supreme Court contender, 3rd Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman, to the White House in anticipation of the prime-time TV broadcast he had called to announce his choice-all for the purpose of building suspense and maximizing media interest. Fortunately for Hardiman, he was not on hand for the actual announcement, which Trump delivered in the East Room of the White House from what looked like the same lectern where President Obama stood to tell the world that Osama bin Laden had been killed.

Once again, Trump put himself center stage. With Gorsuch and his wife, Louise, on hand, in addition to Scalia's widow, Maureen; Trump's sons Eric and Don Jr.; chief strategist Steve Bannon; House Speaker Paul Ryan; and several GOP senators in a hall of white faces, Trump reminded viewers across the nation and the globe that he had long promised to select a jurist "in the mold of Justice Scalia," as well as someone who "loves our Constitution." Touting his selection process as "the most transparent in history," he added that Gorsuch could serve on the high court for "50 years" and that his decisions could have an impact on American life for "a century or more."

Sadly, and here's the dangerous part: In Gorsuch, Trump has probably found his man. During the presidential election campaign, Trump listed 21 federal and state court judges as possible replacements for Scalia. In a comprehensive study led by Mercer University law professor Jeremy Kidd, Gorsuch was ranked second among the 21 in judicial qualities most resembling Scalia's. Utah Supreme Court Justice Thomas Lee-the brother of Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah-garnered the top spot.

Professor Kidd and his fellow researchers based their rankings of Trump's potential nominees according to their adherence to Scalia's legal philosophy of "originalism" (the idea that judges should interpret the Constitution according to its presumed original meaning) and their propensity to issue dissenting opinions, in the fashion of Scalia, when their benchmates were unwilling to go as far doctrinally as the potential nominees would have liked.

Gorsuch was appointed to the 10th Circuit by President George W. Bush in 2006. Since then, he has amassed a conservative judicial record that confirms Kidd's findings. His body of work has been summarized by both the liberal Alliance for Justice Action Campaign and the authoritative SCOTUS blog website. Their summaries encompass opinions, rulings, judicial votes and published articles on an array of vital constitutional issues, including:

-Religious liberty

In 2013, Gorsuch joined with five other members of a divided 10th Circuit panel to write a concurring opinion of his own in the case of Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius. The decision, subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote, held that for-profit corporations are persons under the law and can legally exercise their own religious views, even if doing so contravenes the rights of their female employees under the Affordable Care Act to receive health insurance coverage for contraceptive care.

-Abortion Rights

In a decision issued in October, Gorsuch wrote a dissent in which he argued that the Circuit Court should reconsider whether Utah's governor had acted improperly when he attempted to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood.

-The Second Amendment and the death penalty

In 2012, Gorsuch urged the 10th Circuit to re-examine and loosen its previous rulings on the right of felons to own firearms. The full court voted otherwise. Gorsuch has also been a consistent supporter of the death penalty.

-Access to the courts and attacks on liberals

As noted by the Alliance for Justice in a National Review Online op-ed published in 2005 before Gorsuch became a judge, he "attacked 'American liberals' for what he said was an over-reliance on constitutional litigation. He asserted that liberals' 'overweening addiction to the courtroom' negatively affects public policy by aggrandizing the courts and consequently dampening 'social experimentation' by the legislative branches." He has not been similarly critical of litigation initiated by right-wing organizations.

In accepting Trump's nomination Tuesday night, Gorsuch praised Scalia as "a lion of the law." In the weeks and months ahead, the Senate will debate and ultimately determine whether Gorsuch will have the opportunity to further Scalia's legacy.

Will the Democrats find the courage to oppose him? Will progressives come together as a movement to demand that they do so, as they did to derail Ronald Reagan's nomination of Scalia's mentor, Robert Bork, in 1987?

With the Supreme Court's remaining elderly justices (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 83, Anthony Kennedy, 80, and Stephen Breyer, 78) nearing the inevitable end of their professional careers, the future of our most powerful judicial body-and with it, the future of the Constitution-literally hangs in the balance.
(c) 2017 Bill Blum is a former administrative law judge and death penalty defense attorney. He is the author of three legal thrillers published by Penguin/Putnam and a contributing writer for California Lawyer Magazine. His non-fiction work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, ranging from The Nation and The Progressive to the Los Angeles Times, the L.A. Weekly and Los Angeles Magazine.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Trump,

Dear Fuhrer Trump,

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 total sellout to your 1% brothers, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Republican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Vice-Fuhrer, Herr Pence at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 03-15-2017. We salute you Herr Trump, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

Trump and Bannon Are Putting the World at Real Risk of Nuclear War
Bannon on the NSC means losing everything we love about our country
By Robert Reich

Donald Trump has reorganized the National Security Council - elevating his chief political strategist Steve Bannon, and demoting the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Bannon will join the NSC's principals committee, the top inter-agency group advising the President on national security.

Meanwhile, the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will now attend meetings only when "issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed," according to the presidential memorandum issued Saturday.

Political strategists have never before participated in National Security Council principals meetings because the NSC is supposed to give presidents nonpartisan, factual advice.

But forget facts. Forget analysis. This is the Trump administration.

And what does Bannon have to bring to the table?

In case you forgot, before joining Donald Trump's inner circle Bannon headed Breitbart News, a far-right media outlet that has promoted conspiracy theories and is a platform for the alt-right movement, which espouses white nationalism.

This is truly scary.

Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice calls the move "stone cold crazy." Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who also served under George W. Bush, says the demotions are a "big mistake."

Republican Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told CBS News, "I am worried about the National Security Council. ... The appointment of Mr. Bannon is a radical departure from any National Security Council in history." McCain added that the "one person who is indispensable would be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in my view."

Here's the big worry. Trump is unhinged and ignorant. Bannon is nuts and malicious. If not supervised by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, their decisions could endanger the world.

In Trump's and Bannon's view, foreign relations is a zero-sum game. If another nation gains, we lose. As Trump declared at his inaugural: "From this day forward, it's going to be only America First."

Some of you are old enough to recall John F. Kennedy's inaugural, when the young president pledged to support any friend and oppose any foe to assure the success of liberty.

But Trump makes no distinction between friend and foe, and no reference to liberty. As conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer observes, Trump's view is that all other nations are out to use, exploit and surpass us.

Not incidentally, "America First" was the name of the pro-Nazi group led by Charles Lindbergh that bitterly fought FDR before U.S. entry into World War II to keep America neutral between Churchill's Britain and Hitler's Reich.

Trump's and Bannon's version of "America First" is no less dangerous. It is alienating America from the rest of the world, destroying our nation's moral authority abroad, and risking everything we love about our country.

Unsupervised by people who know what they're doing. Trump and Bannon could also bring the world closer to a nuclear holocaust.
(c) 2017 Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few." His website is

Trump's War On Immigration Is A War On Science And Our Prosperity
Immigrants comprised 40 percent of U.S. science Nobel prizes since 2000.
By Joe Romm

Less restrictive immigration laws starting in the 1960s created a quantum leap In U.S. scientific talent. The pre-1960 number was boosted by "Jewish scientists who overcame significant restrictions against immigration in the 1930s."

In his first days in office, President Donald Trump has launched a full-scale war on immigration along with a war on science.

But both science and immigration are not only cornerstones of American prosperity and security, they are directly related. So we must all fight hard to preserve both as core American values.

That's a key reason Harvard Medical School post doc Dan Goodman - whose lab has three Iranian researchers - joined protests Sunday against Trump. "We'll be losing out on amazing talent," Goodman told The Verge. "It's going to really hurt America's primacy in the sciences."

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) issued a statement warning, "This Executive Order could undermine U.S. leadership in science and reduce our access to the best science to address pressing societal issues such as the need for fresh water and clean air."

Business leadership at Netflix, Facebook, and Apple say the ban will hurt their companies and won't make the U.S. safer...

America's leadership in innovation has been built around immigrants and government-backed science. Steve Jobs, the founder of the Apple, America's largest company, was the son of a Syrian immigrant who would have been banned under Trump's recent executive order.

The Trump administration's war on science and technology, is, as I've argued, a war on your children's future. But so is Trump's war on immigration.

The rapid growth in U.S. Nobel prizes from immigrants - and hence overall prizes, from the 1960s onward "illustrates the importance of changes in U.S. immigration law, particularly the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 ending the restrictive 'national origins' quotas that prevented people from most of the world, including Asia, from immigrating to the United States," as a 2016 report from the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) concluded.

Every single one of the six U.S. Nobel laureates in 2016 were immigrants - and a remarkable 40 percent of all of U.S. winners in physics, chemistry, and medicine since 2000 were immigrants.

The link between immigrants and U.S. leadership in science and innovation dates back many decades. A 2014 Stanford study found that "U.S. patents increased by 31 percent in fields common among Jewish scientists who fled Nazi Germany for America." Significantly, "their innovative influence rippled outward for generations, as the emigres attracted new researchers who then trained other up-and-comers."

And these immigrants were key to the successful effort by the U.S. to beat Germany to build the first atomic bomb. Indeed, the Manhattan Project was launched because one European emigre, Leo Szilard, convinced another, Albert Einstein, to send Franklin D. Roosevelt a letter he had drafted urging the president to pursue action on an atomic bomb.

The open flow of people across borders was the sine qua non for creating U.S. leadership in innovation. As pointed out by Stuart Anderson, NFAP's executive director and a senior immigration official under President George W. Bush, "Nobel Prize winners represent great individual achievement but also reflect the state of research, openness and scientific advancement within a society."

Just compare Germany's sharp Nobel Prize decline after the Nazis made the country inhospitable for key minority groups, especially Jews, with the U.S. rise as we progressively opened the door to immigrants.

We must remember the historical lessons of both how to gain and how to lose in scientific and technological innovation. We don't know where the next Steve Jobs or Nobel prize-winning idea will come from. We only know that when countries declare war on any minority group, they lose.
(c) 2017 Dr. Joe Romm is Founding Editor of Climate Progress, "the indispensable blog," as NY Times columnist Tom Friedman describes it.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Mike Luckovich ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Alternate ways of paying for the wall
By Les East

Now that Mexico has refused to pay for the wall that the Trump Administration plans to build along the U.S. border with Mexico, U.S. officials have begun exploring alternate ways of paying for the $12 billion-$15 billion price tag:

Raise cost of the Taco Bowl at Trump Tower to $10 million.

Levy a "Wall Tax" of $1,000 on journalists every time they ask a question about the wall.

Waterboard random Mexican-looking people until they cough up their pesos.

Get another loan, I mean a first-ever loan, from Russia.

Place "Alternate Facts Jars" around the White House for the President and staff members to deposit a quarter every time they speak an alternate fact.

Start a pool on the day and time that the Impeachment comes down.

Rent out the vacant seat on the Supreme Court.

Sell the Washington Monument on eBay.

Just build the damn thing and stiff the contractors.

(c) 2017 Les East is a nationally renown freelance journalist. He was recently named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists and Louisiana Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. When he's not writing about sports - and sometimes when he is - he likes to provide snarky commentary on current events. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter - @Les_East

The Gross National Debt

Iraq Deaths Estimator

The Animal Rescue Site

Issues & Alibis Vol 17 # 05 (c) 02/03/2017

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