Boeing's Homicides Will Give Way To Safety Reforms If Flyers Organize
The Boeing 737 Max must not be allowed to fly again
To understand the enormity of the Boeing 737 Max 8 crashes (Lion Air 610 and Ethiopian Airlines 302) that took a combined total of 346 lives, it is useful to look at past events and anticipate future possible problems.
In 2011, Boeing executives wanted to start a "clean sheet" new narrow body air passenger plane to replace its old 737 design from the nineteen sixties. Shortly thereafter, Boeing's bosses panicked when American Airlines put in a large order for the competitive Airbus A320neo. Boeing shelved the new design and rushed to put out the 737 Max that, in Business Week's words, was "pushing an ageing design past its limits." The company raised the 737 Max landing gear and attached larger, slightly more fuel efficient engines angled higher and more forward on the wings. Such a configuration changed the aerodynamics and made the plane more prone to stall (see attached article: https://www.aviationcv.com/aviation-blog/2019/boeing-canceling-737-max).
This put Boeing's management in a quandary. Their sales pitch to the airlines was that the 737 Max only received an "amended" certification from the FAA. That it did not have to be included in more pilot training, simulators, and detailed in the flight manuals. The airlines could save money and would be more likely to buy the Boeing 737 Max.
Boeing engineers were worried. They knew better. But the managers ordered software to address the stall problem without even telling the pilots or most of the airlines. Using only one operating sensor (Airbus A320neo has three sensors), an optional warning light and indicator, Boeing set the stage for misfiring sensors that overcame pilot efforts to control the planes from their nose-down death dive.
These fixes or patches would not have been used were the new 737's aerodynamics the same as the previous 737 models. Step by step, Boeing's criminal negligence, driven by a race to make profits, worsened. Before and after the fatal crashes, Boeing did not reveal, did not warn, did not train, and did not address the basic defective aerodynamic design. It gagged everyone that it could. Boeing still insists that the 737 Max is safe and is building two a day, while pushing to end the grounding.
Reacting to all these documented derelictions, a flurry of investigations is underway. The Department of Transportation's Inspector General, Calvin L. Scovel III, is investigating the hapless, captive FAA that has delegated to Boeing important FAA statutory and regulatory duties. The Justice Department and FBI have opened a criminal probe, with an active grand jury. The National Transportation Safety Board, long the hair shirt of the FAA, is investigating. As are two Senate and House Committees. Foreign governments are investigating, as surely are the giant insurance companies who are on the hook. This all sounds encouraging, but we've seen such initiatives pull back before.
This time, however, the outrageous corner-cutting and suppression of engineering dissent, within both Boeing and the FAA (there were reported "heated discussions") produced a worst case scenario. So, Boeing is working overtime with its legions of Washington lobbyists, its New York P.R. firm, its continued campaign contributions to some 330 Members of Congress. The airlines and pilots' union chiefs (but not some angry pilots) are staying mum, scared into silence due to contracts and jobs, waiting for the Boeing 737 Max planes to fly again.
BUT THE BOEING 737 MAX MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO FLY AGAIN. Pushing new software that will allow Boeing to blame the pilots is a dangerous maneuver. Saying that U.S. pilots, many of whom are ex-Air Force, are more experienced in reacting to a sudden wildly gyrating aircraft (consider the F-16 diving and swooping) than many foreign airline pilots only trained by civil aviation, opens a can of worms from cancellation of 737 Max orders to indignation from foreign airlines and pilots. It also displays an aversion to human-factors engineering with a vast number of avoidable failure modes not properly envisioned by Boeing's software patches.
The overriding problem is the basic unstable design of the 737 Max. An aircraft has to be stall proof not stall prone. An aircraft manufacturer like Boeing, notwithstanding its past safety record, is not entitled to more aircraft disasters that are preventable by following long-established aeronautical engineering practices and standards.
With 5,000 Max orders at stake, the unfolding criminal investigation may move the case from criminal negligence to evidence of knowing and willful behavior amounting to corporate homicide involving Boeing officials. Boeing better cut its losses by going back to the drawing boards. That would mean scrapping the 737 Max 8 designs, with its risk of more software time bombs, safely upgrading the existing 737-800 with amenities and discounts for its airline carrier customers and moving ahead with its early decision to design a new plane to compete with Airbus's model, which does not have the 737 Max's design problem.
Meanwhile, airline passengers should pay attention to Senator Richard Blumenthal's interest in forthcoming legislation to bring the regulatory power back into the FAA. Senator Blumenthal also intends to reintroduce his legislation to criminalize business concealment of imminent risks that their products and services pose to innocent consumers and workers (the "Hide No Harm Act").
What of the near future? Airline passengers should organize a consumer boycott of the Boeing 737 Max 8 to avoid having to fly on these planes in the coming decade. Once Boeing realizes that this brand has a deep marketing stigma, it may move more quickly to the drawing boards, so as to not alienate airline carriers.
Much more information will come out in the coming months. Much more. The NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), which receives incident reports from pilots, air traffic controllers, dispatchers, cabin crew, maintenance technicians, and others, is buzzing, as is the FlyersRights.org website. Other countries, such as France, have tougher criminal statutes for such corporate crime than the U.S. does. The increasing emergence of whistle-blowers from Boeing, the FAA and, other institutions is inevitable.
Not to mention, the information that will come out of the civil litigation against this killer mass tort disaster. And of course the relentless reporting of newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Washington Post, and AP, among others will continue to shed light on Boeings misdeeds and the FAA's deficiencies.
Boeing executives should reject the advice from the reassuring, monetized minds of Wall Street stock analysts saying you can easily absorb the $2 billion cost and move on. Boeing, let your engineers and scientists be free to exert their "professional options for revisions" to save your company from the ruinous road you are presently upon.
Respect those who perished at your hand and their grieving families.
(c) 2019 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His latest book is The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future. Other recent books include, The Seventeen Traditions: Lessons from an American Childhood, Getting Steamed to Overcome Corporatism: Build It Together to Win, and "Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us" (a novel).
Mass Manufacturers Of Slander And Lies
By Glen Ford
The U.S. has nothing to offer Africa but guns, drones and an extended half-life for the neocolonial order.
Chastened by the long-awaited Mueller report -- or at least what we've learned about the two-year probe into "Russiagate" from Attorney General William Barr -- the U.S. corporate media have been forced to partially abandon their ludicrous claim of "collusion" between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Or maybe the hysteria-makers were finally exhausted by their marathon of lies. But the civil war within the U.S. ruling class will continue to simmer, because it is rooted in real contradictions -- primarily, a fear that Trump cannot be depended on to keep up the momentum of President Obama's global military offensive and thus disrupt the rise of China and its strategic ally, Russia.
The Lords of Capital are painfully aware that U.S. imperialism has been drained of whatever "soft" power it once had in the world and left with only two cards to play: multi-theater, unremitting military aggression and full-spectrum weaponization of the dollar. "Regime change" is the localized manifestation of Washington's desperate bid to upend and disrupt the emerging new global order, as China returns to its historical place at the center of the world -- the position it held when Columbus embarked on his pillages. Therefore, although Donald Trump has gotten a respite from Mueller, the orchestrated demonization of Russia, China, Venezuela, Syria and "socialism" will remain the daily fare of the U.S. propaganda machine that masquerades as journalism. In other words, a step back to "normal."
The New York Times can thus continue to personalize its New Cold War hysteria with Putin-bashing -- while leaving Trump out of it. For example, in an article this week titled "Russia's Military Mission Creep Advances to a New Front: Africa ," the Times claims that "expanding Moscow's military sway on the continent reflects Mr. Putin's broader vision of returning Russia to its former glory." The piece is sheer polemics disguised as journalism, citing recent Russian military "cooperation with Guinea, Burkina Faso, Burundi and Madagascar" and Russian "major oil and gas interests in Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Libya, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda and Nigeria" as grave threats to stability in Africa. Yet, in a 1,500 word article, the Times fails to even mention AFRICOM, the U.S. military command that has virtually occupied the entire continent since its inception in 2008, climaxing with President Obama's 2011 assault on Libya that plunged the whole northern tier of the region into flames. By 2017, according to journalist Nick Turse , AFRICOM was "conducting 3,500 exercises, programs, and engagements per year, an average of nearly 10 missions per day, on the African continent..." a "signal of America's deepening and complicated ties" in Africa.
Nothing Russia has done in Africa comes close to Washington's deep penetration of the continent, yet the Times writes that "the United States military has a relatively light footprint across Africa." The U.S. and Europe fund and oversee every African "peace-keeping" mission, including the conflict in Somalia, where the CIA directs a full-scale drone war that has been dramatically escalated under President Trump. In the eight years that Barack Obama was president, "AFRICOM went from three military bases to 84 bases" on the continent, said Paul Pumphrey, co-founder of Friends of Congo. Six million Congolese have died as a result of interventions by neighboring, U.S.-backed regimes in neighboring Rwanda and Uganda, with the full complicity of Washington. Under U.S. and Israeli tutelage, Africa's largest nation, Sudan, was split in two in 2011, only to see South Sudan erupt in a civil war two years later that has killed nearly 400,00 people. The United States and France overcame their imperial rivalry in Africa and have partnered to occupy Mali and Niger, where four U.S. Special Forces troops were killed in 2017 and the U.S. is building a huge drone base, to be staffed by at least 800 American personnel.
The U.S. military footprint is heavier and wider, by far, than any other nation, but Times reporter Eric Schmitt apparently feels confident in stating, as fact, that the U.S. has a "light footprint" in Africa because that's what AFRICOM's top brass has been saying since 2012. Therefore, it must be true despite the numbers that say differently. Nick Turse, whose reporting got him black-balled by AFRICOM's high command, wrote in 2018 that the U.S. maintained "34 sites scattered across the continent, with high concentrations in the north and west as well as the Horn of Africa." The biggest military facility is located in Djibouti, a desperately poor country that has been turned into a foreign base farm for the U.S., France, Italy, Saudi Arabia Japan and China -- Beijing and Tokyo's only bases in Africa, purportedly to patrol against piracy on the Somali coast.
Russia has no bases in Africa, but is said to be exploring establishing one in the Central African Republic, the former French colony where the U.S. briefly imprisoned Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide after overthrowing his elected government in 2004. The talks between Moscow and Bangui have caused consternation in Washington and Paris, anxieties that have been relayed to the New York Timeswith full confidence that the paper's private sector propagandists are better liars than any military press spokesperson. The Times dutifully writes that France's minister of armed forces is unhappy. "We feel very much concerned by the growing Russian influence in a country that we know well, the Central African Republic," Florence Parly told reporters during a recent visit to Washington.
France knows the country well because it oppressed and exploited the Central African people for generations -- an expertise that white Americans tend to respect.
So, Africa is swarming with U.S. troops stationed at bases throughout the continent, second only to the French presence in the region, but the Times can say with a straight face that the U.S. Africa Command has a "light footprint," while the baseless Vladimir Putin dreams of "of returning Russia to its former glory" through "a more militaristic approach in Africa," in the words of an American general. There should be little doubt that Russia, the second biggest arms merchant in the world, behind the U.S., is actively seeking African markets for its weapons. What scares the U.S. is that African nations like Guinea, Burkina Faso, Burundi and Madagascar want to do arms and training deals with Russia, to diversity their defense suppliers and create a "multi-polar" environmentin Africa.
U.S. imperialism tolerates only one pole -- its own -- and instructs its media mouthpieces to vilify all competitors. But the U.S. cannot compete economically with Russia's partner, China, whose trade with Africa surpassed the United States in 2009. African states are eager to become part China's New Silk Road, or Belt and Road Initiative, the world's greatest public works, transportation and trade project, which offers Africa unprecedented "connectivity" to the planet's economic center in the East. The U.S. has nothing to offer Africa but guns, drones and an extended half-life for the neocolonial order - and Russia can cut a better deal on the guns.
The New York Times and the rest of the corporate media tell tales that only Americans believe, in service of a crumbling imperial, racist order. The U.S. media bubble is a scary place, populated by demons and villains that are determined to steal or destroy an "American way of life" that most Americans -- especially Black folks -- have never lived.
Having nothing to offer the people but endless war and austerity, the Lords of Capital invent enemies, complete with full-blown fictitious pathologies, conjured histories and fabricated motives. Amid the imperial rot, the oligarchs turns on each other, as they did in 2016 in a fit of panic called Russiagate. A Deep State referee named Mueller has called for a pause in the fratricide among the corporate brethren, but that can only signal an intensification of the lies that corporate media tell against external "enemies" and actual dissidents on home front.
In decline, the Lords of Capital have no good stories to tell. To the extent that they control the domestic narrative, everything becomes slander.
(c) 2019 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com
Progressive Democrats Refuse To Fund Global Destruction Unless Healthcare Funded Too
By David Swanson
This is an actual headline at Common Dreams: "Progressive Democrats Threaten to Tank $733 Billion in 'Crazy' Pentagon Spending If Social Programs Not Also Boosted."
They keep using that word, "crazy." I do not think it means what they think it means.
Dumping over $1 trillion per year into the Pentagon plus militarism in other departments eliminates the need for hospitals, schools, parks, and even budget proposals. It kills us all. Our nuclear luck will run out. And if it doesn't run out soon, the military's destruction of the climate and our water and air will do us in. While it may be taboo to notice the environmental damage of wars and war preparations, and may be strictly forbidden to become aware of the military budget as the potential source for a serious effort to mitigate the coming environmental collapse, the news is now full of stories of the climate destruction of military bases, which ought to at least make people aware of how many bases there are.
Polls have shown for decades that the U.S. public favors reducing military spending. Numerous U.S. cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors have repeatedly urged Congress to move money from militarism to human and environmental needs. But, year after year, Congress and the President have done just the opposite.
This trend has now reached extreme levels, with the Pentagon, "Homeland Security," and nuclear weapons in the "Energy" Department amounting to 63 percent of discretionary spending in Trump's 2020 budget request. The Veterans Administration is another 7 percent. That leaves 30 percent for absolutely everything you've ever been told costs a government any money.
Trump wants to increase this year's $716 billion Pentagon budget to $750 billion for next year, including $165 billion off-the-books, outside of budget caps.
In the Republican-run Senate, the Budget Committee has advanced a resolution that would provide $576 billion for the Pentagon, and $543 billion for everything else.
In the Democratic-run House, the Budget Committee sent to the full House a resolution that would have handed over $733 billion to the Pentagon, and some $650 billion for everything else. But progressives are intent on doing the decent thing and adding a bit more to the "everything else" side of the death sentence.
Non-military spending is at a historic low relative to the size of the U.S. economy, at just 2.9 percent. If all human and environmental needs had any supporting institution along the lines of NATO, Trump would be demanding that all of its members pay more. That would go on until Trump discovered that everyone other than the United States already was paying much more.
The United States and the earth are in desperate need of useful investment in green energy, education, infrastructure, healthcare, food, and water. We urgently need to move hundreds of billions out of the military and into a Green New Deal. The out-of-the-military part of that is the most important part for our survival.
Earlier this year, Trump himself called $716 billion for militarism "crazy" and proposed reducing it. This past Thursday, Trump celebrated increased military spending by NATO members, and told the Vice Premier of China that he thought the United States and China and Russia were spending much too much. China spends less than a third and Russia less than 10 percent what the U.S. spends.
The U.S. government really does give "crazy" a bad name, and it really does need an external enemy, real or imagined, as its fundamental justification for existing. If Russiagate didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent it. Just hope that what's invented next isn't worse.
(c) 2019 David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.
Stephen Miller's brazen fascism now dominates White House policy.
Homeland Security Purge Ushers In The Stephen Miller Administration
By William Rivers Pitt
Former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Director Kirstjen Nielsen will be remembered by history as the person who helped Donald Trump put children in cages. Senior White House adviser and vivid white nationalist Stephen Miller, however, believes Nielsen was too soft-hearted for the job, and that is why she is updating her resume today. The bloodletting may not be over yet at DHS: Secret Service Director Randolph D. Alles was shown the door on Monday, with no explanation forthcoming. By Tuesday morning the word was out: Miller is now fully in charge of immigration for the Trump administration, and no DHS job is safe.
After yet another angry meeting with Trump, Nielsen was sacked via Twitter on Sunday; she sprinted to post her resignation letter and depart with a splinter of dignity intact after the meeting was concluded, but lost the footrace to the famous fingers of the Tweeter-in-Chief. She will stay on until Wednesday "to assist with an orderly transition," she said via her own tweet - an interesting choice of words, as any "orderly transition" is fully out the window because Trump appears to have illegally named her replacement - but to all intents and purposes, she's done right now.
Nielsen and Alles have joined Rex Tillerson, Tom Price, David Shulkin, Jeff Sessions, Ryan Zinke, Scott Pruitt and Jim Mattis in the box of broken toys outside the White House gate. As with the others, I doubt Nielsen will miss her erstwhile post very much. According to reports, Trump would call her at home in the early hours of the morning to rant about the border. He also berated her in front of colleagues for not being totally enthusiastic about separating children from their families and demanded on multiple occasions that she break the law. If I were in her shoes, I'd be tap dancing out the door like Fred Astaire.
The sudden removal of Secret Service Director Alles sent shockwaves through an already shaken DHS, and even managed to ruffle the calcified feathers of congressional Republicans. After rumors of more firings to come - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director L. Francis Cissna and DHS General Counsel John Mitnick are also reported to be on the chopping block - Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) bluntly warned the Trump administration not to fire anyone else.
"The White House," one Homeland Security source told Axios after the deal went down, "is eating their own." The statement begs an obvious question: Who qualifies as "their own"? Kirstjen Nielsen was not shown the door because she was terrible, though she certainly was. The Muslim ban, child separation, the very preventable deaths of several of those children while in US custody - which she famously blamed on the parents - and all the other deliberate cruelties inflicted upon migrants and asylum seekers by the Trump administration came to fruition under Nielsen's guiding hand.
The fact is, Nielsen and Alles are gone because they weren't terrible enough. Did Trump make that determination? Insofar as he actually decides anything beyond his breakfast order and when to hit the "Send" button on Twitter, sure, it was him ... but smart money says Stephen Miller is driving this bus. Miller's impact is being felt not just on immigration, but on the whole tone and tenor of this administration.
"Constructive controversy," Miller said when explaining his operational philosophy to The Atlantic's McKay Coppins, "with the purpose of enlightenment." While "constructive" and "enlightenment" certainly depend on the eye of the beholder here, "controversy" is without question. "Frustrated by the lack of headway on a signature Trump campaign issue, the senior White House adviser has been arguing for personnel changes to bring in more like-minded hardliners," reports Politico. "Miller has also recently been telephoning mid-level officials at several federal departments and agencies to angrily demand that they do more to stem the flow of immigrants into the country."
Getting people fired in order to bring in more fascists while berating staffers on the phone apparently hasn't been enough to get the racist poison out of Miller's system. Trump's blundering and eventually retracted threat to defenestrate the national economy by closing the southern border had Miller's fingerprints all over it, and like as not he's furious at all the "moderate" advisers who wisely counseled Trump to change course.
In the same vein, Miller is also seen as the impetus behind Trump's decision to withdraw Ronald D. Vitiello as his nominee to run Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). While Vitiello is an established right-wing hardcase, he lost the pole position for the ICE job when it was revealed that he opposed Trump's plan to close the border. Yes, the same plan Trump later dropped. Doesn't matter, Miller didn't like him, he's gone. No new nominee has been put forth, but Trump made it clear that he's looking for someone "tougher." At the time of this printing, the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen could not be reached for comment on his availability for the position.
Stephen Miller's profoundly racist influence has been on display from the beginning - he was the main author of Trump's execrable inauguration speech - but circumstances have elevated him even further. He has found himself with plenty of elbow room in the policy shop. John Bolton is gnawing on the bones left over from his last White House job. Elliot Abrams is away on assignment to destroy Venezuela. William Barr is at Staples buying yards of triple-thick redacting tape. Mick Mulvaney is preoccupied with trying to blame the Boer War on Barack Obama. Mike Pence was replaced by a cardboard cutout of Mike Pence and nobody noticed. Everyone else has either quit, been fired, or gone so far underground that they've taken side gigs as canaries in the coal mines of Kanawha County.
The task of serving as Trump's transplanted brain has fallen to Miller, and the results so far have been predictably monstrous. It virtually goes without saying that worse is yet to come. Trump is facing the prospect of having to run for re-election in 2020 on a platform of "fixing" the "problems" he promised to fix in 2016. "It's a mess," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). "Strikes me as just a frustration of not being able to solve a problem."
Ideologically, politically and on policy, Stephen Miller is now running this White House. I fear his influence on immigration - which is currently criminally awful and on the verge of deteriorating exponentially - is only the beginning. Trump, in desperation, has handed the executive reins over to a genuinely dangerous white nationalist whom other White House advisers describe as "Waffen SS." It really does not get any more blunt than that.
If Congress, and Senate Republicans in particular, do not step forward to check this rampage, we may find ourselves hurtling toward outright fascism at a speed that puts the last two years in deep shade.
(c) 2019 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.
Democratic female members of Congress cheer after President Donald Trump said there are more women in Congress
than ever before during his second State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress in Washington, DC, on February 5, 2019.
An All-Female Ticket For 2020
Kamala Harris says she would consider a woman for vice president. So does Elizabeth Warren.
By John Nichols
Men who are running for the Democratic presidential nomination are being asked if they would pick a woman as their vice presidential running mate. But Mark Thompson has been asking a more compelling question on his very fine SiriusXM show "Make It Plain with Mark Thompson": Might women who are competing for the 2020 nomination choose to lead an all-female ticket?
When he interviewed California Senator Kamala Harris, Thompson asked, "Would you, as a woman, consider another woman?"
"Yes!" Harris replied. "Yeah I would."
Thompson followed up: "Two women on a ticket?"
"Wouldn't that be fabulous?" said Harris.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren replied to a similar line of questioning by telling the host, "I'd put a woman on my ticket."
Neither Harris nor Warren ruled out male prospects. But their enthusiastic responses to the possibility of an all-female ticket in 2020 moves the discussion about vice-presidential selection in a good direction.
In 2016, as the Democratic National Convention approached, there was a flurry of speculation about the prospect that Hillary Clinton might add Warren to her ticket in order to excite activists in the >"Elizabeth Warren Wing of the Democratic Party." My sense at the time was that a Clinton-Warren ticket had the potential to do more than merely energize progressives. To my view, a ticket made up of a pair of politically savvy and diversely experienced women would have been a perfect counterbalance to a Republican ticket consisting of the lamentable Donald Trump and the equally lamentable Mike Pence. And I always rejected the notion that an all-female ticket would put off some segments of the electorate. Anyone who says they won't vote for two women on a ticket probably wouldn't vote for one woman at the top of the ticket.
Clinton went with a more cautious and predictable choice, picking Virginia Senator Tim Kaine for vice president, and the rest was history.
Now, the prospect arises anew. Again it involves Warren. But, as 2020 approaches, the list a viable women contenders is longer than ever. That list includes a number of women who have already announced for the top job, including Warren and Harris. But it also includes 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who was the subject of speculation as a possible running mate for Joe Biden. (And of suggestions that she would be a better presidential nominee than the former vice president.)
There's time, of course. But it's not too early to consider the prospect of a "Warren-Harris" ticket, or a "Harris-Warren" ticket, or "Abrams and..."
(c) 2019 John Nichols John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, is published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.
The Capital Punishment Issue
Murdering the Murderer
By James Donahue
Americans like to think they have evolved since the old days when teams of vigilantes held instant trials and hung horse thieves and alleged black rapists of white women from the nearest tree.
Indeed, we have become more refined at the way we arrest and convict, but the United States still remains high among the nations of the world that still execute convicted felons. Horse thieves usually don't get the death penalty, but rapists who kill and anyone convicted of pre-meditated murder and especially the killing of innocent children and police officers end up on death row in most states of the union. And more dark skinned than white males appear to find their way to the modern killing rooms. It's an ugly and barbaric practice.
We are happy to say that 20 states and the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty. They are Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Puerto Rico, Vermont, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The other states have maintained the death penalty, with some like Texas apparently operating almost assembly-line killings since the Supreme Court re-opened the door to capital punishment in America in 1976.
The issue has risen to national attention since Troy Davis was put to death in Georgia, in spite of new evidence suggesting that witnesses in his alleged fatal shooting of an off-duty police officer were coerced by police into fingering him as the shooter.
Capital punishment has been brought into the public spotlight because of the controversial presidential candidacy of Texas Governor Rick Perry, who presided over 235 executions, more than any other governor in any state in history. Many believe that some of the people put to death under Perry's watch were wrongly convicted. They say Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed after being charged with setting fire to his house and killing his children, was later found innocent after it was determined that the fire was never a case of arson.
Groups like Amnesty International have been working hard to get the death penalty abolished in all 50 states. Opponents of capital punishment argue that new DNA testing has been used to prove the innocence of a number of people convicted of rape and murder cases.
They argue that testimony by witnesses at the scene of any crime cannot always be trusted.
When we look at the practice of capital punishment around the world, it is shocking to realize just how barbaric the United States appears. We are the only nation in the Americas to conduct executions and we stand among the top five nations in the world in the number of people put to death each year.
The others are China, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
So what does anyone gain by murdering the murderer? Is justice truly served? The violent act of killing the killer may appear to be the correct thing to do in the heat of the moment but does it really appease the victims of such heinous acts? If the truth were to be told, further acts of violence only create more victims.
We believe the old and outmoded religious dogmas that preach "an eye for an eye" have had a lot to do with the belief that capital punishment is correct justice for killers in the eyes of the Creator. After all it is so commanded in the Old Testament.
But who really recorded the old laws found in the Old Testament books? Did a mighty force really carve them in stone when it confronted Moses on the mountain or was that merely one of the many ancient myths that found their way into religious books from the shadowy past?
Remember that Moses smashed the original stones in anger after he discovered his people worshipping a golden calf, but then cut out a new list of laws that made their way into the Old Testament. So were these laws really from God, or from Moses?
If an almighty God in the clouds really gave humanity these laws, then we also should be executing the adulterers, masturbators and fornicators in our midst. The Old Testament laws also issued a death penalty for men who are not circumcised, people who eat leavened bread, drink blood (or ate raw meat), commit blasphemy, practice forms of magic or spiritualism, or worship idols and other gods than Jehovah.
A lot of children would be sentenced to death for striking, cursing or just disobeying their parents or coming home drunk. If we stuck to those Biblical laws the way some fundamental Christians think we should, we fear that few contemporary children would have a chance to grow up.
There is one positive thought about all of this. If we followed all of the old laws to the letter we might quickly solve our problem of overpopulation. But then we would create another problem of disposing all the bodies.
(c) 2019 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.
Members of the IRGC march during an annual military parade.
Why Designating The Iranian Rev. Guards Terrorists Would Paint A Big Red Target On US Troops In Iraq
Iraqi Shiite militias close to the IRGC are essentially the hosts and protectors of the some 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq
By Juan Cole
The Trump administration is considering designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization. This is an old Joe Lieberman idea from 2007, and it is a very bad idea. It keeps being done rhetorically (2007, 2017), and then announced again out of amnesia. It is illogical, but it is also practically speaking a potential disaster if it were actually thoroughly implemented.
The notion is illogical because the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is a state actor, not a non-state actor. Terrorists are civilians who commit violence against other civilians to achieve some political goal.
The IRGC is sort of like the U.S. national guard. It isn't the formal army, but it is an adjunct to it.
If the U.S. has a problem with IRGC actions, they should accuse the Iranian government of war crimes. States commit war crimes. There are international laws and institutions for dealing with war crimes.
But the practical side of the issue is that Iraqi Shiite militias close to the IRGC are essentially the hosts and protectors of the some 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Saturday for the Iraqi government to expel U.S. troops from Iraq as soon as possible, lest they become entrenched. Iraqi PM Adel Abdul Mahdi is on a state visit to Iran. Iran is proposing dozens of joint projects, despite the US increasingly severe sanctions on Iran.
When ISIL took over 60 percent of Iraqi territory in 2014, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani called for Iraqis to mobilize against the terrorist organization. Many Shiites took this call to mean they should form militias, since the formal Iraqi army had collapsed.
The Shiite-led Iraqi government reached out to the IRGC for help with training and logistics, and the IRGC appears to have sent a small number of troops into Iraq.
The IRGC planned out and helped execute the first major campaign against ISIL, at Tikrit. The U.S. initially declined to join in because it was an Iranian-led campaign, but in the end, when the Iraqi forces got bogged down, the U.S. offered air support. IRGC offered strategic advice, but a lot of the heavy lifting was done by Shiite militiamen who formed a strong bond to the IRGC.
The formal Iraqi military is still small and week, and the Shiite militias are increasingly powerful, having formed civilian political parties, and having done well in elections.
So security is provided to U.S. troops, essentially by the friends of the IRGC.
The Trump administration is painting a big red X on the backs of those troops.
(c) 2019 Juan R.I. Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf and South Asia and has given numerous media interviews on the war on terrorism and the Iraq War. He lived in various parts of the Muslim world for nearly 10 years and continues to travel widely there. He speaks Arabic, Farsi and Urdu.
President Trump looks at Russian President Vladimir Putin as they take their places for a family photo during the G20 Leaders Summit in Buenos Aires, on November 30, 2018.
New Hints Of The Mueller Report
Did Trump Simply Get Rolled by the Russians?
By Heather Digby Parton
Despite the fact that William Barr had made public comments denigrating the Mueller investigation and clearly auditioned for the job with a spurious memo suggesting that it was almost impossible for a president to obstruct justice, he was confirmed as Donald Trump's new attorney general with little difficulty. After what had happened with Jeff Sessions, it was understood that Trump would never again stand for an AG recusing himself from any investigation of the president. So everyone knew that Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election would be in the hands of someone who was unlikely to be an honest broker.
Nonetheless, most of us gave Barr the benefit of the doubt. I wrote about Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski, who had been a conservative supporter of Richard Nixon. He was coerced into taking the job by White House chief of staff Alexander Haig, who told him, "We need you, Leon" - assuming he would be loyal to the president. When Jaworski saw the evidence against Nixon, however, he was appalled and moved forward with the investigation. I thought maybe that could happen with Barr too.
I should have known better. Barr was a very political attorney general during George H.W. Bush's administration, recommending pardons for all the guilty players in the Iran-Contra case, showing that he wasn't going to be one of those weaklings who saw the Nixon pardon as setting a bad example for the country. I should have realized that this wasn't a case of someone who'd spent too much time watching Sean Hannity and was slightly out of it. Barr's been a rock-solid right-winger for decades.
I characterized Barr's initial four-page summary of the Mueller report as an elegant little political document and it was. It elicited exactly the response he and the White House wanted. He validated Trump's slogan, "No Collusion, No Obstruction" while cleverly obscuring the fact that there is obviously much more to that story. After a couple of weeks of careful parsing and reconsideration of the implications by the press and various experts, Barr has now lost control of the storyline. He is promising to deliver the full report after he redacts whatever he deems necessary, but because of the game he's been playing, there is no longer much trust that he's acting in good faith.
Unlike Ken Starr's investigations of the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky scandals, the Mueller team didn't use friendly members of the press to pressure witnesses and try their cases in the court of public opinion. In fact they said nothing at all outside the courtroom. But now that the investigation is over and the attorney general has taken it upon himself to summarize their conclusions they have reportedly begin to express their distress about how he's handled that.
Numerous news outlets have confirmed that members of Mueller's team say that Barr has mischaracterized the evidence of obstruction of justice, which by all accounts is substantial.
They have also told associates that they carefully prepared summaries for different sections of the report, assuming they would be released to the public. Those summaries should not require all this concern from Barr about redactions. This certainly comports with many experts' assumptions about how such a report would be organized. While Barr and the Justice Department are now saying that the summaries are labeled as containing grand jury and other confidential information, therefore requiring careful review and redactions, many professionals have suggested that's just pro forma.
I think we all knew that the question of obstruction was going to be a problem for President Trump, simply because so much of it was happening right out in the open. But according to NBC News, it's not just that issue that has the Mueller team agitated. The "collusion" case is also being somewhat misrepresented. The special counsel decided not to charge Trump or his campaign with conspiring with the Russian government in its election interference, but that is far from the whole story. Members of the team say that "the findings paint a picture of a campaign whose members were manipulated by a sophisticated Russian intelligence operation."
I have long been willing to believe that Trump and his minions were simply so unethical, corrupt and uninformed that they were easy marks for the Russian election sabotage campaign. We know that they behaved idiotically when Russians approached them. Donald Trump Jr. writing an emails saying, "if it's what you say, I love it!" upon hearing that Russian emissaries want to give him dirt on Hillary Clinton as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump" is not the language of a sophisticated conspirator. It's almost as if they were testing to see if Junior was even sentient. But that doesn't get him or Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort or Donald Trump himself off the hook. This isn't a game. Trump is president of the United States.
Trump and his team were almost certainly compromised by the lies they told about the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations. Trump knew that could be revealed at any time and his obsequious behavior toward Vladimir Putin the could easily be interpreted as bowing to an unspoken threat. Trump is conversant in blackmail threats, as we all know. We also know that he pays up when he deems it necessary.
Mueller found that none of this was prosecutable and it is vital we find out why he reached that conclusion. But to say that there was nothing there amounts to sweeping some of the worst judgment calls in the history of presidential campaigns under the carpet. And that's really saying something.
These were outrageous decisions regardless of the criminal liability or lack thereof. I'm not sure if rank stupidity and reckless greed qualify as high crimes and misdemeanors but we should probably know the whole story before deciding about that. Even if Trump and his close advisers were suckered by the "Russian election interference activities" it's quite clear that once Trump realized that the FBI and the intelligence community thought he might have done something illegal, he tried to cover it up. If that's so, it's not William Barr's place to make the decision about criminal obstruction of justice. If the Department of Justice has concluded that it cannot charge a sitting president with a crime, it cannot clear one of wrongdoing either. It's up to the Congress to decide what to do about Donald Trump. It seems as though the Mueller investigators agree.
(c) 2019 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.
As Fracking Booms, Report Finds We Know Little About Impacts
By David Suzuki
Earthquakes, methane emissions, scarred landscapes, water depletion and contamination are just a few known effects of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
There's also a lot we don't know - but that hasn't stopped governments and industry from throwing caution to the wind and fracking as if there's no tomorrow. Fracking wells in Saskatchewan multiplied a hundredfold in 10 years, from 75 in 2004 to 7,500 by 2015. Alberta, which produces 72 per cent of Canada's marketable natural gas, has 170,000 fracked wells!
Almost all our marketable gas is produced in the western provinces, but Natural Resources Canada notes, "Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the territories" all have shale gas resources.
Despite a commitment to climate action, B.C., which now produces one-quarter of Canada's natural gas, is pinning its economic hopes on rapidly expanding its fracking industry, offering tax breaks and subsidies. Although the previous B.C. government's vision of a windfall from more than 20 liquefied natural gas projects never materialized, mainly because of poor market conditions, the province still has its sights set on Shell's $40-billion LNG project at Kitimat, as well as the smaller Woodfibre project near Squamish and FortisBC's recently expanded Tilbury LNG facility in Delta.
With easily accessible gas and oil deposits becoming depleted, companies have turned to fracking to extract it from shale formations. This involves drilling deep, often horizontal wells and pumping large amounts of pressurized water, sand and chemicals into them to fracture rock and release gas or oil. Gas is piped to LNG export plants where it is cooled, compressed and liquefied before being shipped, requiring enormous amounts of energy. (Some speculate the Site C dam's purpose is to provide the LNG industry with energy and water.) Almost all B.C.'s natural gas is fracked.
A year ago, the B.C. government appointed a science panel to look into issues around fracking, including seismic activity and impacts on water resources.
The panel's report, released in February, concluded that we don't know enough about impacts. Panel members said they couldn't quantify risks to human and environmental health or cumulative effects "because there are too few data to assess risk." They also wrote that rapid shale gas development in northeastern B.C. "has made it difficult to assure that risks are being adequately managed at every step" and that "insufficient evidence was provided to the Panel to assess the degree of compliance and enforcement of regulations."
Much of the report details the lack of data or information on everything from water use and impacts on ground and surface water to methane emissions and contamination from radioactive materials.
We know fracking can cause earthquakes. A 2016 study found 90 to 95 per cent of magnitude 3 or greater earthquakes along the B.C.-Alberta border were fracking-related. We also know it uses enormous amounts of water, is linked to drinking water contamination and has massive impacts on land and habitat.
It's also contributing to climate change. Despite proponents' claims that fracked gas is a "clean" or "transition" fuel that will help fight climate disruption, research shows the industry's methane emissions make it as bad as coal in some cases.
Although methane doesn't stay in the atmosphere for as long as carbon dioxide, it traps 84 times as much heat over a 20-year time frame and is thought to be responsible for 25 per cent of already observed changes to Earth's climate. A 2017 David Suzuki Foundation and St. Francis Xavier University study found fugitive methane emissions just from natural gas drilling and production in B.C. were at least 2.5 times higher than industry and government have reported for the entire oil and gas sector, including production, processing and transport.
We live in an era of tough choices. Scientists worldwide have amassed overwhelming evidence that we have little time to shift from excessive fossil fuel use if we are to avert climate chaos. But our economic systems demand constant growth and resource exploitation in the name of profits and job creation, regardless of consequences. As easy sources of coal, oil and gas become depleted, industry and governments are moving as quickly as possible to exploit "unconventional" reserves through oilsands extraction, deep-sea drilling, Arctic exploration and fracking.
This is neither sustainable nor rational.
(c) 2019 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co_founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.
President Trump Hosts Roundtable On Border Security In Cabinet Room Of White House
Our Rapidly Blossoming Authoritarian State Is Headed To Another Level
President* Donald Trump has been busy.
By Charles P. Pierce
I have a deeply embedded-and I think, perfectly understandable-distrust of the American "intelligence community." That being said, holy hell, this is something I don't like to hear. From CNN:
The Secret Service director reports directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, who resigned on Sunday amid growing pressure from the President. The director oversees the Secret Service's work on both protection and investigations. "There is a near-systematic purge happening at the nation's second-largest national security agency," one senior administration official says.
Camp Runamuck is showing its teeth these days. The president* wants to put the ghastly Stephen Miller in charge of all immigration matters, and now he's tossing the head of the Secret Service out as well, and in such a manner that Senior Administration Officials are calling it a "purge" which, historically, do not end well for spies and intelligence operatives. He also seems to be gathering a large portion of federal law enforcement under his control, which, again, historically does not end well for a country. If the president* is trying to draw fire away from the Mueller Report, he's going about it quite enthusiastically.
Once again, an entirely new cast of characters will discover what it's like to work for a petulant would-be authoritarian whose empathy for other human beings stops at what he sees in the mirror, and whose idea of whimsy is to mock the disabled and to accuse the victims of natural disasters of ingratitude while they're trying to avoid starvation and cholera. He will be done with them soon enough. After all, apparently part of what set off the current tantrum was a reluctance of DHS officials to break the law on his command. Again, from CNN:
Two Thursdays ago, in a meeting at the Oval Office with top officials -- including Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, top aides Jared Kushner, Mercedes Schlapp and Dan Scavino, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and more -- the President, according to one attendee, was "ranting and raving, saying border security was his issue." Senior administration officials say that Trump then ordered Nielsen and Pompeo to shut down the port of El Paso the next day, Friday, March 22, at noon. The plan was that in subsequent days the Trump administration would shut down other ports.
The benign explanation is that he's going for the most clamorous distraction he can from the fight over the Mueller Report and, more recently, his taxes. The more perilous one is that he's completely losing it and that he doesn't care if the temple comes down on his head. So, now, while the country is continuing to be targeted by other nations, the DHS is, at the moment, a blind chicken with, apparently, more defenestrations to come. There is nothing that can possibly go wrong in this scenario, which is scaring the daylights out of people who do not scare easily.
Nielsen told Trump that would be a bad and even dangerous idea, and that the governor of Texas, Republican Greg Abbott, has been very supportive of the President. She proposed an alternative plan that would slow down entries at legal ports. She argued that if you close all the ports of entry all you would be doing is ending legal trade and travel, but migrants will just go between ports. According to two people in the room, the President said: "I don't care."
Trump surveys the Executive Branch.
Elsewhere in our rapidly blossoming authoritarian state, the president* is planning to demonstrate the Republican Party's devotion to the 10th Amendment by trying to strip the states of their rights to regulate pipelines that pass through them. From CNBC:
The effort was spurred by the blockage of the construction of the 125-mile Constitution Pipeline from Pennsylvania to New York. A protracted legal battle over the project has been underway since the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, gave a greenlight in 2014 and 2016, because the state of New York has refused to issue a water permit. According to four current and former administration officials, the order directs the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to clarify Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, the law that gives states authority over permits where water quality is concerned.
This is of dubious legality, which is no surprise to anyone. And because this administration* is good only at firing people, and doing that by remote control, it's undoubtedly important that it left itself an escape hatch.
The executive order is currently slated to be signed on Wednesday, with Texas as one suggested location for the event. Administration officials caution the plans could change.
As they generally do, without warning, and to the detriment of the republic.
(c) 2019 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-
~~~ Paul Krugman
"I believe in a relatively equal society, supported by institutions that limit extremes of wealth and poverty. I believe in democracy, civil liberties, and the rule of law. That makes me a liberal, and I'm proud of it."
Touring Washington DC
Holocaust Museum vs. American Indian Museum
By Jane Stillwater
Have you ever been to our nation's capital? If not, please consider getting your arse over there ASAP. So much to see! Unbelievable. You could spend a whole year just going to museums here and still not have seen everything!
Even after factoring in the current cannibalistically-insane rate that our federal government is violently stripping America's infrastructure, park services and cultural glories of their funding in order to build even more grisly "Wars and Walls," Washington DC today is still totally awesome -- even if not for much longer.
I recently spent a few days touring the U.S. Holocaust Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian. Those two museums were both very similar -- and also very different.
The U.S. Holocaust Museum is devoted to chronicling the inexcusable horrors of the systematic genocide of Jews in Nazi Germany -- and this museum rightfully reminds us that genocide is a bad thing. And one of the exhibits there that moved me to tears was the exhibit commemorating the heroic Jewish resistance fighters. They risked their lives over and over again fighting for justice and against fascism. So many of them were tortured and murdered.
Then I moved on to the American Indian Museum -- same story there. Genocide on a grand scale. Millions of Native Americans murdered in cold blood. But there was one big difference between the two museums. When the Jews fought back against the evil Nazis, they were called resistance fighters and heroes. But when the Natives fought back against genocidal attacks by evil Americans, they were given no place of honor in the American Indian Museum. They were not considered heroes. In fact, they were barely mentioned at all.
There was only a very small collage-type thingie in a back corner of the fourth floor of the museum that mentioned a few Native "activists" and the 1973 protest at Wounded Knee. Custer's last stand was mentioned. And there was just one mention in passing about the American Indian Movement -- but nothing at all about Leonard Peltier, the resistance fighter who defended his people from a deadly FBI attack and who is now serving his 44th year of a life sentence in some lonely Florida prison for a crime that he didn't commit.
But let's move on.
There is yet another kind of genocide going on in America today -- or should I say "femicide". Apparently it is totally legal, even today, for any non-Native to enter any Native reservation and then murder or rape or kidnap any Native woman or child who catches his eye -- and get cleanly away with it because tribal police on American Indian reservations have no jurisdiction to arrest any non-Native.
So while I was at the American Indian Museum, I suddenly found myself in the tragic midst of the REDress Project -- dozens of empty red dresses, swaying tragically in the wind and rain, symbolizing the thousands of raped, maimed, murdered and disappeared Native women on reservations across America today. Something like 95% of these heinous crimes are committed by White men. Not American Natives, not hapless immigrants, not members of M-13 gangs -- but White men. White men. Homegrown terrorists.
At a symposium entitled "Safety for Our Sisters" held at this museum, we were told that officially almost half of Native women have been abused or raped or disappeared. "It's actually closer to 87%" said one speaker. Native women have become an endangered species in America -- and only Congress can solve this problem. But Congress is too busy reveling in in its sick and addictive love affair with Walls and Wars.
Here are some videotapes from this eye-opening symposium:
The grim history of all these many centuries of violence and genocide against Native Americans is just pathetic and sad -- that White Americans seem to value money and greed and power over any kind of humanity, Christianity or love of our fellow human beings. The Jewish Holocaust tragedy lasted a few shameful decades before it was forcibly halted. The Native American genocide has gone on for centuries and is still going on today.
Sarah Deer speaks regarding legally-sanctioned violence against Native women.
Mary Katheryn Nagle on legally ending the violence.
Cherrah Giles, domestic violence and what happens next.
Jamie Black, the REDress project.
Marita Growing Thunder on the important role of culture.
Q & A.
Americans are morally doomed.
Unless of course we can take a page from the Jewish (and Native) resistance fighters and resist. Resist injustice. Resist fascism in our very own government that is supposed to belong to us (but doesn't). Resist corporate greed. Resist colonialism. Resist bigotry.
For centuries it was mainly the American Indians who suffered from genocide by American colonialists -- but now it is the Natives of the entire world who are also facing calculated extinction by corporate America's bottomless greed. But always remember. "What goes around comes around".
Isn't it time for all of us to start righting these horrendous wrongs? Joining our Native brothers and sisters in seeking justice and morality? Non-violently of course. "But why should we do this non-violently," you might ask. Why? Because all human life is sacred. Because why would we ever want to become like Them?
(c) 2019 Jane Stillwater. Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world. And while you're at it, please buy my books!
Who Says Trump Is Not A Moral Leader?
By Jim Hightower
It's shocking, I tell you, shocking that some millionaires and billionaires would brazenly lie and cheat to weasel their undeserving children into prestigious colleges, thus displacing more qualified students. Where do these privileged ones get the idea that truth doesn't matter, that they can just make up facts and corrupt the whole system for their personal advantage?
Try the Economic Report of the President, issued only a week after the college admissions scandal made the news. These annual forecasts of our economy's performance have become little more than hoked-up presidential image pieces. But even by partisan PR standards, Trump's report is shamelessly grandiose, replete with flagrant fabrications of facts and fraudulent claims of achievement.
In particular, this report tried to pass off his 2017 trillion-dollar corporate tax break as a mighty engine of growth for the working class. Speaking in the ecstatic tongue of voodoo sorcerers, the Trumpsters insist that their massive tax giveaway is producing a surge in corporate investment that - Abracadabra! - creates jobs and pay hikes. Only... there's been no investment surge. Corporate chieftains simply pocketed Trump's handout.
When verbal lies don't work, economic scoundrels resort to dazzling graphics to give a visual appearance of progress. Thus, the Trump report has a dandy chart of deception with a bright line streaking dramatically upward to show the economic impact of his bold infrastructure plan. Of course, the graphic would be more convincing if he had actually proposed such a plan. But he's made no such effort, so the whole scheme is - as economist Paul Krugman called it - "voodoo squared."
When top leaders lie so blatantly for their own gain, we can't be surprised that other narcissists will take it as moral permission to do the same.
(c) 2019 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 HightowerLowdown.org.
The Dead Letter Office-
Micah gives the corporate salute!
Dear Zustand Unterfuhrer Van Huss,
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, Donald J. Trump, 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 bill to make raped children carry their babies to term, 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 05-18-2019. We salute you Herr Van Huss, Sieg Heil!
Vice Fuhrer Pence
Kushner and son
The Myth Of Meritocracy
By Robert Reich
Most Americans still cling to the meritocratic notion that people are rewarded according to their efforts and abilities. But meritocracy is becoming a cruel joke.
The Justice Department recently announced indictments of dozens of wealthy parents for using bribery and fraud to get their children into prestigious colleges.
But the real scandal isn't how far a few wealthy parents will go to get their kids admitted (apparently $1.2 million in illegal payoffs), but how commonplace it has become for them to go almost as far without breaking any laws - shelling out big bucks for essay tutors, testing tutors, admissions counselors, and "enrichment" courses (not to mention sky-high tuition at private schools feeding into the Ivy League).
Inequality is lurking behind all this, and not just because the wealthy can afford it. Researchers Daniel Schneider, Orestes Hastings, and Joe LaBriola found that in states with the biggest gaps between rich and poor, well-to-do parents spend the most trying to get their children into elite colleges.
America's unprecedented concentration of wealth combined with seemingly bottomless poverty have increased parental anxiety - raising the stakes, and the competition, for admission.
While some entrepreneurs in America's billionaire class lack a prestigious degree, it's become harder to become a run-of-the-mill multimillionaire in America without one.
Most CEOs of big corporations, Wall Street mavens, and high-priced lawyers got where they are because they knew the right people. A prestigious college packed with the children of wealthy and well-connected parents is now the launching pad into the stratosphere of big money.
Elite colleges are doing their parts to accelerate the trend.
At a time when the courts have all but ended affirmative action for black children seeking college admission, high-end universities provide preferential admission to the children of wealthy alumni -"legacies," as they're delicately called.
Some prestigious colleges have even been known to make quiet deals with wealthy non-alums - admission for their kids with the expectation of a large donation to follow.
Jared Kushner's father reportedly pledged $2.5 million to Harvard just as young Jared was applying. The young man gained admission, despite rather mediocre grades.
About four in 10 students from the richest one-tenth of one percent of American families now attend an Ivy League or other elite university, according to a recent study based on millions of anonymous tax filings and tuition records.
At some upscale campuses - including Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn, and Brown - more students now come from the top 1 percent than from the entire bottom 60 percent put together.
By contrast, less than one-half of 1 percent of children from the bottom fifth of American families attend an elite college. Fewer than half attend any college at all.
A worse scandal is K-12 education, where geographic segregation by income is leaving poor school districts - partly reliant on local property taxes, which don't generate much revenue- with fewer resources per pupil than richer districts.
Race is involved. School districts that are predominantly white get $23 billion more funding each year than districts serving mostly students of color.
When it comes to early childhood education - which education experts agree is vital to the future life chances of the very young - the gap has become a chasm.
Wealthy parents spare no expense stimulating infant and toddler brains with happy human interactions through words, music, poetry, games, and art. Too often, the offspring of poorer kids do little more than sit long hours in front of a television.
The monstrous concentration of wealth in America has not only created an education system in which the rich can effectively buy college admission for their children. It has distorted much else.
It has created a justice system in which the rich can buy their way out of prison. (Exhibit A: money manager Jeffrey Epstein, who sexually abused dozens of underage girls, yet served just thirteen months in a private wing of a Palm Beach county jail.)
It has spawned a political system in which the rich can buy their way into Congress (Exhibit B: Reps. Darreill Issa and Greg Gianforte) and even into the presidency. (Donald Trump, perhaps Starbuck's Howard Schultz).
And a health care system in which the super-rich can buy care unavailable to others (concierge medicine).
Meritocracy remains a deeply held ideal in America. But The nation is drifting ever-farther away from it. In the age of Trump, it seems, everything is for sale.
(c) 2019 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 www.robertreich.org.
The methods used on a wary public by the national security state, especially the FBI and the intelligence agencies, to justify and advance these wars are increasingly unsavory.
Reckoning With Failure In The War On Terror
The corporate state, its legitimacy in tatters, seeks to make us afraid in order to maintain its control over the economic, political and military institutions
By Chris Hedges
Donald Trump's ascendancy to the presidency, as Max Blumenthal points out in his meticulously researched book "The Management of Savagery: How America's National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump," was made possible not only by massive social inequality and concentration of wealth and political power in the hands of the oligarchic elites but by the national security state's disastrous and prolonged military interventions overseas.
From the CIA's funneling of over a billion dollars to Islamic militants in the 1970s war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union to the billion dollars spent on training and equipping the radical jihadists currently fighting in Syria, the United States has repeatedly empowered extremists who have filled the vacuums of failed states it created. The extremists have turned with a vengeance on their sponsors. Washington's fueling of these conflicts was directly responsible for the rise of figures such as Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden and ultimately laid the groundwork for the 9/11 attacks. It also spawned the rabid Islamophobia in Europe and the United States that lies at the core of Trump's racist worldview and has been successfully used to justify the eradication of basic civil liberties and democratic rights.
The misguided interventions by the national security apparatus have resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, over 5 million desperate refugees fleeing to Europe, the destruction of entire cities, the squandering of some $5 trillion of U.S. taxpayer money, rampant corruption and criminality. The mandarins of national security, rather than blunt the rise of radical jihadism, have ensured its spread across the globe. The architects of this imperial folly have a symbiotic relationship with those they profess to hate. The two radical extremes-the interventionists in the national security apparatus and the radical jihadists-play off of each other to countenance ever-greater acts of savagery. The more perfidious your enemy, the more your own extremism is justified. We are locked in a macabre dance with the killers we created and empowered, matching war crime for war crime, torture for torture and murder for murder.
The binary view of the world imagined by right-wing ideologues such as Richard Pipes during the Cold War, defined as a battle to the death against godless communism, has been reimagined by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and American neocons such as Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, Robert Kagan, Steve Bannon, William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld and leaders of the Christian right including Gary Bauer and William Bennett to become a battle to the death between the "barbarity" of Islam and the "civilized" ethic of the Judeo-Christian West. It is a rebranding of the Cold War, so useful to the retrograde forces of capitalism in crushing popular dissent and so profitable to the arms industry. Its most prominent voices are a bizarre collection of neofascist ideologues and quack conspiracy theorists such as Bannon, Sean Hannity, Stephen Miller and Pam Geller, who claims that Barack Obama is the love child of Malcolm X.
This ideology, like the ideology of anti-communism, erases not only history but context. Those who oppose us are removed from the realm of the rational. They are seen as incomprehensible. Their hate has no justification. They are human embodiments of evil that must be eradicated. They hate us for our "values" or because they are driven by a perverted form of Islam. The failure, as Blumenthal writes, to place these conflicts in context, to examine our own complicity in fueling a justifiable anger, even rage, dooms us to perpetual misunderstanding and perpetual warfare. Our response is to employ greater and greater levels of violence that only expand the extremism at home and abroad. This demented project, as Blumenthal writes, collapses "the fragile space where multi-confessional societies survive." It bifurcates political space into competing forms of extremism between the jihadists and the counter-jihadists. It creates a strange and even comforting "mutually reinforcing symbiosis" that depends "on a constantly escalating sense of antagonism."
The methods used on a wary public by the national security state, especially the FBI and the intelligence agencies, to justify and advance these wars are increasingly unsavory. Muslims, many suffering from emotional and mental disabilities, are baited by law enforcement into "terrorist" plots that few of them could have conceived or organized on their own. The highly publicized arrests and quashing of these nascent "terrorist plots" exaggerate the presence of radical jihadists within the country. They keep fear high among the U.S. population. Trevor Aaronson, the author of "Terror Factory: Inside the FBI's Manufactured War on Terror," found that nearly half of all terror prosecutions between Sept. 11, 2001, and 2010 involved informants, including some with criminal backgrounds who were paid as much as $100,000 by the FBI. Aaronson noted that during the last year of the George W. Bush administration the government did not prosecute anyone arrested in a terrorist "sting." But such stings exploded under Barack Obama, a tactic that Blumenthal writes was "designed to cast his administration as just as tough on terror as any Republican"-the Obama administration "announced an arrest resulting from a terrorism sting every sixty days." This suggested, Aaronson writes, "that there are a lot of ineffective terrorists in the United States, or that the FBI has become effective at creating the very enemy it is hunting."
The longer and more confusing the "war on terror" becomes, nearly two decades on, the more irrational our national discourse becomes. The paranoid and racist narratives of the far right have poisoned the mainstream dialogue. These racist tropes are repeated by the White House, members of Congress and the press.
"Islamophobia had become the language of a wounded empire, the guttural roar of its malevolent violence turned back from the sands of Iraq and the mountain passes of Afghanistan, and leveled against the mosque down the turnpike, the hijabi in the checkout line, the Sikh behind the cash register-the neighbors who looked like The Enemy," Blumenthal writes.
Far-right parties are riding this rampant Islamophobia, fueled by the catastrophic failures in the Middle East, to power in Germany, Italy, France, Britain, Sweden, Poland and Hungary. This toxic hatred is also a central theme of the Trump administration, which demonizes Muslims, especially Muslim refugees, and seeks to bar them from entering the United States.
The arrival of millions of Muslim refugees in Europe from states such as Libya, Syria (which alone has produced a million refugees in Europe), Iraq and Afghanistan has dramatically bolstered the appeal of European neofascists. Nearly 73 percent of those who voted in Britain for the nation to leave the European Union cited the arrival of immigrants as their most important reason for supporting the referendum.
The radical jihadists have long expressed a desire to extinguish democratic space in the West. They are aware that the curtailment of civil liberties, evisceration of democratic institutions, especially the judicial system, and overt hatred of Muslims push Muslims in the West into their arms. Such conditions also increase the military blunders of the United States and its allies abroad, providing jihadists with a steady supply of new recruits and failed states from which they can operate. Their strategy is working. In the year before the 2016 presidential election, violence against Muslims in the United States soared, including shootings and arson attacks on mosques. Public disapproval of Muslims, according to opinion polls, is at a record high.
The Democratic Party, signing on to the forever crusade by the national security state in the name of humanitarian intervention, is as complicit. The Obama administration not only accelerated the sting operations in the United States against supposed terrorists but, in its foreign operations, increased the use of militarized drones, sent more troops to Afghanistan and foolishly toppled the regime of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya to create yet another failed state and safe haven for jihadists.
The radical jihadists, in an irony not lost on Blumenthal, are often deliberately armed and empowered by the U.S. national security apparatus, along with Israel, as a way to pressure and topple regimes deemed antagonistic to Israel and the United States. Obama's secretary of state, John Kerry, in audio leaked from a closed meeting with Syrian opposition activists, admitted that the U.S. had used Islamic State as a tool for pressuring the Syrian government. He also acknowledged that Washington's complicity in the growth of IS in Syria was the major cause for Russian intervention there.
In a 2016 op-ed titled "The Destruction of Islamic State Is a Strategic Mistake," Efraim Inbar, the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, argued that "[t]he West should seek the further weakening of Islamic State, but not its destruction." He said the West should exploit IS as a "useful tool" in the fight against Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah. "A weak IS is, counterintuitively, preferable to a destroyed IS," Inbar concluded. Inbar went on to argue for prolonging the conflict in Syria, saying that extended sectarian bloodshed would produce "positive change."
Earlier in 2016, Israel's former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon had said similarly, "In Syria, if the choice is between Iran and the Islamic State, I choose the Islamic State."
Israel seeks to create buffer zones between itself and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. It sees its neighbor Syria, because of its alliance with Iran, as a mortal enemy. The solution has been to cripple these traditional enemies by temporarily empowering radical Sunni jihadists and al-Qaida. There are numerous reports of Israel, along with the United States, using its aircraft and military in Syria to aid the very jihadists Washington and Jerusalem claim to want to wipe from the face of the earth.
This intractable morass, Blumenthal argues, led directly to the demonization of Russia. Trump's anti-interventionist rhetoric, however disingenuous, triggered what Blumenthal calls "a wild hysteria" among the foreign policy elites. Trump calls the invasion of Iraq a mistake. He questions the arming of Syrian jihadists and deployment of U.S. forces in Syria. He is critical of NATO. At the same time, he has called for better relations with Russia.
"Joining with the dead-enders of Hillary Clinton's campaign, who were desperate to deflect from their crushing loss, the mandarins of the national security state worked their media contacts to generate the narrative of Trump-Russia collusion," Blumenthal writes. "Out of the postelection despair of liberals and national security elites, the furor of Russiagate was born. This national outrage substituted Russia for ISIS as the country's new folk devil and painted Trump as Russian president Vladimir Putin's Manchurian candidate."
"Almost overnight, hundreds of thousands of liberals were showing up at postelection rallies with placards depicting Trump in Russian garb and surrounded by Soviet hammer-and-sickle symbols," Blumenthal writes. The FBI and the intelligence community, organizations that have long spied upon and harassed the left and often liberals, became folk heroes. NATO, which was the instrument used to destabilize the Middle East and heighten tensions with Russia because of its expansion in Eastern Europe, became sacrosanct.
"In its obsession with Moscow's supposed meddling, the Democratic Party elite eagerly rehabilitated the Bush-era neoconservatives, welcoming PNAC [Project for the New American Century] founder William Kristol and 'axis of evil' author David Frum into the ranks of the so-called 'resistance,' " Blumenthal writes. "The Center for American Progress, the semiofficial think tank of the Democratic Party, consolidated the liberal-neocon alliance by forging a formal working partnership with the American Enterprise Institute, the nest of the Iraq war neocons, to 'stand up to Russia.' "
Those in the alternative media who question the Russia narrative and chronical the imperial disasters are in this new version of the Cold War branded as agents of a foreign power and hit with algorithms from Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to deflect viewers from reading or listening to their critiques. Politicians, such as Bernie Sanders and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who push back against the war lust are smeared with the same nefarious charge. It is, as Blumenthal writes, a desperate bid by the war industry and the interventionists to mask the greatest strategic blunder in American history, one that signals the end of American hegemony.
"In the face of their own failure, America's national security elites had successfully engineered a new Cold War, wagering that the reignited conflict would preserve their management of savagery abroad and postpone the terrible reckoning they deserved at home," Blumenthal concludes.
The corporate state, its legitimacy in tatters, seeks to make us afraid in order to maintain its control over the economic, political and military institutions. It needs mortal enemies, manufactured or real, at home or abroad, to justify its existence and mask its mismanagement and corruption. This narrative of fear is what Antonio Gramsci called a "legitimation doctrine." It is not about making us safe-indeed the policies the state pursues make us less secure-but about getting us to surrender to the will of the elites. The more inequality and injustice grow, the more the legitimation doctrine will be used to keep us cowed and compliant. The doctrine means that the enemies of the United States will never be destroyed, but will mutate and expand; they are too useful to be allowed to disappear. It means that the primary language of the state will be fear. The longer the national security state plays this game, the more a fascist America is assured.
(c) 2019 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 www.truthdig.com/chris_hedges.
The Cartoon Corner-
This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ John Deering ~~~
Parting Shots- |
Potus First Pitch
By Will Durst
The date of the vernal equinox doesn't matter one single whit, because the true start of spring is that bright and shiny day when Christ comes out of his cave, sees his shadow and baseball season starts. There's your rebirth, boys. The slate has been swiped clean and anything is possible. This Is Next Year. Spring has indeed sprung.
It seems, however, that the 45th POTUS disagrees with that sentiment. In lieu of throwing out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals home opener, Donald J. Trump encouraged his newly appointed Attorney General William Barr, to throw out the 1st Amendment instead.
The baseball season is a long grind. 162 games. Six months of battling bitter rivals, self-inflicted errors, special counsels and the vagaries of supposedly impartial umpires. You'd think Mister Trump would appreciate the similarities to his new job.
Nobody knows why the Oval Office Oompa Loompa refuses to drive the 2.9 miles from the White House to Nationals Park. Maybe he thinks all that green is wasted by not being part of a golf course.
You know if his good buddy Vladimir Putin asked, he'd snap to it so fast he'd startle beer vendors. Same with Kim Jong Un and the Saudi Crown Prince. Nobody, not even the president, wants to tick that guy off.
Its not like Trump has a candy-ass arm either. In 2004 he landed a Trump helicopter in the middle of center field and threw out the first pitch at a Somerset Patriots game, throwing a damn good high fastball. Just a little outside, but if Curt Schilling or Greg Maddux had thrown that pitch, it would have been called a strike.
Everybody likes baseball. Even ogres and trolls and troglodytes enjoy baseball. And yes, that includes George Will. Maybe President Snowflake can't risk having non-rally fans boo him. It's not like he has to do it every home game. It's once a year. That's what presidents do on Opening Day. Ever since William Howard Taft in 1910. 109 years ago. They don't call it the American Pastime for nothing, you know.
FDR did it 11 times, most of them from a wheelchair for crum's sakes. George Herbert Walker Bush, who was captain of the Yale baseball team, threw a wicked slider. Barack Obama famously threw a ball while wearing a Nationals jacket, a White Sox hat and mom jeans.
Harry Truman threw out 7 opening day pitches, the same as Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ambidextrous Gerald Ford threw 2, one left-handed and one right-handed. It took Ronald Reagan four years to throw his first opening day pitch, so maybe there's hope Donald Trump will get in the swing of things, because every single President has done it, except Jimmy Carter, who was a one-termer. Ominous.
On this end, we're picking the San Francisco Giants to beat the Milwaukee Brewers for the NL pennant. And the New York Yankees to beat the Oakland Athletics in the AL. Then the Giants reverse the results of the 1962 World Series and win it all in 7. Hey, a guy can dream, can't he? Play ball.
(c) 2019 Will Durst is an award-winning, nationally acclaimed comedian, columnist, and former sod farmer in New Berlin, Wisconsin. For past columns, commentaries and a calendar of personal appearances, including the Big Fat Year End Kiss Off Comedy Show XXVI, Dec 26- Jan 6, please please visit: willdurst.com
Issues & Alibis Vol 19 # 14 (c) 04/12/2019
Issues & Alibis is published in America every Friday. We are not affiliated with, nor do we accept funds from any political party. We are a non_profit group that is dedicated to the restoration of the American Republic. All views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of Issues & Alibis.Org. |
In regards to copying anything from this site remember that everything here is copyrighted. Issues & Alibis has been given permission to publish everything on this site. When this isn't possible we rely on the "Fair Use"copyright law provisions. If you copy anything from this site to reprint make sure that you do too. We ask that you get our permission to reprint anything from this site and that you provide a link back to us. Here is the "Fair Use" provision.
"Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a
copyrighted work, including such use by
reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by
that section, for purposes such as criticism,
comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom
use), scholarship, or research, is not an
infringement of copyright.
In determining whether the use made of a work in
any particular case is a fair use the factors to
be considered shall include:
(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether
such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in
relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or
value of the copyrighted work. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such
finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors."