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In This Edition

Matt Taibbi warns, "It's Too Late To Worry About 'Normalizing' Trump. Decades Of Policy Did That For Him."

Uri Avnery considers, "The Fake Enemy."

Glen Ford finds there's, "No Holding Back "Black" Brazil."

Medea Benjamin says, "Don't Believe The Media Hype About Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman."

Jim Hightower exclaims, "Forget Shaming This Do-Nothing Congress. Stop Paying Them!"

John Nichols reports, "Bernie Sanders Wants To Tell The Story That Corporate Media Fails To Tell."

James Donahue wonders, "Will Robots Fight Our Next Great War?"

Pepe Escobar returns with, "Shock And Awe Revisited, As Fighting Drags On In Syria's Ghouta."

Heather Digby Parton studies, "A Lack Of Candor."

Katrina vanden Heuvel says, "Gina Haspel's Role In The Torture Era Demands Attention."

Charles P. Pierce reveals, "The Best People, Church Grifter Edition."

Ted Rall concludes, "No Impeachment Agenda, No Midterm Win."

William Rivers Pitt finds, "Fifteen Years After Iraq Invasion, Torture Has A New Address."

CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich exposes, "The Mad King."

Chris Hedges with a must read, "Building The Iron Wall."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "N.R.A. Proposes Having Second Armed Teacher In Every Classroom To Stop First Armed Teacher From Misfiring" but first Uncle Ernie sees, "Trump In Outer Space."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of John Deering, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Rubin Bolling, Mr. Fish, Tom Tomorrow, Carolyn Kaster, Justin Norman, Alex Wong, Safin Hamed, Jenny Garza, Jim Watson, CBS News, 60 Minutes, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, NBC News, 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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Trump In Outer Space
Danger, Danger, Will Robinson
By Ernest Stewart

"...These directives represent progress. This is just the first step. We will not allow the United States national security space enterprise to continue to drift toward a space Pearl Harbor." ~~~ Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala.

"The ice road season is getting shorter for us. That's because we're getting warmer weather throughout the year. Fifteen or twenty years ago, we noticed something changing and it continues to change. It continues to get warmer." ~~~ Russell Neudorf ~ senior project advisor for the Northwest Territories Department of Infrastructure.

"Disappointed to leave the FBI, a career I've loved for 27 years. During this difficult time I just want all of America to know that the pee tape is real" ~~~ James Comey?

You know, the landlord rang my front door bell
I let it ring for a long, long spell
I went to the window,
I peeped through the blind,
And asked him to tell me what's on his mind
He said,
Money, honey, uh uh
Money, honey
Money, honey, if you want to get along with me
Money Honey ~~~ Elvis Presley

Have you heard that our very own space cadet, our fearless leader, wants to create a force of starship troopers! As Trump said the other day...
"Space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea. We may even have a Space Force, develop another one, Space Force. We have the Air Force, we'll have the Space Force. Maybe we need a new force, we'll call it the Space Force, what a great idea, maybe we'll have to do that. So think of that, Space Force," Trump continued, "because we are spending a lot and we have a lot of private money coming in, tremendous. You saw what happened the other day, and tremendous success. From the very beginning, many of our astronauts have been soldiers and air men, coast guard men and marines. And our service members will be vital to ensuring America continues to lead the way into the stars."
Trouble is, that a little over 51 years ago the United States, and another 107 countries, signed the "Outer Space Treaty." The international treaty binds the parties to use outer space only for peaceful purposes. Not Trump's plans for Starship Troopers!

It was a United Nations-approved agreement called the "Outer Space Treaty," or the "Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies" and 107 nations have become parties to the document since it was signed and enacted on January 27, 1967. Since then, the treaty has helped ensure the peaceful exploration of space, as well as provide a lasting framework for how nations are supposed to behave in Earth orbit and beyond. So sending out the Space Marines is a violation of the treaty.

Sure, the United States has never met a treaty that it signed that it couldn't break. If you don't believe me, ask the Indians how signing treaties with the "great white father" worked out for them!

In Other News

I see where you fans of Ice Road Truckers maybe watching their last shows as global warming is shutting down those roads for good. It seems the days of the ice roads are all but over. Canada has more than 3,300 miles of ice roads, all necessary for keeping North America's farthest-flung inhabitants supplied through a long and brutal winter. But The New York Times reports that the fractal network of paths are freezing later and thawing earlier than ever before. Canadian authorities point to global warming as the culprit and have begun preparing for a time when the ice can no longer support human travel. It means construction of new and expensive all-season roads. It means the chances to ride the ice grow slim. For example, The Tuktoyaktuk Winter Road between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk once stretched across the frozen Mackenzie River and the Arctic Ocean. It closed permanently in 2017.

What does that mean to you and me? Well, if you live along the east coast you have personally seen the effects of global warming. In the first two weeks of March, three winter storms slammed into the northeast corridor from Washington, D.C., to Boston. And as I write this, another one, is hitting the east coast! Over the last decade, a flurry of extreme winter storms has struck the region, giving birth to clever nick-names as Snowpocalypse (2009), Snowmageddon (2010) and Snowzilla (2016). Imagine that!

As a few brain dead Rethuglicans have moaned, such weather proves there is no global warming, oh contraire Bozos, as researchers have previously suggested that extreme weather in the midlatitudes may be linked to climate change's impacts on the Arctic, particularly the dramatically decreased sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean. And now, a study published online March 13 in Nature Communications reports "a strong correlation between the severe winter weather experienced in the northeastern United States over the last decade and the warming trend in the Arctic." There's that global warming winners and losers thing again.

Two of the study's authors, climatologist Judah Cohen of the Massachusetts-based climate and weather risk assessment group "Atmospheric and Environmental Research" and atmospheric scientist Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University, have long been proponents of the hypothesis that the warming Arctic is having profound effects on weather at the midlatitudes, from severe snowfalls to heat waves. It was Francis who, with a colleague, proposed in 2012 that "sea ice loss in the Arctic slows the polar jet stream," a band of air currents flowing above the northern and middle latitudes of Earth. The slowed jet stream would become wavier, with large meanders that might jut deep into the midlatitudes; such waves, the researchers suggested, could allow winter storms to push south and linger. This effect is also caused by typhoons heading straight up into the arctic pushing the normal weather south causing a polar-vortex. The 2013/2014 polar-vortex is one that I'll never forget! And all of this is happening with less than a 2 degree celcius constant rise from the normal temperatures.

At the same time, out in California, they're getting torrential rain storms, which is causing all those brunt out hill sides to come tumbling down on the folks below. Meanwhile, with the village idiot in control of our climate actions, it's only going to get worse!

And Finally

Did you hear what John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, said on Morning Joe the other day? He speculated that the Russians "may have something on him personally," referring to Trump. Ya think, mayhaps, those "golden shower" DVDs?

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump congratulated Mr. Putin on his re-election and made no mention of the election meddling. Mr. Trump has routinely issued statements about Russia and Mr. Putin that often are at odds with his own advisers, and in some cases opposite of what his actions are.

"I think he's afraid of the president of Russia. I think one can speculate as to why, that the Russians may have something on him personally that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult." Brennan said.

On Saturday, Brennan attacked Trump on Twitter after the president tweeted about his excitement over the firing of the deputy director of the F.B.I., Andrew G. McCabe.

Brennan said, "When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history."

Well said John, well said indeed!

Keepin' On

We'd like to thank Elizabeth from New York City for her very generous donation!!! Thanks to her help we are a third of the way in reaching our goal of paying off our bills for the year. We met July's deadline with some left over to put on September's bills! So thank you so much Elizabeth!!!

If we had a couple more like Elizabeth we could pay the bills and make a few well needed improvements to the site! Trouble is, folks like Elizabeth are hard to come by now adays! Last year it took about 50 of you to keep us going. In the olden days it took just two of you to reach our goal, but that ended about 10 years ago. After that we kept publishing with the help of "The Usual Suspects" a group of like minded people who gave what they could as often as it was needed. I wonder where they went?

If you like what we do, i.e. bring you the truth, that is so hard to find, on a weekly basis, as we have since 2001. Please send us whatever you can, whenever you can, and we'll keep fighting the good fight, for you, and for your's!


02-24-1946 ~ 03-20-2018
Thanks for the music!

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Thanks for the laughs!

03-30-1933 ~ 03-21-2018
Thanks for the film!


We get by with a little help from our friends!
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So how do you like Trump so far?
And more importantly, what are you planning on doing about it?

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 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 United States helped create the pre-condition for Trump by continually
spreading the idea that it's OK to ally ourselves with leaders who abuse their subjects.

It's Too Late to Worry About 'Normalizing' Trump. Decades Of Policy Did That For Him
The current president is just too stupid to be embarrassed about things his predecessors all did, too
By Matt Taibbi

Max Boot, the noted Washington Post columnist, and "Jeane Kilpatrick senior fellow for National Security Studies" at the Council for Foreign Relations, thinks Donald Trump is betraying American values by meeting with Kim Jong-Un. Such a meeting, Boot says, would mean "giving the worst human-rights abuser on the planet what he most wants: international legitimacy."

Let's unpack that one for a minute. We're worried now about giving human rights abusers legitimacy?

The idea that we don't legitimize human-rights abusers is a laugh-out-loud joke everywhere outside America. You could fill a book chapter with the history of the friendly relations between American presidents and just the foreign dictators who are credibly reported to have eaten other human beings.

Here's a cheery letter from Gerald Ford inviting Central African Republic dictator Jean-Bedel Bokassa (the remains of 30 people were found in his crocodile pond upon ouster) to Washington.

We helped install Idi Amin, too. He later denied rumors of cannibalism, saying human flesh was "too salty," but he had other equally upsetting hobbies. We've supported a couple of generations of Nguemas in Equatorial Guinea, both of whom - uncle Macias and nephew Teodoro Obiang - reportedly ate their political enemies.

This is in addition to the countless Batistas and Suhartos and Diems and Marcoses and Pinochets who were just murdering thieving monsters we legitimized not by sitting down with them at the negotiating table, but by making them allies we showered with things like arms and money.

The problem with Trump is that he's too stupid to be embarrassed by such relationships. He constantly makes all of Washington look bad by jumping too enthusiastically in bed with the blood-soaked juntas and anti-democratic governments we more quietly embraced in the past.

Over the weekend, for instance, Trump horrified progressives when he called for the death penalty for drug dealers, an idea he said he got from Chinese President Xi Jinping. "I don't know if this country's ready for it," Trump moaned.

This is monstrous, of course, and God help us if we actually try to enact this policy.

But the fact that we're so tight with repressive China to begin with is on Trump's predecessors, who should have taken a harder line on human rights issues a long time ago.

For decades, American officials in both parties have overlooked China's horrific record on human rights. Both continually lobbied for China to keep receiving Most Favored Nation status and other trade benefits, largely because corporate donors wanted it.

The real measuring stick we use when it comes to determining whether a foreign regime is irredeemably monstrous or an important ally is whether the leaders we're talking about are our bastards, or their own bastards - puppets, or free-lancers.

Dictators who take the throne with our backing get weapons and cash. The ones who do it without our backing usually find themselves getting a nice healthy dose of regime change sooner or later.

Sometimes the offender starts out as an American lapdog only to leave the kennel and instantly become a Dangerous International Human Rights Offender.

Manuel Noriega was on the CIA payroll until 1988, but later became disobedient and found himself holed up in a nunnery listening to invading American troops blaring "I Fought the Law" (the Clash version, in a nice detail) as they waited for him to surrender.

Saddam Hussein was another friend-turned-target, as was Diem and a few others. The line between friend and pariah in our foreign policy is incredibly slim. It really has nothing to do with anything beyond the political utility, to America, of the regime in question.

This is why the debate over Trump meeting with Kim Jong-Un is so absurd. The crime here isn't meeting with a dictator - we snuggle up to worse creeps all the time - the crime is meeting with an out of pocket dictator.

Rachel Maddow last week struggled to articulate why she was so opposed to negotiations with North Korea. Her basic take seemed to be "Nobody has ever met with the dictator of North Korea, therefore nobody should ever meet with the dictator of North Korea."

A lot of self-described progressives seem to be agreeing with her. This is interesting, since the same idea was incredibly popular among the same audience not long ago.

On July 23rd, 2007, at the Citadel in South Carolina, Democratic presidential candidates held the first presidential debate of the 2008 election cycle. In it, an audience member asked if candidates would be willing to meet with leaders of countries like Syria, Iran, and North Korea.

"I would," Obama said. "And the reason is this: the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of [the Bush] administration, is ridiculous."

As a colleague pointed out to me over the weekend, this was one of the moments that first endeared progressives to Barack Obama, precisely because it defied bipartisan Washington consensus. True to form, after that debate, both Hillary Clinton and George Bush ("Some seem to think we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals") ripped Obama's naivete.

The idea that the United States does not negotiate in public until the enemy has already surrendered in private has long been a bedrock principle in D.C.

It's one of the reasons why people in other countries hate us so much. It's also why our "peace proposals" so often read like ultimatums.

A classic example was the Rambouillet deal presented to Slobodan Milosevic. Milosevic agreed to the key principle of an independent Kosovo, but didn't want the deal secured by NATO troops, as outlined. He preferred the occupying troops fly under a U.N. or an OSCE flag. We told him to take the deal or be bombed.

He wouldn't budge, we bombed him, and our news media consistently misreported this war-starting sequence of events. The New York Times went so far as to say Milosevic "absolutely refused to entertain an outside force in Kosovo."

The current consensus on North Korea is basically the same. It's said repeatedly we shouldn't countenance a meet with the mad dictator until the mad dictator agrees in advance to surrender. Doing anything else makes us look weak, and gives a PR win to a murderous autocrat. And we wouldn't want that!

The flamboyant horribleness of Trump is allowing warmongering, democracy-hating hacks on both sides of the aisle to rewrite history. They're penning a new creation story that dates America's embrace of murderous dictators to Trump's election.

"Another morning in America," sighed Paul Krugman, after Trump invited Egypt's ruthless Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to Washington last year, and called him a "fantastic guy." Politico chimed in: "Critics worry the president has a love for tyrants and little interest in promoting human rights and democracy."

What these people left out of their outrage is that we'd been supplying Sisi with jets and missiles since the Obama years. As The Intercept pointed out, exactly the same thing happened when Trump and Tillerson cozied up to the repressive Bahrain regime (who began receiving arms from us in 2015).

One of the constant themes we hear on social media and from pundits is that the press has to go the extra mile to avoid "normalizing" Donald Trump. The problem is that when it comes to embracing autocratic regimes, Trump actually is normal. We should be ashamed not just of him, but of the decades of votes we cast for politicians who did the same things.

We helped create the pre-condition for Trump by continually spreading the idea that it's OK to ally ourselves with leaders who abuse their subjects - who push dissenters out of airplanes, electrocute their genitals, bomb women and children, and so on - so long as our economic interests are protected.

I would love to be able to point a finger at Donald Trump and say, "The United States does not sit down with murderous dictators!"

But we can't say that, can we? Not with a straight face, anyway.
(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.

The Fake Enemy
By Uri Avnery

TOWARDS THE END of 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and declared war on the US. Their Nazi ally followed with its own declaration of war, and so did all its satellites.

The joke tells about the Hungarian ambassador in Washington who delivered his declaration of war to the Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, who decided to have some fun.

"Hungary, Hungary," Hull queried, "Are you a republic?"

"No," the ambassador corrected him, "We are a monarchy."

"Indeed? So who is your king?"

"We don't have a king, but a regent, Admiral Horthy."

"An admiral? So you have a large navy?"

"We have no navy at all, because we have no outlet to the ocean."

"Strange, a monarchy without a king, an admiral without a navy. So tell me, why are you declaring war on us? Do you have claims against the USA?"

"No, we have claims against Romania."

"So why don't you declare war on Romania?"

"We can't! Romania is our ally!"

I REMEMBER this joke every time Binyamin Netanyahu utters his blood-curdling threats against Iran. The struggle with Iran heads his agenda. He warns of the danger of an Iranian effort to produce nuclear weapons and implicitly threatens her with our "secret" nuclear arsenal.


God knows. I search desperately for a reason for the Israeli-Iranian conflict, a struggle of life and death, and do not find any. Nothing. Niente.

Wars between nations are based on conflicts of interest. Are there any conflicting interests between Israel and Iran?

None whatsoever.

Israel has a conflict with the Arab world, which refuses to recognize and have normal relations with it as long as there is no peace between Israel and the Palestinian people. Israel is now practically at war with Syria and Hezbollah.

Iran wants to be the dominant Muslim power in the region. Therefore it is practically at war with Saudi Arabia (which wants the same) and its satellites. That looks like a community of interests between Israel and Iran.

And indeed, not so long ago there was a strong - though unofficial - alliance between Iran and Israel. That was when the Shah ruled in Teheran. Israelis acted in Iran at will. Iran was the basis for Israel's extensive military and political activities in Iraqi Kurdistan. Shabak, the Israeli secret service, trained the feared Iranian secret service, Savak. Except for the USA, Iran was Israel's closest ally.

SO WHAT happened? Regime change in Iran, of course. The Shah was thrown out, the Ayatollahs came in. The Ayatollahs are religious leaders. In the name of Shi'ite Islam they curse the "Jewish State."

But religious ideology does not replace the basic interests of a state. These are based on objective facts, primarilly geographical ones. Even the religious wars of the 17th century arose mainly from national interest. Mostly, religion was just a pretext.

National interests do not change when a regime change occurs.

The most obvious example is Russia. When the Bolshevik revolution replaced the Czars, foreign policy did not change. When the Communist regime broke down and power eventually came to Vladimir Putin, the foreign policy continues more or less as if nothing has happened.

And indeed, when the vital interests of Iran were concerned, the Ayatollahs did not despise Israeli aid. During the Iraqi-Iranian war, Israel provided the ayatollahs with arms. That happened almost openly during the so-called "hostage crisis". The US sent arms to Israel, Israel sent them to Iran, in return Iran released the American hostages. My friend Amiram Nir, then a government security official, went to Teheran to deliver them.

The thought that Iran could possibly attack a nuclear power like Israel and risk its own annihilation is ludicrous.

Iran is the heiress to one of the world's most ancient civilizations, almost as ancient as Egypt. Compared to it, Jewish civilization is a younger sister. Indeed, many experts believe that the Jewish religion is heavily indebted to the Iranian civilization.

Cyrus "the Great" founded the largest empire in the world (until then). He created a system of tolerance and progress. As part of the effort he sent the banished Jews from Babylon back to Jerusalem. The "Return to Zion" was, as many experts believe, the real beginning of Judaism.

True, that was long, long ago. But, as mentioned above, objective interests have a very long life.

SO WHY do the Iranians curse us now? Why do they rain fire and brimstone on us?

Quite simple. The hatred for Israel is for the Iranians an instrument for the achievement of their real goals.

The real aim of the Iranians is to gain power over the entire Muslim Middle East. They are doing this systematically, with quite a lot of success. The logic goes like this: the Muslim world hates Israel. The Arab Middle East hates Israel. Therefore, the hatred of Israel can be an effective political instrument.

Curiously enough, Binyamin Netanyahu has adopted the same logic - only the other way round. Donald trump hates the ayatollahs. Many people in the Western world fear them. So Netanyahu has adopted hatred of Iran as his main political instrument. He goes around the world and peddles it everywhere. It is the main theme of his rousing speeches to the UN, the American Congress and AIPAC.

It is also a good remedy for his personal troubles. Netanyahu is now up to his neck in various corruption affairs, including large bribes. His admirers are ready to ignore them, because he is Israel's only bulwark against the terrible danger of annihilation by the ayatollahs riding on nuclear missiles.

Since President Trump also has a thing about Iran and wants to withdraw from the international agreement in which Iran undertook to suspend much of its nuclear program, in return for adequate concessions, Netanyahu's anti-Iranian ranting cements the companionship between the two.

Lately the Iranians have been establishing bases in Syria and Lebanon, near the borders of Israel. The Israeli air force is bombing them from time to time, proudly showing aerial photos proving their success. These attacks raise, of course, Iran's credibility in Arab eyes. Everybody is satisfied.

STILL, IT'S a dangerous situation. It is based on the Israeli-Arab conflict that could explode any minute in various ways. Israeli "military experts" prophesy another Israeli-Arab war soon, probably against Syria and Hezbollah. This week, air-raid sirens were tested all over this country.

The best way to avoid it is to make peace with the Arab world. That means to make peace first with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu proudly tells us that he has achieved a remarkable victory - cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the Arab Emirates, who are now involved in a shooting war with Yemeni insurgents who enjoy Iranian backing. The Saudis are nowhere near to winning that war.

This Israeli-Saudi cooperation is strictly secret. The Saudi crown prince, a very young and inexperienced dictator, cannot admit it, because the masses of Arabs everywhere, including his own kingdom, see Israel as the arch-enemy.

No Arab country can establish real peace with Israel, as long as Israel occupies all of Palestine and subjects the Palestinians to a cruel occupation regime. The old Saudi peace plan is still lying around somewhere, but it is totally ignored by the Israeli government.

True, Israel has signed peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, but nothing even remotely resembling a thoroughgoing peace exists between us and these nations. The initial enthusiasm evaporated long ago, and both the Egyptian and the Jordanian governments keep relations to a minimum, aware that the masses of their peoples detest Israel.

There is just no way around the Palestinians.

Real friends of Israel should advise Netanyahu to make peace as long as Mahmoud Abbas (Abu-Mazen) is still around. In two weeks he will be 83 years old, and he is ailing. He is deeply committed to peace. He has no obvious successor, and his replacement may far, far less moderate.

But Netanyahu doesn't care. Peace is the last thing he has on his troubled mind. He is far more committed to the eternal conflict with both the Arabs and the Iranians.

After all, what would life be like without enemies?
(c) 2018 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

No Holding Back "Black" Brazil
By Glen Ford

The assassination of Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman Marielle Franco sent huge crowds of outraged mourners into the streets of Brazil, the western hemisphere's "blackest" nation, where more than half of the 210 million inhabitants describe themselves as preto (black) or pardo (partly African). The 38 year-old member of the Party of Socialism and Liberty (PSOL) and her driver were ambushed by hit men firing police-issued bullets, sending "a message to all black bodies that fight for rights in the favela," the besieged ghettos of Brazil's cities, said Black activist Marcelle Decothe.

Shaun King, writing in The Intercept, described Franco as, "for all intents and purposes, a leader of the country's parallel to the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S."

In this week's issue of Black Agenda Report, Black Brazilian journalist and anthropologist Jaime A. Alves describes Franco, a lesbian with a 19 year-old daughter, as "fearlessly vocal against police terror. Days before her killing," Alves writes, "she denounced on twitter the disappearance of two youth kidnapped by the police in the neighboring favela of Acari. She was also leading the human rights commission to monitor police and military abuse during the military intervention decreed by president Michel Temer."

The Brazilian military ruled with an iron hand -- and U.S. backing -- from 1964 to 1985. The Temer regime remains hugely unpopular more than two years after the "legislative coup" that unseated the Workers Party government of Dilma Rousseff, throwing the nation into political turmoil. Some fear President Temer's handover of policing in Rio to the generals amounts to a creeping military coup. "I believe that this is one more step along the road of being able to restore security, order and, above all, confidence to residents of Rio de Janeiro state," said top Temer advisor Wellington Moreira Franco. "This spirit is being mobilized so that ... this methodology can spread throughout Brazil."

It is almost immaterial whether Marielle Franco was killed by the military or civilian police, or other henchmen; she was cut down by a white supremacist Brazilian state that is even more lethally racist than its counterpart in the northern hemisphere. Her death is an occasion for serious examination of the similarities and differences in the Black condition in Brazil and the United States, especially regarding police.

BAR contributor Jaime Alves believes the transfer of police duties to the military is a "test case for Brazil as a whole." But, he emphasizes, for Black activists, the favelas have always been under occupation. "Despite the regime of citizenship, decolonization is still to be completed" in the last major country in the world to abolish slavery, in 1888.

According to the official numbers, Brazil's police kill 4, 224 civilians a year. Alves asks us to "imagine a country where twelve civilians are 'legally' killed by the police on a daily basis." Seventy-six percent of the dead are Black, meaning nine Black men or boys are killed by Brazilian police every day (99 percent are male). Alves notes that these statistics "do not count the 'disappeared' and 'unknown' that have turned poor and predominantly black urban communities in Brazil into macabre geographies."

In the United States, cops killed 1,129 people in 2017, according to a Mapping Police Violence study, 305 of them Black people. That amounts to one Black person killed by cops every 29 hours -- less than one a day.

Brazil's Black population is over 100 million, two and a half times the U.S. Black population of 40 million. If the Black USA were as large as Black Brazil, the rate of cop killings of Blacks would be one every 11 and a half hours, or a little more than two deaths per day - still far below the Black Brazilian daily death toll of nine, but horrific on any national scale other than that which is weighted down by centuries of slavery, the organized mass grinding up and murder of entire peoples. Black lives in both Brazil and the U.S. are terminated by the state on a low-intensity warfare scale.

Clearly, the Brazilian state is conducting an even more lethal war against its Black population than its northern counterpart's militarized oppression of U.S. Blacks. There is plenty of room for debate on why this is so, but I submit that the historical militancy and relative solidarity of Blacks in the U.S. has been a great shield and spear against an unrelentingly hostile white society and state. Although Blacks in the U.S. constantly complain of a lack of solidarity and waning militancy among our people, the truth is that, compared to other populations of the African diaspora, we are collectively fierce! That's why Shaun King speaks of Marielle Franco as, "for all intents and purposes, a leader of the country's parallel to the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S." - and not the other way around. There are Black Panther Party "parallels" in India -- and, as we note in this issue of BAR, in Puerto Rico -- and Black Americans are the model of Black militancy in most of the world. No other Black national group has waged repeated urban rebellions in the major cities of a modern, white-led capitalist state. The resilience of Black U.S. solidarity and militancy means there are political, economic and, sometimes, blood prices to be paid for crimes against this people - and the state knows it.

A key factor that distinguishes Black people in the U.S. from others in the diaspora is the historical absence of an independent mulatto class. The relatively high prices brought by the heavily securitized and fantastically profitable slave "stock" in the U.S. discouraged slaveholders from allowing the creation of such a class, while constantly reinforced white majorities eliminated the need to formalize a "buffer" population of mixed race persons in the United States. The slave descendants here are uniformly "Black" -- and consciously so. Our super-exploitation -- with no means to escape by "lightening" the race - was transformed into a near-unique level of solidarity.

Black Brazil is belatedly transforming, too - as is dramatically evident in the census numbers, themselves. There are many more "self-declared black" people -- as Alves describes Marielle Franco -- in Brazil than ever before, despite long periods of massive European immigration to that country, thanks to a Black movement largely inspired by its brothers and sisters in the United States.

All power to the people of the favelas! Love Live Marielle Franco!
(c) 2018 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MbS for short, speaking
with 60 Minutes' correspondent Nora O'Donnell in an interview that aired Sunday night on CBS.

Don't Believe The Media Hype About Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman
Positive reforms credited to MbS are minor in the larger picture of a kingdom that brooks no dissent internally and is committing war crimes abroad
By Medea Benjamin

Saudi Arabia's 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, heir to the Saudi throne after eliminating his rivals, is on a two-week whirlwind visit to the United States starting March 19. He plans to cement his ties to the Trump administration, shore up support for his war in Yemen while whipping up more opposition to Iran, and make lucrative business deals. From political meetings with Donald Trump and Congress to cultural events at DC's Kennedy Center, a talk at MIT, gatherings with tech leaders in Silicon Valley and oil executives in Houston, the prince will be selling dolled-up versions of both his repressive kingdom and his favorite product from the House of Saud: himself. But don't get sucked into the media hype, seeded by well-paid PR firms, that the prince is a reformer who is bringing substantive change to the kingdom.

MbS, as he is known from his initials, is really a brutal bully responsible for bombing and starving Yemenis. He's also gunning for a war with Iran, blaming Iran for the Middle East turmoil. Meanwhile, he recklessly imposed a blockade of Qatar that has divided the Gulf States and tried to force a bizarre showdown with Hezbollah in Lebanon by holding Prime Minister Hariri hostage. Recent reports reveal that he has even been holding his own mother under house arrest, hidden from her husband King Salman, for fear she would stand in the way of her son's ruthless power grab.

Yes, it is true that MbS is making some positive reforms. Women will soon be able to drive and the morality police are not as repressive. Movie theatres are opening, and more cultural events are allowed (although they must all pass government muster and most are gender-segregated). But these reforms are minor in the larger picture of a kingdom that brooks no dissent internally and is committing war crimes abroad. According to Human Rights Watch, "Mohammed bin Salman's well-funded image as a reformist falls flat in the face of Yemen's humanitarian catastrophe and scores of activists and political dissidents languishing in Saudi prisons on spurious charges. Baby steps on women's rights reforms don't paper over Saudi Arabia's systemic abuses."

The prince's most destructive policy is his war on Yemen (bin Salman is head of both the military and the economy). Started in March 2015 in what the prince thought would be a quick and dirty campaign to defeat the Houthi rebels, the relentless Saudi bombing campaign and restrictions on humanitarian aid have turned Yemen into the world's greatest humanitarian disaster. The US participation in this Yemen war includes selling the Saudis billions of dollars in weapons (Saudi Arabia is the number one purchaser of US weapons) and providing in-air refueling of their bomber planes. Bin Salman's visit is coming at precisely the time when the Senate is embroiled in a debate over Resolution 54, a bipartisan resolution that would end the unauthorized US military participation in the Yemen conflict. The prince will certainly use his visit to shore up support for the war, painting it as a fight against the Iran-backed Houthis rather than Saudi interference in Yemen's internal affairs.

To consolidate his power at home before the death of his father, King Salman, MbS has just pulled off a heist that would make bank robber Butch Cassidy green with envy. He rounded up hundreds of his rival elites and held them hostage in the gilded Ritz-Carlton Hotel until they turned over billions of dollars, real estate and shares of their companies to his control. According to a New York Times expose, some detainees were subjected to such physical abuse that 17 were hospitalized and one died in custody, with a neck that appeared twisted, a badly swollen body and other signs of abuse.

The whole affair was framed as a fight against corruption, but all transactions were conducted in secret and outside the law. Those who have been released are banned from travel and are afraid to denounce bin Salman for fear of further reprisals. Meanwhile, the prince who is portrayed as a Saudi Robin Hood taking from the elite to spread to the poor bought a $500 million yacht from a Russian vodka financier, a $300 million French chateau described as "the world's most expensive home," and a $450 million Leonardo da Vinci painting purchased at a Christie's auction-the most expensive painting ever sold.

So don't be fooled. Beneath the veneer of reform is a young man who believes that his bloodline gives him the right to become the next absolute monarch in a family that has ruled the nation with an iron fist since its founding in 1932. The Saudi kingdom is still governed by an intolerant version of Islam, Wahhabism, and spreads that ideology around the world. The government still represses the Shia minority and non-Muslims, and remains a country where atheism is a capital offense and all churches are banned. Free speech and free association are forbidden. There are no national elections and political parties are banned, as are unions and most civic organizations. Criticizing the Saudi regime can lead to flogging, harsh jail sentences or beheading.

While Saudi Arabia will soon lose the distinction of being the only country in the world where women can't drive, the regime continues to be the world's most misogynist, gender-segregated country. The guardianship system gives men authority over the most important decisions in women's lives, and women are forced to be covered in black from head to toe when they are out in public.

A repressive kingdom ruled, de facto, by a cunning, 32-year-old strongman who has made hundreds of internal enemies among the elite and conducts foreign policy in a more impetuous manner than Donald Trump is a recipe for disaster. The United States should not be arming and abetting this regime and investors dazzled by the prince's charm offensive and gobs of money should take a second look. If Saudi Arabia is indeed to move into the 21st century, it must stop being governed by royalty.
(c) 2018 Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace, is the author of the new book, Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection. Her previous books include: Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control; Don't Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart, and (with Jodie Evans) Stop the Next War Now (Inner Ocean Action Guide). Follow her on Twitter: @medeabenjamin

Forget Shaming This Do-Nothing Congress. Stop Paying Them!
By Jim Hightower

Want good quality, lower-cost health care for your family - and (what the hell, let's think big here) for every man, woman, and (especially) every child in our society?

Here's how we can finally get Congress to pass such a program: Step One - take away every dime of the multimillion-dollar government subsidy that Members of Congress get to cover their platinum-level health insurance. Let them have to live with the same exorbitantly-expensive, dysfunctional, and (let's admit it) sick system of medical profiteering they've thrust on us. Eliminate all of their special treatments, including shutting down their "Office of the Attending Physician," a little-known spot of pure, 100% socialized medicine conveniently located in our US Capitol to provide government-paid doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others who give immediate, on-the-spot attention to these special ones.

Well, you might say, they still won't feel the pain, because they're 1-percenters, pulling down $174,000 a year each from us taxpayers, meaning they can afford to buy decent health insurance. Ah, but here comes Step Two - put all of our congressional goof-offs on pay-for-performance salaries. Why pay them a flat rate whether they produce or not? For example, American babies are one-third more likely to die in their first year of life than babies in Poland, which provides universal health insurance for all of its people. So, every year that the US Congress fails to provide health coverage for every American family, the members should get their pay docked by a third. Pay them only when they deliver for the people.

When Congress finally assures good health care for all of us, then its members would get the same coverage. But until they deliver for the whole public, the public owes them nothing.
(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

Bernie Sanders speaks at the "Our Revolution" rally on Saturday, March 10, 2018, in Lubbock, Texas.

Bernie Sanders Wants To Tell The Story That Corporate Media Fails To Tell
Frustrated with the media's neglect of economic issues that matter to the working class, the senator tells The Nation how he'll use live-streaming to force the issue.
By John Nichols

For decades, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has objected to the failure of major media outlets to cover the growth of economic inequality in America. As a presidential contender in 2016, he used every opportunity that was afforded him in the media to address poverty, plutocracy and the consolidation of wealth and power in the hands of "the billionaire class."

Now, he's doing something to tip the balance of the popular discourse away from the agendas of the super rich and toward the real life concerns of working-class Americans. Something big. On Monday, from 7 to 8:30 pm ET, he will host a livestreamed town hall meeting on "Inequality in America: The Rise of Oligarchy and Collapse of the Middle Class." With Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, filmmaker Michael Moore, economist Darrick Hamilton and others, Sanders will lead a discussion about the "growing power of corporate interests and how we can build economy that works for all Americans." Livestreamed on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube by Sanders, Warren, Moore, The Guardian, NowThis, The Young Turks and, the initiative will reach social media sites with a combined following of close to 50 million Americans.

Sanders spoke with The Nation about what he hopes to accomplish.

The Nation: You say there are two fundamental issues with inequality. What's the first?

Sanders: The first one is that this country is moving into oligarchy. The three wealthiest people in this country own more wealth than the bottom half of American society. The top one-tenth of one percent now owns as much wealth as the bottom ninety percent. And then, politically, what we have seen since the Citizens United decision (by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010) is billionaires like the Koch brothers and a few of their friends pouring hundreds and millions of dollars into the political process to elect candidates who represent the wealthy and the powerful. That is an issue of huge consequence to the future of America - in terms of the economic life of this country and the collapse of the middle class, and a political system which is being corrupted by big money and Citizens United.

And the second issue has to do with how the first is covered?

The second issue deals with the fact that we have a corporate media, which is not as Donald Trump defines it "fake news." That's not the issue. It's not that you have people on CNN, or writing for The New York Times, who are deliberately lying or trying to destroy politicians - that's not the case. Everyday there are very good and important articles that appear in The Washington Post and The New York Times, on CBS News and everywhere else.

The problem is that, to a very significant degree, corporate media ignores, or pays very little attention, to the most important issues facing working people. That is the problem with corporate media today.

If you look at just the issue I described to you - the movement in this country toward oligarchy - you will find very, very little discussion about that. Stormy Daniels will get ten times more print and video coverage than will the movement toward oligarchy in this country. You will see very little discussion about poverty in this country. "Poverty" is just not a word that is used on television very often.

And you think you can do something about that?

What we are trying to do now is pretty revolutionary... We have co-sponsorship on this town meeting that includes, obviously our Facebook, which has 7.5 million followers, Elizabeth Warren with close to 3.5 million, Michael Moore with 2.2 million, the Guardian with 7.9 million, Young Turks with 4 or 5 million, and many more pages that will be sharing the live stream. There probably is duplication, but its absolutely fair to say tens of millions.

Last time (in January) when we did the Medicare-for-All/Single-Payer town meeting, we ended up having one million live viewers and then a million people came on board later. So it's a total of two million. Our hope is that this time we will do better than that... This is revolutionary in terms of media. What this means is that there is now extraordinary potential to get issues out: whether it is the health-care crisis and Medicare-for-All; whether it is the collapse of the middle class and the movement toward oligarchy; or maybe next time we'll do something on criminal justice or guns or immigration or whatever it may be. We do now have the possibility through livestreaming to discuss serious issues with serious panelists that will never be discussed - or very rarely be discussed - on the corporate media.

This, I think, is transformational from a media perspective. I am very, very excited about this. If it continues to do as well, if the viewing audience continues to be as high as I think it will be, we'll just continue doing programming like this on issues that go into a depth that the corporate media will not do.

This question of corporate media's coverage of inequality, or the lack thereof, had been a concern of yours for a long time. But your concern hasn't just been with the patterns of coverage by traditional media, it has been with the issue that those patterns of coverage create results by putting some issues on the table while taking other issues off.

Absolutely, absolutely. Now, as I've said before, the issue is not fake news. I don't think The New York Times lies everyday or is trying to attack me or anybody else. That is not the issue. The issue is just what you talked about.

Somebody has to determine every morning what the news of the day is. And somebody says that we need three days of coverage on some Trump aide getting kicked out of the White House - day after day after day. Do you think people in Kansas, or in Vermont or California are sitting up and worrying about that? It's important. I'm not suggesting that these things should not be covered. But there are other issues that should also be covered.

Today, there will be many, many, many hundreds of people dying in this country because they can't afford the prescriptions that they need or the health care that they need. That happens every day, and that's just not a story in our media. There are children today who are sleeping in the back seat of cars because their mom does not have an apartment that she can afford. That happens today, but it's not a story.

In other words, somebody has to determine what is most important and what is not most important. And the issues of oligarchy and who controls America, the unnecessary misery that millions of Americans are living in because they don't have any income, what it means to people's lives that they're making eight, nine, ten bucks and hour working 50 hours a week and unable to afford their bills, those issues are not treated as if they're important. The same is true with the fact that you have millions of senior citizens living on $12,000, $13,000 a year, the fact that the Koch brothers will spend $400 million to influence our elections, the fact that climate change is threatening the future of the planet.

So what I want to do is begin to move forward presenting our perspective on what we think are the most important issues facing America. The first (livestreamed town hall that Sanders did) was on Medicare-for-All: we've got to join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care as a right - not a radical idea. And the second one is the issue of what is going on in the economy for the middle class, and what does it mean when you have a small number of billionaires controlling the economic and political life of the country. There has never been a television program like this. If we get a large viewing audience, as I think we will, we will continue doing this.

You've had a history of using new technology, new technologies, to try and reframe the debate. So this is not a new thing for you.

You're absolutely right. As you well know, I am somewhat of a technology Luddite. But what I do recognize is that this technology is enormously important and we should utilize every new technology that we can find in order to communicate with the American people about the important issues that are facing them. And it turns out that livestreaming is revolutionary. It means that somebody now can turn on their cellphone and produce something that goes out to many millions of people. So that is the new technology that we intend to take significant advantage of.
(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.

Will Robots Fight Our Next Great War?
By James Donahue

Elon Musk, a man deeply entrenched in artificial intelligent research, and many of his cohorts are asking this very question. In fact, Musk, Apple's Steve Wozniak, Google executive Demis Hassabis and even the late physicist Stephen Hawking joined a group of over 1,000 experts and robotics researchers in 2015 to sign an open letter calling for a ban on military AI development and autonomous weapons.

Military strategists may argue that using robots capable of making intelligent decisions into frontline battle might make the battlefield a safer way to fight a war. But think about that for a moment.

Robots that can think fast enough to win a war, likely outthink the very men who invented them, and possess the capability of reason, will waste no time in turning against their creators. While researchers say they would in some way put preventative measures in the "minds" of these machines, can we trust such measures to really work; especially in robots designed to do open battle in warfare? What will stop such machines from literally taking over the world and possibly destroying the human race?

In the letter, the authors describe autonomous weapons as the "third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms." These machines would be capable of selecting targets and operating without direct human control. The warning is that "autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow."

For those who don't know the history of Mikhail Kalashnikov, he was the Russian arms maker who designed and sold the deadly assault weapons now making headlines around the world. Both Musk and Hawking are warning that the development of full artificial intelligence in robots is such a dangerous concept that once unleashed, these thinking war machines could "spell the end of the human race." Indeed, machines capable of reason and plotting to defeat an enemy on the battlefield could also be capable of destroying the very people who create them. Any human ever seeking to control them might well be perceived as an enemy combatant.

Representatives of this opposition group and the letter were presented at a United Nations conference in Geneva where discussion centered on the future of weaponry. The subject of "killer robots" also was on the agenda. In the end, however, the United Kingdom opposed a ban on the development of these autonomous weapons.

That was in 2015. Since then the development of these deadly killing machines has been proceeding at what we can only guess is at fever pitch. The advent of military drones flown remotely that are capable of bombing, photographing and delivering messages and packages is well known. Robot controlled cars, trucks, ships and even aircraft are becoming reality even as these words are being formed. The development of drones that can locate and strike an enemy without deferring to a human controller may be just around the corner . . . if it doesn't already exist.

It doesn't take a genius to understand that handing the machines the power over who lives and dies is crossing a dangerous moral line. It is said that an automated sentry now standing guard of South Korea's border with North Korea is capable of spotting, and tracking targets up to four kilometers away. If it can do this is may be easy to give it the power to aim a weapon at this target and pull the trigger. Last year Stuart Russel, an AI researcher at the University of California in Berkeley, was at the United Nations Conventional on Conventional Weapons, hosted by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. He was present with others to present a troubling film depicting the kinds of danger such weapons can produce.

The military film unveils a tiny drone that hunts and kills with ruthless efficiency. In the film the drone falls in the wrong hands and it unleashes unstoppable death and destruction. People were cut down on the open streets and the machine could not be brought down.

Russell said the technology illustrated in the film is already available. He said the film depicted "an integration of existing capabilities. It is not science fiction. It is easier to achieve than self-driving cars, which require far higher standards of performance."
(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.

A file photo taken in March 2014 shows an Iraqi Kurd man walking in a graveyard for the victims
of a gas attack by former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in the Kurdish town of Halabja, 300km
northeast of Baghdad. Some 2.4 million people are said to have been killed or died since the US invasion in 2003.

Shock And Awe Revisited, As Fighting Drags On In Syria's Ghouta
The latest estimate is 2.4 million Iraqis killed since the US invasion in 2003; and while the nature of war in the Middle East has morphed in different ways, arch-conservatives stagger on like the Walking Dead eyeing their next conflict
By Pepe Escobar

Fifteen years ago, "Shock and Awe" was unleashed over Baghdad as the preferred method of bombing Mesopotamia into "democracy" - thus fashioning what would later be hailed as the birth pangs of a New Middle East.

I tried, in a report for Asia Times in 2003, to explain the geopolitical power play behind the US invasion of Iraq that led to so much death and destruction.

Yet death and destruction, even before Shock and Awe, was always intrinsically part of the Iraq tragedy.

Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign, who in 1991 filed a class-action complaint with the UN against President George HW Bush, concluded that no less than 3.3 million Iraqis - including 750,000 children - died as a result of economic sanctions and/or illegal wars conducted by the US government, and assisted by Great Britain, between 1990 and 2012.

Addressing an international conference on War-affected Children in Kuala Lumpur in late 2012, Boyle tallied the death toll as follows: 200,000 Iraqis killed in the first Gulf War; 1.4 million Iraqis killed as a result of Shock and Awe, the illegal invasion in 2003; plus 1.7 million Iraqis dead "as a direct result" of sanctions.

By that time, the landmark study on 'The Human Cost of the War on Iraq' published in The Lancet in 2006 had already been universally acknowledged to be right on the mark. Nonetheless, both Washington and London sought repeatedly to discredit the study, undertaken by the academics from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University and Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. Their data suggested 654,000 casualties in Iraq, making it the largest conflict of the 21st century at that time.

Further estimates updating fresh information by British NGO Iraq Body Count eventually led to a probable toll of 2.4 million Iraqis killed as a direct and indirect consequence of Shock and Awe fifteen years ago.

And all that death and destruction for what?

In October 2007 - when the Petraeus surge in Anbar province was still unraveling - retired US General and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark finally disclosed, in a book-promotion speech in San Francisco, the absolute non-connection between 9/11 and Shock and Awe.

Clark recalled two meetings he had in the Pentagon, shortly after 9/11: "And then I came back to the Pentagon about six weeks later. I saw the same officer, I said, Why haven't we attacked Iraq?" "Oh, sir," he says, "it's worse than that." He pulled up a piece of paper off his desk. He said, "I just got this memo from the Secretary of Defense's office. It says we are going to attack and destroy the governments in seven countries in five years. We are going to start in Iraq and then we are going to move to Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran. Seven countries in five years." I said, "Is that a classified memo?" He said, "Yes, sir."

Bombs dropped from a B-1B Lancer strike an al-Qaeda torture house and prison in Zambraniyah in Iraq in 2008

'Real men go to Tehran'

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced the full liberation of Iraq and an end to the war against Islamic State in December. But moping up of terrorist cells continues south of Mosul.

And the radical conservatives' roadmap has never gone away. As it morphed into humanitarian imperialism, Libya was turned into a militia wasteland and a prime source of uncontrolled illegal immigration into the EU. Yet Lebanon resisted. And so did Syria; Russophobia has everything to do not only with Crimea and the Donbass but also with Moscow preventing the fall of Damascus.

The proxy war in Syria, up to now, was all but won, on the ground and in the air, by the "4+1" - Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq plus Hezbollah, with a counter-terrorism intel HQ placed in Baghdad.

The key battle is now Ghouta, southeast of Damascus - which will be a key factor in deciding the future power play in the Levant between Washington and Moscow.

As for Iraq, for all the tragedy I personally witnessed, during my last visit in late 2017 that was the first time I actually felt the stirrings of hope in the air - as in Iraq forging its own destiny.

A new book connects all the dots between wars such as Iraq and Libya and the color-coded variations of "democracy" manufactured by "cognitive dissonance" - essentially forms of hybrid war developed after the failure of Shock and Awe.

The fifteenth anniversary of Shock and Awe should also be compared to the equally gruesome third anniversary of the US-backed Saudi bombing of Yemen conducted by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, about to be given red carpet treatment at the White House.

In the end, the implementers of Shock and Awe in Iraq didn't even get the oil. Yet, like The Walking Dead, they never give up. For them, the notion that "Real men go to Tehran" still applies. And they yearn to "Bring it on."
(c) 2018 Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His latest book is "Obama Does Globalistan." He may be reached at

A Lack Of Candor
By Heather Digby Parton

We already know that Jeff Sessions had severe memory lapses about his meetings with the Russian ambassador and he's broken his promise to recuse himself from anything to do with the Clinton foundation, which forms the basis of the McCabe firing for a "lack of candor."

Now it turns out he's had a "lack of candor" about something else ...

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' testimony that he opposed a proposal for President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign team to meet with Russians has been contradicted by three people who told Reuters they have spoken about the matter to investigators with Special Counsel Robert Mueller or congressional committees.

Sessions testified before Congress in November 2017 that he "pushed back" against the proposal made by former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos at a March 31, 2016 campaign meeting. Then a senator from Alabama, Sessions chaired the meeting as head of the Trump campaign's foreign policy team.

"Yes, I pushed back," Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee on Nov. 14, when asked whether he shut down Papadopoulos' proposed outreach to Russia. Sessions has since also been interviewed by Mueller.

Three people who attended the March campaign meeting told Reuters they gave their version of events to FBI agents or congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the 2016 election. Although the accounts they provided to Reuters differed in certain respects, all threes, who declined to be identified, said Sessions had expressed no objections to Papadopoulos' idea.

However, another meeting attendee, J.D. Gordon, who was the Trump campaign's director of national security, told media outlets including Reuters in November that Sessions strongly opposed Papadopoulos' proposal and said no one should speak of it again. In response to a request for comment, Gordon said on Saturday that he stood by his statement.

Sessions, through Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores, declined to comment beyond his prior testimony. The special counsel's office also declined to comment. Spokeswomen for the Democrats and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee did not immediately comment.


(It's ok if you are a Trumpie)
(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.

CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel, in a photo provided by the CIA.

Gina Haspel's Role In The Torture Era Demands Attention
By Katrina vanden Heuvel

Fifteen years ago, President George W. Bush launched the invasion of Iraq, initiating one of the longest military engagements in U.S. history. In an address to the nation, Bush declared, "America faces an enemy who has no regard for conventions of war or rules of morality." He added, "The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder."

Those weapons never materialized, of course, and the decision to go to war under false pretenses proved to be catastrophic for both the United States and Iraq. Nearly 4,500 Americans died. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, including at least 180,000 civilians, have been killed since 2003. The financial costs of the war also vastly exceeded the Bush administration's projections, totaling over $3 trillion, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes.

Yet, in the post-9/11 era the United States sacrificed more than blood and treasure. The country severely damaged its moral standing by adopting a barbaric torture program in brazen defiance of constitutional law and international conventions. That program has been the subject of fierce debate - and often harsh criticism - over the past decade and a half. President Trump's nomination of Gina Haspel to become the next CIA director is a disquieting reminder that the United States has never truly reckoned with the disgraceful legacy of torture.

 A longtime veteran of the CIA, Haspel is the former chief of a secret detention facility, or "black site," in Thailand that played a prominent role in the Bush administration's torture program. Before Haspel's arrival in 2002, one prisoner at the facility, Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, better known as Abu Zubaida, was waterboarded 83 times in a month, confined in a coffin-like box for hours at a time, and slammed headfirst into walls. The abuse was so inhumane that, as Dexter Filkins wrote in the New Yorker, "at one point he appeared to be dead." On Haspel's watch, another prisoner, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was waterboarded multiple times. And in 2005, Haspel was involved in the decision to destroy videotapes of the interrogations.

Haspel faced no consequences for her role in torture or the ensuing coverup. No officials were criminally charged in the torture of at least 39 detainees who were subjected to waterboarding, mock executions, sleep deprivation, rectal feeding and other brutal techniques. In 2009, President Barack Obama issued an executive order banning torture and directing the CIA to shut down the black sites. But he declined to take further action against those who participated in the program, naively insisting that "we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards." Not only were they not held accountable, but some, including Haspel, have been rewarded.

There is much about the use of torture that the American people still don't know. The most comprehensive accounting of what happened is a 528-page summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's torture investigation that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a defender of the intelligence community throughout her career, released in December 2014. The report determined that CIA officials lied to lawmakers about the program and concluded that torture "was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information . . . ." However, the CIA fought hard to suppress the report's findings, including by spying on Senate staffers' computers, and the full study, which totals more than 6,700 pages, has never seen the light of day.

Feinstein is now rightly calling for the declassification of documents related to Haspel's role in the torture program, but that alone is not sufficient. It is long past time to investigate - and, where appropriate, to prosecute - any crimes of the torture era. The Senate Intelligence Committee report should be fully declassified. So should the internal review that former CIA chief Leon Panetta conducted during his time leading the agency. And Haspel, as a participant in both torture and attempts to cover it up, should not be confirmed. With Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) declaring his intent to vote against her confirmation and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) expressing concerns about her record, Democrats may be able to defeat Haspel's nomination. But they need to insist on the fundamental principle that a torturer is unfit to serve in government in any capacity.
(c) 2018 Katrina vanden Heuvel is an American editor and publisher. She is the editor, publisher, and part-owner of the magazine The Nation. She has been the magazine's editor since 1995.

The Best People, Church Grifter Edition
Ben Carson's HUD has made some intriguing staffing decisions.
By Charles P. Pierce

There is so much that is strange on the surface of this administration* that we occasionally lose track of the incredible amount of grifting and deplorability running through the badly understaffed federal agencies, many of which are being run by people who either can't do their jobs, or who believe those jobs shouldn't really exist.

(An aside: the person at SNL who handed Betsy DeVos to Kate McKinnon on Saturday deserves whatever casting agents have for a Nobel Prize. "I do not do a good job and I can't because I do not know how" should be carved into the lintel above each door at the White House.)

The Guardian brings us a real weird one from the depths of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, nominally being run by Dr. Ben Carson, the famous neurosurgeon who apparently developed his skills practicing on himself. It seems that HUD's chief information officer, a guy with the ice-cream company name of Johnson Joy, runs a very strange religious charity in his spare time, which he seems to possess a great deal. He works there with a former HUD official who got canned for inflating his CV. Nothing but the best people, you know.

Johnson Joy, the chief information officer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (Hud), is part of a Christian not-for-profit in Texas with Naved Jafry, who quit as a Hud adviser after inquiries about his professional history. Until this week the group, GJH Global Ministries, invited donations on its website. But it was not clear what work the group did and its mission statements and other information appeared to be copied from those of major churches. GJH was formed in 2014 but Stephen Austin, one of its directors, said in a brief interview: "We literally did nothing."

Interestingly, as soon as The Guardian dropped by to call, CJH Global Ministries locked up its website. Prior to that, you could see officials of the group doing things that no non-profit group is supposed to be doing.

Before being locked to visitors, one page of GJH's site showed a photograph of Joy addressing a crowd of people holding Trump campaign placards and wearing red "Make America great again" hats. Another showed Joy posing with Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas. Not-for-profit organisations are barred under federal law from endorsing political candidates.

Both of these people come out of Joel Osteen's Lakewood mega-church, the one that initially declined to allow the victims of Hurricane Harvey to befoul its sanctuary. However, it also seems that CJH bears some resemblance to a shell corporation.

Joy founded GJH and said on an ethics disclosure to a government watchdog he was its president. He and his wife remain registered with Texas authorities as two of the group's seven directors. Until recently, the "about us" page of GJH's website featured a lengthy text identical to the corporate governance statement of the Hillsong megachurch in Australia. Adrienne Brown of Demoss, a public relations agency that represents the church, said: "Hillsong is not affiliated with GJH Ministries." A recruitment section directed visitors to a jobs portal for Gateway Church of Southlake, Texas. Lawrence Swicegood, a Gateway spokesman, said: "There is no formal business connection between Gateway Church and GJH Global Ministries."

Where did they find these people? Is there a grifter's shape-up hall somewhere? Is there a HotJobs category for the unqualified? These really are the mole people.
(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...

"Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies is dangerous. They will always equate their policies with patriotism, and find criticism subversive."
~~~ Henry Steele Commager - (1902-1998) Historian and author

No Impeachment Agenda, No Midterm Win
Unless Democrats stop obsessing over special elections and commit to a platform,
they'll suffer a second devastating loss to the Party of Trump, and there's only one way to do that ...
By Ted Rall

Democrats are already counting their electoral chickens for the midterms - but their unwillingness to lay out a clear agenda may be about to hand the party its second devastating defeat in two years.

Everyone is playing the Special Election Game.

Tea leaf readers are obsessed. But their obsession is the stuff of cocktail parties and Twitter. It won't win elections.

Does last November's Democratic win in the Virginia governor's race presage a Blue Wave or was it simply a reflection of ongoing red-to-purple demographics?

Should we be surprised that Alabama sent a Democrat (albeit a conservative one) to the Senate, they want to know?

What do we do with the fact that he very nearly lost to an alleged pedophile? And what about the latest contest in Pennsylvania - would a Democratic upset in a GOP congressional district spell the beginning of the end for Donald Trump?

Or nothing much at all?

It's all drama, no action. And if this keeps up, it's over.

Impeachment or Bust

Every midterm election is characterized as a referendum on the incumbent president. But the polarization vortex that is this unique president has raised the stakes far beyond the usual handicapping parlor game.

The rising suspicion that special counsel Robert Mueller may not be able to build enough of a Russia collusion and/or corruption case to bring down the president himself, only some of his associates, has Democrats terrified and appalled.

For those who believe that Trump represents an existential threat to democracy and its replacement by a permanent new American authoritarianism, the republic's last, only, best hope before It Does Happen Here is impeachment - but that would only be possible if and after Democrats have retaken control of Congress next year.

Only a few Democrats have implied - though not promised - that they might impeach the president if voters put them back in charge.

For Trump-hating Democrats, everything hangs upon winning back Congress and hoping their newly elected officials do the right thing. Democrats run on impeachment platform impeach trump or die democrats are counting on a favorable enthusiasm gap this November, driven in large part by liberals who despise Trump.

They pointed to another tea leaf: Texas's early primary voting, where Democratic turnout was double that of 2014. Republican turnout was lower. But then came election day. Never mind early voting; Republican voters flooded the polls when and where it mattered, on March 6th - by a three-to-two margin. Democrats lost.

Republicans remain fiercely loyal to Trump, with as many as 90% approving of the president's job performance. (Trump can only claim the support of 9% of Democrats.) The greater the likelihood of a Democratic sweep, the more GOP voters will back up Trump if for no other reason than to deny liberals the satisfaction of removing a Republican president.

"Most conservatives consume pro-Trump media, which will downplay or distort virtually anything Mueller or the mainstream press discovers," Peter Beinart wrote in The Atlantic in December.

"And the more aggressively Democrats push for Trump's removal, the easier it will be for Breitbart and Sean Hannity to rally Republicans against a 'left-wing coup.'"

The problem for those who'd like to see Trump legislatively hobbled after 2018 is that, as Musa al-Gharbi noted in The New York Times, Democrats are divided into two camps. There are establishment "Hillary voters" who reliably support any Democratic nominee, and rebellious pro-Bernie Sanders left populists who only show up to vote when the Democratic candidate is credibly progressive. Anti-Trumpism is widespread and evokes passionate responses among Democrats yet its motivational power is effectively canceled out by the party's disunity. As a result, "There does not seem to be an enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans."

The solution for Democrats seems evident: Increase the enthusiasm gap by shoring up their left populist base.

Dump Trump is the Only Platform That'll Work

First, Democrats should nationalize the midterm elections the way Newt Gingrich did with his "Contract for America" in 1994.

Conservatives vote Republican because they think Democrats favor redistributionist policies like a more progressive tax system, a single-payer healthcare system and a robust minimum wage.

Progressives don't show up at general elections because Democratic politicians don't actually push for those things.

There's much to gain and little to lose by laying out an unapologetically liberal series of campaign promises focused on addressing the problems of the poor and middle class, as well as such scandalously neglected crises as the opioid epidemic, excessive military spending and out-of-control college tuition costs.

Democrats could also steal some of Trump's nationalist thunder by promising to prioritize labor and the environment in international trade agreements.

Party leaders are understandably reluctant to stamp a one-size-fits-all platform across an ideologically diverse series of contests, including many where conservative Democrats have to run in red districts.

But they can't avoid it. As they did in 2014 and 2010, Republicans will nationalize the midterms by framing their opponents as lapdogs of a radical "San Francisco liberal" - House minority leader Nancy Pelosi - and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, a slick New Yorker. Democrats had might as well own it.

Similarly, Republicans will say that Democrats are coming to take away their guns, their freedoms and their president - so they must defend him.

Who cares if Pelosi says impeachment is "not someplace that I think we should go" if Democrats take back the majority? No one who listens to Rush Limbaugh will ever hear her.

Since they won't lose any swing voters by doing so, but they would generate enthusiasm among their currently weak progressive left flank, Democrats had might as well own impeachment too.

Every already knows that November is all about impeaching Trump. If the Democrats really want to win, the first promise in their national platform for the 2018 midterms ought to be a clear, unequivocal pledge to get rid of the president.
(c) 2018 Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for, is the author of the book "Snowden," the biography of the NSA whistleblower.

Protesters dressed as Guantanamo detainees hold an anti-torture demonstration on the 15th anniversary of Guantanamo's opening on January 11, 2017.
The Trump administration continues to perpetuate and glorify torture, exemplified by the recent nomination of Gina Haspel to CIA director.

Fifteen Years After Iraq Invasion, Torture Has A New Address
By Wiliam Rivers Pitt

"I would bring back waterboarding, and I'd bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding." ~~~ Donald Trump, 02/16/2016

Fifteen years ago this week, George W. Bush and his pack of unprosecuted murderers transformed the city of Baghdad into a bowl of fire, "Shock & Awe," in what was a massive war crime right there on live television. I call it a war crime justly: It was an act based entirely on lies founded in greed and lust for power, for which not one person has been called to account.

Millions of human beings have been butchered, maimed, displaced and undone in those 15 years since the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. The war there has actually been going on in one form or another for 27 years now. Yet no one is held accountable even as we slog, year after year, through the drifting ashes of aftermath.

We simply don't talk about it.

We are allowed, within the narrow confines of permissible debate, to rub our collective woes together and wonder how so much could go so wrong so fast. The physical shock of September 11 doesn't explain it, but the manner in which that day was used against us certainly fills in the blank spaces. They used it to start a war that has now become several wars, and a few people you'll never meet continue to swim in the profits.

More than a trillion dollars have been spent so far on the wars, and that's just the coin on the books, not to mention the trillion or more to be spent as the veterans of that war seek VA care for the damage they will bear all their lives. They are still young, most of those who have survived their multiple tours in the forever wars. They will be with us for a half-century at least, and they deserve every dime we spend on their care. All in all, we will spend plenty on this butcher's bill.

We don't talk about the war and what it has stolen from us, because the politicians and news organizations still live in dread of a reckoning that seems, in the orange light of the now, so terribly and enduringly out of reach. I used to imagine George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and the rest of them standing before the bar in The Hague. Fifteen years later, I can't imagine a more farfetched possibility. Neptune is closer.

The war in Iraq was and remains a debasing, despicable act the United States may never recover from. It is a moral catastrophe in every respect, one that still wounds us deeply to this day. No aspect of our shame is more vivid than the stain of torture. Some have tried to scrub that stain out of us -- President Obama famously whitewashed the horror of it all by admitting "We tortured some folks," before calling the critics "sanctimonious" and the torturers "patriots" -- but it's still there, like Lady MacBeth's damned spot.

Now, as we approach the 15th anniversary of Bush's Iraq invasion, two notorious torturers are poised to assume positions of enormous power within the federal government. CIA Director Mike Pompeo has been tapped to replace ignominious failure Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, and agency veteran Gina Haspel is set to replace Pompeo as head of the CIA.

Pompeo was quick to denounce the practice during his CIA confirmation hearings, but his political path to power is littered with the broken bodies of torture victims. He did not lay hands on them himself, but was a vocal supporter of the "black sites" where torture took place, and he has championed an Islamophobia so profound that he once blamed all Muslim leaders everywhere for the Boston Marathon bombing. Pompeo's ardent support for torture is what first caught Donald Trump's attention, as the president is also an ardent believer in "enhanced interrogation."

Gina Haspel is another matter entirely. She was not just another pro-war shouter back in DC. Haspel was in it up to her throat. For a time, she ran one of the "black sites," this one located in Thailand, and was so proud of her work that she destroyed the tapes of her interrogations. For this, she was neither fired nor prosecuted, and pending confirmation will be in charge of one of the largest intelligence organizations in the world.

These are some of the many issues only a thorough investigation can answer, but with torture advocates and practitioners about to control the White House, the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency, such an investigation is almost certainly never going to happen. "Gina Haspel does not belong as head of the CIA," journalist Jeremy Scahill told Democracy Now! "She belongs in front of a judge, answering to what she was doing, running a torture operation at a black site in Thailand and destroying evidence."

When the TV news people were covering Tillerson's sudden departure and Pompeo's subsequent elevation, the subject of torture actually elbowed its way into the discussion. Suddenly, we were talking about one of the things we never talk about ... and it was as vile as every other seedy, shabby element of this ongoing disgrace.

The lengths those talking heads went to try and butter over Pompeo and Haspel's bloody history was positively aerobic. There hasn't been that much televised stammering since the Porky Pig marathon on the Cartoon Network. The sum and substance of their collective conclusion was, "Well, Steve, it ... seems to me ... that if we ... took away ... everyone in CIA who ... participated ... in ... torture ... well ... there wouldn't ... be anyone left ... to run the place."

Now there's a thought.
(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...

Heil Trump,

Dear Stellvertretender Direktor Haspel,

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 ability and desire to torture our enemies and then cover it up, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Trump at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 04-28-2018. We salute you Frau Haspel Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a joint news conference with Amir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait, September 7, 2017.

The Mad King
By Robert Reich

Trump is moving into a new and more dangerous phase.

Before, he was constrained by a few "adults" - Rex Tillerson, Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster, and John Kelly - whom he appointed because he thought they had some expertise he lacked.

Now he's either fired or is in the process of removing the adults. He's replacing them with a Star Wars cantina of toadies and sycophants who will reflect back at him his own glorious view of himself, and help sell it on TV.

Narcissists are dangerous because they think only about themselves. Megalomaniacs are dangerous because they think only about their power and invincibility. A narcissistic megalomaniac who's unconstrained - and who's also president of the United States - is about as dangerous as they come.

The man who once said he could shoot someone dead on Fifth Avenue and still be elected president now openly boasts of lying to the Canadian Prime Minister, deciding on his own to negotiate mano a mano with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, unilaterally slapping tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, and demanding the death penalty for drug dealers.

For weeks, Trump has been pulling big policy pronouncements out of his derriere and then leaving it up to the White House to improvise explanations and implementation plans.

"Trump is increasingly flying solo," report the Associated Press' Catherine Lucey and Jonathan Lemire. "Trump has told confidants recently that he wants to be less reliant on his staff, believing they often give bad advice, and that he plans to follow his own instincts, which he credits with his stunning election."

Trump has always had faith in his instincts. "I'm speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I've said a lot of things," he said on the campaign trail. "I'm a very instinctual person, but my instinct turns out to be right," he told Time Magazine last year.

But instincts aren't facts, logic, or analysis. And it's one thing for a business tycoon or even a presidential candidate to rely on instincts, quite another for the leader of the free world to rely solely on his gut.

Worse yet, the new Trump believes no one can lay a glove on him. He's survived this far into his presidency despite lapses that would have done in most other presidents.

So what if he paid off a porn star to keep quiet about their affair? So what if he's raking in money off his presidency? So what if there's no evidence for his claims that three to five million fraudulent votes were cast for Hillary Clinton, or that Obama wiretapped him? There are no consequences.

The new Trump doesn't worry that his approval ratings continue to be in the cellar. By his measure, he's come out on top: His cable-TV ratings are huge. Fox News loves him. He dominates every news cycle. The pre-selected crowds at his rallies roar their approval.

He's become the Mad King who says or does anything his gut tells him to, while his courtiers genuflect.

How will this end?

One outcome is Trump becomes irrelevant to the practical business of governing America. He gets all the attention he craves while decision makers in Washington and around the world mainly roll their eyes and ignore him.

There's some evidence this is already happening. The Republican tax bill bore almost no resemblance to anything Trump had pushed for. Trump's big infrastructure plan was dead on arrival in Congress. His surprise spending deal with "Chuck and Nancy" went nowhere. His momentary embrace of gun control measures in the wake of a Florida school shooting quickly evaporated.

Meanwhile, world leaders are now taking Trump's braggadocio and ignorance for granted, acting as if America has no president.

But another possible outcome could be far worse.

Trump could become so enraged at anyone who seriously takes him on that he lashes out, with terrible consequences.

Furious that special counsel Robert Mueller has expanded his investigation, an unbridled Trump could fire him - precipitating a constitutional crisis and in effect a civil war between Trump supporters and the rest of America.

Feeling insulted and defied by Kim, an unconstrained Trump could order an attack on North Korea - precipitating a nuclear war.

The mind boggles. Who knows what a mad king will do when no adults remain to supervise him?
(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

Building The Iron Wall
By Chris Hedges

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, along with 18 members of the House of Representatives-15 Republicans and three Democrats-has sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanding that the Qatari-run Al-Jazeera television network register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The letter was issued after Al-Jazeera said it planned to air a documentary by a reporter who went undercover to look into the Israel lobby in the United States. The action by the senator and the House members follows the decision by the Justice Department to force RT America to register as a foreign agent and the imposition of algorithms by Facebook, Google and Twitter that steer traffic away from left-wing, anti-war and progressive websites, including Truthdig. It also follows December's abolition of net neutrality.

The letter asks the Justice Department to investigate "reports that Al Jazeera infiltrated American non-profit organizations." It says that the "content produced by this network often directly undermines American interests with favorable coverage of U.S. State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, including Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda's branch in Syria."

"American citizens deserve to know whether the information and news media they consume is impartial, or if it is deceptive propaganda pushed by foreign nations," the letter reads.

The ominous assault on the final redoubts of a free press, through an attempt to brand dissidents, independent journalists and critics of corporate power and imperialism as agents of a foreign power, has begun. FARA, until recently, was a little-used regulation, passed in 1938 to combat Nazi propaganda. The journalists Max Blumenthal and Ali Abunimah do a good job of addressing the issue in this clip on The Real News Network.

Those who challenge the dominant corporate narrative already struggle on the margins of the media landscape. The handful of independent websites and news outlets, including this one, and a few foreign-run networks such as Al-Jazeera and RT America, on which I host a show, "On Contact," are the few platforms left that examine corporate power and empire, the curtailment of our civil liberties, lethal police violence and the ecocide carried out by the fossil fuel and animal agriculture industries, as well as cover the war crimes committed by Israel and the U.S. military in the Middle East. Shutting down these venues would ensure that the critics who speak through them, and oppressed peoples such as the Palestinians, have no voice left.

I witnessed and was at times the victim of black propaganda campaigns when I was a foreign correspondent. False accusations are made anonymously and then amplified by a compliant press. The anonymous site PropOrNot, replicating this tactic, in 2016 published a blacklist of 199 sites that it alleged, with no evidence, "reliably echo Russian propaganda." More than half of those sites were far-right, conspiracy-driven ones. But about 20 of the sites were progressive, anti-war and left-wing. They included AlterNet, Black Agenda Report, Democracy Now!, Naked Capitalism, Truthdig, Truthout, CounterPunch and the World Socialist Web Site. PropOrNot charged that these sites disseminated "fake news" on behalf of Russia, and the allegations became front-page news in The Washington Post in a story headlined "Russian propaganda effort helped spread 'fake news' during the election, experts say." Washington Post reporter Craig Timberg wrote in that article that the goal of "a sophisticated Russian propaganda effort," according to "independent researchers who have tracked the operation," was "punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy."

To date, no one has exposed who operates PropOrNot or who is behind the website. But the damage done by this black propaganda campaign and the subsequent announcement by Google and other organizations such as Facebook last April that they had put in filters to elevate "more authoritative content" and marginalize "blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information" have steadily diverted readers away from some sites. The Marxist World Socialist Web Site, for example, has seen its traffic decline by 75 percent. AlterNet's search traffic is down 71 percent, Consortium News is down 72 percent, and Global Research and Truthdig have seen declines. And the situation appears to be growing worse as the algorithms are refined.

Jeff Bezos, the owner of The Washington Post and the founder and CEO of Amazon, has, like Google and some other major Silicon Valley corporations, close ties with the federal security and surveillance apparatus. Bezos has a $600 million contract with the CIA. The lines separating technology-based entities such as Google and Amazon and the government's security and surveillance apparatus are often nonexistent. The goal of corporations such as Google and Facebook is profit, not the dissemination of truth. And when truth gets in the way of profit, truth is sacrificed.

Google, Facebook, Twitter, The New York Times, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed News, Agence France-Presse and CNN have all imposed or benefited from the algorithms or filters-overseen by human "evaluators." When an internet user types a word in a Google search it is called an "impression" by the industry. These impressions direct the persons making the searches to websites that use the words or address the issues associated with them. Before the algorithms were put in place last April, searches for terms such as "imperialism" or "inequality" directed internet users mostly to left-wing, progressive and anti-war sites. Now they are directed primarily to mainstream sites such as The Washington Post. If you type in "World Socialist Web Site," which has been hit especially hard by the algorithms, you will be directed to the site-but you have to ask for it by name. Searches for associated words such as "socialist" or "socialism" are unlikely to bring up a list in which the World Socialist Web Site appears near the top.

There are 10,000 "evaluators" at Google, many of them former employees at counterterrorism agencies, who determine the "quality" and veracity of websites. They have downgraded sites such as Truthdig, and with the abolition of net neutrality can further isolate those sites on the internet. The news organizations and corporations imposing and benefiting from this censorship have strong links to the corporate establishment and the Democratic Party. They do not question corporate capitalism, American imperialism or rising social inequality. They dutifully feed the anti-Russia hysteria. An Al-Jazeera report on this censorship begins at 14:07 in this link.

The corporate oligarchs, lacking a valid response to the discrediting of their policies of economic pillage and endless war, have turned to the blunt instrument of censorship and to a new version of red baiting. They do not intend to institute reforms or restore an open society. They do not intend to address the social inequality behind the political insurgencies in the two major political parties and the hatred of the corporate state that spans the political spectrum. They intend to impose a cone of silence and the state-sanctioned uniformity of opinion that characterizes all totalitarian regimes. This is what the use of FARA, the imposition of algorithms and the attempt to blame Trump's election on Russian interference is about. Critics and investigative journalists who expose the inner workings of corporate power are branded enemies of the state in the service of a foreign power. The corporate-controlled media, meanwhile, presents the salacious, the trivial and the absurd as news while fanning the obsession over Russia. This is one of the most ominous moments in American history. The complicity in this witch hunt by self-identified liberal organizations, including The New York Times and MSNBC, will come back to haunt them. When the voices for truth are erased, they will be next.

The steps to tyranny are always small, incremental and often barely noticed, as Milton Mayer wrote in "They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-1945." By the time a population wakes up, it is too late. He noted:

But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join you, never comes. That's the difficulty. If the last and the worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and the smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked. If, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in '43 had come immediately after the "German Firm" stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in '33. But of course this isn't the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.

And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying "Jew swine," collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you lived in-your nation, your people-is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.

Despots, despite their proclaimed ideological, national and religious differences, speak the same language. Amoral, devoid of empathy and addicted to power and personal enrichment, they are building a world where all who criticize them are silenced, where their populations are rendered compliant by fear, constant surveillance and the loss of basic liberties and where they and their corporate enablers are the undisputed masters.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the Qatari government is seeking to improve relations with the Trump administration by forging alliances with right-wing Jewish organizations in the United States. It has promised Jewish leaders, the paper reported, not to air the Al-Jazeera documentary about the Israel lobby. Al-Jazeera in 2016 shut down Al-Jazeera America, which broadcast to U.S. audiences. With no broadcaster in the U.S., the program would have reached few American viewers even if Al-Jazeera had put it on the air.

Haaretz reported that Jewish organizational leaders who have visited Qatar in recent months include Mort Klein of the Zionist Organization of America; Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Jack Rosen of the American Jewish Congress; Rabbi Menachem Genack of the Orthodox Union; Martin Oliner of the Religious Zionists of America; and attorney Alan Dershowitz.

"What these leaders share is that none of them are considered critics of the right-wing Netanyahu government in Israel or the Trump administration in Washington," Haaretz correspondent Amir Tibon wrote in the newspaper.

The despotism of the United States and the despotism of Israel have found an ally in the despotism of Qatar. Professed beliefs are meaningless. Israel is bonded with the regime in Saudi Arabia and the Christian right in the United States, each of which is virulently anti-Semitic. Dissidents, including Jewish and Israeli dissidents, are attacked as "self-hating Jews" or anti-Semites only because they are dissidents. The word "traitor" or "anti-Semite" has no real meaning. It is used not to describe a reality but to turn someone into a pariah. The iron wall is rising. It will cement into place a global system of corporate totalitarianism, one in which the old vocabulary of human rights and democracy is empty and where any form of defiance means you are an enemy of the state. This totalitarianism is being formed incrementally. It begins by silencing the demonized. It ends by silencing everyone.

"You walk into the room with your pencil in your hand," Bob Dylan sang in "Ballad of a Thin Man." "You see somebody naked and you say, 'Who is that man?' You try so hard but you don't understand just what you will say when you get home. Because something is happening here, but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?"
(c) 2018 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. Keep up with Chris Hedges' latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at

The Cartoon Corner...

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

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

N.R.A. Proposes Having Second Armed Teacher In Every Classroom To Stop First Armed Teacher From Misfiring
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)-Hours after an armed teacher in a Northern California classroom fired a gun and injured a student, the head of the National Rifle Association proposed placing a second armed teacher in every classroom, to shoot the first armed teacher before he or she can do harm.

"Had there been a second armed teacher in the classroom to shoot the first armed teacher, this regrettable incident would never have occurred," Wayne LaPierre said. "The only thing that stops a bad teacher with a gun is a good teacher with a gun."

The N.R.A. executive vice-president said, "In a perfect world, you would have a third armed teacher, in case the second one messes up, but right now I'd settle for two."

He blamed anti-gun activists for blocking measures that would allow multiple teachers with guns to shoot at one another and thus keep the nation's classrooms safe. "It's time to stop the madness," he said.
(c) 2018 Andy Borowitz

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