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In This Edition

Matt Taibbi reports, "#Russiagate Skeptics Take A Beating."

Uri Avnery exclaims, "Go In Peace!"

Glen Ford examines, "The Great, Bloody Black Dispersal From The Cities."

Dahr Jamail reports, "Cape Town Is About To Run Out Of Water Because Of Climate Disruption, But Some Are Hoping To Profit From It."

Jim Hightower asks, "What Will The Trump Mob Kill Next?"

John Nichols wants to, "Lower The Voting Age To 16."

James Donahue considers. "The Musk Plan To Fix The World."

John Atcheson joins us with, "No, The Founding Fathers Didn't Give You A Right To Bear Arms."

Heather Digby Parton explores, "CPAC Is Trump And Trump Is CPAC."

David Swanson says, "I'd Elect The People On My Facebook Page Over Any Weapons-Funded Hack."

Charles P. Pierce wonders, "Surely, Paul Ryan Has Only Honorable Motives Here."

Eric Margolis exclaims, "Why One War When We Can Have Two!"

William Rivers Pitt concludes, "Behold The Reckoning Of A Gun Culture In Collapse."

Arizona US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan D-NM 3rd District wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich explains, "Why The Common Good Disappeared (And How We Get It Back)."

Chris Hedges compares, "Guns And Liberty."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Trump Furious After Twitter's Bot Purge Leaves Him With Fourteen Followers" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "We Should Change The Names Of AR-15s To 'Marco Rubio' Because They Are So Easy To Buy."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of John Cole, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Tom Tomorrow, Mr. Fish, Alex Wong, Joe Raedle, Joshua Roberts, Lorie Shaull, Andrew Link, Robert Reich, Andrew Harrer, DonkeyHotey, Anders Pettersson, Bloomberg, Reuters, Flickr, AP, Getty Images, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

The Quotable Quote...
The Vidkun Quisling Award...
The Cartoon Corner...
To End On A Happy Note...
Have You Seen This...
Parting Shots...

Welcome one and all to "Uncle Ernie's Issues & Alibis."

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We Should Change The Names Of AR-15s To "Marco Rubio" Because They Are So Easy To Buy
By Ernest Stewart

"We should change the names of AR-15s to "Marco Rubio" because they are so easy to buy." ~~~ Sarah Chadwick

"The upgrades, which we hope to begin presently, will ensure that the Svalbard Global Seed Vault can continue to offer the world's gene banks a secure storage space in the future. It is a great and important task to safeguard all the genetic material that is crucial to global food security." ~~~ Jon Georg Dale ~ Norway's Minister of Agriculture and Food

"If the DCCC is willing to give up a key issue and offend virtually every Democrat so as not to bother eight Independents in rural Missouri, they're even more incompetent than we thought, and Democrats should be very worried about the midterms." ~~~ Mark Glaze

"Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."
Big Yellow Taxi ~~~ Joni Mitchell

Hasn't it been enlightening this week watching all the Rethuglicans bob and weave around their support for the NRA and the deaths and wounding of all those kids down in Florida.

Heve you seen Marco Rubio's reaction when asked by Cameron Kasky, a junior who survived the shooting, when he asked Rubio whether he would refuse donations from the NRA, which has spent more than $3 million on his behalf.

"People buy into my agenda," Rubio said, reciting an oft-used talking point. He declined to say he would reject future money. By people he meant corporations and groups like the NRA.

When Kasky, 17, pressed him again on the question.

"That is the wrong way to look - first of all, the answer is that people buy into my agenda ... The influence of these groups comes not from money, the influence comes from the millions of people that agree with the agenda." A Washington weasel at his finest!

Cameron was just a drop in the bucket, with many more hard questions asked, and then dodged by Rubio. While Sarah Chadwick wants to change the name of the AR-15 to Marco Rubio because they're both so easy to buy. I think we should call him the "artful dodger."

Fred Guttenberg stood under a spotlight gripping a microphone with both hands and delivered a blunt message to Sen. Marco Rubio. You may recall Fred's daughter was shot it the back and killed by Cruz. Here's that conversation:

As old Sam once said: "We have the best government that money can buy." ~~~ Mark Twain. Speaking of which, old bone spurs told a meeting of governors at the White House, there to discuss school safety he would have stopped the Parkland school shooting had he been on the scene. Indeed, he would have charged the shooter even if he had no weapon: "I really believe I'd run in there even if I didn't have a weapon." If only, America, if only!

In Other News

I see where global warming has prompted Norway to invest about $13 million to strengthen its 10-year-old doomsday seed vault, in which about a million crop varieties are stored on a remote ice-covered island. Not a single GMO in the bunch!

The update at Svalbard, an archipelago near the Arctic Circle, would cover "construction of a new, concrete-built access tunnel, as well as a service building to house emergency power and refrigerating units and other electrical equipment," said Norway's Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

The new work comes after a thaw of permafrost in 2016 caused some water to flow into the vault's entrance. No seeds were damaged, but the Norwegian government decided the store, designed to withstand nuclear war and earthquakes, needed an upgrade as global warming intensifies.

Norway built the vault in an abandoned coal mine to ensure that plant species affected by rising global temperatures and other disasters could be preserved. For instance, the Agriculture Ministry said, " 2015 seeds were sent from Norway to Syria after the nation's smaller seed repository near Aleppo was damaged by military action. Last year, seeds harvested from plants generated by the Norwegian supply in Syria were sent back to Svalbard.

"This demonstrates that the seed vault is a worldwide insurance for food supply for future generations,"
said Jon Georg Dale, Norway's minister of agriculture and food.

Some 70,000 crops are to be added this week to the storage chambers, which stay at a steady 0 degrees Fahrenheit. The new stash includes unusual crops like the Estonian onion potato, as well as barley used to brew Irish beer.

The vault opens twice a year for deposits. This week's additions also include unique varieties of rice, wheat and maize as well as black-eyed peas - a major protein source in Africa and South Asia - and the Bambara groundnut, which is being developed as a drought-tolerant crop in Africa.

And Finally

Isn't it good to finally see the DCCC come out of the closet, and through their own actions try and place themselves to the right of the Rethuglicans? You Bernie supporters know exactly what I'm talking about, don't you? The DCCC single handedly kept Bernie from winning the nomination!

For encouraging Democrats to attack Bernie Sanders's single-payer universal health care plan, it's clear that the DCCC is more interested in sabotaging Democratic campaigns and progressive movements than doing anything to get Democrats elected. They black-balled Bernie to give us Hilary, which gave us Trump, and they plan to do the same for this falls election too.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan the head of the DCCC encouraged Democratic Members of Congress and Democratic congressional candidates to not advocate for gun control measures and offering "thoughts and prayers" instead, in the aftermath of the Las Vegas concert massacre and his message hasn't changed to this day. They're spouting the typical NRA message after another atrocity, and telling the candidates to do so too. Is Ben Ray a Rethuglican 5th columnist? I don't know for sure, but he was hand-picked for the job by Nancy Pelosi! Still, Representative Lujan wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award. I bet your mama's proud, huh Ben?

Keepin' On

It's that time of year once again when those income tax checks come a rollin' in. If you're getting one, please think of us because we always think of you! We desperately need your help to keep publishing. Please send us what you can and not only will we be extremely grateful but we'll see that it goes to good use in the struggle to reclaim our Republic! Please, do whatever you can. We need your help!!!


10-27-1920 ~ 02-22-2018
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07-03-1953 ~ 02-28-2018
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For late breaking news and views visit The Forum. Find all the news you'll otherwise miss. We publish three times the amount of material there than what is in the magazine. Look for the latest Activist Alerts. Updated constantly, please feel free to post an article we may have missed.


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

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2018 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Facebook. and like us when you do. Follow me on Twitter.

#Russiagate Skeptics Take A Beating
We don't know for sure where the Mueller probe is going, but don't dare say that out loud
By Matt Taibbi

In the wake of special prosecutor Robert Mueller's troll farm indictment, a bizarre series of events took place involving the New York Times and Facebook.

The indictment had barely hit the presses before Facebook Ads exec Rob Goldman decided to tweet a few things.

Goldman seemed peeved that his company, and in particular his department, was being described all over the world as an instrument of war, used against America in a "new Pearl Harbor." He didn't see it that way.

"I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal," he wrote, noting that he had seen "all of the Russian ads."

Goldman went on to note that the majority of the ads came after the election, and castigated the press for not giving that detail proper due. "We shared that fact," he wrote, "but very few outlets have covered it because it doesn't align with the main media narrative of Tump [sic] and the election."

Goldman also pointed out that a classic example of the Russian campaign involved efforts to bring out both anti-Muslim and pro-Muslim protesters to the same rally.

When I saw Goldman's tweets, I knew he'd be in a metaphorical logging camp by mid-week (especially after our Idiot-in-Chief re-tweeted him; a "Tump" endorsement automatically arouses rage across the social media spectrum). What I didn't see coming was an entire New York Times article devoted to debunking the opinions of a guy on Twitter.

Goldman is the kind of person we should be encouraging to offer information. He's an insider who's in a unique position to assess the scale of the troll farm campaign, having seen a gazillion other political ads pass through his site. If Goldman's takes needed press attention at all, the usual method would have been to just mention them within the framework of a larger story about Mueller's indictment.

But the Times, in the person of Sheera Frankel, felt it necessary to completely sanitize every one of Goldman's heretical opinions in the form of a fact-check. They went through all of his tweets, one through eight, deconstructing each.

According to the paper, the only time Goldman was ever unequivocally right was when he said the Russian campaign was ongoing and that Facebook was taking measures to stop it. Every other opinion he had was either flawed or required "context."

An example was the bit about the Islamic/anti-Islamic rally. Frankel dinged Goldman for not pointing out that the purpose of this activity was, reportedly, to link Hillary Clinton to pro-Islamic sentiment.

"According to the indictment secured by Mr. Mueller," she added, "there were many other examples of Russian operatives using Facebook and Instagram to organize pro-Trump rallies."

Frankel might equally have noted that at least some of the propaganda the Russians disbursed was anti-Trump, including the hyping of anti-Trump rallies in Charlotte in New York after the election. But it's easy to see how she missed that. After all, Mueller stuck those narrative-upsetting facts in item 57 of his indictment, the last lines in his "political advertisements" section.

As to the Russians' motives being to merely sow division, Frankel simply said, "Not according to the indictment." She pointed to the fact that "the grand jury indictment secured by Mr. Mueller asserts that the goal of Russian operatives was to influence the 2016 election."

Wired, in its coverage of Goldman's heresy, agreed with Frankel. They noted that in offering his civilian take on the matter, Goldman had "violated one of the most important principles for people studying the Mueller investigation: No one knows exactly where it's going, or what he's got."

This perspective makes it an article of faith to trust that Mueller has something more than what he's shown. Wired went so far as to describe Goldman's tweets as a "sin."

This story has become a kind of media religion, and when Goldman was forced to apologize a day later, it was for the twin #Russiagate-era heresies of a) giving Trump a talking point, and b) suggesting that St. Mueller was punching above his evidence.

Skepticism of any kind has become verboten, which is a problem for reporters because it's our job to be skeptical. Politico's poor Blake Hounshell wrote a piece called "Confessions of a Russiagate Skeptic" this week and got thrashed for it in the usual quarters. Jeet Heer blasted him for forgetting that same first principle of Mueller-coverage that Wired cited: "Mueller is ongoing."

But Hounshell's take was measured and his description of the troll farm story wasn't wrong, just uncertain. He wrote that the latest indictments prove #Russiagate is "definitely a somethingburger. But what kind of somethingburger is it?"

Who the hell knows? Like an iceberg, most of this story still seems to be hidden from public view.

This is what's made me nervous about #Russiagate from the very beginning, i.e. that reporters have been asked continually to accept major assumptions on faith, when a) the visible facts suggest a wide range of possibilities, and b) the authorities have not exactly been beacons of rectitude in their dealings with reporters, either historically or in this particular case.

In #Russiagate, official and quasi-official sources have been all over the place in their dealings with the press. There is a long list of screw-ups and retractions and even a few outright disasters, like BuzzFeed's publication of Christopher Steele's dossier, which has put the company in serious legal trouble.

BuzzFeed was crazy to run material whose veracity even they said at the time they couldn't vouch for. They've now been forced to sue the Democratic National Committee in search of what amounts to verification of their own sources' information (good luck with that). They've also hired a former FBI heavy to travel the world in search of verification of the Steele material, the work they probably should have done before publishing. Another example of sources putting reporters in a barrel is the New York Times story from Valentine's Day of last year, in which four "current and former American officials" said the Trump campaign had "repeated contacts with Russian intelligence."

In June, Comey in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing disputed that story, saying that, "in the main, it was not true." How'd you like to be the Times reporters owning that Valentine's Day byline now? In another example, on March 5th of last year, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press definitively that if there had been a request for a FISA warrant on any member of the Trump campaign, he a) absolutely would have known about it, and b) could absolutely state that there hadn't been one.

"I can deny it," he said.

I thought that interview was weird at the time, but it seems even weirder now that we know for a fact that Clapper was either wrong or lying. There definitely was at least one FISA warrant, on Page, issued in October of 2016.

When I asked a congressional source about Clapper's statement, the gist of the answer was that the authorities have to be careful about what they release to the public, so as not to alert investigative targets to their intentions.

Even if that's true (and if it isn't, it means something very bizarre took place within the intelligence agencies over that FISA business), if I'm Chuck Todd, I'm pissed beyond belief. Our job in the press is to get things right, not to provide forums for prosecuting Donald Trump. Even if you're personally sympathetic to the idea of the investigation, you can't let sources lie to you, or play games with the truth for political reasons.

The reason reporters should be scared to death of this story is that #Russiagate is an incredibly complicated affair involving two sets of fierce combatants who both have compelling political reasons to conflate the key question of whether or not there was collusion.

Trump in his reflexively narcissistic way seems determined to downplay the Russian "problem" so long as he can't be tied to it, while the Democrats seem at times to be bootstrapping a counterintelligence probe into a political investigation of Trump they may legitimately believe will bear fruit.

It's a giant land mine of a story that could go either way. Mueller could leak the pee tape tomorrow, or we could be sitting here two years from now talking about a money laundering indictment that has nothing to do with Russia, or, who knows, the president might even turn out to be innocent (in this matter), at which point we'd have to start asking some questions about what this was all about.

We just don't know, and I know a lot of reporters from the start found the whole matter confusing, unsure of what it means. A few are even beginning to say so publicly. That we've resorted to denouncing people for saying so, or for offering alternative opinions, just shows how out of control this whole thing has gotten.
(c) 2018 Matt Taibbi is Rolling Stone's chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi's predecessors include the likes of journalistic giants Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Taibbi's 2004 campaign journal Spanking the Donkey cemented his status as an incisive, irreverent, zero-bullshit reporter. His books include Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion, Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire.

Go In Peace!
By Uri Avnery

I HAVE a confession to make: I don't hate Binyamin Netanyahu. I don't hate Sara'le either.

I generally don't hate people. With the sole exception of people who have betrayed the trust I put in them and tried to stick a knife in my back. Not more than three or four in all my life. I am not going to name them.

I have not met Netanyahu on a private basis more than two or three times.

Once, he introduced me to his second wife in the Knesset corridor. She seemed to me a nice young woman.

The second time we met at a photographic exhibition, in which there was a photo of me wearing a pilot's helmet. (Don't know how and why).

"You look like Errol Flynn," he told me. I had never seen an Errol Flynn movie, but took it as a compliment.

We had, of course, many arguments in the Knesset, but that doesn't count.

Therefore, if I want to remove Netanyahu from the government, and as soon as possible, it is not because of any personal feelings. I just believe that he is a disaster for Israel.

The endless cases of bribery that have surfaced - and continue to surface, like submarines - necessitate his removal at once. And we have not yet even reached the affair of the German-built submarines, which promises many new revelations. As a former editor of a news-magazine that specialized in investigations of corruption affairs, I can smell it.

A lot of people would enjoy seeing "Bibi" in prison. I would not. If it were up to me, the President of State and the Attorney General would offer him a Nixon-style deal: resign immediately and be pardoned five minutes later. You and your wife. No case, no trials. Go home and enjoy life.

There is no financial problem. Netanyahu is a rich man, with a generous pension as a former Prime Minister, with several luxury apartments, quite apart from the huge bribes he seems to have pocketed along the way.

Also, every publisher in the world would gladly pay a big advance for his memoirs.

So there is no reason to pity him.

TROUBLE IS, who will take his place?

The empty Knesset seat will be occupied by an anonymous female lawyer, who was put on the party's candidate list on the spot reserved for "new female candidate". But that is not really important.

The important question is: who will become Prime Minister?

Netanyahu's resignation would not automatically mean the dissolution of the present Knesset. If another Knesset member can put together a majority in the present Knesset, he (or she) will be the next Prime Minister. Only a Likud member stands a chance.

But is there any likely candidate? I doubt it. Like many strong but insecure leaders, Netanyahu has not groomed a successor. On the contrary, he has driven away all possible candidates.

The present Likud leadership and the entire gallery of the present government ministers of the Likud and its allies consist of nonentities. Not one of them I could really imagine as the man(or woman) responsible for the future of Israel. God forbid (whether He exists or not).

IF NO ONE succeeds in setting up a new government in the present Knesset, a new Knesset must be elected.

Can new elections produce a different majority? Possible, but not likely.

In a normal country, after the almost incredible series of corruption affairs, the opposition would assume power, and one of its leaders would become Prime Minister. Simple.

But Israel is not a normal country. There is a profound split between left and Right, with nothing in the middle. For large blocks of voters to move from Right to Left is almost impossible. Neither is there agreement on the question of what is the proper behavior for a Prime Minister.

A professor once told me: "A British Prime Minister who fills all senior government positions with relatives would be considered corrupt. An Egyptian leader who does not do so would be considered egoistic. What, he has so much luck and does not share it with his family?"

It seems that the more evidence about Netanyahu's corruption turns up, the more fiercely his party members support him. It's all a smear campaign of the evil Left! It's all fake news! The police is in cahoots with the treasonous Ashkenazi Labor party (in spite of the fact that the police chief, who was personally picked by Netanyahu, is a Yemenite kippah-wearing former secret service officer).

SO THE next Knesset will probably look more or less like the present one. If so, what will happen?

Of the 120 members of the present Knesset, 30 belong to the Likud, 10 to Kulanu ("All of Us"), a splinter party formed by a former Likud member, 8 to the religious Jewish Home party, 7 to the Oriental religious party, 6 to Avigdor Lieberman's extreme rightist "Israel our Home" party, 6 to the Orthodox party. This is the present government coalition, 67 altogether.

The opposition consists of 24 Labor members (called "Zionist Camp"), 11 in Ya'ir Lapid's "There is a Future" party, 5 Meretz members and the 13 United Arab List members, whom almost nobody counts. Altogether 53.

Assuming that the results of the next elections will be more or less the same, as polls predict, these numbers draw the eye almost automatically to the 10 members of Kulanu. Their unquestioned leader is Moshe Kahlon, at present the always-smiling Minister of Finance, who is considered liberal and moderate. Can he switch camps?

Actually, everybody assumes that in the next elections the Labor party will go down. After changing leaders like socks, it chose an Oriental boss, Avi Gabbay, in order to shake off the curse of being an "Ashkenazi" party. It did not work. Under Gabbay, the party continues to lose in the polls. (The Likud , with its overwhelming Oriental membership, always chose Ashkenazi leaders like Netanyahu.)

If Labor goes down, Lapid's party goes up. It may well become the largest party. This would turn Lapid into the likely candidate for Prime Minister, provided he succeeds in drawing Kahlon to his side.

But who is Lapid? He is the perfect politician. He looks good on TV. He speaks well and says nothing. This ideological void is a great advantage: he is everything to everybody.

His father, whom I knew well, was a Holocaust survivor, who vividly remembered his childhood in the Budapest ghetto. He was a liberal politician, but with an extreme nationalist outlook. The son may turn out the same.

So what would Prime Minister Lapid do about peace? Nobody knows for sure. He would find it mentally difficult to include the Arabs in his coalition - which would deprive him of a majority. However, the Arabs may support him "from the outside", as happened to Yitzhak Rabin and made the Oslo agreement possible. But some warn that under Lapid "we would pine for Netanyahu."

Many dream of a completely new party, a union of all liberal, progressive, peace-loving elements, with a new, young leadership, which would completely change the landscape. But there is no sign of it yet.

On the contrary, many young people turn away from politics in disgust and engage in direct action, fighting the settlers and trying to protect the Arab population. Wonderful people, important actions - but completely without influence on politics. And alas politics decides our future.

I Love Israel. My comrades and I created it and paid for it with our blood (literally). My heart aches when I see what is happening.

But I remain an optimist. I continue to believe that somehow, somewhere, salvation will come. New political forces will emerge and come to the fore.

As our Muslim friends would say: inshallah (God willing).
(c) 2018 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Great, Bloody Black Dispersal From The Cities
By Glen Ford

The urban saga of the 1950s, 60s and early 70s was white flight from the cities, fueled by massive public and private investment in the invention of suburbia. In the 21st century, the racial dynamic has been purposely reversed, as the window closes on Black majority cities-and on dreams of concentrated, Black urban political power.

The rapidly unfolding dispersal of Blacks from the cities, like the white invasion of the surrounding hinterlands in the previous era, is the result of deliberate state policies, dictated by finance capital. But, this time, the demographic makeover has been effectuated and politically finessed with the active collaboration of a Black misleadership class that, paradoxically, owes its existence to the concentration of Black populations during the Sixties and Seventies.

The de-Blackening of urban America is a wrenchingly painful and bloody amputation-in-progress. In a frenzy of demolition, the U.S. has lost a quarter million units of public housing since the mid-1990s, only a small fraction of which has been replaced with new public housing, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Black mayors and heavily Black city councils have, typically, bought into the notion that concentrations of poor Black people are, by definition, vectors of pathology, while concentrations of affluent whites are the indispensable ingredients of urban "renaissance." It is the logic of apartheid, cloaked in phony economics.

Gentrification and renaissance-making-euphemisms for Black-removal-are violent processes. Whole neighborhoods are condemned for "rehabilitation" from "blight"-another euphemism, since the targeted infestation is human. The real estate industry covets the land, but demands that it first be cleansed of undesirable inhabitants. This requires the ruthless application of police force, creating a hostile environment, especially for young Black males, whose mothers begin to seek an exit to the South or a nearby, Blackening suburb. It is no coincidence that police forces in "renaissance"-minded cities across the nation introduced draconian "stop-and-frisk," "designated drug zone" and "anti-gang" policies in the Nineties, as gentrification went into high gear. They methodically created an unbearably hostile environment for unwanted families.

Gentrification requires the destabilization of the existing populations in targeted neighborhoods. Politicians that respond to the imperatives of capital-and that means virtually all big-city Democrats, of all races-acquiesce to or champion policies that destabilize the lives of their poor Black constituents, all the while claiming it is for their own good. The most powerful local government tool, other than the police, is the public school system. Gentrifying mayors across the country have sought and won control of local schools and used that power to make city life untenable for the "excess" Black populations of their cities.

No mayor has been more intent on driving Blacks from his city than Chicago's Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama's former chief of staff and close political ally. Building on the mayhem inflicted on Black Chicago by his predecessors, Emanuel caused the closing 50 schools. The result was catastrophic, as students were forced to transit unfamiliar gang turf to attend schools that were often no better than the shuttered ones in the own neighborhoods. Many kids died. "What people don't understand is that if you are 16 years old and get on a bus, when you get off that bus you are gang-affiliated whether you are gang-affiliated or not," said activist Jitu Brown.

Just as the closing of Chicago's public housing disrupted gang turf and drug markets, setting off a huge increase in street killings, the school closings added new layers of instability to the lives of families on Chicago's heavily Black south and west sides, the besieged neighborhoods where closings were concentrated. It was the last straw for some parents. As the Chicago Reporter wrote, in an article last December: "Some academics blame city officials for making it harder for poor African-Americans, in particular, to live in Chicago. They closed neighborhood schools and mental health clinics; failed to rebuild public housing, dispersing thousands of poor black families across the region, and inadequately responded to gun violence, unemployment and foreclosures in black communities."

"It's a menu of disinvestment," says Elizabeth Todd-Breland, who teaches African-American history at the University of Illinois Chicago. "The message that public policy sends to black families in the city is that we're not going to take care of you and if you just keep going away, that's OK."

The message is intentional-and effective. "Chicago's public schools have lost more than 52,000 students in the past 10 years," according to a report titled "The Bleeding of Chicago," by CityLab. "That's because school closures sometimes prompt parents to leave the city altogether." (Thanks to Richard Prince's Journal-isms for bringing this information to a larger audience.)

In less than two decades, Chicago lost 250,000 Black residents, one quarter of its total Black population. That's more than the Black populations of New Orleans and Atlanta, and equal to the Black population of Manhattan, New York City. And, it's happening all over the country, because Black removal from the cities is the national policy of both corporate parties.

The grand plan is to dilute the Black presence, to reverse the demography of the Seventies by forcing Blacks out of the central cities and into suburbs and small towns, leaving the cities to affluent whites and rendering Black people incapable of ever again launching a national movement headquartered in the urban centers.

Black politics is in an existential crisis. This state of affairs has come about, not because Black people failed to vote or to exercise political agency, but because they followed the lead of a grasping and self-centered Black misleadership class that is hopelessly entangled with the Democratic Party and its Wall Street and Silicon Valley funders-the same forces that seek to neutralize the Black political presence in the U.S. Barack Obama gave the game away in his address to the Democratic National Convention, in 2004: "There is no Black America...there is only the United States of America." But most Black people failed to understand his meaning.

However, the folks that formed the Black Is Back Coalition, in 2009, had heard Obama, loud and clear. There is little time left to preserve Black majorities in Baltimore, Birmingham, Detroit, Cleveland, Savannah and Newark (it's has already been lost in Washington, DC, and will soon slip away in Atlanta), or to maintain strong pluralities in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Norfolk.

Black people can only maintain a powerful and secure presence in the cities through a vibrant, independent, self-determinationist politics. Otherwise, Black dispersal will proceed along its bloody, maddening course, and at a quickening pace.

That's why the Black is Back Coalition is holding an Electoral School, April 7 to 9, in St. Louis, Missouri (which lost its slim Black majority in this century). The Coalition is guided by a 19-point National Black Political Agenda for Self-Determination, a document that addresses virtually every issue confronting Black people. Below are four points that are particularly relevant to the push-out of Blacks from the cities:

Black Community Control of the Police. We demand the immediate withdrawal of all domestic military occupation forces from Black communities. This democratic demand assumes the ability of Black people to mobilize for our own security and to redefine the role of the police so that it no longer functions as an agency imposed on us from the outside.

Roll Back and End Mass Black Incarceration. The U.S. mass Black incarceration regime is designed to contain, terrorize and criminalize an entire people, with the result that one out of eight prison inmates on the planet is a Black person in the U.S. As a minimal demand, every U.S. incarcerating authority must take immediate steps to roll back the national prison and jail population to 1972 levels, resulting in the release of 4 out of 5 current inmates in a process overseen by representatives of the imprisoned peoples' communities––primarily people of color. As a maximum demand, all Africans must be immediately released from U.S. prisons and jails and our community given the democratic right to determine their fate.

Halt Gentrification through the empowerment, stabilization and restoration of traditional Black neighborhoods. Black people have the right to develop, plan and preserve our own communities. No project shall be considered "development" that does not serve the interests of the impacted population, nor should any people-displacing or otherwise disruptive project be allowed to proceed without the permission of that population. Peoples that have been displaced from our communities by public or private development schemes have the Right to Return to our communities, from New Orleans to Harlem.

Right to Free Education through post-graduate level. Public schools must meet the highest standards of excellence, under the supervision of educational boards directly elected by the communities they serve. We oppose both for-profit schooling and philosophies of teaching that put profit over human development, and we support democratic educational values and strategies that empower students and their communities to determine their own destinies. In the immediate term, Black people in the U.S. need education that facilitates our liberation from white supremacy and corporate hegemony.

Make arrangements to attend the Black Is Back Coalition Electoral School. It's a lot later than you think.
(c) 2018 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Women fetch water at a communal tap on February 8, 2018, in Khayelitsha,
about 40 kilometers outside of Cape Town, South Africa.

Cape Town Is About To Run Out Of Water Because Of Climate Disruption, But Some Are Hoping To Profit From It
Want to end the American shooting epidemic?
By Dahr Jamail

In Cape Town, South Africa, a city of 4 million people, water rationing has been ongoing for months.

Predictions of when the city will run completely out of water (referred to as "Day Zero") have pegged the date somewhere between mid-April to mid-May, though they've been recently extended to July 9 due to a decrease in water usage. Barring unforeseen heavy rains to quell the crisis, Cape Town could soon become a case study in how a major city reacted to anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD)-driven drought.

Three years straight of unprecedented drought have left the city with meager water in its primary reservoirs, leaving it in a position to possibly become the first major city in the world to literally run out of water. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's fifth assessment report warned that long-term climate models indicate that a significant drying trend will continue across portions of western South Africa, with annual rainfall being reduced by up to 40 percent. Hence, Cape Town's drought has been linked directly to ACD.

City officials have already announced that once the water capacity of the dams reaches 13.5 percent, water will be shut off for all except essential services, like hospitals and schools. Once taps are turned off for most, people will have to go to 200 municipal points to collect their 25 liters per day, under the watch of armed guards.

Meanwhile, the city may have bought itself a little more time by limiting water for agriculture, much to the chagrin of farmers.

Ebrahiem Fourie is the deputy secretary of the city's Housing Assembly. He described how the water rationing is impacting the poor and working class far more severely than the upper class.

Fourie explained that a working-class household has 15 people on average, which includes extended family and "backyarders," people living literally in the backyards of residences. The city is only allowing 25 liters per person each day. While middle-class and wealthy people can purchase bottled water to supplement these rations, lower-income people are left with an inadequate supply.

"The daily limit has very little to do with people's real water needs, and has even less to do with the extra water needs of the very young, the old, the sick or the unemployed who [are] at home most of the day," Fourie told Truthout. "Many backyard shacks have burnt to the ground, where mostly children lost their lives due to limited access to water."

According to Fourie, who has been a water campaigner for four years, the crisis is already so severe for the working class that elderly people often don't even have enough water to take their medications.

"People are struggling to live with dignity, as we are teaching our children not to wash their hands, and we don't flush the toilets," he explained. "There is a daily threat on our health -- many suffering from diarrhea, skin diseases, etc. The poor cannot afford to buy water from the shelves of retailers."

Residents of the city are being impacted psychologically as well.

Maryse Barak, a self-employed leadership and executive coach explained that her feelings about the crisis range from denial to anxiety to outright fear and sadness.

"My sadness is that the data about the relentless climate shift and its implications have been known for a long while," she told Truthout. "I hear stories that the government was meant to have built dams but did not, that the province had money but used it for more immediate necessit[ies] -- housing, etc."

While she can understand the difficulties of arguing for the long-term view when faced with the increasing unhoused population, Barak added that she thinks that political agendas "have been more powerful than the willingness to care for the region and its people."

It is exactly this old top-down, hierarchical power-over model of governance that the water crisis is highlighting.

Fourie and Barak are both working to assist the poor in the immediate term -- and also to bring awareness to the need for community and a completely different paradigm.

However the water crisis unfolds, the disparity between these two models -- the top-down framework and the community-based vision -- will be made all the more clear. In the meantime, massive numbers of people are already struggling each day in Cape Town just to get their basic needs met.

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Rich vs. Working Class

Fourie explained that Cape Town's water crisis isn't new, when it comes to low-income people: The working class has been feeling its effects since 2008.

Fourie has seen the City of Cape Town installing water meters in people's homes, portraying the installations as part of an effort to help people manage their own water use. Hence, the City called the water meters "Water Management Devices." In reality, the installations have been part of a long-term project aimed at privatizing the water.

Up until the current crisis, the City was "doing well" in this effort toward privatization according to Fourie -- meaning that their efforts to privatize more of the water were coming along well -- but that has changed dramatically now.

"'Day Zero,' and the immediate punitive financial measures taken by the City, [have] led to the uproar of many residents in Cape Town, who formed groups and protested.... They [saw the] scare tactics by the City as another attempt to privatize water," Fourie explained.

This pressure from below (largely coming from citizen groups self-organizing themselves and working together) has given rise to participatory processes between the national government, provincial government and civil society. But while the process is portrayed as "consultation," Fourie explained that many believe it is yet another attempt to privatize the water, "as there are lucrative tenders waiting in the wings," he said.

Activists have set up the Cape Town Water Crisis Coalition, aimed at preventing the privatization of water. Meanwhile, Fourie hasn't seen anything of import being done by the government to help the poor during the water crisis, other than the City instructing them to install prepaid water meters, which everyone already opposes as they are seeing the privatization writing on the wall.

"The City is asking people to save water, which they do not have," Fourie said, in addition to the fact that people are already having to pay more for water.

Another problem stems from the fact that Cape Town is sharing water information via social media, ignoring the fact that many poor people lack internet access.

Barak is seeing these elements brought to the fore by the crisis as well.

"It seems to me that the political differences between the province [Democratic Alliance] and the government [African National Congress] has had a lot to do with the inability to move rapidly on the growing danger of the water crisis," she explained. "There has been an appalling lack of information about strategies going forward. It seems that the powers that be have been moving incredibly slowly toward acknowledging the size of the challenge and its ramifications on the population, agriculture and other businesses."

Like Fourie, she is deeply disturbed by how Cape Town's poorest are bearing the brunt of the crisis. Barak explained how many poor people already lack running water in their homes, and have to get their water from communal taps. Thus, they are already using the least amount of water of any group.

Given how many industries are impacted by the water shortage, the crisis is causing a loss of jobs, which particularly impacts working-class and poor people, according to Barak.

"The impact of this on the many many people dependent on work to sustain their lives is unimaginable," she added.

More Disparity

Barak and Fourie are appalled by the "huge visible disparity" between how the rich are able to deal with the crisis versus the suffering and exploitation of the poor.

"Many of the rich own water-bottling companies, they can afford to buy water," Fourie said. "The available ground water [springs] are usually in affluent areas, which makes them easy to access, and with the current water restrictions the rich have cars to load their water."

Not only are many working-class people unable to afford to buy water; they often do not have cars to transport water from afar.

This is further complicated by the fact that most of the working class in Cape Town, like most major cities, live on the outskirts of the city.

The disparity goes beyond purchasing bottled water.

Barak noted, "Having money seems to support the denial and the ease with which people could pay their water fines and carry on using as much as they wanted."

She explained that having money also means you can have a borehole dug into the ground in order to access your own water, something a working-class person would be hard-pressed to afford.

"Money means you can also outfit your home to save all the greywater and reuse it, and in some cases, get right off the water grid," she added. "Money allows people to buy the new technology -- 'water from air' machines." (These machines are essentially atmospheric water generators equipped with technology necessary to capture, convert and regulate water from air.)

In addtion, having money means you can simply move to another city, or out to the country, for as long as you need to. It also means you can purchase paper plates, cups and hand-sanitizer, rather than having to use water to wash dishes and hands.

Fourie has seen a water crisis impacting the Cape Town poor for years now, as informal water settlements imposed upon them by the City have been causing many people to have to walk long distances and stand in lines for water.

Barak expressed her concerns about what all this could lead to.

"I have fear about the inherent possibilities of diseases and those attendant dangers," she said. "I also get waves of anxiety about the possible violence and unrest because of even greater unemployment and of systems breaking down."

Evolve or Suffer the Consequences

Fourie said the most difficult thing for him about the crisis is watching "the daily suffering of our peoples."

He is angered by how "the neoliberal form of privatization individualizes our struggles. Everyone has similar struggles but is struggling in their own corners." He is frustrated by the lies he hears Cape Town's politicians telling people, coupled with how easily people are believing them, due to the desperate nature of the crisis.

Is it possible for large numbers of people to switch gears -- refuse to believe the lies, and take collective action instead?

Barak points to the possibility of the community moving together toward a solution.

"It feels to me as if we are inexorably moving toward a tsunami-like experience with many unexpected and intense, possibly dire, consequences," she said. "But where there is adequate factual information accessible to all, where there is the invitation to connect and explore what we can do together and overcome the fear of the historical divisions in our city ... then there is possibility." Both Barak and her husband have become amazed by how little water they use every day and how easy it is to do so. Once the habit of being conscious of every drop set in, it became easy for them to save, to reuse, and to feel pretty good about what can be done.

"There are so many conversations that happen spontaneously between strangers to exchange ideas on what else one can do to save water and deal with the impact of, for instance, not flushing the toilet," she explained. "In some ways, people are acknowledging that we are together in this and how can we support each other."

Unlike a hurricane, earthquake, or other natural disaster, the crisis in Cape Town unfolding over months has provided people time to face it and strategize. Because of this, Barak is trusting that "the people," collectively, can engage in ways that will bring them all closer together.

"Cape Town is one of the most divided cities in South Africa," she added. "This could be an opportunity for positive change -- or not."

Fourie hopes that the water crisis is seen for the other kind of crisis the government has turned it into: a crisis of capitalism, a crisis of the rich seeking to profit from those being impacted the most severely by the lack of water.

"People are raising the question of, 'If it's a crisis, why? And why are soft drink companies and South African Breweries not forced to cut down on production?" he asks. "Day Zero is a straight-out attack on the working class, to push privatization and desalination [an expensive process by which salt is removed from seawater so that it is potable]."

Barak speaks of how she is watching a micro-example unfold across her city of what is befalling the planet.

"It is sad to see beautiful parts of Cape Town become arid and sandy, but that is a loss of what we created," she said. "The Earth is fine, it will rebalance in its own time. But if we want to live on it, then a completely different relationship is demanded. I am awakening to this fact as the reality hits."
(c) 2018 Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last 10 years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.

What Will The Trump Mob Kill Next?
By Jim Hightower

Specifically they've been serial killers of the English Language. The word "Fact" was their first victim, assassinated last year by one of Trump's mobsters who poisoned it with a toxic substance named: "Alternative Fact."

Their latest hit was a celebrated word from the literary world: "Satire." It embodies the artful use of sarcasm and ridicule to expose the vanity and vice of public figures, but Trump himself killed satire by starving it of any meaning. How can anyone satirize a presidency that is, in reality, nothing but a fully-staged satire of vanity and vice? Satire involves exaggerating the flaws, mannerisms, etc. of various characters to convey how corrupt and contemptible they are - but it's impossible to exaggerate the awfulness of an administration that gleefully flaunts its awfulness every day.

Take Trump's proposed budget... please! Delivered just in time for Valentine's Day, it's a stab to the heart of the people, intentionally increasing poverty and hunger across our country. It would slash programs providing essential food, housing, and even heating assistance for about 50 million Americans - mostly children, old folks, poverty-wage workers, and disabled people.

Then there's Medicare and Medicaid, which most working class Americans count on. Candidate Trump promised us that "there will be no cuts" in funding for these programs. But his Valentine budget features - guess what? - hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Not only has his cynicism killed satire, but his cynical health care cuts could also kill you.

Presidential budgets aren't just numbers, they're statements of a president's moral principles. No work of satire could ridicule Trump's morality as effectively as his own budget does.
(c) 2018 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition. Jim writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at

Students at Mayo High School stage a walkout against gun violence on Wednesday, February 21, 2018, in Rochester, Minnesota.

Lower The Voting Age To 16
Young people who are smart enough and engaged enough to shape the debate about gun violence are smart enough and engaged enough to vote.
By John Nichols

When Cameron Kasky, a survivor of the gun violence that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, confronted Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican whose long political career has been bought and paid for by the NRA, at a CNN town-hall meeting, several things became clear. Kasky and the other students who have stepped up to demand action know what they are talking about. These students are on to the games politicians play in order to avoid being pinned down on gun-violence issues, and as such are prepared to counter the double talk of political careerists like Rubio.

A growing number of young people fully recognize the deference to the NRA that characterizes the response of politicians like Rubio to to mass shootings. That recognition underpinned the robust challenge that Kasky posed to the senator when he asked, "In the name of 17 people, you cannot ask the NRA to keep their money out of your campaign?"

The senator responded, "I will always accept the help of anyone who agrees with my agenda." Kasky left with his dignity; Rubio did not. It was a powerful moment, but there are limits on what Cameron Kasky and smart, engaged young people like him can do to hold elected officials such as Rubio to account. At age 17, Kasky cannot vote this year.

The school shootings in Parkland, Florida, have produced plenty of political repercussions-some of which could change the debate about gun violence in America. But the powerful impact that high-school juniors and seniors are having on that debate has raised another question: Shouldn't these young people be allowed to cast ballots.

The answer is yes.

Lower the voting age to 16 because, as Richard Branson says, young people are often "on the right side of history."

Noting that high-school students have "far better BS detectors" than adults, constitutional scholar Lawrence Tribe asked as the young people from Florida opened up the gun debate, "Wouldn't it be great if the voting age were lowered to 16?"

It would be great. And it ought to be on the agenda of progressives going forward.

There's nothing radical about extending the franchise to people aged 16 to 18. Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua allow voting at 16, as did Scotland during its historic 2014 independence election.

So, too, do the German states of Brandenburg, Bremen, and Hamburg; the Swiss canton of Glarus; and the semi-autonomous UK semi-autonomous territories of the Isle of Man, Jersey, and Guernsey. British billionaire Richard Branson began arguing after Britain's 2016 #Brexit vote (which younger voters overwhelmingly opposed) for lowering the voting age to 16, because young people are more "interested, motivated and informed" than ever before, and often "on the right side of history."

In the United States, where it has been argued that a lower voting age might well have influenced the results of primary contests for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination and fall voting for the presidency itself, the movement to lower the voting age to 16 has taken off in recent years. Berkeley gave 70 percent support to a youth-voting initiative in November 2016, and other communities have already proven that the idea can work. In 2013, Takoma Park, Maryland, became the first municipality in the United States to extend voting rights to 16- and 17-year-olds-for local elections-and Hyattsville, Maryland, followed suit in 2015. The city council of another Maryland community, Greenbelt, just voted unanimously to approve a charter amendment to officially allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in their local elections.

A national initiative, Vote16USA, which has been organized by Generation Citizen, is backing local efforts and encouraging political leaders to get on board. And it's happening.

In Illinois this week, Chicago high-school student Cecilia Ruiz asked Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy whether he would support a voting age of 16.

"You can't do any worse for the country than what older people did when they elected Donald Trump.... I don't see any reason why not to," said Kennedy, who concluded his response by saying, "Yes."

That's the right answer-as the election reform group FairVote explains.

"Empirical evidence suggests that the earlier in life a voter casts their first ballot, the more likely they are to develop voting as a habit," explains FairVote. "While one's first reaction might be to question the ability of young voters to cast a meaningful vote, research shows that 16- and 17-year-olds are as informed and engaged in political issues as older voters. It is time that they are empowered to put that knowledge to good use at the polls, and make voting a habit in their formative years. These young citizens are old enough to drive, work without restrictions on their hours, and pay taxes-they should also have a voice in their local government."

The only place where reformers might quibble with FairVote is on that last line. Yes, young citizens should have a voice in their local government. But, as the Florida debate over gun violence illustrates, young people are more than ready to make their voices heard with regard to state and federal policy. They should have their votes counted, as well.

Expanding voting rights requires a big change-it took a 1971 constitutional amendment to lower the voting age from 21 to 18-but the case for votes at 16 has been made. It's time.
(c) 2018 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, is published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Elon Musk

The Musk Plan To Fix The World
By James Donahue

Fifty-seven-year-old Elon Musk is a man with an amazing mission. He says his goals are to change the world and humanity, reduce global warming and consequently reduce the risk of human extinction. And if the stogy controls of government and corporate powers don't block him, he just might succeed.

Musk's name has been in the news a lot lately because the mighty SpaceX rocket his company built succeeded in lifting a Tesla automobile off into space. The rocket appears superior to anything NASA ever built and is already being used to hoist various satellites into orbit, portions of the rocket are being recovered for re-use, and is considered a candidate for Musk's plan to sponsor a manned flight to Mars.

Musk also is the founder of SolarCity, a company involved in sustainable energy production, is proposing a new method of high speed air travel on electric aircraft using electric fan propulsion, has a plan to develop high speed Internet for international use via a multi-satellite system, is working toward establishing a human colony on Mars and is busy burrowing Hyperloop, an underground high-speed transportation system that will move people from city to city on high speed rail.

Critics laughed at Musk's ideas at first. But his successful ventures of late have been capturing the imagination of the world. The man is overcoming almost insurmountable odds to build the tools humanity needs to accomplish the future world Musk has outlined. That he follows in the footsteps of the late electronic and energy genius Nicholai Tesla, after whom he named his car company, reflects upon the same mindset Musk appears to share with Tesla. And that frightens the capitalistic powers now in place that are prepared to block his every move.

Born in South Africa in 1971, Musk proved to be a child genius. He mastered computer programming by the time he was 12. He moved to Canada at the age of 17 to attend Queen's University. From there he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania where he earned an economics degree from the Wharton School and a master's degree in physics from the College of Arts and Sciences. After this Musk actively pursued the finances he needed to change the world.

He began by co-founding a web software company that was sold to Compaq for $340 million in 1999. From there he founded an online financial business that evolved into PayPal and that sold to eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002. That same year Musk founded SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer and space transport services operation. He remains that company's CEO and lead designer.

An obvious multi-tasker, by 2003 Musk established the Tesla Company for building electric cars and solar panels. He then was involved in the creation of SolarCity, a solar energy services company that operates as a subsidiary of Tesla Company.

Branching out into other futuristic areas of interest, since 2015 Musk co-founded OpenAI, a company working on artificial intelligence; Neuralink, a company involved in brain-computer interfaces, and most recently, he founded The Boring Company, which is already tunneling across the United States.

Musk has been so successful in his many business ventures by 2016 he was ranked twenty-first on the Forbes list of the World's Most Powerful People. He currently is estimated to have a net worth of $20.8 billion. Thus, unlike the poverty stricken Tesla, Musk acquired his wealth first and thus is promising to have a better chance of success at making his dream for the world come into reality.

While we have had few peeks into the research going on in some of the Musk-sponsored projects, his firing of his SpaceX rockets have been making headlines. Millions have watched his successful launches on nightly television. And now the news is zeroing in on his plans to burrow for his "Hyperloop" underground high-speed transportation system.

The massive burrowing machines appear to already be at work under southern California. A two-mile test track is now under construction leading from Musk's SpaceX rocket-manufacturing plant leading west under 120th Street toward the 405 Freeway. Long range plans have it connecting there to a primary tunnel network called Loop that would run from Long Beach Airport to Sherman Oaks, parallel to the 405. Side tunnels would carry passengers to and from LA International Airport and Dodger Stadium, and from South Bay beach cities to the beaches at Santa Monica.

Cars will not be used in these tunnels. Instead, passengers would be placed in pods attached to skates affixed to a track. These pods would move at high speed from place to place, thus moving large numbers of people and easing the heavy traffic patterns now clogging the road systems above.

Musk has just managed a preliminary permit to begin digging a similar test tunnel under Washington D.C. If he can get through all of the red tape imposed upon his company, he plans another high-speed transit system from Washington east through the heavily populated areas in New York and northward.

We can only imagine a future of high-speed underground travel in Musk's tunnels, someday carrying us from L.A. to New York, south to Miami and west to Chicago and Spokane, getting us there at speeds faster than contemporary aircraft.

The futuristic world of Musk and other inventors and visionaries is just around the corner. All we need to do is elect leadership to public office that shares in these visions.
(c) 2018 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles.

AR-15 rifles are displayed for sale at the Guntoberfest gun show in Oaks, Pennsylvania.

No, The Founding Fathers Didn't Give You A Right To Bear Arms
That Was a Result of Corporatism and Partisanship Posing as Jurisprudence
By John Atcheson

For most of US history, all the way through to the end of the 20th Century, the introductory phrase "a well-regulated militia" was seen by courts to constrain the clause "the right of the people to keep and bear arms." In short, that individual "right" was contingent on the need to keep a well-regulated militia, and hence it protected the States' interests in having a militia, not an individuals' right to have and carrying a gun.

Dennis Baron, in an essay from "Language and Law, 2. Guns and grammar," provides an excellent summary of how the Amendment has been interpreted throughout history, summarizing both the case law and the grammatical meanings of 18th century language, with an eye toward getting at the plain meaning of the Amendment as intended by the Founders.

The support for the idea that the Amendment was designed to protect state militias is strong. For example, Justice Stephen Rheinhardt of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals noted in Silveira v Lockyer that when the Bill of Rights was being shaped, most of the debate focused on the need to maintain a militia. As Justice Rheinhardt noted:

[A]lone among the 13 colonies, New Hampshire . . . recommended a proposed amendment to the Constitution explicitly establishing a personal right to possess arms: "Congress shall never disarm any Citizen unless such as are or have been in Actual Rebellion."... The New Hampshire proposal is significant not only because it was substantially different from the proposals to emerge from the various other state conventions (which in turn were quite similar to that ultimately enacted as the Second Amendment), but also because it suggests that an amendment establishing an individual right to bear arms would have been worded quite differently from the Second Amendment.
It wasn't until the 21st Century that the interpretation favoring the preeminence of State militias began to unravel in the courts, although special interests had long tried to pass off the second clause as preeminent, and the first clause as subordinate in meaning, if not meaningless.

A Reagan appointee rewrites history

In 2001, in the United States v. Emerson, in which Timothy Emmerson challenged a restraining order which barred him from purchasing a firearm, Judge William Garwood -a conservative appointed by Ronald Reagan -- of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals included a lengthy digression on the Second Amendment in his majority opinion stating that even though Emerson shouldn't be allowed to have a gun, the amendment did protect an individual's right to own one. Garwood's Second Amendment digression was not binding-in his concurrence in Emerson, Judge Robert Parker discounted Garwood's rant as "84 pages of dicta" and criticized Garwood for grandstanding. Thus, there was nothing precedential about Garwood's digression, and it was irrelevant to the Court's decision. Nevertheless, the language was picked up by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in a memo which sought to reverse the government's long-held position that the Second Amendment protections applied primarily to State militias, not individuals.

In 2008 the Supreme Court officially endorsed the notion that the clause addressing an individual's right was the defining clause, when Antonia Scalia, writing the majority opinion for District of Columbia v Heller, maintained that the introductory clause merely announced a purpose, and imposed no constraint on "the right of the people to keep and bear arms." Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts joined Scalia in overturning some 200 years of jurisprudence. Talk about activist judges!

Linguists dismissed Scalia's interpretation as nonsense, and legal scholars pointed out that the opinion Scalia wrote was the opposite of what an Originalist -which Scalia claimed to be -would conclude.

Corporatism and partisanship as jurisprudence

The radical shift in the interpretation of the Second Amendment by so-called conservative judges reveals how their decisions don't flow from a conservative jurisprudence grounded in judicial restraint, a belief in a textual interpretation of the Constitution, respect for precedents, and deference to democratically-elected branches of government, but rather from a desire to act in the interests of corporations and partisan conservative politics.

Since the Civil War, there has been a slow, intermittent drift toward giving corporations the rights of individuals, and since 2000, if you were looking for a consistent jurisprudence, you'd be more likely to find it in the consistency in which the Court acted on behalf of corporations, vested interests, and partisan politics than you would in conservative interpretation and application of the original intent of the Constitution.

One could start with Bush v. Gore, in which conservatives used a radical interpretation (one that was essentially liberal) of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to hand the election to Bush, and then sought to isolate its effect by saying it was a one-time-only decision, not meant to be precedential. It stands as one of the most hypocritical and blatantly partisan decisions in the history of the Supreme Court.

The Roberts Court has doubled down on partisanship and corporatism; they are the Rosetta Stone for those seeking to understand the basis of the Court's otherwise random approach to applying principle to law.

DC v Heller: radical judicial intervention masquerading as conservative jurisprudence

The Court's decision in the Heller case gives Bush v Gore a run for the money in the annals of hypocrisy and partisanship. In dismissing the first clause as meaningless, Scalia and his cronies completely disregarded precedential cases such as Miller v the United States (1939) in which the Supreme Court said:

"In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a [sawed-off] shotgun...has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument."
In another landmark case, Hickman v Block (1996), which addressed Hickman's contention that the state had violated his Second Amendment rights when they refused to grant him a concealed carry license, a federal appeals court -basing their decision on a plain reading of the Amendment and the precedent established by Miller v the United States said:
Because the Second Amendment guarantees the right of the states to maintain armed militia, the states alone stand in the position to show legal injury when this right is infringed.
In short, the Court had long held that under the Second Amendment only the States could claim injury and seek relief, not individuals.

In his opinion for the majority on Heller, Scalia cavalierly dismissed linguistic common sense, an all but binding set of legal precedents, and his own his jurisprudence of "originalism." And the 5-4 opinion, with the rest of the conservative Justices' embrace of the decision, ushered in a new view of the Second Amendment that was radically different than the interpretation that had dominated for some 200 years, and it was a far less defensible one. But it did serve the interests of the NRA, gun manufacturers, and partisan right-wing politics which had been using fear and divisiveness to divide and conquer people so they could destroy the notion of the commonweal and the government's role in assuring it -a legal precept rooted in the Enlightenment principles that formed the underpinning our system of government since the 18th Century.

So if you're looking for who gave you your "right to bear arms," it wasn't the Founders -it came from a radical set of partisan corporatists who are more interested in scaring you so you'll buy more guns, then use the resulting profits to buy more politicians who will give tax cuts to the uber wealthy while taking away your benefits. Their engine is fear; their fuel is greed, their product the perversion of politics that is passed off as modern conservatism.
(c) 2018 John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, and he has just completed a book on the 2016 elections titled, WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track, available from Amazon. Follow him on Twitter @john_atcheson

Trumps gives the corporate salute

CPAC Is Trump And Trump Is CPAC
By Heather Digby Parton

For some reason this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, seems to have gotten more attention than usual. That's saying something, since for the last 15 years or so it's gotten much more attention than it deserves. CPAC is like a 10-car pile-up - frightening and horrible, but you can't look away.

Salon's Jeremy Binckes and Matthew Sheffield have each weighed in on this year's event -- with Binckes making the case that it shows that the GOP is now thoroughly Trumpified while Sheffield argues that it's now Trump who's been absorbed by the Republican Party. I think CPAC shows that the Trump strain has always been slithering around under the rock of conservative movement politics, and 2016 just turned it over and let it run amok.

The first CPAC was organized to bring young conservatives and political activists together for a conference to map out movement and electoral strategy. It took place in 1974 in the midst of the Watergate scandal, which divided the conference between those who thought Richard Nixon was toast and those who wanted him to fight on. It was, by all accounts, a very lively disagreement. They turned to the man they all agreed was the Great Conservative Hope, Gov. Ronald Reagan of California, who was the keynote speaker and gave one of his most important speeches, heralding his strong primary run against Gerald Ford in 1976 and his winning campaign in 1980.

Reagan introduced three former U.S. military prisoners of war in that speech, one of whom was John McCain, to reverent, thunderous applause. This year the longtime Arizona senator, who has a brain tumor and may well be near the end of his life, was insulted by the president of the United States from the CPAC podium. That shouldn't have come as any surprise. The CPAC podium, for at least the last couple of decades, is where decency and humanity go to die.

I won't go into the horrors of the 1990s. The party under former House speaker Newt Gingrich was as aggressively obnoxious as it is today: That was the height of the "vast right wing conspiracy's" power. Let's just say that in 1994 CPAC was where Paula Jones made her debut and leave it at that.

It was during the glory years of the George W. Bush administration that the media started paying close attention to what was really going on there. Michelle Goldberg wrote for Salon in 2003 that there were "t-shirts with the words 'Islam: Religion of Peace' surrounding a photo of a bomb with the word 'Allah' on its timer" among dozens of other hideous anti-Muslim items for sale that were flying off the shelves. Remember this was during the time Bush was telling his followers that Islam was a religion of peace.

But it didn't matter. CPAC attendees may have hated Muslims but they loved Bush. In fact, they loved him almost as much as the sainted Ronald Reagan, whom they continued to worship like a god. The Iraq war got their blood pumping wildly and this was how they wanted to see their president:

One of the biggest attractions at the conference for many years was the odious Ann Coulter, who packed the room with rapturous fans screaming with delight at her indecent commentary. Back in 2003 she made one of her most famous shocking statements, which has since been taken up by none other than her hero Donald Trump: "Why shouldn't we go to war for oil. We need oil." In 2006 she got into her groove with "I think our motto should be, post-9/11,'raghead talks tough, raghead faces consequences.'" In response to a question about her biggest ethical dilemma, Coulter said, :There was one time I had a shot at [Bill] Clinton. I thought 'Ann, that's not going to help your career.'"

She really hit her comedic stride in 2007, however, when she dropped this bomb:

I was going to talk about the other Democratic candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word "faggot."
She got a huge ovation for that one, but it seemed to upset some of the old guard and Coulter was disinvited the next year. Organizers replaced her with an even bigger draw in 2009, Rush Limbaugh, who gave a memorable, rambling speech bucking up the crowd to oppose anything the new President Barack Obama wanted to do. Down in the bowels of the conference where the merchandise was being flogged they were selling racist pictures of Obama dressed as a witch doctor.

In 2011, when Donald Trump made his first appearance and started the original buzz about his potential candidacy, he said in his speech, "Our current president came out of nowhere. Came out of nowhere. In fact, I'll go a step further. The people that went to school with him never saw him; they don't know who he is. Crazy." He went on Bill O'Reilly's show that night and said he had investigators in Hawaii looking for Obama's birth certificate. The rest is history.

It's been getting a little stranger than usual lately, even by the racist, far-right standards of CPAC. In 2016 the event was overrun with neo-fascists who were booted them to the margins. In 2017, the thrill of Trump's unexpected victory was still fresh and the "alt-right," in the form of Steve Bannon, was the big draw. This year it the global far right got its turn in the CPAC spotlight, with Marion Marechal-Le Pen of France and Nigel Farage of Britain as big draws.

And the CPAC tribes love Donald Trump with the same passion they felt for Bush and Reagan. These people really aren't that choosy.

CPAC used to pretend that it was a conference about "ideas" and the "conservative agenda." But as NeverTrump conservative Ben Howe said on MSNBC on Friday, it's really just about making liberals cry. Frequent CPAC star Dinesh D'Souza put it this way in his 2002 book "Letters to a Young Conservative":

One way to be effective as a conservative is to figure out what annoys and disturbs liberals the most, and then keep doing it.
Nothing could disturb and annoy liberals more than Donald Trump.

It sounds innocuous enough. Maybe liberals should just stop crying and these people would stop being so obnoxious, right? But there's something more sinister about this than at first seems obvious. That attitude lies at the heart of something ugly and dark that's grown up in our culture and around the world.

There was one young white supremacist marching in Charlottesville last year who, when things got scary, stripped off his white polo shirt uniform and tried to blend in with the crowd. When he was asked by a journalist why he was doing what he'd been doing, he said: "It's kind of a fun idea. Just being able to say, like, 'Hey man, white power!' You know? To be quite honest, I love to be offensive. It's fun."

One of his cohorts thought it might be fun to mow down a bunch of people with his car that day and ended up killing someone. That desire to be "offensive" isn't a joke, and neither is the offensiveness of CPAC. Look where it's gotten us.
(c) 2018 Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

I'd Elect The People On My Facebook Page Over Any Weapons-Funded Hack
By David Swanson

I asked my Facebook page which high school teacher they'd least like to have had a gun in their desk. Go read their answers.

I'd elect those people over any recent president or any current member of Congress.

These bursts of public discussion with dashes of sanity thrown in that follow each particularly media-covered mass-shooting are always encouraging. And it's especially encouraging to have young people being allowed to have a say.

But let's be clear about the limitations of what's happened so far. The first set of limitations is those that are created by universal militarism worship.

These kids were killed by a kid trained to kill by the JROTC, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Congress, and your tax dollars, with a bit of spare change thrown in by the NRA. He was trained to shoot and praised for it in the same school where he shot and was condemned for it. He committed his crimes wearing his JROTC shirt. He did not separate the good shooting from the bad shooting in his mind. Neither, apparently, do the U.S. military veterans who make up a hugely disproportionate share of mass-shooters in the U.S. They've been praised for mass-murder of non-Americans. They are then killed or imprisoned and roundly condemned (but made famous) for the mass-murder of people in the United States. Perhaps one of their failures is to draw a sharp enough nationalistic line. The United States is the one nation on earth that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child which forbids military recruitment of minors. The U.S. military describes JROTC as a recruitment program that results in some 30% of participants joining the U.S. military. Some students are put into JROTC against their will. In addition, the U.S. has had mass-shootings on military bases, literally surrounded by "good guys with guns." And, of course, the majority of the human beings killed with U.S. weapons on any given day are outside the United States. A foreign policy based on guns is no less insane than a classroom based on guns. None of this is mentioned, not by students, not by parents, not by teachers, not by anti-NRA organizers. What students and others are now saying is terrific because they are saying it, and because TV corporations are showing it, but it is the same things others have been saying for years, and it is bound by the same restrictions as to what it is permissible to mention.

Another set of limitations are those created by a system of legalized bribery. While you can get an auditorium full of people to demand that a senator stop taking legalized bribes from the gun industry, the senator can still spit in your face and count on the weapons profiteers to give him enough money to buy enough advertisements (plus related free corporate media) to sway many more people than are in the room. Of course, such powers are not invincible. If you continue building a strong enough movement, you may in some cases overcome them. But the world will not help. The United Nations and related institutions are under the thumbs of the five permanent security council members, and most nations are afraid to morally condemn or sanction the United States. And the media coverage won't continue. Other stories, important or trivial, will take over. You'll go on holding rallies and demanding change, but people will accuse you of having stopped because you won't be on TV anymore. And it's then that you'll have to really push hard to organize and encourage and inspire a public that believes television is more real than the actual world.

If you do push on, as I hope you will, I recommend forming alliances with other groups working on related issues, joining forces and finding more strength. If you try that approach, it may at some point begin to look strategic to mention the existence of the JROTC.
(c) 2018 David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

Surely, Paul Ryan Has Only Honorable Motives Here
The Speaker takes on an election commission.
By Charles P. Pierce

There was a recent development that went under the radar even for those of us who have been monitoring the war on the franchise that is being conducted by desperate people in an increasingly desperate Republican Party. There is in our government something called the Election Assistance Commission. The EAC was established in the aftermath of the contested 2000 presidential election, rife as it was with various forms of ratfcking that now seem ridiculously rudimentary.

Its primary job is to keep debacles from 2000 from ever happening again and, increasingly, in the years since, the EAC has busied itself with the job of keeping the American electoral system secure, which became something of a hot topic in the fall of 2016, you may recall. The EAC determines its chairman on a rotating basis so as to ensure its bipartisan nature wherever possible. Ever since last February, the chairman has been a Republican from Ohio named Matthew Masterson, who apparently is universally respected for his expertise in securing elections against cyber-interference emanating from here and abroad. Masterson's term as a member of the commission expired. Last Thursday, as Politico reports, Speaker Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin, determined that not only would Masterson not remain as chairman of the EAC, but also that Masterson's membership on the EAC would not be renewed at all. Given all that's going on elsewhere as regards the franchise, from Russian ratfcking to the battle over partisan gerrymandering to the continued push for voter suppression laws, and given also the mounting Republican desperation as regards the 2018 midterm election, Ryan could not have picked a worse time to 86 Masterson as part of the commission. From Politico:

"It is clear that Republican congressional leadership and the Trump administration simply aren't interested in ensuring that our elections are protected from Russian interference," Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill, a Democrat, told POLITICO in a statement. "If the replacement steps up partisan politics, that would not be good for our nation, or the electorate," Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat, said in an email. "This is insanity," said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, an election security expert who is the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy & Technology. "Matt is extremely capable and has been a champion of more secure and better elections the entire time he's been on the EAC." Even the Sierra Club blasted the decision as "inexcusable."

A Republican and former Ohio election official, Masterson has been with the commission since January 2015, shortly after the Senate unanimously confirmed him to a term that began in 2013. In February 2017, Masterson took the rotating chairman position. He won praise from state officials and cyber experts of both parties for handling election security in an objective, nonpartisan way. "Matt has been a great addition" to the EAC, Condos said, "and has frankly worked in a nonpartisan manner." California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, another Democrat, called Masterson "an effective and collaborative chair," adding that he hoped any replacement "commands the same level of bipartisan support and respect."

Ryan's office is trying to fob this off as just another personnel decision, but that doesn't wash, either. The Republicans have been after the EAC for years now. (In July of 2017, they tried to defund it entirely.) You cannot separate what Ryan has done from the dozens of other ways that the Republicans have sought to undermine the franchise over the past two decades. There is no reason to believe that Ryan won't appoint some pliable hack to replace Masterson, being, of course, a pliable hack himself. The 2018 midterms are already wild, and they're nowhere near as vicious now as they're going to be.
(c) 2018 Charles P. Pierce has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently 'Idiot America.' He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.

The Quotable Quote...

"I am a person who is unhappy with things as they stand. We cannot accept the world as it is. Each day we should wake up foaming at the mouth because of the injustice of things."
~~~ Hugo Claus

James "Mad Dog" Mattis

Why One War When We Can Have Two!
Declaring a future war against China and Russia is a crazy idea. Only draft-dodgers and generals who lost the Vietnam War could come up with it.
By Eric Margolis

"We will continue to prosecute the campaign against terrorists, but great-power competition - not terrorism - is now the primary focus of US national security." Henceforth Russia and China will be America's main enemies, with Iran and North Korea thrown in for good measure.

So declared US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, last week in a statement of profound importance for the world.

For the past seventeen years, the US military has been laying waste to the Muslim world in the faux 'war on terrorism.' Afghanistan, Iraq, much of Syria, Somalia, Pakistan - all have been heavily bombed. US B-52's and B-1 heavy bombers have tried to pound those resisting American 'guidance' into submission.

In Afghanistan, America's longest war, President Donald Trump ordered a doubling of bombing against Taliban forces battling US occupation. Now, the US is running very low on bombs, guided munitions and even air-to-air missiles for some reason. Stores of munitions are being rushed from the US Pacific command to the Mideast.

At the same time, the US is fast running out of Muslim targets to bomb, now that the bogeyman ISIS has vanished into thin air and US air attacks in Syria are being minimized for fear of clashing with Russia. Iran still remains on the US potential hit list.

Which brings us back to General 'Mad Dog' Mattis. He is quite right that so-called terrorists (that's anyone who actively opposes the Lex Americana) pose no real life or death threat to the US mainland.

But if so, how then to maintain the $1 trillion US military budget? Well, of course, trot out those good old 'Reds Under Our Beds.' Actually, the Pentagon has been planning a new war with China for the past three years, a mainly air and naval conflict to dominate China's coasts and seas. The Pentagon is loading up on new aircraft, missiles, satellites and naval craft for the next Pacific War, and trying to enlist India as an ally against China.

But what then about Russia? Not so easy. The likely theater for a US-Russia clash is on the Baltic coast, Ukraine, the Black Sea or Syria. In this case, the US would be confronted by the same problem that afflicted France in the fall of 1939.

Few people know that it was France that first attacked Germany, not the other way around. Responding to the German invasion of Poland, France and Britain declared war on Germany. French divisions began to invade Germany's Rhineland. But after a few skirmishes the French high command, under the inept Gen. Maurice Gamelin, didn't know what to do next. Germany was large, and the defensive-minded French did not anticipate occupying its entire country.

After a brief demonstration, the French Army withdrew behind the Maginot Line. Hitler did not counter-attack in hope he could forge a peace treaty with London and Paris. Winston Churchill and his fellow imperialists furiously sought to push Britain into war with Germany. But months of inactivity went by, known as the 'Sitzkrieg' or 'drole de guerre' until Germany acted decisively.

This would also be America's problem in a war against Russia. How deep into Russia to attack (assuming no use of nuclear weapons)? How to protect ever lengthening supply lines? Napoleon and Hitler faced the same challenges and failed.

Of course, this supposes the US is ready for war. In truth, neither the US and NATO nor Russia are in any way prepared to fight a real war on land, sea and air. Military forces on both sides have been so run down and depleted by little wars and budget cuts that there are serious shortages of war stocks and aging equipment.

Key NATO member Germany is in a shambles. Its feminized military, run by a nice but incompetent lady defense minister, could not fight its way out of a paper bag. France is not much better off. The US armed forces and Britain are critically short of spares, munitions, transport, and armor. Russia's once mighty Red Army is short of everything. Both east and west are simply unready for a real war.

As if there is any reason for one. There is not. Those jackanapes in the US Congress and media trying to inflate online mischief by 20-something Russian hackers into a second Pearl Harbor are crying 'fire' in a crowded theater.

A final respectful note to Gen. Mattis (my dad was a marine): A good general does not pick a fight with two, far-away major powers at once. The trick is to turn them against one another. Declaring a future war against China and Russia is a crazy idea. Only draft-dodgers and generals who lost the Vietnam War could come up with it.
(c) 2018 Eric Margolis is a columnist, author and a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East. Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain's Sky News TV as "the man who got it right" in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq. His latest book is American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World.

Karissa Saenz, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, holds a sign that
reads, "White House You are Killing Our Future!," on February 18, 2018, in Parkland, Florida.

Behold The Reckoning Of A Gun Culture In Collapse
By Wiliam Rivers Pitt

I've been wondering lately who my five-year-old daughter's role models will be when she gets older. If there is still good fortune to be found in the world, she will come to see and emulate the authentic heroism, courage and determination being shown by the student survivors of the massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

She is still too young to understand when she sees them on TV, but when the time comes for her to find real flesh-and-blood people to admire, I can think of no one better than these remarkable youth.

It has been 19 years since Columbine, six years since Sandy Hook, five months since Las Vegas and four months since Sutherland Springs. There have been 438 people shot in 239 school shootings since 20 kids my daughter's age were cut down in Newtown by the same weapon that took 17 more lives in Parkland last week.

In all that time and after all that blood, the script has not wavered an inch: There is outrage, the National Rifle Association (NRA) digs in and reminds Congress of the fragility of their re-election prospects, and it all goes away until the bodies drop again.

Not this time. This time, there are these youth, who have lived their entire lives deep in the shadow of unchecked gun violence in schools, who have lived their entire lives in a country fighting permanent wars all over the globe, and with the threat of terrorism thrown in their faces on a daily basis. They do not appear to scare easily, and they have mastered the art of social media in a way their chosen adversaries will never know.

They survived a horror in their own school and are taking action to keep it from happening again. They have stout hearts, and will need them, because they have squared off against some of the vilest people this country is capable of producing.

Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg were there when the bullets started flying in their school, and are among the most vocal and visible activists to emerge from that catastrophe. The pair made a number of television appearances on CNN and other networks to describe their experience and demand change. Passionate and articulate, they immediately drew the attention of the sewer rats of the conservative pro-gun dungeon.

Benjamin Kelly, an aide to Florida Republican state Rep. Shawn Harrison, emailed a screen shot of a Gonzales-Hogg TV appearance to Tampa Bay Times reporter Alex Leary. The photo came with a note from Kelly: "Both kids in the picture are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis when they happen."

If you don't get the reference to "actors," buckle up. A "crisis actor" is someone who works with rescue and police personnel during training exercises. In order to heighten the realism of the exercise, either volunteers or paid actors will pretend to be victims of a catastrophic event, using makeup and other methods to simulate wounds.

According to the clearly false allegations of a clutch of pro-gun conspiracy peddlers, crisis actors were used to portray grieving parents after the Sandy Hook massacre, because according to far-right opinion-makers like Alex Jones, the whole thing was fabricated so President Obama and the federal government could have a pretext for taking away everyone's guns.

Those same ghouls have arrived in the aftermath of the Parkland massacre, fobbing off this nonsense in order to derange the debate and protect the gun industry. They are the NRA's shock troops, and they are gruesomely effective. David Hogg's family has confirmed that a number of death threats have been made against him.

NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre, the most visible crisis actor in the US, spent his Thursday morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference, slagging the Parkland survivors on the sly. Without mentioning them by name, LaPierre claimed that those seeking gun reform are exploiting a tragedy because they are European socialists like Obama, who hate all individual freedoms and are the reason why The Communist Manifesto is among the most frequently assigned texts on college campuses today. What we need is a good guy with a gun, declared LaPierre, lather rinse reload repeat.

And then there was the president himself, sitting down with a gathering of Parkland survivors while clutching a notecard. "What would you want me to know about your experience?" read one talking point. "What can we do to make you feel safe?" read another. Last but not least: "I hear you." On the cuff of his left sleeve was an embroidered "45," put there to remind him, I suppose, what his day job actually is.

Trump's big idea after that gut-wrenching meeting: Give guns to teachers. LaPierre doubled down on the idea during his CPAC speech. Predictably, the proposal went over like the proverbial lead balloon with a significant segment of the population.

"All students deserve to go to a school in a place without guns," Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of the Advancement Project's National Office, told Truthout. "Communities of color know all too well that schools with armed police and metal detectors don't make students feel safe. Making schools feel like war zones or prisons is not the solution."

As the proposals of Trump and the NRA meet with widespread derision, the Parkland activists have been seeing broad support, despite the aggressive pushback coming their way. They have also been making their case with gusto. Viewers who tuned in to CNN's town hall broadcast on school shootings saw, among other things, the near-complete obliteration of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who was bulldozed by a high school kid named Cameron Kasky.

Kasky, one of the founders of the #NeverAgain movement that emerged from the Parkland massacre, stood 10 feet tall under the lights as he nailed Rubio's feet to the stage over the question of NRA campaign money. Rubio hemmed and hawed before giving a pat DC answer and was roundly vilified by the audience. A lot of people used to think Marco had a real future in politics. After this, maybe not so much.

Of course, any effective challenge to the current gun crisis in the US will require a long-term, ongoing effort. LaPierre and his minions have been on this battlefield many times, and they have emerged victorious every single time.

The NRA's undefeated record can be explained by its patience -- it is adept at waiting in the tall grass until the news narrative carries the latest tragedy out of immediate memory -- and money. The NRA owns a vast portion of Congress, and it is not shy about reminding its federal and state congressional "employees" of this when necessary.

Marco Rubio was in a building filled with Parkland survivors and the furious parents of the fallen, all of whom were on him like a million tons of woe, and still he refused to denounce or even mildly criticize the NRA. The president of the United States of America peddled the NRA's boilerplate "Arm the teachers!" argument before LaPierre had a chance to make it himself, and was also surrounded by Parkland survivors when he did so. More guns in schools, he said, would "solve the problem instantly."

That, right there, is power.

Beyond the array of potent foes who oppose gun reform for financial reasons while buttressed by a foundation of white supremacy, we need to acknowledge the incredible complexity of the issue itself. Finding effective solutions cannot simply be a matter of regurgitating Democratic Party talking points or proposals. Too many of those are only about punishing individuals, instead of addressing the core problems, and often serve only to exacerbate the racist violence of arrest and incarceration perpetrated by authorities against communities of color. Laying blame for the phenomenon of gun violence on mental illness is an equally fruitless and ultimately destructive act of denialism.

A frontal assault on the multibillion-dollar gun industry in the US is a necessary step in solving the nation's gun crisis. Thanks to effective lobbyists like Wayne LaPierre -- that's all he is, remember: just another damn lobbyist -- gun manufacturers have been all but inoculated by Congress against legal responsibility when their product kills someone.

The auto and tobacco industries -- also makers of potentially lethal products -- sought and enjoyed similar legal protections for years before finally being brought to heel. If the gun industry loses its legal immunity, nature will take its course through the civil court system. After a few massive financial judgments against them, the industry will come to see addressing the gun crisis as being very much in its own self-interest. What was the industry's fertile field could become its goad to duty.

Furthermore, we need to look at how militarism has fueled gun violence within the US. We have been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than 27 years. We have been on a permanent wartime footing since Pearl Harbor. And this country has been waging war against Indigenous people since the first Europeans made landfall here seeking their fortunes. The psychological and physical effects of the US's permanent state of militarism have created a siege mentality that is caustic to all of us. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

We must bear witness to the overwhelming militarization of this society, and understand the consequences of same. Our worship of all things military -- conspicuously absent after Vietnam but ever-present after Desert Storm and September 11 -- has become an active menace. What started with some fighter jets at the ballgame has become a ubiquitous presence, right down to the local police forces now swaddled in leftover hardware from the Forever Wars.

Three of the Parkland massacre victims were members of their school's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC). All were awarded medals of honor by the US Army. One of them was a 15-year-old freshman named Peter Wang. He died holding a door open so others could escape, and was wearing his JROTC uniform when he did. The US Military Academy at West Point, which Wang wished to attend after graduation, announced that he would be posthumously admitted to its class of 2025.

These are the ties that bind, the stories of fallen heroes and honors bestowed. The media were swift to spotlight the recognition these three JROTC students received ... but were far less inclined to note that the Parkland shooter was wearing his JROTC shirt when he opened fire, that he was taught to shoot while a member of JROTC, and that his school's shooting club enjoyed funding from the National Rifle Association. The military and the NRA: Two members of the Untouchable Class in the hierarchy of American power.

This nation must have a reckoning with itself. Ours is a hyper-violent culture, and not because of movies or video games. There are more guns than people in the United States. Ours is the only country on Earth that loses tens of thousands of citizens per year to guns and still fails to act. The mythology of "freedom" has been usurped to help sell more guns. Enforced systemic poverty generates its own forms of violence.

Every square inch of this country was stolen in a genocidal campaign that knows few peers in history. The early wealth extracted from this land was obtained on the backs of millions of enslaved Africans, whose confinement was maintained through the systematic application of overwhelming violence that continues today, well after the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Violence has been our first resort and final answer for hundreds of years.

Today, the US holds only 4.4 percent of the world's population but houses a full 22 percent of the world's prison population. This is another form of state-sponsored violence, perpetrated under the guise of facile "Law and Order solutions" that only perpetuate what they claim to defeat. A focus on individual punishment as a solution for the gun crisis also enriches the prison industry, which has its own DC lobbyists, just like Wayne LaPierre.

This, too, must change.

The Parkland activists have stormed and seized the national stage, and now must hold it if they wish to succeed. These are the treacherous waters they must navigate if they wish to prevail. I have every faith they will do precisely that, for they have more friends and allies than they can possibly count, and those friends are answering the call. Enough is enough. Someday, when the time is right, I will tell my daughter all about them, and in them, she will find a yardstick for courage that will serve her the rest of her days.

Never again.
(c) 2018 William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.

The Dead Letter Office...

Ben gives the corporate salute.

Heil Trump,

Dear Unter Gruppenfuhrer Rajan,

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 fight against a one payer healthcare system and your suppost for the NRA, 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 "Demoncratic Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

Why The Common Good Disappeared (And How We Get It Back)
By Robert Reich

In 1963 over 70 percent of Americans trusted government to do the right thing all or most of the time; nowadays only 16 percent do.

There has been a similar decline in trust for corporations. In the late 1970s, 32 percent trusted big business, by 2016, only 18 percent did.

Trust in banks has dropped from 60 percent to 27 percent. Trust in newspapers, from 51 percent to 20 percent. Public trust has also plummeted for nonprofits, universities, charities, and religious institutions.

Why this distrust? As economic inequality has widened, the moneyed interests have spent more and more of their ever-expanding wealth to alter the rules of the game to their own advantage.

Too many leaders in business and politics have been willing to do anything to make more money or to gain more power - regardless of the consequences for our society.

We see this everywhere - in the new tax giveaway to big corporations, in gun manufacturer's use of the NRA to block gun controls, in the Koch Brother's push to roll back environmental regulations, in Donald Trump's profiting off his presidency.

No wonder much of the public no longer believes that America's major institutions are working for the many. Increasingly, they have become vessels for the few.

The question is whether we can restore the common good. Can the system be made to work for the good of all?

Some of you may feel such a quest to be hopeless. The era we are living in offers too many illustrations of greed, narcissism, and hatefulness. But I don't believe it hopeless.

Almost every day I witness or hear of the compassion of ordinary Americans - like the thousands who helped people displaced by the wildfires in California and floods in Louisiana; like the two men in Seattle who gave their lives trying to protect a young Muslim woman from a hate-filled assault; like the coach who lost his life in Parkland, Florida, trying to shield students from a gunman; like the teenagers who are demanding that Florida legislators take action on guns.

The challenge is to turn all this into a new public spiritedness extending to the highest reaches in the land - a public morality that strengthens our democracy, makes our economy work for everyone, and revives trust in the major institutions of America.

We have never been a perfect union; our finest moments have been when we sought to become more perfect than we had been. We can help restore the common good by striving for it and showing others it's worth the effort.

I started my career a half-century ago in the Senate office of Robert F. Kennedy, when the common good was well understood, and I've watched it unravel over the last half-century.

Resurrecting it may take another half century, or more. But as the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once said, "Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope."
(c) 2018 Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few." His web site is

A White House protest held by Teens for Gun Reform last week in the wake of the Florida school massacre.

Guns And Liberty
By Chris Hedges

The proliferation of guns in American society is not only profitable for gun manufacturers, it fools the disempowered into fetishizing weapons as a guarantor of political agency. Guns buttress the myth of a rugged individualism that atomizes Americans, disdains organization and obliterates community, compounding powerlessness. Gun ownership in the United States, largely criminalized for poor people of color, is a potent tool of oppression. It does not protect us from tyranny. It is an instrument of tyranny.

"Second Amendment cultists truly believe that guns are political power," writes Mark Ames, the author of "Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond." "[They believe that] guns in fact are the only source of political power. That's why, despite loving guns, and despite being so right-wing, they betray such a paranoid fear and hatred of armed agents of the government (minus Border Guards, they all tend to love our Border Guards). If you think guns, rather than concentrated wealth, equals political power, then you'd resent government power far more than you'd resent billionaires' power or corporations' hyper-concentrated wealth/power, because government will always have more and bigger guns. In fact you'd see pro-gun, anti-government billionaires like the Kochs as your natural political allies in your gun-centric notion of political struggle against the concentrated gun power of government."

American violence has always been primarily vigilante violence. It is a product of the colonial militias; the U.S. Army, which carried out campaigns of genocide against Native Americans; slave patrols; hired mercenaries and gunslingers; the Pinkerton and Baldwin-Felts detective agencies; gangs of strikebreakers; the Iron and Coal Police; company militias; the American Legion veterans of World War I who attacked union agitators; the White Citizens' Council; the White League, the Knights of the White Camellia; and the Ku Klux Klan, which controlled some states. These vigilante groups carried out atrocities, mostly against people of color and radicals, within our borders that later characterized our savage subjugation of the Philippines, interventions in Latin America, the wars in Korea and Vietnam and our current debacles in the Middle East. Gen. Jacob H. Smith summed up American attitudes about wholesale violence in the Philippines when he ordered his troops to turn the island of Samar, defended by Filipino insurgents, into "a howling wilderness."

Mass culture and most historians do not acknowledge the patterns of violence that have played out over and over since the founding of the nation. This historical amnesia blinds us to the endemic violence that defines our culture and is encoded in our national myth. As historian Richard Slotkin writes in "Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier 1600-1860," the first of his three magisterial works on violence in American society, our Jacksonian form of democracy was defined by "the western man-on-the-make, the speculator, and the wildcat banker; [in a time] when racist irrationalism and a falsely conceived economics prolonged and intensified slavery in the teeth of American democratic idealism; and when men like Davy Crockett became national heroes by defining national aspirations in terms of so many bears destroyed, so much land preempted, so many trees hacked down, so many Indians and Mexicans dead in the dust."

"The first colonists saw in America an opportunity to regenerate their fortunes, their spirits, and the power of their church and nation," he writes, "but the means to that regeneration ultimately became the means of violence, and the myth of regeneration through violence became the structuring metaphor of the American experience."

"A people unaware of its myths is likely to continue living by them, though the world around that people may change and demand changes in their psychology, their ethics and their institutions," Slotkin writes.

The metaphors we use to describe ourselves to ourselves are rooted in this national myth. We explain our history and our experience and seek our identity in this myth. This myth connects us to the forces that shape and give meaning to our lives. It bridges, as Slotkin writes, "the gap between the world of the mind and the world of affairs, between dream and reality, between impulse or desire and action. It draws on the content of individual and collective memory, structures it, and develops it from imperatives for belief and action."

The historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz in her book "Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment" also illustrates how the racist, white settler vision of the world continues to color our perception of reality. She writes:

The populist frontier ideology has served the U.S. ruling class well for its entire history and once again found tremendous resonance in the Vietnam War as another Indian war. A key to John F. Kennedy's political success was that he revived the "frontier" as a trope of populist imperialism, speaking of the "settling" of the continent and "taming" a different sort of "wilderness." In Kennedy's acceptance speech in Los Angeles at the 1960 Democratic Convention, he said: "I stand tonight facing west on what was once the last frontier. From the lands that stretch 3,000 miles behind me, the pioneers of old gave up their safety, their comfort and sometimes their lives to build a new world here in the West. ... We stand today on the edge of a new frontier." The metaphor described Kennedy's plan for employing political power to make the world the new frontier of the United States. Central to this vision was the Cold War, what Richard Slotkin calls "a heroic engagement in the 'long twilight struggle' against communism," to which the nation was summoned by Kennedy in his inaugural address. Soon after he took office, that struggle took the form of the counterinsurgency program in Vietnam and his creation of the Green Beret Special Forces. "Seven years after Kennedy's nomination," Slotkin reminds us, "American troops would be describing Vietnam as 'Indian Country' and search-and-destroy missions as a game of 'Cowboys and Indians'; and Kennedy's ambassador to Vietnam would justify a massive military escalation by citing the necessity of moving the 'Indians' away from the 'fort' so that the 'settlers' could plant 'corn.' "
The gun culture permits a dispossessed public, sheared of economic and political power, to buy a firearm and revel in feelings of omnipotence. A gun reminds Americans that they are divine agents of purification, anointed by God and Western civilization to remake the world in their own image. Violence in America is not about the defense of liberty or radical change. It is an expression of domination, racism and hate. American vigilantes are the shock troops of capitalism. They butcher the weak on behalf of the strong. "The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer," the English novelist and essayist D.H. Lawrence wrote. "It has never yet melted."

There are some 310 million firearms in the United States, including 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles and 86 million shotguns. The number of military-style assault weapons in private hands-including the AR-15 semi-automatic rifles used in the massacres at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.-is estimated at 1.5 million. The United States has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, an average of 90 firearms per 100 people.

"Total gun deaths in the United States average around 37,000 a year, with two-thirds of those deaths being suicides, leaving approximately 12,000 homicides, a thousand of those at the hands of the police," writes Dunbar-Ortiz. "Mass shootings-ones that leave four or more people wounded or dead-now occur in the United States, on average, at the pace of one or more per day. Disturbing as that fact is, mass shootings currently account for only 2 percent of gun killings annually. The number of gun deaths-37,000-is roughly equal to death-by-vehicle incidents in the United States per year."

If the ruling elites feared an armed uprising, a draconian form of gun control would instantly be law. But the engine of gun ownership is not the fear of government. It is the fear by white people of the black and brown underclass, an underclass many whites are convinced will threaten them as society breaks down. Guns, largely in the hands of whites, have rarely been deployed against the state. In this, the United States is an exception. It has a heavily armed population and yet maintains political stability. The few armed rebellions-the 1786 and 1787 Shays' Rebellion, the 1921 armed uprising by 10,000 coal miners at Blair Mountain in West Virginia-were swiftly and brutally put down by militias and armed vigilantes hired by capitalists. These uprisings were about specific grievances, not systemic change. Revolution is foreign to our intellectual tradition.

As jobs and manufacturing are shipped overseas, communities crumble, despair grips much of the country and chronic poverty plagues American families, the gun seems to be the last tangible relic of a free and mythic America. It offers the illusion of power, protection and freedom. This is why the powerless will not give it up.

"In the heartland, these are people who feel they've been the victims of sustained economic violence at the hands of tyrannical governments of both parties," writer and editor Daniel Hayes wrote in The New York Times in 2016. "In 2008, Barack Obama's notorious misstep got one thing right: Rural people will 'cling' to guns. Not because they are sad or misguided, but because it is the last right they feel they still have: a liberty at least, in place of opportunity."

"Outsourcing and guns: These are the twin issues animating Trump voters in rural Kentucky," he wrote. "The two are linked and feed off each other; the only difference between them is that white rural voters see outsourcing as a losing battle, whereas protecting and expanding Second Amendment rights is the only policy they've been able to get politicians to move on. For that reason alone, it is totemic."

The Second Amendment, as Dunbar-Ortiz makes clear in her book, was never about protecting individual freedom. It was about codifying white vigilante violence into law.

"The elephant in the room in these debates has long been what the armed militias of the Second Amendment were to be used for," Dunbar-Ortiz writes. "The kind of militias and gun rights of the Second Amendment had long existed in the colonies and were expected to continue fulfilling two primary roles in the United States: destroying Native communities in the armed march to possess the continent, and brutally subjugating the enslaved African population. ..."

Attacks on the gun culture and the gun violence that plagues the nation are seen by many gun owners as an attack on their national identity. The more powerful the weapon, the more powerful the gun owner feels. There are those among the marginalized and enraged who are tempted, especially because of easy access to assault-style weapons, to use their guns in mass killings to cleanse the world. The lone killer, almost always a white male, is celebrated by Hollywood and in our national myth and "frontier psychology." This peculiar American veneration of violence, Slotkin writes, "reaches out of the past to cripple, incapacitate, or strike down the living."
(c) 2018 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. Keep up with Chris Hedges' latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ John Cole ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Trump Furious After Twitter's Bot Purge Leaves Him With Fourteen Followers
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)-Donald J. Trump was reportedly "furious" on Wednesday morning after a purge of right-wing bots by Twitter left him with a total of fourteen remaining followers, aides have confirmed.

Rising at 3 a.m. to engage in one of his trademark early-morning tweetstorms, Trump was incensed to discover that his Twitter following had plummeted from more than forty-eight million to a little more than a dozen.

At Twitter headquarters, in San Francisco, a company spokesman confirmed that Trump had indeed lost 48,076,920 followers in the bot purge. "It turned out that over forty-six million of the President's followers came from a single troll farm in Macedonia," the spokesman said.

As of Wednesday, Trump's fourteen remaining Twitter followers included his daughter Ivanka; his sons Eric and Donald, Jr.; several White House aides; and someone named Heinrich Himmler III.

"We're praying that Heinrich is a real person," a White House aide said. "The President can't afford to lose another follower."
(c) 2018 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 18 # 08 (c) 03/02/2018

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