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In This Edition

Matt Taibbi explores, "Russiagate And The New Blacklist."

Uri Avnery explains, "Because There Is Nothing."

Glen Ford reveals, "The Healthcare Bait-And-Switch."

Dahr Jamail reports, "Scientists Warn: February Melting Near North Pole 'Really Extreme.'"

Jim Hightower asks, "What's In Trump's Food-Box?"

John Nichols finds, "Scott Walker Does Not Respect Democracy."

James Donahue reports, "Living 'Off The Grid' Is Illegal."

Norman Solomon wonders, "Is MSNBC Now The Most Dangerous Warmonger Network?"

Heather Digby Parton concludes, "So Much For Criminal Justice Reform."

David Swanson orates, "Take A Knee And A Stand."

Charles P. Pierce wonders, "It's 2018. Why Are We Still Arguing About Marijuana?"

Michael Winship examines, "The 'Pure Madness' Of Our Vigilante President."

William Rivers Pitt says, "We Can Be Heroes: Fighting To Win On Gun Reform."

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

Robert Reich explores, "Trump's Brand Is Ayn Rand."

Chris Hedges with a must read, "Legalizing Tyranny."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion finds, "Dollar Tree To Stop Selling Assault Weapons" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "I'm Having A Deja Vu All Over Again, Again!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of JD Crowe, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Rubin Bolling, Mr. Fish, Don Juan Moore, Michelle Stocker, Molly Riley, UPI, 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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I'm Having A Deja Vu All Over Again, Again!
By Ernest Stewart

"If this were a dictatorship it would be a heck of a lot easier... as long as I'm the dictator." ~~~ George W. Bush

"The study provides decision makers and the public with key information about some of the enabling conditions to achieve such stringent levels of climate protection." ~~~ Joeri Rogelj ~ IIASA researcher

"The fact of the matter is that too many Palestinians and too many Arabs do not want any Jewish state in the Middle East. Of course, we say it's our land, the Torah says it, but they don't believe in the Torah. So that's the reason there is not peace. They invent other reasons, but they do not believe in a Jewish state and that is why we, in America, must stand strong with Israel through thick and thin." ~~~ Chuck Schumer

"The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own." ~~~ Lao Tzu

You may have heard that Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping Saturday after the ruling Communist party announced it was eliminating the two-term limit for the presidency, paving the way for Xi to serve indefinitely, according to CNN.

Trump said Saturday during a lunch and fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago estate. "He's now president for life, president for life. And he's great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it's great. Maybe we'll have to give that a shot someday."

I'm going to repeat that again, for those of you on drugs...

"Trump wants to be a dictator!!!

You may recall that Donald Trump reportedly owned a copy of Adolf Hitler's speeches and kept them in his bedside cabinet.

A 1990 Vanity Fair article about billionaire businessman stated that Mr Trump's then wife Ivana, said her husband owned a copy of "My New Order" - a printed collection of the Nazi leader's speeches.

Marie Brenner, the article's author, wrote: "Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that from time to time her husband reads a book of Hitler's collected speeches, 'My New Order,' which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed."

To misquote Bette Davis in "All About Eve." "Fasten your seatbelts America, it's going to be a bumpy next 22 months!"

In Other News

I see where scientists are developing new models to better understand how governments can work together to ensure global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100.

The different models consider a variety of political, socioeconomic and technological factors, including the impacts of economic inequality, energy demand and regional cooperation. The models considered five different so-called Shared Socioeconomic Pathways, or SSPs.

"A critical value of the paper is the use of the SSPs, which has helped to systematically explore conditions under which such extreme low targets might become attainable," Keywan Riahi, energy program director at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, said in a news release.

All successful scenarios involved a significant shift away from carbon fuel sources toward low-carbon energy sources. The models suggest a reduced energy demand must also be an important part of any successful SPS. The simulations also showed sustainable development strategies could play an important role in limiting climate change. And they might have a chance too if the world's largest polluter the United States wasn't totally against them!

The most apparent obstacles to a workable SPS included: "socioeconomic inequalities, an ongoing reliance on fossil fuels and poor public policies," not to mention our beloved leader herr Trump who is for all those obstacles and more!

"Fragmentation and pronounced inequalities will likely come hand-in-hand with low levels of innovation and productivity, and thus may push the 1.5 degrees Celsius target out of reach," Riahi said. I'm pretty sure we've already passed that point!

Scientists suggest none of the models will be possible "without a serious effort by world leaders and public policy makers." In other words there's not a snowballs chance in Hell that any real meaningful solutions will be acted upon before it's too late!

Oh, and speaking of snowballs, another nor'easter is currently playing havoc in all the usual places. The second in a week to dump lots of snow, rain, and a rising surf which is causing floods. Last week some 2 million people lost power. Today one and one half million are still without, with another storm taking aim at power poles and such throughout the region. Guess what? Another nor'easter is heading their way on Monday.

Meanwhile, a way up north, the arctic has recorded the warmest February in history some 40 degrees warmer than average leaving half the sea ice gone! It was warmer in northern Greenland than it was is London. There's that winners and losers thing from global warming again!

And Finally

Were you watching the parade of Israeli 5th columnists all during the AIPAC bund meetings? From the President of Vice herr Pence, to our Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on down, a steady supply of lickspittles from both the House and Senate would make their way to the dias to pledge their undying support for their puppet masters in Israel.

If you thought it was just members of Trump's "Simian Collective" you would be wrong. Sure most of the top Rethuglicans showed up but so did a lot of Demoncrats to earn their 30 pieces of Silver!

For example House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) had nothing but praise for israel, conveniently forgetting about the war crimes that Israel has and continues to commit against the Palestinians. Not a single one said anything about that. As bad as that is, the very worst words dribbled from the jaws of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Schumer after extensive praise for his Israel masters, then laid the blame for all of Israels actions since the 1940s on the Palestinians themselves. It's all their fault because they don't believe in the Torrah! Ergo, the Jew's mythology allows them to steal, murder and pillage and get away with genocide, because that's the way that their god wants it. Manifest Destiny indeed!

As journalist David Klion said about Schumer's speech, "Bigoted, divisive, embarrassing, as is the fact that you let your caucus gut Dodd-Frank while you were busy sucking up to AIPAC. New Yorkers deserve better representation!"

Indeed they do David!

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!!!


10-31-1942 ~ 03-03-2018
Thanks for the film!


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

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

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


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

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

The endgame to all of this lunacy is a world where every America-critical movement
from Black Lives Matter to Our Revolution to the Green Party is ultimately swept up
in the collusion narrative along with Donald Trump and his alt-right minions."

Russiagate And The New Blacklist
It may have been aimed at Trump to start, but it's become a way of targeting all dissent.
By Matt Taibbi

Putin loves you; therefore, you love Putin. The enemy re-tweets you, therefore, you're in league with the enemy. We're at war with them, therefore we're at war with you.

One of the first rules of a shunning campaign is that it doesn't have to make sense. It just has to be what everyone's saying. Since most Americans went to high school, we tend to be instinctively familiar with the concept.

The crazy inverse logic of the new national blacklist was on full display after special prosecutor Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian "troll farm" operatives in February. In the wake of this foreign meddling charge, CNN reporter Drew Griffin banged on the door of an elderly female Trump supporter named Florine Goldfarb and accused her of being a Russia-collaborator.

Goldfarb had attended a pro-Trump rally allegedly promoted on Facebook by Russian trolls. There were no Russians at the rally. The group didn't meet to discuss the subjugation of Abkhazia. They were plain, ordinary, Floridian Trump supporters - idiots, maybe, but not traitors.

Not according to CNN.

"That group was Russians," Griffin said accusingly.

"I had nothing to do with Russians," the old lady said.

"Maybe you didn't know it," Griffin countered, "but you did."

Nearly two years into the #Russiagate scandal, accusing people of being in league with Putin has become an almost daily feature of news coverage.

"Is it possible that we actually have a Russian agent running the House Intel Committee on the Republican side?" MSNBC anchor John Heilmann posited not long ago, referring to California congressman Devin Nunes.

The main source of the questions about Nunes was Hamilton 68, a website purporting to track the work of Russian social media bots in real time. An offshoot of the German Marshall Fund, the site represents an unpleasantly unsurprising union of neoconservative Iraq war cheerleaders like Bill Kristol and Beltway Democrats like would-be Clinton CIA chief Michael Morell.

Their Hamilton 68 "dashboard," easily accessible online to civilians and journalists alike, supposedly tells us what the enemy wants us to think at any given moment. Citing a secret methodology, it claims to track 600 Twitter accounts for their "relationship to Russia-sponsored influence," and regularly spits out mysterious conclusions about Putin's preferences in the American political scene. More and more often now, the site's pronouncements turn into front-page headlines.

When the dashboard declared that Nunes' #Releasethememo campaign had become the "top-trending hashtag" among Russian twitter accounts, a gaggle of press outlets and politicians rushed to point out that Nunes was doing the work of the enemy. (Even Rolling Stone got into the act, accusing Nunes of working "in concert with Russian propagandists").

Republicans claim a secret document reveals a Hillary Clinton plot "worse than Watergate" - and they're getting a big boost from Russian bots.

Of course, in keeping with a growing pattern of Russiagate stories being quietly walked back sometime after the sensational headline, reports later broke that most of the Twitter furor driving #Releasethememo came from domestic Republicans - from "inside the house," as the Daily Beast put it. Even one of Hamilton 68's own was later quoted downplaying the story.

It didn't matter, because Hamilton 68 had by then moved on to its next set of headlines. The group that has seen Russians behind both left and right political causes, behind the Roy Moore Alabama Senate campaign and the decision of California Democrats to deny their endorsement to Dianne Feinstein, was soon a main source for stories about Russians playing havoc with the Parkland shooting in Florida.

The Russians, Hamilton 68 now said, were sowing discord on both sides of the gun control debate by pushing contradictory hashtags like #guncontrolnow and #NRA.

The New York Times put a piece about Russia's Parkland meddling on page A1, the choicest real estate in American journalism, and outlets like Wired, Newsweek, Vanity Fair and countless others trumpeted the same story. Even Fox News, usually a Russiagate doubter, got in the act, citing Hamilton 68 to say: "Russian bots aren't pro-Republican or Pro-Democrat. They're just anti-American."

Fox wrote the story in a way that used the Hamilton 68 data to make it seem like the Russians didn't have an exclusive preference for Donald Trump. But the defense of Trump was really a distraction. The palmed card in this propaganda trick was the mere fact that right-wing media, too, were now accepting the core principle of projects like Hamilton 68: that a foreign enemy lurks everywhere in our midst, and the source of political discontent in this country comes not from within, but from without.

This Russians-are-in-our-precious-bodily-fluids insanity has progressed to the point where an anti-Russian documentary won the Oscar and host Jimmy Kimmel proudly declared, "At least we know Putin isn't rigging this competition!"

If you don't think that the endgame to all of this lunacy is a world where every America-critical movement from Black Lives Matter to Our Revolution to the Green Party is ultimately swept up in the collusion narrative along with Donald Trump and his alt-right minions, you haven't been paying attention.

That's because #Russiagate, from the start, was framed as an indictment not just of one potentially traitorous Trump, but all alternative politics in general. The story has evolved to seem less like a single focused investigation and more like the broad institutional response to a spate of shocking election results, targeting the beliefs of discontented Americans across the political spectrum.

Two years ago, remember, the American political establishment was on the ropes. Donald Trump, a race-baiting game show host who'd run for office as a publicity stunt, was galloping to the Republican nomination in a rout. He got 14 million primary votes; the Republicans' chosen $100 million man, Jeb Bush, got 286,000. On the Democratic side, the overwhelming party favorite, Hillary Clinton, was fighting to hold off a Corbynite socialist with little money and even less institutional support.

From Trump to Bernie Sanders to Brexit to Catalonia, voter repudiation of the status quo was the story of the day. The sense of panic among political elites was palpable. The possibility that voters might decide to break up the EU, or put a Trump, Corbyn, or Sanders into power, led to a spate of "Do we have too much democracy?" essays by prominent think tankers and national press figures. Two years later, the narrative has completely shifted. By an extraordinary coincidence, virtually all the "anti-system" movements and candidates that so terrified the political establishment two years ago have since been identified as covert or overt Russian destabilization initiatives, puppeteered from afar by the diabolical anti-Western dictator, Vladimir von Putin-Evil.

Since Trump's election, we've been told Putin was all or partly behind the lot of it: the Catalan independence movement, the Sanders campaign, Brexit, Jill Stein's Green Party run, Black Lives Matter, the resignations of intra-party Trump critics Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, Sean Hannity's broadcasts, and, of course, the election of Trump himself.

We've jumped straight past debating the efficacy of democracy to just reflexively identifying most anti-establishment sentiment as illegitimate, treasonous, and foreign in nature.

Forget for a moment what Robert Mueller's investigation might or might not ultimately reveal about Donald Trump and his staff. It's been impossible not to notice how effective the Russiagate affair has already been as a hammer against all other political outsiders, even those with opposite values to Trump. In fact, unless you're a Hillary Clinton Democrat, you've probably been portrayed as having somehow been in on it, at one time or another.

The earliest Russiagate news reports, like Franklin Foer's articles in Slate in the summer of 2016, mostly focused on Putin's seeming synergy with far-right causes: the Trump campaign in America, and nationalist, anti-EU movements in states like Greece, Bulgaria, and Hungary.

Very quickly, though, the Russiagate narrative evolved to describe leftists, libertarians, and other assorted malcontents as additional "useful idiots" for Putin. This really began with the ill-fated "PropOrNot" web site, a mysterious organization that was touted as an identifier of Russian propaganda in a story by the Washington Post three weeks after Trump's election.

The Post's carefully-written piece only talked about how PropOrNot and other groups identified Russian propaganda spread on "right-wing sites." But if you clicked on the paper's link to the PropOrNot report, you found it pointed a finger at over 200 sites of all political persuasions. Those included outlets as diverse as, Truthdig, Naked Capitalism,, and the Ron Paul Institute.

That was followed by the release of a report by the Director of National Intelligence on January 6, 2017, which "assessed" that Russians were behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee. The conclusion among other things was based upon the security agencies' interpretation of programming on the Russian-backed channel RT.

RT stories about 100% American protests against fracking, surveillance abuses, and "alleged Wall Street greed," were part of "Russian strategic messaging" campaigns, the intelligence analysts insisted.

The DNI's bizarre assessment evolved with the birth of the German Marshall Fund, a Russia-watching organization similarly packed with former intelligence officials who bore the same cross-eyed conception of domestic protest.

The GMF's Hamilton 68 project, which was launched in August of 2017, has in its brief life continually blurred the lines between domestic discord and foreign intervention. It's accused the Russians of inspiring discontent about everything from police brutality to the Iraq invasion to the expansion of NATO. Think-tanks and pundits have increasingly followed suit, demanding that all good patriotic Americans renounce such "Putin-backed" protest movements.

A major target of this idiocy has been Sanders, who is already being pitched to the public as the Kremlin's next Manchurian Candidate. "When Russia interferes with the 2020 election on behalf of Democratic nominee Bernie Sanders," the Washington Post unironically asked last November, "how will liberals respond?"

Kent Walker, Colin Stretch, Sean Edgett. Facebook ads linked to a Russian effort to
disrupt the American political process are displayed as, from left, Google's Senior Vice President
and General Counsel Kent Walker, Facebook's General Counsel Colin Stretch, and Twitter's Acting General
Counsel Sean Edgett, testify during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Unless you really believe that Bernie Sanders is a Russian agent, it's incredibly suspicious that a major consequence of the #Russiagate mania has been the disappearance of progressive voices from traditionally blue-state media.

Papers like the Washington Post and the New York Times, as well as cable channels like CNN and MSNBC, still routinely hire Republicans and even Trump supporters as commentators to provide "balance." But there's virtually no one in the popular press representing the 43% of Democrats who cast a dissenting vote two years ago.

Still, you might say, it's all true! Russia did try to meddle in our election! We really are facing a foreign threat!

That might very well be. But the realness of a foreign threat in no way precludes Americans' ability to make a total cock-up of their response to it. That we could forget this is amazing, since we so recently went through an exactly analogous disaster.

Six months after 9/11, on March 11, 2002, George W. Bush issued a directive creating a thing called the Homeland Security Advisory System. This oft-parodied program used a color-coded billboard system - because Americans are too stupid to read - to tell us just exactly how afraid of terrorists we should be on any given day.

For seven lunatic years we toggled back and forth between RED (severe threat) and GREEN (low threat) levels of paranoia, until in 2009 the program was quietly scrapped. By then we'd already blundered into Iraq, destabilized the entire Middle East, helped give birth to ISIS, and sacrificed countless American and Iraqi lives for no good reason at all, thanks in large part to cynical government efforts to hype up public fears of Islam.

The color advisory system was ditched only after former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge wrote a book, Test of Our Times, that included a damning account of the program. Ridge revealed that in 2004, Attorney General John Ashcroft asked him to raise the threat level days before the presidential vote, in an effort to help guarantee George Bush's re-election.

"There was absolutely no support for that position within our department," Ridge wrote. "None. I wondered, 'Is this about security or politics?'" Ridge had never liked the system. When he resigned from the Department of Homeland Security in 2005, he told the press that his department often argued against raising the threat level, but was overruled by the Homeland Security Advisory Council, which included the heads of other security agencies.

Who was on that council? Creeps like Ashcroft, wraithlike Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and CIA chief George Tenet. Oh, and then-FBI director Robert Mueller, who also oversaw a sweeping effort to interview thousands of Arabs in America in a program that at the time was compared to our profiling of Japanese-Americans in World War II.

The Hamilton 68 "dashboard" almost exactly mirrors that Homeland Security Advisory program. It's a snappy-looking media-ready thingamadoodle with no real purpose beyond constantly reminding the public to be afraid of enemies in their midst. And it's run by many of the same ought-to-have-been-disgraced War on Terror yahoos who led us into the last mess.

Not only is the notorious Kristol of Weekly Standard and Project for a New American Century fame one of its leaders, but so is Michael Chertoff, the man who took over the Homeland Security department - and its asinine color-coded scare program - when Tom Ridge couldn't stomach it anymore.

That these people now are being upheld as heroes of liberalism is incredible. Only a few short years ago they were widely derided as the very dumbest people in the country, raving paranoiacs who humped every false lead from Niger to Ahmed Chalabi's hotel suite in order to justify invasions, torture, secret prisons and the establishment of a monstrous, intractable, and illegal surveillance regime. And now we're letting these same people dominate every news cycle when this time, years early, they're already admitting they might be wrong?

"I'm not convinced on this bot thing," Hamilton 68 honcho and noted War on Terror vet Clint Watts incredibly told Buzzfeed recently. This was after he'd helped place a string of Russian-bots-are-everywhere stories in spots like the front page of the Times.

Parts of the Russiagate story may be real. Sleazeballs like Paul Manafort and Trump are, like Putin himself, capable of anything. We'll find out soon what exactly they all got up to together, if anything. But we should already be able to admit that others - like the millions of Americans on both sides of the aisle who voted against status quo politicians two years ago - aren't, and weren't ever, traitors. And any campaign to label them as such is potentially more dangerous than anything, even a Trump presidency.
(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.

Because There Is Nothing
By Uri Avnery

THE FLOOD of corruption affairs that is now engulfing the Netanyahu family and its assistants and servitors does not seem to diminish his popularity among those who call themselves "the People."

On the contrary, according to the opinion polls, the voters of the other nationalist parties are rushing to the rescue of "Bibi."

They believe that he is a great statesman, the savior of Israel, and are therefore ready to forgive and forget everything else. Huge bribes, generous gifts, everything.

Strange. Because my attitude is exactly the opposite. I am not ready to forgive "Bibi" anything for being a great statesman, because I think that he is a very minor statesman. Indeed, no statesman at all.

THE FINAL judgment about Bibi's capabilities was passed by his father early in his career.

Benzion Netayahu, a history professor who was an expert on the Spanish inquisition, did not have a very high opinion of his second son. He much preferred the oldest son, Jonathan, who was killed in the Entebbe operation. This, by the way, may be the source of Bibi's deep complexes.

Politically, Benzion was the most extreme rightist there ever was. He despised Vladimir Jabotinsky, the brilliant leader of the right-wing Zionists, as well as his pupil, Menachem Begin. For him, both were liberal weaklings.

Benzion, who felt that his talents were not appreciated in Israel and went to teach in the United States, where he brought up his sons, said about Binyamin: "He could make a good foreign secretary, but not a prime minister." Never was a more precise judgment made about Bibi.

Binyamin Netanyahu is indeed excellent foreign minister material. He speaks perfect (American) English, though without the literary depth of his predecessor, Abba Eban. About Eban, David Ben-Gurion famously remarked: "He can make beautiful speeches, but you must tell him what to say."

Bibi is a perfect representative. He knows how to behave with the great of this earth. He cuts a good figure at international conferences. He makes well-crafted speeches on important occasions, though he tends to use primitive gimmicks a Churchill would not touch.

A foreign minister functions, nowadays, as the traveling salesman of his country. Indeed. Bibi was once a traveling salesman for a furniture company. Since traveling has become so easy, foreign ministers fulfill most of the functions that in past centuries were reserved for ambassadors.

As his father so shrewdly observed, there is a huge difference between the duties of a foreign minister and those of a prime minister. The foreign minister implements policy. The prime minister determines policy.

The ideal prime minister is a man (or a woman) of vision. He knows what his country needs - not only today, but for generations to come. His vision embraces the entire needs of his country, of which foreign relations is only one aspect, and not necessarily the most important one. He sees the social, economic, cultural and military aspects of his vision.

Benzion Netanyahu knew that his son did not posses these capabilities. A good appearance is just not enough, especially for a leader of a country with such complicated problems, interior and exterior, as Israel.

WHEN ONE thinks about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one remembers his saying "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Thinking of Winston Churchill, one remembers: "Never was so much owed by so many to so few."

Thinking about Bibi, what profound saying does one remember? Nothing but his comment about the many corruption cases in which he is involved: "There will be nothing because there is nothing."

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU'S main occupation, between criminal interrogations, is traveling abroad and meeting with the world's leaders. One week in Paris meeting President Macron, the next in Moscow meeting President Putin. In between, an African country or two.

What is achieved in these multiple meetings? Well, nothing to speak of.

That is very shrewd. It touches a deep nerve in Jewish consciousness.

For many generations, Jews were a helpless minority in many countries, West and East. They were entirety dependent on the graces of the local lord, count, Sultan. To remain in his good graces, a member of the Jewish community, generally the richest, took it upon himself to gratify the ruler, flatter him and bribe him. Such a person became the king of the ghetto, admired by his community.

As a phenomenon, Bibi is a successor of this tradition.

NOBODY LOVED Abba Eban. Even those who admired his extraordinary talents did not admire the man. He was considered un-Israeli, not a he-man as a typical Israeli man should be.

Bibi's public standing is quite different. As a former commando fighter he is as he-mannish as Israelis desire. He looks as an Israeli should look. No problem there.

But ask one of his admirers what Bibi has actually achieved in his 12 years as prime minister, and he will be at a loss to answer. David Ben-Gurion founded the state, Menachem Begin made peace with Egypt, Yitzhak Rabin made the Oslo agreement. But Bibi?

Yet at least half of Israel admires Bibi without bounds. They are ready to forgive him countless affairs of corruption - from receiving the most expensive Cuban cigars as gifts from multi-billionaires to outright bribes which may amount to many million dollars. So what?

The social composition of his camp is even odder. They are the masses of Oriental Jews, who feel despised, downtrodden and discriminated against in every respect. By whom? By the Ashkenazi upper classes, the "whites", the Left. Yet nobody could be more Ashkenazi upper-class than Bibi.

Nobody has yet found the key to this mystery.

SO WHAT is Netanyahu's "vision" for the future? How is Israel to survive in the next decades as a colonial power, surrounded by Arab and Muslim states which may one day unite against it? How is Israel to remain master of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, populated by the Palestinian people, not to mention East Jerusalem and the shrines holy to a billion and a half Muslims throughout the world?

It seems that Bibi's answer is "Don't look, just go on!" In his way of thinking, his solution is: no solution. Just continue what Israel is doing anyway: deny the Palestinians any national and even human rights, implant Israeli settlements in the West Bank at a steady but cautious pace, and otherwise maintain the status quo.

He is a cautions person, far from being an adventurer. Most of his admirers would like him to annex the West Bank outright, or at least large chunks of it. Bibi restrains them. What's the hurry?

But doing nothing is no real answer. In the end, Israel will have to decide: make peace with the Palestinian people (and the entire Arab and Muslim world), or annex all the occupied territories without conferring citizenship on the Arab population. Ergo: an official apartheid state, which may turn in the course of generations into an Arab-majority bi-national state, the nightmare of almost all Jewish Israelis.

There is, of course, another vision, which nobody mentions: waiting for an opportunity to implement another Naqba, expel the entire Palestinian people from Palestine. However, such an opportunity seems unlikely to present itself a second time.

Bibi seems unconcerned. He is a man of the status quo. But having no vision of his own means that consciously or unconsciously he holds in his heart the vision of his father: get the Arabs out. Take possession of the whole land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan (at least), as the Biblical Israelites once did.

WHAT WILL Bibi do in face of the corruption indictments closing in on him?

Hang on. Whatever happens. Indictment, trial, conviction, just hang on. If everything falls to pieces, democracy, the courts, law enforcement agencies - just hang on.

Not the course one would expect from a great statesman. But then, he is no statesman at all, great or small.

I repeat the suggestion I made last week: in due time have him confess, grant him an immediate pardon. Let him keep the loot, and - bye bye, Bibi.
(c) 2018 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Healthcare Bait-And-Switch
From the Clintons to Obama and Back Again
By Glen Ford

On the campaign trail in January of 2016, Hillary Clinton told Iowa voters that Bernie Sanders' single payer health care proposal was an idea whose time would never come. "People who have health emergencies can't wait for us to have a theoretical debate about some better idea that will never, ever come to pass," said the presumed shoo-in for president. Two years later, one-third of Democrats in the Senate have endorsed Sanders' Medicare for All Act and half the Democrats in the U.S. House have signed on to Rep. John Conyers' Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, HR 676. Polls show 75 percent of Democrats favor "expanding Medicare to provide health insurance to every American," and 31 percent of the public at-large wants health care to be the first problem the Democrats tackled if they win the White House in 2020.

Predictably, however, Hillary Clinton's favorite think tank is still trying to make sure single payer health care never happens. The lavishly funded Center for American Progress (CAP) last week unveiled their counterfeit, sound-alike health care plan, dubbed Medicare Extra for All, whose sole purpose is to distract and confuse a public that is demonstrably "ready" for single payer. The CAP scheme, like Obamacare, keeps the private insurance corporations at the center of the money-stream, doesn't cover everyone, charges fees, co-pays and premiums, doesn't save much money, and would fail to provide millions with adequate coverage. "CAP's plan maintains the current tiered system in which some people have private health insurance, those with the greatest needs have public health insurance, some people will have inadequate coverage and others will have no coverage at all," writes Dr. Margaret Flowers, of Health Over Profit. "By offering a solution that sounds good to the uninformed -- 'Medicare Extra for All' --but continues to benefit their Wall Street donors," said Flowers, "Democrats hope to fool people or buy enough support to undermine efforts for NIMA," or National Improved Medicare for All, the comprehensive single payer plan supported by the activists like Flowers.

"CAP's plan maintains the current tiered system in which some people have private health insurance, those with the greatest needs have public health insurance, some people will have inadequate coverage and others will have no coverage at all."

National Improved Medicare for All would save half a trillion dollars a year on administrative costs and another $100 billion on reduced drug costs, according to Flowers. "The CAP plan maintains the complicated multi-payer system that we have today," she said. "At best, it will only achieve 16% of the administrative savings of a single payer system and it will have less power to reign in the high costs of care."

The CAP scheme would leave the link between employment and health coverage intact, keeping workers ultimately dependent on the whims of their bosses for healthcare coverage. "When people who have private health insurance lose their job or move, they risk losing their health insurance," said Flowers. "NIMA creates a health system that covers everyone no matter where they are in the United States and its territories."

The Obama-Scam, Repackaged

The Center for American Progress is running the same bait-and-switch con that Barack Obama played in the set-up to his Affordable Care Act. Bruce Dixon and I were introduced to Obama's healthcare scam in June of 2003 when we engaged the then candidate for the U.S. Senate in a month-long telephone and email conversation, at The Black Commentator. At the time, Obama was trailing the field of candidates and in need of every Black vote in Illinois. Dixon and I had just learned that Obama had joined the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the corporate money-bag operation for the right wing of the party founded by white southern Democrats including Bill Clinton and Al Gore. On top of that, he'd recently removed his 2002 (mildly) anti-war speech from his campaign website, apparently to get in line with George Bush's triumphal "Mission Accomplished" speech, the previous month. Obama denied that he'd become a member of the DLC, and claimed his website was undergoing "routine" updating. (Years later, when the war was clearly lost, Obama's team would resurrect "The Speech" as proof of his early anti-war credentials.)

Dixon and I decided that the best way to determine if Obama should be in the DLC or not, would be to put him to a three-question "bright line" test on the issues of war, health care and U.S. membership in the NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. If the candidate answered all three questions correctly, then he should not be a member of the DLC. If he failed, then the DLC was where he belonged, and voters should make their decisions, accordingly.

We presented our bright line questions to Obama in the June 19, 2003, Cover Story of the publication:

1. Do you favor the withdrawal of the United States from NAFTA? Will you in the Senate introduce or sponsor legislation toward that end?

2. Do you favor the adoption of a single payer system of universal health care to extend the availability of quality health care to all persons in this country? Will you in the Senate introduce or sponsor legislation toward that end?

3. Would you have voted against the October 10 congressional resolution allowing the president to use unilateral force against Iraq?

Note that we specified "a single payer system of universal health care."

Obama used weasel-language to fudge his answers to the Iraq War and NAFTA questions. On health care, he wrote:

"I favor universal health care for all Americans, and intend to introduce or sponsor legislation toward that end in the U.S. Senate, just as I have at the state level. My campaign is also developing a series of interim proposals - such as an expansion of the successful SCHIP program - so that we can immediately provide more coverage to uninsured children and their families."
Obama left out the words "single payer." Only after he became president, six years later, would it become clear that his definition of "universal" health care meant only that all Americans would be required to enroll in an insurance program - just as states require that all drivers be insured.

Despite his use of weasel-wording in all three answers, we at The Black Commentator gave Obama a passing grade. "BC is not seeking to martyr Barack Obama on a left-leaning cross," we wrote.

(Our actual motive in 2003 was fear of being labeled "crabs in a barrel" for undermining the prospects of such an attractive, progressive-sounding, young Black up-and-coming politician-a failure of political nerve for which I will forever be ashamed.)

A year and a half later, in the week before Obama was sworn into the Senate, he told me that the country was not "ready" for single payer. But, if he really believed that, he would not have spent the next four years misleading the people through his calculated misuse of the term "universal."

"Universal" was Obama's bait-and-switch to confuse the public, much of which continued to wishfully assumed that he favored some kind of single payer plan. Once he got in office-and after announcing that "all entitlements, including Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, would be "on the table" for cutting under his administration-Obama banished single payer advocates like Rep. Conyers from the White House and quite publicly allowed the for-profit healthcare corporations to write his Affordable Care Act, with its "universal" mandate that added many of millions of new "customers" for the industry.

The Democratic Leadership Council disbanded near the end of Obama's first term in office. Faux-progressives claimed a victory. "One of the things that's happening right now in Democratic politics is that progressives are winning the battle for the party," said Progressive Congress president Darcy Burner. "The corporate-focused DLC type of politics isn't working inside the Democratic party."

That was nonsense. The DLC went out of business because it had won its battle for corporate hegemony in the party. By 2011, Obama had revealed himself as a full-blooded austerity (and war) president, and was still seeking his "Grand Bargain" with the Republicans. The "progressives" were defenestrated (thrown out of the White House windows) and humiliated in his first year, and were not to rise again until Bernie Sanders, the nominally non-Democrat, made his bid for the White House in 2016-with single payer healthcare at the tip of his spear.

Sanders' version of single payer is "highly flawed," said Health Over Profit's Margaret Flowers, who is also co-director of Popular Resistance, but, "the fact that the Democrats are proposing something that sounds like NIMA means we are gaining power." The legislation "calls for a four-year transition period, during which the newly improved Medicare would first insure all children and adults 55 or older, then expand gradually to cover all adults," writes the Huffington Post.

The Sanders bill's endorsers in the Senate include a number of obvious Trojan Horses, such as Cory Booker, a deeply reactionary politician who could have been the "first Obama" had he won prominent office just a few years sooner (see The Black Commentator, April 4, 2002, "Fruit of the Poisoned Tree.") He was among 13 Democrats that voted against creating a reserve fund to allow Americans to import cheaper drugs from Canada, lamely claiming that it didn't address consumer protection issues. Booker and others are joining the pro-single payer bandwagon to weaken it from the inside, while his allies in the Clinton camp and their Center for American Progress scheme to extend the life of for-profit healthcare under the Medicare brand.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is the greatest negative motivator for single payer. He last month proposed new rules that would allow sale of short-term insurance policies that omit "essential health benefits"-what Sen. Ron Wyden calls "junk insurance"-to allow the market to work its miracles. But the people are learning that the market will kill you.
(c) 2018 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

A small iceberg drifts in an ice fjord in Southern Greenland.
Scientists have found that parts of Greenland are now warmer than most of Europe.

Scientists Warn: February Melting Near North Pole 'Really Extreme'
By Dahr Jamail

On February 25, temperatures at the North Pole rose above freezing. While a single weather event is never solely attributable to anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), climate scientist Sarah Myhre tweeted about weather anomalies such as this: "Single weather events can also be used as exemplars -- good examples -- of what changes are characteristic of climate change, including heat events, fires, extreme storms, winter warming, the changing of seasonal timing, the redistributions of ocean ecosystems."

Amelie Meyer, a researcher of ice-ocean interactions with Norway's Polar Institute told The Age that to have these kinds of warm temperatures at the North Pole in February is "just wrong," adding, "It's quite worrying."

Scientists around the globe are stunned by the event. Daily mean temperatures across the region were comparable to those usually seen in May. February 23 saw temperatures in northern Greenland at 43 F. The average high temperature there for that month is -20 F.

Climate science lecturer Andrew King at the University of Melbourne told The Age that these exceedingly warm temperatures at such high northern latitudes during the dead of winter "are really extreme."

Why Is Greenland Warmer Than Europe?

King went on to add that "parts of Greenland are quite a bit warmer than most of Europe." And he wasn't the only climate scientist scratching his head.

On February 24 climate scientist Zack Labe tweeted: "Cape Morris Jesup (#Greenland's northernmost observation station) is now reporting temperatures well above freezing today... +6.1 C at the latest observation! Crazy!"

The average high temperature for that location in February is -20 F, making Friday's reading a stunning 63 F warmer than average. This would be the equivalent of Denver seeing a 112 F day in February.

Across much of the rest of the Arctic in late February, these July-like temperatures -- more than 45 F above normal -- covered tens of thousands of square miles.

In another shocking development, Alaska's Bering Sea lost a full one-third of its ice in only eight days.

All of these events underscore a warning issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in its 2017 Arctic Report Card.

The report, which was published in December, warned "the Arctic environmental system has reached a 'new normal', characterized by long-term losses in the extent and thickness of the sea ice cover."

The NOAA scientists emphasized that recent warm temperatures are no aberration. They are part of a trend toward a radically different planet.

NOAA's report concluded that the "Arctic shows no sign of returning to [the] reliably frozen region of recent past decades."
(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's In Trump's Food-Box?
By Jim Hightower

Even Charles Dickens, England's masterful satirist of the Victorian upper class, couldn't have imagined elite rulers using a box of food as a gratuitous way to slap poor people. But Donald Trump and two of his slap-happy cabinet officials did imagine it - and then did it.

They slipped a malicious, punish-the-poor provision into the food stamp budget Trump sent to Congress. Instead of providing a small monthly allowance for destitute families to spend on foods of their choice, the Trump provision would take away half of the allowance and substitute a monthly box of peanut butter, canned goods, and other packaged edibles chosen for them by the Federal government.

It's bureaucratic, patronizing, demeaning... and stupid, but Trump ag secretary Sonny Perdue, hailed it as a "bold, innovative" idea. Sonny has also disdainfully said that food stamp recipients are hooked on a culture of dependency - so maybe a diet of peanut butter will cure them of that.

Then came Trump budget director, Mick Mulvaney, a tea party extremist who bizarrely tried putting a luxury spin on the govenrnment-issued box of grub by comparing it to Blue Apron, an upscale grocery delivery system. But, Mick - get a clue - Blue Apron patrons get to choose what's in their box - and it ain't peanut butter - it's locally-sourced, fresh food.

As the leading Democrat opposing the Trump mob's food-stamp gut job says in dismay, "My god, these people are awful... really just not nice people."

Less nice is their real intention to kill the food stamp program entirely. Trump's budget calls for slashing 30 percent of the funding this year. As watchdogs at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities put it, "That's the real battle." The food-box silliness is a distraction to let them pull off the big theft. To help stop them, go to
(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

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, has worked to make it easier
for billionaires to buy elections and harder for voters to cast ballots in them.

Scott Walker Does Not Respect Democracy
And Walker's not alone in denying democracy. Republican governors of the swing states of Michigan and Florida are also refusing to call special elections for legislative seats, and for a U.S. House seat in Michigan
By John Nichols

No governor in the long history of Wisconsin has been more disrespectful of the state's rich democratic traditions than Scott Walker, the political careerist who since taking office in 2011 has worked to make it easier for billionaires to buy elections and harder for voters to cast ballots in them.

But nothing Walker has done up until now has been so aggressively anti-democratic as his refusal to hold special elections to fill vacant seats in the state legislature. The Capital Times began raising the alarm about this in January, and now it is drawing national attention-and a significant legal intervention.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee announced Monday that the NDRC's affiliate, the National Redistricting Foundation, would file suit in the Circuit Court of Dane County on behalf of voters in the two disenfranchised districts.

"Governor Scott Walker's refusal to hold special elections is an affront to representative democracy," declared Holder. "Forcing citizens to go more than a year without representation in the [legislature] is a plain violation of their rights and we're hopeful the court will act quickly to order the governor to hold elections."

With Marc Elias, one of the nation's most prominent legal experts on elections, serving as a member of the foundation's legal team, this challenge has the potential to send a vital signal to those who would mangle democracy in Wisconsin and other states.

Walker is one of a number of Republican governors who this year have refused to call special elections for legislative seats that their party might lose. Their fear is understandable, as Democrats have grabbed more than three dozen Republican seats in special elections since Donald Trump took office.

Walker-who was stung in January of this year by a special-election result that saw what was thought to be a safe Republican state Senate seat in western Wisconsin go to a Democrat-appointed Republican state Sen. Frank Lasee and Republican state Rep. Keith Ripp to posts in his administration last December. Since then, he has stubbornly refused to call special elections to fill the seats-arguing that voters should not be given a say until the regularly scheduled election in November.

Wisconsin statutes say that vacant legislative seats "shall be filled as promptly as possible by special election." Walker's apologists tried initially to claim that he had leeway because of statute language regarding the close of the regular floor period of the legislature and special sessions, but those arguments crumbled as the legislature has continued to meet and act on major welfare reform and criminal justice reform issues.

The governor's recalcitrance threatens to leave almost 230,000 Wisconsinites unrepresented for the better part of a year.

And Walker's not alone in denying democracy. Republican governors of the swing states of Michigan and Florida are also refusing to call special elections for legislative seats, and for a U.S. House seat in Michigan.

Wisconsin Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, complained: "Governor Walker is running scared and is playing politics with people's right to be represented in the state Capitol."

Now, however, Walker has another reason to be running scared. His attempt to play politics with representative democracy could well be undone by the courts.
(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.

Robin Speronis

Living 'Off The Grid' Is Illegal
By James Donahue

As the battle against global warming and climate change zeros in on gas, oil and electric utility companies there has been a growing interest in finding alternative sources of energy and natural resources. Without government help the fight has fallen to state and private sources. Many homeowners are expressing an interest in owning electric cars, installing solar panels to heat and light their homes, and do home and organic gardening to produce their food.

In short; more and more people want to get "off the grid." They are not only interested in saving the environment, but they also are attracted to the promise of less costly utility and fuel bills.

Unfortunately, there is a federal law in the United States against doing this very thing. It is the International Building Code (IBC), adopted by the International Code Council in 1997 to replace the older BOCA, SBCCI and ICBO codes used throughout the United States. The codes establish a standard for safe building standards designed to assure public safety within the places where people live and work.

Code enforcement has been a good idea in that it assures a uniform safety standard to be used by building, plumbing, mechanical and electrical contractors. The problem has been that even though it is updated every three years, the code has not been keeping up with the drastically changing times we are currently living in. And as long as the nation's current administration is refusing to recognize climate change as an international crisis, there is probably little chance of getting the building code changes needed to meet the needs of people wishing to escape grid living.

It is a complex problem with the interests of major gas, oil and electric companies caught up in the political goings on of the day. Even major water bottling companies like Nestle and Coca-Cola are getting into the act as they are gaining access to major fresh water sources and aquafers to produce their products.

The States of Utah, Colorado and Washington already have laws on the books making it illegal for individual citizens to collect rainwater for personal use.

An example of the problems these codes are causing is found in a complex court case in Cape Coral, Florida, where resident Robin Speronis has been fighting to stay in her home after a city building inspector condemned the building for failing to be hooked up to city and local utilities. Local Magistrate Harold S. Eskin ruled that her house was uninhabitable and issued an eviction notice. She has been fighting the judgment and refusing to move out.

A judge recently sentenced Speronis to a jail term on a charge of animal cruelty. They claim she is not properly caring for the two dogs that live with her in the house.

Her problem with local authority began in 2014 after she was interviewed by a local news reporter about the way she was living off the grid. She was using solar panels and treated rain water rather than hook up to city water and electric utilities. "I never have to worry about that bill coming in," she boasted.

After years of hearings and judicial appearances, a special magistrate ruled that Speronis was not guilty of not having a proper sewer and electrical system, but she was guilty of not being hooked up to an approved water supply. She was given a month to comply with the code.

Magistrate Eskin ruled that Speronis is not allowed to live on her own private property without being hooked up to the city water system. Also her alternative power sources must also be approved by the city.

Eskin may be bending over in an attempt to give Speronis a break, probably because the case has been receiving national media attention. But he notes that by federal IPMC law, it may be a crime for her to use solar panels instead of being tied to the electric grid.
(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.

Rachel Maddow on "The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC.

Is MSNBC Now The Most Dangerous Warmonger Network?
The most profound dangers from what Rachel Maddow and company are doing is what they least want
to talk about-how the cumulative effects and momentum of their work are increasing the likelihood
that tensions between Washington and Moscow will escalate into a horrendous military conflict.

By Norman Solomon

The evidence is damning. And the silence underscores the arrogance.

More than seven weeks after a devastating report from the media watch group FAIR, top executives and prime-time anchors at MSNBC still refuse to discuss how the network's obsession with Russia has thrown minimal journalistic standards out the window.

FAIR's study, "MSNBC Ignores Catastrophic U.S.-Backed War in Yemen," documented a picture of extreme journalistic malfeasance at MSNBC:

* "An analysis by FAIR has found that the leading liberal cable network did not run a single segment devoted specifically to Yemen in the second half of 2017. And in these latter roughly six months of the year, MSNBC ran nearly 5,000 percent more segments that mentioned Russia than segments that mentioned Yemen."

* "Moreover, in all of 2017, MSNBC only aired one broadcast on the U.S.-backed Saudi airstrikes that have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians. And it never mentioned the impoverished nation's colossal cholera epidemic, which infected more than 1 million Yemenis in the largest outbreak in recorded history."

* "All of this is despite the fact that the U.S. government has played a leading role in the 33-month war that has devastated Yemen, selling many billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia, refueling Saudi warplanes as they relentlessly bomb civilian areas and providing intelligence and military assistance to the Saudi air force."

Meanwhile, MSNBC's incessant "Russiagate" coverage has put the network at the media forefront of overheated hyperbole about the Kremlin. And continually piling up the dry tinder of hostility toward Russia boosts the odds of a cataclysmic blowup between the world's two nuclear superpowers.

In effect, the programming on MSNBC follows a thin blue party line, breathlessly conforming to Democratic leaders' refrains about Russia as a mortal threat to American democracy and freedom across the globe. But hey-MSNBC's ratings have climbed upward during its monochrome reporting, so why worry about whether coverage is neglecting dozens of other crucial stories? Or why worry if the anti-Russia drumbeat is worsening the risks of a global conflagration?

FAIR's report, written by journalist Ben Norton and published on Jan. 8, certainly merited a serious response from MSNBC and the anchors most identified by the study, Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes. Yet no response has come from them or network executives. (Full disclosure: I'm a longtime associate of FAIR.)

In the aftermath of the FAIR study, a petition gathered 22,784 signers and 4,474 individual comments-asking MSNBC to remedy its extreme imbalance of news coverage. But the network and its prime-time luminaries Maddow and Hayes refused to respond despite repeated requests for a reply.

The petition was submitted in late January to Maddow and Hayes via their producers, as well as to MSNBC senior vice president Errol Cockfield and to the network's senior manager in charge of media relations for "The Rachel Maddow Show" and "All In with Chris Hayes."

Signers responded to outreach from three organizations-Just Foreign Policy, (which I coordinate), and World Beyond War-calling for concerned individuals to "urge Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, and MSNBC to correct their failure to report on the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen and the direct U.S. military role in causing the catastrophe by signing our petition." (The petition is still gathering signers.)

As the cable news network most trusted by Democrats as a liberal beacon, MSNBC plays a special role in fueling rage among progressive-minded viewers toward Russia's "attack on our democracy" that is somehow deemed more sinister and newsworthy than corporate dominance of American politicians (including Democrats), racist voter suppression, gerrymandering and many other U.S. electoral defects all put together.

At the same time, the anti-Russia mania also services the engines of the current militaristic machinery.

It's what happens when nationalism and partisan zeal overcome something that could be called journalism.

"The U.S. media's approach to Russia is now virtually 100 percent propaganda," the independent journalist Robert Parry wrote at the end of 2017, in the last article published before his death. "Does any sentient human being read the New York Times' or the Washington Post's coverage of Russia and think that he or she is getting a neutral or unbiased treatment of the facts?"

Parry added that "to even suggest that there is another side to the story makes you a 'Putin apologist' or 'Kremlin stooge.' Western journalists now apparently see it as their patriotic duty to hide key facts that otherwise would undermine the demonizing of Putin and Russia. Ironically, many 'liberals' who cut their teeth on skepticism about the Cold War and the bogus justifications for the Vietnam War now insist that we must all accept whatever the U.S. intelligence community feeds us, even if we're told to accept the assertions on faith."

Across a U.S. media landscape where depicting Russia as a fully villainous enemy is now routine, MSNBC is a standout. The most profound dangers from what Rachel Maddow and company are doing is what they least want to talk about-how the cumulative effects and momentum of their work are increasing the likelihood that tensions between Washington and Moscow will escalate into a horrendous military conflict.

Even at the height of the Cold War during the 1960s, when Soviet Communists ruled Russians with zero freedom of speech or press, most U.S. political and media elites recognized the vital need for detente. They applauded the "Spirit of Glassboro" when the top leadership of the United States and Russia met at length. Now, across most of the U.S. media spectrum, no such overtures to the Kremlin are to be tolerated.

The U.S. government's recently released "Nuclear Posture Review" underscores just how unhinged the situation has become.

Consider the assessment from the head of a first-rate research organization in the nuclear weapons field, the Los Alamos Study Group. Its executive director, Greg Mello, said: "What is most 'missing in action' in this document is civilian leadership. Trump is not supplying that. In part the fault for this comes from Democrats-who, allied with the intelligence community and other military-industrial interests, insist that the U.S. must have an adversarial relationship with Russia. There is no organized senior-level opposition to the new Cold War, which is intensifying week by week. This document reflects, and is just one of many policies embodying, the new and very dangerous Cold War."

But-with everyone's survival at stake-none of that seems to matter much to those who call the shots at MSNBC.
(c) 2018 Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

So Much For Criminal Justice Reform
By Heather Digby Parton

I think this might depress me as much as anything Trump's done. And that's saying something:

Before President Trump picked him to be part of a federal commission that sets policy on how to punish criminals, William Otis spent years staunchly advocating for harsher penalties and a larger prison population.

In several public testimonies and years of published commentary, Otis decried a criminal justice system that he says has favored criminals over victims. He hailed the tough-on-crime approach of the Reagan and Bush administrations - one that Trump, through his attorney general, is resurrecting. "Increased use of incarceration and reining in naive judges," he once told NPR, "has worked" to curtail crime.

Otis's appointment, which the White House announced Thursday, is another sign that the Trump administration is restoring the 1980s and 1990s war on drugs that incarcerated many minority defendants and overcrowded the country's prisons. Last May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed federal prosecutors to pursue the most severe penalties possible, including mandatory minimum sentences - a move that Otis praised.

"It was right then and it's right now," Otis wrote on a popular legal blog. "It amounts to telling prosecutors to charge what the defendant actually did. This is so obviously correct - aligning the allegations with the facts - that I have a hard time seeing any serious objection to it."

Otis's nomination was met with criticism from advocacy groups. In a statement Thursday, Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, called Otis's views "outdated."

"This is not a person who will be guided by evidence and data. The Senate should reject this nomination," Ring said.

In a short email to The Washington Post, Otis said he is honored "to have been selected for this important position by the President" and declined to comment further. The White House and Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment.

Otis, a former federal prosecutor who's now an adjunct law professor at Georgetown University, is perhaps also best known in the legal community for his commentaries on the Crime and Consequences blog, which describes itself as the voice that represents the "perspective of victims of crime and law-abiding public."

Some of his writings are racially tinged. One example is a 2013 post titled "The PC Attempt to Intimidate Judges." Otis defended a judge who was criticized for saying that minorities are more violent than white people.

"Thus, when Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones said at a University of Pennsylvania Law School talk that blacks and Hispanics are more violent than whites, a consortium of civil rights organizations filed a complaint," Otis wrote. "The complaint calls for stern discipline on the grounds that the remarks were 'discriminatory and biased.' "

He added, "So far as I have been able to discover, it makes no mention of the fact that they're true."

Scroll down to the comments section of that post, and you'll find that Otis talked about Asians, too: "Orientals have less incidence of crime than whites. ... The reason Orientals stay out of jail more than either whites or blacks is that family, life, work, education and tradition are honored more in Oriental culture than in others. Values, not race or skin color, influence choices."

In some of his posts, Otis also sarcastically referred to offenders as "Mr. Nicey."

"Mr. Nicey might consider quitting the smack business and getting a normal job like everybody else," he wrote in a post praising Sessions's directive to federal prosecutors.

I'm sure Trump would love this guy if he ever heard of him. They're soul mates. But this is a Sessions move. He and the boss may be on the outs but that doesn't mean they don't see eye to eye on race and crime. It's what drew them to each other in the first place.

We were on the verge of making some real progress with criminal justice reform until The Miscreant showed up. The libertarians on the right had finally shown they had some decent purpose in life and it appeared that some common sense had finally prevailed in this one corner of American politics.

Now this. We're back to the antediluvian eye-for-an-eye philosophy, informed by the kind of rank racism that filled out prisons in the first place.
(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.

Take A Knee And A Stand
Remarks at Saint Mary's Hall, San Antonio, Texas, March 1, 2018
By David Swanson

Thank you for inviting me. What I contended in the article that got me invited here was that one of the biggest taboos in the United States, one of the behaviors treated most as a heresy, as a violation of national religion, is disrespect for the U.S. flag, the national anthem, and the patriotic militarist exceptionalism that accompany those icons.

We've just seen a school shooting in Florida by a young man trained to shoot by the U.S. Army in the very school where he killed his classmates, and you will find virtual silence on that fact, and the silence is self-imposed. Veterans are over twice as likely, statistically, to be mass shooters, and you will not read that in any newspaper. (And, needless to say, it is not somehow grounds for engaging in bigotry toward veterans or for foregoing obvious solutions like banning guns.)

Progressive multi-issue activist coalitions are formed constantly in this country, the Climate March, the Women's March, etc., and although the military is the top consumer of petroleum, although it sucks down 60% of the funding that Congress votes on, although it endangers us, erodes our liberties, and militarizes our police and our schools, it goes unmentioned. Foreign policy is unquestionable. Socialism includes no internationalism today.

So, there's something very remarkable about demonstrating against racist police violence by departing from the mandatory body position during the national anthem. It garners attention because it is so very unusual.

And this is uniquely American. Many other countries reserve flags and anthems for international competitions and major occasions, not every adult or child sporting event. In much of the world if you even see any flag, you can ignore it without being suspended from school or shut out of your sports career. Kids have been suspended from U.S. schools for taking a knee as well as for refusing to pledge allegiance, Colin Kaepernick is unemployed, the U.S. President wants those who take a knee fired for "disrespecting our flag." And that's a step up from the Alabama Pastor who says anyone who takes a knee should be shot. (But the U.S. Vice President feels entitled to refuse to stand for a flag of Korean unity, despite the obvious passion for it of tens of thousands of people around him.)

Flag Day was created by President Woodrow Wilson on the birthday of the U.S. Army during the propaganda campaign for World War I. To my knowledge in only two countries do children regularly recite a pledge to a flag. The original stiff-arm salute they made in the U.S. was changed to a hand on the heart after a straight arm became associated with Nazism. Nowadays, visitors from abroad are often shocked to see U.S. children instructed to stand and robotically chant an oath of obedience to a piece of colored cloth.

U.S. families who lose a loved one in war are presented with a flag instead. A majority of Americans supports criminalizing the burning of a U.S. flag. The U.S. flag appears on Catholic altars in some states, as well as in other churches and sacred arenas.

Texas, with its own national war-making history, may be an exception, but for the most part people do not treat local or state or United Nations or world flags as sacred. It is exclusively the flag that accompanies a military that must be worshiped - a military that pays the National Football League millions of public dollars to perform pro-military ceremonies.

At least some of the players taking a knee will certainly tell you they love the flag (and the troops, and the wars). I have absolutely no interest in pretending to speak for them. They speak very well for themselves. But I am appreciative, whether they like it or not, of their willingness to protest racism by challenging flag worship. I think this is a benefit to both freedom of speech and freedom of religion. After all, freedom of religion rests fundamentally on the ability to refrain from engaging in sacred rituals.

Have you listened carefully to, or read the full lyrics to the U.S. national anthem? The third verse celebrates killing people who had just escaped from slavery. An earlier version had celebrated killing Muslims. The lyricist himself, Francis Scott Key, owned people as slaves and supported lawless police killings of African Americans. Strip the song down to its first verse, and it remains a celebration of war, of the mass killing of human beings, of a war of conquest that failed to take over Canada and instead got the White House burned. And during the course of that valorous piece of blood-soaked stupidity, Key witnessed a battle in which human beings died but a flag survived. And I'm supposed to stand, like an obedient mindless robot, and worship that glorious incident, and it's supposed to matter what I do with my hand, but not what I do with my brain?

I take that back. I'm expected to switch my brain to low-power mode in order to take seriously claims to the effect that militarism protects my freedom, and that I should therefore give up some of my freedom for it. Before the U.S. attacked Iraq in 2003, the CIA said that the only scenario in which Iraq was likely to use any of its vast new stockpiles of "weapons of mass destruction" was if Iraq was attacked. Apart from the nonexistence of the weapons, that was right. The same applies to North Korea. But if North Korea were able to and did launch a missile at the United States, that would still not constitute a threat to your freedoms in particular. It would be a threat to your life. With the age of conquest and colonization gone for three-quarters of a century, and with numbers suggesting that North Korea might need more than its entire population in order to occupy the United States, the chance that North Korea is a threat to your freedom is exactly zero.

But the bombing of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and Libya, and the threats to North Korea are generating a lot more enemies than they kill. So the threat to your life is real, although the threat to your life posed by automobiles, toddlers with guns, and dozens of other dangers is greater. And the militarism strips away freedoms in the name of protecting them. Recent wars have brought us warrantless surveillance, drones in the skies, lawless imprisonment, mass deportations, expanded government secrecy, whistleblowers imprisoned, public demonstrations contained in cages, metal detectors and cameras everywhere, inauguration protesters facing felony charges, and various powers moved from Congress to the White House.

A couple of weeks ago I did a public debate with a professor of ethics from West Point on whether war is ever justifiable. The video is at davidswanson dot org. I argued that not only can no war possibly meet the criteria of just war theory, but if one war could, it would have to do so much good as to outweigh all the damage done by keeping the institution of war around, including the risk of nuclear apocalypse, and including the death and suffering far greater than in all the wars created by the diversion of resources away from human and environmental needs. Three percent of U.S. military spending, for example, could end starvation globally. While I don't get enough minutes to make the case for war abolition here, I bring it up to make the following point.

If you view war as an outdated institution, then you want to help everyone engaged in it to transition out of it. Did you know that the U.S. is the only nation on earth that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child which forbids the military recruitment of children, and that the U.S. military describes the JROTC, as in that school in Florida, as a recruitment program?

The propaganda technique of claiming that if you oppose a war you favor the other side in the war, and that if you oppose flag worship you hate the troops who make up the U.S. military, falls apart when you oppose all war making, and when you support only those enemies in the eyes of the Pentagon that threaten rather than boost its recruitment, namely: free college, free healthcare, good schools, and the general social benefits available to countries that don't dump their treasuries into militarism. Mine are not the positions of a traitor, an insult I'm not fond of. Nor are they the positions of a so-called true patriot, a compliment I'm also not fond of. Patriotism is a problem. We don't need to make America great or declare it already great; we need to recognize the greatness of our own entire and many other species on this fragile little planet.

Kaepernick said, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color." Of course, a country has millions of flaws and of achievements. I propose not feeling pride or shame or identifying with a country or national government at all. I propose identifying with humanity and with smaller communities.

I also propose taking notice of the fact that the United States now bombs several nations at a time, none of which contain primarily people labeled "white." "Why should they ask me," said Muhammed Ali, "to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?"

Why should they ask you even if people in Louisville were treated well? Protesting racist violence but not militarism is a million miles better than nothing. But it is still a major failure to protest racist violence.

Dr. King said we needed to take on racism, militarism, and extreme materialism together. He told the truth.

In a lyric that was sung at the Olympic opening ceremony, John Lennon advised: Imagine there are no countries. It isn't hard to do. He lied. For most people it is very hard to do. But it is something we very badly need to work on.
(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.

It's 2018. Why Are We Still Arguing About Marijuana?
Move along, people.
By Charles P. Pierce

It was Monday, so it was time to check once again to find out which of the president*'s hirelings was embarrassing us recently. Come on down, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who stopped in Ohio to do his finest Joe Friday impersonation. From the Dayton Daily News:

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in Kettering today, "There really is no such thing as medical marijuana."... He went on to say, "There is no FDA approved use of marijuana, a botanical plant. I just want to be very clear about that." Azar was responding to a question from the Yellow Springs News about what role he sees medical marijuana playing as an alternative to opioids for pain relief. Cresco Labs Ohio LLC has secured a state license to build a medical marijuana cultivation facility in Yellow Springs. The federal government is focused on the development of pharmaceutical alternatives to opioids, Azar said, and does not recognize marijuana as approved pain treatment. "We are devoting hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of research at our National Institutes of Health as part of the historic $13 billion opioid and serious mental illness program that the President and Congress are funding," he said. "Over $750 million just in 2019 alone is going to be dedicated towards the National Institutes of Health working in public-private partnership to try and develop the next generation of pain therapies that are not opioids."
Azar, we should all recall, is a creature of Big Pharma. He used to be the president of Eli Lilly, which is as big as big pharma gets. It's no surprise that he might not be wild about a pain remedy that doesn't come in a pill and that you can grow pretty much in a window-box in your third-floor walk-up.

But to say there really is no such thing as medical marijuana is more retrograde than it is cruel, and sillier than it is pedantic. There are millions of Americans (and counting) who use it as medicine to great effect and to tell them to wait for a new pill from the folks who have helped bring you the opioid crisis is really insulting.

But, hold on, coming up fast on the outside is EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, always a crowd favorite. Seems he gave a few interviews back in Oklahoma, and that the tapes of those interviews have surfaced. Somebody shuffled the tapes to Politico and, boy howdy, we are out on the edge now with old Scott Pruitt.

"There aren't sufficient scientific facts to establish the theory of evolution, and it deals with the origins of man, which is more from a philosophical standpoint than a scientific standpoint," he said in one part of the series, in which Pruitt and the program's hosts discussed issues related to the Constitution.
"We're saying to a certain category of religion, 'No, you can't be a part of the public square, because you are the majority religion, historically. We're going to make sure that the minority religions are built up and encouraged, but the majority religion is going to be shifted aside.' Now that violates, again, individual liberty." History has proven that people will not do what's right without religious principles to guide them, Pruitt said. "When you take out this aspect of who we are as a republic, and you try to eradicate it from who we are, it leads to what? 'Each man did what was right in his own eyes,' and you have chaos," Pruitt said. He added that without changes to protect constitutional rights, "it leads to anarchy, it leads to rebellion," which he predicted could happen within the next few decades or sooner.
Of course, there are exceptions, religion-wise.
In one episode, a host suggested that Islam "is not so much a religion as it is a terrorist organization, in many instances." The host, Gwen Freeman, added: "You can believe whatever you want to, but if you're going to be hiding behind a mosque and teaching people in your mosques to harm other people, that's where you have to draw the line." "Absolutely," Pruitt responded, going on to talk about the relationship between God and believers and saying that people should be able to practice any religion unless it is manifested in violence. "Our First Amendment should preserve the right of Hindus and Muslims to practice their faith. I believe that with all my heart. But what I don't agree with is that because of that relationship, if it is manifested in violence as Gwen is saying, that we don't have the right to deal with that."
And, apropos to current events, Pruitt seems to think God's last name is either Smith or Wesson.
"If you can tell me what gun, type of gun, I can possess, then I didn't really get that right to keep and bear arms from God," he said. "It was not bequeathed to me, it was not unalienable, right?"
"All the best people" is never not going to be a fabulous punchline.
(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...

"Everything you want is on the other side of fear."
~~~ Jack Canfield

Protesters take part in a die-in to demonstrate against the shooting in Orlando and call
for a ban on assault weapons, outside the NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Va., on June 21, 2016.

The 'Pure Madness' Of Our Vigilante President
Trump and the NRA leadership's disdain for schools as "gun free zones"-as if the idea of an educational safe haven is somehow ludicrous-is equally abhorrent, like an arsonist cynically making fun of a flameproof building and simultaneously passing out lighter fluid to show how to make it burn.
By Michael Winship

Trying to write about the current resident of the White House and his odious pals is like being trapped in a warehouse, condemned to assemble endless Ikea products without instructions or that little hexagon key doohickey. The work never ends, you have no idea what goes where, illogic reigns and there always are extra parts left over. A screw loose, for example...

One "exasperated ally" of Trump's described the situation as "pure madness" and retired Army general Barry McCaffrey told The Washington Post, "I think the president is starting to wobble in his emotional stability and this is not going to end well. Trump's judgment is fundamentally flawed, and the more pressure put on him and the more isolated he becomes, I think, his ability to do harm is going to increase."

This is a presidency ruled by irrational, bad decision-making. The man in charge has no coherent policy beyond doing the opposite of what his predecessor did and believing that if someone other than Trump comes out ahead, there is no progress. He possesses the proverbial whim of iron; within hours, shifting on behalf of gun control and then against, claiming to seek safety for our immigrant Dreamers then reneging on a potential deal, announcing trade tariffs on imported steel and aluminum even as his staff tells reporters that the plan hasn't really been worked out yet.

Which led to this loopy comment on Sunday's Meet the Press from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: "Whatever [Trump's] final decision is, is what will happen. What he has said he has said; if he says something different, it'll be something different."

So many non sequiturs, so little time.

For now, let's backtrack a bit and focus on just one. Training teachers to pack heat while in the classroom may not be the most idiotic idea Donald Trump has had out loud since he became president, but it's right up there. I write this with the understanding that if the brief history of this absurd but dangerous administration is any indication, there's always more and worse to come. In fact, as I started writing this the other day, Trump had just told the nation's governors, assembled at the White House, that he gladly would have laid his life on the line for the kids attacked in Parkland, Florida: "I really believe I'd run in, even if I didn't have a weapon." Good grief, look to the skies, it's President Mighty Mouse, here to save the day.

The next day, he told lawmakers that he wasn't as scared of the National Rifle Association as they were, then had a meeting with NRA officials and retreated like a bunny rabbit being chased by Farmer McGregor-but this time the old man has an AR-15 semi-assault rifle, locked and loaded. Not to mention the more than $30 million that the organization poured into Trump's campaign. This NRA-backed "teachers with guns" notion bears the whiff of the letter to the editor from the village crank who wants to put Pampers on the pigeons in the park, but this particular nut has actual power and a bully pulpit from which to spray his fusillades of foolishness. Teachers have it hard enough as it is; overworked, underpaid, paying out of their own pockets for school supplies, coping with outsized classes, trying to educate in the midst of a society beset by upheaval and chaos-much of which is obsessed with privatizing and downsizing schools. To suggest that some teachers also take on a firearm is far above and beyond the call of duty, not to mention the possibilities for hideous human error and associated insurance and litigation nightmares.

Louis Fantasia, a friend from college who works as a producer, director, writer and teacher in California, recently was quoted in the Los Angeles Times. Louis actually owns a gun (long story, but it involves a play he produced) and knows how to shoot it:

"Suppose I decide to go back to classroom teaching and state my gun ownership as one of my qualifications," he said, "and because I am 'adept' and 'talented' and, I hope, one of the 'very best' teachers, I am asked to conceal and carry in the classroom. Let's also suppose that one tragic day, someone with an AR-15 walks in and starts shooting.

"Say I get the call from the principal's office and have to join other 'adept and talented' colleagues who are armed. What next? We go in with guns blazing? Has anyone thought this through? How does this not lead to more panic, more shooting and more death?

"Arming teachers is not only a stupid idea, it's also a dangerous one."

Not all of what Louis said made it to the Times as it was cut down for length, but here is one other thing he told me in an email: "In what scenario does this lead to anything but panic, more shooting and more death? Maybe [executive vice president] Wayne LaPierre and his spokeswoman Dana Loesch at the NRA would like to be the first to try and bring down the bad guy at their kids' school? You want to shoot into a roomful of kids? ...We know they have no decency, but maybe they could have some common sense."

That's asking a lot, Louis. Especially as the NRA justifies arming teachers by retreading the old "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" argument while wrapping itself in the flag and making a pseudo-solemn pledge to defend liberty no matter the cost.

Here's LaPierre at the CPAC conference on February 22, declaring, "Some people think the NRA should just stick to its Second Amendment agenda and not talk about all of our freedoms. But real freedom requires the protection of all of our rights. And a Second Amendment isn't worth its own words in a country where all individual freedoms are destroyed."

Some would mistake this for noble and patriotic sentiment, but like the entire Trump administration, the rhetoric is meaningless; in the end it's all about the money. LaPierre is like Alan Rickman's villain in the original Die Hard movie -- his seemingly political act is really just a robbery. As hero John McClane's wife says, "After all your posturing, all your little speeches, you're nothing but a common thief."

Trump and the NRA leadership's disdain for schools as "gun free zones"-as if the idea of an educational safe haven is somehow ludicrous-is equally abhorrent, like an arsonist cynically making fun of a flameproof building and simultaneously passing out lighter fluid to show how to make it burn.

They helped create a situation in which even schools and churches are unsafe and now peddle their craven solution. Bottom line: this is all about selling more and more and more guns, plain and simple, a venal profiting off tragedy.

As the kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School say, we call b.s.
(c) 2018 Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, and was senior writer for Moyers & Company and Bill Moyers' Journal and is senior writer of

Activists hold up signs at the Florida State Capitol as they rally for gun reform legislation
on February 26, 2018 in Tallahassee, Florida. In the wake of the February 14 school shooting
that left 17 people dead, hundreds of people joined the Parkland students to call for gun reform.

We Can Be Heroes: Fighting To Win On Gun Reform
By Wiliam Rivers Pitt

I ... I can remember
Standing by the wall
And the guns shot above our heads
And we kissed as though nothing could fall

And the shame was on the other side
Oh we can beat them, forever and ever
Then we could be heroes, just for one day ~~~ David Bowie

Sit by the river long enough and sooner or later you'll see everything. Now see this:

Hundreds of faithful at a Pennsylvania church on Wednesday carried AR-15-style rifles, in adherence to their belief that a "rod of iron" mentioned in the Bible refers to the type of weapon that was used in last month's mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.

The armed ceremony at World Peace and Unification Sanctuary in Newfoundland, about 20 miles southeast of Scranton, featured gun-toting worshippers, some wearing crowns of bullets as they participated in communion and wedding ceremonies.

Attendants carefully placed a zip tie into the receiver magazine well of each weapon to assure that a clip could not be loaded.

Well, thank packin' Jesus for the zip ties. Safety first, folks.

Rev. Hyung Jin "Sean" Moon, youngest son of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, presided over what was officially called the Cosmic True Parents of Heaven, Earth and Humanity Cheon Il Guk Book of Life Registration Blessing, part of a "Festival of Grace" that included a "President Trump Thank You Dinner."

Rev. "Sean" Moon's brother, "Justin" Moon Kook-jin, owns Kahr Arms, a gun manufacturer located just down the road in Greeley. "I actually purchased my weapon there yesterday," one parishioner told NPR, "because although I have several rifles, I didn't have an AR-15." The nearby elementary school was evacuated for the ceremony. A bunch of kids lost a day of learning so some folks could basically marry their assault rifles.

Encompassing all this, I very nearly surrendered on the spot.

You can't blow this off as just another strange Moon-related adventure, I thought to myself, not while still deep in the shadow of the Parkland massacre. The Cosmic True Parents of Heaven, Earth and Humanity Cheon Il Guk Book of Life Registration Blessing, starring God's own zip-tied "rod of iron," is as American as apple pie ... or at least as American as the Westboro Baptist Church. Complete with a blessing for Trump, it is the inevitable endpoint of this nation's implacable gun obsession.

Can anything overcome the mindless, lethal inertia of this thing, or should we just turn every shooting range into a house of worship (tax-exempt, of course) and have done with it?

I'm wide open to new ideas. Thankfully, so are a lot of folks who are making real change in the realm of gun violence.

In April of 1996, a gunman using an AR-15 killed 35 people in Tasmania, Australia. The horror and sorrow left in the wake of the massacre motivated that nation to make sea changes to its gun laws. Called the National Firearms Programme Implementation Act 1996, the new law restricted private ownership of semi-automatic rifles, along with pump- and semi-automatic shotguns. Uniform firearms licensing was likewise introduced. All these measures enjoyed bipartisan support by the Commonwealth, states and territories, and Australia has not endured a single mass shooting since.

Last year, Australian authorities held a July-to-September illegal gun amnesty. When all was said and done, some 57,000 illegal weapons were turned over, including 35,000 rifles and 12,000 shotguns.

In 2011, a self-identified fascist opened fire at a Worker's Youth League summer camp on Utoya island in Norway, killing 77 people. Most of the victims were children or teenagers, and among the weapons used was a semi-automatic rifle similar to an AR-15.

Today, the Norwegian government is poised to approve sweeping restrictions on the private ownership of such weapons. The new measures would also include updated background checks.

In other words: Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Genuine gun reform can happen, because it has happened. Despite all the money and the political pressure and the vitriol and the stalled-out seeming hopelessness of the gun debate in the US, we can also get this done, because we have to. Before you imagine yourself as nothing more than a bug smashed into the gun lobby's windshield, realize that you are far from alone.

Here in the US, a wide variety of organizations have been working for years to achieve true change. Mothers Against Senseless Killings (MASK) is a project undertaken by Chicago activist and mother Tamar Manassah after she had seen too many children and young people of color dying before the barrel of a gun. Armed only with fellow local mothers and lawn chairs, Manassah and her group placed themselves visibly on the street corners of a high-violence neighborhood at night. They fed the neighborhood youth and got to know them. They maintained a continual presence on the street.

"Three years -- and 15,000 meals, thousands of backpack giveaways, hundreds of pep talks, millions of hugs, a few bee stings, some sunburns and countless new relationships -- later, we have not had a shooting on the block," writes Manassah for Truthout. "Not one. The lesson I learned was in order to save my own children, I had to try to save them all. Even the ones who have guns. They are all still just children, and on any day in poor and forgotten neighborhoods, the shooter can very well be the victim and the victim the shooter."

Courage To Fight Gun Violence and the Giffords Law Center were established by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot along with 18 other people outside a Safeway near Tucson. Among the six who died in the attack were a six-year-old girl and a federal judge. Rep. Giffords formed these organizations in the aftermath as part of a mission to "save lives from gun violence by shifting culture, changing policies, and challenging injustice."<>P> Their ongoing work involves organizing like-minded activists, preparing and disbursing research on gun violence for use by other groups and lobbying lawmakers to pass effective gun reform legislation.

And then there are the Parkland student activists, coming down the mountain like a peal of highly organized thunder. The one-two punch of these youth and their courage, combined with an amazingly effective and still-growing NRA boycott, has the entire pro-gun universe rocked back on its heels. Even Donald Trump was preaching the gospel of gun reform on Wednesday, to the astonishment of his GOP colleagues, until the NRA's top lobbyist got in his ear and brought him back into the fold.

There are many heroes in this fight. They could use some company. There will always be a Cosmic True Parents of Heaven, Earth and Humanity Cheon Il Guk Book of Life Registration Blessing to make you question even the fundamental reality of the ground you're standing on. Thankfully, there will also always be folks to remind you up is that way, water remains wet and there is nothing that can't be done when the will of good people bends toward the light.
(c) 2018 William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.

The Dead Letter Office...

Gary gives the corporate salute!

Heil Trump,

Dear Uber Gruppenfuhrer Peters,

Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Sam Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Kyle Busch, Anheuser Busch, Vidkun Quisling, and last year's winner Volksjudge John (the enforcer) Roberts.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your desire to unchain the Banksterts and let them run wild until they destroy the economy again, 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 Peters, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

Trump's Brand Is Ayn Rand
By Robert Reich

Donald Trump once said he identified with Ayn Rand's character Howard Roark in "The Fountainhead," an architect so upset that a housing project he designed didn't meet specifications he had it dynamited.

Others in Trump's circle were influenced by Rand. "Atlas Shrugged" was said to be the favorite book of Rex Tillerson, Trump's secretary of state. Rand also had a major influence on Mike Pompeo, Trump's CIA chief. Trump's first nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, said he spent much of his free time reading Rand.

The Republican leader of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, required his staff to read Rand.

Uber's founder and former CEO, Travis Kalanick, has described himself as a Rand follower. Before he was sacked, he applied many of her ideas to Uber's code of values, and even used the cover art for Rand's book "The Fountainhead" as his Twitter avatar.

Who is Ayn Rand and why does she matter? Ayn Rand - best known for two highly-popular novels still widely read today - "The Fountainhead," published in 1943, and "Atlas Shrugged," in 1957 - didn't believe there was a common good. She wrote that selfishness is a virtue, and altruism is an evil that destroys nations.

When Rand offered these ideas they seemed quaint if not far-fetched. Anyone who lived through the prior half century witnessed our interdependence, through depression and war.

After the war we used our seemingly boundless prosperity to finance all sorts of public goods - schools and universities, a national highway system, and healthcare for the aged and poor (Medicare and Medicaid). We rebuilt war-torn Europe. We sought to guarantee the civil rights and voting rights of African-Americans. We opened doors of opportunity to women. Of course there was a common good. We were living it.

But then, starting in the late 1970s, Rand's views gained ground. She became the intellectual godmother of modern-day American conservatism.

This utter selfishness, this contempt for the public, this win-at-any-cost mentality is eroding American life.

Without adherence to a set of common notions about right and wrong, we're living in a jungle where only the strongest, cleverest, and most unscrupulous get ahead, and where everyone must be wary in order to survive. This is not a society. It's not even a civilization, because there's no civility at its core. It's a disaster.

In other words, we have to understand who Ayn Rand is so we can reject her philosophy and dedicate ourselves to rebuilding the common good.

The idea of the common good was once widely understood and accepted in America. After all, the U.S. Constitution was designed for "We the people" seeking to "promote the general welfare" - not for "me the selfish jerk seeking as much wealth and power as possible."

Yet today you find growing evidence of its loss - CEOs who gouge their customers, loot their corporations and defraud investors. Lawyers and accountants who look the other way when corporate clients play fast and loose, who even collude with them to skirt the law.

Wall Street bankers who defraud customers and investors. Film producers and publicists who choose not to see that a powerful movie mogul they depend on is sexually harassing and abusing young women.

Politicians who take donations (really, bribes) from wealthy donors and corporations to enact laws their patrons want, or shutter the government when they don't get the partisan results they seek.

And a president of the United States who lies repeatedly about important issues, refuses to put his financial holdings into a blind trust and then personally profits off his office, and foments racial and ethnic conflict.

The common good consists of our shared values about what we owe one another as citizens who are bound together in the same society. A concern for the common good - keeping the common good in mind - is a moral attitude. It recognizes that we're all in it together.

If there is no common good, there is no society.
(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

Legalizing Tyranny
By Chris Hedges

The students I teach in prison who have the longest sentences are, almost without exception, the ones who demanded a jury trial. If everyone charged with a crime had a jury trial, the court system would implode. Prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges use those who insist on a jury trial-often people who did not commit the crime with which they were charged-as examples. Their sentences, frequently life sentences, are grim reminders as to why it is in the best interests of a defendant, even if he or she did not commit the crime, to take a plea agreement. Ninety-four percent of state-level felony convictions and 97 percent of federal felony convictions are the result of guilty pleas. And studies by groups such as Human Rights Watch confirm the punitive nature of jury trials: Those who go to jury trials get an addition 11 years, on average, tacked on to their sentences. The rich get high-priced lawyers and lengthy jury trials. The poor are shipped directly to jail or prison.

The corrosion of the moral authority of the legal system has ominous implications as we veer closer and closer to despotism. It is an example of one of the fundamental precursors of tyranny, as political theorist Hannah Arendt pointed out in her book "On Violence." Arendt wrote that "power and violence are opposites: where one rules absolutely, the other is absent." When institutions such as the judicial system break down and lose legitimacy, their moral authority is destroyed. To fill the moral vacuum these institutions turn exclusively to violence. "Violence," Arendt wrote, "appears where power is in jeopardy." Violence is no longer an expression of power. Rather, violence and coercion, which disregard any semblance of justice, are the only mechanism left to exert social control. Trust and respect for the rule of law is replaced by fear. And as Arendt warned, "Violence can destroy power; it is utterly incapable of creating it." The court system collapse now afflicting the poor is working its way like gangrene up the body of the judiciary. Violence is increasingly the only tool left to a discredited corporate state and its bankrupt ideology of unfettered capitalism. What is being done to the poor will soon be done to all of us.

If you are poor, this is how the system works.

First, you get picked up for a crime you may or may not have committed. The police have broad legal tools, such as RICO-the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970-that allow them to charge everyone whom they define as a member of a gang or other group involved in crime. Some of those charged may not have been involved in any way in the commission of the crime. One of my students, for example, was in a room with several other people during a drug deal that went bad. A man pulled a handgun and killed another man. My student did not own a gun. He had no part in the murder. He did not know the killer or the victim. But he went to prison under a plea deal calling for 11 years, losing his job and leaving his son, whom he was raising alone, to the streets. He is out now. His son is in prison. Our prisons are filled with people like him-poor, black and unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Police don't have the time, resources or inclination to investigate most homicides. To close a case, what they need is a suspect, or suspects. Suspects always receive several other charges, such as kidnapping, that carry long sentences, in addition to the main charge. It does not matter whether they kidnapped someone. That is not the point. The point is to give them so many charges that they are looking at a virtual life sentence. This makes the reduced sentence offered in a plea agreement very attractive. Since poor people often cannot afford bail, they sit in a county jail for months and often years before trial, adding to the pressure to accept a plea agreement. If they are young and do not have an outside support system, they can easily be worn down and made to sign a confession. This happened to a student of mine who was 14 years old and who lived on the streets after his stepfather beat his mother to death in front of him. He was pressured into signing a confession to a murder in Camden, N.J., he says he did not commit. The police, he said, told him if he signed he would be released. Like many on the street, he was functionally illiterate and could not read what he signed. He spent two years in the county jail and then went to trial, where, even though he was 16, he was tried as an adult. He is not eligible for parole until he is 70. He has no money for an appeal. He was fined $10,000 when he was convicted, a sum that he is slowly paying off out of his prison salary of $28 a month. He is 40 years old. He still owes the state of New Jersey $6,000.

Secondly, you are assigned a court-appointed lawyer. This lawyer is so overworked he or she does not have the time to investigate the case and mount a credible defense. The lawyer's real function is as a negotiator with the prosecutor for a plea agreement. A plea agreement, always carried out in secret, means the prosecutor will drop some of the charges. A plea agreement reduces the time in prison significantly, often by half. Go to court, you are warned, and you will face all the charges. The pressure to plead out is effective and intense, which is why most people, even those who did not commit the crime, plead guilty. Since nearly all cases are settled with plea agreements, the public, from which a jury would be selected, is blocked from seeing the travesty our judicial system has become.

A jury trial for the poor is a farce. Court-appointed attorneys sometimes spend only 15 minutes with clients. They often show up at trial unprepared. Prosecutors in many states are allowed to wait until the start of a trial to share evidence. This means that many people are pressured into guilty pleas although the prosecutors have little or no evidence that they committed the crime. It also means the defense has no way to prepare a response.

I had a student in prison who had been on an Army boxing team. He was preparing to go professional. He was charged with a homicide in Elizabeth, N.J. He says he was not in the city at the time of the killing. He refused to take a plea deal of 16 months. He went to court. His public defender told him to plead self-defense. He refused. This was a good decision because it came out in the trial that the victim was shot in the back. How did he get convicted? A few drug addicts, who were tidied up and given hotel rooms and some cash by the police, testified they saw him do it. He got 30 years.

"We sat in the courtroom in shock," his mother told me. "It was transparent to everyone in the room the drug addicts were lying."

The judicial system never has been fair to the poor, especially poor people of color. But its propensity for injustice has been expanded over the past three decades, as Michelle Alexander illustrated in her book "The New Jim Crow." The number of crimes, especially on the federal level, that people can be charged with has exploded. There were once only three named federal criminal acts: treason, piracy, and counterfeiting. Today there are thousands. The law as an instrument of morality at the state and federal levels has been deformed into an instrument of racialized social control. It imposes legal duties on the poor and then imprisons them for not carrying out those duties. For example, if someone in the room where the drug dealer was killed had immediately called the police and reported the crime, a virtual death sentence in a poor community, he or she would be exonerated. Refuse to call and you get charged with murder. Even the courts don't pretend that many of those with murder convictions actually carried out a homicide.

If someone wants to file an appeal, it costs $100,000. Poor people don't have access to that kind of money. Appeals are usually handled by other prisoners who work as paralegals in the prison. In the case of the boxer it was different. His parents took their entire $150,000 retirement savings and hired a lawyer and private investigator. They went to court armed with depositions from the drug users who had testified against their son saying they had lied. It made no difference. He is still in prison. And his mother-his father has since died-is living in poverty, having exhausted her savings trying to save her son.

"My mother," he told me, "never understood the system is a sham."

The carcel state-composed of 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 901 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails and 76 Indian Country jails, along with military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, and prisons in the U.S. territories-is a subculture unto itself, with an $81 billion budget and tremendous political clout. We spend a total of $265 billion on federal, state and local corrections and the police and court systems. The two main political parties compete to see which can be "tougher" on crime. Congress enacted 92 death-eligible crimes from 1974 to 2010. A first-time drug offense in the United States can lead to a life sentence. I taught a student who had been given a life sentence plus 154 years for weapons possession and drugs. He had never been charged with a violent crime. These kinds of sentences are unheard of in most of the industrial world. They are common in despotic states such as China and the Philippines, states we increasingly resemble. There are now 65 million people in the United States who because of past convictions make up a criminal caste that is denied things ranging from public housing to the right to vote. There are 7 million controlled by parole and probation officers. We have the highest rate of incarceration in the world. These numbers will, as our society unravels, go up.

The judicial system in recent years has been cruelly refined to close the tiny windows that offer any hope of reprieve to the 2.3 million people we lock away in cages. The courts routinely reduce sentences if the defendant gives up his or her right to an attorney and signs a waiver prohibiting him or her from filing an appeal. This bargaining tactic strips defendants of any legal protection.

Corporations have taken over larger and larger segments of prison life, from food service to money transfers, commissaries and phone communications. A million prisoners work for corporations in prison and are often paid under a dollar an hour. Prisoners and their families are exploited for billions in corporate profits. Corporate lobbyists sponsor legislation to make sure this captive population remains captive. Black and brown bodies on the streets of our cities do not bring in revenue for these corporations; behind bars they each generate $40,000 to $50,000 a year.

Deindustrialization left hundreds of thousands of black people in urban areas without work. Their communities decayed and collapsed. Crimes rates rose. The social disintegration was accompanied by harsher forms of social control, militarized police and mass incarceration. But the cause of this social disintegration, as sociologists such as William Julius Wilson have pointed out, has been ignored. As the rot of deindustrialization spreads across the country, the experience of people of color-the lowest stratum in the hierarchy of classes-will become normalized. Once rights become privileges for any segment of a population, as Arendt pointed out, they can be revoked for the rest of the population. We have built a terrifying legal and policing apparatus that has placed the poor of our nation, victims of corporate pillage, in bondage. This system is creeping outward to cement into place an American tyranny.
(c) 2018 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. Keep up with Chris Hedges' latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at

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Dollar Tree To Stop Selling Assault Weapons
By The Onion

CHESAPEAKE, VA-In response to the deadly shooting at a Parkland, FL high school earlier this month, Dollar Tree officials announced Thursday that the discount variety store will no longer sell assault weapons.

"Under no circumstances should a teenager be able to walk into a Dollar Tree, purchase a Basic Brands ValuPak aluminum foil rifle for one dollar, and shoot up a school with it," said CEO Gary Philbin, adding that other items to be removed effective immediately from shelves in all 13,600 locations include Good Sense clear plastic bump stocks, RitePrice high-capacity magazines, and the entire Essential Products line of disposable flash suppressors.

"We are determined to provide customers with the best value around, but in light of this terrible tragedy, we cannot in good conscience continue to offer deals like Home Bargain's three-for-one semi-automatic shotgun bundle or our 6.8 mm Remington SPC bargain bins."

While military-style rifles will no longer be available from Dollar Tree, Philbin reassured customers the store will, of course, continue to offer a wide selection of discount handguns after enforcing a 21-and-over age restriction.
(c) 2018 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 18 # 09 (c) 03/09/2018

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