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In This Edition

Matt Taibbi concludes, "Trump's Repeal of Bipartisan Anti-Corruption Measure Proves He's a Fake ."

Uri Avnery answers, "How Did It Start?"

Glen Ford exposes the, "Black Misleadership Class: High-Speed Sell-Outs."

Robert Parry asks, "Was Thomas Jefferson a Rapist?"

Jim Hightower wonders, "What's 2017's Biggest Banking Fraud?"

Lee Fang says, "Trump's New Immigration Crackdown Has Private Prison Investors Salivating."

David Suzuki reports, "This First Nation Is Still Under Boil-Water Advisory After 21 Years."

John Nichols finds, "Trump's Labor Pick Has A History Of Attacking Voting Rights."

Chris Hedges considers, "James Baldwin And The Meaning Of Whiteness."

Ralph Nader returns with, "Restricting People's Use Of Their Courts."

Jane Stillwater is, "Gambling On The Darkness After Trump."

David Swanson tries, "Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters."

Randall Amster examines, "Weaving The Threads Of Resistance."

Scott Pruitt wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich explores, "Why Trumponomics Fails."

Peter Maass reports a, "Trump Official Obsessed Over Nuclear Apocalypse, Men's Style, Fine Wines In 40,000 Posts On Fashion Site."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "NASA Deploys Congressional Rover To Search For Funding," but first Uncle Ernie sez look out for, "The Big Lies."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Clay Bennett, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Allan Warren, Timothy A. Clary, Suchat Pederson, John Trumbull, lan Diaz, Andrew Harrer, Saul Loeb, Bloomberg, Getty Images, AP, 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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The Big Lies
By Ernest Stewart

"If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed." ~~~ Adolf Hitler ~ Mein Kampf

"The trouble is that no one can know how the infrastructure will perform until those rare events happen. This winter is on track to test flood control and water storage across the state. Stay tuned." ~~~ Doug Yule ~ CSUN professor of geological sciences

"Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the F.D.A.'s job." ~~~ Philip Angell ~ Monsanto's director of corporate communications.

"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well." ~~~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Is Trump a follower of Adolph Hitler? It certainly seems that way. It's like the old adage "How can you tell if Trump is lying? His lips move or in Trumps case his fingers move on his unsecured telephone! Hitler had one advantage over Trump he didn't have to deal with the internet or a hostile press and millions of people listening to his every word.

A month into his Presidency and he's accomplished next to nothing except to pack his cabinet with appointments of people who hate the departments that they run and want to get rid of the purpose of them, at all costs! Trump has gone out of his way to piss off the intelligence departments, (ask JFK how that worked out for him) which may soon lead to his down fall, we can but hope. He has gone out of his way to piss off our alies not to mention adding to the ranks of our enemies, a total stooge for them.

Trouble is, that the brain deads that elected him fail to see what's happening right before their eyes and believe each and everyone of his lies. Sure the fence sitters are beginning to see the light but it's too late for them and the rest of us to do anything about it. If the Democrats hadn't stacked the deck against Bernie we could be on our way to a better world instead of becoming a third world country under Trump. Did I mention that Hilary has plans of running again in 2020 against President Pence?

In conclusion, as M.E. Cowan aptly puts it:
"Lie" isn't an adequate word for what Republicans say. We need a new term; I propose anti-truth, as in, "There are lies, damned lies, and Republican anti-truths." Like matter and anti-matter, Republicans and the truth just can't occupy the same space. What they say goes all the way through and past "untrue" into the realm of turning reality inside out, tying a knot in it and yanking hard.
Well said indeed Ms. Cowan!

In Other News

Here in Michigan we've had a very mild winter as Michigan winters go. We've set new high temperature marks breaking one that stood for 133 years. Even our cool days are 20 degrees warmer than normal. We average one rain storm per week so we're getting our normal water levels but it's falling as rain and not as snow!

Out in drought mauled California it's having it's most rainy winter in years. The drought is over in Northern California, and then some. Trouble is, with their devastating forrest fires of the last few years there is nothing left to hold the mountain sides together and they're getting sucked downhill by gravity as mud slides, wiping out entire neighborhoods!

You're all hip to the Oroville dam that almost burst last week when it's spillway fell apart and the same monsoonal weather pattern is still off the coast sending in wave after wave of thunderstorms. Perhaps another 10 inches of rain today.

CSUN professor of hydrogeology Ali Tabidian said this is one of the major issues with global warming, which is causing such extreme weather. When it comes to floods, Tabidian said, "they're going to be bigger and more frequent."

He also said "dams and levees are based on years of data. So engineers do their best to take this information into account when they're designing precautions. However, the type of rain and climate happening now is not in the data from the past because of global warming."

A lot of flood control projects, these are based on old data," Tabidian said.

Not only is global warming an issue, but urbanization is as well. According to Tabidian, with urbanization there is an "increase of asphalt and a decrease in soil. Therefore, when it rains, there's not as much soil to absorb it. All the extra water will flow into lakes and rivers."

"With so many homes and shopping centers, it's unbelievable and going to generate more runoff and bigger floods," Tabidian said.

So the question is, America... "How long can you tread water?"

And Finally

I see where farmworkers who have a high pesticide exposure event - such as a spill - are more likely to experience molecular changes in their DNA that may lead to certain cancers, according to a large US study of pesticide applicators in Iowa and North Carolina.

The research, part of the ongoing Agricultural Health Study that is monitoring the health of more than 57,000 private and commercial pesticide applicators in Iowa and North Carolina, adds to growing evidence that high exposure to certain pesticides may spur prostate and other cancers in people handling the chemicals, especially Monsanto's Roundup.

"This lines up perfectly with what the National Cancer Institute is doing on the markers that increase the risk of cancer. It's a timely, relevant study," said Linda McCauley, dean and professor of Emory University's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. McCauley was not involved in the study.

Researchers have long suspected pesticides may play a role in the elevated cancer rates among farmers and others who apply pesticides.

Using data from the same Agricultural Health Study group, in 2003 researchers reported "about a 14 percent higher prostate cancer incidence than the general population of men in Iowa and North Carolina. The fumigant methyl bromide was most strongly associated with prostate cancer. Use of chlorinated pesticides, such as DDT, was linked to cancer for applicators over 50 years old." So, why am I not sad that the people poisoning our food supply are dying from doing so? I know, my bad!

Keepin' On

As Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty..." And let me tell you folks that applies to sooth sayers like no others. Belive me, when I say, there is no free lunch!

Ergo, to keep this up, we need your help. We're all willing to keep working for you for free; but the folks that keep us on the Internet and allow us to use their artwork and artists, their software, their spaces all want their due. Unlike us, they're in it for the money and have no senses of humor when the bills come due.

So if you could, would you please send us whatever you can, whenever you can, and we'll keep on bringing you the news that you need to know, the truth of the matter that can no longer be found in the Lame Stream Media as all of it is owned lock, stock, and barrel by our masters in the 1%, and run for their benefit alone. So, if you care about things like the truth and reality, please visit the donations page and follow the directions! We thank you!


06-05-1925 ~ 02-17-2017
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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.

During his campaign, Donald Trump released a 100-day "action plan" that supposedly targeted "special interest corruption."

Trump's Repeal of Bipartisan Anti-Corruption Measure Proves He's a Fake
By Matt Taibbi

On October 13th of last year, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Donald Trump gave a desperate speech at a desperate moment. A week after the surfacing of the infamous "grab them by the pussy" video, Trump presented himself as the common man's only defense against a vast conspiracy of global financial interests:

"There is nothing the political establishment will not do," he said, "and no lie they will not tell, to hold on to their prestige and power at your expense."
Including running Donald Trump as an anti-corruption candidate! He went on:
"For those who control the levers of power in Washington, and for the global special interests they partner with, our campaign represents an existential threat," Trump said. "It's a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class ... and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities."
In conjunction with this speech, which was sold as the "crossroads of history" address (and triggered a new hashtag, #TrumpTheEstablishment), Trump released a 100-day "action plan" that supposedly targeted "special interest corruption."

Among the measures proposed: new restrictions on lobbying, including a five-year ban on White House and congressional officials becoming lobbyists after leaving office.

Months later, with the self-proclaimed "existential threat" to special interests in office, the "establishment" has it better than ever. Not only has the money-over-principle dynamic not changed inside the Beltway, it's ascendant. Under "outsider" rule, Washington has never been more Washington-y.

Tuesday, for instance, Trump signed a repeal of a bipartisan provision of the Dodd-Frank bill known as the Cardin-Lugar Amendment. The absurd history of this doomed provision stands as a perfect microcosm of how Washington works, or doesn't work, as it were.

President Donald Trump is promising to create jobs as he signs legislation rolling back a regulation from the Dodd-Frank financial oversight law.

The election of a billionaire president who killed the anti-corruption measure off is only the brutal coup de grace. The rule was stalled for the better part of six years by a relentless and exhausting parade of lobbyists, lawyers and other assorted Beltway malingerers. It then lived out of the womb for a few sad months before Trump smothered it this week.

Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act was created by Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin and then Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar. Passed in 2010, the rule was simple: It required oil, gas and mining companies to disclose any payments above $100,000 made to foreign governments.

The law was designed to prevent energy companies from bribing foreign dictators. The simple goal was to ensure that the wealth of resource-rich countries would be enjoyed by their citizens, and not converted into obscene personal collections of yachts, mansions, sports cars and Michael Jackson memorabilia - as, for instance, it was when oil was discovered in Equatorial Guinea, and the brutal dictator Teodoro Obiang started doing business with Rex Tillerson's ExxonMobil.

The provision originally passed in the summer of 2010 and became law when Dodd-Frank was signed later that year. But it didn't go into effect right away. As hotshot Wall Street lobbyist Scott Talbott of the Financial Services Roundtable cracked, "When [Obama] signed the financial reform law, that was halftime."

After passage, the law went back to the SEC for the rule-writing process, where it spent two years being bandied around while special interest groups harangued the agency with suggestions and comment letters.

Those first years of SEC rule-writing included multiple meetings and rule addendum suggestions from trade groups like the American Petroleum Institute (API), as well as with executives from companies like ExxonMobil. (Exxon VP Pat Mulva and Corporate Securities and Finance Coordinator Brian Malnak met with the SEC twice in November of 2010.)

Then, on August 22nd, 2012, a version of the rule passed the commission by a vote of 2-1. Success! Yet shortly after the rule passed - on October 10th, 2012, to be exact - the aforementioned API, along with the Chamber of Commerce, filed a lawsuit against the SEC to block the provision.

The suit charged that the SEC "failed to conduct an adequate cost-benefit analysis as required by law" (this was a trick used multiple times to block Dodd-Frank provisions) and that the agency "grossly misinterpreted its statutory mandate to make a 'compilation' of information available to the public."

Barack Obama signing Dodd-Frank on July 21st.

Industry whined that the rule would prohibit deals in countries where local laws prohibited disclosure of such payments, and that it would force firms to "sell their assets - at fire sale prices." The basic idea was that international capitalism would grind to a halt if they had to make public which dictator's yachts they were buying, and for how much.

The legal Hail Mary worked, naturally, as such suits nearly always do in Washington, and the rule was struck down by a D.C. district court in 2013. The court ruling required the SEC to either write a new rule or come up with a new justification for the old one.

This commenced another years-long slog of meetings, letters and suggestions. The oil-and-gas people, of course, pretended the whole time that they didn't want to kill the provision, exactly, just improve it.

"As we discussed," the API wrote to the SEC on November 7th, 2013, "API strongly believes an effective and workable result can be achieved that accomplishes the transparency objectives of the statute while also protecting investors from significant harm."

API then proceeded to offer 16 maddening pages of suggestions that would ostensibly improve the provision. The SEC would ultimately cave on a number of these industry requests, resulting in a rule that in the end was significantly more convoluted than the original version.

This is why laws like Dodd-Frank end up being unwieldy monstrosities of thousands and thousands of pages: On the road to trying to kill a law outright, lobbyists usually try to weigh it down first by adding exceptions and verbiage. Ironically, this ends up driving the industry's own compliance costs higher in the meantime, but it's worth it, as it stalls the process.

Another irony here is that the public perception that nothing ever gets done in Washington is driven by this very dynamic. The public becomes impatient for action when every tiny provision of every bill gets bogged down as fat-cat lawyers fight for years on end over the definition of words like "compilation" and "project."

This is the ultimate in overpaid busywork for the overeducated. The ongoing bureaucratization of the legislative process is really just a high-priced welfare program for corporate lawyers.

And while lawyers make fortunes pushing commas around and adding mountains of words to already overwritten laws, ex-middle-class workers in places outside of the Beltway keep finding their slice of the pie smaller and smaller.

This leads to frustration with Washington inaction. And as we've seen, this leads to political support for big talkers like Trump who promise, hilariously, to cut through the red tape and "get things done."

To make a long story short, the Cardin-Lugar provision ended up being delayed time and time again. At one point, the SEC had be kicked into action by Oxfam, which sued the agency essentially to force it to complete the rule.

Only after settling with the human rights organization (like many human rights advocates, Oxfam's interest here was in preventing bribes to repressive regimes) did the SEC finally go back to completing its court-ordered and congressionally mandated work.

Despite all of the delays and wrangling, however, it did finally pass last June. But in yet another lurid example of how idiotic our system is, the provision was upended by an asinine law called the Congressional Review Act.

This obscure Gingrich-era statute (signed into law by Bill Clinton), which seems to exist entirely for the purpose of allowing newly elected officials to overturn the work of their predecessors, permits the government to reconsider any piece of legislation within a window of 60 session days after implementation.

The CRA mechanism was put to use shortly after Trump's inauguration. There were a few hours of debate in the Senate, a brief debate in the House, and then Cardin-Lugar was "executed at dawn," as the Lugar Center put it, in an unusual early-morning Senate session that began at 6:30 a.m. on February 3rd.

"Congress," the center noted, "took fewer than five days from the beginning of the legislative process to the end." There were no subcommittee reviews, no hearings, nothing. After six grueling years being pushed uphill, in a process that cost God knows how much in billable hours, the rule was scuttled in Congress and sent to Trump's desk to be wiped out in a matter of weeks.

Ask Trump supporters about this episode, and many would say they won't weep for the loss of any government regulation.

But they should ask themselves if, when they were whooping and hollering for the man who promised to end special interest and lobbyist rules in Washington, they imagined the ExxonMobil chief in charge of the State Department cheering as the new president wiped out anti-bribery laws. The "establishment" sure is on the run, isn't it?
(c) 2017 Matt Taibbi is Rolling Stone's chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi's predecessors include the likes of journalistic giants Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Taibbi's 2004 campaign journal Spanking the Donkey cemented his status as an incisive, irreverent, zero-bullshit reporter. His books include Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion, Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire. .

How Did It Start?
By Uri Avnery

SO HOW THE HELL did it all start?

Last week I tried to describe the 1948 war, starting from the shooting at a Jewish bus on the morrow of the UN partition resolution. Some readers dispute the timing. They insist that the war started on May 15, on the morrow of the founding of the State of Israel, when the armies of the neighboring Arab states entered the country.

I have seen this many times. Every serious debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict raises the question: "When did it start?" Each side has its own date, proving that the other side started it.

The Arabs started it, the Zionists assert. The conflict started with the "invasion" of the Arab armies. ("Invasion" in quotation marks, since they entered the territories allotted by the UN to the Palestinian Arab state, though their declared aim was to crush the new Jewish state right at the beginning.)

The Jews started it, the Arabs assert. They began to drive the Arab population out, leading to the Naqba ("disaster").

The Arabs started it, reply the Zionists. Why did we have to evict the Arab population? It was because you shot at our villages after the UN resolution of November 29, 1947.

The Jews started it, retort the Arabs. It all started with that atrocious resolution. The UN, consisting at the time mainly of Western and Communist states, gave a country that did not belong to them to the Jews, who did not belong to it.

Yes, say the Jews, but it really started with the White Paper issued by the British in May, 1939, which in effect closed the doors of Palestine to the Jews just when the Nazis were planning the Holocaust.

We had no choice, interject the British. In 1936 the Arabs started a revolt in which Jews and our soldiers were killed all over the country.

But why did we have to do so? cry out the Arabs. Because masses of German Jews were coming to Palestine after 1933, when Adolf Hitler assumed power in Germany. We had to stop it, even by violent means, to prevent Palestine from turning into a Jewish country.

Really, retort the Jews, but you started it long before, in 1929, when you organized riots all over the country, killing lots of Jews.

We had no choice, assert the Arabs. The British government of Palestine favored the Zionists and allowed them to settle all over.

That was our right, say the Jews, enshrined in the Mandate conferred by the League of Nations on the British.

Who gave the League of Nations the right to confer a Mandate on anybody? ask the Arabs. The land belonged to its inhabitants, almost all of whom were Arabs. That's how it all started.

But the Arabs attacked the Jews in 1919, showing how much the British were needed.

The British had no business being here, answer the Arabs. The whole mess really started in 1917 when the British published the Balfour Declaration, promising to establish a Jewish "national home" in Palestine, which belonged, at the time, to the (Muslim) Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman Empire was dying, say the Jews, and the Zionist movement, which was founded in 1896, had already proclaimed its right to Palestine.

But at the same time the modern Arab national movement was born, which had an indisputable claim to Palestine and all the Arab countries.

God has promised...

Allah has ordained...

And so on.

I HAVE my own theory about when and how the conflict started.

In 1904 Theodor Herzl, the founding father of the Zionist movement, died. Herzl did not like Palestine very much, and started his ideological quest with the idea of founding a Jewish state in Patagonia, an Argentine territory which had recently been "pacified".

Herzl did not like the Turks or the Arabs, but events convinced him that the Jews would go nowhere but Palestine. In his book "Der Judenstaat", the Bible of Zionism, he declared that the Jews would serve in Palestine as an outpost of Western civilization against the barbarians of Asia - i.e. the Arabs.

One can argue that it was here that the conflict really started - right at the beginning of the Zionist idea. But I have in mind an even more precise moment.

A FEW years before World War I, the Ottoman Empire showed signs of breaking up. A modernizing movement, led by army officers, assumed power in 1908. They called themselves "the Young Turks".

Among the restless Arab population, too, revolutionary groups emerged. They dared not yet talk about independence, but instead put forward a plan for the "de-centralization" of the Ottoman Empire, giving its various nations some autonomy.

A group of Arab members of the Turkish parliament, led by Rukhi al-Halidi (member of a Jerusalem family even now prominent in Palestinian affairs) had a brilliant idea: why not approach the Zionists and offer them an alliance against the Turks in the fight for this idea?

The Zionist representative in Jerusalem hastened to submit this offer to Max Nordau, the new president of the Zionist organization. Nordau had inherited Herzl's post after the death of the founder.

This was a historic moment, one of those moments when history holds its breath. A totally new vista opened up: an alliance between Arabs and Jews! a joint liberation movement!

Nordau, a famous German-Jewish intellectual, did not dream of accepting this offer. He must have considered it crazy. The Turks were the masters of the country. They could give Palestine to the Jews. They could be bribed. The Arabs were powerless. They could give us nothing.

So the moment passed. Nordau mentioned the idea to the Zionist Congress in Hamburg, but nobody took any notice.

Few people know about this episode. It is described in the authoritative book by the late Aharon ("Aharonchik") Cohen.

The possibility existed only in theory. History is made by real people, whose consciousness is formed by the realities of their time. For Europeans of the early 20th century, the idea of such an alliance with the natives against an imperial power was close to lunatic.

IN RETROSPECT, this idea could have changed history. We would have been born into a different world.

In the autumn of 1947, when I was just 24 years old, I published a booklet called (in Hebrew) "War or Peace in the Semitic Region".

It was an almost exact repetition of the ideas in the Nordau incident - which I knew nothing about at the time.

It opened with the words:

"When our fathers, the Zionists, decided to set up a 'safe haven' in this country, they had the choice between two paths:

"They could appear in West Asia as a European conqueror, who sees himself as the bridgehead of the 'white' race, a master of the 'natives', like the Spanish conquistadores and the Anglo-Saxon colonists in America. This is what the Crusaders at their time did in this country.

"The other path was to see themselves as an Asiatic people returning to its homeland - who sees himself as an heir of the political and cultural tradition of the Semitic race, and is ready to lead the people of the Semitic Region in the war of liberation against European exploitation."

With the exception of the terminology, which belonged to its time, I subscribe to every word even today, almost 70 years later.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict began when the first Jewish colonist came to this country in 1882, even before the official founding of the Zionist movement. It began as a clash between two great national movements which were totally ignorant of each other. This ignorance persists, in large part, to this very day.

The past cannot be changed.

But perhaps, perhaps, we can learn from it and draw some conclusions.
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Black Misleadership Class: High-Speed Sell-Outs
By Glen Ford

The NAACP and the Urban League want to leave Internet neutrality to the tender mercies of the Republican-controlled Congress. But that's nothing new. The Black Misleadership Class has been selling out the people's interests to giant telecom companies since 2006, in exchange for organizational and campaign funding. Eminently buyable, they constantly seek to position themselves close to Power -- and then cash out.

When it comes to fundamental questions of who governs in the United States, the Black Misleadership Class can be counted on as an ally of corporate rule. For more than a decade, the Congressional Black Caucus and the two premier national "civil rights" organizations have been dependable accomplices in the corporate bid for control over every aspect of the Internet and telecommunications superhighway.

Most recently, the NAACP and the National Urban League endorsed a rollback of the Obama administration's rules on net neutrality. Under a Democratic chairman, the Federal Communications Commission had reclassified high-speed Internet as a telecommunications service that should be regulated, like telephone companies. President Trump's FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon, proposes to roll back the classification, giving his former employers the right to favor some Internet content over others. The NAACP and the Urban League, joined by two Asian American organizations, this month sent a letter calling for the issue to be decided by the Republican-controlled Congress, thus sounding a death knell for Internet neutrality.

In typical liar's double-speak, the letter calls for "a statue locking in net neutrality no matter how the winds blow." But the winds in Congress are all blowing from the Right, just as they were 2010, when the NAACP and a long list of other Black and minority organizations opposed net neutrality on the dubious grounds that: "Because of the inherent 'shaming culture' of the Internet, we do not need draconian enforcement mechanisms or rigid net neutrality rules to protect consumers." In 2014, the NAACP and an even longer list of minority organizations rationalized that classifying the Internet as a "common carrier," like a public utility, would limit "the investment and innovation that have benefitted our constituents" - which is precisely the position taken by Verizon, Comcast and other telecom giants that threaten to go on "capitalist strike" -- withholding investment -- every time regulations are proposed.

The telecoms have found that relatively small investments in bribery go a long way in influencing the Black Misleadership Class. As noted in an article in The Intercept, the NAACP counts AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast as corporate fundraising partners, and "senior officials from all three behemoths have held positions on the National Urban League's board." Verizon gave the Urban League $1.2 million in 2014.

The telecoms distribute cash to a range of "civil rights" groups through their lobbying organization, the Multicultural Media, Telecom & Internet Council, whose president, Jim Keenan, has nothing but praise for Ajit Pai, the former Verizon lawyer and Donald Trump's choice as FCC chairman. Among Pai's first acts was to roll back regulation of exorbitant prison phone rates and block companies from providing discounted high-speed Internet services to the poor.

Clearly, Pai's agenda is in total synch with the Republican majority on Capitol Hill, but it is also not out of tune with the corporate Democrats of the Congressional Black Caucus. In 2014, ten Caucus members signed a letter opposing net neutrality, maintaining that, "Reclassification of Internet broadband as a common carrier could have adverse consequences on an industry that creates hundreds of thousands of jobs, and is an economic driver for our nation" -- again, slavishly parroting the corporate threat to hold back on investment if the telecoms don't get their way.

Among the signers was Rep. Bobby Rush, the former Black Panther from Chicago who, as Bruce Dixon reported, sold out to AT&T for a million dollars in 2006. Rush had plenty of company. Twenty-seven out of 40 Black congresspersons voted in favor of the telecom-backed COPE Act, an early attempt to turn the Internet into a corporate roll road. Only 54 percent of the House Democratic Caucus as a whole voted with the telecoms, compared to two-thirds of the Black Caucus, putting Black America's representatives in Washington further to the right than their white counterparts on this issue. Needless to say, cash flowed freely.

It is incorrect, however, to assume that bribery is behind every act of treachery by the Black Misleadership Class. Although these elected officials and civic organizations most certainly do not serve the interests of their poor and working class constituents, they do act to further the fortunes of their own, narrow, grasping class -- people that constantly seek to position themselves in proximity to Power, and believe that Black progress and their own upwardly mobility are synonymous. That's why they are "Mis" leaders -- leading the Black masses in directions that benefit only themselves. They are capable of infinite treachery, precisely because they have always seen themselves as group exemplars -- "credits to the race." In truth, they are parasites that must be expelled and rejected from the larger Black polity - servants and agents of the actual ruling class.
(c) 2017 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States

Was Thomas Jefferson a Rapist?
By Robert Parry

On President's Day, The Washington Post published a front-page article about Thomas Jefferson's mansion, Monticello, finally restoring Sally Hemings's room, which was next door to Jefferson's bedroom, a further grudging acknowledgement that Hemings was his concubine.

But the Post could not bring itself to state the obvious. It described Jefferson imposing himself sexually on his female slave as a "relationship," rather than a serial rape that apparently began when Hemings was around 14 years of age.

The Post reported that in 1941, the caretakers of Monticello transformed Hemings's room into a restroom as "the floor tiles and bathroom stalls covered over the story of the enslaved woman, who was owned by Jefferson and had a long-term relationship with him."

But - as grotesque as it may be to erase her room by installing toilets - it is equally grotesque to describe as a "relationship" an older powerful man having sex with a young female slave who had little choice but to submit to his predations and bear his children.

It may be hard for the American people to accept but the evidence increasingly indicates that the author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States was a pedophile and a rapist.

That is the story that Jefferson's many apologists have most desperately tried to obscure along with his wretched record on race, including the sickening racism in his Notes on the State of Virginia, that includes his pseudo-science of assessing physiological and mental traits of African-Americans to prove that all men were not created equal.

For generations, the apologists also have challenged slave Sally Hemings's late-in-life remembrance to one of her sons, Madison Hemings, describing how Jefferson had imposed himself on her sexually in Paris after she arrived in 1787 as a teen-age slave girl attending one of his daughters.

According to Madison Hemings's account, his mother "became Mr. Jefferson's concubine [in Paris]. And when he was called back home she was enciente [pregnant] by him." Jefferson was insistent that Sally Hemings return with him, but her awareness of the absence of slavery in France gave her the leverage to insist on a transactional trade-off; she would continue to provide sex to Jefferson in exchange for his promise of good treatment and the freedom of her children when they turned 21, Madison Hemings said.

Smearing Hemings

The traditional defense of Jefferson was to portray Sally Hemings as a promiscuous vixen who lied about her relationship with the Great Man to enhance her humble standing. After all, whose word would you believe, that of the estimable Jefferson who publicly decried race mixing or a lowly African-American slave girl?

Thomas Jefferson's mansion at Monticello near Charlottesville, Virginia.

For decades, the defenders stuck to that dismissive response despite the curious coincidence that Hemings tended to give birth nine months after one of Jefferson's visits to Monticello and the discovery of male Jefferson DNA in Hemings's descendants.

Still, the Jefferson apologists raised finicky demands for conclusive proof of the liaison, as if it were absurd to envision that a relatively young man then in his mid-40s, a widower since his wife died in 1782, would have initiated a sexual relationship with an African-American female, even an attractive light-skinned mulatto like Hemings (who was the illegitimate daughter of Jefferson's father-in-law and thus Jefferson's late wife's half-sister).

Though it's true that unequivocal evidence does not exist - Hemings did not save a semen-stained blue dress so it could later be subjected to DNA analysis - historians have increasingly come to accept the reality of Jefferson's sexual involvement with his young slave girl who was only 14 when she moved into Jefferson's residence in Paris.

So, with this ground shifting under Jefferson's defensive lines, his apologists retreated to a new position, that the relationship was a true love affair and/or that Jefferson's behavior fit with the moral behavior of the times as slave owners frequently raped their female slaves (and thus Jefferson's behavior should not be judged adversely).

Hemings was transformed into a kind of modern-day independent woman making her own choices about matters of the heart. However, given her age and her status as Jefferson's property the relationship could be more accurately described as serial rape.

But the reality may be even worse. Recent historical examinations of records at Jefferson's Monticello plantation have provided support for contemporaneous accounts of Jefferson having sex with at least one other slave girl beside Hemings and possibly more.

Fathering of Slaves

Some scholars, such as historian Henry Wiencek in his 2012 book, Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves, give credence to old reports about Jefferson having a direct role in populating Monticello by fathering his own dark-skinned lookalikes.

An artist's depiction of Sally Hemings.

"In ways that no one completely understands, Monticello became populated by a number of mixed-race people who looked astonishingly like Thomas Jefferson," wrote Wiencek. "We know this not from what Jefferson's detractors have claimed but from what his grandson Jeff Randolph openly admitted. According to him, not only Sally Hemings but another Hemings woman as well 'had children which resembled Mr. Jefferson so closely that it was plain that they had his blood in their veins.'

"Resemblance meant kinship; there was no other explanation. Since Mr. Jefferson's blood was Jeff's blood, Jeff knew that he was somehow kin to these people of a parallel world. Jeff said the resemblance of one Hemings to Thomas Jefferson was 'so close, that at some distance or in the dusk the slave, dressed in the same way, might be mistaken for Mr. Jefferson.'"

During a dinner at Monticello, Jeff Randolph recounted a scene in which a Thomas Jefferson lookalike was a servant tending to the table where Thomas Jefferson was seated. Randolph recalled the reaction of one guest: "In one instance, a gentleman dining with Mr. Jefferson, looked so startled as he raised his eyes from the latter to the servant behind him, that his discovery of the resemblance was perfectly obvious to all."

In the 1850s, Jeff Randolph told a visiting author that his grandfather did not hide the slaves who bore these close resemblances, since Sally Hemings "was a house servant and her children were brought up house servants so that the likeness between master and slave was blazoned to all the multitudes who visited this political Mecca" and indeed a number of visitors did make note of this troubling reality.

Even Jefferson admirer Jon Meacham accepted the truth of the Hemings liaison in Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power. Meacham cited a quote from Elijah Fletcher, a visitor from Vermont: "The story of Black Sal is no farce - That he cohabits with her and has a number of children by her is a sacred truth and the worst of it is, he keeps the same children slaves an unnatural crime which is very common in these parts. This conduct may receive a little palliation when we consider that such proceedings are so common that they cease here to be disgraceful."

Meacham observed that Jefferson "was apparently able to consign his children with Sally Hemings to a separate sphere of life in his mind even as they grew up in his midst.

"It was, to say the least, an odd way to live, but Jefferson was a creature of his culture. 'The enjoyment of a negro or mulatto woman is spoken of as quite a common thing: no reluctance, delicacy or shame is made about the matter,' Josiah Quincy Jr. of Massachusetts wrote after a visit to the Carolinas. This was daily reality at Monticello."

Family Doubts

This "daily reality" was also a troubling concern among Jefferson's white family though the Great Man would never confirm or deny his parentage of a number of Monticello's slaves.

In the Broadway musical "Hamilton," actor Daveed Diggs (left) who played Thomas Jefferson (as something of a hypocrite) and the musical's creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who played Alexander Hamilton (who was Jefferson's adversary during the first years of the Republic).

"Frigid indifference forms a useful shield for a public character against his political enemies, but Jefferson deployed it against his own daughter Martha, who was deeply upset by the sexual allegations against her father and wanted a straight answer Yes or no? an answer he would not deign to give," wrote Wiencek.

Before his death, Jefferson did free several of Sally Hemings's children or let them run away presumably fulfilling the commitment made in Paris before Hemings agreed to return to Monticello to remain his slave concubine.

"Jefferson went to his grave without giving his family any denial of the Hemings charges," Wiencek wrote.

The historical record increasingly makes Jefferson out to be a serial rapist, exploiting at least one and possibly more girls who were trapped on his property, who indeed were his property, and thus had little choice but to tolerate his sexual advances.

Whipping the Children

The evidence of Jefferson's sexual predations must also be viewed in the context of his overall treatment of his slaves at Monticello. Though Jefferson's apologists pretend that he was a kind master distressed over the inequities of a slave system that he could somehow neither correct nor escape, the latest evidence much of it concealed for generations to protect Jefferson's image reveal him to be a cruel slave-owner who carefully calculated the net worth that his human chattel provided him and having boys as young as 10 whipped.

Some of Jefferson's mistreatment of his slaves derived from another of his hypocrisies, his views about simplicity and solvency. As historian John Chester Miller wrote in his 1977 book, The Wolf by the Ears, "To Jefferson, the abandon with which Americans rushed into debt and squandered borrowed money upon British 'gew-gaws' and 'trumpery' vitiated the blessings of peace.

"From Paris an unlikely podium from which to sermonize Jefferson preached frugality, temperance, and the simple life of the American farmer. Buy nothing whatever on credit, he exhorted his countrymen, and buy only what was essential. 'The maxim of buying nothing without money in our pocket to pay for it,' he averred, 'would make of our country (Virginia) one of the happiest upon earth.'

"As Jefferson saw it, the most pernicious aspect of the postwar preoccupation with pleasure, luxury, and the ostentatious display of wealth was the irremediable damage it did to 'republican virtue.'"

But Jefferson himself amassed huge debts and lived the life of a bon vivant, spending way beyond his means. In Paris, he bought fancy clothes, collected fine wines, and acquired expensive books, furniture and artwork. It was, however, his slaves back at Monticello who paid the price for his excesses.

"Living in a style befitting a French nobleman, his small salary often in arrears, and burdened by debts to British merchants which he saw no way of paying, Jefferson was driven to financial shifts, some of which were made at the expense of his slaves. In 1787, for example, he decided to hire out some of his slaves a practice he had hitherto avoided because of the hardship it wreaked upon the slaves themselves," Miller wrote.

Exploiting His Slaves

Upon returning to the United States, Jefferson reinvented himself as a more modestly attired republican, but his tastes for the grandiose did not abate. He ordered elaborate renovations to Monticello, which deepened his debt and compelled his slaves to undertake strenuous labor to implement Jefferson's ambitious architectural designs.

Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States.

Needing to squeeze more value from his slaves, Jefferson was an aggressive master, not the gentle patrician that his apologists have long depicted.

According to historian Wiencek, Jefferson "directed his manager, Nicholas Lewis, to extract 'extraordinary exertions' of labor from the slaves to stay current with his debt payments. Some slaves had endured years of harsh treatment at the hands of strangers, for to raise cash, Jefferson had also instructed Lewis to hire out slaves. He demanded extraordinary exertions from the elderly: 'The negroes too old to be hired, could they not make a good profit by cultivating cotton?'"

Jefferson was callous as well toward his young slaves. Reviewing long-neglected records at Monticello, Wiencek noted that one plantation report to Jefferson recounted that the nail factory was doing well because "the small ones" ages 10, 11 and 12 were being whipped by overseer, Gabriel Lilly, "for truancy."

His plantation records also show that he viewed fertile female slaves as exceptionally valuable because their offspring would increase his assets and thus enable him to incur more debt. He ordered his plantation manager to take special care of these "breeding" women.

"A child raised every 2. years is of more profit than the crop of the best laboring man," Jefferson wrote. "In this, as in all other cases, providence has made our duties and our interests coincide perfectly."

According to Wiencek, "The enslaved people were yielding him a bonanza, a perpetual human dividend at compound interest. Jefferson wrote, 'I allow nothing for losses by death, but, on the contrary, shall presently take credit four per cent. per annum, for their increase over and above keeping up their own numbers.' His plantation was producing inexhaustible human assets. The percentage was predictable."

To justify this profiting off slavery, Jefferson claimed that he was merely acting in accordance with "Providence," which in Jefferson's peculiar view of religion always happened to endorse whatever action Jefferson wanted to take.

Part of that "Providence" presumably supplied him with comely slave girls such as Sally Hemings and allowed Jefferson to do his part in "breeding" his slave stock and assuring more compound profits from his investments.
(c) 2017 Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America's Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

What's 2017's Biggest Banking Fraud?
By Jim Hightower

Remember way back in time, back in the old days of... 2016? Back then, Trump was on the political stump, promising that, by gollies, he would stop Wall Street bankers from scamming and robbing consumers and workers. Where did that guy go?

To Wall Street. Once ensconced in the White House, Trump has openly betrayed us by helping the financial powers get more power to gouge. In fact, he has even put six Goldman Sachs executives in America's top economic policy positions.

For example, one obscure Goldman-Sacher named Steve Mnuchin is now honcho of the Treasury Department, overseeing America's economy. Aside from the fact that he played an ugly role in Wall Street's foreclosure frenzy, having forced some 10,000 homeowners out of their homes, Mnuchin also has an honesty problem. In submitting his statement of personal wealth to the US Senate - oops! - he failed to include $100 million in wealth that he had stashed in an offshore tax haven. Not trying to hide anything, just an oversight, he assured Senators, claiming he was confused by the Senate's "complicated" financial reporting forms.

Really? If this bigtime banker can't keep track of $100-million-worth of this own real estate assets, why trust him to handle the ultra-complex wealth of our nation. Is he lying... or just incompetent? Far from protecting us from Wall Street greed, Trump's Goldman Sachs Alumni Club is pushing so-called "reforms" to protect Wall Street from us! Their first move is to try killing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the only federal agency whose only priority is to protect common consumers from credit card gouging, bank fraud, predatory payday lenders, and other corporate thievery. Trump's reforms are the biggest fraud of all. To battle them, contact the Consumer Federation of America:
(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 blind detainee walks with a fellow immigrant at the Adelanto Detention Facility on Nov. 15, 2013, in Adelanto, California. The facility,
the largest and newest Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), detention center in California, is managed by the private GEO Group.

Trump's New Immigration Crackdown Has Private Prison Investors Salivating
By Lee Fang

Geo Group, one of the largest private prison corporations in the world, hailed President Donald Trump's newly-announced immigration plans on a call with investors Wednesday and said that even more business could be on the way if a Republican congressional proposal to expand the incarceration of certain immigrants make it into law.

"With the respect to detention services, in support of border security, we would continue to be the largest provider of detention services to the three largest government agencies, that is ICE, the Bureau of Prisons, and the U.S. Marshals Service," George Zoley, the chief executive of the company, boasted.

"With this increased and expanded approach to border security the first agency that will need additional capacity is ICE," Zoley said, referring to the administration's broad immigration orders.

The Trump administration's announcement on Tuesday that it will end so-called "catch-and-release" policies - effectively requiring longer detention times for certain undocumented immigrants arrested at the border - could bring in new business for the firm. "I believe ICE has been visiting various facilities to expand its capacity," Zoley noted. Undocumented immigrants arrested in other parts of the country will likely be detained in Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities; the firm manages 26 federal prison centers.

Responding to a question from Deutsche Bank analyst Kevin McVeigh about whether demand from government might require the firm to build out additional detention capacity, Zoley raised the prospect of "Kate's Law," legislation proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that would impose a mandatory five-year minimum sentence for aliens who illegally re-enter the country.

"If that passes, that creates certain additional bed capacity that we haven't contemplated yet," Zoley said, noting that federal officials may be "doing their planning work" to prepare for the proposal. The bill is named after Kate Steinle, who was accidentally shot in San Francisco by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a mentally ill individual who had re-entered the country after being previously deported.

Geo Group isn't the only company celebrating the Trump/GOP immigration agenda. CoreCivic, the private prison firm formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, announced on its earning call earlier this month that the firm expects new business. "When coupled with the above average rate of crossings along the southwest border, these executive orders appear likely to significantly increase the need for safe, humane, and appropriate detention bed capacity that we have available," CoreCivc chief Damon Hininger noted.

In addition, contractors that serve law enforcement say they are expecting a flood of new border security contracts. Unisys, L-3 Technologies, CACI International, and Motorola Solutions have mentioned in recent weeks that they view border security as a growth area.

"In general, we feel bullish that our focus is increasingly the focus of the new administration," said Peter Altabef, the chief executive of Unisys Corporation, on a call with financials analysts last earlier this month. "So clearly on things such as border security, which is our largest client in the federal government, I would say we've become increasingly bullish about that," he added.

Andy Teich, the president and chief executive of FLIR Systems, which makes specializes cameras used on the U.S.-Mexico border, said on a call with investors last week that he feels "pretty good" about Trump's southern border security initiatives. "Border Patrol likes us. We've got a very good reputation and track record with CBP. And I think no matter what ends up going on, if there's more money being spent on the border, it's reasonable to think that thermal imaging and FLIR will be a part of that," he added.

As we previously reported, Geo Group was one of the first large publicly-traded firms to make significant campaign contributions to the Trump election effort last year. The firm gave $50,000 to a pro-Trump Super PAC and $45,000 to the Trump campaign via its joint fundraising committee with the Republican National Committee. CoreCivic also donated $250,000 to Trump's inauguration, recent filings show.

The political investments have paid off. The stocks for both companies have rebounded substantially. After reports last year that the Obama administration might end most federal government contracting with private prison firms led to record lows, the stock price for both Geo Group and CoreCivc are again reaching new heights.
(c) 2017 Lee Fang is a journalist with a longstanding interest in how public policy is influenced by organized interest groups and money. He was the first to uncover and detail the role of the billionaire Koch brothers in financing the Tea Party movement. His interviews and research on the Koch brothers have been featured on HBO's "The Newsroom," the documentaries "Merchants of Doubt" and "Citizen Koch," as well as in multiple media outlets. He was an investigative blogger for ThinkProgress (2009-2011) and then a fellow at the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute and contributing writer for The Nation.

In 2012, he co-founded, a blog to cover political corruption that syndicates content with, Salon, National Memo,, TruthOut, and other media outlets. His work has been published by VICE, The Baffler, The Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Progressive, NPR, In These Times, and The Huffington Post. His first book, "The Machine: A Field Guide to the Resurgent Right," published by The New Press, explores how the conservative right rebuilt the Republican Party and its political clout in the aftermath of President Obama's 2008 election victory. He is based in San Francisco.

This First Nation Is Still Under Boil-Water Advisory After 21 Years
Dr. David Suzuki

Neskantaga First Nation in Ontario has had to boil water since 1995. "We're over 20 years already where our people haven't been able to get the water they need to drink from their taps or to bathe themselves without getting any rashes," Neskantaga Chief Wayne Moonias told CBC News in 2015. Their water issues have yet to be resolved.

They're not alone. In fall last year, 156 drinking water advisories were in place in First Nations in Canada. More than 100 are routinely in effect-some for years or decades. According to a 2015 CBC investigation, "Two-thirds of all First Nation communities in Canada have been under at least one drinking water advisory at some time in the last decade."

Water advisories vary in severity. A "boil water advisory" means residents must boil water before using it for drinking or bathing. "Do not consume" means water is not safe to drink or consume and a "do not use advisory" means water is unsafe for any human use.

Water on First Nations reserves is a federal responsibility, but "severe underfunding" (in the government's own words) for water treatment plants, infrastructure, operations, maintenance and training has led to this deplorable situation. Canada has no federal standards or binding regulations governing First Nations' drinking water.

After years of pressure from First Nations and Indigenous and social justice organizations, the Liberal party promised in its 2015 election campaign to end all First Nations' long-term drinking water advisories within five years of being elected. In 2016, the new government's budget included $1.8 billion over five years, on top of core funding for First Nations' water infrastructure, operations and management. Funds have gone to help Neskantaga and other communities, but money's not enough. If the federal government is to fulfill its commitment to ending advisories in five years, it must reform its system.

The David Suzuki Foundation and Council of Canadians have published a report card rating government's progress on meeting its commitment in nine First Nations in Ontario, which has the highest number of water advisories in Canada. The Glass half empty? report found advisories in three communities have been lifted or will likely be lifted within five years.

Efforts are underway in three other communities, but uncertainty lingers about whether they'll succeed within the five-year period. Three others are unlikely to have advisories lifted within five years without reformed processes and procedures. And in one community that had its advisory lifted, new drinking water problems emerged, illustrating the need for sustainable, long-term solutions.

It's unacceptable that so many First Nations lack clean water and face serious water-related health risks-especially for children and the elderly-in a country where many people take abundant fresh water for granted. The United Nations recognizes access to clean water and sanitation as a human right and Canada has further obligations under the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The report card concludes that the system for addressing unsafe drinking water is overly cumbersome and must be streamlined, First Nations must be have more decision-making power to address community-specific drinking water issues and government must increase transparency around progress and budgetary allocations. It calls on government to redouble its efforts to advance First Nations-led initiatives, fulfill its fiduciary responsibility to First Nations, respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ensure the human right to safe and clean drinking water.

The federally funded Safe Water Project is one example of a First Nations-led approach. The Keewaytinook Okimakanak Tribal Council started the initiative in 2014 in response to long-term advisories in four of six member nations. The project keeps management at the community level and includes training and certification of local water operators, operational support while local water operators pursue certification and remote water quality monitoring technology.

The project's success illustrates the benefits of a local approach. Community-specific, traditional and cultural knowledge are integral to developing lasting solutions. Because the federal government holds the purse strings, it calls most of the shots and often overlooks knowledge held by community members. This needs to change.

Clean drinking water on reserves is not just an Indigenous issue. It's a human right and it should concern all of us.
(c) Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

Alexander Acosta talks to reporters during a news conference in Miami on January 16, 2008.

Trump's Labor Pick Has a History of Attacking Voting Rights
Alexander Acosta was once accused of undermining the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Now he could become secretary of labor.
By John Nichols

The essential battleground state of the 2004 presidential campaign was Ohio, and as the election approached, supporters of embattled President George W. Bush announced an exceptionally controversial scheme to station citizen "challengers" at polling places. As a Brennan Center for Justice report explained, "Only a few weeks before Election Day, the Ohio Republican Party announced its plan to deploy thousands of citizen challengers across the state, mostly in African-American voting precincts. The announcement led to multiple voting rights lawsuits and sparked a media firestorm."

The firestorm ultimately led Ohio Republicans to abandon their initial plan. But, as the Brennan Center analysts noted, "the ensuing controversy shined a national spotlight on the disruptions that partisan and discriminatory challenge efforts can cause."

It also shined a light on Alexander Acosta, President Trump's latest nominee to serve as secretary of labor, and the first Latino to be tapped by the president as a cabinet pick. Acosta is an experienced government hand, who has a long history of working the conservative Republican side of the aisle. After finishing Harvard Law School, he clerked for future Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito, who was then serving as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and as a senior fellow with the right-leaning Ethics and Public Policy Center. Acosta served briefly as a Bush appointee to the National Labor Relations Board, and then was appointed by Bush as the assistant attorney general with responsibility for leading the US Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division.

It was in that latter role that Acosta intervened in a pair of lawsuits brought by Ohio civil-rights activists who objected that the Ohio law that permitted the challenging of the right of voters to cast their ballots was unconstitutional.

Former Justice Department officials say the Ohio letter amounted to "cheerleading for the Republican defendants."

So-called "challenge statutes" have long been a subject of controversy. A 2012 Demos study referred to "bullies at the ballot box" measures, arguing that "There is a real danger that voters will face overzealous volunteers who take the law into their own hands to target voters they deem suspect. But there is no place for bullies at the ballot box." The Brennan Center has warned that "When challenges are used improperly, they can have the effect of intimidating voters or suppress voter participation."

One lawsuit filed by Donald and Marian Spencer, a pair of veteran civil-rights activists from the Cincinnati area, argued that Ohio's 1886 "challenge statute" was "a vestige of 'Jim Crow' laws and created the possibility of disenfranchising a voter without due process of law."

Acosta cannot have been unfamiliar with these concerns. Yet the assistant attorney general dispatched what the Los Angeles Times referred to as "an unusual letter brief supporting the statute." Acosta's letter urged the judge to uphold the "challenge statute" in order to maintain "the balance between ballot access and ballot integrity." "Challenge statutes, such as those at issue in Ohio, are part of this balance," claimed Acosta. "They are intended to allow citizens and election officials, who have information pertinent to the crucial determination of whether an individual possesses all of the necessary qualifiers to being able to vote, to place that information before the officials charged with making such determinations."

The Acosta's letter also argued that "nothing in the Voting Rights Act facially condemns challenge statutes" because "a challenge statute permitting objections based on United States citizenship, residency, precinct residency, and legal voting age like those at issue here are not subject to facial challenge... under the Act because these qualifications are not tied to race."

In fact, as the LA Times noted, "David Maume, a sociologist at the University of Cincinnati, testified that demographic data demonstrated that a disproportionate number of Republican challengers would be placed in precincts that were predominantly African American. Maume told the judge that his analysis found that 77 percent of black voters in Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is the largest city, could face a Republican challenger on Election Day, while only 25% of white voters could encounter a challenger."

Alphonse Gerhardstein, the civil-rights lawyer who represented Donald and Marian Spencer, described the letter as "highly irregular" and noted that "The Justice Department is not a party to the case. They have not filed a motion to intervene in the case or filed an amicus brief.... They volunteered information that goes beyond any federal interest. It's startling to say that challengers can bring information to [the official] poll watchers. That presumes they will bring in outside information. If you are a poll watcher, how are you going to evaluate that information on the spot?"

In 2007, the former chief of the Voting Section of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, Joseph Rich, referred to the 2004 moves by the Ohio Republicans as a "vote caging" scheme. (The Brennan Center has described voter caging as "a notoriously unreliable means of calling the voter rolls into question [that] can lead to unwarranted purges or challenges of eligible citizens. When it is targeted at minority voters [as it often is, unfortunately], it is also illegal.")

Robert Kengle, the deputy chief of the Voting Section, said he left his position because of the extreme politicization of the department during the time of Acosta's leadership. Kengle said the controversial letter brief in the Ohio case amounted to "cheerleading for the Republican defendants." "It was doubly outrageous because the allegation in the litigation was that these were overwhelmingly African-American voters that were on the challenge list," he explained to the McClatchy Newspapers DC bureau, which reported in 2007 that "Former Justice Department civil rights officials and election watchdog groups charge that [Acosta's] letter sided with Republicans engaging in an illegal, racially motivated tactic known as 'vote-caging' in a state that would be pivotal in delivering President Bush a second term in the White House."

McClatchy reported that "Acosta's letter is among a host of allegedly partisan Justice Department voting rights positions."

The issues raised by "challenge statutes" and "voter caging" remain a profound concern, and the subject of legal debates, as does Acosta's tenure with the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division.

Minutes after Trump announced Acosta's nomination to serve as Labor Secretary, Wade Henderson, the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said "it is incumbent upon the Senate to conduct a thorough review of Alexander Acosta's record."

Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke said she was "astonished by the nomination of Alexander Acosta to serve as Secretary of the US Department of Labor."

"Mr. Acosta led the Civil Rights Division at a time that was marked by stark politicization, and other improper hiring and personnel decisions that were fully laid to bare in a 2008 report issued by the Office of Inspector General (OIG)," said Clarke. "The OIG found that actions taken during Mr. Acosta's tenure violated Justice Department policy and federal law. Political and ideological affiliations were used as a litmus test to evaluate job candidates and career attorneys, wreaking havoc on the work of the Division. This egregious conduct played out under Mr. Acosta's watch and undermined the integrity of the Civil Rights Division. It is hard to believe that Mr. Acosta would now be nominated to lead a federal agency tasked with promoting lawful hiring practices and safe workplaces."
(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.

The work of James Baldwin, pictured here in 1969, is as relevant today as in his time. The essayist, novelist, poet and social critic died in 1987.

James Baldwin And The Meaning Of Whiteness
By Chris Hedges

Raoul Peck's "I Am Not Your Negro" is one of the finest documentaries I have ever seen-I would have stayed in the theater in New York to see the film again if the next showing had not been sold out. The newly released film powerfully illustrates, through James Baldwin's prophetic work, that the insanity now gripping the United States is an inevitable consequence of white Americans' steadfast failure to confront where they came from, who they are and the lies and myths they use to mask past and present crimes. Baldwin's only equal as a 20th century essayist is George Orwell. If you have not read Baldwin you probably do not fully understand America. Especially now.

History "is not the past," the film quotes Baldwin as saying. "History is the present. We carry our history with us. To think otherwise is criminal."

The script is taken from Baldwin's notes, essays, interviews and letters, with some of the words delivered in Baldwin's voice from audio recordings and televised footage, some of them in readings by actor Samuel L. Jackson. But it is not, finally, the poetry and lyricism of Baldwin that make the film so moving. It is Peck's understanding of the core of Baldwin's message to the white race, a message that is vital to grasp as we struggle with an overt racist as president, mass incarceration, poverty gripping half the country and militarized police murdering unarmed black men and women in the streets of our cities.

Whiteness is a dangerous concept. It is not about skin color. It is not even about race. It is about the willful blindness used to justify white supremacy. It is about using moral rhetoric to defend exploitation, racism, mass murder, reigns of terror and the crimes of empire.

"The American Negro has the great advantage of having never believed the collection of myths to which white Americans cling: that their ancestors were all freedom-loving heroes, that they were born in the greatest country the world has ever seen, or that Americans are invincible in battle and wise in peace, that Americans have always dealt honorably with Mexicans and Indians and all other neighbors or inferiors, that American men are the world's most direct and virile, that American women are pure," Baldwin wrote. "Negroes know far more about white Americans than that; it can almost be said, in fact, that they know about white Americans what parents-or, anyway, mothers-know about their children, and that they very often regard white Americans that way. And perhaps this attitude, held in spite of what they know and have endured, helps to explain why Negroes, on the whole, and until lately, have allowed themselves to feel so little hatred. The tendency has really been, insofar as this was possible, to dismiss white people as the slightly mad victims of their own brainwashing."

America was founded on the genocidal slaughter of indigenous people and the holocaust of slavery. It was also founded on an imagined moral superiority and purity. The fact that dominance of others came, and still comes, from unrestrained acts of violence is washed out of the national narrative. The steadfast failure to face the truth, Baldwin warned, perpetuates a kind of collective psychosis. Unable to face the truth, white Americans stunt and destroy their capacity for self-reflection and self-criticism. They construct a world of dangerous, self-serving fantasy. Those who imbibe the myth of whiteness externalize evil-their own evil-onto their victims. Racism, Baldwin understood, is driven by moral bankruptcy, narcissism, an inner loneliness and latent guilt. Donald Trump and most of those around him exhibit all of these characteristics.

"If Americans were not so terrified of their private selves, they would never have needed to invent and could never have become so dependent on what they still call 'the Negro problem,' " Baldwin wrote. "This problem, which they invented in order to safeguard their purity, has made of them criminals and monsters, and it is destroying them; and this not from anything blacks may or may not be doing but because of the role a guilty and constricted white imagination has assigned to the blacks."

"People pay for what they do, and, still more for what they allowed themselves to become," Baldwin went on. "And they pay for it very simply by the lives they lead. The crucial thing, here, is that the sum of these individual abdications menaces life all over the world. For, in the generality, as social and moral and political and sexual entities, white Americans are probably the sickest and certainly the most dangerous people, of any color, to be found in the world today."

Footage in the Peck documentary of past murder cases including the 1955 lynching of the 14-year-old Emmett Till is interspersed with the modern-day lynching of young black men such as Michael Brown and Freddie Gray. Images of white supremacist parades from the 1960s, with young men carrying signs proclaiming "Keep America White," shift directly to footage of Ferguson, Mo. This juxtaposition is almost too much to bear. If it does not shake you to the core you have no heart and no understanding of who we are in America.

The film begins with Baldwin's 1957 return from France, where he had been living for almost a decade. He comes back to join the nascent civil rights movement. He was deeply disturbed by a photograph of Dorothy Counts, 15, surrounded by a mob of whites spitting and screaming racial slurs as she walked into a newly desegregated high school in Charlotte, N.C.

"I could simply no longer sit around Paris discussing the Algerian and the black American problem," he said. "Everybody was paying their dues, and it was time I went home and paid mine."

In short, he returned to the United States so that black children like Dorothy Counts would not have to walk alone through a sea of racial hatred.

He spoke and participated in hundreds of events for the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, however, largely held him at arm's length. Baldwin was too independent and outspoken about the truth. His words made King's Northern white liberal supporters uncomfortable. Baldwin was supposed to speak at the 1963 March on Washington, but King and the other leaders of the march replaced him with the actor Burt Lancaster. Baldwin steadfastly refused to be anyone's "negro."

Baldwin was, like Orwell, an astute critic of modern culture and how it justifies the crimes of racism and imperialism. In his book "The Devil Finds Work" he pits Hollywood's vision of race against the reality. The Peck documentary shows clips from films Baldwin critiqued in the book including "The Birth of a Nation" (a 1915 movie Baldwin called "an elaborate justification of mass murder"), "Dance, Fools, Dance" (1931), "The Monster Walks" (1932), "King Kong" (1933), "Imitation of Life" (1934), "They Won't Forget" (1937), "Stagecoach" (1939), "The Defiant Ones" (1958), "Lover Come Back" (1961), "A Raisin in the Sun" (1961) and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (1967). In film after film Baldwin pointed to the ingrained racial stereotypes of African-Americans in popular culture that sustain the lie of whiteness.

Blacks were, and often still are, portrayed by mass culture as lazy and childlike, therefore needing white parental supervision and domination, or as menacing and violent sexual predators who needed to be eliminated. These Hollywood stereotypes, Baldwin knew, existed as foils for an imagined white purity, decency and innocence. They buttressed the myth of a nation devoted to the ideals of justice, liberty and democracy. The oppressed, because of their supposed character defects, were the architects of their own oppression. Oppression was for their own good. Racism was a form of benevolence. Baldwin warned that not facing these lies would see America consume itself.

In "The Devil Finds Work" Baldwin also wrote about the film "A Tale of Two Cities" (1935). He had read the novel by Charles Dickens "obsessively" as a boy to understand "the question of what it meant to be a nigger." This novel and other novels he consumed, such as "Crime and Punishment," spoke of the oppressed. He knew that the oppression of the characters in these stories had "something to do with my own." The books "had something to tell me." He wrote:

I was haunted, for example, by Alexandre Manette's document, in A Tale of Two Cities, describing the murder of a peasant boy-who, dying, speaks: "I say, we were so robbed, and hunted, and were made so poor, that our father told us it was a dreadful thing to bring a child into this world, and that what we should most pray for was that our women might be barren and our miserable race die out!" ("I had never before," observes Dr. Manette, "seen the sense of being oppressed, bursting forth like a fire.")

Dickens has not seen it all. The wretched of the earth do not decide to become extinct, they resolve, on the contrary, to multiply: life is their only weapon against life, life is all that they have. This is why the dispossessed and starving will never be convinced (though some may be coerced) by the population-control programs of the civilized. I have watched the dispossessed and starving laboring in the fields which others own with their transistor radios at their ear, all day long: so they learn, for example, along with equally weighty matters, that the Pope, one of the heads of the civilized world, forbids to the civilized that abortion which is being, literally, forced on them, the wretched. The civilized have created the wretched quite coldly, and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever and wherever they decide that their "vital interests" are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a man to death; these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the "sanctity" of human life, or the "conscience" of the civilized world. There is a "sanctity" involved with bringing a child into this world: it is better than bombing one out of it. Dreadful indeed it is to see a starving child, but the answer to that is not to prevent the child's arrival but to restructure the world so that the child can live in it: so that the "vital interest" of the world becomes nothing less than the life of the child.

Nearly all African-Americans carry within them white blood, usually the result of white rape. White slaveholders routinely sold mixed-race children-their own children-into slavery. Baldwin knew the failure to acknowledge the melding of the black and white races that can be seen in nearly every African-American face, a melding that makes African-Americans literally the brothers and sisters of whites. African-Americans, Baldwin wrote, are the "bastard" children of white America. They constitute a peculiarly and uniquely American race.

"The truth is this country does not know what to do with its black population," he said. "Americans can't face the fact that I am flesh of their flesh."

White supremacy is not defined, he wrote, by intelligence or virtue. The white race continues to dominate other races because it has always controlled the most efficient killing mechanisms on the planet. It used, and uses, its industrial weapons to carry out mass murder, genocide, subjugation and exploitation, whether on slave plantations, on the Trail of Tears, at Wounded Knee, in the Philippines and Vietnam, in cities such as Baltimore and Ferguson or in our endless wars across the Middle East.

The true credo of the white race is we have everything, and if you try to take any of it from us we will kill you. This is the essential meaning of whiteness. As the white race turns on itself in an age of diminishing resources it is in the vital interest of the white underclass to understand what its elites and its empire are actually about. These lies, Baldwin warned, will ultimately have fatal consequences for America.

"There are days, this is one of them, when you wonder what your role is in this country and what your future is in it," Baldwin said. "How precisely you're going to reconcile yourself to your situation here and how you are going to communicate to the vast, heedless, unthinking, cruel white majority that you are here. I'm terrified at the moral apathy-the death of the heart-which is happening in my country. These people have deluded themselves for so long that they really don't think I'm human."
(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

Restricting People's Use Of Their Courts
Ralph Nader

In not so merry old medieval England, wrongful injuries between people either were suffered in silence or provoked revenge. Cooler heads began to prevail and courts of law were opened so such disputes over compensation and other remedies could be adjudicated under trial by jury.

Taken across the Atlantic to the colonies, this system -called tort law or the law of wrongful injuries -evolved steadily to open the courtroom door until the nineteen seventies. It was then that the insurance industry and other corporate lobbies began pushing one restriction after another through state legislatures-not restrictions on corporations' rights to sue, but restrictions on the rights of ordinary people to have their day in court.

Lawmakers, whose campaign coffers were stuffed by corporate lobbyists, were not concerned about advancing their passing rules that arbitrarily tied the hands of judges and jurors-the same judges and jurors who were the only people to see, hear and evaluate individual cases in their courtrooms. Legislation imposing caps on damages -as with California's $250,000 lifetime cap on pain and suffering -was especially cruel for those victims of medical malpractice who were young, unemployed or elderly and thus do not have significant enough wage losses to receive sufficient damages.

In recent decades, the nonsense about our society being too litigious (except for business vs business lawsuits) has become even more extreme. Not only do we file far fewer civil lawsuits per capita than in the 1840s, according to studies by University of Wisconsin law professors, but jury trials have been declining in both federal and state courts, with trials down by 60% since the mid-1980s.

My father used say that "if people do not use their rights, they will over time lose their rights. This truism brings us to a new book by University of Connecticut Law Professor Alexander Lahav, with the title In Praise of Litigation (Oxford University Press). The title invokes the necessity of legal recourse in a society whose ordinary people are being squeezed out of their day in court, being denied justice, and are becoming cynical enough to want to get out of jury duty-a right for which our forebears demanded from King George III.

Professor Lahav makes the point we should have learned in high school, or at least college. The right to litigate is critical to any democratic society. Imagine living in a country where no one can sue powerful wrongdoers or the government. We have names for countries like that. They're called dictatorships or tyrannies.

Here is author Lahav's summary: "Litigation is a civilized response to the difficult disagreements that often crop up in a pluralist society. The process of litigation does more than resolve disputes: it contributes to democratic deliberation. This is the key to understanding what this process is supposed to be about and what should be done to improve it. By appreciating the democratic values people protect and promote when they sue -enforcement of the law, transparency, participation and social equality -reformers can work toward a court system that is truly democracy promoting."

It would be more reassuring if more judges reflected those words. Were that the case, they would be fighting harder to expand the shrinking court budgets (about two percent of state budgets) that are increasingly causing civil trials to be deferred or courtrooms to be temporarily closed. Tighter budgets lead judges to excessively pressure lawyers to settle or go to arbitration. The latter is a malicious inequity between consumers, workers and other people unequal in power vis-a-vis big corporations like Wells Fargo, Exxon/Mobil, Pfizer and Aetna, who force consumers to sign fine print contracts that limit people's rights to use the courts.

The usual sally against praising civil litigation is the claim of too many frivolous suits. Whenever Richard Newman, the Executive Director of the American Museum of Tort Law, hears that asserted, he asks for examples. They are not forthcoming. For good reason. Litigation is expensive; lawyers have to guard their reputations and judges, who largely lean to the conservative side, are in charge of their courtrooms. They are quite ready to approve motions to dismiss a case or summary judgments.

We have to take a greater interest in our courts. They are open to the public for a reason. Students need to visit them and understand what the burdens are on courts, and how our civil justice system can be improved. When I ask assemblies of students if they have ever visited a court as a spectator, hardly one in ten raise a hand.

Courts should not be places of case overloads and long delays. They should be welcoming temples of justice where judge and jurors engage in reasoned deliberation for the advancement of justice as part of a functioning democracy. The demands for justice are such in our country that courts should have more judges, more juries and more trials.

As the great judge, Learned Hand, wisely wrote "If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: Thou shalt not ration justice."
(c) 2017 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book is Unstoppable, and "Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us" (a novel).

Gambling On The Darkness After Trump
By Jane Stillwater

I'm still here in Las Vegas, covered in neon and surrounded by false hopes. But still and all, riding up and down The Strip in the front seat of the Deuce bus at night is magical, almost like Christmas; there are that many colored lights.

But the towering Trump building here, rather like Trump's foreign policy, is pretty much in darkness at this point. Why is that? Some say that it is because he forgot to apply for a casino license. I should wander over there tomorrow and find out.

Many of the things that President Trump is doing right now are also foolhardy, forgetful and half-baked. Many of the things that he is doing right now are also divisive, dangerous and even downright un-Christian and mean. However, he is doing one important thing right -- he is going after the CIA.

You remember the CIA, don't you? The folks who gave us the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam debacle, the tortured nightmares of African and Latin American dictatorships one after another and that tragic mess in the Middle East.

I wouldn't put it past the CIA to have had a hand in creating 9-11 either but still can't prove it -- at this point.

So. Trump stands up to the CIA. Gotta give him snaps for that. But going against the CIA is now (and always has been) a big fat no-no inside the Beltway, and so Trump will have to pay for his mistake -- hopefully not with his life. Hopefully his sudden retirement will not involve plutonium or shoes made out of cement.

And then suddenly Trump will be gone. Just like that. And then the American media will be all cheering at the top of its lungs -- gambling on the mistaken idea that what comes after Trump will be better than him. That the CIA and the Deep State will suddenly start being kind to both us peons and to American democracy once Trump is gone.

But, as they say in Las Vegas, that will be one sucker bet.
(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...

"The word Politics, comes from the Latin, 'Poli' meaning 'Many' and from the English 'Tics' meaning 'Blood Sucking Creatures,' Poli-Tics."
~~~ Uncle Ernie ~ 1971

Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
By David Swanson

Those of us who consider it disgraceful to have a giant statue of Robert E. Lee on his horse in a park in the middle of Charlottesville, and another of Stonewall Jackson for that matter, should try to understand those who think removing one of these statues is an outrage.

I don't claim to understand them, and certainly don't suggest they all think alike. But there are certain recurring themes if you listen to or read the words of those who think Lee should stay. They're worth listening to. They're human. They mean well. They're not crazy.

First, let's set aside the arguments we're not trying to understand.

Some of the arguments being passed around are not central to this attempt at understanding the other side. For example, the argument that moving the statue costs money, is not what I'm interested in here. I don't think cost concerns are driving most of the support for the statue. If we all agreed that removing the statue was important, we would find the money. Simply donating the statue to a museum or to some city where Lee actually lived would quite possibly produce a new owner willing to pay for the transport. Heck, donate it to the Trump Winery and they'd probably pick it up by next Thursday.(1)

True, if the statue is simply moved to a different Charlottesville park, Charlottesville will have to pay, and that money could have gone to creating a new park with monuments to peace and civil rights, etc. Perhaps there are people for whom this really is the central argument. Perhaps they are also consistent in their frugality and put up the same struggle against billion dollar highways and trillion dollar militaries. Perhaps the announcements of how much good could be done for the poor with the money that could be spent to move a statue are being made by some people with a history of caring about the poor. We'll save trying to understand them for another time.

Also tangential here is the argument that removing a statue erases history. Surely few of these history fanatics protested when the U.S. military tore down the statue of Saddam Hussein. Wasn't he part of Iraqi history? Hadn't the CIA meant well and gone to great efforts in helping to put him in power? Hadn't a company in Virginia provided him with important materials for making chemical weapons? Good or bad, history shouldn't be torn down and erased!

Actually, nobody's saying that. Nobody's valuing any and all history. Few are admitting that ugly parts of history are history at all. People are valuing a particular bit of history. The question is: why? Surely history supporters don't believe that the 99.9% of Charlottesville history not represented in monumental statuary has been erased. Why must this bit of history be monumental?

There may be those whose historical concern is simply for the past 90 years or so of the statue being there in the park. Its existence there is the history they are concerned about, perhaps. Perhaps they don't want it changed simply because that's the way it's been. I have some sympathy for that perspective, but it has to be applied selectively. Should we keep a half-built frame of a hotel on the downtown mall because my kids have never known anything else? Was history destroyed by creating the downtown mall in the first place? What I'm interested in trying to understand is not why people want nothing to change. Nobody wants nothing to change. Rather, I want to understand why they don't want this particular thing to change.

Here's what I think we should try to understand.

Supporters of the Lee statue whom I've spoken with or read or been yelled at by think of themselves as "white." This is important to them. They belong to the white race or the white ethnicity or the white group of people. They don't -- or at least some of them don't -- think of this as a cruel thing. They see many other groups of people engaged in what some 40 years ago was intentionally described by its participants as "identity politics." They see Black History Month and wonder why they cannot have a White History Month. They see affirmative action. They read about calls for reparations. They believe that if other groups are going to identify themselves by superficial visible features, they ought to be allowed to do so too.

On Thursday Jason Kessler, a blogger seeking to remove City Councilman Wes Bellamy from office, described the Robert E. Lee statue as being "of ethnic significance to southern whites." No doubt, he thinks, and no doubt he's right, that if there were a statue in Charlottesville of a non-white person or a member of some historically oppressed minority group, a proposal to remove it would be met with cries of outrage at the violation of something of value to a particular group -- any group other than "whites."

One might ask Mr. Kessler to consider the significance of the fact that there actually are no statues of non-white people in Charlottesville, unless you count Sacagawea kneeling like a dog beside Lewis and Clark. Or you might ask how his condemnations of political correctness fit with his denunciation of Wes Bellamy for old comments hateful toward gays and women. But what I'm asking you to ask, instead, is whether you can sense where Kessler or the people who read his blog may be coming from.

They denounce "the double standards" that they perceive all around them. Whether you think those standards don't exist, or think they're justified, it is clear that a lot of people do think they exist and are convinced they are not justified.

One of my professors when I was at UVA many years ago penned some thoughts that were widely cited a couple of months ago as having been a prediction of Donald Trump. This professor, Richard Rorty, asked why struggling white people seemed to be the one group liberal academics didn't care about. Why is there no trailer park studies department, he asked. Everyone thought that was funny, then and now. But an anything else studies department -- any race, ethnicity, or other identity, except white -- is very serious and solemn. Surely ending bigotry of all sorts is a good thing, he seemed to say, but meanwhile a handful of billionaires are gathering up most of the wealth of this country and the world, while most everybody else is struggling, and somehow it's acceptable to make fun of accents or teeth as long as it's white people you're mocking. So long as liberals focus on identity politics to the exclusion of policies that benefit everyone, the door will be open to a white supremacist strongman offering solutions, credible or otherwise. Thus opined Rorty long ago.

Kessler may see a bit more injustice out there than actually exists. He thinks that radical Islamic, mentally disturbed U.S. veterans are neglected until they engage in shooting sprees because of fear of political correctness. I highly doubt it. I've never heard of many mentally disturbed veterans who weren't neglected. A tiny percentage have any interest in radical Islam, and it is exclusively those, who seem to end up on Kessler's blog. But his point seems to be that there are non-white people who do horrible things, and that it is frowned on to make cruel generalizations about them -- in a way that it is not always frowned on to make cruel generalizations about white people.

You can point to counter-trends. Numerous studies that show up only in the social media feeds of people who've read other similar studies have found that the U.S. media much prefers to cover killings by Muslims of whites than killings of Muslims by whites, and that the term "terrorist" is almost exclusively reserved for Muslims. But those are not the trends that some people are paying attention to. Instead they're noticing that critiques of racism are permitted to make generalizations about white people, that stand-up comedians are permitted to crack jokes about white people, and that identifying as a white person can put you into a historical storyline as part of the tribe that created, not only lots of fun and useful technology, but also environmental and military destruction and oppression on a brand new scale.

Once you're looking at the world this way, and your news sources are too, and your friends are too, you're likely to hear about things that show up on Kessler's blog that none of my acquaintances have ever heard of, such as the idea that U.S. colleges are generally teaching and promoting something called "white genocide." Believers in white genocide have found a single professor who claimed to support it and then claimed he was joking. I don't claim to know the truth of that matter and don't consider it acceptable as a joke or otherwise. But the guy wouldn't have had to claim he was joking if it was accepted standard practice. Nonetheless, if you believed your identity was tied up with the white race, and you believed people were trying to destroy it, you might have a negative reaction to giving Robert E. Lee the boot, I think, whether or not you considered black people inferior or favored slavery or thought wars were justifiable or anything of the sort.

Here's how Kessler thinks white people are treated, in his own words:

"SJWs [apparently this stands for "social justice warriors"] always say that all white people have 'privilege', a magical and immaterial substance that belittles our hardships and dismisses all of our achievements. Everything we've ever achieved is portrayed as just a byproduct of our skin color. Yet, somehow with all this 'privilege' it is white America that is suffering the most from epidemic levels of depression, prescription drug abuse, heroin abuse and suicide. It is white Americans whose birthrates are precipitously declining while the hispanic population skyrockets due to illegal immigration. By comparison blacks have a higher rate of happiness. They are taught to be confident. All of the schoolbooks, entertainment and revisionist history portray them as plucky underdogs who earn everything over enormous obstacles. The whites are the only ones who are inherently evil and racist. Our great societies, inventions and military achievements are portrayed as ill-gotten and undeservedly won on the backs of others. With so much negative propaganda twisting their minds no wonder white people have so little ethnic identity, so much self-hatred and are so willing lay down and take it when anti-white bullies like Al Sharpton or Wes Bellamy want to shake them down."
So, when people in Lee Park tell me that a statue of a soldier on a horse fighting a war on the side of slavery and put there in the 1920s in a whites-only park is not racist and not pro-war, what they are saying, I think, is that they themselves are not racist or pro-war, that those are not their motivations, that they have something else in mind, such as sticking up for the mistreated white ethnicity. What they mean by "defend history" is not so much "ignore the realities of war" or "forget what the Civil War was started over" but rather "defend this symbol of white people because we're people too, we count too, we ought to get some damn respect once in a while just like People of Color and other glorified groups that beat the odds and get credit for ordinary lives as if they were heroes."


All right. That's my limited attempt to begin to understand supporters of the Lee statue, or at least one aspect of their support. Some have declared that taking down any war statue insults all veterans. Some are in fact quite openly racist. Some see the statue of a guy engaged in fighting against the United States as a matter of sacred U.S. patriotism. There are as many combinations of motivations as there are people supporting the statue. My point in looking a bit into one of their motivations is that it is understandable. Nobody likes unfairness. Nobody likes double standards. Nobody likes disrespect. Perhaps politicians feel that way too, or perhaps they just exploit others who do, or perhaps a little of both. But we should continue trying to understand what people we disagree with care about, and to let them know that we understand it, or that we're trying to.

Then, and only then, can we ask them to try to understand us. And only then can we properly explain ourselves, through grasping who it is they currently think we are. I don't fully grasp this, I admit. I'm not much of a Marxist and am unsure why Kessler constantly refers to opponents of the statue as Marxists. Certainly Marx was a Union partisan, but nobody's asking for a General Grant statue, not that I've heard. It seems to me that a lot of what Kessler means by "Marxist" is "un-American," bitterly opposed to the U.S. Constitution, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington and all that is sacred.

But which parts? If I applaud the separation of church and state, the limited executive, the power of impeachment, the popular vote, and limited federal power, but am not a fan of the Supreme Court, the Senate, slavery, winner-take-all elections without ranked choice voting, or the lack of protections for the environment, am I a Marxist or not? I suspect it comes down to this: am I labeling the Founders as fundamentally evil or basically good? In fact, I'm not doing either of those things, and I'm not doing either of them for the white race either. I can try to explain.

When I joined in a chant of "White supremacy's got to go" recently in Lee Park, a white man demanded of me: "Well, what are you?" To him I looked white. But I identify as human. That doesn't mean that I pretend to live in a post-racial world where I neither suffer the lack of affirmative action nor benefit from the very real privileges of looking "white" and having had parents and grandparents who benefitted from college funding and bank loans and all kinds of government programs that were denied to non-whites. Rather, it means that I think of myself as a fellow member in the group called humans. That's the group I root for. That's the group I hope survives the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the warming of the climate. That's the group I want to see overcome hunger and disease and all forms of suffering and inconvenience. And it includes every single person who calls themselves white and every single person who does not.

So, I don't feel the white guilt that Kessler thinks people are trying to impose on him. I don't feel it because I don't identify with George Washington any more than I identify with the men and women he enslaved or the soldiers he whipped or the deserters he killed or the native people he slaughtered. I don't identify with him any less than with those other people either. I don't deny all of his merits because of all of his faults, either.

On the other hand, I don't get to feel white pride. I feel human guilt and pride as a human, and that includes a great deal. "I am large," wrote Walt Whitman, as much a Charlottesville resident and influence as Robert E. Lee. "I contain multitudes."

If someone were to put up a monument in Charlottesville that white people found offensive, I would object vigorously to that monument, because white people are people, like any other people. I would demand that that monument be taken down.

Instead, we happen to have a monument that many of us humans, and people who profess other identities, including African American, find offensive. So, I object vigorously to this monument. We should not engage in what many perceive as hurtful hate-speech because others deem it to be of "ethnic significance." Pain outweighs moderate appreciation, not because of who feels is, but because it is more powerful.

If someone were to make a monument of some old hateful tweet from Wes Bellamy -- and my understanding is that he would be the last to suggest such a thing -- it wouldn't matter how many people thought it was nice. It would matter how many people thought it was painfully cruel.

A statue that symbolizes racism and war to a great many of us has an enormously negative value. To respond that it has "ethnic significance to southern whites" as if it were a traditional soup recipe misses the point.

The United States has a very divisive history, dating perhaps from Mr. Jefferson's two-party system, through the Civil War, and right on into identity politics. While Kessler claims African Americans are happier, and that Latinos are not happier but somehow winning through immigration, no U.S. groups record the levels of happiness found in Scandinavia, where, Marxistly or otherwise, there is no affirmative action, no reparations, no targeted benefits, and no labor unions out for the interests of their members alone, but rather public programs that benefit everyone equally and thus gain widespread support. When college and healthcare and retirement are free for everyone, few resent them or the taxes paid to receive them. When taxes fund wars and billionaires and some piddly handouts to particular groups, even the biggest fans of wars and billionaires will tend to view taxes as the primary enemy. If Marx ever figured that out, I'm unaware of it.

I'm willing to concede that supporters of the statue are not all pushing racism or war. But are they willing to try to understand the perspective of those whose parents recall being kept out of Lee Park because they were not white, or to consider the viewpoint of those who understand the war to have been fought for the expansion of slavery, or to take into account what many of us feel heroic war statues do for the promotion of yet more wars?

If seeing black people praised in a movie like Hidden Figures is difficult for someone who identifies as white, what does being excluded from a park for being black feel like? What does losing your arm feel like? What does losing half your town and all your loved ones feel like?

The question of whether the Washington Redskins should be renamed is not a question of whether the quarterback is a jerk or the team has a glorious history, but whether the name offends millions of us, as it does. The question of whether to send General Lee off on the horse he never rode in on is not a question about the people whom the statue doesn't deeply disturb, but about all of us whom it does deeply disturb.

As someone who objects as much to the war element of the statue as to the race question, and who objects to the dominance of war monuments, to the virtual exclusion of anything else, on the Charlottesville landscape, I think we all have to try to imagine the viewpoint of some other people as well. Ninety-six percent of humanity lives outside the United States. Have we asked Charlottesville's Sister Cities what they think of Charlottesville's war statues?

The United States dominates the war business, the sale of weapons to other nations, the sale of weapons to poor nations, the sale of weapons to the Middle East, the deployment of troops abroad, spending on its own military, and the number of wars engaged in. It is not a secret in much of the world that the United States is (as Martin Luther King Jr. put it) the greatest purveyor of violence on earth. The United States has the most widespread imperial presence, has been the most prolific over-thrower of governments, and from 1945 to 2017 has been the killer of the most people through war. If we were to ask people in the Philippines or Korea or Vietnam or Afghanistan or Iraq or Haiti or Yemen or Libya or so many other countries whether they think U.S. cities should have more or fewer war monuments, what do we think they would say? Is it none of their business? Perhaps, but typically they are bombed in the name of something called democracy. ## (1) Of course, we might end up footing the bill through federal or state instead of local taxes, if the Trump Winery used the National Guard to move the thing, but according to the Charlottesville Police that wouldn't bother us as much -- why else explain to us that having a mine-resistant armored vehicle is OK because it was "free"?
(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.

Weaving The Threads Of Resistance
By Randall Amster

Good morning America, and welcome to those proverbial "interesting times." We have a so-called President seemingly coming unhinged in public, a dystopian aura infusing politics at every level, a resurgence of hatred made safe by irresponsible rhetoric, and a cultural fascination with misdirection and blatant untruths. At the same time, there's a burgeoning opposition movement contesting every brick in the apocalyptic wall, mobilizing in the streets and through its tweets alike, constituting a potential political counterforce-perhaps not only in this moment, but for the foreseeable future.

With football and baseball both on hiatus now, the national pastime seems to have swung to watching the unraveling of this Administration and the fantastic foibles of its terrific protagonist. This has all been a boon to the major media outlets, as well as to the Saturday night satirists and their ilk. It's also a familiar posture for the general public to be in, regardless of political ideology, accustomed as many people have become to consuming "reality" programming, celebrity scandals, and infotainment gossip.

But of course this is different, and the actual reality of this moment isn't really all that funny anymore. There's a reason why rates of stress and anxiety are on the rise, and why the blogosphere is buzzing nonstop. And it isn't only the political left who are fueling a resurgence of resistance right now-the pushback on the unfolding insanity is also driven by large numbers of moderates, and even some principled conservatives who can't stomach the erosion of basic liberties and established processes.

It's too soon to say how this will play out, but even some casinos may be taking action on how long the President has left in office before things fully implode. The strength of the resistance that has formed-with its marches and memes, its protests and parodies-will have something to say about this, especially if more people inside governmental structures sense that it's safe to start pushing ahead. While the courts and Congress may have the final say, it's been the people who have brought us here.

And that's an amazingly hopeful thing to consider, especially for those of us who believe deeply in "people power" and the arc of justice being bent through social movements. Yet it's also important to be cautiously optimistic about all of this, for a few reasons that are ultimately interrelated. Resistance to a perceived common threat (i.e., a mercurial and maniacal chief executive) can be a galvanizing force, but not all resistance is the same and, even more to the point, opposition alone isn't enough to save us.

Undoubtedly, the pace and furor of the Administration's descent into chaos is unprecedented in recent memory and has unified many perspectives in their joint disdain for machinations with Moscow, saber-rattling at allies, refusing to comply with basic disclosures and ethics rules, commingling the business of the state with personal business interests, appointing an unqualified cabinet, pandering to racism and sexism, and much more. This is all so objectionable that it has provided a clear focus for the resistance.

Yet things are more complex than simply a mass protest against a despotic regime. Within that struggle is another one between those who want to restore the promise of American values, and those who are pointing the compass toward a world that hasn't yet been realized. Shall we seek to return to a time when cherished values were honored, a political system of checks and balances worked seamlessly, and a social contract was upheld with equal opportunity and justice for all? Or will we chart a new course?

While we consider this, the deeply rooted existential threats of perpetual war, escalating inequality, rampant environmental degradation, and climate change remain untended and spiral further out of control. So while this particular moment is deeply troubling, perhaps it's not as divergent in the big picture as it may seem. The key issues of war/violence, inequality/injustice, and environment/climate were already marked "urgent"-and if the election had gone the other way, they would remain so.

If we're concerned about root causes and structural change, it can be hard to see a path forward under any circumstances at this point. Except, perhaps, for the emergence of a robust resistance, if it can keep the momentum going and harmonize its two primary strands into a longer-term struggle that addresses the core issues. The structures of political economy are like the ocean: tumultuous on top, but decidedly stolid underneath; if change is to be meaningful, it has to get beyond the surface and into the depths.

How can this change occur? One wing of the resistance takes the view that the system is basically sound and its processes can be used to upend a corrupt administration. Arguments from this sector often take the form of appealing to baseline American values and core principles. Its tools of advocacy frequently include calling Congress, mounting legal challenges, and working with supportive elements inside the system. Their campaigns generally focus on this President and his cadre as the root of the problem.

Another segment is more pointed in its view that the system is essentially broken and its processes have been used to oppress people through intolerance and violence. This perspective includes advocacy aimed at dismantling structures of inequality, calling out the exploitative nature of business as usual, and interrupting specific instances of injustice. Their protests will often go beyond approved marches, and their messaging might include broader concerns about the institutional roadblocks to progress.

The current Administration and President have provided an obvious point of convergence for these strands, but should the acute crisis pass in some manner (for instance, via impeachment or resignation), it's not clear that this resistance will keep marching in unison. More promisingly, some of the emerging discourse around themes of being indivisible and stronger together can help build more durable bonds, providing a potential opportunity to weave a web of related struggles that might bring real changes.

The annals of social change demonstrate the power of working across such variants, yet also the ways in which fractures can develop that undermine effective and tangible alterations. Struggle built on a framework of "the enemy of my enemy" only goes so far, even when the shared adversary in that equation is as blatantly bizarre as the one we have before us now. The task is to cultivate resilient relationships that transcend common threats by focusing on mutually beneficial ideas and solutions.

Here we find ourselves, then, poised on the cusp of history. Before us are the prospects of things going completely off the rails, or perhaps restoring a semblance of order in time, or imagining a truly better future. Yes, this Administration is a clear threat to progressive policies and traction on core issues-but even if it was suddenly removed from office tomorrow, we'd still be faced with an array of intractable existential crises and a political system that has been unable (or unwilling) to adequately address them.

Resistance in this sense isn't merely about opposition, but also about articulation and building up capacities for growth and resilience. Before us is an unprecedented moment of grave challenges and enormous opportunities; with the gears of power showing their bare teeth in full view, we can see the exposed core of baseline problems more clearly. We now have no excuses for not addressing them.

We can work together and seize this chance to restore what worked, reject what didn't, and reimagine what can be. We owe it to ourselves, those who have struggled before, and those who will inhabit the future, not to be primarily reactive and willing to settle for only cosmetic changes. Someday, hopefully, we will look back and remember this as the very moment that we wove the threads of a better world.
(c) 2017 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., is Director of the Program on Justice and Peace at Georgetown University. Among his most recent books are Anarchism Today (Praeger, 2012) and the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

The Dead Letter Office...

Scott gives the corporate salute

Heil Trump,

Dear Deputy Fuhrer Pruitt,

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 Fuhrer, Herr Trump at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 03-15-2017. We salute you Herr Pruitt, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

Why Trumponomics Fails
By Robert Reich

When Donald Trump gave a speech last Friday at Boeing's factory in North Charleston, South Carolina - unveiling Boeing's new 787 "Dreamliner" - he congratulated Boeing for building the plane "right here" in South Carolina.

It's pure fantasy. I'll let you know why in a moment.

Trump also used the occasion to tout his "America First" economics, stating "our goal as a nation must be to rely less on imports and more on products made here in the U.S.A." and "we want products made by our workers in our factories stamped by those four magnificent words, 'Made in the U.S.A.'"

To achieve this goal Trump would impose "a very substantial penalty" on companies that fired their workers and moved to another country to make a product, and then tried to sell it back to America.

The carrot would be lower taxes and fewer regulations "that send our jobs to those other countries."

Trump seems utterly ignorant about global competition - and about what's really holding back American workers.

Start with Boeing's Dreamliner itself. It's not "made in the U.S.A.." It's assembled in the United States. But most of it parts come from overseas. Those foreign parts total almost a third of the cost of the entire plane.

For example:

The Italian firm Alenia Aeronautica makes the center fuselage and horizontal stabilizers.

The French firm Messier-Dowty makes the aircraft's landing gears and doors.

The German firm Diehl Luftfahrt Elektronik supplies the main cabin lighting.

The Swedish firm Saab Aerostructures makes the cargo access doors.

The Japanese company Jamco makes parts for the lavatories, flight deck interiors and galleys.

The French firm Thales makes its electrical power conversion system.

Thales selected GS Yuasa, a Japanese firm, in 2005 to supply it with the system's lithium-ion batteries.

The British company Rolls Royce makes many of the engines.

A Canadian firm makes the moveable trailing edge of the wings.

Notably, these companies don't pay their workers low wages. In fact, when you add in the value of health and pension benefits - either directly from these companies to their workers, or in the form of public benefits to which the companies contribute - most of these foreign workers get a better deal than do Boeing's workers. (The average wage for Boeing production and maintenance workers in South Carolina is $20.59 per hour, or $42,827 a year.) They also get more paid vacation days.

These nations also provide most young people with excellent educations and technical training. They continuously upgrade the skills of their workers. And they offer universally-available health care.

To pay for all this, these countries also impose higher tax rates on their corporations and wealthy individuals than does the United States. And their health, safety, environmental, and labor regulations are stricter.

Not incidentally, they have stronger unions.

So why is so much of Boeing's Dreamliner coming from these high-wage, high-tax, high-cost places?

Because the parts made by workers in these countries are better, last longer, and are more reliable than parts made anywhere else.

There's a lesson here.

The way to make the American workforce more competitive isn't to put economic walls around America. It's to invest more and invest better in the education and skills of Americans, in on-the-job training, in a healthcare system that reaches more of us and makes sure we stay healthy. And to give workers a say in their companies through strong unions.

In other words, we get a first-class workforce by investing in the productive capacities of Americans - and rewarding them with high wages.

It's the exact opposite of what Trump is proposing.

By the way, the first delivery of the Dreamliner is scheduled to take place next year - to Singapore Airlines. Current orders for it include Air France, British Airways, and Mexico's flag carrier, Aeromexico.

Boeing is also looking to China to buy as much as $1 trillion worth of its commercial airplanes over the next two decades, including wide-body jets like the 787 Dreamliner. China already accounts for a fifth of Boeing's sales.

But if Trump succeeds in putting an economic wall around America, these other nation's airlines may have second thoughts about buying from Boeing. They might choose an airplane from a country more open to their own exports - say, Europe's Airbus.

Trump's "America First" economics is pure demagoguery. Xenophobic grandstanding doesn't boost the competitiveness of American workers. Nor does it boost American-based companies.

At most, it boosts Trump.
(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 Official Obsessed Over Nuclear Apocalypse, Men's Style, Fine Wines In 40,000 Posts On Fashion Site
By Peter Maass

A senior official on President Trump's embattled National Security Council warned in previously unreported comments that it is "inevitable" an Islamic terrorist group will carry out a successful nuclear attack against the United States, and that in its aftermath, the world "will regress hundreds of years politically." The official, Michael Anton, laid out a dire scenario of multiple nuclear detonations on American soil, saying that terrorists "will, I think, wait until they can hit us with several blows at once, followed by a number of follow-on blows."

Anton, appointed as the Trump administration's senior director of strategic communications on the NSC, wrote in 2009 that he was "surprised it hasn't happened yet" and predicted that once the attacks occur, "economies will collapse - the world will revert to a kind of localsim [sic] and warlordism." He added, "If Chicago wakes up one morning and NY is simply not there any more, and some dude on Al Jazeera is saying, 'Chicago you are next!' I don't see order lasting long."

New York, he added, seems to be the most likely first target.

I think you do not fully grasp what New York represents to the Islamist Terrorist mind. It is not simply the financial capital of the US, or even of the world. It is quite simply the capital of the western world and of all modernity. It is the center and chief creator and exporter of decadence and corruption. It is quite simply, to them, the most hated place on the planet, and the most important, outside the holy cities.

Anton, who previously served in a mid-level position on the NSC in the Bush era, published a string of attention-getting essays last year that attempted to make a conservative intellectual argument for supporting Donald Trump's candidacy. Those essays, while provocative, do not seem to be nearly as controversial or apocalyptic as the comments The Intercept unearthed after receiving a tip from a reader. The comments were made on an obscure website devoted to men's fashion,, which also hosts wide-ranging discussions among its members on a variety of political topics. Anton, who previously wrote a book titled "The Suit: A Machiavellian Approach to Men's Style," posted on under the username "Manton," and his user profile listed his usual shoe width as D medium. He was exceptionally prolific: Since joining the site in 2002, he has posted more than 40,000 comments.

User profile for Manton on Screen shot:

"An all out nuclear war is not inevitable, or even likely," he wrote in a discussion thread he started about nuclear terrorism. "A regional nuclear exchange between two regional powers is more likely, but still not inevitable. A nuclear detonation in a major US or European city (or Moscow) is inevitable." He added, "Let's just say the event is overdue. People have been wanting to do it for a long time, and trying to do it for a long time. - As a general matter, anything that human beings have wanted to do badly enough, that it is physically possible to do, they have eventually found a way to do."

His concerns were so severe that he provided advice to people thinking of building their own fallout shelters.

Author of "The Suit: A Machiavellian Approach to Men's Style," Michael Anton, aka Nicholas Antongiavanni, poses in New York on May 23, 2006.

"They could be worth a great deal," Anton wrote. "If they are not underground at all, they are not worth much. [If] they are underground on even one side, their usefullness goes up by a lot. If they are surrounded by at least five feet of earth on four sides, then you are pretty much invulnerable from initial fallout - as long as you can hold out down there. - You would be better off having stored water. You never know about a water supply, it might be affected, might not. Best thing to do is to have some means of testing the water on hand. Buy it in advance and put it in the shelter."

Asked by another commenter when he thought the nuclear attack would occur, Anton responded, "Any day now."

Anton also made provocative comments about diversity and affirmative action, saying they were harmful or unfair. Writing about university affirmative action programs in the humanities and social sciences, he stated, "What actually happens today is a total, consuming obsession with 'diversity' defined solely by skin color (and to a lesser extent national origin) coupled with an even more consuming obsession with ideology." He also argued for the superiority of homogenous societies in which the population has common attributes, such as a shared language and ethnicity.

"The homogenous ones have higher trust levels, greater levels of cross family cooperation, more public spiritedness, higher levels of volunteering, charity donations, etc.," he wrote. "They are also more able and more willing to support safety nets - formal and informal - that benefit non-family members. Heterogenous societys have lower trust levels, people 'hunker down' and avoid contact with neighbors not just of other races/groups but of their own. They are more likely to concentrate solely on taking care of their own and to see taxation and other attempts to fund public goods as robbing Peter (themselves) to pay Paul (the other). Ordinary stuff does not get done or done as well. The state, with all its inefficiencies, has to be larger and more intrusive in order to make up for the lack of a thriving civil society."

The detail and apparent extremism of Anton's comments appear to go even further than much of what has already emerged from the Trump White House. The comments provide what seems to be the darkest of contexts for understanding the Trump administration's desire for radical crackdowns on immigration and Muslims in general: a fervent conviction that a civilizational apocalypse caused by Muslims is coming soon. "I look at the world and I see a whole movement of people who want to kill me, destroy my country, and end my civilization," Anton wrote to a commenter who in his view had downplayed the threat posed by Muslims. "You either don't see any of these people or you just think they are a joke. The bombs and the propaganda you alternate between taking in stride, finding pathetic, or dismissing any connection to Islam." He also told the commenter, "Entirely absent from your analysis is even the possibility that there really is an enemy that wants to do terrible things to us and change us in fundamental, illiberal ways."

Forum post from Manton. Screen shot:

Contacted for comment about his posts, Anton told The Intercept yesterday that they were akin to casual talk in a bar among friends and should not be taken as seriously as the articles he has written for real publications, which include the Weekly Standard and the Claremont Review of Books. He said is "like a dorm room environment where even people like me, who are old, can feel 19 again - that's part of the fun of it, everybody speaks in a kind of lighthearted way." He added that he knows many of the other commenters with whom he exchanged thoughts and barbs on the site, and that on the site "you don't want to sound like a Brookings Institute report every time you open your mouth."

Anton, referring to a previous story The Intercept published about him on Sunday, began the phone interview by saying, "Why are you trying to kill me?" He added, "I know it's fair game, it's out there and stuff, but it's your second hit piece on me. I'll talk to you because I think everything I've written I can defend but the fact of the matter is [I've] become some sort of Hitler figure who it's important to discredit. But you know, I'm just a mild-mannered intellectual dork." When it was noted that he is more than a dork, in fact a senior official on the National Security Council, he responded by saying there are many senior officials on the NSC. "I don't know, at least 20," he said.

The essays Anton published over the past year - one of them was titled "The Flight 93 Election" - marked him as a fervent Trump supporter with an intellectual's pedigree and an argument to go with it. Anton has a master's degree in political science from Claremont Graduate University, an incubator of conservative thought, and he provided an intellectual framework and justification for the extreme policies the new administration is trying to put into place. While there was more sweep as well as specificity in those essays than anything Trump or his adviser Steven Bannon have said or written, the 41,561 comments by Anton on Styleforum appear to provide even more details on the ideas and fears that motivate the Trump White House.

The comments also offer a jarring contrast between the protect-the-ordinary-people rhetoric of the Trump administration and the backgrounds and interests of the officials who are professing those ideas. Anton argued in his Flight 93 essay that although the "Davos class" has reaped enormous profits from the modern economic order, it was disastrous for others. But he did not put much of an emphasis on the extent to which he had personally profited: After leaving the NSC, he went into the private sector and eventually became a managing director of BlackRock, the asset management firm. Most of his posts on revolve around fine clothing and fine wines.

"Greysac used to be a light style, mild fruit, more velvet, perfume & spice that was designed for early maturation (10 years max) and that mimicked the flavors of great bordeaux at its plateau," he wrote. "It was a wine that showed many of the traits of perfectly rounded and aged Bord without any of the profundity. But sinice I love those particular aging traits, to me it was a go-to."

In another post, Anton complained about an unfortunate theft of his favorite bottles: "I realize that the baby sitter who stole two bottles of wine from me, one of the bottles was my last 1986 Mondavi, from the very first stash of wine I ever bought about 2 weeks after I turned 21. Bitch."

In the interview with The Intercept, Anton acknowledged the contrast between his social class and the people on whose behalf he is now arguing. He said that after many years as a classic conservative, he had woken up to the fact the system wasn't working for lots of people. Rather than stay on the sidelines and do nothing, he had decided to talk and write about those problems, placing at risk "the livelihood that keeps me funded with all these things I love." As he put it, "At least I'm a self-aware hypocrite."

While not leading the kind of hard-scrabble life that he was defending in his ideologically charged work, Anton clearly feels strongly about the structural problems of the modern economy, and his critiques of it contain elements that are shared by people on the left as well as right. In one thread he started in 2011, titled "Capitalism Sucks," he even approvingly cites Marx for identifying the negatively disruptive impacts of capitalism. While saying that Marx "has blood on his hands" for the misery that has been committed in his name, he wrote that "it is hard to escape the conclusion that in his analysis of the consequences of capitalism, he was on to something." Anton went on to write that "capitalism on the aggregate creates more wealth than any alternative hitherto tried, and perhaps than any alternative that can ever be devised," but he sharply added that "the dislocations and human pain and societal upheaval that Marx diagnosed as inevitable consequences of capitalism turned out to be quite real."

He continues:

It's not obvious that wealth is better than the things capitalism has undermined. If I were to say to you "money isn't everything" you would of course agree. And if I were to make a Christian statement of the importance of virtue and the soul over wealth you would at least profess to agree. But when you post it's all about aggregate wealth, living standards, opportunity, etc. These are not bad things. But it seems as though we can't have them to the degree that we do without giving up other stuff which might have been just as valuable and maybe more.
On Sunday, after The Intercept published its story about Anton's essays on Trump, he emailed a response that included this explanation of his evolution from conventional conservative thinking to something quite different, at least on economic issues: "The fact is that my journey toward Trumpism was in many ways a journey (on my part) leftward, toward the center. I have jettisoned a lot of conservative orthodoxy precisely because I think it was not working for the bottom half, or even the bottom two thirds. It's ironic or odd or something that in moving to the left, I get called a fascist and such. It shows how screwed up our discourse is. People just want to smear and destroy me."

Earlier this month, a Politico article stated that Anton got his job at the NSC "thanks to an entree from Thiel," referring to Peter Thiel, the libertarian billionaire who is one of Trump's few supporters among the elite of Silicon Valley. Both Thiel and Anton are avowed enthusiasts of the conservative philosopher Leo Strauss, and both have ties to Claremont, where Anton received his master's degree and Thiel has donated, through one of his philanthropies, at least $200,000, as well as appearing at speaking events. But their ties go even further back, Anton told The Intercept. He knows Thiel from when Thiel was a student at Stanford and Anton was nearby at the University of California at Berkeley, and through a mutual friend they got to know each other.

The National Security Council is now beset by a historic degree of turmoil - retired Gen. Michael Flynn, appointed to head the NSC last month, was forced out earlier this week because he had lied to Vice President Pence about phone calls he made to the Russian ambassador shortly after the election. It seems quite possible, if not likely, that the next head of the NSC (reportedly the job has been offered to retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward) will ask for the resignations of senior officials appointed by Gen. Flynn, and that would include Anton. Asked about his likely fate, Anton said, "I don't know - I won't know for a while, until the new person gets in."

Anton's comments on nuclear issues might not bolster his case for staying on. In a thread titled "Ask Manton About Nuclear War," he sketched a scenario involving a terrorist group that would "ship the weapon in a cargo container to a US port, where it will be loaded on a truck and driven to its destination. The motive will be kill Americans, to force our withdrawal from the Middle East, and to break our society in half."

He provided surprisingly precise information about how a terrorist group would go about acquiring the nuclear material it needed. Anton told The Intercept he did not deal with classified proliferation issues when he was at the NSC during the Bush administration, and that he is "self-taught" through voluminous readings of books. Back in 2009, he was answering a member of who posed the following question: "manton hao 2 makez a nuclar bomb?"

First, you will need fissile material. This has to be made, as it only occurs in nature in trace amounts. It is very hard to make, takes a long time, costs a lot of money, and requires a significant amount of land. You will need either a centrifuge cascade or a breeder reactor. These are probably beyond your reach.

So the other option is to aquire the stuff, that is, buy it or steal it. You will want either plutonium 239 or uranium 235. Or, to be a little more precise, uranium enriched to 90% or more u 235 (the rest u 238). (Lower enrichment levels can still make bombs, but the amount of fuel you need rises dramatically as enrichment drops, to the point where making a bomb becomes a practical impossibilty.)

It is a lot harder to make a plutonium bomb than an HEU bomb, for reasons I need not go into here. Also, HEU is more stable, and less likely to undergo spontenous fission. It also makes a far more reliable bomb, especially when built by amateurs. The downsides are, it is less powerful, and you need a lot more of it, which means your bomb will be bigger and heavier, and the yield to weight ratio will be lower. Life is full of trade-offs.

You will need about 110 pounds. DON'T keep it all in one place. 110 pounds just slightly exceeds critical mass, that is, the amount sufficent to start a chain reaction. If you keep it all in one lump, it will unleash a torrent of radiation that will kill you - at a minimum. It might also blow up - not in a big nuclear fireball, but with enough force to take out a city block or two. Say, 10 Oklahoma City bombs.

So, keep it in two pieces, neither half close to critical mass.

Uranium comes in many forms. In the enrichment process, it is gaseous and powdered. You want it to be metallic. If you don't get it in that form, you will need a metalurgist. You will actually need one in any case to shape the two sides of the core. One is called the "bullet" the other the "target". The should be designed and shaped to fit together very neatly and tightly. But DON'T actually test with both halves! Test the shape with lead dummies. Important!

Anton's directions continued, and his comments make clear that he believes an attack with the acquired devices would succeed in its destroy-the-West aims.
We are talking about whole cities being wiped out [at] a stroke, and the surrounding area being unihabitable for the next 200 years. The night of 9/11, most of Manhattan slept in their beds. - I think once it became clear to everyone that their government cannot protect them from capricious extermination, governing the country would become impossible. - I believe that people will lose all semblance of orderliness. They will panic and loot and riot and try to dig in [and] defend themselves from all kinds of perceived threats. They will overwhelm the capacity of the system to impose any semblance of order. Many of those supposed to impose order will also have the same reaction, and not do their jobs but look out for their own. - I hope I am wrong. - But I am fairly confident that economic activity would grind to a halt, or continue at some fraction of what it is today.
His exchanges with other commenters on include questions that were posed in what clearly seems an absurd tone, to which Anton responded in a deadpan manner. For instance, there was this query from a user with the name of mafoofan: "Manton, I assume if they set off a 10kt bomb in the middle of Manhattan, the UWS is royally f*cked, right?

Anton's reply was concise.

No, the shockwave will not reach that far. Structural damage is likely to be light. Fires may rage out of control in any and all directions, however. And fallout will depend on the weather. Things will likely be bad, but not so bad as people assume. Mafoofan's response was, "Zabar's survives!" Not really, Anton pointed out.
The problem is that midtown will be A) erased and B) irradiated. Fallout may not hit the UWS (though it probably will) but it will contaminate much of the surrounding area. Manhattan will be useless as a cultural and business center. No one will want to live here, nor could anyone live anywhere near the contaminated areas. Human nature being what it is, even the outlying areas that are still safe, no one will want to live in. The value of the whole metro area will fall to zero, both because its center and heart is literally gone, and because people simply will not want to be anywhere near it.
The playfulness that might be inferred in this particular exchange contrasts with Anton's stone-cold theorizing about how or whether the United States might try to respond to an attack of this sort. Would the U.S. launch a nuclear counterstrike against the people who had attacked it with nuclear weapons? These sorts of questions are played out in war game scenarios, and Anton appears, in the virtual pages of's discussion forums, to be indulging in precisely that sort of planning-for-the-worst.

For instance, a commenter named montecristo#4 suggests that in order to deter the kind of attack that Anton fears, the United States would make the following threat: "You blow up a Western city, and we will turn certain Muslim holy cities to glass. We give people who live there plenty of time to evacuate, but the cities and everything in them are gone for good, and uninhabitable for hundreds of years. Surely an Islamic fundy wouldn't want that."

Anton responded by saying that "this has been considered, but there is presicely zero chance of it ever becoming policy, or acted upon. It would be impossible even to have the public debate necessary to make such a threat credible."

He went on to explain his reasoning in greater detail:

The most likely scenario is the following. 10Kt bomb goes off in Times Square (or at Grand Central) around 8 am on a midweek day. We will do the "nuclear forensics" to try to get a signature from the radiation. It will prove inconclusive. At best, we can narrow the source to a handful of states. Are we going to nuke them all? Two certain innocents and one "maybe"? No way.

Let's say we get lucky and are nearly certain we know where the fuel came from. What if it's Russian? Are we going to risk a full exchange with Russia? No effing way. What if it is Pakistan? In all likelihood, if it is, it will not be decision made by the top but a rougue element of the ISI. Islamabad will plead for mercy. They will say - truthfully, in all likelihood - that they never meant for this to happen, and that they will in reposnse go and steamroll the NWFPs. Will we have the stomach to nuke them? No way.

What if it is Iran? They will deny it. At least half the world will believe them. Who knows how many Americans will believe them too. Some other huge % of people will say, "In the absense of proof, we can't retaliate." Iran will likely also say, through back channels, "This was not us, but had it been us, it would have been some rougue element, not sanctioned by the Supreme Leader. It is very terrible what happened to you, and we will do anything we can to help. But if you think of retaliating, well, we have some unpleasant surprizes for you in the form of Hezbollah sleeper cells. Oh, and forget about Israel if that happens. So just cool off and listen to reason. Let us address this problem together and put the past behind us."

Then you will have another gigantic segment of public opinion which will say that nuclear attacks are so terrible that under no circumstances should we ever engage in them. And another big segment will say that we should not do anything that will increase the chances of another attack, and retaliation will be held up as just such a response. And, indeed, many hostile nuclear powers will tell us the same thing: Don't do anything rash, or you may have to deal with us one way or another. And that is IF we can come up with a plausible case that one nation is responsible. The chances of that are in fact low.

No, we will not do anything.

It makes for depressing reading, as many of the members of complained. "Do your friends invite you to parties anymore or do you just bum everyone out too much?" asked one. "Manton, you must be a hoot at cocktail parties, I do mean that," wrote another. In response, Anton gave a bit of ground, writing, "I admit that it's possible that I have too dim a view of human nature." However, when asked by The Intercept whether he was as dark as his nuclear comments had been interpreted on the site, he replied that while he does have provisions for a nuclear attack stored in his basement, "I'm pretty happy. I like my life." His last post on the site was in late January, before it was publicly known that he had been named to a top spot on the National Security Council. "I had a 1981 Tondonia white last week that was great," he wrote. "Perfect bottle." His profile on the site lists his current location as "In Hiding."

Update: After this story was published, Styleforum changed the settings on its Current Events forum so that only Styleforum members can view the postings on it. As a result, some of the links in this story no longer work, such as the ones to Michael Anton's comments on nuclear terrorism, Islam, and diversity. According to Fokyan Leung, who said he is a co-owner of Styleforum, about a dozen Styleforum members contacted him after the story appeared and requested that the Current Events forum be closed to the public.
(c) 2017 Peter Maass is an American journalist and author. Maass was born in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. He has worked for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the New York Times Magazine. He has mainly covered international stories and has lived in Belgium, South Korea, and Hungary. In 1996 he published his first book Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War. It told of his experiences covering the conflict in Bosnia.

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'Hope' is outfitted with an array of instruments that can detect even minute levels of funding, should any exist.

NASA Deploys Congressional Rover To Search For Funding
By The Onion

WASHINGTON-Calling the program "the most crucial in the agency's history," researchers at NASA announced Wednesday they have successfully deployed a Special Exploratory Rover to Congress as part of an open-ended mission to seek out any possible trace of funding on Capitol Hill.

The rover, named Hope, is a remotely operated, semi-autonomous vehicle outfitted with ultra-sensitive equipment that can detect even the smallest amounts of program-sustaining revenue, NASA scientists confirmed. The unmanned explorer will reportedly traverse the chambers of both the Senate and House of Representatives, continuing its search as long as necessary.

"The climate Hope will be navigating is incredibly hostile to this sort of research," said project manager John L. Callas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explaining that the rover will collect any deposits of funds it can find, however miniscule. "But we have engineered this vehicle to withstand the most challenging fiscal landscape, having learned from previous missions that the harsh, unforgiving environment of Congress often makes it difficult to carry out scientific inquiry of any kind."

"It of course goes without saying that we cannot send a human being on such a mission," he added. "The conditions are far too punishing."

According to Callas, Hope will first be directed toward areas of Congress that scientists believe are most likely to reveal previously undiscovered discretionary cash flows. In the weeks ahead, after investigating several dozen seats on the Senate floor, the vehicle will move on to explore a structure called Mikulski's Chambers, and by the end of the fiscal year the rover will bring its alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer online, attempting to peer into the largely opaque phenomenon known as the appropriations process.

"Tomorrow morning, we have a narrow window in which we hope to be able to study a House Budget Committee hearing," Callas said. "We should have Hope in place by evening, at which point we'll shut it down for the night to save on battery power. That should leave us well positioned to examine the vast mountains of allocation proposals that occur there and look for any frozen capital that we can hopefully break free for future missions and experiments."

NASA engineers said the rover has several instruments that have been specifically developed for the mission at hand, noting that the vehicle's robotic arm can flip through thousands of pages of legislation per second, its ocular scanner can analyze budget proposals for any liquid assets, and its delicate sonic gear can periodically test the atmosphere for pro-science sentiments that may have been stirred up.

Hope isn't the first NASA rover to climb the steps of the Capitol and assess whether conditions in the legislative branch might be favorable to funding. A previous vehicle, Possibility, was launched during the budget crisis of 2011, but scientists reportedly lost contact with it when it attempted to cross the aisle in the Senate and became mired in treacherous procedural maneuverings.

Callas told reporters the current rover's expedition is "absolutely vital" to NASA's long-term research goals.

"The clock is definitely ticking," he said. "The fact of the matter is that this is the last real shot we have at discovering whether there is funding support to be found anywhere in Congress, or whether we are, in the end, truly alone out here."
(c) 2017 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 17 # 08 (c) 02/24/2017

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